Louise took three Cogs as she sorted through her mail that morning, and was delighted to find a thick envelope from Tanisa amidst the advertising waste.
She sat down in the almost comfortable chair with a rare cup of hot tea—she had entirely given up hot tea because of her inability to focus on whether the teapot was boiling dry, and after ruining two kettles, she decided the boxed sweet iced tea that came with her supplies from the kitchen downstairs was safer.
There was combined caution and joy in her niece’s writing. She noticed, with a wry sort of understanding, that Tanisa carefully restated the points of Louise’s letter to which she was responding before her (often voluminous) response. But that was the only precaution maintained throughout the fifteen close-written pages. Tanisa was as delighted as Louise was in the miracle of cognition that had manifested in the form of little yellow pills. She was even more delighted by Louise’s sympathies on the impending demise of her marriage, since Louise was apparently the only person she could talk to about it, and the difficulties of troubled teenagers.
Louise read it twice, moved to tears a few times (she found it distantly annoying that it was so easy now for things to manage this feat that was once nigh-impossible) and laughing out loud a few times, thoroughly warmed the affection in every sentence. Then she poured herself a fresh cup of tea and settled down at the table to write a response.
Halfway through her letter, she was distracted by a strange kind of haze that was periodically passing over her vision. She sat back, looking around, closing first one eye, then the other. The haze was present with both eyes, and was drifting, like smoke or fog, through her apartment, but she could see that it was mostly confined to pulsating lines originating from three sources in the ceiling.
She turned to look at her computer screen, and there was a thin haze originating from one side of it.
She looked at her GPS bracelet, and saw a haze around it.
Not a stroke after all, she thought, but I think it’s definitely a side effect of the Cog.
She went back to writing, a little distracted, but trying to get back to the meaning of her sentences.
After sealing, stamping, and dropping the letter into the mail chute, Louise ate a quick sandwich and walked toward Penelope’s apartment.
The haze continued throughout the corridors of Paradise Living, and was especially thick in the solarium. Louise paused there, looking around, and she noticed a little bird-like woman in a pale blue cardigan and pink dress, her smooth white bob recently and neatly trimmed. The woman was sitting at the window, staring out at the green lawn, her hands folded loosely in her lap, and there was a thin balloon string of haze rising from the side of her head.
Louise knew the woman by face, but didn’t think she’d ever been introduced to her, and couldn’t think of a way to initiate a conversation that wasn’t flatly saying, “Excuse me, are you on Cognizoid?” So she continued on to Penelope’s place, frowning.