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I struggled with the new configuration. You'd think stuff like this would have been easy to figure out but apparently not for me. Maybe I was getting too old. The younger kids seemed to have a much easier time with it.

I called up IT. A cheerful voice answered on the other end.

"I'm having a hard time hooking up the new accessories," I told him, trying not to sound like a has-been.

"I'll send someone up," he said. "For more information, consult your ticket."

So I guess he wasn't even going to try to have me fix it myself. I hoped I didn't sound totally clueless.

A few minutes later, the ticket arrived in my inbox. Monday. They wouldn't be getting to it until Monday. I didn't want to be twiddling my thumbs the whole time.

I got up out of my chair and went to see my neighbor. "Have you been able to hook up the new stuff yet?" I asked, holding up two handfuls of wire and electronics.

"Oh that? Months ago." He was an early adopter. "Let me see how much I can remember."

He came over and started poking around. "To be honest, I had IT do most of the work too. But I'll give this a shot."

I wasn't even sure why I was doing it. I had no dire need for all the latest upgrades, but watching everyone pass me by on the latest technological trends had me curious.

They were walking advertisements for the future, a future that held so much promise of something better. Ease of use here, faster speeds there, convenience, steady supply, everything you could ask for, if only you were willing to put up with all the regularly upgraded hardware.

I was out of my element. There was a time when I was one of those early adopters, when it was me pushing the edge of what could be done. But that time seemed to have passed. Maybe I had slowed in my old age.

Now I just watched others speed on by, trying to decide if there was anything they had that I wanted to try myself.

"I need to go back and look at my own setup," my neighbor said, apparently unable to get things working. "But I still have something I need to send out today. Maybe you could ask Livia across the way in the meantime?"

He left and I looked at the partially connected wires in dismay. Maybe I should give this another try myself. One of the devices was already whirring, so some partial success I guess. I needed to install its corresponding software as well. Maybe I'll do this now instead of at the end, I thought.

A few minutes later, small lights were blinking and a soft glow was being emitted next to my desk. I think it was working. This part of it anyway.

I reached over to the rest of the accessories. Something wasn't right. I could see myself hunched over my desk in the third person, attempting to piece everything together. Then a ghostly image of Livia from across the way was superimposed over the scene, also trying to put things together.

The glow on my desk was getting stronger, brighter. The whirring suddenly stopped and I could no longer see anybody there. I returned to my desk and looked over the scene of jumbled electronics.

There were parts there that I didn't recognize. As far as I could remember, they didn't come in the package that was delivered to my desk. But there they were, hooked into everything else as if they belonged there, doing who knows what.

I was afraid to touch the now configured hardware. Instead I looked on-screen. There was a portal there. Through it, I could see myself like I had seen myself just a few minutes before. It wasn't live.

I could see myself doing something else, but I couldn't tell what. Something I had no memories of. This wasn't supposed to be part of the software package I installed, but I could see controls by the portal. I was afraid to touch them.

The figure on-screen, me, seemed to be investigating the same thing. He touched a button and vanished. There was nothing left but the desk, what looked like my desk, and the blinking machines next to it, much like my own configuration.

I nervously backed away from my desk, not wanting something strange to happen to me. I reached the door to my office. I didn't remember the door being closed before. I opened it to see if Livia was still around.

Not only was she not around, all the other offices outside mine had changed configuration.