Erica Olsen


With the implantation of certain microchips developed some years ago to enable keyless entry to homes and vehicles, it becomes possible to record each action taken in a life, so that at the end of life each body participating in the program contains a complete record of its own history (in short, an auto-archival process), at which point it is undertaken to remove the chips and accession the data into a digital repository, which, it is envisioned, will someday constitute a robust archives of the American self, an unprecedented record of individual lives--the information contained in the body far surpassing the content of what we are accustomed to call vital records (birth, marriage, death) as well as permanent local, state, and federal records and the pertinent academic, administrative, financial, legal, and personal records that are preserved by intention or by chance. In this way it becomes possible for consenting individuals to become a part of history, not through the minimal information capture of vital records but through the capture of vitality itself in the form of information resembling the confidential matter of a private diary: the acts, deeds, and wills (so to speak) of the body; its physiology, recorded in the functioning of its various systems (circulatory, respiratory, nervous, and so on); its organs, their appetites and their failures; its sexual history as recorded through repeated acts of arousal, frustration, and/or satisfaction; its social life; its travels through space and time; its hesitations and procrastinations. Note: The microchip technology captures visible, palpable, measurable evidence of being in the world. It is not yet possible, nor has it been thought desirable, to record those ruminations that arise and fade away entirely unobserved from outside the self. Hopes, fears, longings, regrets, and so on are recorded if and only if accompanied by some definite action. With the awareness that every action is recorded (and mindful that any given act may appear in the guise of the trivial or the profound, its true aspect unknowable until the very end), some pursue a more considered, less impulsive path, while others rush headlong at the terrible fullness of life.

Upon accession of the chips from the first group of volunteer archival subjects, it is found that the information is unreadable, the living nature of the body apparently having been essential for the preservation of the data therein.

Erica Olsen's stories and essays have appeared in ZYZZYVA, High Country News, and other magazines, and in the anthology What Wildness Is This: Women Write About the Southwest (University of Texas Press). New fiction is forthcoming in the anthology Tahoe Blues (Bona Fide Books). She has an MFA in writing from the University of Montana and divides her time between Blanding, Utah, and Dolores, Colorado, where she is a grant-funded contractor in curation at the Anasazi Heritage Center, an archaeology museum.
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