Funemployment: My Time with the Doctor

Ruby Sutton

This testament is intended as a warning.

My doctor and I were on funemployment, which meant our job was to take what the Tinder ads on the BART train called comfortable silences and make fun appear — as if out of thin air. This was our summer experiment, initially pitched to me as a three-day trial, to see how much fun could be had in a weekend. (This was, I quote, “A seriously understudied research question.”) But the trial got extended, on and on and on, as it tends to when you’re — uh, having fun. And now I’m stuck here, listening to “Where Did Our Love Go” by Soft Cell, the intro, where they’re all snapping in unison, in compartment 3B at the Extra Space Storage in the Castro District of San Francisco.


It all started on the 13th of May, when I got a weird LinkedIn message —

“Would you like to push the limits of fun with a vitality maxxer?” A quick glimpse of his profile revealed that he was some sort of influencer, concerned — like so many of us were back then — with health and nutrition. His profile included the obligatory references to the dangers of laundry detergent and the importance of blue light glasses, as well as videos of him shirtless, cooking steak or ground beef behind some Central American sunset. What was different — and what piqued my interest — was that in front of his blurred-out face he was always smoking a cigarette.

He insisted that he was not a “biohacker” but something entirely new. His profile description read:

“IN THE DISCOURSE AROUND AI SAFETY, WEVE FORGOTTEN THE QUESTION OF VITALITY. The only way to survive against the robots is to have more fun than them.”

As a writer working for what had become a clickbait machine reporting on tech news in the Bay, I was drawn to entrepreneurial types and so-called visionaries; I found their delusions charming. But with the cult of AI safety growing, my job had gotten more and more boring. Ever since Roko, people in SF had convinced themselves that those who displayed high levels of ambition or idiosyncracy were more likely to be punished by an unfriendly AI — baseline divergence makes individuals harder to simulate. This made it harder to find those “eccentric characters” essential for any good story. Plus, we were all watching the art of journalism be lost from mankind forever, as the art of “reporting” was being broken to parts and stripped down to performing as an on-the-ground envoy for a Large Language model.

The LinkedIn vitality maxxer, however, had no qualms about talking about himself — as if he were someone from the past or maybe the future. He said in his message that he was the one who actually cured HIV, that his theory about how sustained amphetamine use could empower younger generations to murder their parents was being tested on a small Martian space colony. He considered himself to be an artist in his own right, engaging in the field of “experiential pharmacology” — attempting to attune the feeling inside his body to the vibe he felt the external world was demanding. 

His new project was to attempt to exist in multiple realities; to do this he needed to send his handlers from a past life a message. Somehow my piece would help with this.

He signed off the message with a winky emoji and a quotation: 

“If a writer falls in love with you, you live forever.” I sent my reply saying “sure — I’ll spend the weekend with you” and sealed my fate in this cage one hour later.

I never did find out his real name — for the sake of the story, I’ll call him Doctor Grey.


“We live in a time in which the world has slowly lost its sense of what it means to be alive,” said the guy when he showed up on my doorstep on the Fourth of July. He had nothing on him, just this bright purple suitcase in the shape of an elephant. Something he found, he told me, “climbing in Everest.” He talked in this accent I found hard to place, but I never did find out where he was from. Whenever I asked he said “I was made in a lab just for you babe.” Then he’d cock his head to the side and light a cigarette. I could never tell whether or not he was serious.

I led him upstairs to my apartment, past my six roommates and into my bedroom. Immediately he opened his backpack, unloaded his laptops, chargers, needles and body thermometers. Then, he opened my window and tossed it all out.

“It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything,” he said, locking eyes with me. “Plus — all this wi-fi connected garbage is toxic for you anyway.”

He asked to borrow my laptop, and started transferring ethereum onto gift cards. For the rest of the summer, those gift cards took us from one restaurant or bar to another.


And so went the start of the surrealist summer — the summer when we were always so back, but it was never really over. After a few days, my Protestant work ethic entirely went away. I was relieved of the notion that, in order to experience pleasure, one had to feel pain. I stopped taking work seriously after a few days. I got better at prompting — continuing to write had mostly been an ego thing anyway. The business of transcription seemed so cheap, reporting on facts was stupid. Living was an art, suddenly, and I was getting good at it. Plus, everything was more interesting when you had a drug collection. And Dr. Grey said the world only existed through my experience of it.

But no, we weren’t just two hedonists with an NFT dripstream seeing how many powders we could push up our nose — We were scientists observing the practical nature of excitement, amplifying, mutating and innovating it. We were conscientious objectors to the regime of normalcy. We were imposing upon the world a new sense of vitality. We were the only ones with a wide-eyed sense of wonder and joy in a world with no sense of futurity. We had a message for the future, maybe, and were spreading it by running our credit cards at bars and restaurants, leaving behind encrypted messages. And if anything we did turned out to be stupid — well, we were the last people brave enough to model what it really means to be human.

I know someone cynical might say all these feelings are typical of the honeymoon period of relationships, but Dr. Grey was convinced that with some gene modifications we could turn this two-person utopia into a permanent state of existence. The stakes kept getting higher and higher, just for the hell of it. After I told him I loved him, Dr. Grey revealed his wings, and he took us to Paris.


The paranoid feeling came on suddenly… I emerged from a k-hole and looked in the mirror, and was a little terrified to realize I looked totally different than the girl I was before, maybe last year. We were back somewhere in America, as far as I could tell. After the best weekend ever, which had taken us from Paris, to Berlin to Amsterdam to Buenos Aires to Tokyo to Costa Rica and pushed the boundaries of space and time, and the question of, “what even is a weekend?” Unless of course, it was all in my imagination.

I went out on the balcony of some… Airbnb, maybe. It was warm, balmy, maybe spring or just the local climate — And I could tell from the way the light was coming in it was about to be sunset. That night we were supposed to go out with some of Dr. Grey’s friends. His friends always just seemed to appear — wherever in the world we were — and had the same strange accent as him. That night we were going to try a new combination of substances. Dr. Grey and I walked by someone shooting up heroin on the street, and suddenly my surroundings started to seem eerily familiar.

And then: a giant crowd holding tote bags, standing outside some kind of market. They appeared to be waiting for a tall man wearing a red T-shirt to ring a bell and let them in. And I felt a wave of memories from a past life rush over me, where I was a young woman, a college student, a reporter — hurrying to get tofu so I could get on the BART and hurry home and do all the million things I needed to do. And I found myself wondering: Was I living in reality? Before I almost hit myself for thinking such a stupid question. Of course, Dr. Grey would say the answer was that I was living in one reality of many. But still, looking at that crowd of shoppers, I wondered if I should join them…

I could make out the letters on the T-shirt now: it said Trader Joe’s.

And another memory: the article I was supposed to write. Had my deadline passed already? The tingling feeling of unmet responsibility threw up into me, as if some ancestral instinct had just kicked out of a long hibernation and grew out of the ground, into my stomach.

“Dr. Grey?” I asked. “What year is it?”

“Don’t worry about it,” he said, grinning and lighting up an American Spirit.

“And what about — what about that article I was supposed to write about pushing the limits of fun, and the weekend?”

“Oh, Ruby, we’re just getting started.”

As if sensing a momentary perturbation, Dr. Grey handed me a singular carrot. I took a bite of it, held his hand and squeezed it tight, and we walked on and on and on and on and on and on, like we were the last two people left in The Mission.

More from Issue Two

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