Updated: Nov 9, 2021
Michael K Laidlaw About 5 000 words #406 3524 31st NW
Calgary, Canada T2L 2A5
Amber is converting.
And so I kind think skin changes and hope she doesn't go for those new zebra-stripe patterns, or those neon colors, or those bioluminescent backgrounds and wonder asif I'll even recognize her now. And as Khrys- who tells me this when she comes for me at the Ldownport- randoms on this thread I kind think converting techno and wonder how old Amber's headware was anyway, asif we'll still be able to interface flash, asif it’s a new SH Original Face system, and asif that's overcurrent here. And then Khrys talks about Near Death Experiences and kind souls and karma and reincarnation and I get completely lost and she notices I haven't said anything for kind minutes, so she asks me an actual question:
‘I mean kind I wonder what's the point anyway? We're all going to be interred one of those blackboxes anyway, time comes. Not kind, we're ever for real going to die...’
And then we break through the cloud level and windows darken, shading this incredible glare- level 788 of ziggurat Memphis, City Nuevo- pillars and planes of home Peakworld look kind a sense-simulated Egyptian land of the dead. And Khrys says, looking serious, wrapping white folds of sunrobe over any exposed skin, looking worried:
‘You look kind real tan, Barb.’
Nobody is home.
Home welcomes me with their recorded messages, holographic bodies appearing in mid-stride as I follow a carrybot with my luggage winding to my room. Dad, or at least his answering construct, looks fit and very pale but sounds tired and doesn't mention how his latest VISE is going- something set Before Flood in early years of manned spaceflight, set in Las Vegas and Cape Kennedy- doesn't mention any extended-family sense-simulation parties and when we kind to go for face ones. Jayne relays both dates in her usual, conspiratorial way. She looks fit and- maybe it's resolution of projectors- almost glittery, asif grains of diamond dust are imbedded in graphite of her skin. She says she'll give me a hug, physical contact, when she’s home from the desert set...
‘Sensim's no substitute for the real thing, Mama always told this girl. Take care and-’ eyes scanning me-’ stay out of the sun. You look real tan, girl.’
And then I'm flaked out on bed maybe a little cold and I close my eyes for a rest. I phaseon ambient- so I won't be blind. My ears are already ambient so I hear her first, guiding a sanitbot on windows that open to indoor pool yard, as she would sometimes, and then I look out a window. I kind see her. I shouldn't be so surprised but somehow I am, and I remember being just a child and seeing her cleaning singing humming turning- kind now- towards the boys or I those days when Jayne and Dad would be on set somewhere and she all alone.
‘Welcome home dear,’ she smiles. They’ve made her younger- invisible cosmetic surgery- but kind everything else down. Voice. Mannerisms. Movement. Gestures. Why not? Dad knows people in the Industry to do simulations. Jayne could find actors for sensecharacters...
‘Tiring flight, dear? We're having Jambalaya for supper- one of Jayne's programs- and the evening is free...’
And then I close my eyes and wonder why I don’t kind phaseoff ambient for my eyes and ears and everything, slip out of my skin and sleep till supper- or why I don't just say it, talk back- kind what would she say, even asif she hears me or ignores it as bad manners...
And what would I say- go away Mom, you're dead...?
Everyone is home.
Sunset outside, white glasswalls clouding, glittering, gold...
I see Jayne and Dad and the boys during a shared supper- that rare enough- then we all go kind formal family salon. I put my eyes on ambient- only polite- so I can see Mom floating around. I look at the boys, eager as ever to be selected for her special attention. I phaseoff ambient for a moment to see a morphing softbot performing this role, cloaked in illusions of her image, then catch Jayne's eyes watching Dad, then turning to me with a conflicted smile. She asks me for something but I can't figure it out, hear the question, understand the language...
‘Salut Barb, you and Khrys and Amber coming to the release party?’ Jayne asks instead.
‘Kind which one?’
‘Aaron's new sensonovela, historic, 'London Tales', the one set in Dickens's England? Can't even decide whose ghost to follow,’ she shrugs, using that Industry term for a POP- a Point-of-Perception- that drifts just outside immediate, direct perceptions of a sensecharacter envelope...
‘When is it?’ I say, distracted, and Jayne dates it, tries not noticing Dad's trying to make this perfect Mom laugh. And it is over that Mom is some kind of ghost- an ASC program based on her Identity, yet the boys and Dad kind want take simulation for real.
‘Your senses are in it kind? Absolute. Follow your own ghost,’ I tell Jayne.
‘Then all I notice are my mistakes. I want to do it all over...’ she shrugs.
And so we talk about the sensonovela and about whose ghost is best to follow, which new VISEs kind hype and which kind memorial-service-pretalk and Industry chatter on who’s climbing hypersonic- actors writers producers constructors- and who’s flatlining... Jayne has all ambient phaseoff so I follow and we’re in our invisible private world. Mom and Dad were together first before she made it a trey so, right or wrong, Jayne believes they share a special grounding that survives death. And that it was some endless deoxyribo-mutating-cancer, that they’d sometime to plan how it is, makes it ever harder to dispute any ghosting that survives and carries Dad way far into Mom's blackbox...
I open my answering construct- almost asif looking in a mirror but so pale.
‘Djinn left a message about a party somewhere at the end of this week, tonight most likely,’ the mirror says with a shrug, layered with that liquid mercury program now looks old old three-sixty. I look down at myselfskin, lying on gelbed, kind tan tan from four months on dive in Twenty-C St Louis, think kind how none of us knew what we were searching for. Any evidence of popular culture, shadow culture, unofficial culture from BF... the more there was, the less there is...
‘Dana celled. She kind wants to do something with your firm...’
And so I bring Dana to Djinn’s party tonight and Dana is wearing wraparound black gargoyle sunglasses- flickering readouts pulsing orange inside- and a black truewool sweater and black trueleather jeans...
‘Salut Barb, been kind long long last seen, babe,’ Djinn offers an airkiss, an airhug, a brittle flashing smile, ‘and who is this...?’
‘Dana, Djinn. Djinn, Dana. From the dive.’
They share airspace then Djinn whispers loudly to me, ‘you look kind real tan, girl...’
She turns to Dana:
‘So kind you’re another those geniuses who actually loves school...?’
‘Not kind a genius,’ Dana shivers.
‘Oh well, you’re all way genius to me,’ Djinn laughs. ‘I kind um- I’m this drug experiment to see asif kind you for real need all that memory? I’ve been losing math for kind a week... down to an Asif on algebra...’
‘Absolute...’ Dana glances over.
‘For kind real, construct-comp- kind think of all the free memory...’
‘ASC?’ Dana says.
‘’Artificial Sentience Complex’? That’s kind um, I kind to think...’ Djinn starts to giggle, bites a silver gardenapple, turns away bored as I guide Dana to safety.
There’re two solstice temples buried kind under gifts and offerings, gold glittering and diamond sheen, one in the salon, one in the den where all the older crowd drifts talking money money and deals as they scan this younger crowd with poaching intent. I see a firm of boys and girls I haven't seen since grad but there’s nothing new here: very overcurrent, very too young, very zigPeak. And talk is all kind new VISEs, new actors, new microkites, new bands, new pharma... new games down Flood Zone with UnNumbered Unwashed: poverty is unreal, is a game, not a life anyone here ever has to live. It's nighttime now so sunrobes are all off and the firm shows paleness so translucent the wiring under skin on the back of their hands are visible...
‘Salut Dana, where d’you go to school?’ this male sensim model name Kaent says.
‘Same place as Barb.’
‘But not so dangerous tan?’
‘An epiderm bleach ‘fore I came down... so where d’you go?’
‘School? Oh nowhere man, nowhere.’
‘Absolute... so what d’you take?’ Dana looks confused.
Kaent looks at me and offers a distracted answer:
‘Nothing girl... it’s not a place... it’s a state- a state of mind.’
Dana nods slowly.
‘Looking kind machined, though,’ Kaent flexes a pose. ‘Is that the cool out there? Think I could make it?’
Dana looks at me. I look down, grasping feathered handful of threads- maybe I’m kind trying to decide where I’ll go. Threads are color-coded for each VISE but I don’t remember what black is for.
‘Let’s dance,’ Dana says.
She disappears into an amoebic polyp of swing dancers, smiling and telling Kaent that cool is cool everywhere- kind what makes it 'the' cool- but she'd say SA has more of a machined population...
I’m with Kaent in Twenty-C, a diner that sits on Rising Sun, NuevoLA, ten less zero hour. We’re waiting for Sellby, a chemist over in NuevoBerlin, a creditfriend Sourcing new gardenapples- VISE you kind need no headware, chemistry coming through blood- kind illegal dangerous expensive, of course. Said dose sometimes way powerful, way overreal, than even shadowVISE... Virtual Sensory Environments sure, but this kind Interactive? A bad apple kills you. You want the ultimate rush, you be ready to pay the ultimate price...
‘How d’you know this Sellby anyway Kaent?’
‘He’s down, he’s down; don’t worry.’
‘He’s kind late.’
Kaent looks up fingering a senseman, sliding silver-blue CL in and along grip, but he doesn’t turn it on. Strobes his eyes infrared.
‘He’s kind, late,’ I repeat.
Kaent nods, sighs.
And it’s three in the morning and way hot and we’re at The Fall in a brokenmirror backroom and Kaent is trying on my AC thread and I tell him I have to leave. Yeah yeah, we all have to leave... Kaent says. Absolute, I insist. It must be third or fourth time I say this when Sanni and Blurr and Kym arrive and now we’re not going nowhere. Blurr thinks he sees someone he knows- another Prettiboy- so he cuts from us and disappears into the front room, gone kind runway to exhibit his version of this month’s look. Can still see Blurr, even in a crowd of young Jimmi Jazz’s, cause he’s wearing chaps and jock and nothing else and just moves in echodance when someone strokes his glutes...
‘Looking for Chet,’ I tell Sanni.
Sanni slides into our tablethread, downs vibrating bass, some chanting words in a language I don’t know. Kym joins us, answers:
‘Saw Chet last in Buenos Aeries- he’s kind on that worldwander walkabout-’
‘Said new kind Flood Zone transient warehouse, something called S- something- House-’
‘No, no- kind ask Kaent-’
‘’Sunyata House.’ Emptiness. Something kind that,’ Kaent shrugs, ‘usual cult... said it’s ASCs run it, ASCs from shadow Aura...’
‘I only virus kind I hear.’
‘Is only kind I virus...’
I look at Kaent, try to get him to look back:
‘Then... why the fukk are we here?’
Kaent shrugs. Sanni and Kym laugh long long long. I just get angry:
‘You asked what I been kind doing, slit. Been kind around and this is around. We’re not gonna find nobody... Chet’s even taken his callnumber off the Aura. What d’you want to find Monk Chet for anyway?’
‘Told you we should’ve waited for Sellby, slit,’ Kaent shakes.
We’ve been on Manhattan ziggurat solsiceshopping afternoon. I and the boys and Jayne. Primo. Decade. Vague. Many stores, too too many places, all along Bowiestrasse in NuevoBerlin. Dad’s lost in work, trying to gauge blue tint in a sad sequence, a down thread, of the VISE. Popular art he works on: basic, repeated, easily provoking UbiDick reactions, easily read even in pirated versions...
‘Was the party down?’ Jayne asks.
I turn gargoyle sunglasses in my hands, pretty sure they’re shaking; shrug.
‘How many people were there?’
We drift over three-hundred bridge between ziggurats, Manhattan to Memphis, and start climbing home: boys are bored, sitting lost in wrapping paper, naming and picking out airships and microkites and arguing something in numbers.
‘You look sad,’ Jayne says suddenly.
I look away, ‘I’m fine.’
‘You look sad,’ she repeats, wistfully, gently.
One thread my engine searches and reads to me each day is news of a serial killer- already copywrit ‘Ice-spike Killer’- songs and videos and miniVISE accruing any Cr to a special account, waiting for capture to be used as decided. This serial killer- said one of about six current in City Nuevo- is entering sensim dreams of target and torturing her to death. Said to be following a pattern of S&M not of any geography, any history, instead following a narrative of characters, women in sensonovelas available on XXX?-threads. Justine. Juliette. O. Kathy. Victoria... Citypol already know how the next victim will die. Citypol insist basic neurosystem security is sufficient block: this woman fell asleep while openly engaged to her corp ASC...
She was a market researcher.
‘Is this about Khrys? Because that is kind over, Kaent. Over.’
‘Does she know?’ Kaent says.
‘I wrote her kind actual alphabet letters from the dive, she can read-’
‘And you come home on her? -’
‘She’s a kind friend-’
‘She wants more.’
‘Let the girl alone, slit.’
‘So why do you care?’
‘Maybe I don’t.’
Ambient here is inescapable soft sedative, slowed-heartbeat pulsing, music bones fade but ears don’t hear. Ambient true appropriate for psyche: at peace, even if it’s artificial. The psychiatrist I see for two weeks is young and has a beard and flies a BMW microkite and has a place uptown in Haarlem, NuevoAmsterdam... but he’s just a face, an interpreter for an ASC that reads actual inter, offers actual guidance... now he describes a solid-solid, a bruised, spiky sphere, that characterizes my ‘Psychological Holistic Shape’...
‘I think you should help me write a treatment,’ he says, certain I can get his pitch heard. My PHS floats a cloud, translucent above me in his white white room. In this PHS, each point represents a passage through time, a moment, multi-dimensional as each focused on blossoms into another...
‘What about me?’ I say.
He shrugs. As my PHS morphs it’s hypnotic, throbs asif a heart, pulses as shells expand and contract, intersecting in bright lines then turning into nexus for further dimensions.
‘What about me?’ I repeat.
‘You’ll be fine, you’ll be fine.’
I look away, eyes trembling, ‘I don’t think so...’
Psychiatrist pauses, sighs, looks at my PHS. Each shell expands out, nubs of barnacles; each shell collapses inward, dimples of golf ball. Intersects shell or depth of others, of events, of self; mutates describes predicts with unavoidable uncertainty, characterizing chaotic probabilities, trend climate personality...
‘We’ve talked about your solitude in life-acts, how you must become more interactive...’
I close my eyes, drift.
‘I think you should help me write a treatment,’ he says.
I sit in SimCity17 on Ellis with Blurr and Kym, wait for Djinn and Kaent and Khrys. We sharethread and face in sensim, not this momentary faceplace- an extensive, hyperscaled interior of an HV, a conscomp deck- inter is a crypt. We sit around a black, solid, unknown coffin- we’re these 19C archaeological Vampaire hunters and we kind to figure out how to lift all the jewels, gold and diamonds, as tide comes in, without waking the Vampaires. It’s a VISE sensim game from last season and we’ve done this before but can’t remember how so now we’re arguing with the sky on pause...
‘Never understand,’ Blurr pouts, ‘I mean kind why do we call them Undead?’
‘Dead don’t move,’ Kym says, ‘Un do.’
‘Okay but kind ‘un’ means ‘not’ so then they’re just kind ‘not dead’ but living-’
‘No, they’re not living.’
‘It’s not binary, it’s quom.’
‘Both or Neither, not kind just Either/Or?’
‘Beyond numbers. Death is death. No simulations,’ Kym looks at me, looks away. ‘They’re somewhere beyond-’
‘No. This is Nineteen-C, remember.’
Blurr glances a question to Kym, gets blank back, asks innocent, ‘Salut Barb, your dive go that far back?’
‘No, not yet.’
On the way home I stop by Sinai-Peak hospital not exactly closest to UQPeak where she’d collapsed from unclean intake- to visit Maxxy Cray, since Khrys told me she for real wanted to see me. Maxxy is a Vampaire, pharma in too much blood just an accumulating toxic, so she’s down in Flood Zone, Village East, where divers bring up Industrial Age artifacts for turista, where no one has money for arcane, experimental pharma, so bloodstreams are relative pure. Maxxy is going for a purge and talks about ‘tainted blood’...
‘I mean kind this way is getting so extreme so easy these days in pharma asif nothing else I mean kind depending on dose and this random random so... real, whatever that means...’
I wonder what Maxxy wanted to talk to me about, or is Khrys just trying to connect me with history, people I knew, lived with, kind memories of... get homesick?
‘I mean asif so extreme searching sources I mean kind even preteens’re no longer chemical virgins no never nowhere...’ Maxxy randoms on.
‘Maybe it’s a sign,’ I say, bored; ‘maybe kind you shouldn’t suck blood...’
Maxxy looks startled but quickly recovers:
‘That’s not the point.’
Home cluster dock lies at the peak of Mulholland Falls.
I look out over NuevoParis, flexible, overreal dream of shadowed Eiffel Tower, soft and relaxed from night, only now waking to a rising rigidity it will count hours of daylight by, a sundial rising, a vertical bridge to bruised sky. I watch the beginning of another day- my seventh day back- holographic towers of old old Manhattan dissolving in sunrise...
‘Salut Barb, so where were you babe?’ Tryck, my reliable gardenapple dealer says. ‘I was there. Waiting. Not kind NuevoSappho away away...’
I watch him line up apples on mirrored backroom table in this dark anonymous club changes location night- asif Iron Triangle before it went main- an ambient club tonight, callnumber Dionys...
‘You said BNM15, NuevoAthens,’ I protest weakly.
Tryck wags his head patiently, ‘No, I don’t think so.’
I never argue with a Source.
‘So what’s asif this year?’
‘Don’t know. Back to the dive and school.
‘You come across asif any kind precious metals with the mummies let me know,’ Tryck looks up.
‘That’s another continent. Another sometime.’
‘Absolute? So what’re you diving for?’ Tryck sounds almost interested.
‘Don’t know. Popular culture. We kind don’t know yet-’
‘’Culture’? Kind these come from?’ he points at the apples.
‘Kind everything, anything kind what you read what you see what you listen to what you sense... gold you can crash atoms together for, but this...’
Tryck nods to music carpet filling still air, ‘Why?’
I pause. I’ve been diving so long, head down, been searching so long; I forget whatever rationale we started with. We’re diving now in a cemetery, disturbing the dead, swimming through parts-per-million formaldehyde, Louisiana Syndrome all over again, embalmed ancestors promising our cancer deaths... I try out an answer quote from some hypertext, required reading:
‘Popular culture lets you kind live in that sometime.’
‘BF. Definitely BF.’
‘Absolute? Must kind been way slow those years,’ Tryck watches me decide.
I gather a handful firm but ripe, three shiny gold, burnished bronze apples. I flick down three thousand-coins hardcash, accept another apple as Tryck says ‘Wintersolstice’ and get a feeling Tryck never faced at a BNM15 in NuevoSappho either.
One of the threads my engine searches and reads to me each day is news on some bioethics dispute about a fetus still surviving in the womb of a flatline mother. Whether to give up the fetus for dead or to transplant whole fetus tissue into an Aldouswomb and support it to birth. And who should make these decisions: it’s a solobaby and there is no one to ask, even sperm was from a bank mix so gen rights are Asif. Legal or illegal birth or death, murder or abortion or adoption or orphan?
Somewhere, sometime, this must kind happened before.
Cafe’ I face when I’m back: Cafe Moebius8, Link Haus, Rock Machine Coffeeshop, Cafe Escher, BNM15 Athens, Village Global Village12 Milan, BNM9 Copenhagen, Subic Bay...
It’s kind living life on caffeine BF kind never going home, nowhere...
‘You left a message you kind needed money, Amber,’ I say to her answering construct, ‘For?’
‘Nothing kind, don’t worry, forget it,’ she says.
I watch her image refresh on ambient.
‘Forget it. Trust is still there.’
I pause, wondering which Trust as her image flickers. Answering construct isn’t to actually answer questions. I decide to try and find her- find her for real:
‘So kind where you been gliding?’
‘Nowhere kind- nothing. Forget it.’
‘What d’you kind need the money for?’
She looks away, pushes her gargoyles up, pulsing readouts she doesn’t share. I try to imagine her new password. I ask her a bit about her failed conversion. I upvision to almost-peak, microscopically examine her facepaint pattern, her sunrobe hood over magenta spiked hair, her avian eyes wandering then focusing back exactly the same kind.
I surfsensim Aura to play Mid Way, to Nowhere Vegas, looking for Amber...
Could be haunting old old games...
Could be ‘Miss Hollywood’ character living again...
Performers from before sensim were even invented to latest last year, all forever same, year same place: The End of the World Tour. Elvis. Sinatra. Rogers. Constructs designed out of media wake, images out of HV even TV performances, character semblance out of bio and psyche profiles, voices saved digital promises, routines randomized for impressions of originality. Constructs often sighted roaming Nowhere Vegas asif free and alive, asif real outside sensim...
‘She’s not here,’ Private Eye Bogi shrugs, ‘Maybe she was. No more.’
‘Absolute,’ he nods.
I face Dana in NuevoCopenhagen- an overcurrent BNM9- and I can tell she’s not really here: body is on autopilot and holds still still, moves fast fast. Face over decaf ‘spresso:
‘Kaent faced me with some Source...’ she begins, tails off.
‘So where’d you disappear? I mean kind sure I wanted to glide with your firm but not without you,’ she shrugs. ‘I mean I’m kind I don’t even know asif I’m going back to the dive...’
‘Ultra kind edge those gardenapples...’
‘Sellby?’ I force myself to ask.
‘Yeah, but I’m maybe getting paranoid or bipolar or something- kind your copainKaent, am I missing something here- he’s not kind an ex or something is he?’
‘Just a something kind sometime way past. Enjoy.’
‘Absolute. So the CL’s clear rewrite...?’
‘You want, you can. Don’t bother ‘self about Kaent. He was exactly what he is.’
Dana gazes up from the glass tabletop over the visual menu, looks at me glowing, pulsing, but her eyes look old old. I run my eyes across her nervous image, her trembling torso and shaking hands, her gleaming sweating face, avian eyes wandering then focusing back exactly the same way.
VISE I ride when I’m back- recognize sometimes credit names- all historical romances: ‘Fifty-Five Days’, about terrorists kidnapping a politico back in late 20C... ‘Cold War’ of a nuclear era when entire world is first seen as vulnerable, mid 20C... ‘The Slave Elena’, about the old old rising life of a Brazilian slave of late 18C...
Nothing I cannot ever do on dive, it’s just I never do.
Khrys comes in sensim as I float in the indoor pool. I haven’t set up an answering construct so I just open and her presence clouds out some zeppelin shadowing above, coming into dock twelve levels up...
‘Salut Barb,’ she starts.
I drift for a while, unsure- or kind sure sure- what she wants this to be about. She sighs, holds herself tight about shoulders and rocks back and forth in a shadowed, empty, nightblue room, looking young young. Blue eyes and black hair...
‘So where’d you disappear at the party?’ she says.
‘Nowhere kind. I was there.’
‘You kind left early.’
‘I was tired. Coming down always tires out...’
‘Got you loot presents for kind solstice, original kind mid Twenty-C antiques. A ‘jukebox’, this prechip musicstore, original ‘Christmas’ songs- see they’d kind this fat red gnome who used to fly everywhere solsticenight dropping loot contingent sometime this moral list-’
‘Used to call him kind Santa Claus. An elf, not a gnome.’
I face Jayne in NuevoMilan, a hyperfoodmarket kind Village Global Village12. I go for chicken tikka, she’s still deciding:
‘Too many asif. What to kind?’
‘Random, go random-’
‘You decide, you know what’s a good asif, you pick for me...’
She looks sad towards me and I kind get the idea she’s talking about some other choice, some other problem. Eyewash glassy on her cheeks. Crying again: not that she can’t swallow it, she doesn’t want to. She is trying to say something else, but I can’t hear her, or make out the language she speaks.
Clubs I kind dance when I’m back: ‘The Fall’, ’Iron Triangle’, ‘Exterminator!’, ‘Phase Change’, ‘Nova Express’, ‘52 Girls’, ‘International Telegraph and Telephone’, ‘English Beat’...
I fade out, sometime tired, kind sleep halfway home or down in Flood Zone...
All kind illusion everywhere here, never a waterfall, an inland source for a river, never was in old LA, in new SA... only pleasant fantasy, bad dream:
‘Absolute,’ I wake, pulling down gargoyles against first light. Clock counts translucent neon on lenses. I kind watch the beginning of another day- my twelfth day back- holographic towers of old old Manhattan rising out of Flood Zone, dissolving in sunrise...
I wake to the sound of Mom, guiding a sanitbot on windows that open to indoor pool yard, kind she would sometimes and then I look out a window. I kind see her. I shouldn't be so surprised but somehow I am...
‘You had a late night, dear?’ she says.
‘Played ‘Vampaires’. Can’t stand the light.’
‘You all right?’
I’m kind talking to an answering construct kind nothing to say...
‘You all right?’ she repeats.
‘You look real tan, girl,’ I say.
‘’You look real tan, girl’, everyone tells me that.’
‘D'you need downtime? Are you wayover, d'you need sleep, Barb?’
I close my eyes.
‘’Sleep, perchance to dream...’ do you dream, Mom?’
‘Bad apple, that’s all,’ I kind wave away.
‘Absolute?’ she says softly, concerned.
‘Does it bother you you aren’t real?’
‘I- I am- I am real enough-’
‘Do you see what you are doing to Jayne?’
She looks at me sadly, sighs and begins to mouth a word, then gives it up. She blinks ocean-blue eyes; raises translucent-pale hands in a questioning gesture.
Music I watch when I’m back: Pain Revolution, Voidhead Blues. Electric Sheep, Heaven Sent. Arjuna Zero, Buy Her a New Pair of Eyes. Willow Society, Ryu Alloy. Neohumans, Retrovirus Rock. Zoo Zoo, Mon wid d’ Ice Spike. Condition Critical, Soft Rain. Carcinogenic, City of Yes...
Soundtrack of my life, images and sounds on headware every everywhere I am...
And she is a polite simulation, she follows her programming, she leads me to our household ASC and shows me her blackbox and apologizes that she does not know how to get in. I surfsensim Aura to Maxxy Cray: I promise her blood, my own blood- so clean of familiar pharma that I can taste her anticipation- as long as she never asks whose blackbox we crash...
Maxxy doesn’t ask questions though in some way this might be murder.
How is never Why.
And before I leave I face Khrys at Moebius Cafe8, go to her place and try whatever fashion mode out of past four hundred years looks absolute. Her solomom is a costumer- seen her work in ‘Fifty-five Days’- and she’s got these connections every everywhere so we can try out all we designed at noon, tonight, for a New Year’s midnight ball at CT’s Black&White, asif we want. We throw ideas together and it’s years years ago and we’re kind kids trying out so many many playful fantasies, costumed for roles from Princess to Sorceress to Warrior...
‘Don’t go, Barb,’ she says.
‘It’ll be kind just four months-’
‘Four months is forever.’
I stand in her doorway, shrug on sunrobes for night sky of City Nuevo.
‘Barb?’ she says quietly.
I nod but don’t turn around.
‘D’you kind remember that song, that song we loved so much, remember?’
‘Yeah, I remember.’
‘Loved that song.’
And so I leave, back to the dive. Golden mountains, eighteen ziggurats of City Nuevo, overcome slowly by horizon looking back riding this L, glittering in sunlight being born- dissolves holographic towers of old old Manhattan rising out of Flood Zone- and we flee coming daylight as it swallows comforting shadows. Shadows of the past. Vampaires. I don’t know what we search for. Can’t stand the light. Dad might kind hate my assisting her suicide now- it’ll be sometime ‘fore ever we face- then Jayne will maybe get him past that and the boys’ confusion will gradually dee-rez in a world that doesn’t kind simple answers in ways to treat me: did I kill her or set her free, should I be martyred, be charged with homicide, be...?
The boys will maybe come to their own answers.
Dad and Jayne too.
After I’ve left.
(wrote something like this after reading Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis: lost it, rewrote in 2008, again in 2019... it was always important to me that my main character was moral centre despite illusions, past, death and imitation life...)