“So little magpie what shiney little jewel are you chasing?”
This is the scarecrow. He deals stimulants, electrodes, atomisers and other quantum contraband. The sides of his head are clean shaven, soft steel tattoos creep up, from below his collar, wrap around his neck and line his temple with circuit board tracery. A mohican mop of blue and purple dyed hair randomly sparkles with dots of light from optic fiber hair implants.
Very painful. Very expensive. Very trendy. And very cliché.
“Sims, trodes, fog … name it”
Why do they do that? Abbreviate everything? What is wrong with calling a simulant a “simulant”, instead of “sim”? Yo bitch tap this ‘sim’. Karen says I am synthetically uncool. In the sentence “whaaaaa, I be like dope SIM boi”, I would be the DEA, and haul their junk asses off to grammar jail. She’s right. I guess, but I loath cyberjunkies.
“Dis be da bomb”, he taps a plastic nasal spray. It’s an atomiser containing a nano solvent designed boot the brain into some bioneural altercation. Head hacking.
“yall be pecking on da bitch’s manhole for days! She be like whaaaat, dat be wot I talking about.”
Like I said he's cliché. And I’m just not impressed. At all. He checks me out. I don’t look like a junkie. I don’t talk like a junkie. I am “probably”, therefore, not a junkie.
“I am looking for a coil”
Two gorilla shaped shadows, behind me, stop fidgeting immediately.
Scarecrow, flicks a glance at them and puts a finger to his lips, then he points upward, and draws a circle in the air. The small gorilla nods, pulls out a semi-automatic machine gun, from his trench coat, and leaves the room.
The other gorilla smacks me behind the legs and presses a taser to my throat.
“I’m not a cop”
Scarecrow, again, presses his finger to his lips.
“Seriously … I am not a …”
Scarecrow steps forward and slaps me and again deliberately taps his finger on his lips. I get the message, loud and clear.
Mister machine gun returns.
“He’s on his own. No drones, no flies, no nothing.”
Ape number two drops a static blanket over my shoulders, which hums softly, and rustles like tinfoil. If I were online subliminally, this would amputate communications. But I am not online, because I am not a fucking cop.
The scarecrow’s punk junkie act evaporates as he speaks.
“No simulants, electrodes or atomisers? Obviously you know what’s good for you, let me see ... BioSci? Right? Who told you about the coils?”
I nod to the first question. He’s right, I am a student, and my major is BioSci.
“I heard about it on #darkmarket”
“Right answer, wrong question! I said WHO not where”
He tilts his head like a crow watching a newborn kitten crawling across the lawn, black marble eyes stare hard and cold.
“I …. um … my cognascents lecture has a very subtle tick, and he’s a nervous bastard almost every Monday’s, so I figured it’s residue from the weekend. Maybe it’s habitual , so … I sniffed around, breached his data bank and the rest was pretty easy, just join the dots. He goes by @lumberjack, or something dumb like that.”
Scarecrow stares me down until I break eye contact, then smirks and laughs. I guess something I said was right. He looks over to the gorilla’s and nods, and the nervous tension in the room relaxes.
“Impressive. One day you’ll have a day job, just like your lecturer and everyone else you know, and one day you’ll wake-up and wish you had a night job. Mark my words, but remember this little magpie, the dark side always has vacancies.”
He reaches into his breast pocket and pulls out slender metallic case, then crouches down to my eye level and helps me stand.
“Little birds perch on the wire and chatter amongst themselves. I should know, after all I’m a crow ... and I hear them … all of them. Do you know why, little magpie? Because I … own … the … wire. If I hear that you’ve been chirping out of tune, I will let cats into your cage.”
He pats me paternally, and winks and then, with a schizophrenic twitch, the cool calm psychopath becomes the bipolar punk I met earlier.
“This is military grade, tap this and you’ll be re-booted into tomorrowville. This is one bad bitch. Yeah?”
I look at the coil in my palm. They’re expensive, really expensive.
“Okay, I’ll take it”
“Single or plural?”
This guy is so fucking annoying, I frown at him “What!?”
“Seriously, little magpie get with the vocabulary! Single player or multiplayer? Single or plural?”
“Oh right, so what you mean is: serial or parallel duplex. I need a parallel experience ... plural, you know, for two people, whatever … me and my girl friend.”
“Excrement! Plural rider. Nice! You’ve looped before right?”
I sheepishly shake my head, “no, but ...”
“Don’t think you can fuck it up and then come back here for a refund, that ain’t gonna happen. Mark my words magpie, it ain’t gonna happen. These are signed loops. Know what I mean?”
“Yeah, I do, they have a digital signature, so only we can ‘tap’ them”
“Good. This the only plural ride I got tonight"
He hands me a plastic vial.
“Snap the top off, and put a drop in each eye. Don’t squirt it in, just let the drops fall naturally, then share the remainder, on your tongue, one drop at a time until it’s finished, and lastly peel open the coil open and stick it on your skin, somewhere, anywhere. Not on your ball bag, okay, not on your ballbag. Trust me. Seriously. And that’s it … ping pong you’re gone.”
Ping pong Scarecrow’s gone. Ping pong my money’s gone. Ping pong your face is gone the next time see it, arsehole!
Scarecrow, or whatever his name really is, ripped me off.
With nano narcs the healthier you are the longer the effect lasts. For the last week Karen and I have been loading up on nanobodies. Eating GM foods, taking loads of health syrups, smart water and snacking on wild berries.
The berries reinforce your intercellular communications.
Let's face it you want the trillions of microscopic nano computers, floating in your blood, and loitering in your brain, to receive their instructions quickly.
Karen and I did everything just like scarecrow said, and ….. nothing happened.
In fact so much nothing happened that Karen fell asleep. Lucky her. I am, on the other hand, seething in the dark, lamenting over money.
The looped ceiling fan throbs cool air. I grab my phone, almost three o’clock. On new year’s eve there is always one cracker that doesn’t explode. Isn’t it funny how that’s the one you remember the most. I’m such an idiot. I turn off the ceiling fan, with a flick. With another flick the honeycomb cells, covering the window, dilate. The room floods with pale desaturated moonlight.
Karen’s chest inflates and deflates slow and regular. I’m envious. She’s wearing my softparade t-shirt, I love it when she does that, I can see the subtle hint of a nipple. God she’s beautiful, and warm, and she smells like drops of dew on an ear of corn. I feel hungry, and horny, but mostly hungry. I very carefully untangle myself from Karen and rollover.
“Where you going?”
“Sorry baby, I can’t sleep”
“Again? Ah man that sucks ...”
“Hmmmm? The toothpaste … bubble … gum”
She straddles consciousness for another brief second and slips away back into her dream. I watch and I smile as she submerges.
I tip-toe to the door, slip out into the corridor and head down to kitchen.
The fridge blinds me for half a second, while my eyes adjust to the glare. There’s nothing particularly interesting in here, which means “the usual”. I grab: butter, cheese, milk, half a tomato and plonk it all on the counter. I just knew that scarecrow guy was dodgy, and I was right. I turn on a frying pan, and while it heats itself up, I butter bread. Man I love those things, I’ve had it for about year, brilliant, it’s got a thermostat, so when your mom calls and you get distracted, it turns off. Absolute genius. I reckon soon we won’t even need a stove. I blink and suddenly I am blind.
I blink again, and again and again, and rub my eyes, nothing helps. Oh my god. I am encased in strobes of light completely devoid of color and detail. Open or closed, my eyes are basically staring into the sun.
Karen. Karen can help me get to the hospital. I spin around, and start patting my way toward the door, just before I reached the door, the cruel sun blinks, and starts to collapse outward. By the time I have fumbled to the top of the stairs, and down the corridor, the sun has set inside itself and my world is black.
Back inside my room, I must stay “un-panic-ed”, or Karen will freak out.
“Karen”, I whisper shout, “Karen wake up”
I shuffle toward the bed. She mumbles incoherently.
“Karen baby, I am in trouble, I need your help”
Suddenly, I can see the ceiling fan. But my point of view is completely misaligned. Then the perspective tilts downward and Karen starts screaming hysterically, as she does, my vision thrashes around like a firehose.
“Simon!!!!! Simon? Where are you?”
“Karen I'm right here!”
The thrashing stops and in front of me is a man, standing above me looking down, a dark silhouette against the pale blue glow of the moonlit room. It’s hard to believe, but I am looking at myself. I am looking through Karen's eyes.
Karen’s panic escalates and she’s screaming hysterically.
“Karen!!!! Stop! Calm the fuck down! And look toward my voice”
“Everything is fucked up!”
We point our heads at each other. And simultaneously realise the epiphany.
After a traumatic accident where, for a brief moment, a patient is pronounced dead and then later reanimates, they occasionally recall how they were detached from their body, and floated above everything and could see their body below and everything around it. An out of body experience. Well this is that.
I am Karen, and she is me. Synthetically.
“This is … wow”
Our optical stimulus has been transposed.
Technically this process is referred to as “exporting the display”, it is conducted over a secure connection to another computer. Basically all the graphical data from one machine is piped to the other through an impenetrable data tunnel. Karen and I in essence have tunnel vision. We are hijacking each others eyes.
A clump of curly auburn hair flops down and obscures my sight. Instinctively I reach up to wipe it away. But there is no hair there, these are Karen's curls.
“Karen can you tuck your hair behind your ear?”
She does, and my vision clears.
This is the weirdest thing that I have ever experienced.
I lift my hands and cover my eyes, Karen laughs out loud.
“Hey! That’s not very nice”
In retaliation she shakes her head violently and my world thrashes around left and right, and I feel giddy. Even though I am standing dead still.
I start laughing and pleading for her to stop, My brain is telling me I’m on a helter-skelter. Karen stands up on the bed and starts jumping up and down, and falls over, and thumps onto the floor, howling with laughter. Then she crawls toward me and slowly stands up.
I see my feet, they look so long and funny, and my toe nails really need cutting. I see up my legs, up my lower abdomen, up my chest and finally I see my face. A selfie. I see Karen’s hands on my chest, and then I see her fingers rake through my hair, touch my lips. Karen leans forward and I kiss myself.
We burst into hysterics.
For the next hour we orientate our new found perspective of the world. Facing each other everything is in reverse, left is right, right is left. Facing the same direction coordination is normal, but everything is offset.
“Let’s make something to eat?”
Remember “one-leg-racing” when you were a child in primary school? You and your partner are tied together at the ankle, and the team that wins are the ones that works together best. Well we were pathetic. Getting to the kitchen was an adventure in itself, slicing cheese and tomatoes and flipping the toast was hilarious. But we got better, until it was almost second nature.
“Oh no ….”
“What? What’s wrong Kay?”
“Nothing ... it’s just … I need to pee”
Suddenly the private sanctuary of personal ablution is upside down. Sharing the bathroom when you brush your teeth or take a shower is one thing. Using the loo is an unspoken agreement for privacy. Off to the loo we go.
I sit on a stool so Karen can navigate the big picture, she can see the whole of the bathroom, she walks past the mirror, and stops. She looks at her reflection, and I see the her face.