Scene 8

Efficiency City, February 10, 2084. 2230 hours.

Let’s see what’s in the fridge. Nothing. That’s funny. I thought I went shopping just last year. I grab a feeding tube and suck in the paste, which has the color, texture, onsistency, and taste of pancake batter. A cocktail of protein, vitamins, and sugar. I strap on my headset and wander in the netherworld for hours. Someone snaps me back by pulling the electrodes off my skull. It feels like someone ripping out deep sea fish hooks lodged in my brain.

− Aaaaarrggh!

I jump up and whirl around. It’s Aria.

− What the fuck! Can’t you knock?

− And you would hear me from La-La Land.

I sink down on my couch and light a cigarette.

− What do you want?

− I want to show you something.

She is more beautiful than ever. Her wavy red hair streams over her shoulders and down her back. Her broad shoulders are square to me. Her large breasts fill out her button-down shirt. Her denims are torn at the right knee.  Her freckles and green eyes give a glittery femininity to a woman whose first impression is rather butch.

− Man, you guys are too cool for me. I can’t keep up with you. All this mystery and shit. Puddleface Delictum or whatever. Can’t you see I don’t fit in with you I’m just a fucking loser. I fix headsets for a living. I’m balding, I’m fat, and the only sexual experiences I’ve ever had have been virtual ones.

− That’s why I want to show you something. You’re ready.

− Dude, I can just see myself getting hauled in with the rest of you. You guys are unkosher. The cops are gonna find something to pin you on. Or not. It doesn’t matter. They’ll just haul you away one day. I don’t wanna be in that paddywagon.

− Got it. You want to sit here for the rest of your life, die like most people, in the middle of a cyberfantasy. They check on you three weeks later still connected to your headset.

− Yeah. Exactly. At least I know what to expect. The cyberfantasies are dumb, but at least there are no surprises. I go to work, I get paid. I come home. I spend my money on line. No one bothers me.

− Don’t you want to know what it’s like to make decisions for yourself? Take a risk? Have a feeling? Experience real fear, real pleasure, maybe even joy, maybe even love?

− What do you care?

− We need a headset expert.

− I knew you had an angle.

− And, I feel sorry for you. Before I’m through with you, you’re gonna have at least one adventure in your life.

− Oh great, you feel sorry for me. What an invitation.

− Nate, after you die, the undertakers pick you up, take you down to the morgue factory, empty out your skull, and feed your brain cells to a computer that uses them as fuel for more tripe that they then feed to everyone else. Most of us are intellectual cannibals. We’re not thinking; we’re just puking out thoughts that other people have had millions of times before. I’m different. And maybe, just maybe, you’re different too.

And with this she walks out. I suck on my cigarette and listen to her footsteps down the stairs. I hear the front door open and close.

 

I see Aria a block away, walking casually toward San Mateo Boulevard. As I fall in next to her, she walks on without looking at me, without changing the expression on her face.

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