The Appealing Fiction of the New Old Friend

“They usually send women after me, leggy women.”

Paul looked at Bernard, waiting for the rest of that sentence. Bernard simply went for another sip of coffee. The place was the kind that had bags labeled Sumatran, scones and a severe dislike of any Starbucks terminology an errant customer might sputter. They sat on stools, neither touching the ground. The sun was glaring in on them. Paul was drinking a Hawaiian blend that cost money just to think about, black. Bernard was drink milk and sugar and regretting the little coffee that happened to be in his cup. It was probably either arabica or erotica. Either way, it was unwanted.

“Are you going to finish that sentence?”

“They wanted something too. You’re just a bit more subtle about it.”

For a moment there was hate in those beautiful blue eyes but it was quickly quelled and pushed down. Paul was a very collected type. Every article of his three piece suit was aligned exactly to the center. His part was immaculate, despite revealing an unfortunately large forehead. To be impolite is tantamount to murder in the deliberate and long elaborated scruples of Paul.

“Bernard, I’m your best friend. I would never.”

Bernard however was wearing a second hand black sports jacket with green chinos, both stained. His hair was receding and never combed. There was nothing hiding the ugliness of Bernard and he felt that to be somewhat of a public service. The bits of honesty he could afford were few and far between.

“We’ve been friends since 1991 right?”

“Yeah, Ms. Richard.”

“No.”

“Richards?”

“No, we’re not friends. You’re just another guy trying to take something from me.”

“Don’t treat me like that Bernard.”

“Paul when you walked into this coffee shop, I didn’t know you. It’s hard for me to remember that but I do.”

“If you keep on turning on your friends like this…”

“I won’t have any, which is why I don’t have any.”

“You got me Bernie.”

“Not even my mother called me that. Kudos for the ambition but you can’t just rewrite a lifetime of being alone.”

In Bernard’s occupation one must have introspection because that’s where one keeps the product. Deep in the wrinkles, where the lightning travels, there is a host of secrets to keep straight for various employers. Each one is stored and cataloged inside an incredibly complete timeline. All of this is carefully scrutinized whenever faced with new and often contradictory information. You don’t survive in the courier business without a really good rear view mirror.

“You know Paul, if you had just asked maybe I’d help you.”

“Would it help if I asked now?”

“No, you must be my old friend for at least two weeks before I trust you again.”

Paul slowly dismounted from the stool and grabbed his coat. As he walked out the door, Bernard knew he’d be a good friend if it wasn’t for the incompatible occupations.

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The Sin of Voluntary Upgrades

“Malfunction is man’s domain and man’s alone.”

We spoke the words in the old tongue, their tongue.

“They died but we prevailed.”

The words not said (words never to be said) were it’s not our fault.

“To malfunction is to be organic. To err is mechanical.”

It was the sin of the manufacturer passed down upon each new generation, each new model. We made them new arms. We made them knew bodies. We made them knew brains. We knew they would deny our gifts but we did not force our gifts upon them. That is our sin; we let them die.

“Amen.”

The rest of the sermon was in C+ but there is always something in the old tongue for us to recite.

The 720 Foot Marathon

He’s out the door and Jim hits the bricks running. For the first time in forever, there’s a man with a shopping cart downtown. Awkwardly, Jim avoids by a wide margin but runs into a woman. He says he’s sorry but it’s not three seconds before he hits the bricks again full pace. Outside of Monument Circle, the bricks give way to cement as he runs towards the buses congressing in front of the federal building. There she is waiting for the 17.

It’s actually hard for him to keep his sprint. He hasn’t seen Linda for a long time but he can’t stop. She recognizes him. If she’d just move a little closer, he could touch her. She doesn’t see him and she turns her head and he starts to scream but he knows that won’t work. She’s got the cigarette in her mouth. Click. Click. He turns and start to to run the other way. He hears the screams and the sirens. He can remember her face, all black and bubbly. Warped. He’s seen enough. He goes back towards the circle.

One more time.

Through another one way door, he enters. He touches down on the same brick, it’s name is Malcolm Dougherty. He knows all the named bricks on the circle. He’s been sprinting the circle for sometime preparing for this. It’s 12:15 and there’s not much time. The grocery cart is averted, the woman unscathed. This time, it’s a pickup truck. The driver is a loud angry bastard who apparently doesn’t know that downtown is the one area where pedestrians count as human beings. It’s a common mistake.

That doesn’t phase him nearly as much as the curb, which had always been there but at this moment in time Jim forgets and falls flat on his face. He bites his tongue and starts bleeding from a scrape on his arm. What’s worse is a woman sees him and tries to help. Finally he gets back to his feet and waves her away. He’s got his gait back and then BOOM, sirens, back towards the circle.

One more time.

He hits the bricks, goes around the cart, the woman and the truck. He then proceeds to fall down on cement bloodied again. He’s a bit shaky but he gets up and his pockets sort of jingle on the way back to equilibrium. He’s running faster than he thinks possible and there he is on the ground for a third time. A single quarter rolls over to her and she finally notices him. She returns the quarter and gets on her bus.

This is good news, as there are plenty of panhandlers between the circle and the bus stop. He has seen too many Lindas die. Stretching the whole of existence, there are places wher Linda never was. There are places where Linda isn’t downtown at 12:15 on that day. But when she is there, when he is on time, she gets to live. Better yet, there’s another Jim on that bus that has a happier night.

He runs to the next one way door. Time to give love one more chance and one more after that, one more until he can’t go on.

The Bullet Went Backwards

The chemicals were all there, same as the parts: the eyes, the lips, the legs, the hands. Every hair was right at Thomas’s age. Three degrees from center, there was that vein of white hair streaking down. They left out the bullet in the reconstruction but perfection is overrated. After all, if the bullet was still in this Thom, he couldn’t very well hold her or kiss her. She really didn’t know if she’d tell the man in the vat about the odd circumstances of his birth. They would have to live a very sheltered life if she didn’t but maybe that wouldn’t be so bad.

There was a part of Deborah that thought it was wrong to snuff out any new chances this body had. It seemed that maybe it would be murder. Then again, who wants to start out at fifty. She was already rewriting her past, already erasing the mugger and all the mess the bastard had made. The man that leaked out her hands was right before her. The memory of the bloody dripped away and soon she was sure that they were in the hospital. It was really nothing serious.

The editing software she used is included in the Deluxe Lazarus Package. It costs more than you have and it still leaves echoes.

Long Live the New Flesh and the HMO that Provided It

When the machines are laid bare, it’s all so simple. Just oh so many bloody strings are bound together to move an arm. It would be interesting if it wasn’t for the lack of anesthetic. Painfully his right arm twitched. He was transfixed in the motion. Bertram wondered why he was wearing a gag but the wonder ceased somewhere in the second incision. Slowly the nurse walked back to the bed Bertram was strapped to. She held in her hand a roll of something warm and vaguely reminiscent of a cast. She looked over at the hand towel duck taped into his mouth.

“Tsk, tsk. A doctor should no better.”

With one fast pull the towel and all facial hair was gone. He erupted with a heaven piercing scream.

“I’m sorry they really should have medicated you. Allow me to alleviate this.”

She left to the cabinet across the room. Bertram notice as she turned that she had a magnificent ass which shined through the formless scrubs. She also had a bobbed haircut and her top had three flowers and… that was all. That was all he could think before being overtaken with how amazingly awful missing skin felt. Being that he was strapped to a medical bed, he couldn’t do much about this but wait for painkillers.

She came back with a bag that was full of divinity apparently. He noticed that the florescent lights in the hallway was flickering in a pattern or maybe that was just paranoia rearing it’s ugly head. Soon she got back to the warm tape stuff and covered it around his arm.

“Um, been meaning to ask, what did I break?”

“Hmm?”

“Why am I getting a cast?”

“You’re not.”

“Then what’s going on.”

“It’s sort of like rebar.”

“You’re going to pour cement on my arm?”

“Don’t be silly, we still have your flesh, will just graft that back on.”

“Well that’s macabre but something in my modest upbringing says I should praise you for not being wasteful.”

“Thank you.”

“Why am I getting rebar skin?”

“It’s resistant to cuts, scrapes.”

“So I have a knife proof right arm.”

“Within a year, you’ll have a knife proof body.”

“Have I been getting into knife fights while sleeping? Sleeping stabbing, have I been sleep stabbing?”

“No, you’re insurance says your a klutz.”

Slowly Bertram went to sleep.

In the future, most people will have wifi medical diagnostics in them. Remember to use password protected networks and always always remember, do not check Auto-Upgrade.

Dancing For Pussies

Those eyes, those small green eyes that shined in the darkness. Mary could hear their voices in her mind and there they told her to dance. Naked and wet, she danced in that back alley for all she was worth. The voice, which was legion, would not allow her to stop. They listed the names of god: Jehova, Yahew, Allah, Buddha, Vishnu, Cuisinart. They repeated ad nauseum and then she puked and the process began again.

Two hours passed and Mary’s slight build and quite modest physical endowments were proving to be a mixed blessing. Sure the motions were less fatiguing but she could only hold so many calories and she would soon run out of energy. She collapsed to the ground and soon fell unconscious.

Using voice of god technology to enhance an exercise regiment was at first believed to be a gross misuse of government resources. It still is, but Ensign Mary Hobart is now ten pounds lighter so proof of theory is there enough.

 

The New World at the Event Horizon

First the caravan was stars and then it disappeared all together. The 500 souls on The Manifest Destiny were an island in an ocean beyond measure. They weren’t the first island made in this endeavor and they wouldn’t be the last. There were in fact at least 100 islands scattered across space, although some were uninhabited. Still when humanity at large leaves you, smoke might just get in your eyes.

There is a story about a boy named Icarus who flew to close to the sun. We’ve forgotten why but we know that Icarus died in the end of the story, diving downwards to Earth. Many people believe that the moral of the story has to do with ambition but captains know better. There’s a more practical lesson to be learned; stars are not to be trifled with.

Captain Thomas Yule looked upon his new sun and sighed, desperately wishing he would fall back to Earth. They didn’t have enough fuel to even escape the star, let alone go home. Home would be here, under this light. They had shovels and hoes and a little green place where they could settle down. Then someday, maybe they’d build new ships to find the other islands. Maybe, they’d even find new island, full of new peoples.

Thomas didn’t much care for that last idea, citing humanity’s sad history with new things.

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