The invisible sounds of machines sucking.
Brain tap. Neuron slush. Soul straw. Cyborg slurp.
World, world, world.
Raw unholy whizzing through space.
Godblessed and in torment. Shattered shadows, glimpsing themselves in the mirror of funhouse mind, cascading domino visions that rasp and wheeze like gummy old men caught with lungs full of puss and blood. Looking up at white ceilings to see angels hovering, dancing on pinheads, pirouetting away through the gloom into the darkened slum alleys and streety night gang highways, breaking on the rocks of illusion and holding on with clawed fingers, grasping, grasping. . .
* * *
I come to awareness after what seems like no time at all, but which actually is a couple of days. I’m back in my own body somehow, in a dark tunnel like an underground cave. There is torchlight, and water dripping. The place smells of dust, sand, and stagnant pools of water, but at least it’s real, and on Earth. Beside me are 4Com_3_Jeff and his older brother-clone, 4Com_1_Jeff. 1_Jeff is actually far better looking with his pink feathers. He had much cooler looking cyborgean accessories attached to his head. He knows it too, with his haughty attitude. Obviously the favored older clone.
“This is great,” I say, patting my mid-section and very glad to have one, and hands to touch it with. “Thanks.”
“You can get as attached to that as you like, simhead,” 1_Jeff says. “You’re in simspace, you dulldrum. For now. We need you to get busy.” He lifts a finger, then points it down. On the ground, on a bearskin blanket next to a crude glowing campfire, is an IBM Selectric.
“You guys are pretty focused,” I say. I don’t know why I’m bothering to make conversation. “Who were those guys?”
Ignoring my question, but sensing the need beneath it, my old buddy 3_Jeff, who is far politer than his brother, answers me. “It really doesn’t matter, professor. We know you weren’t like one of those capitalist slimeshits. We’d never have resurrected you if you were. The PlanFeds, the Planetary Confederation folks, have a no exceptions policy. Fundamentalist technorealists, you know. If you worked in a b-school they want your consciousness returned to the nonmaterial substrate. They checked our filing, which was only supposed to be local, but they tapped in as we were tuning you. We’re out of their jurisdiction, we think, and we’ve got some good beagles to fight them with. We’re in mediation. Hoping for the best, you know.”
“Does that mean I get to go back to my old body if we win?” I ask. “You guys promised me you’d find a way. Come on! I have two little kids. They need me. A wife who loves me. Family. Students. Colleagues. Come on now. Please? I’m working for you, here. But that’s where I want to be.”
We’ll try,” says 3_Jeff, but 1_Jeff just turns his head and crosses his arms impatiently, as if all this talk about my life is unbearable foolishness. “We’ll really try. But if the Planetary Confederation wins this case they’ll turn you off right away. Permanently. Your awareness will evaporate just like that, return to the All-Being. Isn’t this better than that? You can stay with us for a while. You like it here, right?”
I touch my face and look down at the typewriter. Scooby Doo, Harry Potter. I miss reading those stories to my kids. I ache for one more look at them, one moment more of the smell of their hair as I kiss their heads, of being with them.
“What you’ve written is helpful,” 3_Jeff says, as if he were throwing a scrap to a hungry dog. “We need some more good stuff. Keep writing. We’ll do what we can.”