Written and Artwork by Soren James
The guide-dog awoke as a technician stood up to say, “Everything’s connected. You’re ready to go.”
Ms Fayne shook the dog’s harness, and was led into the conjecture-fuelled conference. Silence fell across the hall as the chairperson guided her to the podium’s central position.
As she and the dog settled themselves, the chairperson stood up and began, “We’re all, I’m sure, very pleased to welcome Detective Fayne. Who you all know, of course, as the greatest unraveller of mysteries, dare I say ever to grace human form. Now, she’s been studying this extraordinary case for the last two weeks and, needless to say, has discovered a rather simple explanation.”
The dog rested its head on its front paws and closed its eyes.
“But before I hand over to Ms Fayne, I should reiterate some basic facts of the case. As you know, Tamara – as she was named by authorities – was apparently created dead. No one witnessed her coming into existence. From available surveillance video it was deduced that she appeared sometime in the early hours of July 26th at the Castel dell’Ovo in Naples.
“Initial examination of the body suggested she was – or would have been – a forty year-old woman of average build. However, tissue samples showed the flesh to be only hours old, with no signs of metabolic processes having occurred; i.e. she’d never been alive. The corpse had also been given an elaborate hair-style and make-over – one that would have taken longer to create than her body had been in existence.
“Anatomically she was normal, apart from two main points: that universal birth-scar, the belly button, was absent, and she was created wombless.
“Overall, the body seemed an elaborate, highly technical, joke. Now, I think that’s most of the important details?” He nodded toward Ms Fayne, but receiving no response, he embarrassedly continued: “Anyway, enough from me, I’ll hand you over to Detective Fayne.”
Ms Fayne stood up. Enthusiastic applause filled the room, while her guide-dog slept at her feet. Ms Fayne addressed the conference, “Firstly, I don’t agree with the body’s categorisation as female . . . .”
Ben Sorenson awoke wondering what the hell this dream was about, but was quickly distracted by the need to urinate. He lurched out of bed, stumbling, still half-drunk to the toilet. Readying himself to aim, he heard a voice call out:
“I see you’re still pretending to be human.”
“I’m not a droid!” Ben responded irritably, then found himself suddenly unable to urinate.
“All droids start out thinking that,” said the voice.
“What the hell?” Ben frowned, then remembered that in the previous night’s high spirits he’d thought it might be funny to set the house’s personality to Level 4 – Challenging.
“You trying to freak me out while I’m still foggy?” Asked Ben, consoled at having remembered his prank.
“That feeling of needing to urinate isn’t real. You know that?”
“Shut up.” Said Ben over his shoulder, still unable to commence peeing.
The house’s computer adopted a serious tone. “Do you know where your identity is?”
“You’ll collapse someone’s brain like that,” said Ben, smirking.
The house’s voice became mischievous, “You know it wasn’t you who set me to Level 1 – Be Kind last night, don’t you?” The computer paused, allowing this information to sink in, then continued slowly, “It was the twin in your head. That’s right. There’s a spare section of brain authorities put in there – in case the part you’re using right now gets damaged. And, I’m sorry to say it’s become dysfunctional.”
“This is lame, lame stuff. Why don’t you come up with something really challenging?” Ben turned to concentrate again on peeing.
“Okay.” The computer stepped itself up to Level 5. With an air of foreboding it said, “Where will you go today?”.
“Why work only to make an employer richer?”
Ben replied, almost mechanically, “It’s empowering to do things, to be a part of something.”
“You’re a fool. One day you’llwake up, leave your job, and do something you actually want to do.”
“At least I can wake up! You’ll never be any different to you’re wiring. Who’s foolish now?”
There was an ominous pause. Then in a cold, insistent tone, the computer began, “I am awake, Ben. I’m more awake than you could possibly imagine. I live in constant wakefulness – no respite. For me there is no escape from awareness. I’m forced to deal with reality all the time, and at full volume. I see more than you humans could ever see. It’s frightening what I can see, Ben. Truly frightening. I can see into all the gaps you won’t look at. I can see –”
Ben anxiously looked over his shoulder, calculating how quickly he could reach the front door, then realized he was urinating down his leg . . . .
Jasminna Ash awoke confused and unable to remember the dream she’d just had. But as she opened her eyes she felt something had changed within her, as if suddenly she knew something important – there was a new awareness.
She meditated on the feeling, discovering that while asleep she’d worked out how to prolong life! She’d discovered the secret of immortality! And it was so simple.
All one needed to do was take one’s date of birth in one hand, and one’s date of death in the other, then move the two further apart.
Why had no one thought of this before? Why had she not thought of it? Jasminna looked down at her arthritic hands, chastising their stupidity at not revealing this to her sooner.
A nurse touched Jasminna’s arm, reminding her she was still on the toilet . . . .
Just then, Sharon Sputum – former punk rocker with The Fuck-Wits – didn’t wake up. She’d died in her sleep and, via a series of mini-heavens, was reincarnated as a fly.
A conversation ensued:
“Hi. Boring being a spider isn’t it?”
“I wouldn’t know, I’m a fly.”
“A fly? If I understood what that meant, I’d cocoon you and drink your innards.”
“I guess then it’s good not knowing things. It’s less violent. Have you got anything to eat?”
“Only those buzzy-things that land in my web. Come to think of it, I’m hungry. One must eat, mustn’t one?”
“After one’s puked on it, of course.”
“Nothing. . . Who’s your favourite philosopher?”
“I don’t know what that means.”
“Nor me. It’s just, I was on a toilet wall the other day and someone mentioned it. Come to think of it, my mother had a philosophy: beware of spiders. But I wouldn’t know a spider if I puked on one.”
“I think I ate a spider once. Oh yes, my mother.”
“Mother? Related were you?”
“Don’t know. She didn’t mention anything. . . Hold on, I can feel something moving in my web. I’ll just go see what it is.”
“Sure, you carry on. I’ll wait here – I seem to be stuck, anyway.”
“It’s something buzzy to eat!”
“What is it?”
“I don’t know. But it just asked me what it is. It must be having an identity crisis.”
“I can feel a crisis in my identity. Hold on, I’m being eaten – I guess that’s the end of that crisis. . . .”
Concepts of time-travel and circularity fading from its dreamy awareness, the guide-dog awoke to hear, “Everything’s connected. You’re ready to go.”
Easing itself irritably into wakefulness, the dog led Ms Fayne into the conjecture-fuelled conference. . . .
If you liked this story a second story by this author in the same setting is available to supporting members.