At the risk of telling too many tales I’ve started another one. I wanted to get it going and well – if you hadn’t noticed this being a bit of a fictional mind dump already….
I’m still thinking about what to do with Science Fraction and there’ll be more of that later. In the mean time, I had been thinking about something else. I can’t help but think it’s all derivative – naturally – but we’ll see what sort of homage this turns into as I think it out. Possibly I should write a whole story some day before posting it. But then having anyone bother to read and remark is a pretty good editor to me.
Another bed time story on the go.
I came back on a Tuesday – frightening the living daylights out of myself and my cleaner Eve.
I’d forgotten she would be there – before the upload I decided to keep her credits going. She was vacuuming around my feet when I tuned in and started muttering. Poor woman, she’d been vacuuming around my inanimate frame for six months and one day I start talking rubbish at her after so long in silence.
I regained focus on my surroundings and realised I had a phenomenal headache growing with intensity by the second. I growled long and low tailing off into a moan. My throat felt as though it had been tarred and feathered through lack of use.
I twitched and shot out an elbow knocking over my drip and catheter. Only then when Eve scuttled backward brandishing the vacuum attachment like a pike did I realise I had company.
“Eve,” I growled. This was not going to be easy.
I had kept Eve on as a form of weekly company. My friends installed all sorts of makerbots, robotic vaccuum cleaners and sanitisers in their homes. They also hired walkers – people who stayed behind and walk their bodies around to make sure there was less risk of atrophy. I knew I was coming back – so I bought more security and kept Eve around. I know that she sings while she is in the flat – some things permeate the upload divide, I feel tethered.
The thing about Eve though, she’s almost designed to remain behind, naturally clever and suspicious, I have no idea why she’s still a cleaner. Five foot nothing of Eastern European suspicion. She was not happy about the DNA swab addition to my security door and then she laughed uproariously when I showed here the disintegration video of what would happen to people whose DNA did not match the system. I like her sense of humour – but at the moment I came back, I was not entirely sure if she knew some new way to torture a person with a vacuum attachment. I showed her my palms and tried to clear my throat. It was coming back to me that Eve was the first person I would want to talk to when I came back, which is why I was risking a beating right now.
“Eve,” a bit clearer this time. “It’s me. Don’t worry. I’ve come back”
She eyes me, apparently not intending to lower her ad hoc weapon. I’m trying hard to control the feeling that I might twitch again, my muscles ache.
“Eve, do you remember what I told you six months ago? That I would be coming back today?”
She squints at me and draws her lips tight. Then she backs away to where my calendar is nailed to the wall. A big cross marks today. She checks her watch to make sure.
“Why you not warn me you would be so hideous?”
I can see that her language skills have not changed.
“Thanks Eve. I’m not sure that hideous was part of the plan.”
“You scare me,” she chides, finally lowering the vaccuum pole and leaning on it. I relax a little, my headache put off by the tension comes flooding back to me.
“What is the matter with you?” Eve leans toward me to get a better look. “You’re pale. Are you sick? Did you bring something back?” She takes a step away again.
I raise my eyebrows – hadn’t thought of that. I’m starting to be glad I planned to talk to Eve first – she has the best paranoid ideas.
“I don’t think so Eve. I have the gods’ own headache. Probably lack of caffeine, nicotine and maybe dehydration.” I move slowly to get up and head to the kitchen. I’ve basically been writing half conscious tales from the Upload for the streams for six months. Sitting in my office, not really there, drawing in hydro and nutrients from a drip and emptying my bladder into a recycling tube. I can feel it now and it seems exactly right.
Helpfully on the bookshelf I have left a packet of cigarettes, some painkillers and Eve is at the dispenser getting me some water. She brings it to me. “For your pills,” she’s waving a piece of paper around, I keep notepads still because Eve prefers carbon. I can see I have written on it but I don’t know what.
“She holds it up while I try to drink down the painkillers. Clearly I was prepared, I wrote instructions for Eve and left myself a nice little wake-up welcome. I squint at the paper and eventually grab it from her to keep it still.
Indeed – in my handwriting, step by step. I guess I could have set her a reminder instead of frightening us both upon return.
I think about the Upload, where I have been for six months and the articles. I look at my open computer and see that I have not written into the stream publicly or privately for hours.
“You’re always typing. Like Zombies” comments Eve gesturing at my computer.
“At least my editor will be pleased then,” I remark. I check back on my input – looks coherent too. I guess I was getting messages sent into the Upload too as I have a clear inbox of replied and read messages. The last one is from Den. He’s been paying me and he’s happy with the words. Frankly I’m surprised. Thinking on it I realise he probably has not read a single word I have written but is basing his feedback on stats. He’s a cutthroat bastard and illiterate writer with dreams of drama. All the better for the writers he employs.
“Come on Eve. I’m going to make us some coffee your way and I have lots of questions.”
She looks at the sheet again and then rather more piercingly at me.
“You write that you pay me three times more today for the questions.”
“That sounds about right Eve – I might pay you more if you can open this coffee can.”
So we talked.
In only six months things had changed so much. Eve said it was as though part of the population had simply left. They were either at home and uploaded or stashed in compounds where hundreds of people who had the money and time were simply placed. Their bodies were filed away.
Eve told me about the two months of looting. People didn’t think it through I guess. Their bodies incapacitated and their minds not all there, their homes were raided. Raided until people had laundered enough money to upload themselves too. Some were uploaded in their living rooms with squatters in their homes. Not realising they had company.
The world had readjusted. Initially there was also the feeling that no one was watching those who were left behind. Fires were started, rules changed, rioting. Changed until the uploaded leaders implement their plans to govern the place they were only half living in.
I made notes and smoked. There would be an archive feed somewhere of all of this. But it would not be the same as talking to Eve.
Was she afraid?
Initially yes. She feared lawlessness but also relished some of the freedom and space. With the upper classes gone, the social system had also adjusted. There was also a different government emerging, Eve laughed and called them the meat puppets – the flesh and blood leaders rather than the uploaded ministers.
I wondered how those two would work together.
Eve had a question of her own. How was it that I could afford to come back?
It was expensive enough to upload yourself but extortionate to get a ticket both ways. I looked at her. Eve has a surprising frankness in her facial expressions. I absently brushed my thumb against my new forefinger on my right hand. “Someone owed me a favour.”
She inspected my face and nodded. “Everyone owes someone a favour,” she noted. Apparently satisfied.
With a deep breath Eve pushed back on the table into her chair. “Time to go I think. More cleaning in other places”. She looked at the mess of papers I had now strewn across the table.
“Don’t worry about this Eve. I think I’m going to be making more of a mess from now.”
She shrugged. “Just like before. People who are really here make a real mess.”
As she put on her coat and I hobbled to see her to the door she let me know that there was simple food in the fridge and to call her if I fell over or something. I smiled, I’m sure I don’t pay her enough.
As she headed down the stairs I looked out into the hall. Being out in a physical sense seemed somewhat forbidding in a world that according to Eve had changed quite a bit. The phone rang and I picked up a handset next to the door.
“You’re awake then?”
Den, the editor.
“How do you know?”
“Nothing in the stream – you’ve been writing for nigh on six months and everything stopped. You’ve not filed for ten hours now. Where’s my copy?”
I paused wondering if curses had changed while I had been away too.
“You stayed?” I asked.
“Of course I stayed, I can’t run a stream from bloody la-la land can I?”
“I need to eat something and get my head together”
“Don’t bother – it’ll be more interesting while you’re still Upload stoned. Get dressed and take your mobile for filing. I’ll expect something within the hour.”
The line dropped.
So lovely to be back. So lovely to recognise that Den would never drop the cliche of “Mister Editor”. I doubt I would work for him if he wasn’t one of the best though. The others, they don’t call.
I leaned against the door frame and tried to check whether I thought I was entirely working again. I looked at the security door – scorch marks around the frame proved that Eve’s stories of looting and break ins were true. Across the hall police tape and water in my neighbour’s burned out home. I wondered if they had uploaded. Had they been in there or did they do it themselves? Insurance must be fun around now.
Time to go out.
To be continued…
The second episode of Upload is here – Upload:1