I decided to ignore Den’s demands for filing within the hour. I was not ready.The usual work in the stream was not about me but about politics, post-upload religion, cultural fanatics and post-flesh speculation. I had a feeling that there was going to be a lot more of me in my writing now that there was a lot more of me in well…me.
The painkillers were starting to work so I took a shower and drank more coffee. Not only were my muscles still a little unsure of themselves, it seemed that my internal organs were also finding it hard to adjust. I was cramping already from the real world diet. There’s something to be said for living on a drip. I wondered what might be happening inside the long-term Uploaders. It was too gross to contemplate.
I threw up my coffee. Cleaned up again and decided it was time to go out. I dressed down, packed a bag with non-transmitting recording devices and a miniature camera tucked over my ear. I could record whatever happened and replay it when I got home. If I got home.
I hesitated by the door again, peering out at the neighbour’s place. I had seen too many movies. I half expected zombies to be at the window downstairs or virus stricken berzerkers to make a run at me. Finally logic took over. If Eve was happy to go about her business, then things must be at least only half as apocalyptic as I was expecting. I thought about her bright red coat as I locked up the flat and headed downstairs. It was beautiful, striking even. Not what I would expect if the world had been turned upside down.
Out on my street, things looked as they might mid-week in the day time. Quiet. But with subtle signs of life. If anything, the gardens seemed to be better tended. Flowers I had not noticed before were flourishing.
Of all things, I passed a Postman. Snail mail. I looked at him and tried not to be too curious as he looked back at me. We both seemed to notice something odd that was too subtle to identify. I moved on as quickly as I could, arms and legs aching with lack of use again.
I wandered down to the high street. What was it that was different about the Postie? He was wearing a uniform. There were still postmen and women when I uploaded, they wore that uniform too. Maybe it was the colours. His uniform seemed somehow brighter and the bag of letters and trolley he pushed were crammed with physical post. More than usual? I couldn’t fathom it.
As I turned the corner toward the main drag of shops I caught my breath. Now I knew why that postman looked different. I realised that I would need to change as quickly if I was to go unnoticed at least for a little while.
The people on the high street were brighter. Louder patterns adorned each surface. Doors and window frames were painted in shocking hues. People were wearing colours in clashing combinations and unusual cuts.
Around them the grass verges and planters were filled with flowers and bright plants. There were gardeners in bright green outfits tending to them. There was something of a 1950s dream to what I was seeing. The colours, the jolly behaviour, the constant conversation.
The London I had left was as you would expect. I only knew what my nearest next door neighbour looked like because I was paranoid and looked them up. The rest of the people in my area were interchangeable, dressed in grey, black or blue. Variations of the same low-key theme. These people were memorable. They were excitable and purposeful. I stood out like a rusty nail in a plastic dolls house. It was time to change.
“I had prepared for the wrong apocalypse”
I stepped into a shop and took a look around. The woman behind the counter was spectacular. Hair of an orange hue, dressed in green and pink. She initially seemed to be disturbed by my appearance but very quickly changed tack and smiled. “Hi. My name is Rachel, welcome to my shop. Can I suggest a few things for you?”
“Um. Sure. I’m from out of town – as you can see…”
“Yes.” She nodded sideways at my drab attire. I had prepared for the wrong apocalypse.
“Can I get something a bit nicer?”
“Nicer!” She beamed at me. “Nicer I can definitely do”
She hurried around the counter, shot a few looks in my direction and picked up items from racks. I took a look at the coats that were nearest to me. Orange, emerald, scarlet and cardinal purple. Most had contrasting stitches. Large contrasting stitching. The penny dropped. The Postman’s uniform, it was hand-stitched.
“They’re all hand made?”
Rachel stopped dead in her tracks and turned to me. “Of course they are.” She seemed insulted. “Me and my sisters would not be making the machine produced clothing you might have picked up elsewhere.” She cast a haughty look at my attire. “People should know better than to pick up second hand clothes made by machines.” She stepped closer to me and pulled on my collar, murmering, “I’m not even sure where you would get something like this anymore. Unless you stole it from the Uploaded…” She eyed me.
“I had to borrow it.” I was trying to think quickly. “My mother lives far out of town and she had it left over. She didn’t upload but she doesn’t travel much.”
It sounded lame to me. I think it sounded lame to Rachel too. But Rachel seemed to like “nice” and like to be nice. So she smiled.
“Well, let’s get you into something more modern and something a bit more colourful. Now’s not the time for drab and dowdy!”
I felt like I was being assaulted by an old movie.
Rachel shoved a bunch of items at me and bundled me into a fitting room. I emerged ten minutes later feeling like the host of a children’s program. My dress was yellow like daffodils, I’d been given contrasting blue stockings and a jacket that matched the dress. Exactly. As I stepped out and set my face to “nice”, Rachel beamed at me and handed over a pair of emerald green leather shoes.
“Lovely!” she exclaimed. I tried my best to will the same sentiment but I was feeling somewhat ridiculous. I bent over to put the shoes on.
“Now let’s talk about how best to pay for it all.”
I tried not to flinch. I had money. Paper money and a credit card. If machine stitching was not the right thing for now, I had the feeling that the economics of trade would be equally strange to me.
Rachel handed me a scarlet bag and looked sympathetically at my black rucksack. Also not right. Got it. I couldn’t decant my belongings in front of her without giving myself away so I smiled and put it over my shoulder with a gesture that I hoped would describe “later”.
“So what would you like to do?” Rachel asked.
Thinking “run away” I hesitated. Blinked and paused. I looked around for a clue.
“You have been out of town for a while haven’t you?”
“Uh, yes. My mother lives on a farm. We don’t come to the shops much.”
“That’s excellent. Self sufficiency being the norm these days. But there are things you just can’t do yourself in the city. So what do you do?”
“Well there you go, that’s perfect.”
She took a pencil and notepad from a shelf next to her counter and started to write things down.
One dress, one pair of stockings, one pair of shoes, one bag and the total…the total?
It was blank.
Rachel put the pencil to her lips in thought. Then she started to write a balance of sorts.
One set of flyers for the shop describing the new range to be discussed. Two hours worth of meetings to be arrange to discuss what to write. She would deal with the printer. One short story for her niece Rebecca who would be turning nine in three weeks. Must include rabbits and magic because those are her favourite things. Did I do calligraphy writing?
One more thing. A poem for her mother who is ill. Something cheerful about passing into the afterlife but to be sure it didn’t resemble the upload to which they had lost Rachel’s brother.
“There” said Rachel. Seemingly satisfied. You have enough paper and pencils to do this?
“There’s a stationers over the road. Tell him you’ll run an errand. He gets writers offering writing all the time of course, he doesn’t need anymore.”
She shoved the list into my hands. “That should make us even” She beamed. I tried not to gawp. A bartering system. Extraordinary. Den would eat this up.
“No problem. How about we meet tomorrow and talk about the new stock. We have new dyes coming in for all sorts of new ranges. I think that patterns might be a nice change.”
I nodded. It was time to go.
I walked toward the door.
“Before you go..” I turned, paranoid, wondering if she knew.
“Best to do something with that hair too”
I nodded and swallowed. More bartering. I was going to be busy before I could file for Den tonight.
Dressed like a primary coloured nightmare, freshly cast as a PR writer for a boutique I stepped cautiously out into the street and put my old clothes into a bin. The flowers in the nearby planter were bright red geraniums. I felt as though I was mocking them.
To be continued…
You can find the first episode of this story here – Upload:0