In a bright gleaming chamber
with silvery shapes
gone streaking back and
forth; delectable wires,
spread out and falling like hair from
her shoulders: the snake-like
wide-angled images onto
(she's a living television
circuitry and wide bulbous insect-eyes staring
at the world of metal and
shapes and symbols she was
immersed in; eyes taped
open so that she would
not sleep—the numbers
and equations, statistics and
cooking instructions playing
across them in blurr-time,
swift and unyielding
She's plugged into the rageless
city, pumping new blood
into it night and day
They lay with her and she opens
herself to their gentle,
sometimes cruel prodding
(They whispered promises to her.
. . .)
"Soon." She heard the voice of
the WebSuggestor in her
was in her mind now. She hadn't
spoken in three years: it wouldn't
have done any good
anyway. The FLX cable had severed
her voice box—
"Soon we will choose another
to replace you. You
are keeping us alive."
It was a technological whorehouse,
jacked into their deepest, most
made requests for credit increases;
estate; and large commercial
war games, with her as mediator.
. . .
The dead were strewn at her naked
Predecessors in a pile of recycled
and cryogenically frozen until
they found a
technology that wouldn't wear
out the host
in five years, hoping to curb
the onset of the
overflowing with information and madness
soon . . . the thankful death; soon, the
when the mind would be still, and she could
hear her own heartbeat in her
the black liquid that welled
up in her breast
from time to time that she held
and swallowed, the tube in her
pumping the bad stuff away
She wanted to close her eyes,
but couldn't. . . .
Staring up at the strange
breasts and suspended body,
a reflection of what and who'd
become by the age of twenty-five
As a child, sitting in her class, one day long ago, the
of pressed leaves shifting outside the window—over
of the Pledge of Congruence— the deafness
suddenly came to her, making her
head hurt and her ears bleed; a piercing whine, spreading
through her mind.
She had, in that horrific moment, developed the potential
storing vast amounts of information; a sophisticated
genetically superior neurons that caused her to
be different now
from the other
children. She would be
given a new identity; she would sustain the city.
They took her away. . . .
A few weeks into her training, a visual message
was sent to her; a message
that must have taken a great effort to send (she was
to receive communications from the outside): It
said, "Come home."
Her mother's face, red and swollen, large on the screen.
Her voice small and white in contrast, like
cotton swabs dipped in alcohol.
She said, "I have a map of the grounds. You can just walk away.
You can escape and we can be together again, Emma, wouldn't you
like to be with Mommy? Download the
information so that Mommy
can see you again. Do it now. Download
the . . . please, Emma. Hurry . . .”
Her image vanished and Emma pressed
her hand hard against the
Screen, but it wouldn't download.
She cried herself to sleep that night
and resolved to plan an escape by morning on her own.
Rising early and slipping into the transparent
gown they provided her,
she left out, boldly determined;
Cold feet slapping the metal tile, turning and
returning down repeating
corridors, endless and not knowing which was the way
OUT, and running until her little feet were
tired and the soles of them were
Cut and bleeding and pulsing with red
They found her lost and wet with
tears and snot, exhausted and frustrated
in the lower-ducts, afraid and wanting her mommy.
her bed again, tucked in by the supervisor, a tall woman
With soft voice and purple
eyes like flowers in rain water, her
back framing the doorway as she left out, closing the door behind her. When the footsteps faded, she
threw the covers back, rubbing
red eyes that still ran with warm tears—remaining hope— keying in the exit code frantically, but they
had locked her in this time; they
would not let her go. It said: ACCESS DENIED
She sent a reply to her mother, but the message came
WOULD YOU LIKE ASSISTANCE?
And the large insect eyes . .
. sweLLING on the wall, that said (--the Sound coming out without the lips moving—)
"You will one day be me, as I was once you: we are the same: Reciprocal.
I am mother, thy sustainer. Taste the umbilical cord of the rageless city. . . . ”
And she drove the blue wire through
the opening in Emma's skull
Yes, it was her destiny.
She was special and special little
girls were sent here
to grow up and do special big things
without questioning it. . . .
“Where did men come, but by the womb of a mother?"
She flexed her fingers
And sent a missile attack
a far-off village and sentenced
man to death for the murder of
ex-wife and registered a new
girl, whose name was Hilda,
stared up at her now, in fear and wonder;
her head freshly shaven,
sound the wires made;
not knowing what to do,
but to wait . . .
The supervisor gently pushing
"Go on . . ." she said.
The blue wires whipping
the air like a
tail, as it made the first incision
in her head,
lifting her from the floor;
the frail little girl suspended in the air;
eyes going back inside her head,
then black; then opaque,
of undisturbed lacquer,
for her mommy, as she lost
. . .
of her brain with wet information,
the first opening of insect-eyes, blinking
that of an infant seeing the world for the
In a bright gleaming
chamber with silvery shapes
Gone streaking back
and forth in delectable ageless wires
The welcome silence
finally came to her:
The images slowing
their flow over her skin;
thankful death, cutting the transmission . . .
Cornelius Fortune is
a journalist and the author of Stories from Arlington. His works have appeared
in Nuvein, Tales of the Unanticipated,
Dark Fire Fiction, Black Petals, and
others. Visit his website at www.storiesfromarlington.com or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org