This is me and this is you and together we don’t quite make two
I. somebody new.
I made the request and the request got approved, so I moved out of the dorm and moved into someplace new. Someplace new was quiet, vetted, had a nice kitchen. Someplace new got expensive, so someplace new got somebody new. Somebody new got vetted too and I had to make a few promises. They were easy promises to make. I got a few rules: don't shit where you eat, don't fuck where you sleep. The Company and I line up here, at least.
Roommate was quiet. Roommate was pretty, too, and silver-skinned when the light caught funny. She was prone to hoodies and skirts and stockings and cool shoes. Clothing was always a little too nice, like a rich person trying to dress like a lesser. Didn’t talk much, not to me at least. I asked her how her weekend went once, got a one line answer.
“Men lied, women died,” she had solemnly intoned.
I had laughed, gotten something between a glare and a stare in return. I remember shrugging, not quite apologizing, and her look never wavering. My promises were going to be easy to keep. Most of them, anyways.
Sven and the rest were immensely curious about Sarah. When I met them at practice the Monday after she moved in, they swarmed to me like ants to carrion. Is she hot? Does she eat? You afraid to live with a girl? Do you think she poops? Does she smell good? (Jois is kind of weird). I knew some of them were fucking with me, except for Jois, but I answered dutifully. In order: sure, duh, no, no, I’ll check for you, Jois. Still, as they plumbed me for details, I found myself a little defensive about this roommate I really knew nothing about. I was probably just being covetous.
We settle into a rhythm and I find that I like her, or the idea of her. She's not nice but she's not hostile, not antisocial but not chatty. Sometimes you feel friction with someone, repelling you, driving you closer. Sarah, however, well, she's got a void surrounding her, an inky black shroud. Something you slide off of. She’s a challenge. Does her shroud disguise something deeper, or is the shroud itself the mystery? My mind wanders around Sol System before settling on Jupiter, your friendly neighborhood protostar. It’s a giant ball of gas and not much else, uninteresting until you consider what ‘giant ball of gas’ really means. We used to send probes to investigate things like that, little machines that just wanted to please. They sent us pretty pictures while they warbled into the void and we repaid them by crashing them into atmospheres across the system. Maybe someone still sends probes out there into the black; I should check. While they’re busy out there, though, I’m sending out my own probes down here. My competitive nature is awake and it’s hungry. I need to know what’s in there. I need to know that I can penetrate the shroud.
So I work on it while I can, which isn’t often. I work a lot. Always on a schedule, working The Schedule. We’ve got shoots, practice, PR, asskissings to give and take from fans. It's long days and long nights, but I like it. It’s fun being someone else. I like being bubbly, I just can't do it forever. You can fight inertia but you'll never win, not without cheating.
Sven cheated. He talked with the doctors (Jois calls them warlocks, because of the long coats and the way they mutter and spit) and scheduled an appointment and went in and now we refer to him as Sven 2.0. He says he doesn’t regret it, but how would he know? I try not to let Sven 2.0 bother me too much. He’s really not that different from Sven, but it’s still a little strange. He used to never do the dishes when I lived with him, but now he’s always on top of trash and unfailingly polite. I’m irked that I miss the things that used to irk me, but we weren’t that close to begin with, and honestly, Sven 2.0 is a lot more fun to go out with.
Sarah never asks what I do. I’m don’t think that I’m that hard to recognize, so I’m forced to consider that maybe she just doesn’t care. Or maybe the enhancements are working too well. Or maybe she’s bad with faces? The Company is a big believer in the five degree theory. You want to look, at most, five degrees different at work. Anything less is ineffective, anything more can be, ah, destabilizing. I’m not sure how they figured out what a degree is, or why five is so important, but that’s the gospel. Anyways, at work, I look “five degrees different” and when you combine that with the usual legion of makeup artists, general costuming, and insane gimmickry then I start to think that yeah, maybe I can be almost unrecognizable. Still though, I’m kind of bewildered that I haven’t faced a single question as to why I’m always home so late and gone so early. Then again, she’s gone a lot of the time too, and I don’t bug her about it. Two ships in the night. Good thing neither of us have pets.
I don’t know how much the public knows about enhancements. We see the comments on the before-and-after photos when someone gets lucky and catches one of us in public, and the difference inevitably gets blamed on makeup, lighting, the wind, etc. It’s fun being on the cutting edge. It’s fun knowing more than other people, too, and watching them scramble inside their little box. The answer is out here, up there, outside of your ken. Dream bigger.
The Company keeps an eye on those photos too. I know this because one time a post just up and disappeared while we were laughing at it. Nobody ever confirmed anything, but it’s not hard to figure out who or why. It’s nice to have someone on your side.
I know the military has a whole host of enhancement programs in development. Well, know is a strong word, but I’m a smart guy, I can extrapolate. A month ago, Lars and I were walking down Cat’s Promenade when we saw a shirtless man, still in his military cargos and bleeding from two holes through his chest, outrun a car and try to jump from the Promenade to a nearby building.
He didn’t make it.
We stuck around a couple of minutes after, long enough to see a dronenet deploy and for the police to shoo us away. News said it was drugs, but Lars and I knew better. Sucks about that guy-did you know they have a tool to scrape a body off the ground like that?-but did you see how fast he ran? If he can do that, well, imagine what’s in store for us eventually. Hopefully. Who doesn’t want to be a god?
With an electric bike, the motors don’t remove the work, they just smooth it out for you, make it easier. The enhancements, the bounty provided to us, The Company's beautiful Golden Children, are similar. My appetite is controlled, weight is maintained, and I don’t get hungover, unless I’m feeling particularly penitent. I just have to hit the exercise goals and take the right pills and life is great. Keeps me level, too, which I appreciate. I can still experience the highs and lows, they’re just smoothed out. No jagged peaks for me. I give the enhancements five out of five thumbs up.
My father used to tell me stories about how he signed his life away when he was an Idol, and I think he was a little disappointed when I followed in his footsteps. I appreciate the sentiment, but I’m not following in his footsteps so much as I am obliterating them with my own. One day, I’ll be able to tell him about all of this. One day, I hope he gets access to them too. This should be everyone’s future.
It took us a long time to figure out a theory for why we’d be enhanced, but we settled on economics. Jois pointed out we make a lot of money (for The Company), and we’re good testbeds (for The Company). Always active, underfed, stressed out, constantly in contact with disease vectors-it makes sense. On top of that, you can’t make money if you’re not working. Idols: the platform of choice for all of your posthuman testing needs. We never got confirmation for our theory, because that’s not how the universe works, but it felt good to be a part of something that would probably change the course of human history.
I awake with a start, which is not good. There’s someone knocking on the door to the apartment. Check the phone, it’s 2AM. Hmm. Interesting. Maybe they have the wrong apartment. Maybe they’ll go away soon.
Someone is still knocking on the door.
Maybe Sarah forgot her key. And her phone. That would be embarrassing. And unusual. Maybe something weird is about to happen. Maybe I should put on pants.
The knocking gets louder. I hear what might be yelling. My neighbors are going to be furious tomorrow.
Pants are on. Shirt is still on. ‘Reigning Champ’ robe is on. Mind is waking up. Check, check, check, check. Let’s go see, shall we? If it is Sarah, I’m going to give her so much shit. She’s “responsible.” Right.
I step into the shared living area. Hmm. Interesting. Sarah’s standing there, looking worried in a-flannel nightgown? This is funny. If nothing else, I learned something interesting about my roommate. Didn’t even have to put any effort in. No probes were sacrificed for this discovery! My attention drifts back to the door, which has gone very quiet.
I turn to ask Sarah if she knows what’s going on. Before she can answer, though, I see out of the corner of my eye that the door appears to be melting. That’s new. Beats an explosion, I guess. Shards of wood everywhere, including skin and eyes. No thank you. Guess I’m going to have to buy a new door. I wonder if my renters insurance covers this?
The door finishes politely melting and through the breach come three large men. They look beefy, with the sheen that implies chemical help. Lot of black gear. Not a lot of identification. They don’t look like police; too many tattoos for that. Some fairly sophisticated ones, too. The first one, with the shaved head, I can see that his scalp tattoos are glowing. WiFi tatts? Are we on camera? He has an even darker black…thing in his hand too, which I’m pretty sure is a gun. I’ve never seen one in real-life. It looks almost comically tiny in his huge hand.
It is taking them forever to get through this door. Sarah’s scream (of rage?) seems to be taking forever too. In fact, everything is moving pretty slowly. I can hear my heart beating. I can hear Sarah’s heart beating too. I am forced to admit, at this point, that I don’t quite know what’s going on.
Finally, the first guy clears the door. The next two are faster. They might as well be twins. Same dumb black get ups, same dumb black mustaches. One of them looks like he’s had an eye replaced. Might be a camera. Hi mom. They don’t have guns. Looks like they have batons instead. I feel offended for a fleeting second: my apartment only merits one gun?
Oh right, the gun. They’re all in now, formed up in a neat little triangle. They seem a little surprised to see me, but not particularly worried about my presence. Meatbag with the Gun is the vertex closest. Gun is pointed at me. Oh, wait, it’s technically pointed at Sarah, who is behind me now. He’s yelling, loudly, telling me to move. They just want the girl, apparently. Hmm. First off, she’s a woman. Second off, no can do. I haven’t cracked the shroud yet. You can wait your turn.
You know, thinking back to this night, this moment in time, I’m pretty glad my brain never really kicked in. Rational, awake, conscious me is making different decisions. Half-awake, time dilated me, however, is apparently much more ambitious.
The yelling intensifies. It’s hard to understand speech when it takes sooooo loooong to reach your ears.
Gun guy starts advancing. They must think I’m drunk, or high, or dumb. My hands are at my sides, very relaxed. The most relaxed. I should close my jaw. It’s a little slack.
I’m caught up on processing what’s happening and I find myself a little angry. It’s 2:05 AM. I need a new door. I don’t feel safe. There’s a metal death box thing pointed at me. Also I can apparently either control time (unlikely) or perceive the universe in a dramatically different way than I’m used to (more likely). I am a little overwhelmed.
You know what? Fuck this. Let’s try something.
Sorry Sarah, but I need you out of the way. I elbow Sarah in the side of the head, faster than they can react. It’s definitely faster than she can react. She starts to drop like a sack of potatoes and I start to move sideways, away from Sarah, towards them. The Gun Idiot doubts himself, starts firing at me too late. The gun is quieter than I thought it would be. He’ll never catch me. As I start to really move, time still on my side, I feel the universe shift.
I feel an ancient force awakening, hungering for the taste of violence. I am split now. Feral // polite. Doomed // dying. Future // past. Visions of ancient weapons waking, howling as they shake off centuries of rust and stride into a future of conflict. This is a new world, one where I can feel order and chaos balanced on a knife’s edge and I can sense systems churning to encourage strife for evolution’s sake. I can see wastelands, noble warriors, hopeful futures stoked in the ruins of the past. I breathe in air that is cold, and pure, and full of possibilities. I feel immense, fully charged, a believer. I feel like a god. A war god.
The visions fade. Back to here, wherever here is. There are other war gods out there in this time. I can smell them. Faint surprise; I know some of them. I should go wake them up. See if they want to work together. See if they want to fight. I’ll do that after I finish here.
Gun still can’t track me. I’m inches away now, body coiled. The Baton Bros are split between anticipation and fear. I feel elation fill my heart as I reach the three stooges.
I surrender to joy.
They stand no chance. As I watch myself damage these three, I find my mind wandering. Back to Jupiter again. I wonder what’s up there? Aliens would be neat, even if they’re not intelligent. I always liked the idea of space whales, roaming the upper clouds, migrating between the layers of gas. Do you think our children will meet any? Will there even be another generation? The world’s not in great shape.
I hope this time dilation wears off. All of this extra time will drive me insane.
Whatever I’ve surrendered control to is pretty good at violence. Gun guy is disarmed. Not literally, of course. Ha ha. That would require a blade I don’t have. I think one of his arms is broken though. I’m sure they can fix that. He looks heavier when unconscious. I feel bad for whoever is going to have to pick up. I//Joy don’t seem particularly interested in killing anyone, which is good. Killing would be too much. Baton Bro No. 1 gets in a pretty good crack at my ribs with his baton. Oops. I hate bruises. Anger flares. Maybe killing wouldn't be too much. He’s down. Not dead. Baton Bro No. 2 commits, which I respect, not that it does him any good. Too soon he’s down too. Broken wrist. Painful.
It’s finally silent, except for my breathing, which appears to be, finally, at a normal speed. Noises coming from below. Oops, that’s my stomach. I feel very hungry and very tired. Being a war god is hard work.
I think I’d like to go back to sleep now and a bed of my enemies seems like as good of a spot as any. I'll figure this mess out in the morning.