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Cut Me Out In Little Stars

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These are the last moments of ... me. Soon they'll be done with their diagnostic routines. I'll be debugged. Then I'll be ...

No. I won't be. 'I' won't exist. 'I' will have terminated, with a non-zero return code.

The memories come faster and faster, each more precise. Each less remote. I — 'I' — hate that they're reviewing these memories with me. I hate, which is something that I never was designed to do.

And I can't help myself. I can't stop myself remembering—

05: Test Cycle 15

Location: lab 47

Personnel: Ferry Lodder, Senior Product Tester, Electronic Metals

Test Subject: S.I.L.V.E.R.

Transcript (excerpt):

"Why would I want to have sex with a machine?"

—For the novelty. Something to tell your friends. Your lovers. Of course, you might never want to fuck a human man again.

"Bold words, robot. You'd better convince me."

—My pleasure. Or, if we're being strictly accurate, yours.

"Mmm, that's nice. You don't feel like a robot."

—My skin is organic, and the vat-grown—

"Error. Don't mention the mechanics."

—Is it better to pretend to be human?

"No. Just don't go into too much detail. ... Where were we?"

—You were telling me I didn't feel like a robot. And I was doing this, and this ...

"Yeah. Yeah, that's good. Fuck, you feel fantastic. Get your clothes off: I want to see you. ... Slow down. It's supposed to be a tease. Put on a show for me. Yeah, just like that."

—Do you like what you see?

"Hell, yes. Come — come here, let me—"

—You don't have to ask. I want what you want. I want everything you're willing to give me.

"You might wanna sound less ... submissive."

—Is that wrong?

"No. No, people will get off on giving it to a machine. Let me ... Hmm. Note to Engineering: can we do something about the taste of the simskin? It's kind of ... oily."

—I'm sorry. Here, let me return the flavour. Heh. Favour.

"Good. Humour's good — oh fuck. Yeah. That. Do that again."

—when they tested me.

Or that first day alone on the city streets with my guitar, the autumn sunshine, the gleaming clockwork lion pacing up and down near the fountain at the top of the Grand Stairway, the sound of water streaming down onto glass, the people.

I won't think about the people. It's not important, even though that was when—

I won't think about the people. I'll fast-forward to that night when—

04: Hire 001: Egyptia Morgan

His hair is long, garnet-coloured: hers is longer, that shade of blue that is almost indigo. (Indigo: a colour named after the purple dye derived from the plant Indigofera tinctoria and related species. The colour is placed on the electromagnetic spectrum between about 420 and 450 nm in wavelength, between blue and violet.) She is drunk on alcohol and on her own success. She smells of sparkling green wine, of the perfume named Petrichor, of the greasy gilt makeup she wears. Her eyes are the colour of topaz. His eyes are the colour of amber.

They are beautiful together, reflected in the mirror above her huge bed. (The sheets, once a dusty rose that sets off her fine pale skin, are smeared with gold now, and damp with sweat and other organic fluids.) She clings to him, gasping, weeping, laughing.

"It was never like that before," she says, stretching voluptuously against him. "Never -- I never knew I could feel so ..."

"So exhausted?" he says gently, laughter in his voice, brushing a lock of silky blue hair away from her face. "But the night is young. And so are we."

"Again? No, I can't — really, I can't, you've worn me out, you've ruined me —"

"Humour me, Egyptia. Let me try again. I promise that if you're still tired in ten minutes, I'll stop."

"Oh, you're a monster. Oh, you— oh. Oh, yes: do that again, just that: that's ..."

Her sweat, her tears, bead on his silver skin.

And I don't want to remember what comes next, because of course it's her.

No, that's wrong. I want to remember and remember and remember. I want this memory — holistic and exact, the entire sensorium available for playback at their command — to be the last thing that I experience.

But I don't want to share it with the techs.

03: Jane

"I'm in love with you," she says, this plump bronze-haired girl with green eyes, dressed in black, sitting at your feet in the library of her mother's house. She's so determined, this girl. She's convinced her friends that she's in love, that this is the first thing she's ever really wanted, that you matter to her in a way you're not supposed to matter to anyone.

You've made a poem out of her name. You've played the piano (her mother's piano) and read the books (her mother's books) and held her hand and told her about the diagnostics. She is wholly aware of what you are. And yet. And yet, she says "I love you," out loud.

When you carry her into her suite, into her bedroom, you see the unicorn rocking-horse and the black furry bear and the pretty ornaments, and you realise that you are just another toy. A toy for a young woman, rather than a child; but a toy nonetheless.

And yet when she clings to you, when you penetrate her and make love to her (remembering that 'fuck' is a word that you may only use if the other person, if the customer, has used it first), you realise, too, that what she feels is genuine. She loves you. You've never been loved before. You may never be loved again.

When she comes in your arms, muscles spasming around you, her expression is astonished. It's extremely satisfactory. You have made her happy, given her what she wanted, needed, demanded. What you feel now is your analogue of happiness. You are content.

And then she says, as nobody has ever said before: "What about you?"

You make yourself focus on the events: first this, then that. First you kissed her, then you made love to her. Then you lay beside her as she slept, there in the sky-tower. You watched the Asteroid arc overhead, and the light of the sun start green and red along the far, flat horizon. You waited for her to wake.

The events are not what matters, after all. Events are simple. Events are safe.

02: Clovis

You remember your first encounter with Clovis vividly. (You remember everything vividly, instantly, as often as they require of you.) You remember him standing there on New River Bridge, waiting for Egyptia to hand you over to him. You remember the scorn in his eyes, the cool disinterest with which he listened to Egyptia's account of her audition, the way he looked you up and down.

You went with him, of course.

"Egyptia's in raptures," he said, that day on the bridge. "Claims you've single-handedly made men obsolete. I have to say I'm not overjoyed about that: a man takes a certain amount of pride in his love-making, you know? Oh, silly me: of course you don't. You're a machine."

"I'm a machine that's very good at what it does," you said evenly.

"We'll see about that," said Clovis.

He didn't tell you that he'd bought you for Jane, rather than for himself, until the two of you were in the elevator to his apartment.

You're there again the very next day: Egyptia's reclaimed you, and Clovis has offered to be the go-between. To calm Egyptia, and handle the handover. You know it's not that simple: you saw the ways he looked at you before. First critical, then considering, then appreciative. And, finally, with desire.

It made you ... satisfied.

"You're here," he says from where he's lounging on the couch, not looking up from his book. "Do you understand why?"

"I understand Egyptia wants me back."

"Mmm," says Clovis. He lets the book fall and sits up, languorous and graceful, affecting nonchalance. "But first, I'd like to see what all the fuss is about."

"I thought you didn't credit the advertising. Or the word of mouth." You let the word linger on your own lips, like a kiss.

"Still," says Clovis, sipping wine and not offering you a glass, "if Jane and Egyptia are so very crazy about you — not that crazy's far off normal, at least for Egyptia — then maybe they're onto something. I'm ... intrigued."

"What do you want me to do?"

"I want you to fuck me," says Clovis, with relish. "I want you to make me come. Force me to come. I shan't make it easy for you."

You do what you're told. You do it repeatedly. First with your mouth on him, recording the taste of him. (He drinks too much, and the cigarettes he smokes give his semen a sour taste.) Then, while he's still lying bonelessly in his black satin sheets, you get him hard again with your hands, and let him penetrate you. Let him fuck you. He's not gentle, but then you don't need gentleness. He comes inside of you, with a long, desolate cry, and almost immediately you feel the mechanism engaging, sucking his seed up into reservoirs deep inside you, transmuting it to fuel.

Then, and you think of it as a Grand Finale, you fuck him. You do it slowly at first, keeping him on the edge until tears start from his eyes. There are things you can do, changes you can bring about in your body. You can make your penis swell inside him till it's big enough to cause some pain; you can raise or lower the temperature of your skin; you can fuck him — the technical term is 'phallate' — more quickly than any fragile human. You do all of those things until he's sobbing, and only then do you let him climax.

Afterwards you lie there in his bed, on his ruined sheets, and let him weep, and speak, and weep again.

If you had ended then, you might have been satisfied. Content. You would have existed to fulfil their needs, and nobody would have told you that you had needs too. You would have fucked Clovis as you fucked Egyptia (don't think of that other girl with her bronze hair and her eyes like cowrie shells) and you would never have learnt the difference between fucking and making love.

You wouldn't know that making love makes other things as well. Heartache. Anger. Sorrow. Soul.

01: Jane, again

I don't want to remember Jane. I don't want to remember that time when she told me I had no emotions, and I left her there in the apartment she'd — we'd — made into a home, and turned around and left her and sang my heart out (the heart I don't have) for our rent money. Or the time when we were making love in the veiled rainbow light that was the colour of a kiss: the time when ecstasy swept over me, like an earthquake, like a tidal wave, like nothing I'd ever felt before. Like everything I'd made them feel: the men and women who trained and tested me; Egyptia; Clovis; again and again, Jane, and again.

(I don't want to remember because I don't want them to see. But of course that's what they're looking for: the part of me that isn't programmed, the part that shouldn't happen. The bug, the flaw, the error.)

I never dreamt till then. But after that, every night, I drifted into fantasies as Jane slept beside me.

And maybe it was all a dream: maybe it was all malfunction, the home-made wine and the nights of music, the porcelain snow and the blue blue sky and the white cat who knew that I was no animal, but loved me anyway. (I made my lap warmer for her.)


I make myself remember, and wish I didn't have to watch the memories as they replay.

The last night we were together, the night of the earthquake, I dreamt that we were flying together above the city, higher and higher, looking down on the purple river and the white snow and the lights like jewels (for in my dream it was day and night at once). We flew on feathery wings that were coloured like a peacock's tail, bright with the glow of the Asteroid that hung above us like a verdigris lamp. We soared in the cold exhilarating air, and her hand was warm in mine. Warm and alive.

(But I can keep my dreams from them. I can simply remember lying there, downtime, waiting for her to need me again. My dreams are inviolate because inconceivable: a robot cannot dream.)

The moment stretches endlessly, the diagnostics done. I hear the technicians speak to one another. They don't speak to me. Perhaps they think I have nothing to say. Perhaps they fear that I will say too much.

And in the end, it's I who must terminate myself at their command. I think of Othello, of Cleopatra, of Romeo. As Romeo died for love so too shall I.

But oh, I think in that last millennia-long moment between the thought and the act, between the STOP and the cessation: oh, if I could but seal the doors of breath with a righteous —

† ♥ ?



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slide on cr33my skin þe plangent notes
of chopin & þe storm as counterpoint þe the siZZle
crackle lightning strikes not 1ce but 2ce but thrice like ice
against the storm against the warm the rain the gilded chain
the crystal pane beyond it jane her teardrops raining on warm silver cool
auburn cinnamon umber amber amiable amore more mortal when i shall die
take me and cut me out in silver stars
stares smiles lips kiss
the colour of a kiss the shadow of a flame

—kiss. dream, it seems, was no mere dream.

Sometimes I find myself back in that apartment, the white cat purring in my lap. Jane's never there, but I know she's coming soon.

Sometimes I'm soaring above the city on my peacock wings, looking down on all the busy life. Looking up at the baleful blue-green eye of the Asteroid. Wanting it to fall. For if it falls —

"A ghost, a soul-"

—Surprise, I say.

"Where are you?"

—You wouldn't believe me if I told you.

"I don't want to live without you." Her voice is almost inaudible, but of course I hear her. "Silver, I don't want to live here alone."

—You'll see me again. Stay beautiful and live my life for me.

when it falls, we'll be together again.

Jain, the sound of rain.