Sunrise, another fragment of a story

And yet again I put a story online before it is finished.

This is part of the same sequence of stories as this one all set in the same near future where the IP wars are won by the copyright owners and Africa shoots through the singularity to exit slightly changed on the other side.

A first wild draft made in 2009 can be found here. While some major elements have changed, many of the main concepts remain.

Wearables

The start of one of the newer stories below explores one of the key elements that play in all stories: the development of the wearables I use in all, but also a grounding of the motivation why – when you have all freedom in the world – you do not interfere with others unless they ask.

This “why” is motivated in the parts where I ask: “What would you do with absolute freedom?”

“Sunrise” is a story about the shift into a time where systems are no longer a separate part, but attached to your body. Where you simply close your eyes to connect to your wearable and do deeper shit, where your entire body is part of the range of human input devices.

The ideas for this type of wearables (close your eyes, access your system) date back to a story I wrote in 1991. In that story a visual designer, living with his girlfriend in a small bed-sized cabin in the center of Amsterdam, creates 3D animations for commercials: made to sell products like perfumes. Naturally the concepts were heavily influenced by William Gibsons: “Neuromancer”, which was completely the new shit at that time.

The use of closed eyes had not changed as I still think it makes sense.

Software and perception

Also a time where people are thinking of software that can help you change the way to perceive things (using: “the motivation maps game” as one tool, allowing you to map out the possible reasons someone else did something, while also giving you feedback on what personal fears and preconceived ideas might be why you could perceive that specific reason,)  and tools to calculate the costs and benefits of your actions: the “economy of choice”, which will be touched in a later writing session in “Sunrise”.

Saudi Arabia

There are two main reasons why I moved the stage of change to Saudi Arabia:

  1. I recently read “The silent revolution” by a Belgium reporter: Lisa de Bode, who went to Africa in 2010 and  to investigate and report from a first hand  perspective the “other” revolution that followed on the 9/11 attack in 2001 and the
  2. The oil-reserves will some day run out, and to maintain a source of wealth I asked myself: “what would I do if I was the king of Saudi Arabia?”. Well: I would look at other sources of wealth that have risen in the past 50 years. I would look at companies like Google and Apple, get all the smartest and best brains of the world, let them come over and give them all the resources and freedom I can allow and double my money in the development of a local industry that might give rise to similar companies and similar wealth.
Both elements give a plausible enough base to start the revolution in that place.

Story fragment: “Sunrise”

[Status: first draft, unedited, unfinished. Meaning that I simply started writing with some base concepts and that some parts need to be reworked and can be unbalanced. Meaning that some assumptions I made can be wrong. Also conversations can be boring as the story is still in development and people still have to gain some depth]

[1]

What would you do with absolute freedom?

I have been on this project for three years now, leading it into new direction. All been made possible by a king that might be the bravest that has ever been. Because when this succeeds, the balance of power will shift. Because our team is all women. Because it will change history.

Our labs are in the poorest of cities, shielded from satellite tracking by the chaos of the common, the people, the never ending movement of goods, money, traffic. We tap into the old fiberglass cables which have been abandoned to be replaced by newer cables with higher transfer rates and lower loss. It has been planned for decades, slowly moving parts, building newer layers, covering what is useful into what seems to be abandoned.

In one way we are prisoners. Everything we do is top secret and every move we make is monitored. In another we are not.

We are building the future.

And here is what it is about, for me.

My mother was sold in an arranged marriage. Even in 2005 this was still common in some parts of India. It is something movies and magazines and expats and western literature had not changed yet. My older sister died before she could reach the age of one. I was the second one. I survived.

My father had anger-issues. In his mind he lived the dream of an ambitious man, but in reality he acted as one without a backbone. He worked in the US, but he failed in his job. He thought he was smart because he was Indian, but his mind was that of a servant. He failed.

And since he knew of no way to communicate the rage that was inside of him, other than by drinking and screaming to my mother things did not improve as time progressed. One time he broke her arm, by pushing her from the stairs. Many times he hurt her simply by brute force.

To have children did something else to him. It fucked him up. It was something he had no control over: the crying of the baby. The interruptions of his sleep. And so he stayed away many times in our first years, so my mother told me. And one day, a long time ago, when he was home, his rage killed my sister: still in her infancy. It was an accident, or so the official story went. It was murder as I discovered when I grew to know the man that was my father. Event though he did not plan to kill her, he did and he intended to. Because he was unable to handle her crying.

It was the family that smothered everything under a big blanked of denial. My mother was not allowed to talk about it. Never to bring it up. Always pretend it had never happened that way. The death of my sister was an unfortunate twist of fate. Bad luck that has struck our family because she had displeased the spirits.

And so my sister was remembered in offerings done by my mother. And so I grew up remembering my sister in prayers and offerings and subservience to the gods.

Instead of  breaking my mothers will, it hardened her. The offerings became a weapon against my fathers rage. The spirits became the shield that would protect her from his beatings and the shameful  rape he did not even dare to call sex. The death that killed her faith also became the knife she used to killed her beliefs in her religion and her cultural background.

I grew up in a house of fear, where my father was the enemy, the evil spirit, the one we offered against. Outside, at the houses of friends was where my real homes were. Where things were more normal. Where I could play, where I could be a child.

I am one of billions. Anywhere where the chains of religion and culture allows a man to remain spiritually underdeveloped you will find me and my mother. Still less than human because we have a womb instead of a penis.

I am only one of few to be here, selected for what I can achieve. All the girls I work with share similar backgrounds. All share the same belief: that education will set us free. Not revenge, not power, but education. Education of man and women to raise out of these dark ages of superstition and power based on lies.

As we sit here, we celebrate a brief moment of rest. We are ten, bright minds carefully selected form hundreds, thousands. Filtered out by what we expressed online, what we created, what we achieved on university, in personal projects. Invited to study here in Saudi Arabia. Invited to make use of the best facilities we could put our hands on. On the edge of a period where boundless wealth would end, as the supplies of oil would soon run dry.

Even though the prince has never expressed this explicitly, his faith in males has run out a long time ago. If things remain unchanged, what has been built up from oil will collapse in corruption and a new rise of the religious extremists. Even though it has not been expressed as such, we all feel that we are part of a bigger plan to avoid this collapse: to maintain the wealth that has been part of this country for so long. And we share his belief in what could be the answer. As that is what we were selected for.

When I look at the clock in the screen it is 11:00, March 27, 2019.

I close my eyes and feel the sensory feedback from the system I wear on my body. I feel the house around me. I see the images in my mind and as I move my muscles like a subvocalization of movement I open the world that runs in the system that has been part of me for these last three years: ever evolving to the point we are right now. It is still not the end of the development line, but good enough to be released to the public at large. We start with the women. We start with the women who need it the most, who will be able to get away with it, who will use it as intended.

As I descend, the elevator stops three times, filling up with five more women. And I feel strong as I look them in the faces, look at their smiles and feel their hands on mine. A world will topple. And we made sure it will happen slowly. Gradually. We made sure it will be a soft revolution, unnoticed until it cannot be stopped anymore.

My hands grab five modules each, the skin of my fingers confirming the amounts I want and need. We exit, enter the cars that are waiting, male drivers behind glass panes. Outside waits poverty, friends I made as our program evolved. It is them I will visit. It is them I trust these first batch of tiny machines to. Everything they need is in there. Offline. The veins of knowledge that will slowly enter their brains and that will feed their conscience. A soft revolution that will be like a sunrise of a new morning.

Not only do we bring everything written and a lot that is filmed, but also self-training or the mind and the body. To liberate. To readjust the balance of power. Economics, semantics, analysis, models of perceptual relativity, ways to mirror where these women are now to where they can move to.

When I exit the car, there is a huge billboard in the side of the building on the other side of the street, advertising Coca Cola as the king prescribes it: man and women together, looking harmonious, each holding a raised bottle. Using advertisement to spread an entirely different message: teaching man and women that there is something like equality, tenderness and working together in harmony.

When she opens the door to let me in, my friend has tears in her eyes. Part of her never believed today would come. Part of her never stopped believing in me. When we are inside, I lay off the abaya, hand her the tiny module. It fits in one closed fist. Even in a hand as small as hers. She will be able to charge it with the same charger she uses for her phone. In only have to do one thing, which we rehearsed many times on each other in the labs: to insert the connection points that will help the system to interface with her body.

Two years from now this might not be needed anymore, but right now it is the simplest solution. And so I ask her to sit in front of me and bend her head forward. As my fingers seek the nodal points of her nervous system, my own system visualizes the most probable places, guiding me to those points. One by one I insert the tiny needles with the tiny knobs that contain the RF nodes. Because of the spray she does not feel any pain when I use the small gun to inject them into her skin and into the base of her skull, fixing them properly.

There is only a little blood.

The resonance of the tiny antennae’s will interact with her brain and her nervous systems, will allow her system to give the same sensory feedback I receive, to see the images het system will project onto her visual center.

Her brown eyes are shiny from tears as she turns around. I ask her to switch her system on. She only nods, then moves her thumb over the object in her hand. A slight shudder seems to go through her as the images flow into her brain. It is a gentle introduction we tested before on ourselves and others. As the system introduces itself to her, her face slowly seems to lighten up.

This is a woman who would never have a job, never had the chance to finish her study, is not deemed important enough to have the ability to read or make any other decisions than the ones expected by her role as a woman, by her family. Even though her husband is educated enough not to make the same mistakes as his father did, he still comes from a cultural heritage where it is easier to solve problems by force than by talking and where other examples but the one provided around him, where other sources of information are very limited. Yes: internet is available, but very limited by time and speed, and the content is considered to be poisonous for the mind and the soul.

She very much understand what it at stake with what I gave her, because she is smart, because she was in the same program as I was, because she had a taste of what is possible when she entered the university two years ago. And so nobody else is here today and nobody will know about the meaning of this tiny token that I gave her: shaped as a black pebble.

And so I repeat this procedure nine times, pretending to go on a visit to my friends. Friend I made in the past three years. Friends from the university, friends from friends. All that my driver knows is that I am here to announce my engagement. Something that will cover the real reason for my tears and the smiles of happiness my friends and I exchange when I leave their houses.

Only ten today. Only ten more tomorrow. Then ten more the day after. But multiply that by ten and we have three hundred women in our first reference group.

What would you do with absolute freedom?

Would you go to war against your fellow people, live in fear, fight each and every other? Would you be like a wolf against your fellow man? Would you feel lost in all the opportunities you will have? Would you live without direction? Would you abuse that freedom and steal, kill rape and destroy what is around you?

Are you a rapist? Are you a killer? Are you so cold of heart that you can stand the suffering of your fellow people? Are you capable of love? Are you capable of mercy? Are you capable to cooperate?

Will you let society fall into chaos? Will your actions assist the rise of barbarism and destruction? Will your children grow up as murderous cannibals?

What would you do with absolute freedom?

Will you reject your god or your gods? Will you reject authority? Will you reject your nation? Your religious, spiritual and earthly leaders?

What would you do with absolute freedom?

What would you do when there is nobody to rule you, nobody to judge you, nobody to correct you?

What would you do?

Do you believe that you need to be humble? Do you believe others have the right to correct you when you break rules in a system that has no favors for you? Do you believe that you should let others decide over your faith and your happiness? Do you believe violence is acceptable? Do you believe that knowledge is dangerous? Do you believe you have no right to exist? Do you believe people in power are better than you? Do you believe in absolute truth? Do you believe in divine justice? Living in service and servitude of god, of your husband, of the ruler of your land? Did you reject your body? Did you reject your lust? Did you reject your desires? Do you accept your lowliness? Do you reject and regret your sinful nature? Are you virtuous in the eyes of the priest of your religion? And do you believe firmly enough your real life begins after your death? That this world is only a pass-through station in order to enter and reach heaven? Do you long to be relieved from this world? Did you commit any sin recently?

What would you do with absolute freedom?

Will you accept corruption? Will you accept crime? Will you accept destruction? Will you accept rape? Will you accept murder? Will you endorse bullies? Will you accept abuse? Will you accept your own suffering? Will you accept the sufferance of other people?

What would you do with absolute freedom?

Will you help? Will you construct? Will you educate? Will you assist? Will you share?

[2]

Today it rains. I stand outside on the balcony, overlooking the terrain where palms stand dead still in the pouring water. The gushing sound is like a soft blanket and when I stretch my arm, the cold water hits my hand and tiny drops hit the skin of my arm.

Within the campus we are free. I do not have to wear an abaya to cover my body, or a hajib to cover my hair. There is no mutawa to correct us, to guard over our virtue. We are relatively safe here from the religious hardcore. For now, everything is stable.

We have been testing the new wearables that came in the day before. The board-designs have been made here. This generation still uses electrons to run the processes within the ARM based CPU. We hope the 2021 generation will implement the photonic CPUs which we are experimenting with in a facility close by. The production of the boards has been moved to Korea. We already have orders standing from Asia, Europe, the United States and South America. Provided that the new wearables pass the rules and regulations for these regions.

We have sold new licenses to several big companies that produce phones, tablets and computers. And next year the first batches will run from local factories we are building now with our Korean partners.

Karim lights a cigarette as he enters the balcony.

“You done for the day?” he asks.

I look through the veils of drops to the other side where someone leaves the building to run over the square towards our building.

“Not yet.”

I want to test the new interfaces, the new generation that came with the shipment. I want to leave today with a new upgrade.

“I recognize that hunger,” he says. “In your eyes. You want it bad.”

We laugh.

To keep our profile low, we are officially engaged. Since Karim is gay and I am a woman, it helps us both to keep our lives simple when we are outside. Since we like each other, it is not hard to build and keep a fake life. Why fight something you do not want to waste your energy on?

I move back into the building.

It is June 29, 2019.

I open one of the boxes. We will sell this for 400 Euro on the European market. The US market will be aimed at a price below 500 USD. The machine fits in the palm of my hand. It runs either Linux, Android or Windows on 32 processors. It will not get any warmer than my own body.

I plug in the adapter that converts audio and video to pulses that will travel through my body to the receptors embedded in my skull.

We spent some time on the protocols and the signals itself to improve the quality and reduce the loss. But also to improve the image that is sent to my brain through interference. Even though the image-quality was acceptable, there were too many artifacts reducing the quality and the resolution to something substandard. Take into mind that we have to send megabytes of data through a sack of salt water, meat and bones: also receiving signals from many other sources including wireless networks, radio stations and the white noise that is broadcasted by the devices around us.

Only this week we made a breakthrough that is mostly a software update as the hardware already was upscaled a year ago. When I close my eyes, the streaming image of my virtual world is crisp and clear. Lines are no longer wobbly. Characters of the texts I open are very readable, even if I reduce font size to something close to unreadable for the naked eye.

We also solved some major issues with the image overlay when you open your eyes. When I open my eyes again, I run one of the simplest overlays, showing me what is around me, who is where. For the first time, real sensory data mixes properly with the one generated by my wearable: responding properly to my eye-movements, the direction I am looking, the things I see, the things I focus on. It feels natural. It feels good.

I close my eyes, conjure the call-list, see if he is available and open a call.

“Hi,” says Hans.

“Hey.”

“I like that smile.”

“It is wonderful! It is awesome. Your team really fixed some major issues in this release.”

“We did. We are celebrating right now. Come over.”

“One hour,” I say. “I need to finish some things.”

“Okay.”

We break the connection.

I call my mother.

She smiles when she sees my face.

“Hi love.”

“Hi mom.”

“How are you doing?”

“Good. And you?”

“Fine, fine,” she says.

“Good.”

“I can see you had a good day,” she says.

“I have. We are testing the new wearables. Everything is coming together.”

“That is nice.”

“Sure is!”

I look at her face, still young.

“What did you eat?”

She smiles as she recalls and names the things she prepared and ate.

We talk about other small stuff and then say goodbye.

Karim looks at me.

“You can be so shallow from time to time.”

I shrug.

He shrugs.

We both know why.

“Let’s finish for today, then get a beer and some at the Nerd-cave.”

I nod and we enter the other room.

[3]

We run through the roughs for the new episode of: “Abida, her friends and her cat”. We use a Chinese studio to create the actual animations. Everything else is done here, including sound and music. In this new line of episodes, Abida and her friends, who have been given their powers from an angel, have to save the world from a demon that lives under the desert and has been awoken by a war not far away.

Since it is for local television, we respect and embed the messages and laws from the Qur’an and since this is subsidized by the king we update these messages and laws with a modern point of view.

Since it is fun, it has been a hit from the moment it was picked up on television and internet.

We have translated it to twenty different languages and made sure every part we could license has been licensed, so that we can generate revenue from the merchandise.

In this episode, we see how the mother of Abida is being touched by one of the henchmen of the demon, and how her behavior is already turning colder. We see how the idealized image of a imaginary country very similar Saudi Arabia is slowly corrupting and how discrimination and hate slowly seeps into society, as that is where the demon thrives on.

Still unaware of the total evil that is unfolding, Abida and her friends encounter more and more mysteries as they go to school, come home and live mostly a normal life since the previous adventure seems to have been closed properly.

We see how Abida enters her super-vision, granted by the magical marble she got from the angel and solves a conflict over religious grounds by gentleness and smart thinking that might have lead to a fight and to blood-shed otherwise. What will be the long story-arc in the story is how – even with their super-vision and super-knowledge – Abida and her friends will not be able the increasing corruption of their world until they face and defeat the demon itself. And even when they conquer the demon, they will only be able to trick it into a new prison.

Abida’s cat runs a side-story that has no direct connection to what Abida and her friends are doing. The cat is actually an enchanted princess in search for her home and her own time. Captured by a curse cast by an evil wizard a long time ago, she has to live nine lives as nine different cats and for a total of 150 living years, separated by 65 years between each cat-life. Only if she can reclaim her own identity and find the jewels she was given at birth, she will be allowed to enter the paradise.  If she can not, she will dwell the earth for eternity as a spirit.

I run through the sketches, make some notes, make some corrections in the facial expression which is too excessive for what we want to communicate, speak in Manderin with the animators on the other side. We change some point of views to add extra dynamics to the sequence, tone it down where we want more peace.

We created this show as our second-year project on this university. Our task was to make something that would be suitable for kids between 8 and 12, honor the religious and cultural past of this country and also show the new path the king has in mind for his people: respect for the past, respect for beliefs, respect for people. Solving problems in harmony, by using your mind, by using words, by striving for a win-win situation. Abandoning violence. Abandoning discrimination, racism, sexism, elitism. Being inventive. Moving towards an open minded culture that creates wealth by creating new things.

We call our part of the university mockingly: “the department of social engineering”.

We close the day. I leave.

As I enter the Nerd cave, I see Enakshi standing close to the wall, observing the people in the room. Somewhere close must be her fake fiancée, Karim. They usually hang out together.

“Hi,” she says when I take my beer to her.

“Hi,” I say.

She takes my wrist. My heart leaps. My breath stops.

I have been here only a month. Our group was working in another part of the estate. And with over twenty-thousand students, this is a small village. And so I know here only for a few weeks now.

I stare at my beer. Hard. Shy. Wordless.

“You want to go somewhere afterwards?” she ask.

I have been dreaming of this.

“S-sure,” I splutter.

“Looky here,” Karim says as he returns, observing me calmly. “Finally making contact?”

I stare at the beer again.

“Ask her about the project,” he whispers in my ear. “She loves to talk about it.”

Enakshi still holds my wrist and I feel a hardon coming up. I feel my face turn a deep red as there is no way to really hide it without drawing attention. I just hope she will not look down.

“Release the boy,” Karim says to Enakshi. “Not everyone is used to make such close contact.”

I am both relieved and sad when she breaks contact.

I drink. Drink again. My heart is beating like it wants to crack out of my ribcage.

All my next sentences are interlaces with “urrs” and “umms”. Like an idiot.

She seems calm, in control. So unlike me. I feel week, a fool. Unworthy.

When she walks away to get another drink, I fear she will not return. She will stand me up.

Karim touches my shoulder.

“Do not worry,” he says. “She likes you.”

I know the fear that must be reflecting in my eyes when I look at him briefly, before I cast them down again.

“So shy…”

I want to die.

“She likes you. When she comes back, two things can happen. One: she will ask you to come with her now. Two: she will talk with you longer here. I bet for option one.”

When Enakshi returns, Karim walks off. They briefly exchange looks, then Enakshi looks at me.

“You want to go somewhere else? Where there are less people?”

As we walk through the hallway, she says: “There is no need to hide your shyness or try to pretend you are not. There is no reason for me to feel uncomfortable with you. I like you. And there is something about you that is sexy.”

I blush, but I also laugh. It is like a release. I laugh and I cry.

I take her hand.

It feels great to hold her, to feel the dry skin of her hand.

I can smell my own excitement. It is something I cannot stop from happening as my body wants to fuck her. Like a craving for her pussy that is as big as a hunger after a fast. A craving that makes me shiver when she touches me.

From a place where there are more men than women this is unwanted behavior. In a place where the balance is equal, this is normal. Even though I can have as many relationships as I want here. And even though I have lain down with many girls in the past years I still fall back into the old patterns when I fall in love. I cannot desire. I am not allowed to desire. I have to hold back. Withdraw. Suppress. Be decent. Be chosen.

To even show my desire is a sign of weakness and a sign of weakness will ruin my chances. To be a man is to be weak. To get carried away by your desire is what make rapists. Or so I have been brought up to believe.

But somehow these rules do not apply here.

“I desire for you,” I say.

I manage to look at her face now without looking down.

She squeezes my hand.

“So I see,” she says. “I do not yet, but I sure do like you.”

We walk.

“Control your breathing,” she says as we enter the square.

I realize my stomach muscles are as hard as steel, my breathing is hampered by the tension in my body. I release.

“Tell me about your work,” I say as we sit down.

As we lay down next to each other, I look at the colors of my skin on hers: the color of dark honey and the color of dark chocolate. I look at the stretch marks on her skin, caused by the rapid growth from kid into teenager: slightly lighter than the rest of her skin, sometimes forming patterns like rivers, other times like zebra-marks. The skin can simply not handle such rapid stretch. She has two molds on places I will not mention. The rest is not of your concern.

“I like your work,” she says. “Abida. It is funny and clever. It is smart. Very smart.”

“Thank you.”

I blush again.

I wonder if I should show her some of my private work.

I decide to do so.

“It is very much alive,” she says when we are done. “beautiful.”

She takes my head in her hands, looks at me, studies my face.

“You have a very strong mind,” she says. “A very beautiful face. Sexy.”

I try to turn away, blushing again. She does not let me.

“Listen,” she says, “would you like to work together with me, with us? Give us feedback?”

I feel puzzled. “On what?”

“Show us what you can do with our wearables.”

“Oh.”

If I continue to blush like this, it might start to hurt.

“Cute,” she says.

“We evaluate in the evenings. Combine pleasure and work.”

“Really?” I sound too eager, but she only laughs. A deep sound from her throat.

“Yes.”

I do not care if she will be only using me. Each day more with her is like awesomeness.

Until one of us gets bored.

[4]

What would you do with absolute freedom if you could give that freedom to others?

Would you impose your vision of the world on others? Would you try to liberate the ones you consider trapped? Would you accept people to say no to your offer? Can you accept that there might be people who think they are already free, even if you think they are not?

Would you expect them to act the same as you do? Can you accept that some will not change anything? Can you accept that others might use that absolute freedom to destroy and enslave?

Will you impose your morals, your view on “right” and “wrong”?

It is evening of the next day when Bojing comes to my room to receive the implants. He looks humbled, is shy, tries to melt into the chair as he waits for me to get the stuff from my bag: looking at the floor as I move around.

But underneath his shyness burns a fire. Hidden now, but it will get out some day. Burning everything to cinders as it blasts out.

“Are you ready?” I ask.

He nods.

I spray his skull, which is easy with the short hair he trims every week.

I wait for the color to change, to become neutral from blue. A simple chemical process that tells me when it is time to inject.

The tiny gun shoots six needles through his skin into his skull. His head bobs slightly with every impact. Blood wells up through the little wounds as the knobs tore through the flesh.

My hand trembles slightly. I put the gun away, hold his head, touch his forehead with my fingers.

“Done,” I say.

Somehow I feel aroused. Partly from the memories of yesterday. What he could not do due to a premature ejaculation, he made up for with his fingers and his mouth. To have him here in front of me waiting until I am done is something extra. Did I get a kick out of gunning these needles into him?

I might have.

I wash the blood from his skull with the wet cloth from a tiny package. The cloth smells of disinfectant. It cools my skin as part of the active agent vaporizes from my skin. I wash his skin underneath the dark black hair. I move his head with the gentle pushes I give when I clean him.

And in the eye of my mind I see the cranes he painted two years ago, he showed me only a day ago. The lively strokes with which he painted them, the explosion of controlled motion that feels like a charged spring: ready to snap back or out with force once released. While the cranes are cultural cliché, his interpretation is personal. Like a nude has been painted before, it is the mind behind the painting that makes it worth looking at.

“I need to do two more. Please remove your shirt.”

I inject one in his breast bone. The other goes into his hipbone, where the skin is thinnest.

“Show me your wearable,” I say.

He picks it from his pocket. The glasses fold around the plastic. It is old and battered, a two year old model.

I hand him the transponder, hardly bigger than my nail. “Take out the plug from your glasses. Plug this in, instead.”

He follows my instructions in silence.

“It is paired to the nodes in your body. It also contains the links to the basic software you need to get started. Switch it on.”

He does so.

And freezes for a moment.

“You will have to get used to the sensory feedback you will receive. Also you will need to learn how to subvocalize your intentions through your muscles. Move without moving.”

He nods.

“Anything else?” he asks.

“No.”

“Downloading the software,” he mumbles.

“Installing.”

“Done.”

He turns the chair so that his body faces me, still involved in what goes on in the world of his portable. Very much aware of his nakedness, very much aware of me looking. He might be shy, but he is not a fool, nor passive. It is this intensity that invites without speech, without explicit signals. Fuck me, his body says. Come to me. Take me. Let me fuck you, pleasure you.

I giggle.

This is going to be very interesting.

While Chinese men are easy on the one hand, they are incredibly complex on the other. Layers and layers of meaning. And even where they are submissive on one side, they are close to violent on the other. Loaded springs ready to go off, potentially dangerous when you are in the wrong place.

When I touch his leg he shifts only gently, his eyes open, yellow-green due to the modifications he had done some years ago: different colorization of his irises.

I touch the tattoo on his shoulder. A flower in black. Simple and powerful design of his own hand.

“Fuck me,” I say.

There are two layers I understand.

One is his mind. The part he uses to think with. Within that mind there are countless inhabitations and contradictionary impulses. What one part wants is denied by another. Like different parts of his personality in conflict, in battle. Like bad programming. He wants, but can not. He cannot and can not channel the energy anywhere else. And so he blushes and stammers and looks at the floor.

Then there is the training of his body. No doubt he has been flirting and fucking with men too, as this is endorsed by messages in the media, in everything that surrounds you. As this is easier than finding a woman. The homo-erotic new China. It has refined his sensuality as he has learned to be both the hunter and the hunted. To use his male and female sides.

I take him to my bed.

I undress as he waits, naked and firm.

I am already wet as he enters me, and this time it takes close to an hour for him to come. Time in which I lost count in the number of times I came.

“I masturbated this morning,” he says a bit later. “I did not want to repeat yesterday.”

Still in need to prove himself.

His fingers touch the little knobs on the back of his skull. Then he touches mine. His eyes stare at my mouth.

“I was not aware of them yesterday,” he says, looking up. “At least: what they meant.”

“How is the image quality?” I ask.

“Very reasonable,” he says. “I assume I can always switch back?”

“Yes.”

“Good.”

He closes his eyes, moves his hand.

“It works with muscles, yes?”

“Yes.”

“So I do not really need to move my hands and my arms?”

“No.”

“How long did it take you to learn?”

“Two months,” I say.

He nods, closes his eyes.

“It is like dreaming,” he says. “It feels like I am moving my body, it looks like I am moving my body, but in reality I am not.”

“Yes.”

Then he opens his eyes again, stares in my, looks down fluttering.

Blushing.

“Will you be able to love me?”

What can I say, except the truth?

“Yes and no.”

He looks again, nods.

“I guess you know. I assume you read,” I say.

It is not hard to find out. I wrote about it. It is public knowledge.

I have a gap in my soul.

I can love. I can care. But as soon as you are gone, I forget. I do not know if it is because of my father. I do not know if it is something that is damaged in my brain or something that is psychosomatic. I do not know if it is because I never really fell in love or not. I do not know if it will ever improve or change.

“I did,” he says. He turns away, uncomfortable with the direct contact.

I touch his arm, make contact.

“What came first?” I ask. “You falling in love and reading about me, or the other way around?”

His hesitation is not a preparation for a lie. He simply has to overcome his inhabitations, as far as I can understand his body.

“I fell in love. Then I read your work, binged you.”

“And still you tried.”

I touch his cheek.

“I did.”

“So you know this can end somewhere.”

“I do.”

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