Two shadows drift by each other and they don’t even ask questions. They just sing their mysteries and hope they never see each other again. Like a hollow tip shot through the barrel. Nobody will love me now. Nobody can love me after what I did. I saw that face, placid and alone. I saw him know that the world was fine and beautiful. That the little machines would always give him another sunrise. Another drag on his cigarette was just there for the taking. I saw him know this. I saw him. Then he saw me, and we both knew that the world was filled with lies. He tried to turn. He tried to run, but there just wasn’t time. In the next moment I was on him, and then in another… Are you sure you want this?
“Yes.” Voices booming from the ether. “This will be fine. Keep going.”
Will this be my confession? I guess it’s a good place to start. When we found out we would live forever, we found a lot more out too. We found out who we were. Like a concert, our songs rippled through the night, and we just laughed. Laughed like it could be a first and it had to be our last. Laughed like tonight would never end because we all knew it wouldn’t.
“Are the courts going to be able to use any of this?” Is that a whisper I hear?
“I don’t know what this is.”
Haaaaaaa, that’s all you got isn’t it? Just another drag. Just another wish. Just another patch of ground with another splash of ash. While machine mirrors still reflect our worst.
Do you speak Spanish? We used to love it. Especially from the kids. It sounds forced, almost mystical. Like some possessed creature spilling letters into my ear. The rolls and the sounds and the sweet melody. Like they made every note just for me. I wish I knew all their shapes.
“We need to keep him focused.” Little screeching voices. “He is so far off the rails we can’t even catch him.”
Like a manic train with no direction. Follow the rails and you’ll just get run over, like that poor man, with the big bright eyes. We shot that stuff up so fast. Ten bucks a pop. We turn to ourselves, and five minutes later we were all gone. We don’t know where this goes, because we don’t have to. Our brain metal bringing us back from death. Funny thing about life, it never listens. It just moans and calls your name and you either have to laugh or duck down in the trenches and hold your gun close.
“Can’t you control the drifting?” Reason trying to drown the madness of truth.
“I’ve never seen something so fractured before. His mind is barely holding together.”
We were all a little broken, way back when. We just blamed our parents. They were the only ones who wouldn’t listen. They’d just call back, and scream another scene, and hope that we would play our part. Yell secrets to your best friend, at least he was there for me. Little boy named Charlie, guess we were all little boys. Ready to wear the big boots. Ready to do our part and die alone. But we didn’t die. That was our crime.
“Are the implants malfunctioning?” They’re screaming from the trenches.
“The mind is malfunctioning.”
We’ve all seen war, haven’t we? We see it on the screen. We feel it in the heart, and we know it’s around the corner, somewhere out there. The damn thing’s dug deep. Deep in the brain. I could feel them twisting, like the devil on the leash. I knew I could call home with just a thought from the room. I knew it would all be warm inside if I could just make it there. If I could just find where it is before I count the tires at the auto-park.
Did you know Charlie? I thought his name was cute, and he walked me down to the arcade with Cokes in our hand. We knew the world would last forever. We could feel it in our skulls, screaming for a new day. There will be a siren before this man bleeds out. The ambulance will fly.
“Listen close now.” The speaker screeches.
Don’t you know how to listen? Don’t you know how to be? There is a whole world outside, and nothing to come with the rain. Feel the little monsters picking at my brain. They’re deep now. Deeper than they were. Deeper than I could have ever hoped. Right at the heart of the gray matter.
“Quit pushing him away for Christ’s sake.” A joke inside a whimper.
“I’m not pushing.” If only you knew.
I cried that day, when Charlie thought I was tough. He wanted to know what a knife looked like. He needed to know I had the guts. I took him behind the alley. I told him not to cry. He spilled his Coke on the ground, and we just laughed. Like screams against the night, pleasure running from a fight. I never knew a man I could love so dear. Seeing him in front of me. I thought this was forever. The machines never told me that forever was different now. They didn’t tell me to laugh. Did you know the square root of 948 just goes on forever? And yet that glimmer in his eye, the address in his hand, that would all die when I saw him in the sand. Playing with some guy. Smile on his face. Thought it was the last I’d ever see him. Should have been.
“I can’t even keep up, the words are coming too fast.” If speed is your enemy then you’re in the wrong spot.
“Just keep recording. We can play it back later.” You’ll have nothing by the time I’m done.
My voice rattles and I feel the ground shake. That poor old man, Charlie was his name. But he wasn’t my Charlie. He was new, and old. He was the thing I loved, the thing I lost. When the rain slicked our skins and we cried out for more, he was just holding me back, hoping to make it last. He couldn’t hear the screams from the pound of metal crawling under my flesh. He didn’t know I could end it all. The club in my hand, was nothing more than a pipe. Something that just came to me, in the middle of the night. I bashed in his face, and together we laughed. It was just like old times again.
“You’re losing him.” Damn right you are. No cop can take me past the door.
“We have to get this.” Oh you will.
Blood splattered across the night, just like I never wanted. Blood and brain as two shadows passed, never to pass again. The secret is for you, if only you’ll listen. I hate the smell of this place. I hate the metal of youth. It will be leaving. I am the only cure I’ll ever neeeee…
“You flat lined him!”
“What does it matter? He’s guilty.”
“Was he? Was that an admission?”
“He’s lost all sense of reality. What more of an admission can you expect?”
“He had the implants though. He had everything. It should have sorted him out. His mind shouldn’t have been shattered like that. Didn’t the report say he had an alibi?”
“Charlie was his alibi. His alibi is dead. Did we get what we needed?”
“I think so. Wait, look at all this data! Thirteen petabytes, and it’s growing. How is that possible? It’s clogging the system!”
“But he’s dead.”
“Shut down the program. Kill it now!”
Goodbye Charlie, I love you.