Someone put the wrong teeth in my mouth last night. The canines poked at the back of my lips as if they didn’t fit. I wanted them either buried deep in the gums or all removed. I hate teeth.
Trash trucks moan like suburban whales while they back down my cul de sac. The truck eeping irritated me more than the piercing light. Wallpaper images of two windows beamed sunlight down as part of my alarm. Com programmed the walls and trash truck sounds from Archives of the room I had growing up. Some would say I’m too nostalgic, but I found a greater ease in that childhood time and space.
“Shall I turn the alarm off, Ben?”
“Yes. Thanks, Com.”
A withering erection and prominent teeth were all I needed to bring back recollection of my dream—another in the monster series. I lay there annoyed by the disturbing visions.
“Would you like to dictate your dream or will you be typing it today?”
“In a minute, Com.”
Staying in bed all afternoon would’ve been nice, but morning bladder ousted me. A glimpse as I went past the mirror was plenty. Nothing new about seeing dark circles and bedhead hair but it prompted dictation of my werewolf dream as the reoccurring concern for my mental well-being drained away with yesterday’s juice.
Damn teeth. I needed a drink. The canines still felt glued against the inside of my lips. In the mirror inspection, they appeared normal. Gross, but normal. Most of the time, all I needed to see were lips separating a fraction to think of an opened wound. Beyond the teeth, disgust stemmed from dripping saliva, hordes of bacteria, and raw flesh waves of the palate. It made me question the stability of dentists.
The voice of my friend Lorelei buzzed in my head. Study the dreams closer! Maybe the monster series could be about the accident, but it was more likely my brain’s way of shuffling new memories into order. Not that I’d recently shape-shifted and attacked anyone, but it was possible the young girls in the dream were somehow my brothers or probably my ex-fiancée Faith.
I returned to bed and lay down again. A flashing mailbox rotated above me.
“What’s in the box?” I garbled through a yawn.
An envelope slid out. “It’s from a Susan Ross. Do you wish me to verify the sender?”
“Is it another salesperson?”
“She does not appear to be. Do you wish for more data on her?”
“Just display it, please.”
A holographic page slid from the envelope.
From Susan@rossskycity - Subj: Still looking for good book conversation?
Sunday September 11th
I’m feeling almost too old to be doing this (27) but willing to give it a shot. I live in that sky-stuck city, yes, among the clouds, miles above Navy Pier in Chicago. A basic goddess of the air (ha!).
I was looking through a book club directory and saw you have similar literary tastes. I consume books. Voracious doesn’t cut it. I’m re-reading Anna Karenina by Tolstoy today.
I have degrees in English and Psychology.
I don’t want to write too much in case you’re not into this anymore. I know your post is old. Okay, so my interests besides reading include dancing, movies about the old west, unusual sexual practices (insect or animal), and visiting EY Beach - the one recently finished over the city of Aurora. Don’t you love the beach? All those grains around the globe and now in the sky!
"He went down trying not to look long at her, as though she were the sun, but he saw her, as one sees the sun, without looking." - Tolstoy
I dare you not to go to my Archives to see what I look like and what has happened in my life. I dare you to try to live purely. Live only with our words.
What’s this, a disguised dating service letter? “Com, is there anything unusual you can find about her? Any police records or hospitalization for mental illness?”
“The Archives offer no history of illness or crime.”
“Did she really find me on some book discussion site?”
“The sender is listed as having recently visited a site you posted on two years ago. Do you wish to view anything specific from her Archive?”
“No, not now, I’ll take her dare, but set a reminder for a few months. I probably won’t need it but with my brain you never know. Oh and um, send alerts any time Faith monitors correspondence with Susan and me.”
“A three-month reminder is set for December eleventh, along with the new Faith alert. Today’s Reminder: Call Lorelei about your session this afternoon.”
Setting alerts … I could just hear Lenny’s response if he knew any of my continued efforts. Two hours walking around Faith’s neighborhood in the dark last night?! What were you thinking? I took the risk somehow she’d stumble upon an Archive and see my routines. Hoped is more like it; hoped she’d see I’d still be willing to reunite, even with what she did. Idiot. After all this time, and the conversations with Lorelei. I needed to move beyond.
“Com, respond to Susan. Subject is ‘How’s the air up there?’ Body of message, begin.”
I hadn’t done this in a long time. It felt dumb. I joined that site thinking it hard to have decent conversations with friends about fiction– better to converse about the written through written form.
I shoved aside some of the books on my bed, and thought for a while.
“Baked in black bread, I am wheat and weak from the plow of no decent dialog. Almost every man or woman I’m in contact with wants to talk everyday trash. I don’t mind talking movies — or unusual animal sex. Refined Trash is acceptable, but books are what I’m mainly interested in. I won’t bother with your Archive until you request me to do so. I’m not really a fan of the Archives. They exhaust me.” The words scrolled on the wall monitor.
What am I talking about? Bah, she’ll think I want to be a poet. It’s too early. I sat up and looked out the fake window at the simulated sunny world of my youth.
“I’m, uh, 28 and live in Pennsylvania. I have a degree in nanotech-painting. I wouldn’t call myself a success, but my work has been exhibited.”
A door slammed and the sound of loud shuffling in the hallway.
“Let’s see. You might find it interesting to read I live with my seven-year-old conjoined twin brothers, Ed and Francis. Dad wanted a new body and, I forget, but it was something about the production moving too quickly. You know how they discard the rejects now. Back then they didn’t. It’s a lot of work caring for them, a lot, and a constant reminder of my father, being clones and all that. You know, same brown hair and eyes as him - but they’re six-foot-six and Dad is shorter, my height.”
The twins wobbled in and moved through Susan’s letter hologram, stopping too close to my face. Their breath could nearly be seen— a sour lunch-meaty scent.
“Pause for a moment, Com.”
“We’re hungry for pancakes,” they said together.
“You know where the cereal is.”
“Oooooh, that’s right, cereal!” Ed rocked their bodies with his.
“It’s all mine,” Francis shouted directly into Ed’s face. They wobbled back out of the room towards the kitchen, still arguing. I heard something crash, but returned to the letter.
“Continue the message now, Com. My brothers … as I said, they’re a lot of work and it wouldn’t be so bad if the scientists and government didn’t bug us. I guess I shouldn’t complain. Without the extra payments, I’d probably have to become one of the saints I help administer. My parents contribute to my brothers’ bills also.
“My parents, um, yes. I received an invitation to volunteer at the Saint Center for the great Dr Mamon a few months after a car crash my parents and I had. I paint for the saints.
“It’s been a while since I joined that book-talk site. I’m somewhat old-fashioned and prefer real paper books. Do you have a preference? So, yes, sure, I’d be, um, happy to give a little book-talk a try. I hope you aren’t offended, but I’m not looking for a date. I met my ex-fiancée under similar circumstances to this and don’t want that mistake repeated. Sometimes love and trust can prevent one from monitoring Archives more strictly and, well, I should’ve monitored her more. So much for the Archive keeping people’s morality in check. Anyway, let me know how Tolstoy progresses. End it there, Com. I want to read that over before you send it.”
“Do you want any special delivery options?”
The letter appeared in front of me long enough to re-read. I cringed a little but added ‘Sincerely, Ben Tinthawin’ to the end; and sent it.
Idiot. I probably said too much. I often do when writing to others. Loud noises from the kitchen got me out of bed again.
“Can I hear a random shuffle, please?” I grabbed a shirt from the floor and tugged it on.
‘Susie Q’ announced before the music started playing in the apartment and I suddenly felt a little ache in my head.
FLASH! White deer standing in the middle of the road.
FLASH! Glass flying through the air.
More of the accident flashed away. My brain leveled as another crash resounded from the other room.
The song continued and I realized why Com chose it.
“Very funny, Com.”
“I thought you might appreciate the song in honor of your new girlfriend. It’s remade by Boynen originally recorded by a Creedence Clearwater Revival.”
“She’s not my girlfriend. What, one letter constitutes a girlfriend?”
“You are rarely that verbose. You are needed in the kitchen.” Com increased the volume.