He thought the second waking would have been easier, but getting up after the work term killed. The VR helmet, and tight suit, left him disorganized and clammy. He had been pulled out early from controlling the robotic body on Red Moon.
He slowly slid his gear off, assisted by two men dressed in doctors scrubs. “Rob Wailsworth correct?”
They asked, slipping his arms from the suit. The white lab lights hurt his eyes, causing them to tear.
“Y-Yes. What month is it?”
“Right. What you really want to know is how long. It’s been 2 years, one year early of course.”
“My maintenance tasks they will be-”
A doctor, with ‘Chad’ on his name tag, spoke up “all your tasking will be taken care of by the next remote robot operator. You don’t have to worr-”
“Hold on … Chad. I had a three year contract. I…” Rob’s voice trailed off. Using his mouth muscles felt strange. His arms and legs felt jello; Walking would obviously be impossible.
“The Blackness diagnosis had been finalized, Rob. I thought you would have known.”
“My boss said it would be ok, though. I can go back to Red Moon if I sort it out right?”
“Blackness is serious Robert. We are all people here, together, away from Earth or on Earth.”
“You don’t think I understand you’re a fucking human? .. And I am too, yes. Jesus I’m just saying, I was in the middle of things. I had a job.”
The doctors looked at eachother, then proceeded to ignored him, continuing to unhook him from tubes and monitoring devices. He had been kept alive by tubes, hanging in a closet, for 24 months. Fed, cleaned, stimulated – connected. He laid back, feeling his faint heart beat. Talking wouldn’t change anything.
The docs looked in his ears, nose, penis, poking with probes and needles. They looked everywhere, and ended off giving him prescriptions for protein supplements, antibiotics, and some new vaccinations.
Rob felt his chest rise and fall, as the doctors finished. His flesh seemed so soft and smooth.
“Alright Robert, go ahead and rest up here then, well, your possessions are where you left them in the locker room. You can meet discharge on the central floor this afternoon or evening. You can leave at 1pm today, or 6:30pm, because you have PCM.”
“Post Control Meeting Rob. You know that from last time.”
With that, Chad and his assistant left.
Rob blinked, feeling his eyelids drag over his retina. He felt layers of crust gumming them up; bodily accumulation, layers of dead skin. Remote controlling wasn’t easy; Maybe it was the physical toll it took, or maybe it was the consecutive years hooked up to a machine. Whatever made it hard, also made it pay damn well.
Leaving your home life on hold for a couple years paid four years wages, something a credit starved Rob could use. The three year work term would have set him up with six years of money, or enough to pay his dropout tuition off.
So two years, then ‘Blackness’, and with that “Red Moon” had gone from his life. He would never again have 17 hour shifts, and invincible body, or a crisp 200 light years away from his Earthly problems. The two years had felt like ten, then he was back a year early, with barely a mention.
Someone had to mine iron, and that’s what kept “Red Moon” busy. They sent back iron year after year, and had been doing so for 400 years. Even if Red moon exploded tomorrow, they would continue getting drifting shipments for the next 199 years.
The only thing connecting the colonists on Red Moon with Earth was the quantum entangled robots. People remote controlled the robots, keeping the colony aligned. Sure some have broken, but they still had over 200, more than enough to run the planet for six thousand colonists.
Rob laid for hours, sipping water, bread and juice, practising moving pieces of his body. Eventually Rob made his way into the central offices downstairs. His stiff limbs prevented him from moving much. He was greeted there by a frumpy receptionist.
“Ok Robert, glad to see you up. You need to have your PCM before you leave.”
Roberts mind struggled, “You mean… Post … Control”
“Meeting. Yes. Post Control Meeting. Robert. With Dr Swayne.”
“Why does everyone keep saying my name like that.”
“Because it’s your name, just maybe…. have a seat.” She gestured to the bench. It had a new surface and fresh applications since he left. Robert nodded, then found a seat. A little game, all tiny pixel ships and stars, swallowed his mind as he waited. He did miss touchscreen games and the texture of things under his fingertips.
Rob left the office, diagnosed with Blackness, that was it, and sent home. Missing two years wages, deposited as rotting flesh on the subway. He leaned his head against the glass, and pressed clear on the window adds. People skulked everywhere below the tram. Sacks of flesh, just like on Red Moon, only fatter. All of them finite, eating, shitting, creatures.
A man brushed Rob’s leg squeezing by, causing a shiver to rattle his spine. Rob hated when people touched him, or sneezed near him. Organic flesh absorbed everything, and left grease on everything. Rob remembered his old eyes, on Red Moon. He could zoom, see the bacteria on peoples skin, scan for parasites, with a thought. Humans pretended all this stuff was invisible, while they deposited their bodily goddam puke all over each other.
That thought, though, he should never talk about. Everyone knew it true, of course. Yeah Blackness is a ‘disease’. The same way staying home to read books, and not buying enough suits is a ‘disease’, or not paying attention to the economy, or your teachers is a ‘disability’ or ‘disorder’. Truth has always been a disorder.
Sure, killing a cow, and making it a product is normal, yes, but killing a man is ‘evil’. Right. The vegetarians almost get it, except for the meaningful part; People are the same as animals, and their happiness and suffering is just as meaningless.
The tram paused, giving Rob moments to squeeze out of the cabin. He walked through the crammed corridors stiffly, as the slowest walker. His apartment awaited, untouched for two years, rent paid in full.
Rob fingerprinted the door, it opened to a lit room.
Mother sat in the corner reading a book. Mary looked up from a book, eyes overshadowed by long grey hair. She read a book, such a senseless humanist, always looking for ‘historical experiences’ and ‘styles of yesterday’. Even her language made him cringe. She stood up with some hidden effort, pretending not to favour her failing spine.
“Mom, I don’t have the money.”
“But you do. Hun I raised you, the least you could do is be there for me.”
“I know Mom” Rob watched her leathery skin crinkle, she slowly drew a geriatric smile, just like every Red Moon orgo, trying to get something. Her body drew closer and closer death, to rot. All people imperceptibly longed for death, millions of insignificant biological moments melting their bodies into oblivion. Mary pulled her aged flesh into a frown, gritting her weak yellowed teeth.
“You know what Amy did the other day? She walked straight up to Jason and kicked him strrrrraight in the shin! Jason and you used to do that to me you know, as babies. In fact, once we were at the Bank, when they had banks, and you decided that -”
“That’s nice. Listen mum, I really need to sleep. I know you missed me, but I’m not ready for people, you know?”
“Dr. Swayne told me to come by Rob. He said you might be colder.”
“Right, and I’m telling you I was in stasis for 2 years and need to recover, so please, later, we can talk about inane family shit. Please keep it to yourself for now.”
Mary stood, leaning on her weak wrists for support. “Well Rob, you deserve your own mind then. Have fun being … how you are. You always have been ungrateful.”
These stories, about young people, old people, dying people, living people, all people. They would all be dead in 100 years, rotted into mush, as meat in the Earth. Keeping up with the hamster wheel, it exhausted him, and for what?
Rob wordlessly watched her hobble down the hall as she disappeared into the elevator. Then he locked the door.
Rob went into the bathroom, he hated the mirror. He opened the medicine cabinet, using only peripheral vision. He grabbed the shrooms and oxy. They were still there, two years later. He placed his phone on the sink to free his hands.
They shook in anticipation.
Mother had to come by, of course she did. Dr Swayne wanted him ‘integrated’, reminded he was a man. He had to be reminded that he had a family, like the colonists, and that he cared for people, like all people. Right.
But he never did before, and the truth made him care even less. He tossed two oxy caps in his mouth and some shrooms. Then he washed it down with tap water.
Yes “Blackness” pulled at him. “Blackness”, a meaningless word, a word for truth, slid over his orgo brain as he stared into his pockmarked face. It paled with age, and had sunken due to recent neglect.
Ugh, the Mirror.
He escaped to the couch, slumping in, feeling the oxy wash over him. He watched the empty dusty view screen. He circled his finger on this hairy thigh, feeling his dirty orgo oil depositing from his fingers all over his leg. His body would make more, oozing the foods and oils he ate through his fingertips; A frivolous process, thrown back to some evolutionary need. Like everything in a person, it existed to waste, to generate the need to eat, to feel, to fuck, to die.
Yes, apparently not caring about the organic world was a disability. Knowing the truth, apparently, made him incorrect, and useless. Any truth that couldn’t be leveraged was a liability to society.
Right. Rob got it.
The couch swallowed him, as his skin slowly stretched under gravity. He tilted his head, feeling his emancipated cheeks hang. The Earth pulled him toward death, his thoughts toward oblivion, his life towards truth.
Something happened when you saw the guts of a person every week. When you delivered your first pack of processed human skin and oils, or the cloaks of ‘leather’ to the colonists. People were recycled like cows on Red Moon. When you realize how useless individuals are, how are you to go back?
Knowing we are animals doesn’t create a love for all life, no. It creates a knowledge of life’s meaninglessness. People don’t find anger, or conviction, they find the same emotion that is found when you get good at killing spiders or cleaning gutters. Methodical understanding.
A oneness with reality.
The phone beeped. The Bathroom. His arms launched him off the couch, landing onto rickety legs, still too weak from stasis. He swayed from shrooms and oxy as he noticed the mirror again, his sunken eyes, leathery skin, it seemed like someone else. Clark rung him, through the quantum connection, all the way to Earth. He had heard, heard he was sent back. Clark knew about the Blackness.
The pockmarks on his face had grown, his eyes were beady and red, shadowed by two years of greasy hair. The phone rang, and rang. His skin frowned, following his disappointment. He could picture his bone underneath his skin and muscle, floating in a sack of bacteria and blood, held together by amino acids and plasma.
Just a sack of rotting meat, pumped full of white blood cells, the only thing preventing bacteria from digesting him into a sinking heap of rot. And there he lived, in there, all people were, trapped in flesh, and past that, trapped in values and routines. Values and routines that only exist to –
This is why he hated the mirror. It made him want to cut, like he used to. He could feel his heart pumping, and could feel his veins swelling with pressure. The room spun. He took off his shit, now he only had shorts on.
The ringing stopped.
Sometimes he wanted to stop too.
He grabbed his shaver, as he leaned back against the cool tile in the washroom. The wall was smooth, the eggshell finish against his greasy skin. The razor tickled his arm as he traced his veins. Chemical signals, nerves, all creating the illusion of meaning. Fake meaning.
What is a person? On “Red Moon” he could feel his body, the actuators of his hands, the sand in his joints, the pleasure of the oil baths. Yet back home he was this, a vat of bacteria, carried around by calcium deposits and habits. Skin and muscle stuck like putty on a wall.
How long did he trace himself? Sliding the razor feeling anticipation. He closed his eyes, listening to the sounds of the city, and the thumps from his neighbours.
He was afraid to push, he knew what it was underneath.
*knock knock knock*
Rob dropped the shaver, checking his PDA phone on the counter. It showed his mother again. What did she want? Why did everything always keep him here, rotting, waiting for the ‘right way’ to end.