Friday, June 3, 2016

AngelKiss - a short story

Call me old fashioned, I mean, people have been marrying their pets since 2019, but I didn’t want to be presumptuous. Yes, Sheila was affectionate and loving, as collies usually are, but some unprogressed genetic leftover from my ancestors made me want to pop the question without an interpreter. I’ll admit that I may have been hasty to give Sheila the Sevengevity upgrade but my calculations showed we were close to the same age and so perhaps impulsively I emptied my savings chip and made the plunge. I mean, who wouldn’t want their pet to have a human lifespan so they could grow old together? Pet. Again my unprogressed upbringing is showing.

That was before I knew I was in love. Otherwise I might have saved a little to instead transmogrify her with human DNA, although again I wouldn’t have wanted to do this without her permission. Time was of the essence and it would have taken me six months to afford the combo package of Sevengevity and Humanfuze, which meant that my Shiela (“my” being a term of endearment, not ownership, in case the Living Organism Rights League reads this) would be four years older than me. Again, not a huge difference but what if I was off in my calculations and she ended up being a full ten years older? Love wouldn’t have cared. If only I hadn’t chosen to re-up my private automobile contract, with the accompanying exorbitant carbon fees, I would have had the money. Sure, most everyone uses public transport or bikes but I like being able to come and go as I please. Plus driving yourself is a huge ego trip! Didn’t some French philosopher say “To live is to regret”? Or did I just coin a phrase?

Speaking of regrets, always read the fine print. I thought that a DNA-splice was a DNA-splice but apparently some companies, like the one I used at the local strip mall, cut some corners so that one cannot resplice with assurance of no side effects. Cutting costs and going for the cheapest upgrade is yet another regret, although I must say that the Sevengevity job they did is top notch. Since the splice Sheila is as spunky as ever and there were no problems. Even if she was comfortable with the risk of stacking splices I don’t know what I would do if she were one of the thirty-percent who have a bad reaction. And I’ve seen some really freaky bad reactions, not to mention the possibility that the Sevengevity would be nullified.

That was a couple of years ago, before our relationship blossomed, and before splicing for humans was financially within the reach of the average citizen. Sure, the politicians and the bankers and the celebrities could get any upgrade they wanted, that is after Caitlyn Jenner went to the President and he issued an Executive Order changing the laws on human splicing. It was about time, too. Imagine the horror of being a woman and yet every cell of your body cries out against you with their Y chromosomes. In those early days it required a painful spinal fluid sample and bone-marrow transplant. Now all it takes is blood and tissue samples and a few injections and one month later you are officially, and genetically female. Or male. Or whatever. The sex-change manipulations were first but it didn’t take long until athletes were getting spliced with spiders or bulls or just about anything under the sun. Since this came from an executive order these changes had to be allowed by the professional leagues, which means that if even one person on the opposing team had an upgrade you were smoked unless you too had someone with an upgrade on your team. At first it was interesting, watching someone with a cheetah upgrade zip down the basketball court like that superhero Flash but eventually things got so out of hand each game is almost like a train wreck, what with arm extensions and quadropeds and whatever crazy designer genes they come up with. The other sports are no better. I hope they come up with guidelines because it’s almost not fun to watch anymore.

Of course those people can afford the best and can switch back, which is more expensive and makes me think of that retro cartoon about Sneetches and how the price kept going up with each change. Of course, kids these days won’t watch any show that’s not immersive… their loss. Listen to me… “Kids these days.” I sound like my great-grandpa! Sports weren’t the only areas affected. When I was a kid red carpet events were about the fancy clothing that the celebrities would wear but once they started modifying it was also about who had the most outlandish upgrades. The first one I recall seeing was some movie star wearing zebra skin. Not a jacket or dress or anything. She had her skin changed into actual zebra fur! I think I saw her later on a talk show with human skin again but with three massive horns sprouting from the top of each shoulder. Man, she looked fierce! You can always count on Baby Gaga for some crazy attention-getter, like the time she “grew” boobs all over her body. Talk about weird. While celebrities were wary of messing with their faces, which is their bread and butter, it wasn’t uncommon to see a bank VP with a bird head and a human body, looking very much like a mythological Egyptian god. I speak from experience when I say that when you’re sitting across the desk from a centaur, even one in a sports coat and tie, one doesn’t exactly feel empowered to negotiate a lower interest rate. It’s still expensive but recently the price has been coming down so that it’s not unusual these days to bump into a minotaur while picking up a six pack or finding out that the person who beat you out of a new job had two extra arms which made them twice as productive.

But I’ve gotten off track. So Sheila was going to live a human lifespan but we wanted more. A second upgrade for her would have been risky. I considered becoming half-collie but what would I change? My head, probably, and I’d definitely get a tail. However even with all the government-mandated changes in businesses my productivity would surely suffer if I had paws and I can’t afford a cut in pay. Plus there’s the whole aesthetics of what I would look like and, yes, my old school side is showing, I kind of like just being human. Besides I didn’t have enough on my chip to become half-collie so I decided that I would show my commitment to our relationship by the next best thing: a spinal implant. Maybe I shouldn’t have gone back to the place in the strip mall but I couldn’t afford one of the higher-priced luxury splicers on a data-cleaners salary. Plus I had a coupon.

The technician at DNA Café, which I think used to be a tattoo and piercing place when I was a kid, was very thorough and explained that it would likely take three months for the CanineWize graft to fully take. Nerves, it appears, are slow to mend. However for a bit extra I could buy an ointment that would speed up the healing to about two weeks and I made the splurge. And yes, I’ll admit that I also opted for the additional GuitarWizard package. The entire process took about thirty minutes with me laying face-down on a kind of massage-bed that had a hole for my face and clamps and straps to keep my head and body from moving while a massive robotic arm numbed the back of my neck and, well, without going into too much detail, grafted the implants into my spinal column.

After thirty minutes in their waiting room to make sure everything was okay I went back to my one-bedroom apartment, gave Sheila a hug and filled her water and food bowls and took the small red pill that would knock me out for a while and allow for faster healing of the implant. I was out for twenty hours and probably would have been out longer if Sheila hadn’t woken me up by licking my face. I reached up and had stubble on my chin and thought at first “I’m changing into half collie!” but it was just from not shaving. I let Sheila out and she was gone a long time, which I can’t really blame her with being cooped up while I was recovering. She came back and wolfed down a fresh bowl of food (beef bits and country vegetables, her favorite) and surprised me by saying, “Thanks for the swally, Dylan.” Clear as day! I tried to respond in dog but was only able to make a small yip that made Sheila look at me funny. They’ve come a long way with programming implants so even though I’ll have the knowledge of dog (and guitar playing) I will still need to practice a bit so the muscles of my throat (and hands) are in sync with the chip in my brain.

I tried again, this time concentrating on saying her glorious name, “Sheila.” Another funny look in reply and then “Are you trying to talk to me, Dylan?” I nodded, slightly confused because I never expected her to have a Scottish accent. “So the implant works? You can understand me?” Another nod and I ventured another try at speaking dog with “Yes, Sheila.”

“About that name. I’m Bonnie. Scottish. Not Australian. And look, now that we can, we need to talk.” There was a long pause as she collected her words, my heart suddenly pounding at the dreaded phrase “we need to talk.” “Thanks for taking care of me the past few years and for combing my fur and all that. It’s not like I don’t appreciate it. And I know you love me and Dylan, I wish I could return your affections. I really do care for you but just not in that way.” Another pause as she gathered courage. “Dylan, I’m leaving you for Igor, the Great Dane three buildings down. In fact, I’m probably carrying his pups. I never wanted to hurt you… Can’t we just be friends?” We looked at each other in painful silence for a few moments before Sheila, er, Bonnie went to the door and scratched sorrowfully at it. I let her out and she never returned.

I already had scheduled vacation time for recovery so I spent the next couple of weeks in my apartment watching intervision, generally not eating or sleeping much, and feeling like a fool. Every talk show was talking about a new human splice called AngelKiss which makes it so you can’t die. Right now it has not been approved by the FDA but that hasn’t stopped the ultra-rich from flying to other countries to become immortal. Apparently they’ve been doing this for years and word just leaked out. Of course a few fuddy-duddies are denouncing AngelKiss, saying that if no one dies then our already over-burdened planet will collapse but that won’t happen. If something like AngelKiss really works then the underclass will never be allowed, or allow to afford, such a modification.

After about a week I finally left my apartment. It was weird and depressing to be out on the streets without Sheila with me. I walked by the park, hoping she might be there, but she wasn’t. Now that I can understand dog, though, I may have to avoid the park. Mostly they just talked about squirrels and food and joked about “their servants” scooping up their poop. On the way back there was some preacher guy shouting on a corner, obviously well outside of any free speech zone, but I didn’t feel like reporting him. He was kinda interesting, raving about how some day people will want to die but death will elude them and how we should all repent. Leave it for the religious nuts to fear the latest technological advances.

Speaking of fear, I think it’s time to face my own. It’s been two months since Sheila left me and my co-workers tell me that I need to get back in the saddle. I’ve been practicing speaking dog so tonight, after work, I plan to swing by the Non-Human Shelter and try to strike up a conversation or two. Hopefully they have a collie. Hey, a man likes what he likes, okay?

1 comment:

Ricky H said...

What a fantastic story – it's creative, funny, insightful, sad, and a little scary (because such a bizarre scenario isn't nearly as far-fetched as it once might've seemed). Vanity has its price (especially when masquerading as love). More stories like that, please.

Would it be unfair to assume (based on recent posts) that your talents are more of the creative than the practical kind? If so, then I can totally relate. It's a blessing and a curse.