WHAT IS MAPPALUJO?


CHAPTER 14

  • The mirrorball slowly turns. My eyes are glittering.
    I am a machine. The Dandy. Versions of me all over the city, y'know? Low-level cruise cabs, pop-up desktops, transit lounge kiosks. Plus, still a few of the old street-corner walk-ins. The old glass booths.
  • What I do, I watch. I react. I measure the street life. Everyone should have a job, and mixing and matching data is mine. Open source, that's my transport. Parallel processing my way across the wide city. I know how to make, uh, a display.
  • Anyway. The reason I like the booths is because of the Zeenies. Clipped, shaved, painted, feathered. Exiles from a paradise they never outgrew. Superstars of the night. They come here to pose and preen, lick each other's sex parts and bleed on the floor. I Kodak them when they're not looking.
  • The night in question, the Zeenies were late to the marketplace booth. This guy stumbles in right ahead. Now he's a real night-crawler, obviously seen better days. Unshaven, crumpled, unseasonably dressed for the weather. Big leather coat. Maybe he's crazy. X-ray says that he's packing. I thought he was, uh, kinda cute.
  • Turns out somehow he's messing with the Zeno guys. The pharmogene company. The Proctor and fucking Gamble of dream purveyance. Yeah, those guys. The enemy. They don't like that he's feeding me a Zeno lab product hasn't been licensed. Uh oh! They don't like that at all. Tough cheese.
  • This guy's on some kind of mission. One of those old-fashioned dreamers possessed by his fetish object, he's thumbing a strand of precious green silk. Well, the zoom gets fouled up. I have to wait too many seconds as the mirrorballcam spins me around, the long way back to the scene. By that time she's leaving. Already turning away. All I catch is a glimpse of her face looking back.
  • The client hits the freeze button, asks me for a printout. What was it with this woman? Something I should know about? Her lips, her hair, the shadows around her eyes, all registered in melting industrial colours. Some kinda digital mask in place. Turned up, broken down, shrouded electric. He peels her damp portrait from the surface of my tongue.
  • Was he in love with her? Well, gee, I guess so. By the time the Zeenies arrive and tap on the glass he's looking for trouble. Shows them his gun. They taunt him and glide away.
  • So what was his story? He's standing there just looking at this thing, this really crude photograph. Seeing what he wants to see in its grain. They all do that. Eyes, hair, lips. The soft traces a ghost leaves behind, as it moves through the world. Yeah, that kinda malarkey.
  • Me? I'm just a machine, baby. My eyes turn through the city.

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WHAT IS MAPPALUJO?