Dream Meat

The first time Dream Meat hit the market he didn’t believe in it – he thought it was a gimmick, a con, an outright lie.

They started bringing round mobile machines that they would hook up to sleeper’s heads, and the huge imaginary feasts they would create in their sleeping minds would manifest right before their eyes. It was a mixture of dream image sequencing and sub-atomic particle build, pulling data from the sensory equipment of the dreamer. He was sold. Gerhard bought the machine.

He wasn’t sure he had eaten anything but Dream Meat for the last few weeks now. He had been reading a recently conducted study that expressed doubts about the long term effects of the meat on people’s health. There was no definitive evidence that any damage may result from consumption, but the article was keen to point out that they just didn’t know enough about the actual substance to make any definite conclusions.

It tasted great. It was cheap – his budget for food had dropped through the floor, and it gave him more money to spend on other things. He thought he looked svelte, and that his skin had a new healthy sheen. It may have been true, or all in his head – he had stopped going out and hadn’t got any real feedback from anyone.

Insomnia was not a problem he had suffered from before, but now he found he couldn’t sleep for days at a time. He would get hungry because he couldn’t manufacture the Dream Meat. Then he would glut upon it. Feast and famine did not do well for him – the only reason his mood swings escaped notice was because he was so isolated.

Narcolepsy came next, and that brought with it the problem of overabundance of meat, of which he could not adequately dispose. He was stuffed most of the time. Was it having a narcotic effect? Something like tryptophan in turkey? He didn’t know, but he didn’t feel quite normal.

Reports started to come in of people being found strangely mutated, their bodies bursting their bounds and spreading throughout the rooms of the houses they lived in; the matter still seemed to be somehow alive, and still sentient, but it was not exactly human anymore. It changed colour as people entered the room, strange mirroring shapes formed in it, as if it were trying to communicate with it’s audience on a subconscious level.

They never found Gerhard – whatever it was that they took the flamethrowers too in that room was not Gerhard. That’s what they said. But then only a mother might recognise her child’s distinctive screaming, and she was too busy to visit.

Wakebox

Jazzed in the wakebox. A night of piped dreams and rapid learning protocols spinning in through fractal patterns, while the body gets worked over by nano-mechanics and all those little issues get gone over and worked out. He woke up and felt like a new person.

The evening before he had been on a wreck and forget mission – another sad break-up. He didn’t emote-wipes, and he had a bad experience on beat-off-the-heart, so the good old tradition of liver and kidney damaging intoxication was the option he chose. It was expensive, especially in this prohibition speakeasy joint era, and the relief was temporary at best, but in the moment? It worked.

But he also knew he had to be up and ready for it this morning, so, being of a pragmatic nature he had budgeted for a rapid repair cycle in the wakebox.

He felt a little strange as he stepped out onto the street, his feet were heavy and he felt a little light-headed. His vision started to swim and when he touched his hand to his forehead he was burning up. His on-board bio confirmed it – a translation-viral leaping from informational to meat construct. It had him pinned and he was transmitting his location somewhere.

Dark in the wakebox. Was that a dream? No – this wasn’t the luxury facility he slept in last night … this was something else.

‘Hello?’

No answer. A dart jabbed him in the thigh – cool liquid seeped up his left side in a way that suggested bio-nano-goop to him; a fucking infiltrate. Designed to do what? Reprogram? Why him? He was a nothing – a non-important bookstore clerk.

The fractals cycled up, a vocal element was introduced, and the sickly feverish feeling spread and undulated through him in rolling waves. And then it ended.

Wet and cold atop the wakebox. His own wakebox at home. How had he been transported and what was the purpose of the kidnap?

POTUS liked to shop for books. He was working that day. Standing behind the counter, slacking off, reading Catcher In The Rye, a classic.

The Story Ends

The story ends, grinds to a halt, leaves everyone unsatisfied. The music in the room wobbles like some knocked against a record player. Brent casts her an evil ¬†eye. Tonight, Sophie’s story-telling sophistry has buckled. She has corpsed.

What went wrong? Good opening, interesting characters, hooks, foreshadowing and plenty of quirky little details. But she spots that she started to ramble that the execution got flabby. Characterisation stumbled, following closely behind an unravelling narrative. Then you hit that breakneck rush to just end the thing and get off the stage.

Her cigarette tasted shitty awful; he whiskey was a cheap burn. She so greatly underwhelmed herself at this moment that part of her was falling into the deep gravity well of depression where thoughts of never doing this again arose from. Pull yourself together, she told herself, take the paltry applause for what it was. Live to fight another day. Watch the next act and pick up some tips.

Candy rocked – it was sexy, it was fast-paced, punchy, gut-wrenching, and emotionally resonant – bitch was on fire! It cheered Sophie no end; her friend was a great storyteller. Everyone had bad nights, but when you really hit your stride you could make magic happen.

Candy came and sat down next to her.

‘Hey, girl.’

‘Hey, you were great.’

‘You sucked balls.’

‘Thanks, Candy.’

‘Ah, who gives a fuck – it’s art and we’re risking something. Takes a lot to be willing to fail at something. You walk the walk, and tomorrow night you’ll rock.’

‘Yes, I will.’

They ordered daquiris and settled in for some serious drinking.

A Lesson

Views-wire – it is burning down and the images are about to shatter and shrapnel. Marketing 101 for trend-hacktivists. He pops a cycle-focus tab and dials in on the live-splice crowd-runner that he is going to be employing. It flashes bright of a thousand surfaces and only him, with his special lenses avoids the effect.

An atrocity exhibition that pulls from every person’s individual smart-chipped lifestory unspools like a horrific birthday treat. He is dot-to-dotting for them the trajectory of their simple choices and how they feed into larger movements that shape and break the planet daily. Most of them are shell-shocked, but he knows that some of them will wake up after this.

The police do nothing because their interlinked communication system spread everything faster – they are seeing what it means to be a cop in this day and age.

It lasts half an hour – in and out quick; otherwise it’s not safe. There are turncoat hackers in the government Cracktivist movement working to clean up all those they have labelled black hats.

He flicks a switch and his suit sparks with info-dazzle and anything that tries to look at him snow-crashes.

Working The Babyfarm

Yeltsin called himself Big Mama because he spent more than half his waking life tending these maturation chambers for Multi-purpose Baby Industries. He liked the section he was in now most – the babies actually destined for families or insertion points along interstellar travels; they gave him hope.

Wander further through the factory and you had organ farm central and they were just baby-shaped spare part factories – no brainstems, so no consciousness.

Neighbouring that was Foetal Foodstuffs – where the burgermeat babies were farmed. It was gruesome, and his least favourite part.

Back over to Maturation and soothing music was being piped in, the ambient underwater lighting made him sleepy. It wasn’t a bad job, and the monitoring function was fairly easy. He had never klaxoned which was unusual, most people did, and he had heard that the panic was unbelievable. The livestock here was worth a lot of money, whatever section you looked at. Wall to wall, ceiling to floor, row-upon-row: babies.

Big Mama lit up a doobie and put on some Marley on the headphones. His pizza should arrive soon, and it was always fun seeing the shell-shocked pizza guy shepherded through by security.

Kernel Pop

The future screams. It is not a comforting sound. Tap tap tap at the side of the head – his TV-eye has bad reception. He watches as the group scoping him to see whether he might be plunder-worthy are bringing their tech to bear on breaking through his nano-baffle. The dispersal pattern, his dress, and his general demeanour might suggest to most that he is not a vulture-worthy pick-over, but these wolves are a little smarter than your average bears.

A car pulls up in the parking lot. A Texas steps out and moves towards the building – people part and let him through. He’s holstered and a strong and silent type that invites no kind of close quarters consideration. Is he here to reload though? That’s what they are wondering. Why is he so far out of his jurisdiction? That is what they are wondering.

Pointer doesn’t like these bastards getting so close. He unleashes a low level meme-loop to crash their poke and prod routines. Is he going to get home safe? He thinks about calling Piecer Delivery whose motto is “Twelves Inches and Six Shots to Take You Home!”. He doesn’t want to have to kill anyone but he is a getting a little desperate as they follow him around.

He sets all of his weapon systems to stand-by with heat and proximity triggered decision making capabilities. This is the last time he comes out this late to the supermarket. How stupid is he? Popcorn does not balance out very well when you weight it against your life. They are prodding him and playing with his security to test its limits, but his security isn’t that stupid; it acts when it needs to.

When the right hook swings in, tiger in his tank roars and bites back harder than any of them were expecting. And then all of them are on the back foot. Too late. His defensive has gone offensive to handle this issue. He is firing heavy duty body shots at them while his locked in and locked on exo-skeleton is moving him towards home at a rapid clip.

Over his should Pointer sees Texas get in the middle of their mess, twigging immediately to what they were doing, and he cleans up. What a mess. Still, now he has his popcorn and can watch his movie in peace.

truly homeless

They step over him. He doesn’t wow them with the shell game anymore. He doesn’t do the street magic he picked up from watching carefully anymore. There are no amusing little anecdotes on the placards he sets around himself to request money. Give money or don’t – it has nothing to do with him. He knows that no one wants to speak to him, because he is a non-person.

Except her. She sits down cross-legged opposite him.

‘You gave up,’ she says ‘And that’s wrong, because you know the war is still going on.’

She chuckles: ‘Now, does that make you a traitor, or does that just make you a coward?’

‘I’m so tired.’

‘I’m so disappointed. Do you know how many bodies I have dragged around to fight this thing? How long I have lived out here in the cold? Out here in the dog-piss alleys? Do you have any conception? I may be alternative girl culture cute for the moment, but I was dragging an old man carcass around less than ten years ago. The standards are dropping though. You, Mercutio – you used to be someone I could rely on. The rapier wit turned to thick-tongued self pity – what’s that worth? Not a damned sight, right?’

‘Girl, stop harassing that man,’ said a half aware emissary from the shining kingdom of society.

‘Old lady, step away from something you do not understand. I commend your concern as a citizen, but we are of another world, and in that place you have no jurisdiction.’

The old lady stepped away with a confused expression on her face.

‘What would you have me do, Titania?’

‘Ah, you are a leaky battery indeed if you charge me with providing the mission with which you were instilled back when you stepped away from the warm streets of the shared dream.’

‘Yes, indeed – that is exactly the problem. I am truly homeless.’

‘What a sorry state of affairs. What magic would it take to restore you? Charity? A Death? A victory? None of it is cheap, and none of it presents at the asking. It requires some doing; it always did.’

With a flourish, summoned from somewhere where the dream still sparked, he tap danced through the parking lot. She smiled at him. He smiled at her. She bumped fists with him – time to continue fighting that war again.