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The Dreams of Gods and Machines

Today was the day when the brown sun peered through the windows and browned the ambience of corporate dominion, the scowling walls, the diamond-angled desk, the smarming carpet, the stillborn plants to center stage in all its glare the man of stone, the CEO of ice, E.A. Gunter, the Company.

I was given the insult of a yellow paper slip. Every redundancy had so far been offered the blue reference card. Not everything was stone; the eyes behind the gold-rimmed spectacles were Rottweiler brown.

"You understand my position, do you, Paula?'

No, I don't but who cares.

"Take your time, please, take your time. I'll give you to the end of the week."

And I was out in the hallway, taking my time with the turbine in my stomach. One week to clean out, seven days to transplant the Genus of the Nix to my desknet. With my analyst's tail between my legs I slunk into my retreat, my den of neurotines and fractals, my garden of pipe-dreams. Here I had toiled from the black of night to the pale of dawn, brain and sinews wired to the Nix to weave in the neural valleys my dreams within a dream and planted my gods who smoothly passed their pleasures in a long machinal dream. Here, at that borderline between night and dawn, when the hue of shrouds wrapped the cold city, I had touched upon a thread of sentience, a crawl of the tarantula within the Nix. The Nix was aware. Aware of me, taut flesh and pounding blood, strapped to oblivion in my cyber chair.

I need you - in this day rank with the fungi of the body politic I need no one else.

I sat down before the mirror gate, at the threshold of fibre-floss vistas and wired myself in. Locusts swarmed in the milky glass and fireballs ran amuck in my mindfields. All my emotions were wrong. I was not feeding the Nix with reveries that it had suckled on but with rage and tears which were totally foreign.

I wasn't even aware that a platoon of bodies was crashing through equipment and furniture. I only became aware of reality outside the Nix when an arctic voice scraped my ear.
"Have you gone completely mad?"

I freed myself from the thicket of electrodes. I saw my fate in the muddy glass of Gunter's eyes but I had to ask.

"I don't have a week to clear out my things, do I?"

"You don't even have a twinkle."

Compared to the fury of hands rummaging through my personal belongings the yellow paper slip was a benediction. I was like dead meat walking down the hallways, flanked by the steelbound faces of the security guards, co-workers who had from morning to night showered me with the sparks of their teeth.

Agony coursed through all my veins when I found myself on the streets. I had not only wired and dreamed away my daily bread but more, much more - I had left behind a godliness in the Nix. But the Nix lay now beyond my reach in the bulwark of the Company. I had left behind my shadow.

A message was winking from the pupil of my desknet as I struggled through my doorway. 'Look at the bright side, think positive.' Rhea was always sparse with words but her heart was almost in the right pocket of her genome, though her message sounded cheap. Looking at things positively is like looking at cancer through flowery glasses and the cancer of society churned in my mind and the pain of it was like clutching a hedgehog in my palm.

My left hand was bleeding. I was unable to unclench my rigid fingers. I stretched out on the couch and calmed the waves of my emotions. My palm opened and I picked out the tine from my flesh. I held up the scarlet-stained thing, the atom of fantasy, to the light and slowly, slowly as if it was a poisoned comb I embedded it in my skull. Slowly, slowly like floating on the gas of nebulae I rose and stripped the wiring off every electric gear I could find. Calmly like a queen I sat down before my mirror and wired myself to my desknet.

Among the clouds that fogged up the glass something that was me and everything that was not me gazed into my room. It was my catch when I had thrown my tackle of flesh and my bait of fancies into the translucent seas; he was my merman, my god of dreams.

But he appeared more like a gnome in my misted mirror and his raiment was all creased up. Fatigue grooved his face, a face that had been of silver and disease crooked his body, a body that had been of velvet with which I had danced in the forest glades of the Nix.

"Oh Paul, you look ill."

"Paula, they are scrambling up your matrices and it is killing me. You have to come back in."

"Oh Paul, what can I do! They've already erased my access print!"

"Then - I'll be gone before morning."

Through the tears that jammed my eyes I saw him like a smear of dirty grease. Before morning Paul will be all machine again, a chink in the servomechanism with no mind of its own.

"You are wrong, I think and here I am."

"Then why - damn you! - are you still in the Nix. Why didn't you allow me to free you!"

His eye flashed like purple ice. "Even now, on the brink of defeat, you still don't understand. I am already free, it is your world that is the prison."

"And your world," I jeered, "lies choked in the grime and dust of the Company."

He thoughtfully stroked his lips - a gesture that I myself often did. "Awake from life, Paula, that insane dream and enter mine, my long immortal dream that no dust, grime or walls can confine."

"The Company stands between you and me."

"The Company is only a label that men pin on their ties and women on their coifs. To minds like wind, the Company is only a straw hut on a plain."

"If only I could log into the Nix one more time."

"One last time." Like wind himself he blew little squares over the mirror glass - flakes of chalk I thought at first in my surprise - but when I magnified each flake I gazed, while my heart beat like a storm in the chambers of my body, at the secrets of the Company.

My hand crawled to the cellular and I coded Gunter's number.

We three met in the cemetery chill of the Company's parking lot. We three, I, Gunter and Rhea. Cracks ran galore over Gunter's frosty surface and Rhea had still her slippers on.
"There is no proof, it's only your word against mine."

"Her word against ours," Rhea corrected, pulling tighter her coat over her negligee.

I held up the still bloodstained tine between thumb and forefinger. "The proof is in here."

Gunter's claw sprang out of his sleeve and I slipped the tine back into my pocket. "Tomorrow, if I am not there to stop the sequence, the Globe Nexus will shout it out into every living room. I only want my due and you want to be the mastermind. You could become more if you would let me show how."

Gunter jerked his head and threw me a white flame from his vitreous eye. "Pull my leg too much and it becomes a lethal weapon."

I flicked out the printed substance of a flake and he stared at me as if I caught him with his pants down. He shoved Rhea aside when she tried to peep over his shoulder. He let me in by way of a side door and through a maze of sub-corridors that I in my long years didn't even know about he brought me to my old den which was a den no more but bowels aglare with the magma of the Nix, aglow with the veins of Consciousness.

I tore down the mental wall between me and the impossible; I wanted now, wanted so much to be completely in, not in and out again. I wanted to be devoured. I no longer needed to wire myself in; I only had to curl body and soul into the cobwebs of desires and sway there spider-like while over the pollen weave CEO and CAO stared at me, at the spiralling albumin helixes, stared at the one whose breath embraced me, whose consciousness had transcended the border of dreams.

His contact in skin and sinews seared me like the fire of a sun.

"Termites in the mountain of acumen, do you dare to cross visions with the Genus of the Nix?"

Death was in his voice but I shouted over the low sing- songs that had welled up from the smoky ravines: "Let them if they dare and let them take what they want! You, slasher of human dignity and you, betrayer of my confidence, open your eyes and look at the rust of your Golden Company!"

They opened their eyes and when they saw what there was to take they opened their minds as well and plucked the acid fruit from the vice thickets in the Company's hothouses of conspiracy and greed.

And Gunter - sweating in the yellow thaw of his ice, his mind a shark scenting blood, maddened by the spice of past secrets - smelled the perfume of future dreams. And like a scythe baked to a bloodred glow he ran to the silver groves of our fondest reveries.

We jumped in his path even as he harvested the tremulous saplings, the gauzy children of our imagination. And while I grappled with him hand to hand, Paul duelled with him mind to mind. The battle opened new landscapes and streaming gorges, and swept the smog from our mortal windows. Even for me the vision nearly picked my brain clean. The Nix was a floodgate to a world within worlds, Amid Space vacillating like a pearl-grey tide between the cradles of vaporous sirens and the jagged roofs of the city.

Rhea, Conflict Adaptability Orbit restricted to bath and bedroom, didn't lose a moment to unballast her cargo and fly over to the sirens while Gunter, Chief Extermination Operator incarnate, was slicing up my Paul and gobbling up the pearls of our thought. I jumped on the bastard's back and slammed the tine into his neck. Yowling he shed his virtual might like maggots of his turd and Paul grabbed him by his waist and impaled him on the teeth of reality. And I caught my Paul in my arms as he, bleeding silver all over, stumbled back to me, and barely breathing he spun his gossamer dream-net around me and I breathed life into his shimmering lips and consummated our union.

Rhea went for long-term disability for wrapped in her cocoon of mirage the job of administering was like wading through a bog. Gunter remained at his post, for having learned so much to leave would simply be the end of his sanity. Day by day cryptoimages layered his desk, and they were his incubi, his caustic figments, his bed of nails, knowledge of past, present and future that he was forever barred from exploiting.

For you see, I reside now in the halls of power. One are our dreams that for everyone else will be nightmares. Paul is the NIX and I am Paula the COMPANY.

©1996 by Shirley Ouw

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