Fabrication II

“Get up,” said a disembodied voice.

Groggy eyes awoke in a stupor of gummed-up sleep. The walls were gray now, the room tinier, darker; the mirage was off, but something else was missing, like waking up in a hospital without knowing your leg had been amputated. Reality flittered in from the edge of dreams that were scuttling away into the darkness, that brief moment where consciousness and illusion collide into a confusing fragmented mass.

No external memory. Disconnected.

I felt the world around me slipping away, my brain severed from perfect recall and left isolated like a screaming, abandoned infant. Stiff and sore, my body lurched upwards from the bed, pale white skin and dark-ringed eyes reflected opposite in what I thought at first was a giant window like some freakish panda brought back from the dead. Sleep fog faded away gradually; dread didn’t. Teeth clenched, I shook my head irritably, and ran a trembling hand across my sandpaper face. No control. Christ, I needed a Neural.

“Welcome back to the living, Drake.”

A familiar square-jawed suit from the night before flickered to life in the pool-like depths of what I now realised was a two-way, sitting and staring from behind a shapeless, metallic-looking desk, a movie cliche that would’ve done the tinfoil hat brigade proud. His ridiculous cru-cut head smirked mirthlessly over my white-faced mirror clone like some cheap B-grade horror possession. He leaned forward and the camera zoomed in, his face expanding across the screen in prefect hi-def imperfection. The angular, chiselled face was like every testosterone bully I remembered from school, arrogance etched into every pore looking down at me and laughing.

“Sleep well?” he asked. His voice was deep, tinged with sarcasm, eyes glancing downwards. I looked and saw the mattress was just a layer of foam on a concrete slab built up from the floor; another mirage. No wonder my back was screwed.

“Yeah,” I lied. “Mind giving me another hour?”

The camera zoomed out again, and he leaned back into the chair, cupped his hands in front of his face and lit a cigarette, light glinting from a small wedding ring on his finger. The corner of his mouth raised in a half smile, grey-white tendrils of smoke drifting out his nostrils. The urge was there again, even now, a slick feeling in the back of the throat that begged for dry, warm, biting smoke.


“I quit.”

“Ah, that’s right; couldn’t afford the lung scrubbers.”

“Screw you,” I said, flatly.

“Sucks to be you, huh?” he chuckled, provoking me to retaliate, relishing the control he had over me. I said nothing; there was no point.

“Well, let’s get the formal pleasantries out of the way. I am Officer Frank Bentley from the Metropolitan High Crime Unit. As you’ve probably guessed, the necessary orders over-riding your cognitive and civilian rights were issued by the Home Office bots during the night under the Crime and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2018.”

He smiled as I glared at him, my neck aching horribly.

“Not that I need to tell you, but you are currently being filmed and scanned, so any thoughts you have during this meeting will be admissible as evidence. I am also obliged to inform you that these recordings and your cube may be sold to and used by This Life as part of their ongoing reality show. Do you understand?”

“I didn’t mess with kids.”

“Do you understand?”

“Yeah, but I didn’t touch anyone. I’m not into that.”

“We know,” he smirked, puffing smoke towards the screen. “It seems you have a fetish for dolls instead. Not that I care, of course, but it looks like someone doesn’t like you very much.”

“No shit? Figure that out yourself?” I asked, sarcastically, cheeks burning from the embarrassment and anger of my life spread open before the prying eyes of this bastard like an old, discarded book flapping in the wind. “If you know I was jarked, why am I still here? Getting voyeuristic kicks perving over my cube?”

The camera zoomed in closer again, the smile gone and replaced with the menace of contempt.

“The rat always fights hardest when cornered, huh? I think I preferred it when we thought you were a trafficker. It didn’t feel like a waste of time.”

“Do you mind keeping your distance from the screen before I throw up? I can see the blackheads on your nose. You should get some image filters for that thing, or is it part of the interrogation?”

Wrinkles appeared across his brow as he scowled, brown eyes flashing. I grinned. The camera panned out slightly.

“I hope you’re feeling really brave, Drake, because pissing me off is the last thing you want unless you feel like being reincarnated to work in an abattoir.” Another drag and smoke billowed around him. “I already don’t like your attitude, or your pathetic life. Scanning your cube was like trying to clean the street with my tongue: pointless, dirty and degrading.”

“And yours is so perfect?” I scoffed. “Let me guess: happily married and living in a two-tone world of straight lines and a loving family. What the hell do you know?”

“Responsibility,” he said as he reached over and flicked ash into a small ashtray. “But bleeders like you are always the same: ‘It’s society’s fault‘,” he whined, scrunching his face up in mock childlike innocence. Chuckling, he shook his head. “That First Strike rule should’ve been scrapped years ago. You losers always repeat; you’re just a waste of money.”

“You know nothing about living my life!”

“No, I know everything. I know deadbeats like you without even needing to wallow through your crappy little recordings. You took the Neurals. You chose crime. No-one forced you. You even had a chance to do something with your life after your First Strike and you blew it.”

I sat there staring, not knowing what to say, and watched numbly as the camera zoomed in even closer. His eyes filled the screen so large that I could see Hitachi printed on the skinner contacts, my ghostly face a small dot in each pupil, trapped, digital, analysed.

“All you’ve ever had is your own damn self-pity; you’ve got no-one to blame but yourself. Have you even given one thought to her since you’ve been in here?”

Christ, I thought. Brigitte.

“Yeah, remember her now, don’t you?”

“Can I call her?”

“No. Don’t worry; she knows where you are, and why. She didn’t like being tagged thanks to you, though.” He smirked, that damn sadistic half-smile of a little boy burning ants with a magnifying glass.

“What happens to me?” I asked through gritted teeth.

“Now? You wait for your new life.”


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April 1, 2007