(Or Adventures in Speed Dating circa 2350)
“You have to maintain an even pace. It does you no good to get all zig-zaggy and creative. Not in this business.”
Buster gestured with his hands, indicating what it meant not to zig-zag. The table between us an honorary earth and the various condiments honorary crops in need of watering.
“I mean sure, the storms of Old Earth would have done whatever the hell they please, but this ain’t Old Earth anymore. We’re all bio-domed up now baby, the whole enchilada. Now we can focus on maximum efficiency.”
He pronounced maximum efficiency as joyfully as someone who had seen one too many webinars on synergy. I could tell he rarely got the chance to parade those words out.
“This is all temporary though. I’m taking classes with Unity’s virtual campus. I’m going to open up my own business.”
“You don’t like driving the storm?”
“Oh don’t get me wrong, I love driving the storm. I get to be Mother Friggin Nature up there. I know what people say, but being a force of nature is as close to God as most people are ever gonna get.”
Satisfied with his response, he leaned forward to stuff a few crab puffs into his mouth. We were both sharply aware of the clock ticking down and he appeared to be fueling up for his next date.
It was too bad too. I kind of liked hearing him go on about being a Storm Driver. I wanted to ask him if he would take me up some time, but the buzzer sounded and he was out of his seat faster than I thought polite.
– – –
No sooner had he left then a television on wheels came trundling up to the table. He made a few half-hearted attempts to get the dining chair out of the way before spinning full-force at it and knocking it clean over.
As he turned to me, a pixelated male face popped up. It was the same face I’d seen on billboards and virtual bar advertisements. It was the face of the president of Cyen (Cybernetic Enhancements) and the literal poster boy for their new line of fully cyberized bodies. Either this was one famous gentleman or he had not sprung for the premium package.
“Live forever and be eternally young. Get your Body of the Future™ now through Cyen!”
That voice brought me back to every night out I’d had in the past two months and I found myself fighting back an urge to punch him right in his pixelated nose.
“Sorry…Kay is it? The ads come around every few minutes.”
“That’s a lot of ads.”
“Small price to pay to live forever wouldn’t you think?”
“I think you could spring for the premium package and get your own face and no ads.”
“I’m not giving those capitalists any more of my money.”
I gave him a scrutinizing glance as I reached out for a crab puff, wondering if the Body of the Future would eventually get any arms.
“What I mean is…everyone has the right to live forever. They shouldn’t have to pay for it. Cyen knows they could afford to give this stuff away for free, but they don’t.”
“So you’re happy with the ads?”
“Like I said, small price to pay. I mean, forever. You get that? Forever. I’m like a god here.”
“I’ve been hearing that a lot tonight.”
“Tired of being tired? Fatigue and exhaustion are a thing of the past with the Body of the Future™! (Body of the Future is a registered trademark of Cybernetic Enhancements.)”
“Funny. Look, I don’t mean I AM a god. But, you know, enlightened. You wouldn’t understand because you’re still mortal and sitting there all pink and fleshy.”
“You think that’s a bad thing to say because you haven’t transcended the physical like I have. You try it and you’ll see. Now I can really connect with people on a purely intellectual level. It’s liberating. Soft Bodies like you can’t be purely intellectual because you’re still slaves to your impulses and physical desires.”
“Right now my impulse is to spin you around and roll you out of the restaurant.”
We sat in silence until the buzzer went. I couldn’t quite tell, but it seemed like he was sulking. Apparently the intellectually enlightened could still get their feelings hurt.
As he rolled away, I could hear him extolling the many benefits of Body of the Future to his next captive audience.
– – –
I sipped from my glass of bottomless wine, steeling myself for my next encounter. When I glanced up, a bizarrely muscular kangaroo was sitting across from me. He looked as if someone had opened him up and stuffed lead weights into him, each muscle so pronounced as to seem independent of each other muscle. I imagined that, were it not for the fur, he would look as veiny as an old-timey lifter.
“What’s your story?” I asked, indicating his bicep.
“I am a True Blue product of the Australian National Army’s grand experiments prior to the Great Unification.”
“You fought in World War IV?”
“Abso-bloody-lutely I did. But, sure. Don’t ask me ‘bout my interests or anything.”
“So sorry. So what’s your favorite color?”
“Crikey, you ask a lot of questions.”
“Good, I guess we know each other then. Let’s get married.”
“I like a sarky chick.”
Smiling, he plucked a crab puff from the table with a thin paw and examined it briefly before eating it.
“Me mates say I’m a bit of a straight-forward bloke .”
“You don’t say.”
“You get like that in war. Whackers, the lot of them. You have to stay on your toes. I appreciate a Sheila who can keep up.”
Suddenly his face melted into a simpering grin and he set his lids at half-mast, possibly in an effort to look seductive. Despite his initial reservations, he seemed to want to spend the entire rest of the date talking about his muscles after all.
When the buzzer sounded, he left me with a wink and a not so subtle flexing of his bicep as he turned to the next table on his route.
– – –
The last of my dates started out very promising. He slid in across from me with an unassuming grace and an expensive yet understated suit. Not to mention, he was very handsome. Buster, the Storm Driver had been top of my list at this point, but this new gentleman was making quite the showing. He introduced himself as Dante and pursed his lips, his face subtly stressed, as he watched me eat a crab puff.
“I don’t understand how humans can eat like that.”
Here we go.
“You wouldn’t classify yourself as a human?”
Was this some new brand of physical enhancements? He looked perfectly organic. I allowed myself to entertain the possibility and be momentarily impressed.
“I was born a human if that’s what you mean. But, the wonders of modern technology have acquiesced to my true desires.”
I wondered at his use of acquiesce.
“I’m sorry. I’m confused.”
“Not at all.” He pronounced “all” with a round “o” sound that was very out of sync with his normal speech pattern. “My whole life I understood that, deep down, what I truly wanted was to be what you call a vampire.”
“Ah. And what would you call it.”
“A Creature of the Night.”
I gave a poorly suppressed snort and reached for another crab puff.
“Hungry?” I asked.
“I wouldn’t joke about that. The call of the blood is strong.”
“And that keeps you alive? Blood?”
“I take supplements. Oh and these new fangs actually allow me to drink it. They release a chemical into my saliva that makes the blood sweeter. It makes food taste kind of weird though. It’s pretty cool.”
I cocked an eyebrow at him.
“But, I mean, it’s only because what I truly want is beyond nature’s control. Nature fails to understand my soul.”
“So you’re a REAL vampire then. You know, even though they don’t exist?”
“I’d like to think I’m evidence to the contrary.”
“That guy over there is immortal.” I pointed at Mr. Intellectually Enlightened. “Are YOU immortal?”
“Negative stereotypes never helped anyone.”
Of course not, I thought. I reached for the last of the crab puffs and savored it a bit longer than the others, trying to prolong the amount of time I could go without having to speak again. I thought about Buster and tried to locate him in the room. I would get his number and ask him to take me up in his storm this weekend. No more of these bars, virtual or otherwise. It would just be Buster and I, flying through real air, with real rain falling down to the earth and a real sky above our heads.
More or less.