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Chapter 1 - Negative 230

 

That’s Jim. I’m pretty sure his name is Jim. I looked at the procedure notes. Staff Sergeant James Gillespie, he was already unconscious when they wheeled him in. Big, burly and hairy, his entire chest had been freshly shaved, but abruptly ending in a distinct line at his arm, by contrast looking like it had been dipped in bees. His other arm was gone, shot off by a sniper last year, the stump at his shoulder now healed over and glossy, a medallion worn in place of death. We first met him a few weeks ago when management presented their final picks to us, and I’m not surprised that he won, the type of guy who exuded strength, grit and optimism. He was going to need all three. He looked different today without his beard, one of those carefully cultivated 18 inch deals, now in its absence revealing a neck tattoo of a dotted line with the inscription "cut here.”

That won’t be happening today, instead they’re going to do a thoracic incision and roll back the skin on his chest like a scroll of papyrus. Wild Man Mark will do the cutting, and actually there isn’t a better surgeon. The rest of us are sitting in the round, stone silent with our air projectors in our laps, trading messages, angling them so they don’t overlap.

"Median or radial first?" someone asked.

"Neither until liposuction," was the reply.

New messages began hovering back and forth in front of me but I’m in no mood to join in. This is the third week of my first job and I’ve been holding back from contributing much of anything since day one. Three weeks spent smiling and nodding because I’m pretty sure that they made an error in hiring me, and this is a place where they don’t make errors. But apparently they wanted me, all of them propping me up with little overtures that are meant to keep me involved and bind me in, and all I can do is smile and nod. I know every last bit of this stuff, and maybe even a little more that they wouldn’t be able to see, but to enter into a discussion with these people is like stepping into a sauna, tiptoeing gingerly before the haze of condescension forces you to just sit your ass down. It’s not nerves, I couldn’t give two rips about what their titles are, I’ve just come to accept that they’ll have no interest in hearing anything coming from a 21 year old. I was an interesting person at college, more than interesting, in fact so interesting that I became one of the youngest people ever to snag a PhD from MIT. "A New Determination of Colors, Numbers, and Sound. I thought that was a kickass name for a thesis. DARPA did too.

So now they’re starting with the liposuction and it’s disgusting, I’m looking at my knees. Wild Man Mark’s goal today is to route afferent nerve fibers from what’s left of this guy’s stump into his pectoral muscle, and reprogram the resulting signals to control a motorized arm. Targeted reinnervation, in the hopes that there will come a day when he is able to move a prosthesis as naturally as if he were reaching for a beer. But it’s going to take him months before he can achieve even the simplest mark of control, which is a lot like how I’m feeling about my new reality.

 

I’ve been checking out the ladies here, and there’s some choice ones. Whip smart, drifting aloft in their skyward minds, cooly displaying stratums of experience in a way that I find very appealing. Yes, I’m a girl watcher, but being 2045 I will clarify that to say that I am a woman watcher. Indeed, I believe that all women are beautiful. Shape, size, color, age - none are qualifiers, I see the spark within all of them, all revealing clues to the complexity of their femininity, whether forthright or not. I’m fascinated in my confusion. Wife, mistress, mother, girlfriend, virgin, lover, matriarch, dyke, goddess. Some, none. And me, not really having much experience with any of them. I am Deaf, and pretty much happy living my life in silence. But then I met Veronica.

I saw her near security as I was leaving, actually I saw her shadow first, the shadow of someone signing.  Exiting the lobby of my building at five o’clock in December is like walking into a wall of light. The early setting sun smacks right into your eyes so you get used to looking down as you walk, and when I saw the shadow of her hands signing I stutter stepped to a stop as if approaching a ledge. It was worthless to look up, her finger shadows were all I had, foot long tendrils that were hard to get a read on, rough grabs of words morphing across the marble floors. I got a little mesmerized looking at them, irritated at anyone who was careless enough to cross their path, because this person is someone that I need to know. I haven’t signed with anyone, much less seen anyone signing, since the week after graduation when my parents were here to help me to find an apartment. I’ve been having to use my cochlear implant to get through every damn day and I want to know who this is, if there are others, and how the hell they manage to get through their days here.

The shadows were gone. I looked up and around, shielding the light from my eyes with my hand, looking like some doddering fool that had gotten lost in a lobby. I saw the hips first, up down one two, silhouetted by what might as well been klieg lights from the kind of vintage music videos that we used to laugh at. And by god she did appear to be walking in slow motion, a dusty sun canvas backlighting her as she approached, fidelity gaining bit by bit, now close enough that I could see that she was returning my stare, now here for me, real for me. She stopped about 10 feet away, and I took a few steps towards her, already signing as I did. "What is your name?"

Her eyes didn’t move from mine. "Veronica."

"My name is Ira Gall."

"I know."

Her shadow shielded my face, her hair ringed with highlights of copper. She took a step back in courtesy to enlarge her darkness onto me, both of us using those micro moments as an opportunity for a guilt free assessment. Pale milky skin. The scent of cardamon. Fine hair with the loose soft curls of a toddler, seemingly never grown out. She was of my height, but in a rotund frame that only Rubens could conjure. Her clothes were of simple design, high quality, and fitted to somewhat mask her full figure. But there was something else about her that was unique. Unnatural. Her eyes. Her irises were larger than normal and it had the effect of making her appear doll-like, as if she was a benevolent fairy, a knowing child. 

My pulse began tightening in the usual way whenever I’m face to face with someone like this, someone that interests me. Senses on overload, reaching for every last detail, but matched by hard straining to hold tight to the leash, pulling this dog back, making him sit. Can’t even wag the tail. I learned this the hard way.

"So you work here?" I signed, sadly aware that this is not how great conversations begin.

"I do. Machine learning," she replied, smiling with a look that invited more questions.

"How’d you know my name?"

Her smile grew. "Well, because you’re the guy, am I right?"

"No, not right, I’m not the guy, I just started here." She had pitched me a softball but I just watched it cross the plate, I don’t know why.

A flash of dissatisfaction creased the corners of her mouth, while some other part of me banged on the glass to get out, the part that had been quashed for the last three weeks. She touched my hands briefly as I lowered them, surprising me a little, then signed with a frankness that told me I was going to get another chance.

"Are you free?"

I nodded solemnly as I locked my eyes onto hers, low voltage current rising through me.

She blushed and laughed, her petite mouth remaining open for a moment before continuing, "Are you free for dinner?"

 

Over dinner I learned that she was hearing but had deaf parents. Her mother, now deceased, and her father whom she lived with. Signing from an early age inspired a passion for linguistics, which in time revealed an innate talent for writing code, leading to her job here.

After my 20 questions were over she started on her set. "How’d you earn your PhD so young?”

“Well, I came in with a lot of college credit built up from when I was still in high school." I didn’t like the track this was on, this was veering towards job interview instead of soulmate interview. "I’d been testing into higher grades but at one point it just got too weird. Putting a 5th grader in a 9th grade classroom is not something I’d wish on anyone."

"So how’d you get through high school?"

"I pretty much just did it all online, from home. That’s why I had so much free time for prerequisites, my high school coursework was a joke.

"And why neurology for your PhD?"

"How’d you know that?"

"I read your thesis, I think everyone at DARPA did." She leaned towards me, signing discreetly for no apparent reason. "I’m affected by color too, I mean obviously I don’t see it like you do, but, no, color’s important."

And now….nothing. I had no reply. Am I supposed to talk about color? Do I ask her what’s your favorite color? GODDAMMIT THINK. I couldn’t think of anything to say so I said nothing.

By some miracle she was still smiling at me, studying me, leaned in on her elbows, hands clasped under her chin. She slowly sat back from the table, arching her shoulders back and straightening her posture. I summoned all available strength to refrain from looking at her figure.

"We all expect you to do well, Ira."

"Me? Why?"

"Because you’ve got the fresh outlook, mister brain! The way you see things! What? Why are you smiling?"

"I haven’t had much encouragement to share my outlook on anything so far."

"Really? I thought you were supposed to be the guy to shake things up. Your team’s kind of been bumping from one failure to the next this whole year."

"Well, I’m just an intern. My boss has reminded me of that more than once."

"You’re being paid, right?"

"Sure."

"Well there you go. Just give it some time, you’ll be alright.”

“I guess I’ve got what, a couple hundred days left?”

She didn’t reply, but just smiled and looked down at her plate. Maybe I shouldn’t have brought that up. We continued our silent dinner, occasionally meeting eyes. I figured that she was probably 10 years older than me, and tried to maintain some semblance of decorum in spite of my white hot attraction to her. Whatever.

"Well I’m pretty stubborn when I set my mind to something," I signed.

"Yeah, you like to focus, I can tell. I’m right, aren’t I?"

I noticed a subtle warm tint dropping into my view. "You are right, especially when I’m inspired by something."

Veronica blinked her eyes slowly for effect, expecting me to continue. I wasn’t going to continue, this was her turn. 3 beats went by. "What inspires you, Ira?"

You would have thought I’d have an answer ready, especially after setting her up like that. Thankfully I was able to pull a few out of the hat. "Fortitude. Beauty. The possibility of the unknown. I like the idea that you never know what may come next."

Veronica’s perfectly pale skin took on a bit of tone and she leaned in again. "I like that idea too.”

 

According to The One, I’ve got more than just a couple hundred days left, we’ve all got 230 to be exact, and a disturbing amount of people actually believed that to be true. The whole stupid thing started innocently enough with a publicized bet by two noted lecturers; a futurist and a philosopher, arguing for and against the concept of singularity. The futurist believed that artificial intelligence would reach a point of exponential acceleration and surpass human intelligence on its way towards overtaking life as we know it.  The philosopher posited that computers could never effectively replicate the human mind completely, for they were missing one crucial component: consciousness. The bet had been made decades ago, and its expiration was slated for 2046, but it was never meant to be anything other than a philosophical argument, a friendly wager to inspire dialogue among people who like to talk about ideas. It wasn’t until last year that it got plucked out of academic obscurity, shamelessly hijacked by The One in an effort to keep him in the public eye. His reputation preceded him, having made a name for himself as a right-wing saboteur during and after the election of 2040, until he finally faded back into the fogginess of American fringe. But this time it was different, this time it was urgent, this time it was god’s own word coming through him with a stern prophecy: Doomsday. August 5th, 2046

Why that particular day was chosen no-one knew, it just happened to fall into the expiration year of that old bet, now being re-marketed from an intellectual’s debate into a fool’s paradox. But enough people believed the lie that it began to creep into the mainstream media, and there were even those that adopted its calendar era, an epoch that ran in reverse, counting down to the Zero Day. If I understood them right, they viewed it as an actual entity that was approaching from the the future, moving backwards towards that date at the same pace that we were moving forward, an eagle descending with talons outstretched, sparing the believers and spiriting them away from earth’s digital destruction.

I’d spotted a few of them in bars, having caught sight of the pathetic countdown displays on their phones, and had even seen apps that could alter the date stamp on emails with the prefix Negative, and adjust the numerical day accordingly. Or course it’s ridiculous, but I have to remind myself that there are functioning humans who truly believe in this. I view them as not dissimilar to Neanderthals, ignorant and frightened, cowering under a sky of lightning. It took the human species millenniums to evolve past that fear, but in some ways they never really did, now utilizing gods to pacify and protect them from Nature’s harm. By 2045 it had become clear that all respect for Nature had been lost, so a new enemy was needed: technology. Artificial minds greater than ours, systems on the verge of overtaking us, ruling us. They must be stopped. The words of The One.

Nobody ever learned his real name, and that’s how he liked it. Most regarded him as a charlatan, a hustler, but a dangerously large number of people believed that he was the messenger of god, and a few of the truly moronic admitted to believing that he was god himself. He had popped up in the year that the US elected its first female president, gaining sudden notoriety with his “Holy War” rallies against her progressive policies, leading ever-growing masses in the chant of “Slay-the-Devil.” His rhetoric soon caught the attention of the Secret Service and he was eventually charged with incitement. A legal defense fund was established for The One, and that’s when the full scope of his movement became shockingly apparent. Millions of dollars, raised within just a few days, with its overflowing coffers diverted to fund satellite rallies across the country, all of them united in their aim to “Slay-the-Devil.” Americans had seen this ugliness before, but after the disaster of the late teens there had been a pretty good show of resolve not to repeat the mistakes that had almost ripped our democracy apart. Yet it was never really erased, instead being pushed back into the mud, ready to germinate once more when the conditions were right. They sprouted anew in 2040 with the arrival of The One, and it was like nothing had changed; the same ignorance, the same intolerance, the same hate. Madame President prevailed, and was elected to a second term in 2044 in spite of them. So The One charted a new course, and it came with a firm due date that everyone in his death cult could get behind.

 

This New Year’s Eve has been billed as the last, and I’ve been invited to a party, Veronica’s, she’s reached out to me. We had been messaging a little since our day in the lobby, and each time she’s asked me the same thing:

What have you discovered?”

She’s got it in her mind that I’m some kind of scientific fixer, ready to solve complex problems with a turn of my color wheel, and I can tell that it’s the idea of that person that interests her, even if that person’s not completely me. So I’m dreading this party, because now I’m going to have to put on a double act: the smart guy and the fun guy. But I know full well that this is a cherished event for most normal people, people that are ready and willing to garner big drums of enthusiasm for the magic moment, abandoning all restraint to allow themselves to express pure exhilaration, depthless wonder and unbridled excitement that it is indeed, good sir, a new year. I don’t know if I’ll be able to do any of that. Going also means that I’ll meet her father, Dale, whom she had described to me as being a mix between Henry Rollins and Henry Chinaski, both names that I had to look up later. Dale had worked as an engineer but became a political activist after retirement, a leader in DC’s Deaf community. I was by contrast apolitical, my youth spent focused inward.

When I arrived they were the only ones there. Apparently this is going to be a party of three, which brought me immediate relief. Dale shook my hand vigorously using both of his, then began signing a barrage of questions before I had even taken off my coat. Veronica took it from me and disappeared down the hallway, leaving us to get acquainted. He was in his 80’s but had the energy of someone much younger, leading me briskly into the living room and emphatically pointing to a chair. He was direct in his questioning, and I didn’t mind that at all.

"Why do you wear a cochlear, son? You sign perfectly."

"My parents, when I was three, they couldn’t deal so they got me fitted."

"But is that when they had you start learning ASL?"

I laughed. "No, I had to figure that out on my own. I ended up teaching them though."

"YOU taught them. Why? Why didn’t they teach YOU?"

"They really didn’t know about any of that. The doctor told them to do an implant and that’s what they did. To him my diagnosis was just a pathology. That’s how they saw it too. I was seven when I learned it, I guess I didn’t even know what it was at first, nobody had told me about it. I blamed my parents for that, so I hid my processor in the basement and forced them to learn. That was just the start of our battles."

Dale nodded with an expression of just vindication. "They thought that the cochlear was going to be the magic solution right?"

"Well yeah, but once I learned to sign I thought forget that. Plus I needed someone to sign with, even if they were my parents.”

"So why the hell are you still wearing it?"

"Oh, I don’t know, I don’t use it most of the time but every now and then it comes in handy."

"Comes in handy huh. I suppose you’ve got one of those keypads with you too?"

I slipped out my air projector and typed "Sure do." He ignored it and looked straight through the floating words at me. His face had a hardened, rough confidence about it, but somehow tarnished, maybe by past grief. I pegged him for the type that was probably a serious badass in his younger days, and I wouldn’t underestimate him even now.

"They treating you okay at the federal government?"

"DARPA? Oh sure, yes, I mean I guess they are, it’s only been about a month. I don’t know if Veronica told you but my team’s working on a pretty big breakthrough.”

Dale nodded noncommittally, apparently seeing right through me. "My Vee seems to like it just fine, lots of riddles for her to solve. Just keep your eyes open kid, that piece of machinery has a lot of moving parts." His eyes wandered off as we sat facing each other. Was he daydreaming? Gathering his thoughts? I began to sign "My team is”- but Dale suddenly snapped back and cut me off.

"How soon before America becomes just another fallen empire?"

He caught me off guard with that one so I had to take some time to form a reply. "I guess that depends on its citizens."

Dale banged his fists together. "Well they’re going to have to pull their heads out!"

"I suppose, yes."

"What do you think is most important to the average American, Ira?"

Again I had to take time for a reply. "Uh, family? Health?"

"No, Ira, ENTERTAINMENT!" he signed with emphasis. "Look, they spend all day going back and forth in those little cubes, then back home to eat and get caught up on what everyone else is doing." Dale’s face began to flush. "But you know what everyone else is doing? NOTHING ALSO! So they flock to whatever or whoever can entertain them. And now they’ve elected these same idiot entertainers to govern us!"

"I think that- Dale cut me off again.

"You know what used to be important? Here, c’mon, I’m going to show you." Dale slid towards his knees and rose slowly, then lurched out of the room.

I followed him through the darkened house, lights turning on as we went. Dale led me to a door and then opened it defiantly. As the lights came on I saw an old car, a really old car. After we stepped down into the garage he turned to face me, a grimace of angry pride on his face.

"This…..this…." Dale paused to make certain that I was looking at him. I was. "This is what we used to do."

I walked slowly around the car, not just out of respect for Dale, but from a genuine fascination for what I was seeing. The car had to have been as old as him but looked brand new. I moved closer to read the type sectioned across the hood in raised letters. "TRIUMPH."

Looking at Dale I signed “Triumph"?

Dale delivered a hard stare as he finger spelled "T-R-4."

The car was finished in a dusky shade of light blue with chromed door handles, trunk hinges, and bumpers. Twin beads of stainless steel ran along the fender tops from front to rear. The interior featured bucket seats done in black leather with white piping, and the convertible top was folded beneath a tidy cover done in the same pattern. The wheels were spoked, painted silver and mounted on tall narrow tires. A two eared cap held them onto the hubs.

Dale walked over to point out a circular grommet mounted on the fender top. He grasped the center portion and pulled out a telescoping metal rod. He looked over at me with bright eyes, mouthing the word “radio”, and we shared a laugh.

I crouched down to read an inscription on the center of the headlights. Lucas. There were more names on the dashboard gauges. Smiths. Jaeger. Looking at Dale quizzically I signed "Who?"

"All gone now," he replied, "these were built by people, not robots. There’s no need for them now. I bought this car right after I turned 18, hell, in 1983 it was just a used car. Drove it for years, all the way past when Vee was born, she grew up in this car."

I stopped to do the math on that, then replied, "Did you have to stop driving it in 2029?"

Dale looked at me shortly. "Well sure I had to stop driving in 2029, just like everyone else! But I wasn’t going to let those bastards win. I restored it, every piece. I turned it into a symbol of immortality. I turned it into art."

"Have you ever taken it out since? Maybe in one of those critical mass drives?"

"What, and drive it off a cliff? Hell no."

After the driving ban, some parts of the country had seen groups of car enthusiasts banding together for mass illegal drives, usually at night. Early on one of the groups met with disaster as roughly 100 vintage and high performance cars blasted through a stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway at top speed. A cadre of state troopers gave chase, eventually setting up roadblocks, but not before one of the participants lost control on a tight turn and dropped 500 feet off the road and into the ocean. The deceased was Dean Schroeder, a well known automotive journalist. From that time forward the practice became known as Schroedering. Jurisdictions took differing approaches to the problem, with most relying on roadblocks and spike strips instead of active pursuit. Heavy fines and vehicle forfeiture were the risks inherent for those that still engaged in it.

Dale and I stood facing each another on opposite sides of the hood as I absentmindedly ran my hand along the contours of the fender. "I kind of remember my parents having a car, and them driving me in it, but obviously I never got to learn how to drive one."

Dale adjusted one of the fender mirrors. "This car used to be white, but during the restoration I decided on Wedgewood Blue. Couldn’t stand for Carly to have anything in common with those little cubes running around."

"Ah, Carly, I like her! I know you were an engineer, were you a mechanical engineer? Did you do all this work?"

Dale didn’t reply, he just looked down at the car. The expression on his face caused me to regret asking the question.

"No, Ira, no. I didn’t work in mechanical engineering," he signed with his gaze still downcast. When he raised his head his eyes were intent, even from behind the clouding of his cataracts. "I was a Radar Systems Engineer. Radar. Lidar. Signal Processing. All of the things that autonomous vehicles required when they were first starting out. I helped put them on the road."

I glanced over at the car that shared the garage with the Triumph, a dusty Chevrolet Volt with tags that had expired in 2028. "Did you work for GM?"

"No, I worked for a company called Magna. They supplied systems to all of the major automakers. It was a good job, I really loved the development and testing of the technology, the challenge of it all. But you know what’s the real story? I didn’t realize it at the time, but that damn work I was doing ended up sabotaging my own freedom."

We ate dinner in the kitchen, the dining room off of it was darkened and its table stacked with books. Dale had been pouring me bourbons since I arrived and I welcomed the opportunity to balance some of that out with food. Rib eye, baked potatoes and soft rolls, made all the more American by the colonial decor of their 1970’s era house, seemingly stuck in time. Each room was wallpapered; one a scene of horse farms and rolling pastures, another of sailing ships, and in the kitchen Betsy Ross sewing her flag as she watched us eat. Afterwards we retired to the living room where more bourbon was poured. With the exception of our dinner together, Veronica had been conspicuously absent, but now bounded in, presenting us with ridiculous hats and glasses to ring in the new year. I dutifully put them on, skirting a glance over to Dale who was already looking at me, probably to gauge my reaction. But I think that we’re united on this one, both of us resigned to the fact that there’s no good way out of this, the point being amplified by the glittered paper hats we wore, matched by equally loud spectacles that were shaped to read 2046. Veronica’s face was alive with excitement, her standing facing us, leading us, counting down with her fingers FIVE FOUR THREE TWO ONE! She raised her arms jubilantly and reached out to kiss her father’s cheek, skewing his glasses up to one side, his face straining to look happy. She then turned to me and I did my best to exhibit a show of celebration as she gave me a modest kiss, aware of her father’s eyes from behind. Dale straightened his 2046 glasses back onto his nose, and he smiled at me. But what he signed revealed his smile’s meaning.

"You don’t fool me."

       Chapter 2 - Negative 216

 

We stood in our little triangle looking at each other, we had done it, we had welcomed in a new year. Dale slid the glasses from his nose and lifted his hat off in one motion, then handed them over to Veronica as if she was his valet. She lowered her head on cue as he took a step towards her, kissing her hair with his hands on her ears.

“Goodnight dear.” He stepped back to appraise me, and I reflexively removed my glasses and hat so as to not distract from his review. “And you, young Ira. I wish you a goodnight as well.” He shook my hand limply, already moving past me, his eyes drooping and his gait weak.

I forced my face back into the cheerful expression from a minute ago and signed to Veronica “‘What now?”

She looked at me plainly. “Now we drive.”

“Drive?”

“Well, cube it, signal one, you want to? Or I can.”

“Sure, I will, where do you want to go?”

She walked away from me, flourishing her hand in the air to brush off my question. She opened the door to a darkened closet, retrieving from it a loosely woven knee length shawl, delicately draping it over her as she spun towards me with her eyes fixed dramatically on mine. And then she turned to get another jacket, a down filled parka, which contrasted badly with everything underneath it. Again, her eyes came to mine, not for approval, but to reinforce the seductiveness of her body language. I wasn’t really sure what kind of message she was trying to send, and ski parkas weren’t what I would think of as sexy, but now she was reaching into the closest for something else, and I could tell that it was something heavy when it slipped off the hanger.  Some sort of faux-fur frontier coat, maybe it was real fur, it looked like something a trapper had made in the 1800’s. She displayed this one erotically as well, slipping her arms slowly into the sleeves, her face canted and her mouth parted.

My phone vibrated in my hand and I looked down at it. “Cube’s here,” I signed, ready to leave before this got any stranger.  But she had beat me to it, now struggling to button up a bright yellow rain slicker, its form puffed up like a stick figure by the layers beneath it. I had to laugh, but was able to rack it back into just a grin. “Looks like you’re ready. Front door?”

Veronica took my hand as she led me to the door, her opposite sleeve brushing against the framed pictures on the wall as we passed. I closed the door behind her then rushed ahead to open the door of the cube. She approached with hips swaying and arms out to her sides at a 45 degree angle, then daintily entered and folding the bench seat up against the wall, choosing to kneel instead.

“Your phone,” she signed. I handed it to her and she typed in a destination for our drive. As the cube pulled away she dimmed the interior lights and slipped my phone into one of her many pockets. I was kneeling opposite her, facing her with no idea what this was about. Should I be getting this joke? Is this some kind of pop culture reference that I’m too young to understand? I peered out the window for awhile until I noticed that she was undressing, a slow striptease of the absurd, but still managing to disrobe gracefully under the weight of 4 coats. By the time the parka appeared I was aroused. She rose to spin around as the shawl was removed, her head tilted back and her hair dangling down.

We were headed outside of town, towards the rural areas west of Leesburg. She adjusted the interior lighting to all the way off and then held her hand out to one very confused individual, still kneeling before her in a frozen trance. She led my hand to the zipper on the side of her dress and I moved it down slowly, tracing a line along the contours of her figure.

When she at last lowered herself onto me I entered into a state that I can only describe as drugged. Feeling enveloped in the grainy darkness of the cabin, streetlights flashing by occasionally, illuminating her in stark detail for moments too brief, prompting me to close my eyes each time afterwards to hold the image. I like what I see.


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

Debut fiction novel by a used-car salesman in Portland Oregon

Q. Where did the idea for this book come from?
A.
I wrote this book because I have a sneaking suspicion that certain cars are sentient.
Q. What is the inspiration for the story?
A.
I feel that as cars become more autonomous we run the risk of losing our connection to them, and a part of ourselves in the process.
Q. Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp?
A.
This book explores the concepts of autonomy, as it relates to both autonomous machines, and the spirit of free will in humans.

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