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My head is a blow-dryer, my voice is hot air. Setting one for yes, setting two for no.
'Can I ask you something?' says John through his mobile-phone hand.
Setting one. A gentle blast from my snout becomes steam, curls up into the grey sky and fades off. John hesitates. I unravel a wire and flap it across the ground to him. He lets one of his come loose and we entwine.
'Be honest,' comes the voice.
Honesty, I want to say. How can we be anything but honest now? Souls reduced to electrons, minds that crackle like static, blackouts whenever the sun flares. My left arm is an alarm clock, my right arm a lamp, my torso a small TV, and I stutter around on a pair of straightners and curling tongs. If there are any liars left in the world I'll burn them to death with these legs.
I click again. Yesssss hums my soft breath.
'Do you want this? I mean really want it?'
I look at him with my lightbulb. His body is his beloved Playstation, his head our wide-screen TV. The image is stuck on what it showed when the Pulse struck: a cockpit of some fighter spaceship about to destroy an enemy. He can't change it no matter how hard he tries. His emotion is permanently poised on that cartoon moment of kill or be killed.
He doesn't turn to me. His bulb watches the scene ahead. 'Flesh and blood again. Spit and bone, toenails and hair. Wrinkles and hiccups and bruises and itches.'
Frowns and smiles, winks and tears. Being able to jump, stretch, dance, sleep. A voice.
I look back. Down in the valley, at the front of the queue, emancipation is promised. Six scientists with 3D printer bodies. They feed on animal corpses and spool out new structures; skeleton to skin and every delicate intricacy in between. Holes are left in skulls for sockets, fixed into place by a person with drill-bit fingers and a car battery for a head. The first new human body is nearly ready, a male of course, but they look like they’re having trouble finishing the eyes.
Snaking down the hillside, a thousand-thousand bulbs throw jittery spotlights onto this lifeless Adam, expectant but wondering. Excited but worried. Smartphone voices politely litter the air, unable to use anything close to the correct tone.
John’s bulb turns to me. He wants an answer. Do I want to go back? We’ve not had enough time to live this through yet; we’ve not told stories, not fought wars, not rearranged loves or faced fears. The animal corpses look freshly slaughtered. I’ve heard if you strip off insulation you can fuse with another, sparks and bolts, cracks and bangs. Dangerous, perhaps, but imagine the orgasm. Can we still call it that?
My wire strokes along John’s, expectant but wondering. I turn to him and click to setting two. My no blasts like freedom and we stutter away.