Drafting of Beautiful Reality

Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

Free afternoon snuggling with a friend's laptop while on vacation. Time to write!

I thought I'd put it here for now, because the large amount of spam on my email will otherwise have it buried.

BEGINNING: Beautiful Reality
THESIS: One-legged boy who works as an assassin when all minds are linked by computer must go into the computer to rescue his sister from the computer mafia.
INSPIRATION: Want to experiment with present tense. Also, Inception. Good movie, but it could have been better, done more. I liked it, but I also felt a little disappointed because all the buzz made me think that it would be so much better. I think if I had walked into the theater with zero expectations I would have been blown away. I can't put my finger on what's missing...I think all the twists and turns in Dark Knight. I could kind of see the plot coming, down to the end, and Leonardo DiCaprio didn't feel like the right actor to carry the lead to me. And it had some moments of extraordinary visual beauty, but nothing like the wonder of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. Still, it was one heck of a summer movie. It's nice to see original films (not remakes and sequels) and movies that don't assume that their audiences have the intellectual capacities of five year olds. I was additionally amused because an excerpt Brandon Sanderson read from the Way of Kings involves a gravity fight. Great minds think alike. I wonder how many stupid people will accuse him of ripping it off.

ANYWAY... typing

CHAP 1: Gepetto
In my dreams, I have two legs. I'm not a freaky Pinocchio waiting for some blue fairy to sweep in and turn me into a real boy. My knee doesn't end in a massive net of tubes and sticky bio-flesh that smells like burning plastic and looks like a robotic turd.
In my dreams, I have real skin and muscles. Real veins pulsing with real blue blood.
In my dreams, I don't have to kill people.
In my dreams, I can still run.
But now I'm limping, pushing my hand on a warm doorplate smeared with the grease of years. Pressed by the sweaty fingers of men who came in nervous but left relieved or maybe never left at all. The bartender inside looks like a bent wire, with his copper skin and bald head, swollen joints and bones that stick out. The papery skin of an old person.
His eyes widen when he sees that I'm young, fourteen (though he probably thinks I'm younger, people always think I'm a child and it makes me mad), and his smile deepens.
I'm so sick of dealing with Marvy's pedophiles. Is there anyone working for him who's not a pervert?
"What'll you have, boss?" the thin bartender asks, though his slurring lips make the "s" sound like "f" so it comes out as "boff."
Two Geisha clones in the corner giggle and flutter coal-black eyelashes at me. Their faces are half-hidden behind razor-lace fans that buzz with enough electricity to stop a human heart. Despite their stupid platform shoes and the white, stretchy kimonos that make me think of cocooned skin-bugs, I know that Marvy never hires a Geisha bodyguard unless she's killed someone. Their lips are painted, wet and red as blood.
"I don't want anything to drink," I say, trying to ignore the way their eyes tickle the back of my neck. I can't look afraid. Not yet. "I want a girl."
The pervert looks disappointed.
"My sister," I quickly say, sickened by what kind of girls the people who come into Marvy's bars usually want. "She's gone from the Pave."
The bartender scratches his earlobe, which has a big hairy black mole dangling from it. This time, his grin does not look so friendly. He knows the Pave is Marvy's private hostage preserve. The metal detector didn't go off at the door, so he knows I'm not carrying steel, but plastic explosives, or wooden swords or guns made from processed carbon could all be slicked past the booby examine. I could be carrying a thousand things in my black trenchcoat and pair of teal green sneakers.
"Marvy knows where she is," I say. "I want to see him. Now."
The bartender jerks his head. "He's in back. But the question is, does he want to see you?"
"He will," I said. "After all, I'm a Skinner."
The bartender's look is sadder this time. He thumbs a door open in the wall. The wooden slats slide apart, and I can smell Tooth Fairies--the menthol cigarettes that Marvy loves. "Back there," he says.
The door is dark. I go inside.
Marvy is younger than the bartender, but still old. I have to look at him through the walls of the glass tube that dropped down on me from the ceiling. Protective custody. If Marvy leaves me in here, I'll suffocate. But I'm his best Skinner, so sure he won't. Or almost sure.
He looks at me with small black eyes almost completely buried in the fat flesh of his forehead. Crinkles around his lips and nose make him look like he's smiling even when he's not. For a fat man, he moves with an almost birdlike grace, his sausage fingers deftly picking roast snails out of shells smothered in garlic and olive oil. His black, pressed business suit is clean because he never spills a drop. The snails make little wet crunching noises as they vanish between his wormy pink lips.
"Tommy, my boy," he says affectionately, reaching out as if he would tousle my hair if not for the glass barrier between us. Everything else but me and his table is in shadow, while we stand in two squares of yellow light. I hear hushed laughter coming from the other tables. And soft, nervous coughs.
I wonder how many other men have heard those coughs before they died.
I glare at him. "I want my sister, Marvy."
Marvy's eyes widened. "Well, I don't have her in my pocket."
"You have her, Marvy. When I went to visit her flat in the Pave, she was gone."
"I had her transferred. She's doing some work for me."
I swallowed. I knew what that meant. The whorehouses. Young women stacked in rows of pods, their minds trapped in virtual reality while men used their empty bodies. Or their bodies were controlled by pleasure computers or prostitutes whose own bodies were too old and ugly to attract clientele. They called the sub-Contracted bodies "Gloves."
"The debt's almost paid off," I say to Marvy. "You were going to let her go soon."
"And this will make the payments go faster," Marvy replies. "Frankly, kid, I'm doing you a favor. It'll be quicker this way. And it wasn't as if she wasn't giving it away for free."
If the glass wasn't between us, I would have thrown myself at him and torn his nuts off. "Put her back, Marvy. I've paid you enough for that much."
Marvy shrugged. "Your work hasn't all it should be, of late. I thought you could use some extra incentives."
I shiver. He knows.
Marvy takes out another Tooth Fairy and lights it. He sits back, puffing contentedly. "You know, I got into the business about your age, Tommy."
"I don't want to--"
"Listen!" Marvy cuts me off angrily. "I'm trying to teach you something. I was thirteen when I began running drugs for my father. Weak stuff. Black Cream and Pleasure Diadems, mostly. But the shit scared me half to death. The things it was doing to people. To customers I knew. There was this one woman who came at me once, tearing her hair out. I mean literally tearing her hair out, pulling out thick, dirty brown clumps that she'd shove in my face. She had lipstick on, but only on her bottom lip, smeared over her chin. By drool.
"I wanted out, but my father wouldn't let me stop seeing her or any of the other people we helped mess up. He said to me, 'Marvy, my son, sentiment can get you killed in this world.'"
Marvy leans forward, his fat gut swelling over his knees. "And he was right. Because when three men with crowbars starting beating the crap out of him, trying to find out where I was after I taught their punk ass brother a lesson, my father refused to talk, and so they beat him to death. He died to protect me."
Marvy leans forward and looks me in the eye. "Do I look like my father, Tommy? Do I look like the kind of man who'd do that, Tommy?"
"No," I say.
"Shit no. Because I'm not. When kidnappers sent me my wife's fingernails I said, 'to hell with it.' That's all I have of her. Her fingernails."
He taps his neck, and I realize for the first time that he's wearing a tight gold band around his neck, half-hidden by his enormous, stubble-covered jowls. Ten white slivers dangle from it on little golden chains. I can just make out the old flecks of red paint.
"I'm not like that," I say, revolted. "I'll never be like that."
"You will be, Tommy," he tells me. "Lack of sentiment. That's what makes you such a good Skinner."
He gestures. The glass tube around me goes up. But before I can do anything but suck in deep lungfulls of fresh air, two men with huge bionic shoulder muscles come and grab me by the arms. They haul me up by my arms so I'm on the toes of my one remaining foot, the weight of my entire body hanging on my shoulders. It hurts like hell. I can see one of them out of the corner of my eye. Brutish face. The empty, slack eyes of a Glove. Marvy always switches the minds of his bodyguards, because it's easier to deal with pain if it's not your own body. Though it makes them slow and stupid, too.
They have matching tattoos on the centers of their foreheads. Blue, swirling things that glowed in the bar's old light.
"In fact," Marvy continues lazily to me, reaching out to pinch my cheek, "you're too good. I've decided you'll work for me, or nobody, Tommy. I'm not going to train you anymore only to have you turn around and become the tool of one of my enemies. I want a Contract." The capital was audible in his voice.
"You saying you won't tell me where my sister is unless I agree to work for you for life?" The idea of wearing his tattoo like his goons did, of being fully and completely owned by this man, made me feel sick and dizzy.
"That's right, genius-boy," Marvy says. "You kill for me and only for me. For the rest of your life. It'll be better for you too, this way. Forget your sister and whatever lies she told you about me. I'm a good man, and you're too good for her. She's past. Together, Tommy, we can create the future."
"And if I say no, you'll kill me?" I ask.
"No," Marvy says, but I can tell he is lying. "I'll give you a week to decide."
His dismissive gesture sends the two men carrying me out through the bar. Past the knobby, pervert bartender. Past the Geisha clones who look at me with wide, dark eyes. They dump me on a trash-covered sidewalk. They give me a kick in the hip for good measure, so it hurts when I have to struggle up. One of them is going to take my artificial leg and play keep away but the other one tells him we can play with me later.
They wouldn't do that to me if they could see what I was capable of. If we were in the Mindplay...
Well, we weren't. When it came to ripping people's minds out of their bodies, I was a giant. But in the real world, I was just a cripple.
A cripple with one week to find his sister.
Locating the body was easy. My sister's new Cube was actually slightly larger than the rooms at the Pave, and the bed she slept in was soft and well-tended by nurses. Women in tight white shirts came to roll her over every three hours, to monitor her temperature and make sure her bowels were always sparkling clean.
Penrose looked like she was asleep, her cheeks full with the faint pink blush of a Flash addict. Her brown hair hung around her shoulders in dark, curly waves. Unlike the last time I had seen her awake, it looked clean and fresh. The same color as our mother's.
I couldn't touch her, of course, not through the plastic sack-bubble covering her body, floating up and down with her breathing. The body's immune system is always weakened when someone goes into deep mind-sleep.
I put my hand as close to hers as the nurses would let me. I could feel the heat of her skin through the plastic. Unnaturally hot, but I couldn't see a drop of sweat on her. Nobody was home. Her mind was asleep, unable to regulate her simple bodily processes. The computer tubes jammed down her throat did everything for her. Told her when to breathe. Made her eat. Even stimulated her bladder so she'd know when to pee.
I hated looking at her this way. It was like looking at a doll.
"Visiting hours are almost over," a nurse tells me.
I glare at her, but she has the no-nonesense eyes of a bureaucrat who would call the police on a boy who just wants to spend some time with his older sister.
"All right," I say. "Can I have a few minutes alone with her?"
"No," she says.
I sigh and turn back to Penrose. A lot of sisters would abandon their brother, if they had a defect like mine. She would probably have been better off if she had. She wouldn't have gone into debt for my medical bills after I got run over. She wouldn't have had to start selling Flash to get cash to pay off ruinous interest from Marvy. And then...she wouldn't be addicted.
She should be in a music school somewhere. She used to sing to me, when we were orphans huddled under the tracks of the Monorail, listening to the hiss of New Jerusalem's flag as it snapped in the cold wind. Chapped lips and stomachs with nothing but water inside. That had been our life, until she sacrificed everything she had to make it better.
It was better. At least we had something to eat, now. Although she'd never know it. She'd grow old and die like this. Dreaming.
Unless I could save her.
The nurse pulls at my shoulder. "Time to go," she says curtly.
I nod and let myself be pulled away.

--end of chapter one--

Just so you know, that took me approx. 45 minutes to type. Like I say, I'm a fast typer!

The tense thing probably isn't working as well as I thought. I was thinking present tense would make the whole thing feel more dreamlike, but I think it's just distracting.

I think it sounds better in my head than on paper. My first drafts always tend to be a little heavy on the melodrama.


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