Ever have your front door tell you to go frag yourself?
“Voice input not recognized.”
“I said it’s me, you jumped up doorbell. Open up!”
“Voice input not recognized.”
Fuming, I concentrated carefully on the sound of my own voice, how I experience it and how it sounds to others. I spoke clearly and confidently:
“Door security, recognize occupant Tors Yamaguchi. Open.”
Moments passed without effect. Then…
“Occupant recognized. Welcome back, GORT CHATTAHOOCHIE.”
I stumbled into my room and sealed the door behind me before collapsing onto the couch; the plastic bottles of liquor bounced to the floor. Here I am, and the only way I got here was by fooling the door into believing I was… me.
It’s not your fault, Mr. Munnin said.
I ignored him as I examined my recent haul. Four bottles, 750mL each, Dr. Zog’s Ethanol-Flavored Vodka. Dr. Zog’s: The budget-friendly forebrain softener. Tomorrow was Coyhawk’s funeral, and I had some thinking to do.
I cracked one and took a long pull straight from the bottle. It tasted like sin and failure, but loosened the knot in my stomach and started a nice warm feeling inside. I knew that sensation wouldn’t last, and treasured it all the more for it.
I mean it. You weren’t anywhere near her. And even if you were, there wasn’t anything you could have done.
I took another swig and glared blearily at the object perched on the desk across the room. “Shut your beak, you hateful thing. You don’t know what you’re going on about.”
Closing my eyes, I settled back and drank again. Pacing, that’s the thing. Slow enough to enjoy the fuzziness while it lasts, but quickly enough that the dreams don’t come.
Time passed. Minutes and hours have little meaning when you’re on a bender. Blinking at my surroundings, I gauged it to be about a bottle and a half later.
“She was a kid,” I surprised myself by saying. “Just a kid. It’s not right.”
She was 21, an adult. She didn’t have to be there facing down some sort of massive guardian spirit any more than you had to be there making friends with a hellhound. Coyhawk was her own person and free to make her own decisions. Even if they’re ones you don’t like.
I thrust my finger toward Mr. Munnin, pointing heatedly with the bottle in my outstretched hand. “Frag you, you mockery of life! You have no idea what this is like! You don’t have feelings, you’re not even real!”
I’m real enough, Mr. Munnin said. As real as you made me.
I bolted up from the couch, swaying dangerously. “You’re goddamned right I made you! I made you, and I can unmake you!”
Seeing red, I stared at the bird. I could hear the blood rushing in my ears, and it seemed like the room itself was shaking.
Yes, you could, Mr. Munnin said evenly. You could unmake me with a thought. And we both know what that would happen next.
For a moment, I considered it. One twitch of a neuron and it would be done. As easy as falling off a log. As easy as telling yourself the truth.
Some time later, I found myself lying on the floor with no memory of how I got there. Sobbing like an infant, I cradled a stuffed bird in my arms as though it were a child.
“I miss her,” I choked out between shuddering breaths. “I miss her, and I can’t do anything about it!”
I know, Mr. Munnin said softly, knowing full well we weren’t talking about Coyhawk any longer. I miss her too.
We grieved until dawn, then rose to attend merely the latest of too many funerals.