Make Me As You See Me
Stephen Oram, Virtual Futures’ near-future fiction writer in residence, shares his response to the topic of engineering life.
Roger and Dimitri were holding hands and had been ever since they’d grafted their skin together to show the world they were a couple. After hours of intimate debate they’d decided that permanently holding hands was the most powerful symbol they could think of.
‘Up yours, body beige,’ shouted Roger.
They raised their clasped hands in a fist salute and with their free hands they touched the lips of the Picasso masks they were both wearing and gave the group of jeering men the middle finger.
A young woman with a tough-girl walk spat on the ground in front of them.
‘Thank you for your kind offering,’ he said and stepped over it. They’d provoked this sort of anger ever since they’d started to change their bodies. Others, more sadly in their view, had simply copied their modifications. Even more depressing was the banal media tittle tattle about their day to day bodily functions. He adjusted his mask. ‘Fuckers. It still upsets me,’ he whispered.
Surgically attached to his inner arm was a perfectly scaled clone of Dimitri’s left ear. He stroked it and Dimitri smiled as the gadgetry transmitted the feeling from the clone to his real ear.
It was their opening night and fans had gathered outside the gallery. As they approached some of the fans lifted their arms to show copy-cat cloned ears and a few had even gone as far as joining their hands together.
Roger sighed and patted his stomach. ‘Shall we?’
‘Yes, please,’ said Dimitri.
He pressed hard on what looked like a mole, triggering his stomach to send its signals to Dimitri’s brain.
Dimitri replied by pressing his identical mole.
They ambled to the door where the gallery owner introduced them to a young man from BodModC. Roger knew it was inevitable that the market leader in body modification clinics would sponsor the exhibition, but wasn’t surprised to feel the rise of anger in Dimitri’s stomach as the young man offered to shake hands.
‘Do we have time to take a look at Declan Ay’s latest?’ asked Roger.
‘Sure,’ said the owner.
Inside the dark brick lined room, the stench of rotting meat was so thick you could taste it.
Glass tubes filled with crawling neon-blue maggots hung on the wall, spelling out the title of the work: The Presumption of Consumption. A globe of lab-grown meat resting on a slab of decaying beef sat on the floor in front of the sign.
The gallery owner pointed at the work. ‘The globe is feeding off the rotting beef, but once that’s gone it will feed off itself until eventually there’ll be nothing left.’
They stood, mesmerised by the crawling maggots.
‘Time to go,’ said the owner.
Upstairs their loyal fans, patrons and the most influential of all the art critics were gathered. The air was full of anticipation.
Roger felt the nervousness in Dimitri’s stomach and secretly ran his finger along the palm of his hand to reassure him as they walked through the room.
They stood at the front facing their gathered audience and waiting for the murmuring to die down.
Very slowly with their joined hands they peeled Picasso’s face from Dimitri’s mask to reveal a plain white mask underneath.
They did the same with Roger’s.
A few enthusiasts in the crowd clapped, but the majority stayed silent and looked a bit bored.
The lights dimmed and a Picasso of a girl with a face both in profile and facing front was projected on to Roger’s mask.
‘Girl before a mirror,’ said Dimitri in a deadpan voice.
‘Is this how you see me?’ asked Roger.
Dimitri shook his head.
A photograph of Roger’s face replaced the painting.
‘This?’ asked Roger.
They sat still and silent.
The crowd fidgeted.
They each took hold of the corner of their mask and inched it up, revealing their chins.
A hush you could almost touch hung over the crowd.
Together, Roger and Dimitri spoke. ‘I see you like this!’
They tore off their masks and the crowd gasped.
Roger had a double sized clone of Dimitri’s lips on his forehead and a tiny foot on his cheek, while Dimitri had a hand attached to the bridge of his nose with eyelashes on the tips of each finger.
The silence hung in the air until one by one the audience clapped and whooped.
Roger tickled the foot on his cheek and Dimitri giggled.