Sunday mornings I wash my car. The house is on the brow of a hill, so while I run the shammy over the Sierra's shiny curves I can look over the allotments and see other earlybirds clearing and digging their little patches of dirt. I've never been much of a one for gardening. All that muck. If there's been one thing constant in my life it's that I've always liked to keep things neat. Of course, round here it doesn't do to let it slip too far, so after I've done the car I usually spray the front lawn, walking a little circuit with a cannister of weedkiller on my back. Hi ho!
Sunday mornings are my own. Cheryl never raises her head before ten-thirty, refuses to. Sometimes she'll say she's 'a little indisposed'. Times I've brought her a cup of tea, trying to chivvy her up for some daytrip we've planned, and found her wrapped up in the bed clothes looking up at the ceiling. Quite awake mind you. Just far away.
No daytrip today. I went out to the ringroad, to the Superstore.
1. 15 metres rubber tubing (ultrafine) 2. 'Darco' (?) Bearings (x4) 3. 5x5m plastic laminate 4. Screws, bolts, washers, nuts etc. (various) 5. Aleph Industries 'Victor' pump (size 4) 6. Gold wire (2oz wound) 7. 1 ltr SuperGrade lubricant 8. Fittings SA9858674a (x4), SA985867b (3), SD945536a (1), SX966632a, b, c (3 of each) 9. Roehmer-Sharpe dissection scalpel set (cat. A4765) 10. Sutures (RS cat. S3367) 11. Local anaesthetic 'Devorine' (25x5ml ampoules -Untergang SA or unbranded equivalent) 12. sterile pads (RS cat. C35) 13. tourniquet (or make one?) 14 SynaptoKit(tm) 15. Skin 2000(tm) 16. Other (ask).
Indeed she was, in her blue and white striped uniform. She helped me put the things in the boot. I smiled at her, hoping she would smile back. And she did. Looked like a photograph I once saw in a magazine.
Afterwards I drove round to TD Repairs. I've got a mate fixes things. Vacuum cleaners, tellies, radios, you name it. Barry, he said, take whatever you need. He showed me round the back, where he keeps the bits he's taken out. Left me to have a good old rummage around. I offered to pay him, but he wouldn't hear of it. Lovely bloke, Ted. I'd picked out quite a lot, circuit boards and so on. Still, he wouldn't take a penny.
There are instructions to follow. It looks a little daunting, until you take the plunge. I lay all the stuff out on the table in the garage - I haven't got a proper workshop, one of the drawbacks of the house. And it's important to keep things clean, especially with something like this, which is hard to do in the garage. Reluctantly I decide to keep the Sierra outside until I've got it finished. All that oil, not to mention the stuff it picks up on the wheels. When I go back inside for the bucket and mop I realise Cheryl's still not up. It's past twelve, which even for her is unheard of.
All the curtains are drawn
'Are you ill love? What's the matter?'
She doesn't answer. I notice there's a funny smell in the room, sort of sweet. So I open the window, let a bit of air in.
'Well, what is it, love? It's almost lunchtime.'
'Go away,' she says. 'I'm fine'.
Step by Step
Choose a small square of tissue on the left forearm, just below the elbow. Make an incision on three sides (fig 1.13) taking care to cut no deeper than the layer of subcutaneous fat. Peel back and sprinkle with powder from the sachet provided. Taking your precut square of laminate, affix it to the opened section, holding in place until it has fully adhered to the epidermis. Cover and leave. Repeat this over the whole forearm area until (fig 1.14) you have exposed the area shaded grey. You are now ready to isolate the flexor muscles, in preparation for the first series of implants.
receptor Eu.306.56 V CNS site 56 (red)
receptor Eu.306.57 V CNS site 56 (cyan)
receptor Eu.306.58 V CNS site 56 (magenta)
receptor Eu.306.59 V CNS site 56 (blue)
receptor Eu.306.00 V CNS site 57 (red)
receptor Eu.307.01 V CNS site 57 (cyan)
receptor Eu.307.02 V CNS site 58 (red)
receptor Eu.307.03 V CNS site 59 (red)
receptor Eu.307.04 V CNS site 59 (cyan)
receptor Eu.307.05 V CNS site 60 (blue only)
Cheryl and I have our ups and downs. At the moment I suppose we're going through a low patch. Not to worry. In spite of what's happening I have reason to feel quite pleased. I'm proud of myself, actually, and I hope she will be too. It's a fiddly job, but I'm proving myself more than a match for it. Both the arms are finished. I can touch my face and feel the spongy fingerpads, my designer fingers touching my cheek. They smell of hi-fi showrooms, or the plastic covers on the upholstery of new cars.
No. Certainly not. We have what you might call a happy marriage. Contented. I've always taken care to see that Cheryl has a few nice things, and she in her turn has provided for me as a wife should. There are those say that in the modern world our sort of marriage is out of date. But my Cheryl's never had need of anything. She knows I care for her. And that's enough. It's our anniversary, as it happens. Twenty three years today. We're going to a restaurant.
Le Pont d'Avignon
The waiter is decent enough. Often they'll hover round you, fluster you as you try to choose. Cheryl speaks some French, though as usual at the moment she isn't saying anything. When the wine comes she makes a grab for her glass, knocks it back and tells him to fill her up again. I am extremely embarrassed. This is not the Cheryl I know. He says something funny to her with madame on the end of it and she giggles like a bloody schoolgirl. Tosses back another glassful, and then belches. I decide I should say something.
'Pull yourself together Cheryl. You're making a spectacle of yourself.'
'Shut up,' she says. She actually tells me to shut up, right there in the restaurant. And the waiter can hear too. Bastard starts sniggering to the girl who takes your coat.
'Cheryl!' Between my teeth, like. 'Why are you doing this?'
As I say it I notice how she smells. Normally, she wears a little perfume, smells fresh and clean as Spring. But tonight Cheryl smells sweet, rotten sweet like something you've left out of the fridge too long. It's quite disgusting. And she's sweating. Her face is shiny and damp.
'Look Cheryl. Love. It's obvious you're not well. We'd better be getting home.'
And she starts to laugh again.
'Not well, is it? Take a look at me, Barry. What is it you see?'
'Don't Cheryl. You're playing games. You know I don't like it.'
' Come on love ' Just like that. Sneering. 'Come on love, answer me.'
'I don't know. You, Cheryl. I see you.'
'I don't think you see anything at all, love . But there's someone here, Barry. A human being.' And she begins to laugh. 'A human being that's just pissed itself. '
I will never forget how she looks at this moment, her sweaty face split open by that horrible grin. Cheryl, My Wife, looks disgusting, dirty. I get up to leave, trying to pull my wallet out of my jacket. I just want to go. She never uses that sort of language, never. I tell myself she's ill, doesn't know what she's doing. But at the same time I realise there's a side to her I didn't know before, a crude side. And I'm afraid. I don't even notice if she's following me as I stuff a twenty pound note into the waiter's hand. As she comes towards the car I notice she was telling the truth. Her skirt is soaking wet, a great dark patch across the front. I twist the key in the ignition and drive away, leaving her standing there in the carpark. Laughing at me.
Lingual sites are divided into four areas, roughly corresponding to the traditional distinctions between sweet, sour, bitter and salt (Fig. 32.4) To configure the unit, simply connect the input device to the temporary ports marked a through e. Key in the following strings to install default settings . . .
Dear Cheryl. What is happening to us? I know that lately things have not been too good but tonight has made me worried about the future. I wish you would tell me what is happening and if I have done anything to you. It seems we are so far apart we are both mature adult people Cheryl and we should talk it over. Lets get this thing straightened out.
Out. Out in the open. Let's put it on the table. Put our feelings . . .
It took me hours to work up to that. Hours just sitting in the garage with my head in my hard new hands. And now it doesn't seem quite right. I screw the paper up and throw it into the bin in the corner of the garage. I have to be careful not to make any big movements because I'm still hooked up to the little box.
a100Xon, a1200Xoff, a14400Xon, a144800Xoff, b100Xoff, b120Xoff, b2000Xon, b2200Xon, b11000(0), b12000(0), b12250(0), b14400Xon...
I'm staying put, right here in the garage. Been here all night, wasn't able to go to bed. I don't know what to do, because I can't stomach being in the same room with her. The stench is unbearable.
She's my wife.
I was in the garden, some time after midnight, looking in through the kitchen window. There she was, in her nightie, drinking a glass of water. Everything, everything underneath seemed to be rippling, moving about as if it were alive. I was horrified. What's become of her? What's going to become of us?
When I crept up to bed she must have been asleep. Waves of it, that rotten toilet smell, coming off her. The night light was still on, and she had one arm over the covers, the sleeve of her nightie all rucked up. The arm was all moist with sweat, seemed to be pouring out of her in buckets. I tried to get closer to the bed and found my heart was racing, like I was going to have a seizure. I felt it was going to hammer its way out of my chest.
The droplets of sweat. On her arm. They were pink, like they were mixed with blood.
There are parts which it is difficult to do yourself. I obviously couldn't ask Cheryl, so I gave Ted a ring. In a way I think he was quite flattered, and he came over as soon as you like. Having made the various preparations, some of which made me rather woozy, we pried open the chest cavity and got to work. I was glad of his help. He's nimble-fingered, old Ted, fitted the litle sacs and tubes and whatnot onto the pump and before I'd really had time to draw breath (ha ha), we were having a swift half round the corner.
'Bit sore I expect Barry.'
I must admit I didn't answer right off. I was far away. Preoccupied,to tell the truth. Something not quite right. I'd been looking forward to that pint, and now it tasted strange. Sort of metallic. I said as much to Ted.
'Why don't you send it back? Oi Derek! Derek!'
'Shut it, Ted!'
'Leave it alone, eh. Maybe there's nothing up with it. I'd rather you didn't.'
'Alright old son. No need to get all aggravated.'
I had to apologise to him after that. He took it well. Not one to hold a grudge, Ted. Promised to come back after work the next day and help me with the intestines.
I pulled back the covers. Cheryl is out, God knows where. I pulled back the covers and saw the brown stain her body had left from last night. There are stains on her clothes too, and in the bath there's a mat of hair. Her clothes stink of rotten meat. Holding my breath I shoved some of them into a bin bag. Then I walked down to the bottom of the garden and burnt them.
Signs of Decay
I know Cheryl has been back, because there's blood in the toilet. Since Ted and I had that stint last week I haven't actually needed to use it myself. I just went in to check on her. A sort of red mist in the water. Since I try to be in the garage whenever she's about I don't see her any more. I just find the signs. Everything's on the floor of the bedroom. The kitchen looks like a bomb has hit it, pans with food stuck to the bottom, spilt something or other on the linoleum, rotting vegetables on the side. It's coming into the hot weather. The flies are buzzing round it. Breeding ground. But as I say, since last week it's none of my concern.
Bit bothered to notice some scarring on the knees. In the manual it says the material's resistant, and I've hardly been doing anything too strenuous. God alone knows what would happen if I took it into my head to go rockclimbing, or play football. I was wondering about taking them back, getting a refund, but to be honest I can't be bothered. I suppose that's what they count on, that you can't be bothered. They're on, and they'll stay on.
When I get dirty I just take a cloth and wipe the surfaces down. Smooth, perfect. I can even shine them if I want to. A plastic skin, a barrier between me and all the muck and filth outside. Now there are only a few things left to do, but they're the hardest ones. You have to buy the module as a unit, comes from America. Though Cheryl doesn't know it, I've been saving up for some time. A little bit here. A little bit there. And now it's unpacked, little twists of polystyrene dotted about on the workbench. I'm excited. Look at the time, Ted'll be round any minute.
Both UniSys(tm) anterior and posterior choroid plexus sets come ready configured for use with any US Standard CNS kit. Slots are available for all major intramedullar interfaces. If you find problems initialising the units please refer to the troubleshooting guide at the rear of this manual.
This is it.
The most important stage. After this everything will flow in straight lines. No mess and no confusion. I'll always know what to do because the answers will be there inside. Neat rows of electrons stacked like soldiers on parade. Yes-no, yes-no, yes-no. I'm excited, and why not? This is it. The last fuzzy bit of me is about to fall away. I'll be as clean and bright and perfect as a racing car. All the dead stuff falling off me like leaves in Autumn.
Well, will you look at that. It's not often I get poetic. Never was one for it at school. The-boy-stood-on-the-burning-deck and so on. Doesn't usually do much for me. What could have brought it on now? The excitement, I expect. Will I still get excited, after? Will I still think of things like Autumn leaves? Won't be any need, most probably .
This is it. This - is - it. After tonight I should know what to do with Cheryl, too. I saw her today, first time in weeks. Awful. She'd smeared herself in her own - anyway, I couldn't bear to look at her. I can hear her now, upstairs in the bathroom. There's a damp patch spreading across the ceiling. Not to worry. Not to worry. The unit is sitting there on the table, unpacked and ready to be popped in. Ted will be round in a minute, and after that it will all be plain sailing.
This story appeared in Mute, and then in Another Magazine #1.