Read The Art of Self-Destruction Online

Authors: Douglas Shoback

Tags: #short story, #awakening, #science fiction, #feminism, #feminist science fiction, #female abuse, #criticism, #hologram, #misogyny, #binary code, #men and woman relationships, #misandry, #sex and violence, #fiction about women, #virtual girl, #fiction about men, #cyberpunk noir, #virtual reality fiction, #female hologram

The Art of Self-Destruction

BOOK: The Art of Self-Destruction
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The Art of Self-Destruction

By Douglas Shoback

 

 

Copyright 2014 Douglas Shoback

 

Published by Douglas Shoback at Smashwords

 

 

 

Smashwords Edition, License Notes

This eBook is licensed for your personal enjoyment
only. This eBook may not be re-sold or given away to other people.
If you would like to share this book with another person, please
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this author.

 

 

 

 

Table of Contents

The Rooms

Glitch in the Program

Desiccated Sock

We Don't Make Mistakes

The Heart Wants What the
Heart

The Machine Stops

Red Paper Lanterns

There's No Place Like 127.0.0.1

µ

The Sky Above the
Harbor

About the Author

Contact the Author

 

 

The Rooms

 

What is truly disturbing about the rooms is
not their construction-they're only as big as a walk-in closet,
minus the clothes and shelves and racks-but what is held within
them. Most rooms hold a presence, a feeling of past inhabitants:
their feelings seeping into brightly painted walls or bubbled
wallpaper stippled with floral patterns. Dreams, pieces of lives
gone by. A reality forced into empty space, humanity becoming a
piece of plaster, laminated wood, wainscoting, perhaps the carpet,
if there is any. These rooms don't have plaster or wood or carpet.
They do not hold a presence. They hold a scream.

At first glance, each room looked normal.
Tiny spaces that served no purpose outside of existing. Lined side
by side, rooms extended down an alleyway, metal doors scored and
matte in the buzzing lights overhead, each one the same. Step
inside a room though and it took over. It enveloped you, sucked you
into darkness and pumped the air from your lungs until the faint
light from overhead ventilation faded and faded and the door itself
became another wall, not a means of escape; a barrier to pound and
scream against as your lungs further compressed, your eyes faded,
pupils pinpointed, and a gentle laughter overtook your ears as your
fists slowly, slowly pounded against the door, each strike growing
longer in time, until you finally gave up and fell to the ground,
stared to the ceiling, legs folded fetal style- the room
controlling your body, forcing it into this position-and you
descend into the darkness around you, become a part of the room
itself not just a presence. Your body becoming nothing but another
brick in the wall, next to another brick that was once another
body. Body upon body, building walls but never growing.

 

But this is only a feeling. This does not
really happen. It's only a room.

 

Yet the rooms of this place dripped. The
walls are plastered with hooked razors coated in dried blood of the
unreal. Physically, the walls are painted black. They have to be.
Otherwise the programs wouldn't be as believable. But they still
felt hooked, violence everywhere, dried blood from countless
bodies. Infinite screams from infinite nobodies. Death hidden
underneath the sheen of black metal. The blood in the thread
disappearing once the door is opened, flickering light once again
bathing the space as it is shown to the world-normal, nothing, a
room. Empty.

Men have entered these rooms dressed in
myriad of clothing, from business suits to rags. All with the same
intention. All with the same buried instinct, primitively
civilized, masked underneath eons of enlightenment. And here, in
these rooms, the human emerged, flowing streams of viscous fluid
dripping to the hard floor, pooling like gel, dark eyes gleaming
red, teeth bared, nails scratching across stone, breaking and
splintering. The walls exploded in blood, gore, flesh-faith became
nothing, belief dissipated with the clothes, replaced with pure
fury and yellowed teeth. He was what he is and nothing more.

The room folded in on itself, around him, his
body centered and focused as electricity pulsated across the walls.
The room expanded and constricted and walls became cages,
wallpapered, brightly painted, desiccated, constructed of wriggling
insects, rusted iron; space became immense, claustrophobic,
normality, surreal, a meadow perhaps or even a moonscape. Whatever
man imagined, eyes closed, smile rapturous. And as the last bits of
electricity crackled slowly to an end, man slowly opened his eyes
and smiled at what he had created and what stood before him.

 

 

Glitch in the Program

 

He removes his shoe and lifts it to his nose,
sniffing it before closing one eye and staring into the darkness of
leather and stitches. "I knew I should've worn those insoles," he
mutters.

"Is there a problem?" she says, her voice
light and airy. She is sitting on a dingy bed, her maroon robe
flowing down her body and spreading across the dark bedspread.

"No, not really." He is standing in front of
her, his faded blue shirt hanging loosely from his thin body, black
slacks the color of coal.

"You know, it's not like you have to wear it.
Just leave it off." She leans back on her hands, smiling coyly up
at him. He glances at her momentarily, stares back into his shoe,
and then throws it violently against the far wall. The contact
creates a hollow moan, sound waves oscillating into nothingness.
"Piece of crap..." he trails off, staring at the floor. Silence
separates the two for a second. "Is there another problem" she
says, a tone of impatience and annoyance creeping through her
normally neutral personality.

"My sock has a hole in it."

"Oh. Well, that is a problem." She flops
prone on the bed, sending a cloud of dust into the air. The fold of
her robe opens slightly, revealing a patch of caramel skin and
invisible hairs. A breeze flows over her, stimulating the hidden
follicles, sending electrons across her nerve endings, chemicals
released into the blood stream and the brain pulsing with
biological pleasure.

"It's a hole right where the middle toe is."
She watches as Matthew stares at the unclipped nail of his toe,
yellowed and grotesque in the light of the room. The whiteness of
excess growth becoming an attached accessory, a piece of him that
shouldn't be. She wonders if he ever clips those nails or just lets
them break off. She wonders about the pain caused by unclipped
nails; hangnails, itchy and annoying. She's never had a hangnail or
anything close to it. Somewhere within her she wishes she could
experience the pain of a hangnail or a broken nail.

She doesn't notice the fluid upward movement
of his head and his gaze directed toward her, a look of recognition
and shock hidden behind his eyes.

"We've met before haven't we?" he asks.

She jumps, and then lets the normal
indifference take over, "Doubtful. I don't remember you. But I do
have tons of clients." She pauses, accessing her memory banks,
trying to bring up his face, his body, his actions. She can't
remember if there was anything there to begin with. Sighing, she
adds, "Why do you ask?"

He shakes his head, "It's nothing. Just
thought I met you before is all. You have this familiar way."

"Don't all women?" she says, a crooked smile
creasing her lips.

He ignores her, gazing into the corner of the
room at his discarded shoe. It is secluded, almost hiding, wedged
between the intersections of the walls, occluded by shadow. Yet, he
can tell that the dark leather that once mirrored his perfectly
good shoe is starting to turn brown, stained by the decay of the
place. Absorbing the taint.

Then again, he thinks, it could just be the
lighting. She silently watches Matthew lift his foot with the holey
sock off the floor and balance on one leg, hopping slightly back
and forth to maintain his balance. Balance unmodulated by
electronic stabilizers, only fluid in a biological sac deep within
his ear.

Finally, he manages to rip the sock from his
foot, snapping it against the bed as the elastic woven into the
tube constricts, energy dispersed into the mattress, and flings it
across the room. It lands in a patch of sunlight, the whiteness of
the cotton refracting the light and glowing brighter.

Matthew rubs his foot for a second and then
returns his gaze to her. She sits up from her prone position and
smiles warmly at him, "All better?"

She hears floorboards creak underneath the
carpet as he shifts the minute pressure of his foot, balancing on
one leg while crossing the other in mid-air, supporting and
massaging it with his rough hand. She giggles-the airy and lilting
giggle of a small girl; the sound of fetish, of idealization.

"You can put your foot down you know. The
carpet won't hurt you." She flutters her eyelashes at him, forming
her lips into a half smile-paradoxically lust filled and innocent;
virgin and seductive.

He sets his foot down, the many carpet fibers
crushing against aged and warped floor boards. Fiber grinding
against fiber, music for the dust mites.

"It's cold" Matthew says, looking down at his
foot, wrinkling his toes in the faded fibers of the carpet.

"Doesn't matter though, right?" she says,
leaning backwards onto her elbows. Her breasts thrust forward,
accented by the maroon silk robe, images of flesh pouring from the
opening slit.

He shakes his head and then leans over her.
She is fully aware of his eyes drifting across her body, hovering
at the exposed flesh and immense rise in the fabric.
"Something's...not quite right," Matthew mutters.

"Have you ever done this before?" she says,
lifting her leg from the floor and slowly caressing his bare foot
with her toes.

He moves his foot back, avoiding her probing
toes, "Yes, once. But it was different, not like this. You?"

"Too many times to count," she says, waving
off the question.

"Well, then I'm not sure you want me, being
all inexperienced and all. Don't know how good I am." His voice
cracks at the end of the sentence, an ancient adolescent curse
reemerging at the least constructive moment.

She giggles again, shaking her head
simultaneously with the sound. Her dark hair drifts slowly in the
stagnant air, settling gently back onto her shoulders. Her robe has
opened further, exposing the inside curves of her breasts and she
wonders if this is causing his nervousness.

Ancient pillows stained yellow with sweat and
spit are strewn haphazardly on the flowered comforter. Various
unidentifiable liquids have stained the bed's linen into a
decomposing rainbow: red, yellow, brown, green. The mattress sags
underneath her weight.

A small window lets in a cold light filtered
through greasy yellow glass. Shabby purple curtains hang askew over
the window attempting to add warmth to the room. They succeed in
adding to the desperation permeating the place. She stares at the
curtains, fixing them in her head, making the room more pleasant.
"It stinks in here" she says, frowning.

A ceiling fan creaks above her, shifting the
dust and air, scattering it to all corners of the room in an
entropic fit. There is no breeze, only the slight movement of air,
of smell. The cold light from the window puddles on the floor, an
oblique rectangle of bright green carpet fibers lighting the entire
room, washing it in rust; a rip in the stasis of things, something
dynamic, malleable, moving, chaotic. And the sock, his sock, in the
middle of the pooling light, brown and ripped at the toe, full of
his sweat and energy, moments of his life. It looks alone and sad.
She can almost smell it cooking in the light, sour and earthy. A
real smell.

His shoe, on the other hand, is non-existent,
disappearing into the shadows, masked in corrosion.

He hovers over her, his eyes wide. Dark
tussled hair hangs over the tips of his tiny ears, bangs touching
eyebrows; a spire sticks up from the back of his head, reaching to
the sky as if to receive radio signals.

His clothes drift loosely off of his thin
body. A once colorful shirt is now faded by bleach, grayness taking
over the blue. His sockless toes knead the fibers of the carpet
nervously, his faded black trousers flowing with the contraction of
muscles. She pushes a stray hair behind her ear and leans back,
exposing more of her breasts-an areola peeking out of the red
fabric-and meets the brown of his eyes with her own. The room is
saturated in sepia.

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