So this guy with two thumbs walks into a bar, and the bartender says “Hey! You can’t bring those things in here!”
Well, the first thumb says this is discrimination and it starts talking about class-action lawsuits and picketing and late-night visits from the middle finger and pretty soon it gets cited for disorderly conduct and hauled off to jail.
Meanwhile, the second thumb waits behind the bar in an alley with a couple of cans of gasoline and a book of matches from The Nether Digit, a nightclub on the other side of town, not just a nightclub, but a toe club, a place where you can have any toes you want all night long, two at once, even, if you’re surefooted enough, in those padded booths with the tasteful crimson and burgundy curtains. And while the thumb is waiting for the last patrons to leave the bar, shrouded menacingly in a grease-stained overcoat, a big shaggy dog trots up and eats it.
(formerly known as Cyrus J Willard)
c/o YMCA Hostel
55 Jeff Kennett Boulevard
NEW MELBOURNE VIC 9001
September 17, 2078
RE: DISCONNECTION ISSUES ARISING FROM NON-PAYMENT OF FEES
Dear Mr TempID#701536,
As per our recent correspondence, we reiterate that your identity has been revoked. You have now exhausted all avenues of legal appeal and we wish to remind you of the following:
• Your rights to the identity known as Cyrus J Willard have been onsold to a new client, along with all subsidiary rights (domicile, domestic partnership, employment and credit history).
• Following a number of highly inappropriate confrontations, please find enclosed a Restraining Order forbidding you from contacting or approaching Cyrus J Willard, Stacey Willard and Cyrus J Willard Jr.
• Any further attempted contact with Stacey Willard may be considered grounds for a fault-based divorce, in which instance Cyrus J Willard will automatically receive 100% of the marital assets as per the pre-nuptial agreement signed by yourself.
Following the IMMEDIATE and FULL payment of your outstanding debt, we can provide you with a new identity. You can choose from the following packages:
a) Basic – The Basic package locks in your TempID for a low monthly fee, allowing you to access basic government services, membership of financial institutions and voting rights.
b) FreshStart – With a FreshStart account you can begin life anew, under the (available) name of your choice! Live the old way, establishing relationships, employment and credit.
c) LuckyDip – The LuckyDip package provides you with a pre-loved identity. Want to be a doctor, sanitation technician or public servant? You will be provided with all aspects of a random defaulter’s identity.
Please note that your TempID has been provided to you gratis during this difficult time of transition, but will expire in one month. Non-identity is a federal offence.
This story is part of the Daily Cabal’s third anniversary celebration, a collection of kabbalah-themed stories. (Thanks to Mechaieh for the theme!) The other anniversary stories are Angela’s Mechaiah’s Daughter, David’s Has he thoughts within his head? and Rudi’s The Third Golem.
Many thanks to Faye Levine, whose page on parchment amulets from her Practical Kabbalah site helped provide information in this story. Any gross inaccuracies in my story or failings on my part to understand things fully are, of course, her fault.
Far across the city, we heard the screech of metal and the first concussive roars of the Robot Insurrection. My daughter Leah and I sat on her princess bed and watched through the window as the night sky across the river grew orange with flames. She reached out and touched the leather case I was holding, inside which, she knew from demanding the story of it many times, was the special Parchment Amulet, prepared by a very learned Shofer.
“Are you going to go fight the robots now, daddy?”
“Soon,” I said. “First we need to wait for Aunt Alice to get back. You’ll go stay at her apartment, and then I’ll go.”
Her face scrunched up. “Those robots are bad! You should make them say they’re sorry and clean it all up.”
“I’ll try to. I’ll be very happy if we can do that.”
I frowned and squeezed her hand. “No use trying to tell the future, maideleh.”
She stroked the leather case softly, as though it were a pet. “Is your special paper more powerful than the robots?” she said.
“I think it is.”
“Why didn’t it keep mommy from going to heaven?”
“Because it’s only for one person. When they wrote it, they wrote the name right down on it. It doesn’t help anyone else.”
I heard the front door, and my sister Alice’s hurried steps through the living room.
“OK, you have to put it on,” she said.
I smiled. “You think it’s my name on it?”
“It’s not? Whose is it?”
I lifted the amulet case up and settled the chain around her neck, over her Tinkerbell nightgown. It hung down almost to her knees.
“It’s my name?” she said breathlessly. “It’s my name is on it?”
“Who do you think?” I said. “I don’t need it anyway. I have chutzpah.”
Alice came in and swept Leah into her arms, looking at me broken-hearted over my daughter’s shoulder as I picked up my taser gun.
“Do I have huspoppa too, daddy?” she said, her voice muffled in Alice’s shoulder. I walked with them to the door.
“You will, sweetheart,” I said. “For now you have protection. All the rest comes later.”
Then we went our separate ways in the hallway, and I took the exit down the stairs as the lights flickered out and the city was plunged into darkness.
Note: This story, while it stands alone, belongs to the Anan Muss series.
Anan Muss was careful, but not so careful he didn’t make mistakes (after all, a legion of King Ash’s slitters once sliced arc-blades at his head on every quantum-entanglement port). Anan’s caution primarily meant it took longer to do simple tasks–as if his brain had rocketed to light-speed, slowing down his time, relative to others’. Washing, ironing, and folding laundry usually cost him a weekend, even with robots. Cleaning his apartment required a week’s vacation.
Love was trickier. Courtship took time: a month to muster the courage to ask women to the aquarium theater, to talk intimately and walk the hanging orchid gardens, yet another month to kiss beneath bridges by the canals, and a year later to fall helplessly in love. The year after that might have been marriage, he supposed, but women rarely waited long enough for him to ask them out.
Luckily, the second-generation AI ladies appeared in Japan. All the shy lads wanted one. By design, quantities were low, demand high. One would have cost his year’s accounting salary.
So Anan mail-ordered one of those borderline real phonies made in China. His fingers trembled as he unwrapped her. Her skin–a soft, off-ivory–accentuated her raven-black hair. His heart wanted to gallop away, but he reined it in. She accepted his hand and stepped out of the box, “Am I not beautiful?”
Caught off-guard, yet ever poetic, Anan sought the right words: “Yes…. I mean, no…. I mean, you are beautiful.”
“Love me, and I will be whomever you want.”
“Being yourself is enough although contents may settle, like cereal in a box.”
“And you will be whomever I want you to be.”
“Sure. Within the limits of my present brain pattern.”
She laid plans of their future together. He said he hoped she would have patient understanding, be someone he could share words with, someone who’d sharpen him gently, someone who would challenge and accept challenge. “That’s exactly who I am,” she said, mentioning her unparalleled poetic sensibility.
As he painted her a porcelain love poem, he spoke of this inane idea he’d had of dating women virtually–not for love per se, but to understand women better.
He handed her his poem:
She shattered the porcelain and stalked away. “I have no time for words.”
“She’s right.” Anan sifted through the broken chips. “It’s not much of a love poem.”