Born in Hong Kong of half Chinese descent, Glenn Cannon is an Australian writer of literary and speculative fiction. After receiving a Bachelor of Economics from the University of Melbourne, he worked odd jobs before returning to the same university to complete a Graduate Diploma in Literature. His published work ranges from short stories through to novelettes and novellas. He has recently appeared in Solum Literary Journal and The Write Launch.
THE INQUISITOR 2050
Me, Viking, Pinky, are three good-looking boy, industry of touch boy, picture lit natural for business in the Land. We have some money now, but no before, as we brought up by parent on the Universal. My ma and fa never work one day in smart job. Old man sometime cut hair when he live. Ma also industry of touch but self-call masseuse. We all know this business, touch, no matter how smart we get, even spin laser on Mars, never will lose fashion.
Pinky are first on our corner. Many building – many, many – flyover hand-art mural covered. Late afternoon sky – our gap in city height – usual yellow sick. Pinky only enjoy woman or sometime gender dash. Will make man business strictly for high, high money. Stuff a boy stand still for, no? Pinky suave, look suspect with his smoke and old-school suit – soft blue microfiber jacket and slack, high-shoulder, thin waist. Tie, straight black. He are like character in the Land hundred year ago. He like me and Viking, seventeen, but Pinky can pass thirty; he like all kind fizz – Infarction, Spasm – but Pinky brain still sharp – operate his tall slim Latino visual, watchful slit-eye like hunted, and he the type boy can tango both way, stylish dance or brutal with knife, no matter.
Pinky nod me, I nod back pull smoke. I tap Viking on my grip, but he are already round corner with goof smile. Viking small, pure straight-black hair, pale gold skin, slim-wristed and fine with slant-eye, two black marble ball drop in putty skin. Viking pure blood Orient boy. Though seventeen, no humbug, Viking special axe are he look twelve, and he stand in schoolboy similar uniform, and many, many nasty spider like him special. Viking get most business: most time, nasty pervert won’t use cling, want organic tadpole splash right in the alley, some no want take grip scan for blood filth. Want ram home raw, no cling, like they are skin friend. Stuff a boy got to stand still for, no? Sometime, me and Pinky pimp for Viking when client too rough, and Viking are grateful when we come in kicking and slashing.
I are Sunshine. I guess you see our name funny on purpose. We use as guard. I are Sunshine, as teacher once say I are vicious, dark, gloomy boy. Ha ha. I dress vegan-thug style in shiny, recycle, ethical, black-gum jacket and pants, and black micro fiber boot. I take client who like rough boy – man, woman, gender dash, no matter – I take all comer. I hold corner for our broad little crew, and our corner have fine business, our style standing raw-face skin to filth air. We give our own natural good-look face in the Land, too. No fabbing up tricks, no beauty face in Land plasma then you see us for real and we look like three ugly monster!
We all hooked up long, long time ago, ancient time ago, two year ago, doing our compulsory certificate enrolment eligibility obligation, how the fuck, needed to get young Universal before real Universal payment kicks through. So we must study – or your payment cut, unfortunately, due to, regrettably, reciprocally. We study visual history then, like many, many other Universal, adolescent type, as visual history are easy, all pass mostly, and not all dull, watching and talking, answer to teacher. Example: here we are in the Land at begin from time, many electric ghost – black and white film – old President talk, movie talk – and teacher, hairy face, pause freeze in the Land to point, make understanding for all. And hairy face want us seeing deeper in visual: can we notice real President speech from actor President speech? Can we notice real life visual from movie visual? Such thing. “Context!” hairy face alway growl. Class are fun and laughter, even light fizz. “Who gives?” are our feeling about such Land study, it all entertainment, but now that they hunt me, maybe, I begin understanding, maybe, why hairy face so serious with his Land science now.
It are hot under my plastic, typical autumn forty. I unzip my jacket, light sweat on chest, for any breeze, and Pinky pull up beside, flick ash on tarmac.
“Slow,” he say, voice deep hiss. He smile. Pinky only have two face – one face suspicion, like army coming over flyover for us. Face two, his eye light up, and you know some kinda foul humanity he witness recent.
“Baby, Sunshine,” he hiss, “you can’t know what business I stand still for.” He laugh, silent and strangle like we are in classroom still, and he better not let it out. “You shoulda seen that scene.”
“Nasty?” I say, smile, scope up and down two corner. Soon, they come for real meat, wait bit darker, client like bit darker. Some thing no change; industry of touch never change.
“Couple,” Pinky say. “Their home wired up with hologram, special. Best I seen, like you inside movie, special. I act part; many, many. They the nostalgia set, Sunshine. Oh man, they eighty-year-old! Ninety! Man … A hundred! Lifted looking thirty, but they move slow, smooth manga face, baby, they lifted to the fuck! They want end their days banging and fizzing inside movie dream. Dementoid old woman know no time, no place. Their scene, guess, you’ll no guess. I recognize visual – it come out our obligatory, compulsory, certificate eligibility, payment otherwise cut, what the motherfuck! And what gives! School are useful! What wonder!”
I laugh. “What visual these old fossil tap in the Land?”
“Remember hairy face get us watch “Saturday Night Fever”? Remember that old color? This fossil business, the man, fat little fuck, holo laser on him set to male lead star, and he augment up funny as fuck, look exact as slow fat-fuck John Travolta, dancing shaky with his dementoid woman, augment to film chick, who the fuck? No matter. They figured the sound solid. When the fossil talk, sound like John Travolta over their polyphonic.
“They work me in their scene, many hologram dancing, ass shaking to fossil disco all around; many, many, hologram, and I augment up as this waiter, this dancer, but fat-fuck John Travolta and his dementoid woman stay same. (I can call me film assistant/actor in the Land now!) Business get me pouring their drink – still need raw meat moving stuff, hologram or no. You know this nostalgia scene?”
“I know, similar.”
“After John Travolta we are in other old color in fossil business love room. Special role for me: Sunshine, I are actor! Sunshine, no humbug! French job, must be 100-year-old color. Actors old, old fames. Dementoid fossil woman scan over, augment up famous Frenchie actor woman. She augment pretty good under holo, motherfuck, like film goddess. So I are debonair French lover, bang her business, and her husband come in with ‘How could you do this to me!’ That their scene. Hologram woman beautiful, Sunshine, but real body under like glue! What a boy gotta stand still for!” Me and Pinky laugh, scope, flicking ash.
“Top-end nostalgia job,” Pinky say. “That the business. They checking out with plenty in the bank. Them last one want me regular. They bank it good, too. Soon, I off the curb.”
Viking sidle up to know laugher.
Pinky flash disco move, and me and Viking start little dance then Viking and me spar boxer style, it funny as I can eat little Viking, but in our spar are backing away wanting mercy. We pull it in for the business, scope.
That are when this client river up in drone, smooth grey pebble you know are well-fitted. Androgynous es, top-percentile type, alight. Esser age unreadable, lifted to pass thirty I say, motion easy, no rush. Es wear no glass, no kind of headset, none of the crude Land wear, but you know es are well-wired. Es are thin, pale skin perfect, tight cotton top so lumps indeterminate, real leather black shoe, relaxed like rich, smile, small talk us, all three, give top-end herbal smoke then es pick me, and I think both Viking and Pinky jealous because es that quality usual best client.
I get in drone, but thinking you never know with top percentile type. Recollect young woman from high end, pick me out the Land, and we end up hers and she give me orange juice, ask how is? And I say, okay, had better. Then this female business pluck music from the Land she make, her authentic own, and ask, how is? And I say, okay but not my beat. Then this female she, she crash hard. What!?! She default to boo hoo hoo, like ma and pa infarcted and dead. Why? Because I not act like her regular fabbed up Land friend, manga algorithm talking, telling you lovely, lovely for all you say, lovely lovely for all you share, do. I are meant say orange juice great and her music great, great, great, but I say not this – she not use to real meat thinking, feeling, not use to a live one – so she collapse on floor, boo hoo baby, sucking her thumb, and I laugh, pat her head with “There, there, your orange juice lovely, your music lovely, because you lovely, lovely, lovely.” Twenty full minute I tell her how lovely she are, how great, as per standard algorithm discourse appropriateness, till her thumb outs her mouth, and I give her the sensual, tender, sensitive and safe service – cork raw virgin ham nasty and animal on floor.
Other top 1 percentile like the es that day, wired from cradle to high-end Land – they think it and it turn on, think it and it turn off – sometime, freak business possible. You think civilized, they a graceful, top-end neo-human, want to show raw boy high culture, but then, just as like, after Beethoven and lesson in red wine understanding, they order you pull down pant and bog right in their civilized face, them wallow in organic reality of it all – that their idea of raw, authentic, interfacing and primeval connectivity. Unreal what a boy stand still for. Flat right nasty is what.
I sit direct across from this es business in pebble, feel not us moving at all, asphalt highway river, gliding smooth under this pebble, console dim yellow, many light blink twitch science to control. I no worry about immediate payment with this one, so I go fondle, but this business push me away (polite style) so I no figure this action at all, just as can’t figure hole or tassel action groin wise neither.
Es ask what my scene, what I want plasma inside pebble as we leave my sector. Whatever, I say, and es leave raw scene through window, all flyover roller coast and many big plasma advertising god and goddess, fifty meter high, cover building, hologram up beside flyover too, hawking fried chicken and insurance, like all world’s color sucked into them and city leftover grey.
Not all plasma are selling. There are new government plasma too, now everywhere, what gives? Community information. First visual, nasty Sieg Heil! with evil Adolf and his mindless drone gang saluting and word “IGNORANCE” under. Next visual: miserable victim; many, many, skinny naked dying ones, prodded and pushed. Writing “IS CRIME” under.
Funny how you want love and believe big city plasma. Recollect gaze out pebble window, I are six-year-old, river over flyover, ma and fa, strong kid memory, plasma far in grey city, big, not as now, but big city height, and fa reach back one arm put headset on me, first time I remember, wink at ma, and sudden fifty-meter high goddess mile and mile away, far distant, walk toward our rivering car, walk over five-storey building, then this giant shrink down, step into your pebble, smile, stand on your thigh, size of cat and ask your name and say, “Jimmy, are you thirsty? Would you like refreshing blue cloud slush?” Then other god, far, far, in the wild grey, more tall, 10-storey high, leap over grey city height toward, basketball like orange moon spinning on giant finger, shrink and enter your pebble small size, on thigh with, “Jimmy! You play ball? You be there tonight?” And your kid brain think this whole city belong me! But in age you know all glass and headset got such algorithm and city belong them, not you.
We are there. No seam ride, not at building but there. Step out pebble in esser garage Land scene – plasma up Japanese rail station with exit here and crowd swarm there and the business smile at me, it are funny joke to have all that noise and bustle in your dock when regular suburban plasma go are underwater ambience, Swiss Alp or barking mutt on grass so we are all forget sick city murk.
I head through black exit illusion, downways step.
Essers den are tasteful top end, must be fifty storey up, raw wide window sky scene direct on city: sick yellow, red, grey sky, many city tower black; some make, reflect plasma color, flyover river many pebble and stone and boulder wherever. Simple leather couch, two facing, with such fishbowl view. I sit, see kitchen, simple, wide wood table, wood bench. The business ask my drink and whisper and move finger – es wired up angelic – and cooler clap out tomato juice in clear glass for me. Es take water manual, pour for esself, sit opposite.
“Do you like the scene?” es ask, waving essers hand over raw visual. I notice sky bit sicker than usual, more heavy red. Then I see clear comic book filth cloud shape puff out distant, ancient chimney. Then I see one vulture flying close, point at it and laugh, it being more humor to augment this filth world even badder, when usual drone owner type go for blue sky dove.
I give my name, Sunshine, and this business laughed now, too, as we match humor. Es amused when I say I got to scan for blood filth, consent jolly. Es clean and paid over grip. But I can’t still figure essers action, hole or tassel or both.
“The action?” I ask.
“I’m all about questions,” es say straight, and I wonder.
Question equal death on street. If you on fizz, drop guard, they can know you in the Land, and if they know you there, they can wear you skin out in raw world. Pretty soon, Sunshine are eight-foot tall illegal from Africa, Russia, paid up special. Then they come after who can verify real me, who can say the African, the Russian not real Sunshine. Whole group can be worn, and who would care if Universal type like us end up organ ploughed in ditch – “No liver, no kidney in this one,” say one law and order to another.
“Won’t be narrowed, sorry,” I say.
“Narrowed?” The es no see.
“Get my full shape in the Land, favorite book, favorite color, date of birth, mother maiden name, and break down all guard. You a nice hermaphrodite, but you narrow me like that clumsy as fuck.”
“Oh, narrowed. Yes, I can see, but these questions aren’t the kind. Pure hypothetical questions.”
“Like questions for thinking. Sunshine, can I be honest? A person like me is curious about a young man like you. There’s the Land, but people don’t want real talking in the Land and are afraid. I don’t want your identity. I want to play a game. There’s no winner or loser.”
“Let me give an example. What do you think, does this exist?”
Then it begin. Around the plasma window of essers fishbowl apartment raw scene of city fade, and window plasma up fabbed up world. Many underwater kind beast many, many, big head and leg plenty, switch color fabulous. Es call water beast “cuttlefish.” At this point, I are aware I feel too happy. I never fizz with the business, but I feel fizzed like this business got me in air vent or electromagnet hooked up special … maybe just tomato juice … but knowing I are fizzed help not. They pitched this fizz special; I feel too good and want play dumb game.
“Not real,” I say. “Cuttlefish? Must be joke.”
“Never real?” the business press.
“Never … fuckin thing,” I fizz giggle hard. “Never. Made outta tofu in sushi stand. Never was animal changing color such a way. Some brainiac fab it up special in the Land. Course.”
Next, this business plasma all round ant, many, many, too many, they all over apartment window and ceiling and floor, hologram lifting off surface and swarm us, all over hand and face, and I giggle at such beasty running over me with the big leaf twice their size, wriggle to be in such a scene.
“Real or not real? What do you think, Sunshine?”
“They real. Seen it raw, killed it organic in two finger.”
Next are human swarming building super high, scaffold everywhere, constructing – old-school shot – but they fab them up too. Twisty to think over.
“I think real.”
“How would you know?”
“Everything we build raw back when, bare hand, in the beginning.”
And on it go, and I love this game on account I are fizzed for sure, love it though knowing somehow the business channel digging to me in the Land, narrowing me for freak purpose beyond knowing, but I keep play earnest, give my best answer to many, many, many question: dinosaur not real and Godzilla not real; man overcooking world not real; volcano overcooking world real; moon landing real but perfect blue sky with bright rainbow never real, and unicorn and rhinoceros real, but I change my mind that one.
On I go, answer follow up question, with the why and why so, knowing essers many question getting closer, me thinking under this special fizz: this a diablo hermaphrodite already got my face, guess my sector from my curb, got bank detail from grip, finger print all over essers mortar, figure all password of my Land guard some way with essers many twisty question, many, many, and claim my raw ass in the Land. But I enjoy anyway. Special pitched fizz for sure.
Sudden as fish gasm, the end. Es thank me, lead me to fabbed Tokyo station where stone are, and I are happy though knowing my raw meat cooked, happy, and I get into essers pebble to river me back to curb (zap me too if I no alight promptly – no doubt taser set nasty in pebble, this business being so civilized). Es wave, as pebble coasters out, me waving back at my doom maker like I fizzed brain Infarction, idiot happy, grateful es set essers stone for me to command entertainment.
Inside pebble, I lean back happy with European football, all holo-up off the wall. Half-hour done, stone stop with thank you sir, you are now at … hoping you enjoyed the ride … and I are on curb with idiot smile, see Viking playing far corner, but Pinky no there, no doubt on business.
Viking sidle up, I feel this diablo fizz bubble down, flat, and my raw feeling come on, kicking anxious in my heart, so I feel like puking, all sickness and worry that this fizz synapse infarcted, erupting now. I can bare breathe. Viking, gentlest I know, looking me hard.
“You good, Sunshine? Nasty business?”
“My raw meat narrowed, I think,” I heave, spit on tarmac. “Serve me with carrot and cabbage, my raw meat cooked good.”
Viking are cool, scratch head thoughtful. He are goofiest, but his funny brain sometime pick best.
“I tap Pinky,” he say, pull his grip, one tap, our special meeting point if trouble.
Me and Viking head down under flyover, under and under, with many rock, stone and pebble humming above, past mesh factory fence, cement side sloping down, till we in our special low place beside filth green brook where swamp life fizz. We pull joint each, only herbal tobacco, so if we get visualed they think we are there with lowly low ones, fizzing, and not planning or scheming, such fizzing being a low, low regrettable next to scheming, a deeply troubling.
Viking find plastic box crate by emerald filth brook to sit, and I stand and puff. High up, I see Pinky clopping down.
“Oh man,” Pinky say, pulling up, pulling real joint. “Shit a boy stand still for. This business! Why the tap, what glides?”
“Sunshine think he got narrowed,” Viking say.
I fill in Pinky about the business. For me it are spicy, me knowing Viking and Pinky very well, real name, family, birthday, all you need start narrowing in the Land. If the business today get me in the Land, maybe they will no delete my raw ass immediate, but get me telling all on friends, whole group, and soon many high-end diabetic type happy with new kidney or what gives and – whatever we make you stand still for.
For one moment Pinky cool hard look me, like he know he should delete me personal, raw, right there, but I got a sharp bit a plastic inside jacket, and I fight good and Pinky turn away, erasing it, but I know thought flashed.
Off sick green brook, building plasma from high road mirror up, and I notice the reflect, “IGNORANCE” with Sieg Heil visual, “IS CRIME” with victim visual, and it make me uneasy, even after brook reflect goddess with honey fig shampoo.
“Tell specific, what es ask, this business?” Pinky say.
I run through many question, explain. Pinky look over at Viking, confused, and hiss, “They narrow you on question like that?” He flick ash, stare up bankment roadways like they already coming over the top with three top-end illegal wanting nice, young eyeball.
“What you say to dinosaur real or no real?” Pinky ask. His question annoy me; I are anxious. “Who gives? What acting, how getting the peace acting when they fucking alway with – unfortunately, due to various, possessing inadequate information for processing procedural, you a valued customer, thank you for your patience, deeply sorrowful for bereavement at such challenging, we are passionate about – whatever the fuck time-waste algorithm, as we get pancreas raped raw! Who we know, understand this narrow, are the thing,” I say. Pinky and Viking are silent moment.
“What you say anyway? What you think, Viking?” Pinky ask. “Maybe there are right and wrong answer, and we need knowing.”
“I think dinosaur real,” Viking say, scratching head. “I heard real.”
“No.” Pinky say, flicking ash. “They fab that up. You think Godzilla running over raw scene are real? Foolish. What else, Sunshine,” Pinky press, curious. We all curious as how this narrow can work.
“Dolphin picture. Bit-by-bit dolphin change to man on plasma. Fin go, leg grow. Then monkey picture. Bit-by-bit monkey change to man on plasma. Hair go, brain grow. Which our real beginning.”
“What you pick?” Pinky ask, flicking ash and the “IGNORANCE” “IS CRIME” again bounce back off filth brook.
“Monkey,” I say.
Pinky nod. “Stands thinking. Course.” He look at own two hand. “We the monkey, that I know. You should see the business today!” Pinky laugh like snarl. “We are monkey for sure!”
“Never so simple,” say Viking. “I hear dolphin are out lake and split over hundred year, thousand year ago, and on left split to monkey and on right split to human. Best answer, we come from dolphin because we come from sea original. Many year ago – maybe a hundred, a trillion.”
Pinky flick joint ash. “What else?” he hiss angry, trying to figure this game, how it channel, but can no grab the angle.
“Sky. Sky ever pure blue. Business plasma up pure, beauty deep blue, see the moon silver, cloud like angel pillow and rainbow. Possible raw scene?” Pinky laugh and I follow.
“Course augment,” Pinky say. “Not real.”
“I can’t know,” Viking say. Me and Pinky look each other.
“What fizz you on?” Pinky snarl. “Sky perfect blue like god fab it up? Jet black night and we see thousand twinkle, twinkle, and Jesus skimming over the sea picking up fish for Santa Claus. Foolish.”
“I can’t know,” Viking say again. “When I was kid, I saw in rich sector sky like that.”
“What else?” Pinky ask me, disgusted at Viking believing.
“Car pebbles. Once animal or no? Like, old-school beginning of plane are bird, yeah? Wing on real animal equal wing on machine. So car, one time a four wheel animal.”
“What animal?” Pinky ask.
“Business show four-wheel crab, move like car on sand. Inside crab head is wheel for steering, and steering is small master crab. Like man steer horse, little master crab steer big dumb four-wheeler crab.”
“No! No!” Pinky laugh hard, shake head. “Car pure machine, alway. Never like four-wheel animal use for model. That some shit fab fantasy - little crab steer four-wheeler crab!” Pinky laugh more, spit. He light up again, this time cigarette. “I no believe man ride horse neither,” he say soft. “That fabbed up in the Land for old-school cowboy entertainment, as per.”
“I can’t know,” Viking say, thinking, slow thorough. “Follow. Spider drone from spider. Clear. Copter drone from insect thing. Clear. We see pigeon wing and plane wing. Clear. Little smart crab operate big dumb four-wheel crab, I think real. Wheel idea; little animal operate big animal idea; human take idea. Then human make, operate pebble. Human and car like one animal. Like old school man ride horse, they one animal, and fly into war and glory, they say. Everything come from somewhere.”
Pinky shake head all angry, but can no way stop giggle at mind sight of man on horse flying into war glory, and I too, though anxious at my narrow, must giggle. We stare at plasma bouncing off sick brook; latest pebble gliding through grey city sick, but happy family enjoy plasma augment of organic mountain rustic goodness astonishing opportunity for freedom life.
“Anything else?” Pinky ask.
“Many, many,” I say. “Business show perfect fruit, apple, orange, many, many. Shape natural or human made? And where from, and color and smell organic or what gives.”
“I seen perfect fruit visual,” Pinky growl nasty. “All nice shape and color. That fabbed up! They pull smooth beauty fruit like that from ground?”
“How else apple and banana?” Viking protest funny. “You think they born from metal can? I seen nice round shape. I seen curl shape banana one time, smell sweet organic wholesomeness for all. Nature like that once. Honey drip all natural, not fabbed, shampoo drip all natural, not fabbed, beautiful fruit real!”
“Viking,” Pinky say, shrewd, “you live in the Land even after you take off glass in raw world, believing all that are fabbed. Think now. Think metal. They no pull can-opener, fork, straight from ground. They pull metal bit, many many bit, bit here, bit there, then they shape for fork, can-opener. Apple are likeways. The old-school farmer pull from tree and ground bit stuff here, bit stuff there, blend and shape and make apple. Shape banana, pineapple, strawberry with farmer craft. Nowaday, brainiac shape even more good, add more color and smell, right nice. Shampoo juice no fall off tree raw in bottle, no? Bottle is made. What glides? You think apple can out ground, off tree raw, already red, already green, sweet smell, shape all nice, like top-end product? Can you pull nail clipper, scissor, knife straight from ground? You pull right metal bit from earth then blend are the rule.”
“Maybe one time nail-clipper, scissor come straight from ground, no human fabbing,” Viking argue back, sulk.
Pinky shake his head in disgust. We are quiet moment.
“So what you say, Sunshine done?” Pinky ask Viking anyway. “Narrowed by this shit, or what gives and glides?”
I are anxious. Even though Viking got fantastic thinking, we listen.
“Sunshine not narrowed,” Viking say, like he are sure and it are official.
“How knowing?” Pinky ask, looking hard with his two slit eye at Viking, still sitting on crate.
“That business top-end, half-hour over bridge, skin you for liver? That low-end business. Work you for one illegal? Too low-end. Top ender like that only narrow you for slave action, delete and possess, but this business bring no freak scene down. No. Can no narrow that way with hypothetical. No favorite shoe, favorite song, birthday; no way to pass your guard in the Land. Another game, for sure.”
And again filthy brook mirror up visual, “IGNORANCE” then “IS CRIME,” and we are silent then Viking say, thinking, staring at sick green water mirroring vitamin biscuit and man Adonis, “You think they jail us for being dumbass? Possess our young raw meat legal?”
Again we are quiet, thinking, and Viking add, thoughtful, “This business figuring life outside the Land are all, figuring raw life. Maybe okay. This business only need knowing for book or report,” Viking say gentle.
“For the identity,” Pinky hiss nasty. “Alway, in end, alway. Delete your ass, take kidney, liver, heart and whatever follow more like – nasty ass fuck optional extra before chop, chop, chop. Stuff a boy stand still for. Outright nasty business.”
Soon we break off, me feeling bit anxious, but not terrible bad as before, because whatever this business want are beyond regular thinking. It was from above, where no thing you can act, just go with, and when you cooked, you cooked, and beside I already lived plenty, plenty, my raw ass already seen plenty, plenty in the Land and raw, both way, enough and done.