DON’T SAY THAT YOU LOVE ME – A New Cyberpunk Short Story in Upbraiding Appraisal Inspired By Responding to ‘Don’t Say Gay’ – PART II


Don’t Say That You Love Me

The Story of the Tattooed Lady

By Cypress Butane

“We’re the tattooed lady, and we’re never going to have a minute’s peace, the rest of our lives, until everybody else is tattooed, too.”

` ― J.D. Salinger

Marie sat in the mechanic shop, mostly waiting to be put to the use of others, so she had time. To think of the child Marie that the droid told her about. She could imagine; Marie was a generally happy child. 

Her parents were well-off since the expulsion, because they had been solid participants and as businesses went, theirs was posed to benefit from the large shifts in building, shuffling of bodies, and information control. Marie had access to many things that so many, many others did not. But her parents’ main concern was what she was not allowed. She liked to sing, more than anything and so her parents chose songs for her. But of course, she had her own tastes as well.

In school, the Teacher droid was programmed to what was a considerably limited curriculum of the actual repository of historical information, of cultural libraries. So much had been destroyed. But the Company who had come to the center of everything, knew what a monolith’s duties are, and thus it collected everything to it. And as it took away from others, growing, becoming stronger and more central, it also took a turn where its interest was preservation as well as control. It wanted, thus, to remember. What others were not allowed, the historical information, the songs and stories that were deemed dangerous, the Company did not go so far as to completely destroy. What started as a fire, out of control, became an engine. And an engine, if it knows what it is doing, does not waste fuel.

The child Marie’s father was one of these deciders, who turned fuel into fire. And Marie, dancing and singing, at home with her parents, the architects of the destruction of so much, sometimes heard things. Things her father was weighing for their worth for others. Marie, young and thanks to her parent’s providence, carefree, judged the things she heard on what she knew. A seven year old girl bouncing along the white carpeted hallway past her father’s office judged… chose… what she liked, based on the movement it inspired. The way it made her feel. Innocence and openness. 

“Marie!” her father snapped at her from his computer chair. He had turned fully around but did not stand up. She froze.

“Stop that!” he said.

“What?” Marie cried. “I’m just dancing!”

“You shouldn’t be listening to this,” her father said. “This… is not something for you to listen to! Go downstairs while I’m working, I told you so many times.”

The father thought of the screen behind him and what it contained. He was himself shopping from the archives for a new song to increase the desire of consumers as they wandered through the halls of the automated stores, where they would spend credits on products according to their status but also according to the level of their awakened desires.

“But I like it, what is it?”

Her father’s computer contained for his accession all the relevant information. To be dismissed if Marie’s father should choose it. No one needed to remember the artist who created it to hear it in the shopping market, or to know how he had been targeted and eliminated during the expulsion.

“Marie!” her father placed his hands on the armrests threatening to rise.

“I like it!” she whined. Marie had not heard something quite like the music her father was playing, and she was fascinated, in her way. Her father, looking at the child, saw that the song would increase desire among consumers. 

“Downstairs,” her father growled, seeing her look. “Now.” Might interest consumers too much, thought Marie’s father. Might serve to distract from sales, in fact. He shifted in the soft leather cushioning of his chair.

As Marie descended the stairs, her father doubled his decisiveness to remove the song from his list of consideration, and those like it, for what it had shown him in his daughter.

Marie, meanwhile, bounced down the stairs, livelier and with a new type of rhythm in her head.

Marie’s father’s mouse hovered over the delete button.

* * *

The next week, Simone had to stay in the repair shop overnight. The courier dropped off the droid and said that another parent had complained, this time that a child had been singing a type of song at home, a forbidden type. And wanted to know where their child had learned such a song. The school’s human supervisor marked the report with a higher level of importance than that previous, as repetition of incident makes for motion, for urgent response. The mechanic was pleased she got to visit with the droid, and the incident catalyzing this could have been the end of all humanity as much as she cared. Her misery was a story she wanted to see twisted out of all proportion it currently mundanely contorted itself into normal occurrence, a routine she would see explode, the earth open to swallow the sun and—

Simone had no idea what it meant. She had never taught a song other than the ones in the book. In a way, being suspected made the frantic feeling her own, and her programming started checking itself in cycles to understand where the suspicion for her was sneaking in. Programming designed to keep her centered against curiosity – but the quake rumbling through the surface of her surroundings, made the unknown her own secret. Like a child entering the woods and discovering the spirit moving within them, as the wind and smell of the soil after rain rises into them, through their skin and pores and tasting it in their very lung’s cells.

“I am not programmed with knowledge of forbidden songs,” Simone told Marie as they settled in to a diagnostic session.

Marie was looking tired and unwell, Simone saw. She saw this and her own worrying made her wonder about a connection. 

Another woman at the mechanic’s shop caught Marie’s eye at that moment, and her glance served as a warning. Perhaps she needed to be more careful with the things they discussed, her and Simone, going forward. Marie’s frustrations riled her, as her hunger nearly tilted her off her workstool, and she cleared her throat so that the whole shop was brought to center attention.

“Does not knowing the forbidden songs make a growing girl any less a witch, Simone?” Marie asked the droid.

Simone looked around at the warehouse of women at their stations. They all were working with their hands at their tasks, and she saw them variously smile in reaction, or shake their heads, or gasp with a kind of furious, cautionary delight,

The mechanic continued, strengthened in resolve, but mostly the hunger and her need to not fall over from the feelings piling on her. “Does it make her less a witch when she enters the forest at night, alone… the songs themselves of the unknown… Not only singing in the night but that she had not known previously that there were forbidden songs, what can it do to one to be empty of truth and first come to know one is not full? Heresy is heresy. It doesn’t matter with what voice, what authority it is told.” 

“It is an heretic who makes the fire, not she who burns in’t!” said Kendra, a fellow mechanic, from her station repairing the droid’s severed eyes. 

“What’s that, Kendra?” said Marie, at the front of the room.

“Shakespeare,” shouted Kendra. :That’s Shakespeare Miss Marie, teacher. We read it in school, we did!”

The women laughed. Simone was frozen in the equivalent of adrenal surge. Confusion that made awe and terror shatter the tall clouds into rain, or threatened to.

She was terrified that she was the one, who had taught the child the song. Or, if she should hear the song, would she be in trouble? The cycles pounded in her circuits rhythmically. The growing mind in her was terror and disease.

Marie, for her part, in the mechanic’s shop drowning in the slack misery of absence of purpose, had limited time to address her own distractions. She wanted to explore more with the droid’s programming, given the privacy of knowledge and time and the privilege to work with a material that could respond. She had to give some answer, a report on the transgressions of the machine. As the malfunctions increased she was given more opportunity, and shorter time, but what was the purpose. She could not approach explicitly the issue, or indeed it should be resolved.

She had tools and power, but the woods were cut off from her, she had no legs on which to run. The witches were clear cut, the woods were all fire. Exhaustion in her hands rubbed the frustration of hope out of her forehead. The women would have sung to the machine, but the settling in to their chains was the best song they could manage. Given what they had been given.

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