Abyss & Apex : Second Quarter 2011: Trans by Paul Rogalus

Trans

Paul Rogalus

 

Parker walks up the dimly lit sidewalk and stops at a nightclub called Altered States, looking out of place in his leather jacket. He hesitates at the door and adjusts the packbox on his back, puts on his mirror shades, then enters. At the bar he orders a Potion 9 and a set of green beans. The bartender is bald and tough, with a goatee and no shades; he puts a metal cup of clear liquid and three green pills in front of Parker.

“Are you here for Trans?” he asks Parker.

Parker nods, then swallows the three pills. The bartender points to a larger, very low table off to one side of the bar. Several people sit around the table, all wearing sunglasses, watching some sort of action on the table.

Parker walks over to an empty spot at the table and takes off his packbox. He opens the box and pulls out a miniature replicant version of himself, six inches tall, well dressed, wearing a suit. He places the replicant on the table –which is relatively full of other, similarly sized replicant humans.

The man next to Parker, bearded, in a denim jacket, nods to him.

“How many versions you got?” he asks.

“Four. You?”

“Three,” the man answers, looking down at the table.

“Pretty quick transitions, eh?” Parker asks.

“Yeah. Somewhat. I have a friend who only has two. And it doesn’t take much—and he’s there at stage two. But then again—stage one is pretty much a beast for him also.”

“Mm.”

“He’s kind of shallow.” He looks back up at Parker. “Sometimes I think that’s the best way to be.”

Parker looks down at the table. “It’s the easiest anyway.”

On the table the miniature replicants dance to edgy guitar music and speak in a very musical but unintelligible language. On the far side of the table two replicant males are fighting over one female. One clearly wins the fight and walks off with the female to a box on the corner, apparently to have sex.

Parker’s replicant strolls about politely, stiffly, greeting everyone he sees cordially, but not really connecting with anyone.

Parker sighs and mutters to himself, “Well, I guess we need to speed things up.” He guzzles his drink, then turns to the bar and makes a series of finger gestures, like a catcher giving a pitcher signals with a runner on second base. The bartender brings another cup and pill combo. Parker downs the pills, and takes a swig. He snaps his fingers, and his replicant quickly walks back to him. Parker puts the replicant back in the packbox and pulls out another miniature version of himself, this one wearing more casual clothes, and with longer hair, more relaxed. Once placed on the table, this second version seems much more comfortable walking around mixing with other replicants.

At the far end of the table there is trouble. A shirtless, very hairy, primordial caveman of a miniature is screaming at all of the other replicants, savagely punching, kicking, and biting them at random. He pulls off his ragged pants and grabs his penis like a sword and starts chasing female replicants around with it. The bartender walks over to the table calmly and puts down a miniature version of himself—dressed exactly as the full-sized bartender—but this replicant is easily twice the size of any other miniature on the table. He quickly moves to the naked primordial replicant, grabs him by the neck and quickly, efficiently smashes his skull on the table, breaking it wide open, immediately killing him. The full-sized bartender disposes of the primordial’s body and wipes up the blood with a wet bar rag.

Parker’s newest replicant version is now on the table—wearing jeans, sneakers, and a tee shirt. He is chatting comfortably with a miniature female, wearing jeans and a nice blouse. The two replicants begin to dance together closely, and then mid-dance they kiss—at first cautiously, then passionately—groping, hot and heavy.

Parker scans the full-sized people sitting around the table. He spots the full-sized version of his replicant’s date—she is already looking at him—she’d been waiting for eye contact. She smiles. Parker smiles back and nods. He makes a series of finger gestures. The woman shrugs, smiles, and nods again. They both snap their fingers to retrieve their miniatures, who return at once and are quickly placed back into their packboxes. Parker and the woman both leave their places at the table and walk to the other side of the bar. They meet, and shake hands.

“Hello, I’m Parker.”

“Hi, I’m Angela.”

“That seemed to go pretty well in there. I think that this might really work.”

“Yeah, I think so. Let’s hope so. I haven’t had much luck lately.”

They walk to a small table against the wall, where a large man, somewhat similar in look and demeanor to the bartender sits, looking through a pile of note cards. He nods.

“Hello,” Parker says to him, pulling out his wallet. “We’d like to bond.”

The man looks up from his note cards. “Fine. Let’s have a look.”

Parker and Angela open their packboxes and pull out the two miniature versions that had danced together on the table. The large man at the table takes out a small, mechanical calculating device and waves it over the replicants, one at a time, listening to the series of low-pitched beeps emitted.

The large man shakes his head. “Nope. Sorry. No bond.”

“What do you mean—why not?” Angela blurts out.

“You can’t bond a level four with a level two. It just doesn’t work. And it isn’t allowed.”

Angela turns to Parker, incredulous. “That was your level four?”

Parker stammers, embarrassed. “Yeah. I thought that you were at least on level three. I’m a little . . . repressed, I guess. I . . . I’m sorry.”

“God damn it.”  Angela looks away in disgust.

The large man at the table makes a face. “Awk-ward,” he says.

“Hell, I’m going to level three now,” Angela says, turning back toward the Trans table. She stops, then turns politely back to Parker. “Oh, um, are you coming back to the table?”

Parker looks down. “No, it wouldn’t do any good. And I’m a little tired of the whole business anyway. I’m going to head home.”

“Okay.,” Angela says, relieved. “Well, I’m sorry it didn’t work out. But nice meeting you.”

“Yeah, yeah. It’s too bad. It’s . . . sorry.” Parker turns for the door, eyes still down.

Outside, Parker sighs and looks down the street. There are several bars and nightclubs that look very similar to Altered States. The large man from the bonding table steps outside and lights a cigarette.

“Tough break,” he says to Parker.

“Mm.” Parker looks farther down the street, where it’s darker. “What’s down there?” he asks.

The large man looks down the street, exhaling smoke from his nose. “Just about everything,” he says. “The outsiders, mainly.”

“Well, that sounds about right,” Parker says. “Thanks.” He starts walking toward the darkness on the outskirts.

“Hey,” says the large man, “if you’re headin’ that way, make sure you check out Oblivion. It’s a good place. They got replicant strippers there.”

“Thanks,” Parker says. He walks on, into the shadows.

 

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Paul Rogalus teaches English at Plymouth State University. His full-length play Crawling From the Wreckage was produced in New York City in February 2002 by the American Theatre of Actors, and his one act plays have been produced in New York, Chicago, and Boston. A chapbook of his micro-stories entitled “Meat Sculptures” was published by Green Bean Press in 2002.

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