Every Body Is More Than Human
by Andrew S. Taylor
“I can revive you, sir. The rest of your life awaits you. Please, your name and identification?”
The Battery Man towered over me as the falling snowflakes disappeared into his crisp blue uniform. I said nothing. I was alone in the park and I was running low. I needed his energy. Hunched over, sitting on the ground by the frozen fountain, I was no doubt as pale as the snow accumulating around me. From the distant edges of the park, cones of yellow light beamed from skyscrapers as they rose up into the electric orange of the city fog.
The Battery Man opened the palm of his left hand and service hoses shot out from it like a nest of serpents, plugging into the stem-ports at the back of my neck. I felt the irises in my eyes dilate as my body warmed. He leaned forward and placed his chiseled face in front of mine.
“What brings you out into the cold, alone? It’s Christmas.” His pink face looked fleshy and clean-shaven, even as the rest of his rigid body hummed.
I could not answer him. What brings me here? Everything, and nothing. The fact that my eyes and ears are second-hand or third-hand. The fact that my brain and vital organs were used and abused by others before they were discarded. The fact that, because of my poverty, I cannot afford my self.
The hoses weighed against my shoulder, smelling of disinfectant.
“Thank you,” I said, staring at the tips of his shiny boots. “But I’m not worth it.”
“You would have run down soon. In this cold, your systolic pumps would have seized up within minutes. Then the brain goes out-” he snapped his free hand, “-like that.” A smile played about his lips. The hand hovered with artificial stillness before slowly returning to his side.
I shrugged. “I came here to die. I’ve always liked Central Park,” I had not actually intended to die, but I decided at that moment that I would say I had, and that I would believe it.
“To die? Whatever for? What about your family? Your shareholder’s pod? Your workers’ collective?”
I said nothing. I had nothing. These associations had already kicked me out due to my recidivist insolvency. But if I told him that I would not be left alone. I would spend the week in prison. I hoped he hadn’t already scanned for my rap sheet on the sly.
“They won’t miss me,” I said.
Memories of wildebeests grazing on a plain sparked through my consciousness as he juiced me up. A cheap memory upgrade hadn’t been properly wiped. It sent me flashes of the Serengeti when my power fluctuated. Sometimes, I would reflexively blink dust from my eyes in a strong city wind.
I gripped the Battery Man by his arm. Organo-steel cords flexed taut beneath his coat. I shivered. It felt like first-rate tech. I pulled him down towards me and pressed my face next to his.
“Who am I? African? German? Woman? Mechanic? Where was I born? What was my name? I can’t afford an answer.”
A translucent banner ad for hovercar insurance floated by, superimposed over my field of vision. Such disturbances are the cost of running so much free software.
“Your name is Stanley Gormless,” said the Battery Man.
I nodded. I’d bought the cheap ident from an illegal street vendor some time ago.
“I am not human,” I said. He was pumping me full, more than necessary. It overwhelmed me.
“Of course you’re human!” he said. “You’re more than human! Every Body Is More Than Human.” He recited the corporate logo of our people, the Northeast Corridor Clan.
“Every Body…is more than human.” I echoed. I sank forward into his arms as memories bubbled to the surface, riding the waves of energy. I remembered my father, pushing me on a swing, and I flew up and saw the treetops sway beneath my red sneakers, my long hair whipping in whorls around me. The swing snapped and I swooped downwards, strapped into a roller coaster with dozens of laughing children, and then a moment later I screamed as the passenger jet plunged into the ocean. And then I made love, as a woman, to a man in a cheap hotel where I was a pleasure device for rent, my skin covered in tattoos which hid the connective ports on my arms and legs – but this time I held him down and pushed him underwater until the ocean filled me and I fell again, laughing. An instant later I silently glided over a city slum, where I was a surveillance drone coldly watching as rugged children played and fought over scraps of metal.
“There is no end to life, only transformation,” said the Battery Man as I clung to his lapels.
I finally understood. He wasn’t here to help me. I’d heard rumors, but I hadn’t believed them before. When did they start doing this? For as long as anyone can recall, the Battery Men stood on our corners, keeping watch, protecting us, refueling or repairing us when emergencies occurred.
Now, they salvage.
I pushed my hands towards his face but they passed through him like a cloud.
“Tsk, tsk, tsk….” he said tauntingly, “I’ve already paralyzed your spinal cord.” He smiled. My visual cortex now just showed the movements my mind wanted to make happen. Even still, I put my hands around his neck and squeezed. I could almost feel it.
The Battery Man dissolved, though his smile lingered for a moment longer, in dead space. Central Park depleted and unwound. The tension in my hands dissipated, followed by the hands themselves. A string of ads and surveys appeared. A distant chorus of singing voices. Silent Night. Stillness and calm. I would once again lose myself in world’s data-flow. The children playing in the rubble. The prostitute. Brief individuals, each enjoying their moment in sunlight.
We are, after all, more than human. We are currency.
Andrew S. Taylor’s fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, The Dream People, Pindeldyboz, Menda City Review, Thieves Jargon, Underground Voices, Word Riot, and many other publications. His novella “Swamp Angels” was included in the anthology Needles & Bones from Drollerie Press. After years of writing in an experimental or magical realist mode, he is making a new foray into science fiction, beginning with this story. Links to his other stories can be found here. He is a recent graduate of Fordham University School of Law, and lives with his wife in Long Island City, NYC.