Back Stage

Back Stage

by Mario Milosevic

Look, if you can. I see you trying.

My parents had some strange ideas. Crowdsourcing me was probably their worst.

All done online. Wasn’t everything in those days? They had a list of things patrons could pay for: my diapers, my shots, a crib. Bigger things, too: braces, because every kid needs braces, right? And even bigger: you could sign up to pay for a year of college. I never went, but then, no one paid that much for me anyway.

You keep glancing away. I’m the monster on the edge. The one people don’t want to know exists.

But I do exist.

There are laws against what my parents did. Now. Not then. For ponying up some cash for my upbringing, the patrons were allowed to tweak my genes before I was even conceived. Can you imagine the kind of monsters my parents had to be to allow this? Just to save some money?

No, I don’t see them anymore. Yeah, I know where they are. Don’t care.

Sure, sure, my parents had last approval. They were supposed to make sure any tweak was acceptable. The public tried to load me up with super-human abilities. Tried to tweak the piano playing gene, the athletic ability gene, the intelligence gene, the good-looking gene. Not that there are specific genes for all of those things, but you get the idea. I was all about probabilities you see.

There you go again. My mouth too ugly for you? The way it moves sideways when I emphasis a word? The slobber that drips out in strings? Can’t help that. Maybe you don’t have the stomach for this interview. My audience does. They love me. Or pretend they do.

I can give you a few more minutes.

You all ask the same questions. Did you know that? Do you have any idea how many interviews like this I’ve done? Way too many to count.

You all want to know what it’s like being a monster.

You should ask my parents that.

The scaly skin can be a nuisance. Snags on clothes and makes a constant clicking sound as I move. Never got used to that. The tail I could certainly do without. Just gets in the way. It’s three freaking feet long. The face is the worst. People see the face and they recoil. Hide.

See, some sadistic folks got into the crowd sourcing thing that made me. Specifically one sadistic screw up.

After I was born, after the horror of what they had created sunk in, my parents went back over the patrons. Found the guy who snuck in the tweaks that made me what I am. Some creep who got tired of breaking into databases and thought he’d mess with the ultimate data: DNA. My DNA. He concocted stealth subroutines of DNA that hid what he was actually up to. Wrote over much of what other donors had put in. Sick guy. For the privilege, he paid for my first year of baby clothes. Cheap thrills for him.

I tell you, sometimes, when my ugly red nose gets to running and my blue snot stains my shirt and my three eyes well up with tears and my giant ears droop down with sadness, I think about how good it would feel to kill him. I’d make it real slow, you know. Torture him, like.

Yeah, my fantasies tend to the violent. No point in having erotic ones. Who would want to mess around with me, you know? I’m already so totally messed up.

For some, it’s the hands. So big. Don’t know what the guy was thinking there. Some big joke, maybe?

You keep asking about my parents. I’ve told you, I don’t see them.

Yes, they avenged me. So what? Too little too late.

What? Their sentence? Don’t you even know that? It was 20 to life. The hacker they killed, the guy most responsible for making me, they sure took care of him. Tore him to pieces. Turned him into a pile of—well, I don’t need to go into that. Parental love in action. Vengeance can be so pure.

I suppose I could make myself love them for that. A little. But it’s hard.

There, now you’re looking at me. I’m not so bad, am I? Here’s my hand. Feel it. It’s not soft, not with all that encrusted keratin all over it, but it does have a certain—elegance. Don’t you think?

Yeah, it’s heavy. During my act, I drop it on a brick. My fans love it when the brick crumbles to bits. Gets them every time.

Let me stop you right there. Freak show is an outdated term. I like to think of myself as a mythic beast putting on an epic one-monster show. Way more dignified.

That’s the one minute bell. I have to go out on stage now. You going to stay for the show?

You’ll love the end. I get down on all fours and I growl at the world that made me. I hired a writer to do the speech for me. She was good. It’s like poetry. An ode to madness and the cruelty of fate. I get them crying then. Before, they’re just repulsed and fascinated. I get that. Makes sense.

But the finale. Oh, when I call down the furies to avenge me and my violated dignity, there is not a dry eye in the house.

Not even any of mine.


Mario Milosevic’s fiction has appeared in Analog, Asimov’s, Interzone, Hitchcock’s, F&SF, Fiction River, and many others. His novels include The Last Giant, Kyles War, and Claypot Dreamstance. He lives in Arizona.

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