art by M.S. Corley
by Andy Dudak
The 3877th instance of Fingal Reginald Boyd can't believe what he's hearing. He is the first instance of the Boyd-dissociation to be denied reintegration. The skull of his meat puppet, with its landscape of memory and regret, suddenly seems very small.
"I'm sorry," 3877 says. "Can you repeat that?"
"You're corrupted," obliges 4121, the latest Boyd-instance to inhabit the matter embassy orbiting high above. "Your meat puppet seems to have a virus that slipped past the screening process. You're riddled with it."
A virus: the improbable finality of it washes over 3877. He's trapped down here in this meat, with all the other baseline meat, with its diseases and brutality and societies. It seemed like such a jaunt only moments ago. 3877's rising panic brings a tickling of nausea. He drops the somatic connection with his meat puppet to avoid the unpleasant sensation. The meat, a young male, hangs in an interface hammock in a dingy puppet brothel. The puppet is bleeding and shivering and barely alive. 3877 put it through quite an ordeal in the name of Boyd's post-human ennui. It has certainly earned its fee.
"What kind of virus?"
"Nothing you'll ever feel," 4122 says. "It would only express if you reintegrated. Probably written by one of those laughable meat rebels."
"But surely it can be filtered out." 3877 is desperate now. "I've collected some novel experiences! We don't want to lose them!"
"Stop saying we. You're an outcast. You are no longer Boyd."