Chapter

22

You’ve been drifting so long that you’ve lost the ability to objectively judge time or depth or distance. It’s getting hard to think about yourself as an objectively limited being. The boundaries of your skin begins to thin and disappear. What is it that makes an individual an individual? Is it the physical space we occupy? The electric sparks that sizzle through our brain flesh? If your perception expands beyond the meat sack of your body, then are you really an individual anymore? Why shouldn’t we become gods? Why shouldn’t we become one God.

You scrunch up your nerdy face and furrow an eyebrow. It seems you aren’t enjoying this train of thought.

JOHN: why am i even THINKING about this bullshit??

Sorry, dude. That’s what’s on my mind right now. I’m having a phenomenological debate in my third ear that’s way more popping than your little hero’s journey into the belly of a quarter-life crisis.

JOHN: argh!

It turns out you don’t have time to worry about the voice inside your head, because you hear one outside of it. At first you don’t think it’s real. You think it must be an aural mirage. Then it calls you the fuck out.

MEENAH: yo blue guy

MEENAH: get the shell down here

Your whirl around, upside down. You look up, then down. There she is.

She’s clinging to a random server beacon, looking a little the worse for wear but still grinning. You float on down to greet her.

JOHN: thank god. i was beginning to think that no one else was alive.

MEENAH: im not alive

JOHN: oh right. sorry.

JOHN: i’m glad to see you, is what i meant to say.

MEENAH: same

MEENAH: i fuckin guess

She narrows her blank eyes. Her mouth twists into a frown. Not quite a concerned one, but close enough. You’ll take it.

MEENAH: i gotta say

MEENAH: damn buoy ya look like S)-(IT

JOHN: yeah, i know.

JOHN: i suffered a mortal wound, and then i threw up on myself.

JOHN: other than that, i’m ok though.

MEENAH: waterboat lord english

MEENAH: he bite the bullet or what

JOHN: yeah he’s...

JOHN: he’s pretty fucking dead.

MEENAH: whale

MEENAH: theres that at least

There is definitely that, at least. You both stare at each other for a pretty long time, and let it sink in. It’s a hell of a fact, no doubt. But aside from reaching verbal agreement on certain basic points of fact, you both realize you’re pretty much out of material. You were kind of hoping you’d discover a survivor you could have an actual conversation with. Not that you aren’t glad to see Meenah, but you don’t know her, and she’s not who you were really looking for.

That reminds you.

JOHN: hey, uh...

JOHN: mee...

JOHN: fish?

JOHN: (christ.)

MEENAH: meefish?

JOHN: no, i know that’s not your name.

JOHN: jesus christ. i’m sorry.

MEENAH: its meenah

JOHN: right. meenah.

JOHN: um.

JOHN: have you by any chance seen jade around?

MEENAH: who da fuck is jade

This is without a doubt one of the worst conversations you’ve had in many, many years. And you aren’t just thinking that because I’m telling you you are.

JOHN: well...

JOHN: she’s...

JOHN: i dunno.

JOHN: i mean, REALLY?

JOHN: you don’t know jade?

MEENAH: why the fuck you suppose im tight with some random ass ho

JOHN: jade’s like, a big deal?

JOHN: i thought you were kind of important too?

MEENAH: you didnt even know my name dog

JOHN: ugh.

You’ve never been accused of having stellar people-reading skills. But even you can tell the look on her face says it all right now.

JOHN: wait a minute.

JOHN: do you even know MY name?

MEENAH: uhhh

JOHN: this is a two way street you know.

MEENAH: nah

JOHN: nah, what?

JOHN: so you don’t know it?

MEENAH: like

MEENAH: joke?

MEENAH: joke somefin

JOHN: no!

JOHN: it’s john.

JOHN: joke is my biological father.

JOHN: i mean JAKE!

JOHN: jake is his name.

JOHN: dammit.

Halfway through this exchange, Meenah pulls out a small, clamshell-shaped accessory kit, and begins to file her nails. She almost dislocates her jaw by yawning the moment you mention Jake.

JOHN: alright, we’re veering off course.

JOHN: jade is my sister.

JOHN: i think she’s still out here, somewhere.

JOHN: have you seen her?

MEENAH: na man

Your entire body deflates. This is going nowhere. Turns out Meefish is fucking useless. You decide to do her, as well as yourself, the favor of completely ruling out the possibility of eliciting any valuable information from this person.

You exhale, and just let some stuff off your chest.

JOHN: man i...

JOHN: i just didn’t expect everything to go to shit so fast.

MEENAH: thats how the shit alwaves goes

JOHN: yeah, i guess.

JOHN: so... never mind jade. have you seen...

JOHN: any OTHER survivors? like, anyone at all?

MEENAH: nope

MEENAH: i aint moved from this floatin hunger trunk lookin piece of shit since i got my bass kicked

JOHN: well, you’re the first i’ve seen too.

MEENAH: oh

There’s another awkward silence. You spend most of it looking at your feet, until something occurs to you.

JOHN: so what’s your plan now?

MEENAH: plan

JOHN: yeah.

JOHN: you just gonna hang around here, in the middle of nowhere, doing nothing forever?

MEENAH: thats what ghosts is most good at aint they

JOHN: you don’t have to stay here.

JOHN: i can take you back with me, to my planet.

JOHN: i mean, after we’re done looking for more survivors.

Meenah stares at you for an uncomfortably long time. She looks you up and down, like she’s making certain calculations. On the one hand, spending infinity clinging to a fridge-like space computer circling a black hole sounds like a drag. On the other hand, will her coolness and street cred be able to survive any prolonged association with this dumb blue nerd? That’s what she could be thinking, you think. You hope not though, because if true, it would hurt your self-esteem.

She finally appears to make up her mind.

MEENAH: naaah

JOHN: why not?

MEENAH: ok for one thing genius

MEENAH: im dead

MEENAH: i wont even last on your planet ill just like

MEENAH: fade away or some shit

MEENAH: i dont know what happens to ghosts in real places actually but ima guess it goes somefin like that

JOHN: oh yeah.

JOHN: whoops, i forgot.

MEENAH: anyway while you was floatin there i came up with my own plan

JOHN: what is it?

MEENAH: cmere

MEENAH: gonna whisper it to you

JOHN: uh, ok.

You lean in rather credulously, and bring your ear toward her cupped hand.

MEENAH: (nerd)

You pull back, unamused by the prank. What is this, you think. Fucking amateur hour?

MEENAH: reel cute you wanna be my savior blue boy

MEENAH: but the fact is you already helped me out

MEENAH: got everyfin i need from you

MEENAH: sea ya round sucker! 38)

She’s laughing her ass off. Before you can react, she jams the button down on the beacon and opens the server. She jumps into the hatch and the door snaps closed behind her.

Oh, shit. I think I know what just happened. You might want to check your pockets.

JOHN: wait a...

JOHN: minute...

You fruitlessly fumble around in your front hoodie pocket.

JOHN: wait a fucking MINUTE!

Sure enough, it’s missing. The Ring of Life you stole back from Aranea has been re-stolen. Bitch just picked your pocket. You got played, man.

JOHN: fuck!

> ==>
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