Tsaro was the image, Tsaro was the shadow. During the hour-long commute into Osaka no less than seventeen people asked for his autograph, and when he transferred to a cab at the end of the line he could feel empty eyes squinting at him, searching for their reflections. An elderly lady congratulated him on his success right before Tsaro opened the door to the studio.
â€œThank you,â€ he said quietly. Tsaro was uncomfortable when people talked to him as the artist.
Inside the studio, Tsaro sat in front of the glowing mirror while a slender, apron-clad woman fidgeted over his face and hair. It didnâ€™t matter; heâ€™d be airbrushed out of recognition. They still needed a person as the shadow because a computer-generated image couldnâ€™t make live performances, but Tsaro had seen the wireframe of his face flicker across monitors in the maintenance chamber. One day, his face would be bars of light creating the illusion of three dimensions. One day, he wouldnâ€™t even be a shadow.
The woman nudged Tsaro out of the makeup chair and he shuffled slowly down the long hallway to the maintenance chamber. When the door slid open with a hydraulic hiss, the head technician glanced up from his control panel and smiled out of habit. Tsaro smiled back with the same polite vacancy as the halogen over the bluescreen gradually flickered to a solid white.
â€œReady?â€ the technician asked. Tsaro nodded. Around him, the eyes of seven other programmers lifted to judge his appearance, and a few nodded their approval. On the wall opposite the bluescreen, a large LCD display spooled the miles of code that made up the artist. Tsaro was not ready. Tsaro was never ready. He took his place behind the prop microphone and squinted until his eyes grew adjusted to the brightness.
The technicians had turned their attention back to the monitor, but Tsaro could feel the unseen eyes of millions of mislead fans. He closed his own to force them away, but they watched from the blackness behind his lids.
The first sound was thick with manufactured bass and the air in the room reverberated with a disembodied, re-embodied heartbeat. Beneath it, Tsaro could hear a symphony of keystrokes but he knew that none of the technicians were creating the sound. The sound belonged to the artist. In the maintenance chamber, everything belonged to the artist.
In the space between pristine code and his imperfect body, Tsaro did not open his eyes. His skin felt unusually heavy as he waited for the next chord to sweep across the room, and under the silence between the beats, Tsaro dreamed of the panels of light that would one day build a hollower, more perfect version of himself.