Author : Amy Monroe

By way of introduction: Sweit was the one who kissed like a file cabinet and she was the one who kissed like a plate of raw liver. Rays of light came through the subway ruins, skating through the upper Bronx and into Westchester, and they caught Mardi blinking, stretching, falling asleep. The sun was always out; the sun wasn’t special, but the way it lit in her hair—it seemed like a reason to wait till Poughkeepsie to wake her.

“I think it’s beautiful to us because we know it’s never going to change,” Mardi said, hitching her skirt, talking about the sun.

Walking, they saw a man turning a “CLOSED” sign, the old sign, the “CLOSED after dusk” sign.

“Do you think anyone would even know dusk, now?”

“What, baby?” Her eyes were closed, face tipped up.

“That sign. Does anyone alive today remember dusk?”

“It was when the sun went down. Come on.”

“You know that I’m never really complaining about you.”

“Of course not. Hey, there—that guy there—d’you see? He’s leaking.”

“Were you still little when they changed the sun? Did you hear all the adults complaining and not understand?”

“By the time I could remember it was like this. But leaking! It was sliding down his ankles and dripping.” She rubbed the toe of her shoes in the dust, frustrated.

“I’ve seen it before. They’re still fixing all the kinks with liquid. Not all of us are perfect.”

“But you missed it. That’s the kind of thing I mean. You miss so much with sim eyes. They’re not made for—” She scratched deeper, dug a trough. “They’re not made for living, really.”

“Does it bother you?”

“No, baby, no.”

“Because Jimsum has some techs. I could be in on Saturday and noticing malfunctions with you on Sunday.”

“I don’t want you to change what you don’t want to change.”

She said this, but her eyes, the real eyes, her secret real eyes, they dripped all night.

Sweit went home and read about Anastasia, the other fakes, and he thought about his secret real girl, his girl who was not a file cabinet or made in any sense. He held his sim-fingers over his face, flickered them in front of his eyes and stared dimly at the blur they created.

Sweit called a number in the morning. Excited Korean on the other end—Jimsum’s girls waiting for the old country to call.

“Jimsum. I need to talk to Jimsum.”

More Korean, this time angry.

“Sorry, hon. Jimsum, please.”

Jimsum came on all laconic, “Techs.”

“Why haven’t you told your girls that Korea is underwater?”

“I can’t fucking speak Korean.”

Jimsum’s excuse for an excuse.

“I wanted to talk about some eye tech.”

“We got blue, green, zoom lens, yellow cat-eye.”

“You’re joking. I could get better from the hookers on Canal Street, man.”

“It’s what we’ve got.”

“Fuck it. I’m going to Canal. I’ll see you.”

Sweit fast-sim-thinking, he ran there. He knew Jimsum’d heard about Canal’s recent cleanouts and the hookers having fled to the subway tunnels; he knew before he saw Jimsum’s girl at the Korean grocery.

“Eyes? Jimsum say Saturday for eyes?”

She articulated, hating the English words in every syllable. “He say no-ow.”

“They’re on your communications?” Sweit asked instead of saying hello.

“Just the in-and-outs. I guess you want the meat eyes.”

Jimsum was laughing while he put him under.

Mardi almost screamed when he came rolling up to her in the alley, with those horrible wet-bloody eyes.

“What color are they?” she said, and started to cry.

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