Author : David Barber

“Welcome back to the Stirling Surprise Show, with me, Haydon Stirling. Later, we’ll be talking to fash sensation, Jess Marlboro, but first, They Stole My Soul.”

His earpiece murmured and Stirling turned smoothly to camera three.

“Yes, my next guest, John Beck, claims the jirt have stolen his soul.”

“You said you wouldn’t use that…”

Stirling smiled his blandest.

“…it’s our consciousness they’re stealing. Copying, I mean, and…”

“Isn’t that just what natives said when they saw photographs, John?”

Keep the stiffs off balance. And that Marlboro slit was in for a surprise when her nasty habit got a mention.

“It’s not a picture of you, it is you.”

“And you know this how?”

“Well, the jirt said. They go tourist sometimes, right? I was out cycling and I’d done about 10k…”

The Floor Manager began doing the speed up signal.

“…anyway, this jirt asked if it could take a snap of me and the bike. I guess they don’t have them. And afterwards, I asked for a look. It fiddled with its box of tricks, you know, that they talk through?”

Edit this bit, Stirling thought, his face bright with interest.

“And there I was, I mean, I was there, staring at myself. He wanted to know who the hell I was, and I said…”

Stirling gave the studio audience Look Number 2 and the stiff faltered at the laughs.

“Anyway,” he ended lamely. “There’s a copy of me trapped somewhere.”

Sometimes Stirling pumped up the crowd beforehand, or sat the crazies at the front. It had seemed a natural, this jirt conspiracy thing, but the atmosphere was flat.


And there wasn’t the usual whoop his catchphrase got. The crowd froze. Up close, jirt loomed, and they smelt of damp and rot. Organs fluttered inside its transparent body. Still, there’d not been a jirt on TV since they arrived. Big coup.

“Greetings, Haydon Stirling.”

But before Sterling could read the autocue, the stiff butted in and the director went with it. Stirling saw his own camera light die.

The stiff’s hands were shaking as he pointed. “Do you deny there’s a copy of me somewhere?”

Its box of tricks made the jirt sound like a voice over. Stirling wondered if an actor somewhere was getting royalties.

The jirt explained the technology was minor, trivial. Was trivial the right word? Just a recording of reality, a bit like a camera, but the simulation allowed interaction.

Stirling nodded. Nods were useful for editing.

“But I spoke to myself.” The stiff appealed to Stirling. “How would you feel knowing there was a copy of yourself somewhere?”

“My agent would want double his fee.”

Laughter. A genuine ad lib, like the old days.

“True, our technology copies brain states as part of the simulation, but dopplers are not real.” The jirt sounded genuinely puzzled. “Since they retain no memory, they have no legal standing. Is there some religious taboo?”

“Well, John here thinks you’re stealing our souls.”

“You don’t have a soul, Haydon Sterling.”

“I’ll do the…”

The audience gasped and Stirling saw himself walk on-set.

“Amazingly lifelike,” the copy said, gazing around. “And you’re me?”


“I’m interacting with the snap taken during the show.” His other self announced, and turned to the jirt. “So, are you real?”

“I shall remember nothing of this if reactivated. So, I am not real, though it seems like it now.”

“Wait,” protested Stirling feebly.

“Told you,” complained the stiff.

“Though God knows how we edit this into the show.”

“Wait,” said Stirling, as they switched him off.


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