The Illuminated Man

The last time I saw Alnersans was back when I owned a bar. We used to joke that Alnersans always brightened up the place, due to the lights implanted on his arm.

Alnersans had 6 LEDs crawling out of the flesh of his left forearm. I asked him about them once; he told me that they were his six closest friends. The LEDs were tied to their iDents, and Alnersans would talk about them as if they were the people themselves.

“Now, Shirl,” he would say, pointing to a LED that flickered noticibly in the bar’s dim light. “She’s not doing too well. Doctors ain’t givin’ her much time, but when do they ever? Better pour one for me and one for Shirl, on account she can’t join us.”

While I knew Alnsersans back in college, I never saw him so much as when I served alcohol for living. About a month before the bar closed, Alnersans seemed to vanish. I thought about taking the iDent he paid his tab with and entering in a hospital query or plugging in a GPSearch, but I never did. He hadn’t given me his iDent to use in that way, anyway.

I thought on him every now and then, but I didn’t expect him to show up. When my door read his iDent soon as he stepped on the welcome mat and said it was him, I about fell out of my chair.

“Hadn’t seen you in a while, Alnersans.”

“Your bar’s been torn down.”

“I know.”

“I didn’t. Coulda told me. I liked your bar. Can I come in?” I offered him a beer and he took it hungrily, draining the bottle in seconds.

“You want another?”

” You make such a great bartender. This is why you shouldn’t have closed the bar.”

“People change” I said. I noticed that, of the six LEDs, only one remained. Alnsersans gently fingered the ragged maw of scars that surrounded them, as if he was reminding himself they were still there.

“That they do. I’ve learned that, here recent.” Without warning, without a change of expression or twitch of his body, Alnersans smashed his empty beer up against my end-table, Alnersans then took one of the slivers of glass and gouged out the last of the LEDs, Despite wincing from the pain, Alnersans let out a low chuckle as the glow of the light slowly faded. “Serves you right, you son of a bitch. Serves you right. Sorry about the mess,” he said, turning to me.

“Don’t worry about it.”

“You’re a good friend,” Alnersans said. “I see that now.”

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