Seth stopped in the middle of the alley; he turns to me, smiles serenely and says, his voice rusty and foreign: “welcome to the real world, Neo”. Seth and his damned old movie quotes. As kids, we’d watch Matrix over and over again. It was the Bible in Dolby surround, the New Testament the evangelists would have written if they’d lived in Hollywood and Jesus could/would kick ass.
But Seth’s no fucking Morpheus, I’m no fucking Neo, Trinity is dead, my world just disappeared and there’s no way back.
My burst of anger scares even myself. Before I know it, my fists are covered with blood from his nose and lip. But I’m not the athletic type, my left arm is almost numb, the adrenaline rush is gone and Seth is stronger than I recall. His huge, bony hands grab my neck and press steadily. I need oxygen, lots of oxygen, and his hands won’t let me breathe. His voice is cold, words come out with tiny drops of blood.
“You shithead, by coming here I put in danger more lives than you imagine and I’m ruining plans started years ago. All of it, just to save your worthless ass. Now calm down and come with me if you chose life.”
He eases his grip, I calmed down; besides, some janitors in the street stare at us and are probably alerting 911 from their Chip coms right now. “Come on, hurry; let’s get out of this place before the police hovers get here.”
I follow Seth; I wouldn’t do otherwise; he’s my big brother, back from the dead and he said he’ll keep me out of jail and probable lobotomy; his pace is constant, fast and confident as he wipes the blood with the sleeve of the shirt; I’m having a hard time trying to keep up with him; and above all I’m trying to fucking understand what happened this night and definitely in the last half hour. The list is simple, but still blurry:
I fucked Laura; Laura died a couple of hours later, huge haemorrhage, her Chip missing; my arm hurts like hell, I fell asleep and dreamed of her, woke up and saw the ghost of my dead brother, but he was real, stinking, dirty and rotten, told me we had to leave, I was to be arrested for killing Laura, and then he cleaned up, took my clothes, cut their labels off and dragged me after him in the city.
Now I’m running around the city following a shaved ghost dressed in Armani shirts, and I don’t get it how on earth he knows all this, and above all how does he plan to run, in this world filled with surveillance cameras, satellite photos, face recognition, bioscans and every fucking thing depending on the Chips. But Seth has a plan. In Seth I trust. He is my Tyler Durden, my almighty alter ego.
We stopped in the park: It’s morning already and the sprinklers start working; Asian immigrants are on duty, brooming the garbage off the alleys. I can’t help grinning: we’ve been promised freedom for decades, daily chores done by robots and all humanity free to enjoy life instead of spending it slaving around. They’ve been lying. A single robot costs more than the average wage over tens of years. My loans and mortgage enslave me for the rest of my working life. Instead of robots doing the chores for us, it’s us who work for them: development, maintainance and marketing, to improve and sell new robots, cars, computers and electrical appliances.
Seth looks at me and says: “what would you give for freedom?” The answer he awaits is the one of uncle William always taught us: “everything”. Instead, I answer bluntly: “nothing”. He grins.
Seth looks less like a ghost now than he did an hour ago. He is almost presentable. Quite a performance for a guy wanted by the feds and thought dead for two years.
I feel like I’m finally able to ask The Question. “How come you’re alive? and what the fuck is going on?”