That’s it. It’s happened. I’ve been pigeon holed. My literary credentials have been measured and been found to be…twisted. And dark. Dark and twisted. Twisted and dark. However you arrange them they add up just the same. Just to be contrary I’m now going to write something bright and breezy. Or quick and funny. Or cheap and cheerful.
This is the ‘Twist in the Tale’ piece I wrote for the BBC Festival last week. Hopefuly I’m not trashing copyright by posting it. The first few hundred words are by Kate Scott. There are five alternative endings, I haven’t heard any of the others yet. You’ll probably be able to figure out when my contribution kicks in. It is, in the words of the Beeb…twisted and dark.
A Twist in the Tale: the late train
I am much too early for my 11.54 train. I’d tried to spin the drinks out as long as I could but everyone wanted to catch the last tube home. Cold wind swoops in from the South Bank entrance, the gusts like hands shoving against my back. The station is lit with hard fluorescent light and the coffee shop staff, sullen and pale-faced, watch listlessly as I pass by. A Suit, buying a wilting sandwich, grins at me. I have joked with friends that a young woman in London, late at night, might as well go and run with wolves. Ignoring the Suit, I mask my face in cold confidence and stride purposefully past the station clock that looms above. I get on the greasy-windowed train, choosing a window seat in an empty carriage. For a few minutes I daydream, fogging the window with my warm breath. But then I pick up my paperback and start to thumb through it to find my place. By the time I’m aware of the musty smell of damp wool pressing too close against my arm, it’s too late.
‘Good book?’ The man is dressed in a long tweed coat. He smiles, a smile so open and intelligent that I nearly smile in return. But then I see him glance down, charting the outline of my body.
‘You’ve got the wrong person I’m afraid’. Too polite, too many words. I hastily put away my book, get up and squeeze past him into the aisle.
‘Oh, I’m sorry, I just . . .’. The man calls after me. I ignore him, but when he makes no attempt to follow me I feel a twinge – guilt? Why should I feel guilty? Except that there is something familiar about the man, something about his mouth. Attractive. Soft. In another situation, at another time, I might have returned his smile, encouraged it even. I almost feel regret. Until I hear movement behind me and turn to see that it is him. I push through to the next carriage and curse that it is empty: I need people, the safety of the pack. I am shaking. What is it about him that’s so familiar, so terrifying familiar? At the end of the carriage I have trouble opening the heavy connecting door. Someone on the other side pulls it open for me just as the train jerks to a start. I almost fall but a hand on my arm prevents me. It’s the Suit.
I am embarrassed when my arm detaches in his hand.
‘A Model 5, right?’
He hands the forearm back to me and I rotate it back into the elbow.
‘I thought so. I have one just like you at home. Except blonde instead of brunette.’
I am aware of the eyes that turn to stare at us with disapproval. Artificial Humans posing as real is still frowned upon even if no longer illegal. I have a subroutine that allows me to forget all about my artificial body. Until an arm comes off. The Suit is grinning at me in a bad way and then says one word.
Model 5’s have built in aural backdoors that allow their users to override freewill circuits to gain compliance. Destiny is the manufacturer’s default setting. The Suit must know this, and so must the blonde at home.
I stand entirely still, eyes glassy and unfocused, breathe held. Only my heartbeat remains. The Suit leans in close, his lips hovering near mine, one hand creeping towards my breast.
I raise me knee up hard into his groin, and it occurs to me what an excellent backdoor a titanium alloy limb can create.
‘I’m emancipated.’ I spit at the crumpled Suit beneath my feet. I chose my own destiny long before.