We Apologize for the Interruption – Part 4
“Hey, it’s the walking dead!” Darien called out. He and Jayden were handing out leaflets at their foldout table. “Brains… Brains…” Darien outstretched his arms like a movie zombie and bust out laughing while Jayden looked on, horrified.
Tossing her head like she hadn’t seen either of them, Peg kept walking. Behind her, she heard Jayden shout something that sounded like an admonishment.
“Ignore Darien. He’s a dick,” Jayden said, a moment later. He had run to catch up with her. “Shrink cut you loose for another day, huh?”
“Leave me alone.”
“If you really wanted to be left alone, Sunshine, you wouldn’t be in Washington Square Park where you knew I’d be.”
“My name is Peg.”
“Sorry, just trying to cope.”
Peg had a bad feeling she knew the punch line, but set him up anyway. She threw up her hands. “Cope with what?”
“The imminent death of my new friend, Peg. I don’t think I’ll be able to call the syn by that name. Too weird.”
Peg rolled her eyes. “Luckily, you’re not her type.”
She pretended not to notice he still followed her, and was about to tell him to find someone else to use for his next meeting, but when she turned to say so, he was standing on top of a park bench.
“I am alone and miserable; man will not associate with me; but one as deformed and horrible as myself would not deny herself to me.” He performed the impromptu soliloquy with exaggerated theatrical form. His accent made Mary Shelley sound like Shakespeare.
Jayden hopped down, knelt beside her, and extended a finely toned arm in her direction. Passersby pointed and whispered to each other from behind cupped hands, grinning. Either they hadn’t noticed the In-Between status alert on their handhelds or they were just caught up in the moment. The pose he was striking made it look like he was about to propose.
“My companion must be of the same species and have the same defects. This being you must create.”
Peg laughed, surprising herself. “You read and memorized lines from Frankenstein. In the twelve hours since I last saw you?”
“And discovered that I am the monster.”
She took his arm when he offered it and they began to walk through the park.
“I do read you know,” he muttered.
Something warm in her took over and she gave him a quick peck on the cheek. Jayden arched his neck at the opportunity. He cupped her chin and she was surprised to find his tongue parting her mouth. She kissed him back, biting on his lower lip.
“I’d hate to think of you forgetting that,” he said wistfully. His breath tickled her neck. It might have been romantic, were it not the most inappropriate thing he could have said.
She felt her body shake. What exactly was he playing at? Was kissing her a tactic? Was she his save-a-brain project for the week?
“Other than giving speeches, what is it you do exactly?” Peg demanded.
“I’m …working on my philosophy dissertation.” He looked at her with a confused frown.
She couldn’t hold back a groan. Of course he was.
“No, I mean, what is your little organizing effort doing?”
“Our coalition builds consciousness about the threat that Biomimetics poses to individual life.”
“Wait a sec.” Peg halted.
Jayden faced her uncertainly. “What? What is it?”
“I just want to be very clear about this. Are you saying that you really believe that at hospitals every day people are being conned by an evil world corp into offing themselves like a bunch of lemmings… and you’re not doing anything but working on your oratory skills?”
Peg was disgusted. If she believed people were being murdered she would do something about it. Who wouldn’t? This guy’s pretty speeches had one logical, actionable direction or he was a bullshit coward.
“I’m a pacifist,” he said, looking at her oddly. “Our collective welcomes disparate perspectives united towards our common goal. That’s the key: building a plurality toward democratic reform.”
What crap, Peg thought and turned to leave, even as he asked: “What’s a lemming?”
She walked faster, and skipped into a jog. She could feel his presence at her back.
“Don’t follow me,” she called back. “I want to be alone!”
“I’ll be at the Delta!” he called after her.
Peg slipped into a subway station and boarded a train. It lurched out of the station as she tried to hold back tears. The car was crammed, but the benefit of being an In-Between soon became apparent as everyone gave her a wide berth. Peg couldn’t help but think about how, by the stats, a third of these people were syns.
Her handheld blinked with messages. Nana had tried calling. A sizable sampling of her friends. Half the math department at NYU. Sonar worked fast.
The familiar, soothing projection of the abstract purple and pink lines of the Tri-State Transit Authority cut into a com spot. No escape, she sighed. The spot was for Biomimetics’ syn line.
It was the fountain of youth spot. An old couple drank from the fountain. They ran the length of the car and shot out of view, picking up speed and youthful appearance as they ran, laughing.
A disembodied, womanly voice spoke: “Augustus and Golda just celebrated their one-hundredth anniversary. Here’s to the next hundred years. Here at Biomimetics we believe…” Peg stopped listening and called up the transit map on her handheld.
She got off at Moynihan Station and switched to a New Jersey line.
Biomimetics Labs was headquartered in downtown Weehawken with all its tightly packed spiraling glass and steel buildings. The property stood out amongst the suffocating density. It had a dated quality: real mason-built brick, manicured lawns, and an enormous fountain that sprayed blue-dyed water, just like the company’s logo.
A tiny woman with thick-rimmed bedazzled, lens-less glasses was filing her nails at the reception desk. Glasses that weren’t for sun-protection were the ultimate in ironic accessory for a biotech worker. Peg almost got a giggle out of watching the woman’s welcoming smile morph into panic-stricken terror at the In-Between alert.
“Hi. I’m Margaret Gallagher—but people call me Peg. I’m an In-Between and I want to inspect my syn in-production.” The reception’s jaw dropped, and Peg added, “please.”
“JD?” the receptionist called out. “JD, can you come over here, please?” She didn’t take her eyes off Peg as she typed into her console. “Right now, JD!”
JD, the no-nonsense security thug, gave Peg a pat down.
“She has a phone and some cigs. That’s it,” he reported. The receptionist was still checking in with her superiors.
Peg’s handheld signaled that Nana had been zapping her madly for an hour. With resignation, she asked permission to make a call while the receptionist awaited instructions. JD relented with a pig-like grunt.
Nana answered immediately.
“Peg! I’m so glad you called. Why does my thing say you’re in Weehawken?”
“Because I’m in Weehawken.”
“But what are you doing in… Oh.” She clicked her tongue in disapproval. “You shouldn’t be there. You should be asleep. You’re so fragile. You have no idea how worried I’ve been.”
“Asleep?” Peg snapped. But JD was hanging on to her every word with suspicion. This was the worst moment to really have it out with Nana.
“Don’t take that tone with me,” Nana bit back and Peg almost jumped. “Just tell me this. If you are so sure that you want to throw your life away, why schlep out to Jersey?”
“I… I just want to see it.”