William Gibson 1986
THEY sent A SLAMHOUND on Turner’s trail in New Delhi, slotted it to his pheromones and the color of his hair. It caught up with him on a street called Chandni Chauk and came scram- bling for his rented BMW through a forest of bare brown legs and pedicab tires. Its core was a kilogram of recrystallized hexogene and flaked TNT. He didn’t see it coming. The last he saw of India was the pink stucco facade of a place called the Khush-Oil Hotel. Because he had a good agent, he had a good contract. Because he had a good contract, he was in Singapore an hour after the explosion. Most of him, anyway The Dutch surgeon liked to joke about that, how an unspecified percentage of Turner hadn’t made it out of Palam International on that first flight and had to spend the night there in a shed, in a support vat It took the Dutchman and his team three months to put Turner together again. They cloned a square meter of skin for him, grew it on slabs of collagen and shark-cartilage polysac- charides They bought eyes and genitals on the open market The eyes were green. He spent most of those three months in a ROM-generated simstim construct of an idealized New England boyhood of the previous century. The Dutchman’s visits were gray dawn dreams, nightmares that faded as the sky lightened beyond his secondfloor bedroom window You could smell the lilacs, late at night. He read Conan Doyle by the light of a sixty-watt bulb behind a parchment shade printed with clipper ships He masturbated in the smell of clean cotton sheets and thought about cheerleaders. The Dutchman opened a door in his back brain and came strolling in to ask questions, but in the morning his mother called him down to Wheaties, eggs and bacon, coffee with milk and sugar. And one morning he woke in a strange bed, the Dutchman standing beside a window spilling tropical green and a sun- light that hurt his eyes. “You can go home now, Turner We’re done with you You’re good as new
He was good as new. How good was that? He didn’t know. He took the things the Dutchman gave him and flew out of Singapore Home was the next airport Hyatt. And the next. And ever was. He flew on. His credit chip was a rectangle of black mirror, edged with gold. People behind counters smiled when they saw it, nodded. Doors opened, closed behind him. Wheels left ferroconcrete, dnnks arrived, dinner was served. [n Heathrow a vast chunk of memory detached itself from a blank bowl of airport sky and fell on him. He vomited into a blue plastic canister without breaking stride. When he amved at the counter at the end of the comdor, he changed his ticket. He flew to Mexico.
And woke to the rattle of steel buckets on tile, wet swish of brooms, a woman’s body warm against his own The room was a tall cave. Bare white plaster reflected sound with too much clarity; somewhere beyond the clatter of the maids in the morning courtyard was the pounding of surf. The sheets bunched between his fingers were coarse cham- bray, softened by countless washings. He remembered sunlight through a broad expanse of tinted window. An airport bar, Puerto Vallarta. He’d had to walk twenty meters from the plane, eyes screwed shut against the sun. He remembered a dead bat pressed flat as a dry leaf on runway concrete. He remembered riding a bus, a mountain road, and the reek of internal combustion, the borders of the windshield plas- tered with postcard holograms of blue and pink saints. He’d ignored the steep scenery in favor of a sphere of pink lucite and the jittery dance of mercury at its core. The knob crowned the bent steel stem of the transmission lever, slightly larger than a baseball. It had been cast around a crouching spider blown from clear glass, hollow, half filled with quicksilver. Mercury jumped and slid when the driver slapped the bus through switchback curves, swayed and shivered in the straight- aways. The knob was ridiculous, handmade, baleful; it was there to welcome him back to Mexico. Among the dozen~odd microsofts the Dutchman had given him was one that would allow a limited fluency in Spanish, but in Vallarta he’d fumbled behind his left ear and inserted a dustplug instead, hiding the socket and plug beneath a square of flesh-tone micropore. A passenger near the back of the bus had a radio. A voice had periodically interrupted the brassy pop to recite a kind of litany, strings of ten-digit figures, the day’s winning numbers in the national lottery. The woman beside him stirred in her sleep. He raised himself on one elbow to look at her A stranger’s face, but not the one his life in hotels had taught him to expect. He would have expected a routine beauty, bred out of cheap elective surgery and the relentless Darwinism of fash- ion, an archetype cooked down from the major media faces of the previous five years. Something Midwestern in the bone of the jaw, archaic and Amencan. The blue sheets were nicked across her hips, the sunlight angling in through hardwood louvers to stripe her long thighs with diagonals of gold. The faces he woke with in the world’s hotels were like God’s own hood ornaments. Women’s sleeping faces, identical and alone, naked, aimed straight out to the void. But this one was different. Already. somehow, there was meaning attached to it. Meaning and a name. He sat up, swinging his legs off the bed. His soles regis- tered the grit of beach-sand on cool tile. There was a faint, pervasive smell of insecticide. Naked, head throbbing, he stood. He made his legs move. Walked, tried the first of two doors, finding white tile, more white plaster, a bulbous chrome shower head hung from rust-spotted iron pipe The sink’s taps offered identical trickles of blood-warm water. An antique wristwatch lay beside a plastic tumbler, a mechanical Rolex on a pale leather strap. The bathroom’s shuttered windows weie unglazed, strung with a fine green mesh of plastic. He peered out between hardwood slats, wincing at the hot clean sun, and saw a dry fountain of flower-painted tiles and the rusted carcass of a VW Rabbit Allison. That was her name.