January 15, 2004

[grid::ritual] gloves off

You’ve got to be careful what you touch.

I always wear the gloves by default, but clearly Anderson was one of those people that didn’t care, that invited and maybe even relished the sensory overstimulation of the physical world. His bare hands were sandstone, etched roughly as if by years of weathering in the open desert. There was a perceptible tension in the curl of the fingers of the right; the left was stuck partway into the worn pocket of once-fashionable Diesel jeans. Behind lightly tinted lenses, his blue, no, gray eyes swept intensely around the room, gathering context, assessing threats perhaps? He looked up as I came across the room, his thin mouth opening into a broad and apparently friendly grin. Deep-set lines spread across his face in a branching network as skin followed muscle into a familiar position; Anderson had smiled a lot over the years.

He offered his right hand expectantly.

I did my best not to hesitate, fighting an instinctive warning in the back of my head. I looked down at my gloved right hand, considered it politely to show that I was making a conscious choice, then pulled at the leather fingers with my gloved left hand. I summoned up the necessary smile, assumed the aikido mind-stance, and grasped the extended hand firmly.

I had expected Anderson to present strangely, an animistic representation or even a psychosexual one, designed to evoke a primal response of some kind. People in the trade did this sometimes, as a way to establish social dominance or otherwise catch you off guard. As well, there were people who would deliberately present in forms designed to shock and offend, leering at you while you recoiled from whatever scenes of decadence or decay they transmitted; this was pretty rare in commerce, and I didn’t think Anderson was one of those. But despite plenty of experience and mental training, I was still unprepared for what came next. As the unprotected flesh of our hands made contact and the bitstreams of our digital personae began to flow across the connection, I became aware of a faint low frequency percussive pounding somewhere behind me. My visor display flickered into a soft gray blankness, along with all of the panels in the room. Not off, but imperceptibly dim. The low thudding sound grew louder, seemed to come closer, and I noticed repeating vertical patterns of gray were emerging on the screens, pulsating in synchrony with the pounding. Anderson’s grin sharpened subtly, and he gripped my hand more tightly than was customary. The visual patterns began to break up into pixelated blocks, flashing brighter, rearranging constantly, moving faster, and faster still, now like a random noise field, now correlated, and the sound somehow mirrored the visual chaos. I thought briefly of the warnings that used to be posted on the splash screens of the old console games, about flashing visual scenes that could induce epileptic seizures. It occurred to me that Anderson’s attack, for now I was becoming quite certain of its malicious nature, was probing me for just this sort of vulnerability. These strangely complex audiovisual patterns appeared to be scanning a multidimensional range of frequencies, seeking a resonant response from the tangled mass of neurons inside my skull. Seeking, seeking… There. I winced involuntarily, reeled dizzily back a half step, pulled my hand away too quickly. The connection now broken, the cacophony of sound and light ceased abruptly. Anderson’s eyes glinted minutely with satisfaction.

“Shit!” I subvocalized to myself, gritting my teeth. This deal was getting off to a bad start indeed. As I took a deep, silent breath and fought to regain my interior calm, I saw Anderson reach into the fold of his leather jacket and produce a small gray rectangle the color of static. He spoke in a warm, gravelly baritone register, through grinning white teeth.

“Here’s my card”, he said, extending his hand once again. In my pocket I found the little brass and leather case that held my own cards, and slipped a strong one from the bottom of the stack.

“And here’s mine”, I replied with just the hint of a smile. “I think you’ll like it.”


Posted by Gene at January 15, 2004 11:19 PM | TrackBack


Posted by: Deimos at February 6, 2004 01:22 PM
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