Bennie Downloads Marya
by Hungry Guy
part 1 of 2
Bored on a Saturday afternoon, Bennie surfed into napster.com and looked over the categories: music, movies, software, clones, small appliances, and many others. About a year ago, he had downloaded a shareware vacuum cleaner. In retrospect, after using an assembler down at Copy Max and paying for the cost of the raw elements, it would have been cheaper to just buy a Hoover at Wal-Mart.
Here he was again, at the Napster start page a year later; Bennie clicked on “clones.” The sub-menu listed sub-categories: cats, dogs, tropical birds, fish, humans. Clicking on “humans,” he went another level deep. Two categories presented themselves: males, and females. Clicking on “females” presented him a page not much different from any “personals” site.
Thumbnail photos and brief profiles described each clone available for download.
#46088 was a short pudgy girl. She’d been downloaded only ten times in six years. Click.
#51840 was a tall muscular black girl with her hair all in cornrows and braids, and a defiant look in her eyes. Click.
#60107 had a hard face with big brown eyes and close-cropped black curly hair. Bennie clicked on her JPG for a closer look. Her full image showed her to have a pleasing shape. She was dressed as what an earlier age would have called a “tomboy,” in loose jeans and a loose cut sweatshirt, and a bandanna around her head. Her chest was on the smallish side, but he found her oddly compelling. Reading down her profile, he stopped; she was lesbian. He briefly considered downloading her anyway, but he thought better of it; the animosity between them might become very unpleasant.
Backing out to the list page, he scanned down a few more images.
#21903 looked like a supermodel. Drop-dead beautiful, huge chest, but phony. Clicking into her profile, he wasn’t surprised to see that she had been downloaded thousands of times in just a few weeks. He considered clicking on her, but wondered what sort of emotional baggage she would come with.
Bennie continued scanning down the list of available women to download and stopped at #33687, a tallish girl with brownish-blonde hair. Clicking on her, he was surprised to see that she was 6 feet tall — a good match to his spindly 5’11”. Fair skinned, she had a nice shape, neither fat nor skinny. And she had a wholesome, pretty face. Her profile didn’t say much about her. She had been downloaded only 42 times in five years; her appearance obviously had limited appeal. Bennie slid a blank CD-RW into his PC and clicked the “download” button without hesitation.
Thinking it to be an ad, he almost closed the pop-up window that read, “Sorry, but before you may download someone, you must first upload yourself.”
A month later, Bennie was in Copy Max in New Brunswick across the street from the NJ Transit maglev station.
There were three tall glass cylindrical units in the back of the store. The matter scanner had a credit card scanner, coin-changer, and CD slot, the two assemblers/disassemblers didn’t. Bennie read the instructions on the scanner, then stepped away.
Bennie ambled up and down the aisles of the small store. He almost jumped out of his shoes at the sonic boom of a passing Amtrak train speeding through the station toward Trenton.
“Damn,” another customer said toward Bennie’s general direction. “They ought to pass a law on how fast those trains can go through populated areas.”
“Yeah,” Bennie agreed half-heartedly. He stepped away from the other customer, and found himself back near the front door, and started to open it to leave. But he hesitated.
“Pardon me,” an older woman said as she was leaving while carrying a translucent bag of personalized Christmas cards.
“Sorry,” Bennie mumbled as he stepped away from the door back inside the store.
Bennie returned to the rear of the store where a young college-age guy in a Rutgers sweatshirt was standing in front of the hissing and buzzing assembler. The curved glass door slid open revealing a robotic vacuum cleaner. Reaching in and picking it up, the kid glanced at Bennie and said, “For the dorm. Party was googol- fredashay last night.”
“Yeah, I heard Rutgers won the game yesterday. Congrats!” Bennie answered.
“Tira mah!” the kid answered and left.
Bennie returned his attention to the matter scanner. A sign read simply, “$5 to use the matter scanner.”
“Oh, what the hell,” Bennie muttered, and slid a $20 bill into a slot in the scanner. The machine dutifully spat out 15 Sacagawea dollar coins in change. Upon stepping inside, the curved glass door slid closed, a bright purple light flashed, and then the door opened again.
When the spots cleared from his eyes, he heard a “thunk,” and a CD slid part way out of the slot.
Back at home, Bennie returned to Napster, loaded the CD in his PC, and let his mouse pointer hover on “upload” for a full minute before clicking.
He had to read a lengthy disclaimer and swear that he was a legal adult, and that he was uploading himself, and that he was aware that he had no control over who downloaded him, to what work they would put him, or how many copies of him might eventually be made, and so on, and so on.
It took almost ten minutes to upload the 25 petabyte file that contained a map of every subatomic particle that comprised his body and the clothes he was wearing. “I really need to get me a broadband connection,” Bennie muttered.
Lastly, he had to answer a bunch of questions to build a profile to help other people decide whether to download him. He mentioned typical stuff that he’s quiet and shy. He hesitated a moment and then added that he got a vasectomy right after he had sex for the first time and was terrified that he got the girl pregnant and he’d be paying child support the rest of his life.
With his upload complete, he glanced at his own listing. His pasty white Irish complexion, blue eyes, and black hair with just a hint of red, looked attractive enough, though he could stand to lose a few pounds. He wondered how many downloads he would get over the next few years.
The find box located #33687 once again, and he clicked on “download.” He loaded a blank CD-RW in his PC, and, ten minutes later, had a copy of the girl stored on the CD.
That CD sat on his desk on top of a stack of Turbo Pascal v25.0 books for two weeks before he had the nerve to pay a second visit to Copy Max.
When Bennie got there, he had to wait an hour for a couple who had downloaded a full-sized refrigerator, and another college kid who had downloaded a complete component stereo system, before he could use an assembler.
He handed the CD to the pimple-faced clerk. The kid examined the shiny disk as if he had never seen one before and said, “It’s five dolars plus the price of ingredients to use the assembler, okay?”
“What’s the final cost going to be?” Bennie asked.
The clerk slid the CD into a PC on a table behind the counter. A moment later, a bill came out of the laser printer listing the elements. Bennie took the sheet and glanced down the list.
Then he gasped when he saw the price at the bottom of the bill: $1,263.82.
“Well? You want me to make what’s on that disk, or not?”
Bennie sighed and pulled out his Master Card and handed it to the clerk. “Yes,” his voice squeaked. “Make what’s on the disk.”
The clerk reached under the table and slid a form in front of Bennie.
“What’s this?” Bennie asked.
“Some of this stuff is, like, controlled substances, hazardous materials, and depleted resources” the clerk replied. “You got to sign here to make whatever it is you’re making.”
Bennie signed the form and slid it back to the clerk who then slid Bennie’s card through the card reader and handed it back to him.
Formalities out of the way, the clerk tapped a key on the PC next to the assembler.
The assembler began to hum and whoosh.
The clerk called out, “What you’re makin’s pretty big. Gonna be a while.”
While Bennie was waiting, two guys came into the store manhandling an attractive young woman who was sobbing quietly. From a distance, he watched as they went up to the clerk, handed him some paperwork and ID, and then they shoved her into the second assembler.
“No! Please! No!” she screamed as they closed the door and activated the unit.
Ignoring the commotion, Bennie tried to peer through the frosted glass of the assembler, but could see no details.
A few minutes later, Bennie glanced up at second commotion, now at the counter, and listened in.
Those two guys who had disassembled that girl were arguing with the clerk. “We paid over a grand to buy the matter to make her. You’re only giving us six hundred refund to buy it back? That’s bullshit!”
The kid squeaked, “I’m sorry, sir, but the contract says...” Bennie lost interest and continued browsing around the store.
About an hour later, the machine finally stopped whirring and humming. The door slid open to reveal a terribly frightened-looking woman standing within. Bennie stared for a moment at her six-foot frame wearing jeans and a loose blue sweater.
“Hi,” said Bennie as he reached into the assembler and held his hand out.
The girl swallowed and said, “Hi.” After a moment, she took his hand.
“I’m Bennie,” he said.
“I’m Marya,” she said in a thick accent that sounded Russian. She stepped out of the cylinder and looked around. “Where am I?”
“You’re at one of those copy places. I downloaded you and just, er, made you.”
“Ah, yes. I see. But where is here?”
“We’re in New Brunswick, about 50 miles south of the city.”
“City? What city? You sound American. We are in America, yes?”
“Well, yeah. Where are you from?”
“Warsaw? That’s in Russia, right?”
“No! Is in Poland!”
Bennie held out his palms. “Okay! Don’t get mad.”
“I’m not mad,” she said.
“Now what?” she asked.
“I guess I take you home with me is what.”
“Yes,” she said.
Bennie led her out to his car in the Ferren Parking deck opposite the Amtrak station. It was a short drive to the hi-rise building where he lived. The northbound lane of Easton Avenue was about 30 feet above the ground, giving a good view of the urban New Jersey landscape.
While they were hovering at a red light opposite Saint Peter’s Hospital overlooking Buccleuch Park, Bennie reached into his jacket pocket and fingered the CD that still contained her copy. “I’m just curious. Why did you do it?”
“Do what?” she asked.
“Make a copy of yourself and put it on the net so that strangers could download and make you their love slaves?”
“Is complicated,” she answered.
“Tell me,” he insisted.
She looked at him intently for a moment, then answered. “I was having affair. I love him, but not want leave husband. If I make copy, I go with man I love and give copy to husband.”
“And did you?” he asked.
“I don’t know. I plan scan me to disk, then make copy of me from disk, then walk out together and break disk. Then I go to lover, and copy go home to husband. He know nothing.”
“So is that what you did?”
“I go inside matter copier, light flash, then you open door. Is all I know.”
“It looks like, somehow, someone got that disk and uploaded you to Napster.”
“Yes. But I feel like real me. Not like copy. I should not be here!”
“You know, Marya, I wondered about that too; what it would feel like to be my copy just stepping out of the assembler. I suppose he’s going to feel the same way you do; every time someone makes a copy of him, of me, I’m going to feel like I just stepped into the scanner a moment before and should still be me.”
“Yes. I think you are right.” Marya hesitated for a moment, then asked, “What date it is?”
“What date? It’s November 10. Why?”
“No. What year?”
She gasped when he told her the year. “No! Not possible!”
“What’s not possible?”
“Is five year after!”
“Yes, your listing said you were uploaded about five years ago.”
“No! I do less than hour ago! In Warsaw! And was July, not November!”
The light turned green and the car shuddered momentarily when Bennie stepped on the “gas” pedal.
“Aaak!” Marya yelped and grabbed onto Bennie’s arm. “We’re falling!”
“Damn!” Bennie muttered and looked at Marya. “We can’t fall. Everything’s massively redundant. But these new lifters aren’t working right.”
After parking his car in the garage underneath New Harrison Towers they made their way to the garage turbolift basement lobby.
The building superintendent and some workmen were milling around the door to the generator room adjacent to the lobby.
“Hey Felix!” Bennie said to the super. “What’s going on?”
“The LENR generator quit last night. We’ve been buying current from PSE&G since then.”
“Ouch! So what’s the problem?”
“The techs say that microcracks are forming on the palladium cathode.”
“Oh, I hear that happens with the older units. How old is ours?”
“It’s the original from when they built the new building.”
“Guess it’s time to get a new one, huh Felix?”
“Say Felix,” Bennie said, knowing that Felix’s hobby was restoring antique cars. “Since Goodyear replaced my lifters, my car shudders whenever I start from a red light. What do you recommend?”
“I swear by Naudin brand lifters. They’re the best!”
“Okay. I’ll take it back to Goodyear and tell them that’s what I want installed. Thanks, Felix!”
“No problem,” Felix answered.
A turbolift door opened to the sound of a chime.
“See you later Felix! Say ‘Hi’ to Orene for me.”
“See you, Bennie.”
It was a short turbolift ride up to the 216th floor. Once inside Bennie’s condo, Marya sat on a chair and started to cry.
“Don’t cry, Marya. We’ll figure out what happened.”
“But you kill me.”
“Huh? What do you mean? How do I kill you?”
“If I not make you happy, you kill me, no?”
“Wait, Marya! I’m not going to kill you! If it doesn’t work out, I’ll let you go free. Don’t worry, okay?”
Fireworks exploded that night outside the bedroom window of Bennie’s condo overlooking the Rutgers stadium; the Scarlet Knights must have won another game. Bennie and Marya sat on either side of the bed facing away from each other.
“I sorry, Bennie,” she cried. “I not love you.”
“I know, Marya. Whenever you’re ready.”
“But you erase me if I not do sex with you.”
Bennie reached back around and put his hand on her shoulder, “Marya! I’m not going to erase you or kill you! Stop worrying about that!”
“I try,” Marya said, wiping her tears.
“Good night, Marya,” Bennie whispered.
Copyright © 2006 by Hungry Guy