Sathya Downloads Bennie
by Hungry Guy
|Table of Contents|
|part 1 of 2|
This story is a sequel to “Bennie Downloads Marya” in issue 181. It’s not necessary that you read that story first, but some things in this story will be clearer if you do.
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, the door opened. “What the hey?” Bennie said.
A short, dark-skinned woman with long black hair was holding the glass door open for him. “Hi!” she said.
“Hi!” Bennie answered back as he stepped out of the scanner. When the flashes left his eyes, he saw that she was very pretty, especially her dark brown eyes. But what an odd yellow dress with a yellow sash wrapped around her body, all adorned in fancy green and gold trim!
It then dawned on him that this wasn’t the Copy Max in New Brunswick. “Where am I?”
“You’re in Mumbai,” she said with an East Indian accent.
“Mumbai? Where’s that?”
“You call it Bombay, I think.”
“Bombay? You mean I’m in India?”
“Yes,” she giggled.
“But! How? How did I get to India?”
“I downloaded you.”
“Downloaded? I didn’t even upload myself yet! I just went into the scanner to make a CD of myself. I was going to upload it when I got home so I could download this girl...”
“Silly!” she giggled. “That is what you did! You made a copy of yourself and then you uploaded it to Napster. The download count says you’re very popular, too!”
“So why don’t I remember that part?”
“I guess because the last thing you would remember is scanning yourself onto the CD.”
“Uhm.” Bennie’s eyes brightened as if a light bulb flashed above his head. “Yeah. You’re right. I did go home after and upload myself! Oh God! What did I do to myself?”
Sathya said with a pout, “You don’t like me?”
“Sure, I like you! You’re very pretty!”
She smiled, reached out for Bennie’s hand, and asked, “What’s your name?”
“I’m Sathya. Come now, Bennie. Let me take you home with me.”
She led him out of the store onto the sidewalk and into the night. A blast of tropical heat slammed him as they passed through the door onto a bustling sidewalk under a starry sky. Odd-looking three-wheeled ground cars fought for road space with horse-drawn hansom cabs on the wide boulevard, all silhouetted against the flickering moonlight from the water beyond. Regular cars, taxis, and buses flew silently above the street, just like back home in New Jersey.
“Pretty, isn’t it?” she asked.
“I guess. A lot of traffic, though. It looks like rush hour.”
“It is,” Sathya said. “Many people here work for big companies in America, so they work from twenty-two thirty to seven thirty. Plus there is more traffic because it is Friday night.”
“Huh? Twenty-two thirty?”
“That’s ten thirty PM to you.”
“Oh. And that must be the Indian Ocean, right?”
“That’s the Back Bay. It opens to the Arabian Sea.”
Bennie gazed up and down the curving boulevard that edged the bay.
“And this is Marine Drive, but everyone calls it the Queen’s Necklace.”
“It’s a beautiful view. Do you live around here?”
“No, I live up near Tardeo.”
“Oh? You’re parked nearby then?”
“No. I don’t have a car, but there’s always taxis waiting at the Oberoi.”
“It’s a hotel just down the street at Nariman Point where too-rich Europeans stay. Most Indians could never afford to stay there. Come now.” Tugging on his hand, she began walking down the sidewalk.
They passed an elderly Indian man playing a sitar on the sidewalk with a basket for handouts beside him. “Let me give him a little something,” Bennie said and reached into his pocket. He pulled out one of those Sacagawea dollar coins. “Huh?”
“What?” Sathya asked.
Bennie took out his wallet and removed a dollar bill.
“Huh?” Bennie said under his breath.
“What!” Sathya demanded.
“My money! My coins are made of some kind of plastic, and my bills are all blank paper!”
“Oh? Let me see.” Holding the plastic-like Sacagawea coin and the blank dollar bill in her hand, she turned them over and studied them. “Ah’cha,” she said. “I bet it is some kind of anti-counterfeiting thing built into the matter copier.”
“Probably,” Bennie sighed.
Sathya reached into her purse and tossed a 5-paise coin into the player’s basket.
He nodded as they passed.
On the next block, approaching a street vendor pushing an ice-cream cart, Sathya asked, “Hungry, Bennie?”
“Two please,” she said to the vendor.
The vendor handed then two orange ice cream cones.
Bennie licked his cone and paused, “What flavor is this?”
“Mango. You like?”
“Yeah! It’s good!”
They continued walking across the street down the next block. Bennie suddenly gasped when he saw a bearded man wearing a turban exit a shop and walk toward them. He released his breath only after the man had passed, and Bennie quickly glanced behind his shoulder to make sure the man was still walking away.
“What’s the matter?” Sathya asked.
“Oh, nothing, there’s just been bad blood between Americans and Muslims since, well, you know...”
“Oh?” She giggled. “He’s not a Muslim.”
“No! He’s a Jain. Nothing to be afraid of.”
They crossed another street and entered a canopied driveway under a tall hi-rise hotel where about five black-and-orange taxis were waiting.
Ushering Bennie into the cab, Sathya got in behind him and said, “Tardeo Circle” to the driver.
As the cab left the hotel and gained altitude over the narrow street, Bennie said, “I noticed you speak English to everyone. I thought the native language was Hindi.”
“It is. Mumbai is in Maharashtra, but I’m from Gujarat. My mother tongue Gujarati, but I don’t speak Hindi, so I use English in Mumbai.”
“I see,” Bennie said although he didn’t.
After a harrowing drive through busy traffic above narrow twisting streets, suddenly turning left and right, and diving and climbing to avoid too-close collisions, the cab landed and let them out at a rotary traffic circle.
The neighborhood was a mix of gleaming glass hi-rises amid crumbling stucco slums. Sathya led Bennie into one such hi-rise and rode a turbolift to her flat on the 46th floor.
“Now what?” Bennie asked.
“Now we pray for success,” she said.
On the floor in one corner of the living room, she had what could be best described as a Hindu “nativity scene.” Featuring figurines of a guy with blue skin and another guy, all adorned in gold leaf, with 4 elephant heads.
Bennie just watched her light a slew of candles around the scene and knelt before her idols. Looking up at Bennie, she held out her hand and said, “Join me.”
“Are we getting married or something?”
“No. It is not legal to marry a clone.”
“Yeah,” said Bennie, slowly coming to grips that he was now just a clone. “Same in America.”
She said some words that Bennie didn’t understand. Then she led him into a sparsely furnished bedroom with a single bed. “You can sleep here tonight,” she said, then left, closing the door behind her.
The guest bedroom had a sliding glass patio door that opened out onto a small balcony. Stepping outside, he glanced down at the city below, and the ocean in the distance. He could only take so much of the heat, so he returned inside.
The guest bedroom also had its own bathroom. That short walk in the sweltering heat several blocks to the taxi stand, and from the taxi to the building lobby, had caused him to sweat more in one night than in the whole past month. He used the opportunity to take a shower before going to bed. From what he’d seen of the city from the taxi and comparing it to where Sathya lived, he guessed that Sathya must be wealthy by Indian standards.
The next morning, Bennie woke with Sathya, wearing a blue silk shawl with loose silk pants, standing next to his bed looking down at him. “Good morning, Bennie,” she said.
“Yeah.” Bennie rubbed his eyes. “Good morning, Sathya.”
“Come now,” she said.
“Can you step out a moment? I don’t have any clothes on under the blankets.”
“No, silly! I own you. Get out of bed; I want to see all of you.”
“Oh, right,” Bennie sighed and stood, utterly naked, in front of Sathya.
“Turn around,” she said, and he slowly turned to let her see his naked body all around. He could feel the heat in his embarrassed face that must be glowing bright red.
She then handed him a sheer light brown shirt and pant. “Put these on.”
“Pajamas?” he asked. “Kind of late for that now, huh?”
“They’re not pajamas, silly. It’s called a kurta. Nice and cool for hot summer days.”
Bennie put on the kurta pants and shirt, then noticed that there were no buttons for the buttonholes on the shirt.
“Uhm...” he began fumbling with the button-less shirt.
“Oh, here,” she said, handing him some brass buttons connected together by a lightweight brass chain.
Sathya left the room while Bennie fumbled with his kurta buttons. She returned and handed him a pair of sandals. Thus dressed, she took his hand and led him into the living room.
Sitting on the sofa, Sathya cuddled next to Bennie, reached for a Femina magazine on an end table, and began reading.
“Why did you download me?” Bennie asked.
Sathya lowered the magazine to her lap and seemed lost in thought for a moment. “I didn’t want to marry the boy my father betrothed me to. I met him for the first time in my life two years ago, and we were to be married a week later. I refused. I already knew a boy who I wanted to marry, but he was in a lesser caste. My father refused to pay the dowry. His parents wouldn’t let him marry me without a dowry.”
“Arranged marriages?” Bennie asked. “Caste? Dowry? That still goes on?”
“Yes,” Sathya said. “My parents are very conservative. I haven’t spoken to my parents in two years.”
“So why me?”
“I thought about downloading an Indian boy, but I didn’t want an Indian boy any more. Everyone knows that Americans have love marriages, so I wanted to choose an American...”
“Love marriages?” Bennie giggled. “I never heard it put like that before.”
Sathya continued, “but I don’t want children. Since you have the vasectomy, I chose you.”
“How do you know that?” Bennie gasped.
“You said so on your profile.”
“Oh. I guess I wrote it after I copied myself.”
Sathya began to read the magazine again when Bennie’s stomach started to growl.
She set the magazine on her coffee table and said, “Yes, you must be hungry.”
“Follow me, Bennie,” said Sathya as she headed into the kitchen. “What would you like?”
“Oh, I dunno. A ham sandwich maybe.”
“No!” she said. “I’m vej. And so are you now.”
“Vegetarian,” she said. Opening up a cabinet door she pointed to some boxes, “I have instant paratha and instant dosa. Which? You choose.”
“I don’t know. What are those things?”
She removed a box that depicted what looked like a large rolled pancake filled with vegetables. “This is paper dosa. I think you will like it if I make it plain.”
“Sure. How long does it take?”
“Oh my! It used to take two days just to soak the beans. Now, just mix it and put it in the oven for fifteen minutes.”
Fifteen minutes later, she removed the dosa from the oven and set out several of the thin crepes on large stainless-steel plates for each of them. Bennie watched as she also set out numerous tiny stainless-steel cups full of multi-colored pastes. Then she poured some mango juice into two tall steel cups.
“Careful!” Sathya stopped him as he reached for one of the spices. “They’re too hot for you! That one’s daal, and that’s curry, and that one is butter — I bought it just for you from an American store.”
“Oh? Thanks,” Bennie said.
Sathya spread the various pastes on her dosa, but Bennie just spread the butter on his and ate his plain.
After lunch, they returned to the living room and turned on the television. They spent the next two hours watching a Hindi movie.
“I thought you don’t speak Hindi,” said Bennie.
“I understand it enough. Now, shhhh!”
Bennie, of course, didn’t understand the movie. Set in pastoral gardens and valleys, it had a lot of singing and dancing in a strange language — off key, at that. Bennie opened the plate glass sliding door and stepped out onto the balcony, where he stared out onto the city below.
After a moment, the insane heat made him feel ill. Sweat poured from his forehead and down his back just from his standing there. He was about to return inside when Sathya joined him on the balcony. She snuggled up behind him and wrapped her arms around his waist. “Sad?” she whispered.
Copyright © 2006 by Hungry Guy