Now Available! Erin L. Snyder’s “Facsimile”

Posted: November 5, 2010 in books, Erin Snyder
Tags: , ,

In our ongoing effort to provide you, the READER!, with more books, Threat Quality Press has produced yet another book!  Facsimile, by TQP contributor Erin L. Snyder is now available for purchase.

$8.99 at Amazon, $2.99 in the Kindle Store.

“At AuroroTech, we record your actions and your words, then transform that data into a lifelike simulation. After that, the possibilities are endless. Imagine meeting yourself, being able to experience what others truly see and hear when they talk to you. Imagine if your friends and family could always keep in touch, no matter how busy you are. Imagine if in a hundred years from now, a part of you remains for future generations to interact with.”

When Persephone Kilard signed up and strapped on the miniature recorder, all she wanted was a social networking service that would take the actual work of socializing off of her hands. Fringe religious groups could wax poetic about deeper meanings and universal truths; she just wanted to make her life a little easier. After all, the simulation was only supposed to be her reflection, not her soul.

But there was one small glitch. Suddenly Persephone’s digital profile has a mind of its own. Face to face with herself, Persephone is forced to confront questions about the nature of identity that she’d rather avoid. She’d better figure it out quickly, though, because hers isn’t the only mind lurking in AuroroTech’s drives and networks. Somewhere, hidden in the code, a simulated ghost is watching her while the border between reality and replica unravels. The virtual danger is becoming all too real, and both versions of Persephone need to uncover the truth if either is going to have a chance to survive.


By: Erin L. Snyder

Chapter 1

“If you are going to waste the sort of money a gourmet meal requires, why settle for the best?  Go beyond.”  These words were printed in gold lettering on the front of every menu at De’Muure, one of the most expensive establishments in Manhattan.  Merely obtaining a reservation is a lesson in frustration.  Applicants must give the restaurant access to their profiles to test for compatibility.  Famous artists and writers are typically accepted without question; the rest are either denied entrance or placed on a waiting list that can take months.  As part of this process, the restaurant admits a limited number of less affluent customers at a discounted rate.  The stated reason for this program is to make the food of De’Muure accessible to the common customer, but no one really believes this.  Everything in De’Muure is theater: the unprivileged are there so the rich and famous can watch them squirm, just as the rich and famous are there so the poorer customers can gawk at them.  Everything inside the restaurant is a point of reference, and every point of reference is itself an object to be observed and exploited.

You can’t even be admitted without a profiling recorder.

Beyond this requirement, the dress code is somewhat tricky.  “Suit coat and tie.  Or not,” reads the gold plaque, and they mean it.  Guests are expected to dress well or dress creatively.  Wear a simple pullover, and you’ll be shown the door; wear a handmade dress stitched together from a few hundred scarves, and you’ll be seated at the best table in the establishment.  Come nude, wearing only a recorder, and you’re likely to find your meal on the house.  But trying to enter without a recorder to catalogue your reactions is an unforgivable offense.  Any who try aren’t merely thrown out: they’re banned for life.

Persephone Kilard, a distribution specialist admitted as part of the restaurant’s price reduction program, wore her recorder on a bracelet.  Its tiny black lens was illuminated by a blue light, shining like an open eye.  It could only catch half her face, of course, but that’s more than enough to capture data on her jawline, her cheek muscles, and, on occasion, even her iris.  Of course, when she’s among friends, their recorders are automatically networked, so complete profile information can be cobbled together.

At present, Persephone’s profile was being updated with several disparate elements about her current state.  It knew that she was underwhelmed by the food, irritated that she let her roommate talk her into coming, and curious if the man two tables to her left was actually who she thought, composer Hewitt Simonis.  It knew this because it had detailed reference data, collected over the past five years, imaging countless different expressions, vocal inflections, eye positions, and speech patterns.  It knew that she was a fan of Hewitt Simonis’s work, and could therefore infer that her repeated glances towards the man who looked very similar to the composer–but was not, as she’d learn later that evening–suggested that she believed she was in his presence.  The profiling computer even knew she was considering walking over to the table and asking the man whether he was Hewitt Simonis, just as it knew, long before she knew herself, that she wouldn’t.  It simply wasn’t in her personality, and there’s nothing the computer knew better than that.

Persephone was sitting beside her date, Arthur, who knew her better than she knew him.  While they’d never before met in person, Arthur had invested three hours the previous night conversing with Persephone’s profile, her virtual avatar, which behaved, to the casual observer, precisely like she would.  He did this so he’d know in advance whether he’d have any interest pursuing this as a relationship–or even if this might lead to a one-night stand.  Judging by her profile’s demeanor, he’d concluded that neither was very likely.  Persephone’s profile had been distant, withdrawn, and thoughtful.  Despite what the computer matching them might have thought, he found these qualities tedious.  He’d have far preferred being with the animated Ms. Loring, who seemed far more engaged in the evening.  But she’d been matched with Edward, who was taller, better looking, and more interesting than Arthur.  He was also a heavier drinker, having already gone through several cocktails.  Ms. Loring was keeping up, but–unfortunately for Edward–did not seem nearly as inebriated.

The two couples were an unlikely and imperfect pairing necessitated by a very limited pool.  There’d been only fifteen individuals selected by De’Muure’s computer as possible recipients, so the system had to make do with the options available.  In the end, though, this date wasn’t so much about the people as the setting, so the software did what it could, despite the fact that neither of the couples had more than a twenty percent chance of developing further.

“Well,” Ms. Loring said.  “Are we or aren’t we?”  Her question hung in the air while she speared a chunk of meat on the shining prongs of her fork.  She brought it before her mouth, which showed the edge of a smile.  She wore two shades of lipstick: a deep burgundy running along her upper right lip before crossing to her lower left, and a light pink on her upper left and lower right.  The effect created a patchwork impression, like a checkerboard, when her mouth was open. When she pressed her lips together, they formed an ‘X’.

“I’ve given my opinion,” Edward said, sipping his whisky sour.  He shifted around in his chair, as though it were too large for him.

“Indeed you have,” Ms. Loring said.  “But I find it utterly distasteful and am hoping for a more favorable one.”  She smiled as she said this and wrinkled her nose.  Edward found it impossible to take offense at her reply.

Arthur leaned forward.  “Sorry.  I’m with Ed.”

“Ed-WARD,” Edward corrected him, while Arthur rolled his eyes.

“Well, I want Persephone to chime in.  Persephone, dear?”  Ms. Loring said, catching her attention away from the other side of the room.

“Yeah?” Persephone said.  “Sorry, what’s the question?”

“The question on the table,” Edward replied, “is whether or not we are cannibals.  Well, not you, because you didn’t order the sapien, but the rest of us.”

“It only makes her all the more objective, doesn’t it, Persephone?”  Ms. Loring said, before echoing, “Per.  Seph.  O.  Ney.”  She tasted each syllable like sips of wine.  “Have I ever told you how much I relish your name?  I mean it.  When I think of what my parents saddled me with, I find the Universe wholly unfair.”

“It’s from the Greek,” Edward said.  “Persephone was the daughter of the king of Troy.  She was gifted with visions of the future, but cursed to never be believed.  A snake ate her.”

“That must have been quite a snake,” Ms. Loring said playfully.

Arthur blinked twice then shook his head.  “No.  I could’ve sworn that was Cassandra.  Wasn’t Persephone someone else?  Queen of the dead or something?”

Edward shrugged nonchalantly.  “Don’t think so,” he said.

“Well now,” Ms. Loring said, staring at her roommate.  “It seems we’ve a mystery on our hands.  Which is it?”

“How should I know?” Persephone replied.  “It’s just a name.”  The digital system knew this was a lie.  Persephone was just trying to change the subject.

“Well then, I’ll just have to look it up.”  Ms. Loring’s hand dove into her purse and came out with a tiny computer bearing the AuroroTech logo on the back.

“You know,” Edward said to Ms. Loring.  “Come to think of it, I never did catch your first name.”

Before Persephone could open her mouth, Ms. Loring’s eyes shot wide open.  Greek etymology forgotten, she let the miniature computer fall back into her handbag.  “That is because my full and complete name, for all intents and purposes, is Ms. Loring.  And if you ever find out otherwise, I shall seriously have to consider murdering you.  As well as anyone who betrays my secret,” she added, with a conspicuous glance towards Persephone.  “But how did we ever wander so far off topic?  What was it that started this?  Arthur, you remember, don’t you?”

“We were talking about cannibalism,” Arthur said, somewhat bored.  He glanced around the room, at the many tables full of interesting and creative people he’d rather be talking to.  Of course, he knew perfectly well they’d have little interest in talking to him, but that was beside the point.

“That’s true, and we were.  And, unless I’m mistaken, we remain without a judgment.  So then.  Which is it?  Am I a cannibal or not?”

Persephone thought for a few seconds.  “Sorry,” she said.  “Edward’s right.”

Ms. Loring pouted, taking full advantage of her lipstick to draw attention to the action.  “Why?”

“Because it’s not real,” Edward interrupted, clearly taking the matter far more seriously than either of the women.  “It’s just cloned meat.  If they’d have cloned a whole person and cut it up, that’d be different.  But this is just a string of proteins and chemicals formed in a giant Petri dish or something.”

“You’re nothing but a string of proteins and chemicals,” Ms. Loring retorted.  “And if I cut you up and asked the chefs to marinate your flesh and grill it, you’d taste no different from these delightful morsels.” She bit into a cube of meat, and a drip of juice ran down her lip.  She caught this quickly with her finger, which she licked clean.

“But that’s not the point.  Or it is the point,” Edward said.  “It’s not the real thing, even if it tastes like the real thing.  Right?”

“It’s a simulation,” Persephone said.

“Exactly!”  Edward’s open palm hit the table.  The water swirled about inside the glasses, and the plates rattled, creating a small disturbance.  More than a few diners turned around to raise eyebrows at the scene.  The headwaiter took notice and whispered for more drinks to be brought over in the hope that whatever was happening might escalate into a genuine confrontation.  De’Muure hadn’t had a worthwhile incident in more than a week, and they could always use the publicity.

Persephone blushed, and Arthur just kept staring at his unfinished drink.  Edward gave no indication that he even noticed the attention he was garnering, while Ms. Loring simply burst out laughing.

“I suppose I’m outnumbered,” she said.  “And a pity, too.  I’d truly hoped to add ‘cannibal’ to my personality traits.  But, no.  It wouldn’t be honest, and I really must go on seeing myself as honest.  A pity.”  She returned to her food, a pyramid of meat stacked on a bed of lettuce and thinly sliced beets.  When the waiter came around and offered her a fresh drink, she accepted without question or hesitation.  She sipped this, then looked around the table.  Persephone looked uncomfortable, Edward was far too drunk for his own good, and Arthur looked bored.  “Now we need something new to talk about,” she said.  Her fingernail began tapping her glass, slowly.  Rhythmically.

“We could talk about you,” Edward suggested.

“If only that were fruitful,” Ms. Loring said.  “Unfortunately, you’ll find me a bore.”

“I don’t think that’s right, at all,” Edward said.  “I mean, you’re an artist, right?”

“Ah,” Ms. Loring said.  “You’ve been toying with my profile.”  Her nose wrinkled a bit as she said the word ‘toying.’

“I spoke with your profile,” Edward said.  “Just a little.”  He raised his hand, forefinger and thumb just a smidge apart.

“Good, then I’m not the only snoop here.  But you must have learned that I have embarrassingly little to offer.”

“Wait,” Arthur said.  “You’re an artist?  What do you do?”

“I’m an estheticist,” Ms. Loring replied.

“Of course,” Arthur said, unconsciously tapping his lower lip.

“I’ve never seen a dime from the endeavor, and my repeated submissions are rejected at every turn.”

“You’ll be discovered,” Edward said.  “You’re too interesting not to be.”

Ms. Loring smiled.  “Oh, Edward.  That is both uncommonly kind and unforgivably naïve.  My lipstick, my behavior–indeed my entire persona and esthetic–are constructed to atone for a completely uneventful past.  The truth is there’s nothing much interesting about me at all.  You must have picked up on that at least while poking around my profile.”

“Well.  I assume there’s some stuff your profile doesn’t have,” Edward said.

“I’ll have you know I use the best profiling system available,” Ms. Loring said.  “And I use it right.  I don’t keep secrets.”

“Except your name,” Persephone whispered innocently.

“You be careful,” Ms. Loring warned.  “I’d hate to let slip anything about your college days.”

“You’ve known each other since college?” Arthur asked, feeling as though he should say something before the evening was over.  After all, each of the participants would rate their interactions with each other.  It was in his interest to come off at least somewhat engaged.

“No, no.  Of course not,” Ms. Loring said.  “We moved to New York at about the same time and both needed a roommate to help with the rent.  We found each other through our profiling company.  The computer thought we’d be a good match.”

“Glitch,” Persephone added.

“At any rate, before she learned I was unable to keep my mouth shut, Persephone shared many of her secrets.  Others, I simply gleaned from discussions with her profile.  And it turns out that she was a very different person before I met her.”

“Well, this is beginning to sound interesting,” Edward said.  “Let’s have it.”

“Don’t dare,” Persephone said.

“Maybe something small.  A trivial thing perhaps?  Such as your brief stint as an activist?”

“Oh, God,” Persephone said.  “All right.  Go ahead.”

“Well, back in college Persephone wanted to make the world a better place.  So she enlisted with a group of Post-Conservationists.”

“You’re kidding,” Arthur said, suddenly taking interest.  “You don’t seem the sort.”

“I’m not the sort,” Persephone said firmly.  “I quit after about a week, when I figured out what ‘Post-Conservationist’ meant.”

Edward interjected, “I have a lot of respect for the movement.  They take things as far as they’ll go.  And,” he paused for emphasis, “they never apologize.”

“They’re sick,” Persephone said plainly.  “I joined before they got famous, and I hate what they do.  If I’d known beforehand, I’d never have gotten involved.  They just cause pain.  They don’t accomplish anything.”

“Except art,” Edward replied.

“What?” Arthur asked.

“No,” Edward said.  “Art.  Like what artists do.  They create art to make a point.  I respect that.”

“Then perhaps, dear Edward, you should join one of those groups yourself,” Ms. Loring said.

“I would,” Edward answered.  “Only I’d first have to care about the environment.  And I don’t.  So I won’t.”  He smiled at the rhyme and leaned back in his chair.  “If you’re truly as nosey as you let on, Ms. Loring, you must know a thing or two about me.”

“I spent some time with your profile,” she admitted, “but I’m afraid you are terribly dull.  Duller, perhaps, than even me.  All I have is what you’ve made abundantly clear to everyone here, that you are something of a hedonist.”

“I am!” Edward proclaimed.  “And proud of it.  I say anyone who’s not a hedonist takes life for granted.”  He finished his drink in a single gulp, as if to punctuate his point, then set the empty glass down hard on the tabletop.  “If you can’t enjoy things that are enjoyable, then what’s the point of being alive?”

“A good sentiment,” Ms. Loring mimed a yawn.  “But nothing new.”

“You must have found something else of interest,” Edward said.  “I’ve done some unusual things in my time.”

“If you’re referring to that business on the subway, I must say I’m unimpressed.  No, Edward, I’m afraid your past disappoints.  Fortunately, I was able to find a fact or two of note about Arthur.”

“What?” Arthur said.  “What are you talking about?”

“Well, not Arthur specifically, but his relations.  Oh, it would be impolite of me to take this from him.  Arthur, will you tell us about your brother?”

“Uh oh,” Arthur said, though he was clearly happy to be the center of attention.  “All right, all right.  You’re talking about Paul, aren’t you?”

“No.”  Ms. Loring was forceful.  “How dare you insult him with his Christian name?”

Arthur laughed.  “Okay, I’ll get there.  About two years ago, my brother, Paul, fell in with a bunch of Neo-Nietzscheans.”

“Wow,” Edward said.  “That does take the cake.”

“You’re holding back,” Ms. Loring said.  “Tell us his true name, Arthur.”

“Well, he’s taken to calling himself Syphaulis,” Arthur said, and Edward almost fell out of his chair laughing.  “He’s gotten a few tattoos, and he spends hours on those sites.”

“Nietzscheans aren’t so bad,” Ms. Loring said.  “Really little more than Neo-Idealizts with a touch of ennui.  I suppose it is possible to grow a bit too attached to one’s profile, though.”

“Does he volunteer at church?” Edward asked.

“You’re thinking of Post-Nihilism. There is a difference,” Arthur said, pleased to outclass Edward.  Both men made a point of displaying a friendly smile, and Arthur continued, “No, he just mopes around our parents’ house then goes to these clubs.  I tagged along once.  Never again.  Imagine a series of mirrors on every wall with computer terminals everywhere else.  And every two feet there’s some twenty-year old kid moping about how his profile is supposed to rise beyond good and evil and digital recurrence and… God… it just goes on and on.”

“Sounds like a riot,” Edward said.

“It’s not.  It’s just pitiful and absurd.  Never again,” Arthur reiterated.

“Well, perhaps I’ll have to get the name of the place,” Edward said.  “Maybe I’ll stop by for a drink some evening.  How about it, Ms. Loring?  Would you like to join me?”

“No,” Ms. Loring replied curtly.  “I’ve little interest in sitting around snickering at children.  I think I shall pass.”

Edward just nodded and stared at his plate.  His food was entirely gone, so he began to poke at the scraps with his knife.  It was a nervous habit he’d resort to when things weren’t going the way he wanted.  He’d done it at least as long as he’d had a profile.  It was probably something he’d been doing since he was a child, but there was no way to be sure.

He looked around at these people he barely knew, and saw that while they were moving on to other things, the lights of their recorders were still on him, still staring. So, as best as he could, he went on smiling for the camera.  Because it’s well documented that no one wants to be identified as being gloomy.

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