Cyborgs Like Us
Five Women Seek to Complete a Film About a Bygone Era
Her eyes fluttered for a few seconds. It happened like this every workday. Her alarm clock under her eyelids reflected the time: six thirty. Tyquinae Sandifer would wake up to the skies, a grayness clung to the morning atmosphere. She had charged her batteries with a wireless connection. Once she undid the the electronic bed on which she slept, Tyquinae would prepare her two children for their home studies. Her metallic arms glowed turquoise and purple. They moved like dueling swords; there existed in them a rapidity that remained precise and determined. On her left arm, the news report and the weather issued warnings of possible snowstorms. She thought, I may not have to come in today. Another thought dismissed this ideation. Tyquinae knew that she had to put the work in and earn her credits. Her legs also featured the two colors of her arms and glistened as well. She pulled them from the charging pad and extended her arm to reach her shoes. She dressed herself in the usual garb; Tyquinae donned a tunic of a blue color with matching blue bottom pumps. Once she exited her room, her little ones had already dressed and been prepared for school. The school consisted of a hologram of the teacher transmitting educational materials from a space station one million feet from the Earth. The doors locked upon her leaving the domicile and the security and surveillance systems protected the children from intruders. Their day was regimented to provide breakfast and lunch samples from the private school program. Tyquinae named her little boy, aged seven, Syquan and her little girl, aged five, Ryella.
“Mommy’s going to work. Learn your lessons,” She kissed them on their electronic and flesh foreheads and left them to their studies in the modest fortress.
She procured her vehicle; it was a flying apparatus with just enough room for her and her children, and she knew that one day, she would upgrade to an even better mode of transportation. She became one with the flying automobile. Her circuitry matched up with the onboard controls and she zipped from her house down to the film set in Newark, Delaware. There, she passed through the skygate and found her proper parking place. When the levitating automobile had come to a rest, Tyquinae strolled past the check in point as her DNA was scanned to ensure that it was her who was entering the gates. Music coursed through her veins up to her ears as she zoomed through the halls on an electric board. The song, a gospel EDM fusion with a splash of the blues drove her to her office. She came to a stop. The lights, heating, music, and fragrance of the air all adjusted once Tyquinae entered her trailer. The music she was listening to switched over through the wireless fidelity system. Classical music oozed through the speaker system in the medium sized trailer. It provided just enough space for two women to work. Plans for different makeup kits clung to the walls. The well-kept area brought about a sense of pride for one’s work. Tyquinae enjoyed her industry. The makeup artists of the Golden Age of Hollywood inspired her to pursue this profession. Those men and women of old who put their skills to use and made moulages, and figurines, and knew how to make just the right brush stroke motivated Tyquinae to become excellent at this trade as well.
She had done just three visuals elements in the past five years. “I think we should go with it.”
“I object,” said Voletta Fluellen. “It’s completely ludicrous to have these costumes fit over our people today. How did they even get the idea to do a period piece from nineteen seventy-four in Newark, Delaware?”
“For all the things that it represented back then. Though it was a dirty time period replete with stagflation, long lines on what were known as gasoline shortages, and the ugliness of a thing called sexism, the family unit was intact and the Black families still inhabited those places like here in Newark. Kalisha Ladson’s direction of Wynette’s script will be monumental. Not classic. But monumental.
“I understand that. But with these constraints. I just–I mean there’s no way we can put forth these costumes for me, and for you–that makeup has got to be a drudgery.”
“No, it’s not, really. I have been researching that time period and found that I can make cyborgs into the original human form by way of breaking with tradition and completely revamping what it means to be a person. I can add a bit of color here and arrange the hair there to create a portrait of what humans used to look like.”
“I see. But what are you going to do about all the circuits and the screens and the eyelids. What about the electronic apparatuses and appendages that people of today have? Will you be able to produce on the level that Hollywood once did all those years ago?”
“Yes. And it’s not just Hollywood I’m thinking of. I’m thinking of this small town of ours. I’m thinking of the people who lived and breathed and worked and raised families and retired here.”
“Well, these costumes won’t be cheap. That’s for sure. I’m going to talk with the line producer about these numbers. They’re going to be significant. This budget may cover the entire costs. But I keep thinking, too. I’m thinking the whole visual experience will rely heavily upon CGI and other special effects anyway. What are we doing?”
“We’re showing that the way that Wynette envisioned the people to be in her picture, that is what we are going to do. CGI and all that other stuff is fine. But we are the artists, too. Kalisha’s direction of recent visuals with modern day settings exemplifies her keen eye. I’d be more than proud to present to her a finished product that she can appreciate. I think that we are there.”
“Take five, mama. I’m about to order some coffee and muffins. You want anything?”
Voletta punched in the codes into her arm. Her preferences for a double shot, latte macchiato, with two sugars and a banana walnut muffin from Coffee Now popped up on her arm. Within thirty seconds, robots prepared and delivered the coffee and muffin to her trailer. The robot delivering the goods subtracted credits from Voletta’s account and flew off into the distance.
“You sure you don’t want any, girl?”
“Yes, I’m sure.”
Voletta took a bite into the banana walnut muffin. She studied her costume drawings. Bellbottoms and canvas sneakers and corduroys and football jerseys and skirts and boots all displayed her immense talent. The accuracy and time-specific wardrobes that she sketched brought to mind a woman who could illustrate a specific people in a specific time. She swallowed some of the latte.
“I’m just imagining all of these actors. Did you know that some of them are getting surgery to remove their circuits? They’re spending millions just for the sake of authenticity. There’s nobility in that, but what are they going to do? After production, are they going to get their extra hands sewn back on and get themselves rewired? They’re having their legs and arms and amputated and flesh to cover the mechanized portions. Their hardware and software systems will be completely reversed to match the people of that bygone era. I’m still not sure why I even signed on to do this. Oh, that’s right, I’ve got to power my nuclear household and keep my circuits in order.”
“I guess that you can call that Method acting.”
“It’s a system that is based on realistic portrayals by actors on stage and screen.”
“I know what Method acting is. What is the relation to the actors of this visual?”
“The actors undergoing those operations. They’re really trying to go for the true-to-life side of the story. It’s evident that they’re probably going to regret losing their mechanical arms and legs and their significant height and their computer systems. But like you said, they can just get them sewn on, circuited, and rewired.”
Voletta chomped and sipped again. “I wouldn’t even have my parts removed just to have them put back again. I mean look at us.” She put down her beverage and food and took into account the two womens’ electrical physiques.
“I mean look at these nails.” Her fingernails glowed like the dorsal spine of an angler fish. Tiny light-emitting diodes sparkled orange and cerulean on her nails. “I would have to go to one of those, what do you call them? Nail salons. Are they still around?”
“Yes and I see your point. I’ve noticed my height extender.” Tyquinae peered down at her mechanical legs. The purple and green lustre of the titanium alloy legs evoked a sense of strength and power. Though she wore heels for fashion, naturally she stood at five feet two inches. With the extenders applied to her legs, she stood at five feet ten inches. Those heels just represented show. The legs stood for go.
“What strikes me as so amazing is how people couldn’t even change their hair color with a few tweaks of their software,” Voletta said. She prided herself on the fact that her blue and orange locks came about because of a hairstyling program embedded into her DNA. She coiffed her hair and not a strand of it fell out of place.
“I know. My job is a great deal easier with the way that I can ask a program to switch styles, colors, and cuts with a few swipes of the keypad on the back of the neck. I relish my work and it can be challenging at times. That’s what I like about it. But that hair software...brilliant.”
Voletta finished her breakfast. “Kalisha’s going to be on the set in a few hours. And so is Wynette. She’s always at her visual sets. No matter the director, she finds herself in the middle of the controlled chaos and down in the trenches with the rest of the working stiffs. You’d be challenged not to see her show up on set. If she wrote it, she ensures that the process is done right. She’s particular in that way.”
“Who can blame her? The woman’s produced over fifty-seven scripts. She’s only forty-one. That screenwriting software embedded in her brain keeps churning out quality script after script. It asks her questions like Socrates and she comes up with the answer and sets about to writing the scripts. She’s been in this business since she was seventeen and hasn’t stopped since.”
“I want to talk to her about a few things.”
“Oh, like what?”
“Like how she agreed to write about doing a period piece so distant in time. I want to know what sparked her brain to depict what went on so long ago.”
“It must’ve been an update in the software. Usually, those programs ask the writer to produce works related to the current day or the future. She’ll want to critique our work, I know that. And Kalisha of course will want to chat about the various technical elements.”
“We’ve got to band together as artists to get this project off of the ground. I mean with all of the hooplah about the visual going over budget and the location being completely different than it was over two hundred years ago, we’ve got to be strong on our end to see that this thing gets its proper due. For me, I think that the whole thing is going to be a game-changer. No one has reached this far back before and used as minimal modern day technology as Kalisha has. No one. So, for all the critics who say that we’re going to fail to bring to life something that existed in the distant past, I say try to not see this visual for its masterful idealism.”
“Do you see? I think that what we are doing is going to result in a change within this industry. Our commitment to excellence and detail will propel us to heights that some have considered unfathomable. We will get there.”
The two women cyborgs took to their work as archaeologists would dig into the Earth to find bits and pieces of pots from antiquity. Voletta sewed together fabric that matched clothing that had not been worn in centuries. Denim jackets and sweaters needed to be made believable to the audience. Tyquinae devoted herself to her craft, as well. She sprayed makeup onto figures that would be placed on the actors and actresses. She implemented a program for the actors to sport actual afros and long hair. She utilized her laser like vision to pinpoint exact details of the skin tones, builds, and facial features of people from the twentieth century.
Voletta looked over to Tyquinae’s work station. “Hey, I wonder how far back we could go. I mean we could go far back to the Yoruba tribes. Even Ancient Greece. With this technology that we have today, we can realize the past and make it as fresh as if it were today.”
“I hear you. This picture will show people of the right now what it was like all those years ago. Just consider how this thing is going to put Kalisha and Wynette into orbit.”
“And that’s not counting all of the people who live on Mars. They’ll be able to see what life was like eons ago. And our work will make that real for them. You know that we could really shake up the entire industry.”
“Yeah, if people stay for the credits.”
“Good point. Not too many people check out the hair and makeup and costume designers on a regular basis. Actually on any basis. Even at the awards shows, the winners usually don’t get too much press from the media. When I won my prize for doing costumes for Nothing Without a Woman or a Girl, I just stood by and witnessed as the photographers snapped pictures of the actors and the director. That’s all they care about.”
“But that doesn’t stop us. When I won for Clean I noticed that, too but understood the business side. The main draw are the figures on the visual platform and the men and women who crafted the picture through their well-fashioned eye. We continue to produce the flowing robes for the space operas. We cut the hair for those rock operas. We handle operas rather well. It’s just this period drama that I’m so fascinated by. In the history of picture making, we will have etched our names into the consciousness of anyone willing to see the visual. That is remarkable.”
“If this picture succeeds, which I know it will, we will have made an impact on how the world views people that actually had color. Naturally, I’m speaking of. People were through their biological arrangement, brown, Black, white, yellow, and red. There were no LED’s or wiring to change our tan skin color that we all now share to various colors of the rainbow. People actually fought and were enslaved and treated people inhumanely based on pigment and melanin content. Our day calls for us to live in harmony because we can change our skin color to any hue which pleases us on any given day. We have the opportunity to look past physical appearances and focus on real things like maladies. Cancer rates have plummeted due to our computer systems installed into our physical bodies which regulate our cell division. HIV, MS, ALS, even the common cold were no match for the technology which has evolved over these past two hundred years. So, to say, we cannot showcase how innovative and inventive the human race can be would be a travesty. We’ve figured a way to end wars. Crime is in the doldrums. Though we are equipped with weaponry to fend off attackers, our sense of rationality has pushed us to preserve human life. Can you even remember what those history tablets said about the last battle fought by Earthlings?”
“Exactly. Our systems are totally different from our ancestors. What makes this place so great, and if I ever get to Mars, I’ll say how great it is too, is the fact that fighting over land, or air or sea has ceased. Yes, we still maintain a military, police force, and judges but what matters most is the fact that we only employ them at the fraction of the times that people of old did.” Tyquinae’s eyes fluttered. The time on her eyelids read thirteen hundred.
“Wow, we’ve been talking and working all the way past lunch. What’d you want to eat?” Tyquinae asked.
“I’ll order a pizza with my app. You want a slice?”
“Sure. Make mine bacon and ham and pineapple.” Tyquinae sent digital currency from her bank account through a few swipes on the screen on her wrist to Voletta’s account. The pizza was delivered hot within a minute’s time by robots working for Dough Man’s Pizza. Tyquinae took a chomp out of the sizzling slice.
“You know what?”
“I think that we can stomach the critics with this one.”
“The very nature of the project ought to propel even the harshest critic to comprehend what power and force the thing entails.”
“I just know that my costumes are going to look so good on these performers. Just look at them. They’re tailor-made and fitted for each character. The toddler, the two warring families, everyone needs to have everything from booties to three-piece-suits. I want these costumes to breathe life into each character and aid in the story.”
“This makeup and hair are like that, too. I want those faces to be deep and mysterious. Or jovial and mischievous. I want each to be a song detailing the story and letting the audience immerse themselves in the telling.”
“Kalisha and Wynette should be arriving any minute now. Look, the actors are finally here.”
Jessup Fowler, the lead actor stood at seven feet two inches tall. He had a boost from the mechanical limbs appendaged to his knees. He came equipped with red white and blue arms and legs and half of his mechanized face was the American flag. He refused to get the surgery that would hack down his significant size. Instead, he pushed for Wynette to add a basketball player to the script. He ducked as he entered the trailer. He smiled at Tyquinae and Voletta.
“Hey, ladies. I’m sure you’ve got some good stuff for me to wear.”
“Just an afro, a headband, a set of goggles, short shorts, a jersey top, and a pair of sneakers,” Voletta said.
“That’s fine with me,” Fowler said.
“Where’s our leading lady?”
“She’s on her way. She’ll be here bright eyed and bushy tailed.”
The lead actress was Carmelita Joven. Her mechanical parts afforded her the ability to fly. With her salary of two hundred million dollars a visual, she could command this much money which she used to purchase a jet pack. Hot pink arms and legs stretched out before her. Bioluminescent tattoos covered her body. Her eyes shifted from different hues as well. From hazel, to green, to purple, she often showcased her variety of colors. Her arrival caused anticipation for Tyquinae and Voletta.
“We’re just so excited to see the two of you in this visual. Our work should fit you both with ease. The clothing should fit your bodies like wrapped up gifts,” Voletta said.
“I’m going to make sure that all of your afros look like puffs of smoke encircling your heads,” Tyquinae said. “And then I’m going to make you look like the humans of yesteryear. My techniques will astound. My ways with a brush and pencil will create an uproar and drive people to see this visual.”
“Really? We’re just going to have to see about that, now won’t we? No, I’m kidding. I know you ladies are artistes at this costume and hair and makeup game,” Fowler said.
Wynette Wiggums and Kalisha Ladson arrived on the set. Carmelita soon followed. Kalisha went straight to her line producers and assistant producers and executive producers for a meeting. Wynette attended every scrap of the visual making process. She viewed her work as sacred texts; they were as holy as any mystical teachings that now existed only in private settings. The table where the producers, writer, and director sat allowed for discourse that Tyquinae and Voletta held no idea of what was occurring.
“She’s going to kick Carmelita off of this visual. You watch,” Voletta said.
Tyquinae frowned. “Why would you say that?”
“Carmelita asks for too much money for her visuals, they often get bloated and over budget. I mean this visual is going to cost eight billion dollars. She’s a pretty penny if you ask me.”
“I think that she’s worth every penny. I enjoy doing her hair and even with all of the graffitti on her body, she makes it work and she can fly. Those are goals I have for being able to do one day.”
“I must admit, putting clothing on her is rather pleasant. She’s respectful and patient. Those virtues go a long way for me.”
“So, why are you dumping on the girl?”
“I don’t know, it’s just that she makes so much money and if it weren’t for us, she wouldn’t look as glamorous as she does in these visuals.”
Kalisha sported a camera on her left eye. It consisted of a lens that could magnify the smallest speck of dust and capture the fullness of a mountain. This technology served as the cinematography of the visual as well. She wore green and gold limbs. Each metallic arms and legs boasted the visual schedule and broadcasted the production beginning and end dates. From her crew, she elicited a sense of authority as some woman warrior from olden times had commanded a tribe. Equipped with editing software, Kalisha just relied upon her producers and of course her costume and makeup and hair personnel.
Wynette came prepared with a digital script encrypted and implanted into her brain. All she had to do was close her eyes and comb through this visual’s screenplay. Blue and white and silver metallic arms and legs featured scrolls of words surging through her circuit veins. She kept an eye on the entire production. An eye that could focus on objects and translate what she peered at into words. Camelita cooled her jets and with Wynette and Kalisha entered the trailer.
“Welcome to our lovely set-up, here, ladies,” Voletta said, extending her hand out to shake Kalisha’s and Wynette’s and Carmelita’s hands. Tyquinae also shook the hands of the three women. This occurred by exchanging data from the palms of each woman and seeing their mood for the day. Everyone checked out and seemed to be in a placid yet eager mind frame.
“It’s a pleasure–” Tyquinae started.
“Yes, thank you for the acknowledgement of my art,” Kalisha said.
“You’ve got a chip…” Tyquina said.
“Yes, and I can read your words before you even speak them. It set me back three million dollars. But it’s more than worth it.”
“Wow,” Carmelita said. “Is this what we’re going to look like?”
Voletta smiled. “Yes, it is Miss Joven. Tyquinae and myself have been working smart to see that you and the rest of the cast are portrayed as accurately as possible.”
Voletta raised from her seat. “Since you already can understand what we’re going to say, you must know that we–”
“You’re having some issues with the actors in their present state looking like humans did more than a century ago.”
“Yes.” Tyquinae and Voletta said in unison.
“Wynette, you want to take this one?”
Wynette looked assured. Confident. She carried herself with the heir of a Chairwoman of a for-profit company.
“I must say, that when I wrote the script for this visual, People like Us, I had in mind what these characters would look like. Feel like. To give you the proper impression of what I mean,” While Wynette spoke, Kalisha projected from her eye the scenes of Newark, Delaware in the summer in the year of nineteen seventy-four. Scenes of children playing with bicycles and jump rope popped up in a visual before their eyes. Young men revving up muscle cars burst onto the image. Young women in shorts and t-shirts added to the image. Old ladies tried to conquer the sweltering heat by themselves with fans advertising funeral homes. Ice water and ice cream trucks strolled by drawing in crowds of children seeking succor from the hot weather with a ice cream cone or soda or water ice.
“Do you see this idyllic scene, ladies?”
Tyquinae and Voletta nodded in agreement. Carmelita’s electronic, multi-colored eyes widened.
“Do you mean to tell me that people actually lived like this. It’s like looking at something from a time capsule,” she said.
“This was what Newark was like decades upon decades ago. I wanted to present the image of these people who were called “Black” and how different their world was from ours. These people argued, cajoled, laughed, and cried, and went through travails and triumphs, too. But they lacked the full freedoms that we now cherish. It is more to say that such human beings found themselves the victim of a thing that you might remember from your history scrolls called ‘racism.’ While Newark was not a hotbed for this particular form of collectivism, the residents still had to deal with it to some extent. But the real idea which I wanted to put forth was the sense that individuals looked out for one another. They traded amongst each other. I wanted to present that in this visual. I wanted to present the tribulations and the glory that these people once experienced. Even though we are cyborgs living in the most ideal of times, we must remember our past and what those people went through.”
Kalisha kept her eye open long enough for all four women to grasp what was going on in the visual.
“And I know what you all are thinking,” Kalisha said. “I’ve got just the right amount of money in the budget to assist you with trying to take our current actors and make them appear like the people of old. It is my honor to ensure that you women have the tools necessary for conveying your art.”
“Thank you, Kalisha,” Tyquinae said.
The visual disappeared.
“I’ve just one–” Voletta began again.
“The costumes. I know. They’ll be of the finest fabrics and will come with the guaranteed stamp of approval by the National Film Committee. They will fit over the metallic skin and form believable outfits for our actors. And Tyquinae, don’t worry about the makeup and hair. You will be provided with the proper styles of that time period and will be enabled to further the storytelling through your work.” Kalisha turned to Voletta.
“You don’t see it.”
Voletta shook her head. “No.”
“You ought not worry. These are trained professionals with centuries of acting school in their toolkits. They’re more than equipped with the teachings of what it means to be an actor.”
Carmelita drew up from her software the copious classes and credits she had earned as an actor. The screen on her wrist displayed all of this data. “See, I’ve got more ways to delve into character than most actors my age. I’m only twenty-six and I’ve been in twenty-two visuals.”
“Your exemplary skills will provide the visual with a distinct sense of the era. You will serve to enhance the overall look and quality of these characters,” Kalisha said.
“You’re both veterans,” Wynette said. “We know what you can do with material related to this time period and beyond. Your award-winning work will not go unnoticed. We’ve come to the place where art, commerce, and time intersect. Our individual selves can trade knowledge and information at warp speed. This visual remains to be a potential way of understanding ourselves. As much as this visual is about looking back, it is a way of examining our current selves and what we have to offer. With every costume and makeup arrangement, we will be able to tell a more honest story. I wanted to look back just to see how far we’ve come as a part of the human race. Our cyborg bodies wouldn’t have been made possible without the minds of men and women who took our human cells and matched them with software. There ought to be no problem with either of you rising to the task to create these figures. To make my words truly leap into reality. I have full confidence in both of you.”
“And yes, I read your thoughts. You’re thinking, ‘But what about the cyborgs that have built up their bodies and supercharged their minds?’ You are concerned with what cyborgs will look like on this visual about the nineteen seventies. Do not fret. I say that we can overcome these obstacles with the simple act of–”
“CGI,” Tyquinae and Kalisha said again in unison.
“Okay, now you’re reading my thoughts. I didn’t know you both came equipped with Pensaria Technology. When did you all pick up this software?” This particular functioning allowed for the user to interpret facial expressions and translate them into electronic impulses and determine what the other person is “thinking.”
“We’re not.” Tyquinae said. “We just know that the visuals would call for us to implement our craft with the helping hand of computers.”
“I understand that. I understand completely. That is why I’m going to need you to focus all of your energies on producing the best short cropped cuts, summer dresses, and flared jeans from that era. I need muscle cars from the era that ran over the asphalt. I need the news reports of the President of the United States leaving the office in disgrace amidst a horrific war in Vietnam. I trust the both of you to come up with these creations on time and under budget. In fact, I’ll cut my salary, at no sacrifice to me, to let you know that I’m serious about this project.”
“It is your visual,” Voletta said.
Wynette walked over to the four other women. “I spent two years researching this epoch. It astonished me, contorted my previously held prejudices, and challenged my entire way of thinking. While others may see the hair and makeup artists and costume designers as technical aspects of the business, you both represent the human spirit that resides under all of our metal and circuitry. Although we may be cyborgs now, our ancestors were different in that they did not possess today’s technology. There are no blind or deaf people anymore. Everyone can enjoy the visual experience without the aid of hearing devices or closed captioning. We have advantages in science, medicine, business, as well as the arts. That is why this visual is so special to me. It will show the world just what it was like when we couldn’t read thoughts with our minds or fly with our bodies. My charge is to showcase these dimensions to the paying audience.”
“I’m so glad that I can fly. This technology permits me the power of lifting off of this planet with safety and ease. Whenever I need to go off of set for a while I just program a destination and visit that place, all with the flick of the wrist and the GPS system ingrained in my software. It’s too bad that the people we’re portraying didn’t have the advantages that we hold dear today. I mean, if I couldn’t change my eyes when I wanted to or more important secure the funds that I receive for these visuals, I would be sore and disappointed. What was it that our ancestors and those on the fringes of our society have said, ‘Thank God’? While there is no such thing, I get what that phrase meant centuries ago and to what a fraction of people in this Solar System continue to say. It means the singular best thing possible. ” Carmelita said.
“Yes, and I hear you both, but what about the actors with extra arms and legs? I know that we said CGI but I just can’t see how those effects will be able to keep the viewer in that time period with the touch of scenes made by computers. They haven’t opted to complete the surgery, have they?”
“Many have.” Wynette said.
“Mechanical engineers and surgeons removed the tissue and mechanical material from their bodies prior to production. With the appendages removed and the aid of CGI, this visual ought to tell the truth, tell it like it was.”
Voletta disrupted the entire low-key conversation and burst through the door with her extra strength limbs. “I’ve had enough of this. I’m through,” she said while barreling out of the trailer door. The bitter February cold crept into the trailer for a moment. Tyquinae, Carmelita and Wynette were now out of the trailer and stood as well, mechanical arms generating heat.
Kalisha followed Voletta. In her quietest of tone she clasped her metallic hands together and petitioned for Voletta to cease. She obliged.
Kalisha’s voice was a soft as a rabbit’s tail. Her face showed of solace and tranquility.
“Voletta, I need you right now.”
“I understand that Kalisha but–”
“No, V. I see your thoughts, remember? You are worthy. I need you to be in that trailer and ready to outfit my players.” She paused and pointed at Carmelita. “She needs you. She’s going to be in this visual and wear clothing that you crafted, that you made. It’s not about whether humans would’ve liked us. It’s not even about whether other cyborgs like us. They’re, for lack of softer words, dead and gone. They’re finished. And the cyborgs of today, we can only seek their respect through our visuals. We’ve got to like and respect ourselves. Right now, in this moment. We must be first-handed and know that we can do good work and show that despite the fact that we as human beings have advanced to our mechanical states, we can still embody the soul of an individual. We don’t have to band together in mindless droves. We can have spirits of those who left us. Our minds are advanced because of software. Our ancestors had to rely on natural software: their brains. From their minds, they were able to develop everything from the wheel to the technology that laid the groundwork for the worlds we know today. It’s cyborgs like us who must demonstrate that life is so much better now than before. ”
“The constraints are too demanding.”
Kalisha’s voice became tinged with strength although the octaves trembled ever lower, ever softer. “You must understand...we are shooting this visual and in order to costume my actors properly. I need a designer. Your expertise will only add to the equation. You’re appreciated.”
Voletta programmed for her body to vaporize a cigarette internally. She typed into her arm a specific code to allow the vapor to channel through her veins and through pores as a sort of exhaust system. She stood there, frozen, vapor rising into the atmosphere. It mixed with the condensation of her breathing apparatus. Wynette moved closer to Voletta.
“I wrote this script with you in mind. I knew that it would be a challenge to breathe life into characters foreign to our current way of life. That you would be challenged with coming up with the proper dress, and slacks, and suits and shoes and other garments. But you are a professional. Your work enhances the visual and gives it its vibrancy.”
Voletta ceased her vaping session. The vapor raised to the ether like smoky hands stretching towards the sky. She turned around to see the four women cyborgs looking at her, not accusatorily, but with genuine concern.
Tyquinae moved forward. “I know it’s hard, V. But in order to make this visual, your strong sense of detail and keen comprehension are of highest demand. Our life spans are somewhere around one hundred and eighty years with some of us reaching into the two hundreds. Our human parts may die, but with the MemoryRegistry, our cyborg selves live on. The time period in which this visual takes place, do you know how long humans lived for in those days?”
“Around seventy-one,” Kalisha said.
Tyquinae continued. “That’s why you’ve got to be a part of this. We’ve got to broadcast to the world just what our ancestors were like. How the majority of them professed faith to some mystical force or beings. How they traded amongst one another. How they talked. How they walked down the street. How they loved. How they hated. How they respected one another, or not. And especially, in your case, what they wore. Why did they have those wild styles and eccentric modes of clothing? It is up to you to transmit that imagery for this visual. It is paramount that you recognize your own talent and how we all can make this visual possible. What Wynette has crafted is a beautiful piece of art and craft in itself. The script stands for a turning point in how we view our long forgotten families. Kalisha has signed on to transform those written words into a visual of great import and impact. She wants to convey to the people of the Earth and Mars that we have the power to visualize what once was and relate it to what we have now. Will you join us on that adventure?”
Voletta sighed. “You know, I’ve never really thought of myself as some of the original humans. I always thought that we were superior than our ancestors. That we had found a way to end all wars. It’s funny. I thought that those people were savages. They murdered, stole, raped, and exacted all kinds of evil acts against each other. They seemed to be sub-human. Until recently, I had discovered that my past relatives were known as Blacks or African-Americans, like you four. I was ashamed once I heard about what they had been through. I rejected the notion that I had descended from their plight. From bodies of men and women being strung up on trees or burned in fields; or dragged from the back of pickup trucks; or shot to death in the street. I didn’t want to be associated with men who couldn’t look another man of less melanin in the eye. I now stand before you beautiful ‘borgs, ashamed that I did not embrace and acknowledge their suffering. To respect how they had to survive through torment and torture only to see their descendents in positions of power. I was ashamed that I did not recognize my own past and how I got to where I am today. It was difficult, I admit, to try to picture myself toiling in cotton fields, or collecting tobacco. I struggled with the idea that my ancestors had to be seated in Colored sections or not permitted to even get a cup of coffee in government places in some cases. This infuriated me and I just became consumed by anger. But I realize something now. I see that the resilience and the eloquence and dignity that most people of the Black race possessed pushed them to endure the worst but still made the best of it. So, I have now considered just what you all have been trying to tell me. To get this visual seen, we must cooperate and form a team to deliver a product that will remain for the ages.”
Tyquinae, Wynettte, Carmelita and Kalisha all smiled at Voletta.
“Now, do you see what role you play?” Kalisha said.
“If I’m going to do this I’ve got to do it right.”
“We know that, V,” Tyquinae said.
The five women returned to the trailer. When it was apparent that Voletta would in fact continue her work on the visual, the four other women cyborgs rejoiced.
“I’m just glad. Truly glad. Thank you Voletta for outfitting me and doing your best work to see that Wynette and Kalisha’s vision is conveyed in the proper way,” Carmelita said.
Voletta said, “I have to thank all of you for allowing me to comprehend just how much this project will mean to not only the audience but to ourselves. There is great honor and respect that I reserve for you women ‘borgs. I can’t thank you enough for your diligence and ability to let me see the light.”
Tyquinae’s eyes fluttered. “It’s almost eighteen hundred. I’ve got to get home to see my babies.” She turned to Kalisha. “Miss Ladson, I will finish this work tomorrow and upon completion, I will have made my sixtieth piece of makeup. Miss Wiggums, your beautiful script will elevate, inspire, and provide fuel for the machinery of the spirit. Carmelita, you know that we’re going to doll you up just right, girl. Voletta, you already know how we work. I’m just so happy that you stayed on board. Take care.”
“Congratulations, Ty’,” the three other women proclaimed.
“Thank you all, now if you would excuse me I must get home.” It began to snow.