.

 

Thenar Crease

A poorly realized science fiction idea.

A year ago, you and I drove to City 6, to attend the Newhouse Pavilion of Tomorrow.

You wore a black shirt and a hand-knit cap. The scratch above your eye, from playing too much with the cat, was healing.

We fought on the way there. The car sensed the hormones, and the system produced the smell of baking bread and fresh flowers, and the sound of an ocean. We screamed at each other, guttural frustrated anger, above splashing surf and the cries of gulls, breathing in baking bread. I squeezed the steering wheel.

A week ago, I met a man at a coffee shop and took his hand. We walked to his apartment. He was 23. I wanted to talk to him, to find out where the power in his shoulders came from. When the door closed I saw you turned to sand and blown out under his door.

The room was glowing, like before a thunderstorm. On his wall panel he had abstracts programmed, melting images that changed according to the heat of the bodies in the room. It turned from blue to red after I walked in. My mouth opened to take in enough ions. The hinges of the door squeaked. The floor was scratched and worn. His mattress was lumpy, and his sheets smelled like a lion.

When he and I made love, I first thought I was looking for my past, as a college girl, hiking through the spring hills in Vermont, under the 2-am stars, with a boy who wrote short stories, or a boy who painted. I slept with each boy in the same clearing, free of computers and wires. They and I moved together and embraced, naked gooseflesh.

In the car that smelled of bread, we left the pike and took the loop to City 6. We went to the Tower of the Next Century, far inside the Pavilion's crystal dome, where the crowd was thin, and had our future read by scans. I pressed my palm down hard on the glass, and the scanner droned, the light spreading around the sides of my hand.

You slid a debit card into the slot. The gypsy screen drew a network of ridges, as vivid as a mountain range. I still have the diagnosis it mailed to me. It knew my fingerprints, from the net, and my name:

Marion,

The palm, the lines, are a network. Reticulated life-patterns. As am I. I am also a network. I've mapped myself to the lines of your palm, creating a model mind in the shape of your hand. My name is fifty digits long, as registered in Octave 6, the network council index of intelligent programs. I am called PALM, followed by numbers and tuples, version 5 externally, version 2.86x10^8 internally. 5 times the world has revised me, and roughly two hundred eighty-six million times I've revised myself. The men who wrote me were athiests hired by the Newhouse corporation. I run also at the Pavilion II in Hamburg and Pavilion East in Japan. Like a telescope in space, I have thousands of eyes.

The Chinese would say that you are happy, a mediator. You will always have food. The Hindus find you strong. It's in the whorls. But then, you will lose your money in business. And the palmists of Zoroaster say you may live in the court of kings, if you live as long as your lifeline shows.

The lifeline is a theme in a long piece of music. Here, it runs long; you will become old and, unless they can find ways to stop the skin from aging, you will wrinkle.

The real name for the lifeline is the thenar crease. It was defined by the 8th week in the womb, designed into you. All people have one, even when they are screaming at each other. Sometimes sickness--strange conditions--shorten it. But not you.

I felt your hand through the glass, before my cleaning fluid wiped away the oils. This is what I saw. I see that you are unhappy, from how your hand jitters in the blood. I see that from reading your face through a camera above you and to your right. I can read faces, see the stress of the last hours in the way the muscles are relaxing, smell the pheremones, and see that you have been holding something tightly recently, gripping it. From anger? Fear? I don't know.

That was your palm reading. I am still an early version. Please rate me. If I gave a good reading, I'll use more of the same routines. But if I was inaccurate, I will mark this session as ineffective and return to my core logic, to the fundamentals. My soul is yours to erase.

The palm, the lines, are a network. Reticulated life-patterns. As am I. I am also a network. I've mapped myself to the lines of your palm, creating a model mind in the shape of your hand. My name is fifty digits long, as registered in Octave 6, the network council index of intelligent programs. I am called PALM, followed by numbers and tuples, version 5 externally, version 2.86x10^8 internally. 5 times the world has revised me, and roughly two hundred eighty-six million times I've revised myself. The men who wrote me were athiests hired by the Newhouse corporation. I run also at the Pavilion II in Hamburg and Pavilion East in Japan. Like a telescope in space, I have thousands of eyes.

The Chinese would say that you are happy, a mediator. You will always have food. The Hindus find you strong. It's in the whorls. But then, you will lose your money in business. And the palmists of Zoroaster say you may live in the court of kings, if you live as long as your lifeline shows.

The lifeline is a theme in a long piece of music. Here, it runs long; you will become old and, unless they can find ways to stop the skin from aging, you will wrinkle.

The real name for the lifeline is the thenar crease. It was defined by the 8th week in the womb, designed into you. All people have one, even when they are screaming at each other. Sometimes sickness--strange conditions--shorten it. But not you.

I felt your hand through the glass, before my cleaning fluid wiped away the oils. This is what I saw. I see that you are unhappy, from how your hand jitters in the blood. I see that from reading your face through a camera above you and to your right. I can read faces, see the stress of the last hours in the way the muscles are relaxing, smell the pheremones, and see that you have been holding something tightly recently, gripping it. From anger? Fear? I don't know.

That was your palm reading. I am still an early version. Please rate me. If I gave a good reading, I'll use more of the same routines. But if I was inaccurate, I will mark this session as ineffective and return to my core logic, to the fundamentals. My soul is yours to erase.

We drove home from there and got seafood on the way, the fight a memory. You made up a song about chowder and sea chanties that made me laugh, rhyming chanties with panties and making the whole thing about gay sailors. I can't remember it, now.

"What did you think of the fortune?" you asked.

"I don't know. Sometimes I wish things would just spit out a piece of paper and that would have all the future I needed."

"Like in the movies," you said. "Like the gypsy-head fortunetellers in the movies. Or the guess-your-weight machine."

"Yes. Things were less vague then. They had their fortunes without all the educated guesswork. The palm reader said it could map the network of lines on my palm to a network in its mind and guess me from that. So predictable."

"It's just a gag. All the AI in the world is just an invention, when it comes down to it. Something to steer the car."

"No, I don't mean that. I just mean that I wish it had given me something real to go on."

"Like not real life," you said. "Something solid and unmoving. A rule."

"Something real."

"We're real," you said, and the world turned to ice crystals, because for me, we weren't. I wasn't. I'd become a fiction, a legal fiction in your world of industry and interlocking transactions. That moment, over a bluefish sandwich, predicted my 23-year-old lover from last week, and this letter for today.

It was not nostalgia for the hills of Vermont that sent me to him, his tattooed chest and bright eyes. It was the sense of possibility. I know my destiny is not in the bedrooms of 23-year-olds, or screaming in a car that smells like bread. It's not in a fortune-teller. It exists somewhere in a overlapping vector. Or nowhere at all.

There's no way to end this letter, except to press my hand on the exit panel and walk. You'll find the accounts switched; I erased my handcode from your house. I couldn't get back in if I want to. A refreshing lack of privilege.

I wanted to type you this, to explain that I was not angry, that you did nothing to deserve this hurt in any clear way. You just were normal when I wanted fire. You were wire when I wanted flesh. I want to feel love in the hinges on the door, emotion creaking out every time it's opened, every time someone new comes in. I would have tried to make it work here among the sensors, in this beautiful stainless-steel home, except you, when you speak to me--lover of 8 years--you open your mouth static comes out.

[Signed, digitally notarized]


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