Educated Fishwives by Adam West

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I decided to check again. For the last time. No point keep on hoping the consignment would make it here before the twenty-second.

It wouldn’t. No choice but to proceed before it was too late.

A hologram whirred up and out of the console in a lazy fashion, like a half-cut genie who could not care less about being emancipated.

The soon-to-be-re-incarcerated figure intoned: ‘UPDATE: Next consignment due eighteenth of –’

I jabbed a finger at an ephemeral terminal button. Cut the genie’s damn circuits.

‘Don’t worry,’ Rishka said.

‘I do,’ I said, ‘what if…what if I…?’

Her arm came around me. We listened to music till dawn. Off-World Imports Inc. Ancient stuff from cold climates before the days of the corporate World State and Global meltdown.

Amiina. Samaris. Rökkurró.

‘Good music back then,’ I said, ‘in the twenty-first century?’

‘Falleg,’ she replied.

I agreed it was beautiful and before the sky turned to pink Rishka gave me something to drink. It was the end for the old me, and I knew it, but I wasn’t afraid any longer. We had it all worked out.

My eyes closed shut. She stayed with me. Held my hand while I slipped away.

*

‘We might be fishwives, but at least we’re educated fishwives.’

Sure, I thought, fishwives: I know what it means, but why educated? And why do these women stay here all day long ordering more and more Coble cake and coffee?

I hear them in my sleep. I see them writing on the napkins. The fishwives see me and I see the girl – the pretty waitress who never tires – who refuses to look at me.

Ground-hog day has to stop sooner or later.

Later, I think. But it goes on. Damn if I’ll stay stuck here forever.

‘I say…’ One of the fishwives leans over and hands me a napkin, ‘you were crying just then, weren’t you?’

‘Was I?’

‘Dry your eyes and stop snuffling.’

She gets up and stands over me and watches whilst I unfold the napkin. The words printed on it are what I see on cab ads, and the holographic sidewalk hoardings, the overground pipes.

Installer jam. Please wait.

It’s a message and the message is for me. I know I know what the ubiquitous code means only I can’t unlock the part of my brain that holds that information. I don’t have the key. The password. A legitimate way in.

‘No cure for blocked synapses.’ The fishwife standing next to me smiles at her own joke. Some of her teeth are missing. Apple purée slides down her chin.

Back at the table her compatriots are shovelling down Coble cake. I leave them to it. The waitress appears, picks up the napkin and eats it. For the benefit of the cake-eaters signs FILE SAVED then DOWNLOAD COMPLETE.

File saved. Sure. Download complete – I can buy that, too, but why won’t the waitress look at me? And why does she always shrug like that, like it’s no big deal, when I’m stuck here day after day after day?

She turns away.

Run and stop her, I think. Don’t let Ground-hog day triumph again.

I catch and restrain her.

‘Let go of us mister.’

I let go.

She steps back and squats.

Gives birth.

Not a baby boy or girl. Something old.

Whatever it is it does not move. Uncoil itself from its painful looking foetal position.

The girl who bore it, the pretty waitress I stopped, stands over it and prods it with a toe. The thing coughs. Spluttering wet coughs. I see the fishwives have gone.

Thank goodness the fishwives have gone.

I look down at the ‘newborn’ and think; all this freaky symbolism makes me want to throw up.

The waitress is holding my hand. I feel her warmth. As real as real can be. I know who she is. I know what I am looking down at – the wizened creature unfolding and regressing fast.

Me. I. Myself.

The consignment came through on time albeit a week after I ‘passed on’. I have returned. Been poured back into a new, ersatz body.

Same me. New shell.

Rishka worked out the glitch. The Ground-hog day nightmare that kept me stuck with those damn educated fishwives. Loop after loop after loop.

The download finally installed successfully which means I got another twenty-five Alphane cycles with my beloved.

Of course, we are not immortal.

 

Adam West

 

Banner photograph: By Léonard Defrance {1735-1805) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

9 thoughts on “Educated Fishwives by Adam West

  1. Hi Adam, for me this paints a future that has failed to evolve, the idea of reincarnation or rebirth on the floor of a coffee shop must be a retrograde step for mankind. However, I did enjoy the idea of how in the future ‘humans’ can still be nostalgic about music, but why not the 20c 1960s, everyone remembers that time even if they were never born.
    Regards, James.

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    • Thank you for commenting James. Always fascinating to discover what folk take from your writing. What thoughts and ideas your own thoughts provoke? My memories of the sixties are a little sketchy, not because my brain is addled by LSD – although reading this story you might wonder – but because I was not quite seven when the decade was out – take care, Adam

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  2. This is weird and very rich. It’s always interesting to read the worlds you create! Keep ’em coming!
    ATVB my friend
    Többe (Nice use of Ö in the article, the Swede in me appreciate it )

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    • It is indeed weird, Többe (and the Coble cake is rich also). For the record the dialogue ‘We might be fishwives but at least we’re EDUCATED fishwives.’ I overheard outside a cafe in a fishing village in North Yorkshire. One of the three women in conversation was either German speaking or possibly Swedish. The three acts I mention are amongst many Icelandic artists/musicians I admire. Thanks as always for your support – your good friend, Adam

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    • Hi June – here is a quick explanation for you or anyone else who might wonder what the heck I was wittering on about here: my MC is dying and is waiting for his new body to arrive but living as he does on an Alphane Moon the deliveries are a bit iffy so his woman – who is in fact an android has to upload his conciousness and in effect end his life and then download his consciousness into his new body when that finally arrives. However there is a glitch as there often is with downloads and he gets stuck in a ground-hog day with the fishwives – in a kind of surrealist dream, before finally the glitch is sorted and he is reborn hence all the symbolic nonsense at the end – and thanks s for reading as always, Adam x

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  3. Gee, Adam, your clear explanation was all it took to make me see that this is actually a brilliant piece of work. Always, June

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  4. Hi Adam, I think that no matter how far in the future your story is set, within it asks those unknown questions regarding our consciousness, soul and mortality. This isn’t only for Science Fiction fans, this is for every human who has wondered why and where we will end up?
    A thought provoking piece of wonderful writing.
    All the very best my friend.
    Hugh

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