AUGIE WAS PLAYING with a paper napkin. Then he said, “Well, I have a few ideas.”
“Shoot…please,” I said.
For the next twenty minutes I tried to digest what Augie was saying. He congratulated me for sharing my feelings on the suicide, hallucination, and the trouble with my publisher. He told me that coming to terms with all of this should start right now, with this conversation.
The issue of Anne-Marie’s body parts transmuting into the second girl was a classic manifestation of how the human psyche can arrange parts of reality into a whole form. Instead of being scared by the episode, he thought to the contrary, that it was a healthy reaction in dealing with the suicide. Whether the suicide was real or not should make no difference, at least to me. My reactions were real and that was the important point. The dead animated all of us and my case was interesting since I might possibly be responding to a virtual dead girl. He thought that Jung had probably not considered psychological reactions to virtual realities by persons without recognizable psychosis or neurosis. Perhaps he was being too kind to me, but he thought I was fairly normal. He said that I needed to write about Anne-Marie and the mutated girl and place them in the employment guide. This was crucial to successfully dealing with the totality of my life. He emphasized that the writing would no doubt serve a therapeutic purpose. If I didn’t feel the writing, then it would not be read as authentic. Writing and reading were a symbiotic relationship and any publisher worth their salt would understand. He then went into a long discussion of how technology was breaking down the wall between reality and simulation. Trans-magnetic brain stimulation, which could turn on or off certain parts of the brain, was upon us. Electricity applied with precision could get a person to believe anything. Implanted electronic transmitters were just around the corner and we would soon be able to share thoughts and dreams. Most of the research and development into virtual reality was in the field of human sexuality or robots that could fuck as well as humans. Someday, my Anne-Marie would be a robot and not an avatar. Soon the phenomenon of the uncanny valley would be crossed and robots and humans would be able to love and disappoint each other. It would all be real since the human senses can easily be fooled. The big problem with all of this was that as we created the virtual world, the natural world, of the oceans and the atmosphere and the animal kingdom, was dying. It seemed that we couldn’t have both the real and the virtual. The number of species was dramatically declining. The collapse of the great African migrations particularly caused Augie pain. Creating virtual worlds, while the real one died, was expensive, ironic, and contradictory. He asked me to send him the employment guide when I was ready and that he would make comments. He felt certain that I must include Anne-Marie and the transmutation.
We shook hands and walked away. The wind whipped around me as the dark Seattle afternoon changed into night without any hesitation. When I got home I fell asleep. I woke up near dawn and started writing. My plan had been to create a chronological order to the guidebook, but upon waking, I took a few tabs of speed and started on a pitcher of Bloody Marys. My thoughts were soon careening inside my head and the words on the glowing monitor were without direction and they began to resemble clothes in a spin dryer. I thought about Augie’s advice and believed that I needed to put down the totality of my experiences and who I was at this moment. I wrote for eighteen straight hours.
Time suddenly was heavy and cold, pulling me toward the bed as everything died in slow motion. I looked at the final line of my employment guide: “She was wildly good looking and every time she passed my seat I thought about atomic bombs falling upon the children of Japan.” I hit the send tab and a low sound emanated from Augie’s computer in the study of Sam Hill’s old mansion. Augie saw the file was from me. His big fireplace was silently burning chemical logs. Outside his floor-to-ceiling windows, a gray-black storm settled upon Seattle. The thick clouds ran along the streets and picked up the reflection of neon signs and slowly drifted into the hills, heading toward the mountains. Snow started to fall and it came down in talking walls and there were geometric faces in the flakes and then Augie began to read.
(From Living and Dying with Dogs: Turbo Edition.)