Illustration for If Wishes Were Obfuscation Codes

If Wishes Were Obfuscation Codes

Life, Written in Zeroes

Illustrated by Galen Dara |  Edited by Brian J. White

June 2015

“Tell the truth and shame the devil, Doré,” Manmi used to say. Well, truth is, I’m in love with an obfuscation programme.

I’d met dj gruv grrl at Tony Roma’s in Roppongi the week between Christmas and New Year’s. I fell in love with her before the night was over.

She was my first. She was my only. And to this day, she’s still the loveliest programme narrative I have ever seen.

My plan had been to go into Yumi Kobayashi’s nexus with guns blazing, true Doré style: Custom-made hot-pink AMT Hardballer Longslides. Glammed-up silver-dyed kink curls. Golden brown skin oiled to a light sheen. Sleek dark sunglasses. Black leather halter, black leather pants, black leather calf boots. Bad attitude.

Fong would watch my six. Mud holes would be stomped. Obfuscation codes would be broken. Yumi Kobayashi, the first gynoid that man has ever known, would be arrested for the murder of Jun Nakamura, her creator.

Or so I thought.

I’d lost Fong going through the nexus, but more about him later. I also lost my Hardballers and black leather, but I’d anticipated that. I’d queued up takeover bots to storm Yumi Kobayashi’s front porch thirty minutes after my entry. For all I know, they’re still waiting outside Tony Roma’s. If dj gruv grrl ever lets them in, they should order the baby back ribs with Sapporo Black.

What I hadn’t anticipated, though, was Yumi Kobayashi’s front porch programme not being hostile.

When I walked into Tony Roma’s, dj gruv grrl and her crew were having filet mignon and piña coladas to kick off her first gig in Japan later that night at Matte Black. dj gruv grrl hadn’t touched her piña colada and had only eaten a sliver of her filet mignon because she was about to spin the biggest set of her life and was determined not to get sick on the turntables.

Her crew was these three Israeli hostesses with trè bèl olive skin, gray-green eyes, and brown hair down to the middle of their backs: Michaela, Gabriela, and Isabela. The narrative went dj gruv grrl had met them at the Shinagawa immigration office while they were renewing their entertainment visas.

Vrèman vre — truth be told — they’re interference programmes. Part of the obfuscation. Their job is to distract infiltration programmes, like the black leather one I’d coded and wore. And they’re damn good at it, too. I should know.

It helps that they’re bèl ti fi yo. Drop dead. All three of them. Throw in a London-born, Filipino-Chinese-Japanese DJ expat with full lips, killer cheekbones, and oh-so-sexy black cat-eye glasses, and I was all aflutter with warmth, shyness, and excitement.

dj gruv grrl had asked me to join them because her girls were craving Krenglish and fresh female company. They were sick of slurred, wet, alcohol-saturated Japanese, and tired of pretending their lecherous salarymen clients didn’t have bad breath, bad teeth, or both.

I knew prog bait when I saw it. I just chose to ignore it. Manmi had always said I was special.

I didn’t get to say much, though, because Michaela, Gabriela, and Isabela couldn’t shut up about how their little hottie with Cantonese inflections underneath an Emma Peel accent turned down a scholarship at Julliard to be the next DJ Beauty, not the next Lera Auerbach. Whoever that is.

All I know is dj gruv grrl’s sophisticated programme narrative made my nipples hard. And that was before she touched me.

We didn’t stay long at Tony Roma’s because dj gruv grrl’s nervous energy had been getting the best of her. On the cold walk over to Matte Black — me toting her crate of twelve-inch vinyl, Michaela, Gabriela, and Isabela bringing up the rear — dj gruv grrl asked to put her hands in the slash pockets of my gray heather double-breasted wool Spiewak Jasper pea coat to keep those long, tapered, and delicate fingers of hers warm so they didn’t seize up during her set.

I’d never seen a programme narrative with so much attention to detail. Like I said, sophisticated.

Mwen kite li fè l’. I let her, of course. Even if it was a bit awkward with her walking behind me like that down the crowded sidewalks, cheek pressed against my right shoulder blade. I’d just wanted to hear that Emma Peel accent vibrate through my back.

Once we reached Matte Black — which I found out later was Yumi Kobayashi’s pleasure centre — dj gruv grrl asked me to stay for her gig. Her cheeks had blazed scarlet from the cold and the excitement beneath those cat-eye glasses of hers as she waited for my answer.

I couldn’t have said no to save my life. Tommy Takahashi’s software interpretation programme was spot on with his articulation of the emotional and behavioral profiles of my infiltration programme. Not even the Law Guild shrinks know about my fetish for eyewear and twentieth century British women in catsuits.

dj gruv grrl’s set was short, but the music was good; Michaela, Gabriela, and Isabela had to keep picking my jaw up off the floor. Her programme narrative said she’d spun old-school Chicago house music: Steve “Silk” Hurley; Farley “Jack Master” Funk; Frankie Knuckles.

Music that made Michaela, Gabriela, and Isabela shake out their long hair and shimmy slim hips wrapped in low-slung jeans. Music that made them run their hands through my silver kink curls and put their hands on the byen seksi hips Manmi gave me.

I gibbered like a bag lady wearing four coats in summer while pushing a bashed-up shopping cart when dj gruv grrl found me after her set, waiting for her in one of the ambient-lit rabbit warrens on the upper level of the club. And I don’t gibber. I’ll be the first to admit: Tommy Takahashi is the best programmer in all of Chicago. A coding genius.

But I didn’t know the half of it.

Two hours into cozy margaritas with dj gruv grrl, a holo construct of Yumi Kobayashi popped up out of nowhere across the all-of-a-sudden crammed-full room. She was surrounded by an international entourage of sycophantic beautiful people.

When the acoustics were just right, I could hear them kissing her ass in Kreyòl Ayisyen, Urdu, Kiswahili, Português, Íslenska, Bahasa Meylasia, and Hebrew. Three guesses as to who was speaking Hebrew.

That was when dj gruv grrl, with her cheeks still blazing scarlet, asked me if I wanted to go back to her apartment in Nakano. So I asked her if Tommy Takahashi had programmed Yumi Kobayashi to get off on murder, sledgehammers, and blood splatter.

See, twelve hours before, two of my colleagues had found Jun Nakamura naked on his bed in his Lake Shore Drive condo with his face and knees beaten to the consistency of baby food. Nearby was a bloody sledgehammer and a female android — a gynoid.

The very same gynoid who just happens to look, talk, and walk like Jun Nakamura’s dead girlfriend, Yumi Kobayashi. The very same Yumi Kobayashi who died as a passenger in the car crash Jun Nakamura had last summer in Japan. The very same car crash Japanese authorities blamed on a blowjob. The very same blowjob Tommy Takahashi believes belonged to him.

My boys in Forensics concluded Jun Nakamura was murdered right before gynoid Yumi Kobayashi’s bio-electric battery, which lasts about a year, wound down. My boys also found traces of Jun Nakamura’s semen in her (the fructose, lipids, and proteolytic enzymes powered her bio-battery long past wind down).

They didn’t find any trace of Tommy Takahashi, though.

And they won’t. L’al fè wout li. He’s gone. Ghost. Out.

Tommy Takahashi might be a coding genius, but li pa sòt. He ain’t stupid. As good as he is, Tommy Takahashi knows there’s someone out there better.

Like me.

Which brings us back to dj gruv grrl, Yumi Kobayashi, and her nexus.

M pa vle kite. I didn’t want to leave it. I didn’t want to jack out.

I wanted to keep my BCID — my brain-computer interface device — slotted in my right temple port forever. I wanted to curl up under the covers with dj gruv grrl at her Nakano apartment until Tommy Takahashi figures out how to make my realtime co-mingle with Yumi Kobayashi’s nexus-time. And then I wanted to curl up with dj gruv grrl some more.

I didn’t want to go back to the real world.

But first, I had to know if Yumi Kobayashi killed Jun Nakamura. My Law Guild training demanded an answer. The forensic detective in me craved it.

Instead of answering my question right then and there, though, dj gruv grrl said she’d tell me everything I wanted to know about how Tommy Takahashi dropped a li’l somethin’-somethin’ in Yumi Kobayashi’s code to make her 100 percent proficient with sledgehammer — but in the morning while I soaped her back in the shower. My last glimpse of Michaela, Gabriela, and Isabela was them leading the beautiful people in a dirty martini toast to Yumi Kobayashi.

On the walk to dj gruv grrl’s place, we did all those things two young gaijin in Japan do when stumbling home drunk to fuck each other. We sniggered and pointed at the fully-suited salarymen passed out on the sidewalk in their piss and vomit. We sang karaoke songs off-key at the top of our lungs. We shared our first kiss — sloppy, wet, and warm.

And then we saw the man in the middle of the road with his dick in one hand and a gun in the other.

He’d looked the perfect picture of the drunk, overworked Japanese businessman — dark rumpled suit; pristine white shirt; notched tie skewed to one side — except, he had his dick in one hand and a gun in the other.

The closer we got, the better we could see the one hand going fast enough to chafe himself raw. He was facing a lone red Honda Civic parked in a half-full lot of white Toyota Tercels. And when the salaryman looked up at us, we could also see he was Fong. He pointed the gun at us.

“Don’t move,” he’d said. “Let me just make myself presentable.”

Fong turned. We heard his zipper go up. When he turned back to us, his pants were open and he was holding himself again.

Three more times he turned to zip himself. Three more times he faced the Civic with his dick in his hand. After the third time, Fong gave up trying, a pained look of disgust and humiliation on his face. Nonconformity was a bitch. So was Tommy Takahashi’s articulation of Fong’s infiltration programme and behavior profile.

That was when I first learned my girl didn’t play. dj gruv grrl didn’t take no shit from nobody. In Yumi Kobayashi’s nexus, she was god and goddess, Lucifer and Lilith. Law Guild takeover bots and hot-shit Law Guild detectives didn’t gain access to Yumi Kobayashi’s most intimate place because dj gruv grrl forbade them. Even the good Law Guild detectives like Fong.

She had known he would try to return with a better infiltration programme when she kicked his ass out of the nexus, so dj gruv grrl used him to send the Law Guild, the rest of my infiltration team, and me a message.

dj gruv grrl snatched Fong’s piece from him before he could try again to put his chin-chin back in his pants and make himself decent, put it in my hand, and told me:

“Here are your choices. Shoot him in the head and become one of Yumi Kobayashi’s beautiful people. Or die a quick, painful death.”

I’d blinked at her. “What?”

“I thought you’d say that,” she’d said. She wasn’t smiling. “How about this: I don’t like to share. You can just be all mine. Michaela, Gabriela, and Isabela were, once.”

“And what happens if I don’t become your bitch?” I’d asked her. “You do me like Fong?”

“No.” In three quick strides dj gruv grrl was in my face, all of five-foot-nothing, ox horns quivering, eyes fierce. “Put a fucking bullet in his brain” — she’d jabbed a finger at Fong — “or I send you back to the world and your cancer eats you alive in less than a week.”

It was a struggle to keep the surprise off my face, but I’d had to fake some sort of genuine-looking response or she’d know my next words were a lie. So I went with my I-don’t-know-what-the-fuck-you’re-talking-about face, and told her:

“I don’t have cancer.”

dj gruv grrl could smell the bullshit, despite my Oscar-worthy performance.

“Bullshit,” she’d said. “Remember when your nipples got nice and hard earlier tonight because you were so fascinated by the complexity of my programme narrative?” dj gruv grrl smirked and poked my left boob. “That was me accelerating the production of your cancer cells.”

When I was three years old, Manmi moved to La Petite Haïti in Chicago from La Petite Haïti in Miami because some kaka bèf doktè told her he could send her stage-four breast cancer into complete remission. Nine months later, Manmi was dead.

On my twenty-fifth birthday, my doctor diagnosed me with metastatic breast cancer. She’d said I have six months to live. That was five months ago.

dj gruv grrl had taken my face in her hands. “Kounye a, at this very moment, you don’t have cancer. There is no cancer in the nexus.”

Her voice had been soft. Husky. I couldn’t tell if she was trying to persuade me or seduce me or both. Whichever one, it worked.

I’d walked over to Fong. Leveled his piece at his head. He’d looked me in the eye. His fly had still been open. Big fat tears had rolled down his cheeks.

“Doré. Please,” he’d begged me. “Don’t do this.”

I’d wanted to tell him to run. To flee Yumi Kobayashi’s nexus, take off his code, and never come back.

But instead I’d said, “Kè m fè m mal anpil pou sa.” I am very sorry for this.

And then I pulled the trigger. And when Fong fell to the ground, blood streaming out the middle of his forehead, I pulled the trigger again — onetwothreefourfivesix times — until the clip was empty. Dead nexus-time. Dead realtime.

dj gruv grrl took the gun from my hand. “We do Tony Roma’s Thursday nights. Make sure you wear your black leather and those come-fuck-me boots.”

And then she’d continued up the road, those lovely boyish hips of hers swaying back and forth, until she was just a pair of tight white jeans fading into the darkness.

So I did the only thing I could do. I followed.

Why wouldn’t I? I refuse to let cancer take me.

Besides, I look damn good in those boots.

© 2015 Malon Edwards

About the author

Malon Edwards

Malon Edwards was born and raised on the South Side of Chicago, but now lives in the Greater Toronto Area, where he was lured by his beautiful Canadian wife. Many of his short stories are set in an alternate Chicago and feature people of color. Malon also serves as Managing Director and Grants Administrator for the Speculative Literature Foundation, which provides a number of grants for writers of speculative literature. You can find him online at and on Twitter @MalonLouis.

About the artist

Galen Dara

Galen Dara likes monsters, mystics, dead things and extremely ripe apricots. She won the 2016 World Fantasy Award for Best Artist and has been nominated for the Hugo Award, the Locus Award and the Chesley Award. 

Her clients include Escape Artists inc, Skyscape Publishing, Fantasy Flight Games, Uncanny Magazine, 47North publishing, Fireside Magazine, Lightspeed Magazine, and Tyche Books.

When she’s not making art you can find her at the edge of the Sonoran Desert climbing mountains and hanging out with a friendly conglomerate of humans and animals. You can follower her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @galendara.