There used to be a head shop in every strip mall. Now, when Yance needed to buy rolling papers, he had to find some no-name gas station and deal with a clerk who tried to shortchange him. The world had not changed for the better in Yance’s fifty-four years of life. At least Zig-Zag was still Zig-Zag and he could get thirty-two joints out of the cheap pack.
While buying his rolling papers, Yance noticed that the security cameras all pointed forward, covering the pumps and the cars waiting near the repair bays. The security cameras did not cover the back yard of the station, but there were a dozen cars there.
That night Yance was back with his tool kit. He walked in the dark between the parked cars. Some were not worth fooling with. Some had sophisticated alarm systems. Yance looked through the windows for the LED tell-tale lights. If the light was out, the battery was dead—he could safely break into the car. Yance had learned the hard way not to mess with intelligent alarm systems.
Yance opened his canvas tool bag and selected a wrecking tool in order to pry open the hood of the car he selected. It was a 2031 Lexus; one of the more expensive models with all the bells and whistles. The tech under the hood was a few years old, but still worth a few hundred at any salvage yard. The network hotspot alone would be good for a week's worth of smack. Yance liked equating this simple hour of effort to a week of bliss.
The car was a wreck. The front of the car was bent in a U shape. The driver’s seat was covered with dried blood. There was a pair of miniature ballet slippers hanging from the rearview mirror. The car had belonged to some chick.
The hood opened with a screech. Yance had to force it with all of his strength. The car must have hit a tree at well over 100 miles per hour, bending every piece of metal in the frame. He guessed that the driver had fallen asleep on the way home from a bar. She probably awoke just in time to see some hundred-year-old oak rushing at her. The onboard emergency avoidance system would not have saved her life.
The navigational computer case was intact and water tight. It was not even dented. Yance twisted off the bolts holding down the cover, hardly more than finger tight. He whistled while he worked, his cigarette puffing in time to Muddy Water's Got My Mojo Working. He pulled the cables from the motherboard and the peripherals. The solid-state disk pack came out easily and he put it in his bag. He pulled the hotspot. The motherboard had four screws holding it down, and it took Yance a few minutes to find the last screw. It was under a bank of RAM at the back and he had to pull the RAM to get at it.
When he was done, he carefully closed the hood. He left the tires and the battery. The back of his pickup was full of crap he’d found on the side of the road, and he didn’t have room for anything that large.
Yance threw the bag of new-found treasures in the back of the pickup and started the old boy up. He gunned the pickup with much pumping of the gas and a few false starts. It burned oil like crazy, and a blue cloud of exhaust followed Yance out to Route 32, and then onto the Huckleberry Turnpike towards Marlboro. Yance lit another cigarette and sang another Muddy song, Champagne and Reefer, accompanied by the tick of a flattened wheel bearing and puffs of cigarette smoke on the chorus.
Yance got out of the old red pickup and walked over to his trailer, but did not go in. Instead, he went around back, passed the rotting carcasses of old cars and stopped at a 1982 Ford Probe. He unlocked the trunk, checked that his kit was there along with a heavily wrapped plastic bag of reserve narcotics. It was three months worth of heroin—enough to get him through a dry spell. There were also about $3,800 in cash and twenty-six sealed cups of methadone. He removed a cup, snapped it open and drained it. It tasted like Tang, the astronaut's drink.
As the methadone's warm reassuring glow spread through his limbs, he went to the barn. He had to pull out a shitload of crap that he was saving for a rainy day, but he found what he was looking for. It looked like the body of a 16-year-old girl, dressed in some kind of frilly outfit. She was a Japanese sex doll, pulled years ago from a wreck, but so badly damaged that it had only worked for a few weeks before the CPU had burned out.
The sex doll's name was Mizuki. She had not only shared Yance's bed, but she had done the dishes, washed his clothes and fed the dogs. Yance wanted her back. The sex was nice and the doll had wicked skills. Mizuki could roll a joint perfectly every time. It was also nice to have someone to feed the dogs when he didn't feel like moving his ass off the couch.
He dragged Mizuki over to a vinyl lawn chair and propped her up. She was dusty and dirty where rain had dripped on her through the leaky barn roof. The frilly cosplay outfit was brown and stained with rusty rain water. Her hair, which must have been real human hair, had been ravaged by mice in places, leaving parts of her head bald. There were a few rips in her plastic skin revealing gray foam.
Yance lifted the top of her head off, and looked down into the skull cavity. The CPU was carbonized, but it lifted out easily and the socket looked clean. He pulled the relatively new CPU from the salvaged motherboard and placed it into the empty socket. He was careful to replace the heat sink on top of that and clip it down. The last CPU had fried because the heat sink had rattled loose. He pulled the rows of 32 gig memory cards from their sockets and replaced them with the fast 512 gig cards from the wreck. Mizuki would have some considerable smarts if Yance could get her to wake up.
He snapped her skull shut and made an abortive attempt at rearranging her hair so it hid the seam. Yance grabbed the extension cord, unplugging the broken refrigerator he kept next to the back door. He found the Mizuki's power socket in a panel near her left ankle and plugged her in. Mizuki's eyes opened and the left one flashed red. Good, thought Yance, she's charging.
Yance's father was fond of saying that when you had need, the street would provide. That was in Brooklyn. Yance didn't live near streets, now. They called them roads up here in the boonies, but the road provided for almost all his needs. He didn’t have to break into wrecked cars very often. In one or two days of road combing he could get enough cans to buy cigarettes for the week, and with luck, he could find something valuable. He had once found a wallet with $500, and another time he had found a cell phone that worked for three months before the minutes ran out. He had bought his secret stash of smack from selling a crate of guns he had found half buried in a snow bank alongside the Thruway. When there was a need, all you had to do was be still, and patiently wait. Yes, the road provides.
The methadone was really kicking in and Yance felt good. He went into his trailer and stretched out on the couch. He turned on the history channel, but turned off the sound. He rolled a joint, lit it, and watched the images of Nazis death camps on the screen. It had been a productive day. He'd had a nice walk, he’d discovered a source for rolling papers, he'd cleaned out a valuable wreck, and soon Mizuki would be feeding the dogs and giving him blow jobs again. Life was good.
When he woke up the next morning, Mizuki was shaking him and talking in Japanese.
"What?" he asked, "What do you want? What time is it?" Yance looked out the window. The sky was pink and it was not yet full light. He tried to roll over and get back to sleep.
"Wake up, Master," Mizuki said, switching to English, "You got to get to work."
"Get out of here. I don't work."
"You gotta get up, Master." Mizuki had a sweet, exaggerated Japanese accent.
Yance rolled over and tried to ignore her. He thought of something and turned over looking at her with a grin.
"You charged up. That's great. Did you feed the dogs?"
"Dogs fed. Dishes washed. I need new batteries. This one no good," she pointed to her breasts, "You gotta get me new battery."
She said battery with a cute inflection. It sounded like bat-re with a lilting rolled R.
"Take off your dress. I need to know if you still work."
"No time for sexing. I need battery. Please where is your credit card?"
Yance had had a credit card once, and he had had nothing but trouble with it. The rightful owner made a terrible stink and tracked him down. Luckily, by the time the police came to get him, the credit card had been cancelled and Yance had already tossed it into a trashcan.
"I only pay cash."
"No good. I need a new battery. This one almost dead. Only last short time." She tugged on him, "You gotta go to Walmart and buy me a new one."
"All right, give me a bit. Make some coffee. I'll call Suarez and arrange for some credit."
"Frankie Suarez, down in Newburgh. Number's by the phone. He’s my contact—sells me my dope. Now get lost while I finish this dream."
Yance woke up an hour or two later feeling the first twinges of a jones building in his sinuses.
There was a pot of hot coffee in the machine. Mizuki was plugged in on the porch. Her eye pulsed amber. The dogs were asleep on the floor at her feet. Traitors, thought Yance, one good feeding and they fall in love.
There was a rip in Mizuki’s dress and Yance could just make out the start of her areola on the left breast. He bent over her, cupped her breast and rubbed the nipple with his thumb. There must have been enough charge in her batteries to power the response and the nipple crinkled up. He felt a stirring in his pants.
“Don’t touch me,” Mizuki said. She did this without moving, not even her mouth. “Batteries dead. Get me new batteries, or I can’t do anything.”
“You don’t have to do anything.” Yance said, “Just hold still for a minute. I won’t take long.”
Her legs snapped shut with a click sound. “Get me battery or no sexing for you.”
He cursed at her and started out the door. As he left, Mizuki said, “You a bum. You not a good man. A good man buys me batteries.”
Yance turned to answer her, but changed his mind. There was a switch under her scalp. Yance turned her off. She could charge up in silence. He didn’t need this shit.
Yance did what needed to be done to relieve his jones. He woke up a few hours later and went to the phone.
“Hey Yance, what’s up.”
“I need a ride to Walmart.”
“What’s wrong with your truck?”
“Newburgh is a hike. I could get there in the old truck but it might not make it back.”
“Sure, I need to make a stop up near you. I’ll see you around four.”
Yance didn’t own a watch, so he decided the best thing would be to doze off until Frankie showed up. He woke up, it seemed, ten minutes later to the sound of the horn on Frankie’s 64 Chevy Bel Air.
The dogs were still sitting hopefully at Mizuki’s feet. There were fine letters scrolling across her open eyes. He bent over her and was just able to make out part of what they said:
Upgrading Operating System. Do not turn off unit until upgrade is complete.
Yance assured the dogs that Mizuki would feed them when he got back.
“Grab a beer from the back,” Frankie said as they pulled out onto the Huckleberry Turnpike towards Newburgh, “Why you going to Walmart?”
“The blow job puppet? She was hot.”
“I fixed her up with a new CPU and ram. She says she needs a new battery.”
“Why don’t you just keep her plugged in? That way she don’t need a battery at all.”
“I don’t know. She says she needs the batteries. I put a hot CPU in and now she’s all up with the attitude.”
“Next she’ll want to get married.”
“Tell me about it. I should never have upgraded her. With the old CPU she just did what she was told. Fed the dogs, did the laundry, and kept her mouth shut.”
“Well, not all the time, man,” Frankie laughed and poked Yance in the ribs with his elbow.
Frankie agreed to spring for half the cost of the batteries in exchange for having Mizuki come over to his place whenever his old lady went to visit her mother. In the end, they got them for free because the clerk who pulled the batteries from the stock area wasn’t paying attention, and nobody stopped them on the way out.
Yance pushed a button on Mizuki’s back and folded back a panel. He pulled the old batteries and replaced them with the new ones. These were the new kind that lasted a month on one charge. He closed her up and turned her on. A man’s voice came out of her: “Updating—please wait.”
The dogs started wagging their tails even before she sat up and looked around her.
“Good, new batteries.”
The dogs followed her to the kitchen. She filled their bowls with kibble.
“You need dog food. I will go buy tomorrow. You will give me money.”
She looked down at the dress she was wearing. It was rags. She went over to the box of clothes next to the bed and pulled out a gray hoodie and some sweatpants. She pulled off her dress and put them on. The pants were too long and too big at the waist, but she did some folding, tucking and tying and they suddenly fit her.
Yance had gotten aroused when she took her clothes off, but in the shapeless clothes, she might have been a boy, and decided that the time wasn’t right to demand anything.
She turned to him, “I need fixing. I need new hair and skin. CPU is wrong speed. We will take the train to New York tomorrow and get a new one. You will bring $1,500. I will need many repairs. I know where I can get it done.”
“Where am I going to get $1,500?” Yance asked, thinking about his reserve cash in the Probe. That was his retirement fund.
“You don’t need a new CPU or repairs right away. I can save up and we can do it in a while after I get the money together.”
Mizuki began to list all of Yance’s faults and told him that if he ever wanted sex from her again, that she would need to be repaired. She was a sophisticated piece of technology and could not go around with half a head of hair and rips in her plastic skin. She needed to be fully upgraded with compatible components and she needed to be cosmetically perfect or no one could expect her to do her job correctly. She needed expensive clothes and shoes.
The shoes were the last straw. “What do you need shoes for? You work here and your job is to fuck me and feed the dogs. You don’t need shoes.”
“I need to look good when I go out. You can’t expect me to do nothing but stay here and serve you and your stupid dogs for the next twenty years?”
Yance told her that that was exactly what he expected from her.
The conversation degraded fast and Yance slammed the door on the way out. As he started up his truck, he wondered why he was the one that was leaving. It was his trailer. Mizuki was his sex doll. He should have stayed.
Yance pulled over to the side of the road a little while later to inspect some trash left there. He half hoped he’d find an old laptop with a slow CPU. Mizuki’s new batteries would last a month. He had time. The road would provide. He would find some nice piece of tech with a good solid slow CPU. He could pull her hot CPU and the fast memory chips while she was charging and get the old Mizuki back. He liked the old Mizuki.
Yance saw a can on the other side of the road. He went and picked it up. Next to it was a burlap bag. He shook it out and put the can in. He smiled. The road provides. He walked along the road and soon had enough cans to buy a pack of cigarettes.
As he walked back to the truck, he imagined what it would be like with the old Mizuki, the way she was before the upgrade. He liked her small breasts and her cute way of talking. He liked her eagerness to try anything and the way she jumped up to feed the dogs when he asked her to. She had wonderful skills. Whoever had designed her tongue had been a genius.
He drove to the no-name gas station and bought cigarettes. They still hadn’t pointed a camera out towards the back. They probably didn’t even know that he had boosted the tech from the wreck. He decided to come back and see what else he could find. Maybe the slow CPU of his dreams was sitting in an older model sedan back there, just waiting for Mizuki’s cute little head.
Yance arrived back at his trailer to find it empty. Mizuki and the dogs were gone. There was a note on the kitchen table written in neat large letters.
I can’t live like this.
Frankie is taking me to the city.
I have Harry and Marjorie with me.
Have a nice life,
Harry and Marjorie? Who the hell were they? Yance realized that she had named the dogs. Yance had always just called them Dog and had never given them names.
Yance thought of something. He ran out the back into the yard, passing the wrecks of his old cars and found the Ford Probe.
The trunk lid was popped, and his stash was gone. All that was left were six cups of methadone and a single hundred dollar bill.
Yance was heartbroken. He had spent years putting together his retirement package. He’d have to start all over again.
His body ached and his nose was running. The jones was coming on stronger than ever. Yance had kicked his habit so many times that he could do it with relatively little pain, but a man needed his creature comforts. A hit of heroin, a smoke, and an occasional blow job is all that he asked for in life. Mizuki had taken all he had and left him with nothing.
He downed a cup of methadone and sat on the couch feeling sorry for himself. He watched black and white movies from the 1940s with the sound turned off. The methadone made him drowsy. He dozed and dreamed.
In the dream he found another sex doll in the trunk of a wrecked car. This one was tall and Swedish looking. She had big tits and rubbed them in his face. Yance woke up with a hard on.
It wasn’t fair that Mizuki had left him. He was alone. It was hard being alone. Yance thought about meeting someone. Maybe in the parking lot of the rest stop on the Thruway he’d meet some hot chick who liked older guys with thinning hair and gray fu-manchu mustaches, and she’d invite him into her back seat. Maybe he’d find that Swedish sex doll and this time he wouldn’t make the mistake of upgrading her.
He dozed off again and dreamed of Mizuki. She was hugging him and telling him how much she loved him. She said she’d do anything for him. In the dream the dogs were on the bed and were smiling to see him.
When he awoke again, he decided that tomorrow he’d have to go out and walk the side of the roads. The road would provide. He thought of all the things he’d find and how he would get his stash back and rebuild his retirement fund. He had a deep and abiding need. The road would provide. If he was lucky, Mizuki would be waiting for him when he got back.
Return Next Friday
NIGHT SONG OF THE FUNGI
by Vincent Daemon
the FREEZINE of
Fantasy and Science