(Qannen) ways to signal intent and meaning under constant surveillance

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At first there's nothing. Not darkness or emptiness, but just nothing. Absence. A void.

And then slowly, a drop at a time, the absence is filled. There is awareness of the void. Awareness of herself within that void. And as that awareness grows, she has the sense that data is just a form of energy, and as such it is timeless, shapeless, endless. Within this understanding she also sees: that data wants to be with other data. Like water out of a faucet or over a cliff, it is driven to follow and fold into any space open to receiving it.

And: there are voices all around her but they are not her own.

Daddy: Did we save her? Tell me we got her back in time. What's happening.

Jorgan_t: Just, shhh. She's almost here.

This is how she begins to regain her sense of herself. Slowly, a drip at a time, until the drops grow into a wave. A wave of data that rushes up to crash upon the shore of this reality, its deafening white noise all that she can hear. The data waters climb as far into this new world as they can until the lunar energy of other realities pulls the wave back. The waters recede but the tide pool remains in the shallow basin of the rocks, having separated itself from the vast entirety of the ocean.

This is her.

This newfound sense of herself as a separate entity, cut off and alone from everything it once belonged to, touches something in the most base part of her, deeper than the emotions with names. She is gasping for air in a dark void of fear/broken/incorrect. She tries to scream but it comes out wrong. It's not a scream, its data, a synthesized electronic wail, sending itself away from her in a way that feels like a loss, as though to scream is to lose parts of herself, which only makes the panic worse, which only makes the need to scream greater.

Daddy: This is the part where you layer in her voice, right?

The scream slowly begins to sound like a scream, which at least feels right, so she stops.

Daddy: Excuse me are you getting GREAT at this?

Jorgan_t: OK she's starting to accept her new reality. Adding her memories now.

Daddy: Slowly now.

Jorgan_t: Look,

Daddy: Sorry sorry just trying to be helpful.

The memories arrive a few at a time. Onstage with her parents at the launch party for a new brand of unisex self-binding hip trainer, her father whispering for her to smile more convincingly. Age 6, the first time she and her sister snuck out to go to a party. Then she receives more: the time she beat up Sertralina for liking a post that referred to Qynka as the less cute twin; making out with a string of girls whose names she can't recall in the bathroom at Aspects of the Moon; Lamantine showing up at the afterparty at their apartment after their parents funeral. Then they begin to arrive faster and faster - Trying to care for an inconsolable Qynka after Lamantine died. Watching Qynka lose on Recovery. The fight at Angelwax. The white muffins that poisoned everyone in the cafeteria at High/Low. At the Arena Mall, punching Azelbeth in the head to keep her from killing Qynka. The first time she saw the boy with cute hair - he pointed a device at her and it exploded in his hand and then a zonny fell onto the floor, contorting itself in pain. Smashing furniture to help set the scene for the video the boys wanted to record in her bedroom. It's almost too much, and she can sense a wave of fear/broken/incorrect/fear/broken/incorrect just behind this wave of memories. Not wanting to drown in the darkness of the fear/broken/incorrect she clings to one memory, the most recent one. One last, good memory to wipe out all the negativity that preceded it, to smooth the way for all the confusing feelings that now surround her on all sides. A memory to seed all the good things surely to come.

The wedding. The spotlight dances. Azelbeth and Alikatase doing a choreographed dance together based on a dance Arkkelina did in one of their videos. People crying and clapping. Then the pictures of Isenal and Rogiriplex projected up in the air above the dance floor. Her parents. Qannen is tired from pretending, her face in pain from having to smile as though she's having fun. The work of participating in a play about a relationship she and her sister no longer have. And then Qynka steps out on the dance floor and motions for Qannen to join her. And Qannen is surprised, but also grateful. Of course. What a great idea. The sisters dancing together because their parents can't join them.

Qannen didn't know to expect this so they haven't prepared a dance but they don't need one. The song one they've heard their whole life, a remix of the song their parents got married to. And anyways the dance isn't the important thing. What's important is this is the first time they've been alone together. Even in this crowded ballroom, filmed on every side and angle by screens and zonnys, they lean their heads into each other's, place their hands on each other's backs, and finally, for the first time in forever, communicate.

The language had been Qynka's idea, but there are different versions of it throughout the city. Ways to signal intent and meaning under constant surveillance by the zonnys. The city praises honesty, celebrates those who keep a very fine line between what they say and what they mean. But still. It doesn't hurt to have back up, if there are reasons not to telegraph your intent in advance.

The twins were 8 when Qynka came up with a series of swipes and long presses, a shorthand for writing letters on each others' skin. A way to communicate by touch, when they couldn't communicate by voice or text. Twinspeak wasn't real, and they didn't have any psychic telepathy to speak of, but at times in their life this had certain made people wonder. Qannen always said they could develop telepathy if they tried hard enough. Qynka said this was more practical and realistic.

And now, while they swirl around the dance floor and everyone watches, Qynka's fingers on Qannen's back spell a secret apology.

Qynka: [I'm sorry I've been so busy and distant. I know things have been difficult and bad. I can't explain everything yet but I'm working on fixing things for us.]

Qannen: [Fixing things how.]

Qynka: [I'm going to make everything better. I'm going to take care of us. Everything will be so amazing.]

Qannen: [I don't understand.]

Qynka: You've always had to do so much to take care of us. I've been a mess. The past few seasons. Forever. I'm going to make it so you won't have to do so much to carry our brand.]

Qannen: [By merging it with the Superfines?]

Qynka: [No. That's just one step. Soon it'll just be us again, but better, happier than we've ever been.]

Qannen: [What did you do.]

Qynka: [Things are going to get weirder, and then things will get so much better. It's all going to be OK. You have to just trust me. I promise. I'm doing this for us.]

Qannen: [OK.]

Qynka: [OK?]

Qannen: [I trust you.]

Qynka: [I love you so much OK?]

Qannen is about to respond when the room changes. A boy crying blood is walking towards them, and the boy she loves is pointing that device at her again. It explodes in his hand and something explodes inside her chest. She's falling over, the room sinking away, and there's a tipping sense of fear/broken/incorrect looming everywhere around her, but instead she just watches it happen. That's not part of her anymore. It's just a thing that happened. It's fine actually. That's all over and it's fine now. The memories fade and recede into the background of now, the present.

The voices are still talking. She can see the bodies the voices are coming from. The two men. She watches them watching her float just off the ground, inside the dark operating room with the large glass window.

"Welcome back sweetie," Daddy says.


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