Maint – Viv Cartagena

Remembering the artificiality of clean smells by the morning. Decontamination has no sensation. Antibiological mistiness gets intercepted by the suit I wear to keep my little biomes within me. So faint I can’t hear it, only the sound of my breathing which tends towards the slow and steady, calm and mundane. There’s nothing to be aroused by.

It’s frigid in here, I’m told. Digits on the display ticking down. I’m not only a threat, I’m also threatened.

Rows and rows of servile agriculture. I think medical research, running algorithms forever. Calculate cures and prognosticate pandemics. In this mausoleum and in one of these machines she’s resting in one way or another. The server chews her fat and burns her carbs.

Devices and tools strapped around my body. I feel the bloat of my suit but they made sure I can move with enough freedom. Blowing dust off grates and collecting it with care, I have something shaped like a thermos, and I wonder who these bunnies were born from.

Simple tasks let me wonder on the internals, does the motion of the fans send sinewy strands into a jiggle? Do organs work and pulse with new life or do they just burn up little by little, day by day? Is her skin somewhere in there, is it clear and silky like it once was or is it pallid and blemished and raw? The way her skin looked when she started pulling away from me. When my touch became too much for her, when she was letting go.

Far from the most efficient fuel. Computational compost. Supported by ecological concerns, and you know what they say about computers anyway. They get so much better every year. I wish I could remember if she made the choice. I place a hand along the corner of the nearest monolithic case and try to feel it hum or emanate. My glove presses to my hand, shielding it and shielding me.

I’m not here and I wasn’t there. If I was willing to make her bones ache and her skin scream and take her hand one last time, could I remember what she felt like? Maybe she’s not in any one of these, maybe she’s in all of them. Like ground beef. What’s the point of distinguishing.

Momentary awe of the cable management in the E-kurgan and your arms looked like they were full of jelly. Bloated and sloshing. Power pumping through polyethylene jackets into and out. Tied into tendrils. This job posting puts me in proximity to her proximates. Do you have any idea what I would do to read a label with her Nutrition Facts printed plain and clear.

In her state she needed rest but I can recall with branding iron guilt how I nudged her awake. Chewed up fingertips on bruised violet. Her eyes dragged over to me. They must have felt soaked in honey, they were caked in whiteness she could no longer bother to wipe away. That gaze so passive and hateful. The cameras follow me in here with a tepid pace. Like they don’t want me to notice, like I don’t want them to watch me.

The HUD shows a small red light and a friendly beep. Calling it an alarm would be accurate but too harsh. Audio-visual soothing reminds me that I’m wasting time and that it’s okay, they know I can do better. I linger on it, listening and looking and longing, until I work the rest of the excuses away. Spraying and wiping, everything is spotless. The rest is standby, and has been so for quite a while now. The server farm’s entrance is my personal recursion, and I iterate through potential inputs for a function long concluded.