The Trouble With Actual Organs


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Ellysia emerged onto the roof of her apartment building with all the grace of a drunken teenager. Her head ached more excruciatingly than usual—as if her body were aware of her intentions and expressing its displeasure. Walking toward the ledge, she tripped over her own feet and stumbled. “Fuck,” she said as she caught herself. “This has got to stop,” she added, quietly—or at least she thought she did. The hum of a hundred voices babbling all at once deafened her, even above the city sounds rising from the congested boulevard sixteen stories below. She hopped onto the ledge and sat there, first examining the feet she could only sense but no longer feel; then she spun around on her palms to watch the traffic below.

She had expected to feel regret at this point. Certainly she expected fear, looking down at the cars and concrete and contemplating the fall. She expected her heart to ache for Benji and the grief he’d experience for her loss. But there was nothing. Nothing but the static, that maddening hum that overpowered all other sounds, that drowned out even her own voice. The maddening hum that never let her sleep. Ellysia hadn’t thought it possible that the white noise could get any louder than it already had until it amplified and became a high-pitched squeal, like an old out-of-tune FM radio. It grew so loud she thought her eardrums would have exploded had the noise been traveling through her ears. She knew it wasn’t, but covered them anyway and hunched over as if defending herself, nearly tumbling off the ledge from the suddenness of the movement. Ellysia leaned backward to give herself momentum to jump.

Something touched Ellysia on the arm, squeezed it, and tugged her backward. She peered over her shoulder to see a young woman in a short white sundress who seemed only to half exist. Once the apparition had Ellysia’s attention, the squealing ceased—as did the white noise. All those voices, gone. Finally. There was silence. “Please, don’t go,” the apparition pleaded, in a voice as fragile as the porcelain of her skin. She sounded far away. “Help me, please. You’re the only one I’ve met who’s still alive.”

“The only one what?” Ellysia asked, turning her whole body to face this strange translucent redhead. She may have been a figment of Ellysia’s exhausted imagination, a hallucination brought on by weeks of sleep deprivation, but it didn’t much matter now. She had been to the edge of insanity, and had been pulled back from it. And, more importantly, the noise was gone. Ellysia could breathe again. She could live—for now, at least. “Who are you?”

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T Van Santana

Love the title! The sound of it is just great, and it's difficult to digest. Makes you ponder its meaning.

1.1: Lunaradio

Ellysia plopped down in her wheeled computer chair and jiggled the mouse. The monitor, mouse, and keyboard lit up simultaneously in bright blue LED light. She plucked her headset from its nail in the wall to her left and put its full size headphones over her ears. Inching her chair so close to the desk that her stomach was pressed against its edge, Ellysia tapped the monitor of a 5×6-inch console lying flat on the desk beside her keyboard. It came alive at her touch, displaying large squircular, color-coded buttons—orange squircles for bumps and continuity effects, powder blue for track titles, and red squircles emblazoned with ad slugs. She pulled the headset’s Optical Head-Mounted Display down over her eyes, and what had appeared on the screen initially was then projected to her through the OHMD.
Once she’d made herself comfortable and powered on all the equipment she needed, Ellysia put the headset mic to her lips and spoke the lock code to her production suite. Several windows popped up before her eyes on the little visor display: a simple white-and-gray web conference window; the newest version of Wolf Auuudio, her recording program of choice; the web stream switch screen; a bank of three digital clocks—one the local time, one timer set to 1:00:00, and one timer set to 00:01:00; and a microphone levels control box.
“Test. Benji, online?”
The words appeared on the web conference window in italics as she spoke them, ensuring that her on-air personalities had either heard her or seen what she was saying to them. Benji replied: “I can hear you, Elle. Ruth? Levels check, check.” Ellysia adjusted Mic A’s level according to Benji’s voice. When Ruth replied to him, Ellysia fixed her level as well, with a click and drag of her mouse on the Mic B Volume Mixer.
“It’s 10:59, guys. Just about ready?” Ellysia announced, with a quick glance at the time clock on her bank of digital clock displays. She hit the web stream switch on her computer and rolled two thirty-second ad spots.
Ellysia pressed the orange STINGER 1 – ROLL INTRO button on her automation touch-screen, and the show intro theme played over her headset. On the conference chat, in bold, appeared the message STINGER 1 – ROLL INTRO PLAY“Ten seconds. Five seconds. Three—two—one!” From that point forward Ellysia was text-only until break.
“You’re listening live to Euphonia Beat on XQAZ 1103.8-FM—your source for community news and events, hot new music, and local concerts from interstellar acts you love. Here are your hosts…” the file introduced, in a voice that belonged to someone at the studio base. Ellysia hit the MICS ON button on the microphone control box on her desktop, and the program input this information into the web conference in bold red letters: ON AIR.
“Hey, this is Ben Constant,”
“And I’m Ruth Gaerling,”
“And welcome to Euphonia Beat,” the two said, in practiced unison, as Ellysia faded the intro music behind them.
Ellysia set the first timer for fifteen minutes. She watched the web conference screen fill up with the bantering of the two hosts as they made a lot of what little bit of community news they had for the hour-long show. Nothing very interesting went on in Euphonia.usa—unless you wanted to read the crime blotter on air, or went through events being held at the local grade schools. They opened the show by plugging a new store in the Geimer District Mall.
“Sound Smorgasbord is hauling in a brand new collection of hot clouds, a la carte mp3s, and micro cards for you old-fashioned folks,” Benji said in his radio announcer voice, that was so oddly different from his normal one. “They’ll have music from Earth, any genre, and since it’s a Mango subsidiary the Smorg will be able to order any artist you could want—from the latest Eyeborg tracks to oldies like Iggy and M.J.”
Ruth cut in, “Speaking of Eyeborg, why don’t we play their new single?”
Ellysia rolled her eyes. She engineered seven shows a week and had heard the song so many times that she no longer considered it new. The curse of working in radio, as she had once described it. At least she didn't have to pretend to be enthusiastic about it, like her on-air co-workers did. Theirs was a job she did not at all envy. She navigated the music library via the touch screen until she came up with Eyeborg’s latest submission to the Stream, a theremin violin dubstep song called “Double-Edged.” She cued the track and the music library posted automatically on the web conference in bold: Eyeborg – Double-Edged – cued 11:09:14.
“Here’s ‘Double-Edged’ by Eyeborg off their latest upload, ‘Circles Round the Sun’.” Benji announced. Ellysia hit the PLAY button at the bottom of the touch screen and switched the mics off air. The song bubbled up from the audio depths as the automation computer counted down the 4 minutes and 3 seconds until it was over.
“Was there anything specific Adella wanted us to play tonight?” Benji asked.
Ellysia checked her work e-mail in yet another window, shrunken so that the timers remained unobstructed. She scrolled down through her weekly e-mail from the music director to the “must play” list for Euphonia Beat, and read the titles and artists off to Benji and Ruth. The list appeared on the conference screen in “break text” formatting—with each listing as its own separate, italicized message. At the end of the list Ellysia noted the time left in “Double-Edged.” “Thirty seconds to air—and ninety seconds to break.”
ON AIR. the conference window announced. “I just can't get enough of them,” Benji commented as the music faded out. “Eyeborg is so stellar. I can’t think of any other word to describe them.”
Ruth replied, “I know! And you can’t go into a club or a bar without hearing them come up here on XQAZ at least once. They’re actually going to be in Euphonia.usa later this month. At the Jobs Arts Theater, Eyeborg is gonna be playing with Rourkee Schmitt and the Spheres of Lightning on August 19. We’re going to be there for a remote broadcast.”
“Really? I didn’t know that—no one told me we were doing a remote over there.”
Ellysia rolled her eyes and shook her head. Check your e-mail sometimes, maybe, Benjamin Robert. It helps with that whole knowing stuff thing, she thought at him, well aware that Adella would be giving them the talk about that sort of comment while on air. She navigated the touch screen to a 2-minute break module and cued it. This was announced in the chat window.
“Looks like we’re going into break so I can read my e-mail,” Benji told listeners. Lightheartedly he added, “We’ll be back soon, and when we are I’ll hopefully know what’s going on here at XQAZ. SkyCall us your questions and comments at E-U underscore ‘beat’ or 9-333-0561 extension 486.”
Ellysia hit the preview button so whatever was said wouldn’t go over the air and touched PLAY on the break module. She highlighted the track list she’d rattled off during the music and dragged it to the top-right corner of the chat window. It docked itself there, and she returned the pointer back to the text box.
“Since when are we doing a remote at the Jobs?” Benji asked, genuinely out of the loop. Had this not been a point of contention between Ellysia and him for so long, she might have laughed at his confusion. But it always seemed to her that he just never cared enough to keep up with anything he claimed to care about. Sometimes she could have sworn he did it just to incite her.
“You all were scheduled for that a month ago. I texted you about it when Adella told me we got passes. I don’t even go on remotes, and know. Keep up, Sparky.” Ellysia snapped for emphasis into her headset mic.
Ruth chimed in, “Don’t worry, Ben, everyone knows she loves you anyway.”
Ellysia blushed in spite of herself. “Break’s almost over,” she said awkwardly. “Thirty-five seconds.”
SkyCall rang in the middle of a Bruq Rage track. Ellysia clicked the PICK UP & RECORD button on the pop-up alert. “Hello, this is Euphonia Beat on XQAZ 1103.8-FM. Where are you calling from?” she recited.
A mousy voice came over the headset. Her words were transcribed into the web conference by the computer as she spoke. “I can’t tell you who I am, or I could lose my job. But something was recently brought to my attention that I think people should know. Mango Incorporated has been running a program in which they’ve been experimenting on babies who weren’t born healthy. This has been going on for at least thirty years now, and the parents have been getting hush money so they won't go public with it. But I think the public should know—I think Mango’s scientists are lying to these parents to make them agree to the contracts and the surgeries. I can’t access the records but”—
“Ma’am, I’m sorry, but we can’t help you.” Ellysia cut in, as carefully yet firmly as she could muster. She thought the woman might continue talking forever if she let her. It wasn’t often that the paranoid called in to the station—and even rarer was it to get these calls during Euphonia Beat, when conspiracy theorist extraordinaire Isaiah Dekker had cornered the Monday night market on crazy—but that was the vibe Ellysia was catching from the way this woman talked. Feverishly, as if she expected hospital attendants to rush in and take the receiver away from her at any moment. There were only thirty seconds left in the song. “If something like that really is going on, call the police, not the media please, ma’am.”
“They are the police!” the woman on the phone cried. Ellysia turned the recording off the SkyCall phone and flipped the talent mics back on as the music faded out. She switched her own microphone off as the woman continued to rave: “Mango owns everything—this whole city is a corporate sandbox! and now they want our souls, too—something has to be done, and you could expose them for what they are, if you’ll just take the time to listen to me!”
Ellysia sighed. “Give me a moment, please,” she responded, as she pulled up her work contacts in her computer’s address book. The keyword “NEWS” brought up a list of the names and numbers of XQAZ’s in-house news staff members. “Ma’am, let me give you the name and SkyCall handle of one of our reporters. They might be able to help you. Do you have something to write on?”
A few moments of silence followed, as the woman presumably searched her person for a tablet or a pad and pencil. “Okay,” the woman said at last. “I’m ready.”
“Sylvester Podolski—that’s Pod O-L ski, like the sport. His work SkyCall is XQAZ dash S-C Podolski. He won’t answer at this hour, probably, but if you call in the morning”—
“Thank you,” the woman replied. And she hung up.
Ellysia sat back in her chair, dumbfounded.
Ruth’s voice cut into Ellysia’s thoughts. “That’s it for us here at Euphonia Beat. Here’s a classic from X’cel-Voz, ‘Clockwork Mazurka,’ to take you into the midnight hour. Have a great night, everybody.”
“Until next week! This is Ben Constant and Ruth Gaerling, signing off,” Benji announced. The bottommost timer on Ellysia’s screen told her it was 11:55:58 when she found her track and hit PLAY on the automation screen.
Once the hosts’ mics were killed, Benji asked the inevitable: “What was that call about?”
“I have no clue,” Ellysia replied. “I gave her Syl’s number and told her to talk to him about it. I hope he can convince her to get some mental help, or tell her psychiatrist if she's already as gone as she sounds.”
Ruth yawned. “How crazy would it be if she really wasn’t crazy at all?”
After all her post-show chores were finished, Ellysia shut down the components of her computer/radio transmitter. It was almost half-past midnight by the time she got everything completely turned off and put away. She couldn’t stop thinking about the caller and what the woman had said. Even if everything else she’d said was paranoid rambling, one thing the caller said, Ellysia had to admit, was frighteningly true: all of Euphonia.usa belonged to the Mango Corporation. The police were mostly Mango robots—eCops took all the beats from trained people, and the Corporation was supposedly at work on a more advanced version of eCop that could lead investigations and nearly eliminate the need for humans in the corrections system altogether. Who could really protect the Euphonians from Mango if Mango decided to do something as egregious as experiment on them?
She was not the worrying kind, especially about large-scale conspiracies—she'd leave that to the journos and the great aggregator of all things paranoid that was Isaiah Dekker and his following—but something about this idea dug in under her skin, and threatened to settle there. “I have got to get out of this house,” Ellysia resolved. She was overdue a night out, anyway.  It was the only way she’d be able to get these scary thoughts out of her mind.
Ellysia walked through the blue-carpeted condo and went to her bedroom. There wasn’t much to her room, as it was with the rest of the flat; her furniture—consisting only of one bedside table, the bed itself, a tall dresser, and a jewelry case—was all made of heavy, light-colored wood, free of almost anything decorative. All that really made the bedroom seem like someone lived in it was the mural on the ceiling above the bed: it was a rose-shaped design with sharp edges, with stars on the tips and a bright yellow rose at the center. Benji had drawn the original design, and after two weeks’ worth of a neck ache on his behalf, Ellysia had painted it herself. It seemed to spin like a mobile as she fell asleep at night.
She rummaged through her dresser drawers until she found something to wear that was suitable for a night at the club, deciding on her favorite blouse—a tight-fitting bright yellow tee with almost a turtleneck—and a dark pair of bluejeans. She threw her long pajamas on the bed behind her as she changed at the foot of it. Her sneakers were on the floor next to the dresser, and she slipped them on once her jeans were buttoned.
Then she went to her jewelry case next to the dresser. Its six satin-lined drawers were mostly bare, the top three being the only ones with anything actually in them at all. Ellysia slipped two amber dangling earrings into her ears and a diamond ring on her wedding finger. The ring was her solution to being approached at the bar; whenever a man too drunk or too creepy tried to get her to come home with him, she’d flash him the ring and tell him all about Benji. They had a long enough and complicated enough history that the only lie she really had to tell was that he had given her that ring.
She tied her long hair up high in the back of her head with a thick hair tie, so tightly she’d have a crease to wash out later, and grabbed her purse on the way out the front door.
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