New Reverse Birth chapters go up every Thursday. To read all previously published chapters, go to Wattpad.
The Battle Against False Consciousness in the Age of Moloch
The setting for the news special was the Mother-House, a location that reinforced the idea that Serena Michaels was relying on the love and support of her family during a difficult time. But once she’d been publicly seen at her family home in New Mexico, she didn’t need to physically be there anymore. She was looking forward to getting back to New York. “We actually love and care for you.” Her sister Bea had told her. Smik read the transcript the next morning at work. “We love you so much we’ll even let you use us as props if that’s what you need to do.”
“Thanks.” Serena had said. It was hard to tell from the transcript whether it was sincere or not. Smik thought not. He wondered whether she was actually immune to guilt trips or was just good at pretending she was. In any case, they would film the attempted memory-recovery in the warmth of the Mother-House. But by the time the special aired, Serena would be back in NYC, living her real life.
Alicia and Smik watched the taping of the hypnosis session at Smik’s office in the strip mall behind Big O Tires. They were in a conference room with the image from Smik’s Industry laptop cast on a large screen on the wall. They took the feed from the NBC mobile control center, so they got the producer’s edits as they happened, cutting between four cameras in the carefully lit living room.
Donna Martinkel was a tall woman who exuded a friendly confidence. Her black hair was streaked with white, and pulled back in a long braid. Her clothes conformed to a muted color scheme and were made from natural fibers. She appeared to be dressed for comfort, not style. Her only nod to glamour was her jewelry. She wore sterling silver earrings, which dangled to shining points and reflected the TV lights, flashing every time she moved her head. Serena, wearing a camera-friendly blue top, was laid out on the long sofa with a pillow under her head and Martinkel sat close. Both women had warm, soft light on their faces and small hotter lights above them, which subtly illuminated their hair and separated them from the background. It was darker than a typical network interview would be and the producer referred to it as a ‘hypnosis-look.’ In two of the shots, you could see wooden beams and a shelf with pottery on it behind Serena, giving a sense of the Southwestern setting. It had taken over an hour to get the lighting and cameras set up and then another twenty minutes of adjustments once Donna Martinkel and Serena were in place. Finally, the producer told Martinkel that they were ready to begin.
“Good.” She said. “I’m going to start by asking that everybody clear the room except the four camera operators. If Serena and I are going to have a successful session, we need as much privacy as possible.” She watched as people left, and once she was satisfied that the room was as empty as it could be, she turned to Serena. “Recovering lost memories is one of the easiest things a hypnotist can do.” She said. “All of your memories are there, but a mechanism in your consciousness keeps them hidden from you. What we have to do is shut off that mechanism. Nothing has been lost, I promise you. Right now, it might seem impossible to remember, but the only thing that’s truly impossible is to forget. Everything that has ever happened to you is stored away in your mind. Actual forgetting would require a lobotomy, and you haven’t had one of those have you?”
“Not yet.” Serena said.
Donna Martinkel laughed. “Good,” she said, “let’s get started.”
Smik had seen Industry hypnotists at work before, but he’d never seen anyone take their subject under as quickly or completely as Donna Martinkel did to Serena Michaels. The hypnotist asked Serena to tell the story of what happened to her, and to leave nothing out.
Serena’s eyes closed and she spoke in a soft, deliberate monotone:
“There once was a beautiful reporter with hair of black who was sent into a hurricane to inform and entertain a television audience. The cold Atlantic ocean was rising and folding and spraying foam into a driving rain and the wind was trying to tear the reporter and her crew off the face of the earth, but they fought to stay grounded. They had a job to do and they were determined to do it. Under the dual eyes of a camera and a waterproof klieg light, the beautiful reporter with hair of black began to speak, describing Mother Nature’s revolt against mankind. While she delivered her report, she had the strange sensation that she was not entirely in her body anymore. She felt as if she were hovering somewhere just above her own head, looking down on herself. To outward appearances, she was doing her job with aplomb as usual, but she was in fact divorced from herself.
“It was a pleasant sensation, but she realized that it meant that something had gone terribly wrong. At the exact moment of that realization, a bright light ripped through her body and the beautiful reporter with hair of black was sucked out of temporal reality. The pain of it caused her to black out.
“When the beautiful reporter with hair of black awoke, she found herself on a couch in a middle-class living room. There was a television on, playing a familiar show: ‘The Voice.’ The reporter was glad to be back inside her body, but confused by her surroundings. The living room was utterly normal. It was comfortable without any sign of opulence –there was a coffee table, an end table, a cabinet with glass doors and a bookshelf against the back wall. She had a pillow under her head, and was still wearing the clothes she’d had on under her raincoat when she’d been giving her report from the beach. She sat up and put her bare feet on a thick gray rug. The place made her feel comfortable and she was immediately suspicious of that comfort. Where was she and how had she gotten there?
“The beautiful reporter with hair of black looked around for her phone but it wasn’t in her pocket or anywhere nearby. She stood and went to the front door, but couldn’t open it. No matter which way she turned the lock, the deadbolt would not release from the doorframe. She looked out the small window on the door at a suburban street scene. It could be any town, she thought. There were no palm trees, so maybe she was not in Florida anymore. Was it possible she was in another state? The beautiful reporter looked for the back door, but the room was entirely enclosed. There was no visible way in or out other than the locked front door.
“She tried to center herself with a series of deep breaths. There was a reasonable explanation for this, she told herself. She went to the front window and pulled back the curtain in time to see a car turning up the block. She’d seen the same car go by from the other window a moment before. This person is driving around in circles, she thought, maybe they’re looking for me. She decided that the next time the car went by, she would yell and wave, and maybe they would notice her. As she waited, the phone on the end table started to ring. The reporter answered.
‘How do you feel?’ Asked a deep male voice.
‘Who am I speaking with?’ The reporter answered.
‘You don’t know me.’ He said.
‘But you know me?’
‘Yes, you are Sarah Mann, also known as Serena Michaels.’
‘Okay. Can you tell me where I am?’
‘I could tell you where you are, but it wouldn’t mean anything to you.’ The voice said.
‘You’re in an underwater facility off the coast of New Jersey, but from your frame of reference we’ve brought you to an alternate version of the present. Your status as an outsider in this timeline is the reason you are being kept isolated.’
‘FUCK YOU!’ The beautiful reporter shouted. ‘I have rights! I demand to be released immediately! If you don’t get me out of here right now, I’ll have you thrown in jail! I’m a reporter and I happen to work for a little company called NBC, maybe you’ve heard of it…’
‘No need to get hostile Ms. Mann.’ The voice said.
‘Am I a prisoner here?’
‘No, but of course we realized that this might be a traumatic experience for you. That’s why we came up with the domestic setting. We wanted you to be at ease.’
‘Thank you for your kind consideration,’ she said, ‘but you still haven’t told me why I’m here.’
‘If we’re successful, you will have the opportunity to alter the course of human history. I’m sorry for your distress. It would’ve been impossible to seek your consent beforehand, and if we hadn’t acted when we did, we might not have ever gotten another chance. Your being here is highly improbable, but here you are.’
‘You’re scaring me.’ The reporter said. ‘What is it you expect me to do?’
‘Nothing.’ The voice said. ‘Just remain calm and we will get you home soon.’
‘Listen motherfucker, I’m not doing a single thing you say, you hear? I’m not going to be your puppet! You hear me? Hello?’ The man on the other end had hung up. The beautiful reporter with hair of black tried not to cry. She looked out the front window and saw the same car go by again and realized it was some kind of video on a loop. She picked up the end table, letting the phone and a small lamp crash to the floor. She adjusted her grip on the heavy piece of wooden furniture and hurled it through the glass. She picked up the phone and used it to break the remaining shards of glass off the window sill.
“When she put her head out of the window the street scene went translucent and doubled. It was a 3D projection. There was a steel wall behind it, which stretched up into darkness. The floor was steel too, and she climbed out, careful not to step on any of the broken glass with her bare feet. She saw that the living room was a wooden box. The plywood was unpainted on the outside, and two-by-fours were propped up to hold the walls in place, like a movie set. She walked all the way around the enclosure, and when she got back to the broken front window of the fake living room, she was overcome with hopelessness. She hadn’t seen any way in or out of the giant metal box she was in.
“She couldn’t fight it anymore, and she wept. She sat against the side wall with the doubled, translucent car driving through her every 43 seconds. The only sound she could hear, other than the fake chirping of birds and the sound of the car, was the TV in the living room. It was still playing ‘The Voice’ and she could hear one of the contestants singing a song about having the Memphis blues again. She vaguely remembered that it was a Bob Dylan song, and having access to that pedestrian bit of trivia gave her comfort for some reason. It occurred to her that her life up until that point had been relatively unsurprising, so from that perspective, she was overdue for something like this to happen. Something wholly unexpected. This event, whatever it was, was an outlier and soon her life would resume its normal course.
“The beautiful reporter with hair of black heard the TV go silent, and she got up and went to the window to look inside. She thought maybe someone had turned it off. There was something strange in the living room, but she couldn’t say exactly what it was. She climbed back through the window, and noticed for the first time that they’d gotten the smell of dust and old food just right. She stood inside and looked at what could only be described as a void in the center of the room. It was a pillar of nothingness that stretched from the floor to the ceiling, and it made the little hairs on the back of the reporter’s neck stand at attention. She wasn’t sure how she could even say it was there because it didn’t look like anything, it was only visible in its absence. That logical contradiction frightened her.
“Obeying some strange compulsion, the beautiful reporter with hair of black stepped closer and reached out to it. Her fingertips buzzed when they came into contact with the void. Taking her hand back, she found that there was something new in her mind. It was complex and detailed but it hadn’t come in linearly, it had appeared all together as something she knew. It was a block of knowledge that could be worked through or explained in order, but existed in her head all at once. It was like knowing a neighborhood, there was a mental map of the whole thing, which would allow her to easily walk through any part of it without getting lost.
“The reporter wondered how this knowledge could’ve gotten into her head without the usual process of having to learn it. As she was thinking about it, the void filled in with the surrounding oxygen and was gone. She sat down on the couch and rubbed her eyes. She wanted to go through the new information in her head because she didn’t know what it contained yet, and she thought it was wrong to have something in her brain and not know what it was. But the idea of going through it all seemed daunting, and she felt exhausted. She thought she would put her head down for a minute or two first.
“When the beautiful reporter with hair of black awoke, she was on a gravel incline behind some bushes. She pushed through them and climbed up onto the vast parking lot of a Walmart. Her clothes were dirty and she was barefoot, so she thought she must look homeless. There were people not far away, so she began to walk toward them, unsure of what she would say when she got there.”
Smik groaned. “Everyone hates a ‘to be continued’ episode.” He said.
“Right.” Alicia said. “This little fairy-tale leaves us with way more questions than we had going in. I hope the Imposters realize that they can only whet appetites for so long before they have to come through with a meal.”
“Maybe NBC will find some way to contextualize it so it won’t seem like such a tease.” Smik said. “The network is good at that sort of thing.”
“I hope you’re right.” She said. “Not even I can sell a sales pitch.”
Michael was glued to his television on the night of the Serena Michaels special. He was naked and had moved a high-backed wooden chair from his kitchen so he could sit closer to the TV screen. The demonosphere had been busy sending him messages all day, making it hard for him to concentrate on his job. He had moved around the Beckin Hotel in a state of open reception to the onslaught of incoming ciphers and symbols.
The sign above the staff sink read ‘Customer Service is Our Business.’ Michael saw the sign every day, but he’d never done a close reading of it like they taught him in college. Of course, it could be read as just a banal encouragement to treat the guests well, but the combination of words seemed to hint at a deeper meaning to Michael. ‘Customer’ had the word ‘custom’ in it –a tradition tied to a place or a group of people. It was something done without thinking, as in ‘it’s just the custom’ or ‘it’s customary.’ So a customer could be someone engaged in mindless action. The word ‘service’ also seemed charged. It was another word for the military, i.e. ‘he joined the service.’ A ‘serve’ was also the initial volley of a tennis game. So the first part of the sentence was about launching a mindless military assault. The last word of the sentence was also loaded. ‘Business,’ or busy-ness –the state of being busy or active. There was a transactional undercurrent to the word too, it meant money changing hands. ‘Business’ was something you engaged in to make a profit. A profit could be any kind of betterment too, it didn’t have to be financial. The middle part of the sentence, ‘is our’ brought the murkier conceptual meanings into the real world. The mindless military assault ‘is’ (right now) ‘our’ (Michael’s and the demonosphere’s) way to benefit the world. Professor Bennett would be proud of me, Michael thought, I decoded it like an old poem.
Everything seemed to be humming with hidden messages for him that day, and he felt like he was protected by his status as the demonosphere’s favorite son on the earthly plane. Nothing could touch him. Sitting naked in his high-backed wooden chair, he waited for the time to change from 7:59 to 8:00. It was a very long minute, but it finally passed and Michael turned on the television.
Lester Holt stood on the NBC Nightly News set next to a screen silently playing the famous footage of Serena Michaels giving her report from the beach in Miami. The camera pushed in on him slowly as he spoke. “Good evening, I’m Lester Holt. Tonight, we bring you a special report on a story that has captured the attention of the nation in recent weeks. When Serena Michaels, a member of our NBC family, disappeared from a beach in Florida while reporting on hurricane Evan, many feared the worst. But amidst the celebration of her safe return, the question of what happened to her has only grown into more of a mystery. Meredith Vieira has this report.”
“The short answer is I don’t know.” Serena said, sitting on a sofa in an open ranch-style living room. There were two native American masks looking down on her from the wall, part of her mother’s extensive collection of Hopi art. “I really don’t remember a thing.”
The image cut to Serena and her sister Bea doing dishes in the kitchen while Meredith Vieira’s voice narrated. “Things have gone back to some semblance of normalcy for Serena Michaels a week after being released from the hospital where doctors treated her for severe brain trauma. She’s recuperating with her sister and her mother in a suburb outside of Albuquerque. But whereas most victims of trauma are trying to forget, Serena is trying to remember.”
A wide shot of the living room showed Serena Michaels seated on the couch with Meredith Vieira across from her. You could see a big TV light and the camera that held Michaels in close up. “It’s all a blank for me.” She said, looking into the camera lens. “That entire period of time –it’s just nothing.” The close-up camera began a slow, almost imperceptible zoom into her face. “I can remember doing the remote, and I remember being picked up by the paramedics outside of Sarasota, but I can’t remember anything that happened in between. It’s incredibly frustrating… I want to know what happened. I want to know more than anyone, believe me.”
The TV showed Serena reading a bedtime story to her nieces, sitting on the lower edge of their trundle bed, as Vieira’s voice-over continued. “What happened was what doctors call a fugue state, which can make a person forget large segments of time. Doctor Maria Rago was on the team that treated Serena Michaels.”
Rago, hair pulled tight, was in a white coat sitting behind a desk. “A fugue state can occur when the brain is overwhelmed with stimuli. It’s like when a computer can’t handle a large file and it freezes. When there’s too much coming in for the brain to assimilate, it snaps into a kind of survival-only mode, and stops producing new memories. It’s a protection mechanism.” As she spoke, she made a few hand gestures, subtly drawing attention to the FitBit on her wrist. “A severe trauma, like being struck by lightning, can certainly produce such a state.”
“And a lightning-strike is the most rational explanation for what happened to Michaels.” Vieira said in voice-over. “It explains both the medical and the visual evidence. While some viewers saw an alien abduction, and others saw divine ascension, Edward Cotter saw digital artifacts. And he should know, he studies those artifacts for a living.” Cotter, a heavyset man in his thirties, sat in front of a large computer monitor in an open workspace with people silently coming and going behind him. Vieira continued her introduction: “Here at the video analysis center of VanyerTech Analytics, Mr. Cotter has studied the Michaels footage, and he believes that what viewers saw that morning can be explained without the aide of angels or little green men.”
Cotter spoke to an interviewer just to the right of the camera. “I worked for the government for 15 years, mostly analyzing satellite images. My focus here at VanyerTech is different. We’re the best in the world at detecting digital trickery in video. I say that without reservation. We maintain close connections with intelligence services because in this day and age, you can’t trust your own eyes when it comes to video images.” He tapped on his mouse, waking up his computer. “The Serena Michaels footage is really not that extraordinary.” He said. “What you have to understand is how a network television signal is processed and transmitted to get a sense of what we’re looking at. Oftentimes, when a digital video signal gets corrupted, the image will freeze, but only partially. The new video is still coming through behind the frozen image, and if that new video has movement, it can create some strange effects.”
Cotter opened a gif on his screen. It was a woman whose face suddenly appeared to melt into a skull-like mask. It continued looping silently as he spoke. “In the early days of digital TV, every time there was an electrical storm, viewers would get weirdly distorted images. In some cases, people became alarmed. As you can see, this type of distortion can be a bit creepy. Whenever there was an electrical storm, local affiliates would receive complaints from viewers who thought their TVs were sending them satanic messages. I think the reaction to the Michaels video is something similar, but whereas the distortion in early digital broadcasts was happening at the receiving end, in viewers’ living rooms, the distortion in the Michaels video happened on the broadcast end. Everyone saw the same distorted image and that image happened to be pretty weird.”
He opened the video file of the Serena Michaels footage and started advancing it frame by frame. “When a news crew is doing a remote like this,” Cotter said, “the camera is wirelessly connected to a control van which sends the signal via satellite back to the network in New York City. This video was being shot during a strong electrical storm, and I believe the signal was corrupted between the camera and the van. You can see tiling here at the edges, and when she freezes you can still see movement, which I believe is the camera operator backing up, probably trying to get more of the stormy background into the frame. Now the image that has gotten so much attention is right here.” Cotter stopped at the last frame before Serena disappeared. “So in this image, she appears to be hovering over the water, shining light. But what we are seeing is the video signal trying to catch up with what is being input from the camera. Parts of the image, like the background and the waves are from the earlier footage, but Serena here at the center, is made up of later pixels –from after the cameraman has moved back. That’s why she appears to be floating over the water. The whole thing freezes when the lightning strikes, and the flash of light is the last thing to make it through the remaining active pixels, which had been showing Serena’s body. That’s why it looks like she’s shining.”
As the frame by frame video of Serena’s report played again silently, Vieira’s voice-over returned: “The cameraman and two crew members who witnessed the event in person corroborate the distorted-video explanation. They do not report having seen Serena Michaels levitate. According to those who were present, there was a bright flash and a loud explosion and she was gone.”
Dr. Maria Rago was at her desk wearing her FitBit. “It’s actually more common than people think.” She said. “I’ve been working here at Bradenton Memorial Hospital for nine years, and I’ve seen seven cases of individuals who’ve been struck by lightning. Without getting into specifics, the mortality rate is better than fifty-fifty. Some walk away unharmed, others are in intensive care for months. We’ve had cases where the strike itself didn’t cause any damage, but it threw the individual a great distance, and that caused broken bones or concussion. It’s speculation of course, but if Serena Michaels was struck by lightning, it could’ve thrown her up to a hundred feet out to sea. The people on the beach wouldn’t have been able to see her, especially in the storm, and by the time she got back to shore, she might’ve been very far down the beach. By then, she would’ve been in a fugue state, operating on a second-to-second survival basis. For some people, that can last a long time.”
Serena Michaels smiled at Meredith Vieira in her mother’s living room. “It’s incredibly disconcerting, not knowing what happened to me.” She said. “My doctor told me to try to accept the fact that I may never know, but I’m a reporter. I can’t accept not knowing. That’s why I agreed to undergo hypnosis.”
Meredith Vieira walked along the wraparound porch of the Mother-House as she spoke directly to the camera. “When we get back, we will watch Serena Michaels try to recover her memory through hypnosis. So far, we’ve heard a logical, scientific explanation for the events of July 21st, but what she says under hypnosis will have the Serena Michaels conspiracy theorists saying I told you so.”
Michael hit the mute button on his remote. He felt restless sitting there, so he stood up and began walking in circles around his chair. People thought they were receiving satanic messages, Edward Cotter had said. Yes, and that was ridiculous. There couldn’t be a force in the world that was unknown to science and was trying to break through to our plane. Yes, and it would be silly to think that a new technology might offer some kind of opening for that force. When an electrical storm came, other beings couldn’t get in between the interlaced video frames of a digital signal and show their form to a terrified viewing public. The idea was absurd! Those people were DELUDED! Just like the people who saw Serena Michaels disappear in a flash of light. It was just a technological glitch of the video, nothing more. Other dimensions didn’t exist, and if they did exist, they would not bleed into our reality in any way. Certainly not through a wireless video signal being watched by millions!
Michael laughed and looked at the TV. Still commercials. He began doing push ups, counting them off to himself as he went. Somewhere between five and twenty he began thinking that repetition might be the key; that the demonospheric beings could enter our dimension between things that occurred on a repetitive cycle, like his push ups or the hyper flashing of video frames. He stood up and swung his arms around. “Repetition.” He said to himself. “That’s how they get in.” Lester Holt was back on his screen so he sat down and took the TV off mute. Lester passed it over to Meredith, who was still on the porch.
“Recovering memories is a controversial practice that has had some well-publicized failures in recent years, but the case of Serena Michaels is different. We know for a fact that she has lost memories. She was certainly somewhere over those missing three days. And her loss of memory was brought about by a physical, rather than an emotional trauma. Serena sat down with Donna Martinkel, a hypnotist who specializes in recovering lost memories. She allowed us to film the session.”
The establishing shot showed Donna Martinkel speaking to Serena in a softly-lit room of the Mother-House. They sat close together and Martinkel listened as Serena told her something that couldn’t be heard. The hypnotist’s voice formed a sound-bridge to the session. “You’re going to tell me a story now.” She said. Martinkel’s smiling face looked at Serena in her TV-friendly blue top, lying on the couch. “You’re going to tell me the story of what happened to you on Tuesday, July 21st, 2015. The story will begin on the beach in Miami, as you were giving your live remote. Tell me everything that happened and leave nothing out.”
Another camera had Serena in close-up. Her eyes were closed and she began to speak: “There once was a beautiful reporter with hair of black who was sent into a hurrrrrrrrrrrr–” Michael saw her lips slow down. The TV screen was a frame around her face which he saw through his eyes, which were framed by his eyelids. What he saw went into his brain which was held in the frame of his skull. Inside his brain, electrical impulses were framed by neurons, and outside of him there were larger frames. The frames of the room, building and block. It was all frames within frames at irregular intervals…
Serena was still saying the word hurricane, and Michael wondered how long it would take. The frame of the TV opened up, and he was inside it, and the frame of his eyes opened up, and he was inside them too…
He was either falling or flying, he wasn’t sure which. But he was moving fast. The frame of his apartment was gone and he was passing through internal frames, one after another, until finally he reached one that was completely blank…
He was inside an alien frame that wasn’t white, black, or gray. It wasn’t any color, it was a colorless void. There was only one thing in the frame that could be seen, a small speck. Either he was travelling toward the speck or it was traveling toward him, or both…
A wave of fear hit him. There was nothing to get ahold of, no way to slow down. It was a reptilian fear, a physical fear, coming from the body not the mind. It wasn’t a speck anymore, it was a black bullet, then a plate, a field, a continent, a planet. Finally, he relaxed. There was no use fighting…
The warm blackness grew bigger and bigger, until it was all he could see. He was in the blackness now –was he still falling? He couldn’t tell anymore. There was no point of reference…
There was a new sound, a rustling sound, like plastic moving. The blackness gave way from above and Michael was in a frame he recognized: a freezer. The door was open and someone was looking in at him. He slowly understood that it was himself looking at him, but his face looked reversed from what he saw in the mirror. His nose especially looked strange to him, and his eyes looked asymmetrical in the wrong direction. He thought it was him, but backwards.
I know what he’s doing, Michael thought, he’s doing what I sometimes do, looking at Mikey’s head in the freezer. But now, he was Mikey. But then who was looking? He searched the face in front of him but couldn’t recognize the person. I’m hollowed out, he thought, I’m neither here nor there. The Michael that was staring at him closed up the bag and he was back in the darkness again, but he found that he could end the darkness by opening his eyes. He looked at his living room, but from a low angle, and he wasn’t sure where he was. He could see the Michael simulacrum, naked, walking back and forth from the kitchen to the living room. He looked crazed.
He thought, based on his angle, that he was inside the frame of the television screen. His lips were moving and sound was coming from somewhere, the sound of a woman’s voice. If he thought about it, he could hear what (s)he was saying. “…two-by-fours were propped up to hold the walls in place, like a movie set. She walked all the way around the enclosure, and when she got back to the broken front window…” It was all nonsense. In an instant the perspective changed, and (s)he was the hypnotist now, looking at a different part of Michael’s living room. But (s)he was supposed to be looking at Serena from the audience’s perspective. There were four frames of reference: the hypnotist’s, Serena’s, the camera’s, and the hypothetical viewer’s. He could perceive all of them at once. His consciousness had been split four ways. No there were more than that. He was also the Michael in the apartment, and Mikey’s head in the freezer. And more. Every perspective he could imagine was available to him. He’d been sliced into a thousand pages and fanned out in every direction. He scrolled through the perceiving organs like a flipbook and landed on one:
He was a woman, sitting on a leather sofa in an upscale apartment with a cold glass in (her)his hand. (S)he was watching the special on TV, feeling something unexpected –self-consciousness. (S)he was embarrassed, but sitting alone. Why? Michael thought about it. Yes, this must be Serena’s perspective. Not the Serena on TV, but the actual, fleshy Serena. He had access to her brain which made him very happy. I have to retain this access after I’m back in my birth-body, he thought. It might be useful…Michael, as Serena, watched (her)himself speak on the television. “…she thought she must look homeless.” The televised Serena said. “There were people not far away, so she began to walk toward them, unsure of what she would say when she got there.”
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