Where are you?
I am on Earth.
Standing on the floor? I… why? Is it an artist’s thing?
On the ground. The planet.
Really? Sensational. Picturesque.
I’m afraid I can’t pay you much.
What can you afford?
I show him.
It’s much less than I expected, but I’ll make it work.
He is handsome. I see it and I hear wind instruments. The symmetry of him, the curve of his neck… I have to take some sketches, some studies. There is an elegance, a grace to each of his movements. He has that post-racial complexion, but I can use it.
How long will it take?
For you? About 40 minutes. For me years. I praise your image for your entire life. Extrapolation into the past, projections into the future.
What kind of artist are you?
Visual. Don’t worry, it won’t steal your soul.
Why do you think I would believe this?
I stop there, thinking that the mood is relaxing. Change tack.
You and I will never be able to talk again after this.
You can stop. An opt-out clause has been added to –
Let’s get it over with.
I don’t know if he’s distracted because he wants to keep professional contact or because he’s a jerk. I shouldn’t care, but I do. I need his image. I want it to radiate across the cosmos for me. I send him the funds.
As soon as I get the acknowledgment, I send my files to his device. His personal server is anything but. He uses a distributed model, borrowing fractions of storage space from thousands of devices between him and me. A common, inherently dangerous business model plagued by backdoors for security forces, but I’m used to it. I order his printer to start working. Even through the link I can hear the engine warming up.
Do you mind if I play music?
He shrugs his shoulders. Her hair rolls down her shoulders in static, bouncy waves like in commercials. A beautiful, carefree appearance, probably used to what people adore. I love it.
I collect my pigments while he prepares the machine from the components the printer spits out. While he’s working, I spend 15 minutes doing several five-minute studies, then half an hour drawing a reasonable pose from life or something like that. At this point, the Rig is in its living space.
The first blood samples, analyzed on site, were subsequently released.
I have a picture of him that I like, but making others happy is another matter. He, in turn, is great with gestures and stillness. He has, as he said, done this before. After 40 minutes, I wonder if he is, as I asked, fully human. It’s all well and good for an android to take a stand and shut down engine functions. There is no art in this. I want the old ways. This is why I am on Earth, despite the void.
Desolation does not bother me. My first work was a 30 foot ice sculpture on Hippocamp, Neptune’s smallest moon, laser sculpted from orbit. I was, or thought I was, the hot new thing. Carving out a Christmas Island head on a distant moon seemed cool back then. Now it looks kitsch and everything I’m trying to escape from. A period of drought took the eye of the art world away from me and my agent stopped lashing after a while.
The benefits of the Neptune ice cap have been wiped out. I stopped jumping space stations and made landfall, eliminating a number of addictions at the same time.
Earth, with its gravity and pea soup atmosphere and crowded orbit. Other ringed planets have routes of ice and dust. The rings of the Earth come from space junk, which seems impossible until you factor in humanity’s inability to act in its own best interests. Even now Quarantine only “advises” on respirators, but what they mean is that respirators would be mandatory if our elected leaders weren’t fucking cowards who were afraid of an ignorant but noisy electorate. and loyal. In any case, the quarantine is more interested in thought crime than in bodily contamination. Into this festering cradle of humanity I came, hoping it would be compost for my blocked imagination.