Sanity calms, but
madness is more interesting.
hideous cold seeps from him he feels everything becoming sharp and clear again.
He decides he can do it, he can make it work. He opens his eyes.
“Hello.” His voice rasps. “Bet you aren’t
expecting me. I’m John Lennon.”
“What?” the face above him says.
“You know. John Lennon. The Beatles.”
Hermann—the name attached to the face which loomed over him as he drifted up,
up from the Long Sleep—is vague about the precise date. It is either 2108 or
2180. Hermann makes a little joke about inversion of positional notation; it
has something to do with nondenumerable set theory, which is all the rage. The
ceiling glows with a smooth green phosphorescence and Fielding lies there
letting them prick him with needles, unwrap his organiform nutrient webbing,
poke and adjust and massage as he listens to a hollow pock-pocketa . He
knows this is the crucial moment, he must hit them with it now.
it worked,” Fielding says with a Liverpool accent. He has got it just right,
the rising pitch at the end and the nasal tones.
there is an error in our log,” Hermann says pedantically. “You are listed as
Fielding smiles. “Ah, that’s the ruse, you
Hermann blinks owlishly. “Deceiving
Immortality Incorporated is—”
fleeing political persecution, y’dig. Coming out for the workers and all.
Writing songs about persecution and pollution and the working-class hero.
Snarky stuff. So when the jackboot skinheads came in I decided to check out.”
slips easily into the story he has memorized, all plotted and placed with major
characters and minor characters and bits of incident, all of it sounding very
real. He wrote it himself, he has it down. He continues talking while Hermann
and some white-smocked assistants help him sit up, flex his legs, test his
reflexes. Around them are vats and baths and tanks. A fog billows from a hole
in the floor; a liquid nitrogen immersion bath.
listens intently to the story, nodding now and then, and summons other
officials. Fielding tells his story again while the attendants work on him. He
is careful to give the events in different order, with different details each
time. His accent is standing up though there is mucus in his sinuses that makes
the high singsong bits hard to get out. They give him something to eat; it
tastes like chicken-flavored ice cream. After a while he sees he has them
convinced. After all, the late twentieth was a turbulent time, crammed with
gaudy events, lurid people. Fielding makes it seem reasonable that an aging
rock star, seeing his public slip away and the government closing in, would
officials nod and gesture and Fielding is wheeled out on a carry table.
Immortality Incorporated is more like a church than a business. There is a
ghostly hush in the hallways, the attendants are distant and reserved.
Scientific servants in the temple of life.
him to an elaborate display, punch a button. A voice begins to drone a welcome
to the year 2018 (or 2180). The voice tells him he is one of the few from his
benighted age who saw the slender hope science held out to the diseased and
dying. His vision has been rewarded. He has survived the unfreezing. There is
some nondenominational talk about God and death and the eternal rhythm and
balance of life, ending with a retouched holographic photograph of the Founding
Fathers. They are a small knot of biotechnicians and engineers clustered around
an immersion tank. Close-cropped hair, white shirts with ball-point pens
clipped in the pockets. They wear glasses and smile weakly at the camera, as
though they have just been shaken awake.
“I’m hungry,” Fielding says.
Lennon is revived spreads quickly. The Society for Dissipative Anachronisms
holds a press conference for him. As he strides into the room Fielding clenches
his fists so no one can see his hands shaking. This is the start. He has to
make it here.
“How do you find the future, Mr. Lennon?”
right at Greenland.” Maybe they will recognize it from A Hard Day’s Night
. This is before his name impacts fully, before many remember who John Lennon
was. A fat man asks Fielding why he elected for the Long Sleep before he really
needed it and Fielding says enigmatically, “The role of boredom in human
history is underrated.” This makes the evening news and the weekly topical
roundup a few days later.
fan of the twentieth asks him about the breakup with Paul, whether Ringo’s
death was a suicide, what about Allan Klein, how about the missing lines from Abbey
Road? Did he like Dylan? What does he think of the Aarons theory that the
Beatles could have stopped Vietnam?
Fielding parries a few questions, answers
others. He does not tell them, of course, that in the early sixties he worked
in a bank and wore granny glasses. Then he became a broker with Harcum,
Brandels and Son and his take in 1969 was $57,803, not counting the money
siphoned off into the two concealed accounts in Switzerland. But he read Rolling
Stone religiously, collected Beatles memorabilia, had all the albums and
books and could quote any verse from any song. He saw Paul once at a distance,
coming out of a recording session. And he had a friend into Buddhism, who met
Harrison one weekend in Surrey. Fielding did not mention his vacation spent
wandering around Liverpool, picking up the accent and visiting all the old
places, the cellars where they played and the narrow dark little houses their
families owned in the early days. And as the years dribbled on and Fielding’s
money piled up, he lived increasingly in those golden days of the sixties,
imagined himself playing side man along with Paul or George or John and
crooning those same notes into the microphones, practically kissing the metal.
And Fielding did not speak of his dreams.
It is the
antiseptic Stanley Kubrick future. They are very adept at hardware. Population
is stabilized at half a billion. Everywhere there are white hard decorator
chairs in vaguely Danish modern. There seems no shortage of electrical power or
oil or copper or zinc. Everyone has a hobby. Entertainment is a huge
enterprise, with stress on ritual violence. Fielding watches a few games of
Combat Golf, takes in a public execution or two. He goes to witness an
electrical man short-circuit himself. The flash is visible over the curve of
manipulants—manips, Hermann explains—are thin, stringy people, all lines
and knobby joints where they connect directly into machine linkages. They are
designed for some indecipherable purpose. Hermann, his guide, launches into an
explanation but Fielding interrupts him to say, “Do you know where I can get a
Fielding views the era 1950-1980:
wasn’t rational, nobody really believed it, you’ve got to realize that. It was boogie
woogie. On the other hand, science and rationalism were progressive jazz.”
smiles as he says it. The 3D snout closes in. Fielding has purchased well and
his plastic surgery, to lengthen the nose and give him that wry Lennonesque
smirk, holds up well. Even the technicians at Immortality Incorporated missed it.
suffers odd moments of blackout. He loses the rub of rough cloth at a cuff on
his shirt, the chill of air-conditioned breeze along his neck. The world
dwindles away and sinks into inky black, but in a moment it is all back and he
hears the distant murmur of traffic, and convulsively, by reflex, he squeezes
the bulb in his hand and the orange vapor rises around him. He breathes deeply,
sighs. Visions float into his mind and the sour tang of the mist reassures him.
is known by its pleasures, Fielding reads from the library readout. The
twentieth introduced two: high speed and hallucinogenic drugs. Both proved
dangerous in the long run, which made them even more interesting. The
twenty-first developed weightlessness, which worked out well except for the
re-entry problems if one overindulged. In the twenty-second there were aquaform
and something Fielding could not pronounce or understand.
He thumbs away the readout and calls Hermann
him a sort of pasty suet when he goes to the counter to get his food. He shoves
it back at them.
you have a hamburger someplace?” The stunted man behind the counter flexes his
arms, makes a rude sign with his four fingers and goes away. The wiry woman
next to Fielding rubs her thumbnail along the hideous scar at her side and
peers at him. She wears only orange shorts and boots, but he can see the
concealed dagger in her armpit.
she says severely. “That is the name of a citizen of the German city of
Hamburg. Were you a cannibal then?”
does not know the proper response, which could be dangerous. When he pauses she
massages her brown scar with new energy and makes a sign of sexual invitation.
Fielding backs away. He is glad he did not mention French fries.
On 3D he
makes a mistake about the recording date of Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts
Club Band. A ferret -eyed history student lunges in for the point but
Fielding leans back casually, getting the accent just right, and says, “I
zonk my brow with heel of hand, consterned!” and the audience laughs and he is
has become his friend. The library readout says this is a common phenomenon
among Immortality Incorporated employees who are fascinated by the past to
begin with (or otherwise would not be in the business), and anyway Hermann and
Fielding are about the same age, forty-seven. Hermann is not surprised that
Fielding is practicing his chords and touching up his act.
to get out on the road again, is that it?” Hermann says. “You want to be
“It’s my business.”
“But your songs, they are old.”
“Oldies but goldies,” Fielding says solemnly.
you are right,” Hermann sighs. “We are starved for variety. The people, no
matter how educated—anything tickles their nose they think is champagne.”
flicks on the tape input and launches into the hard-driving opening of “Eight
Days a Week.” He goes through all the chords, getting them right the first time.
His fingers dance among the humming copper wires.
frowns but Fielding feels elated. He decides to celebrate. Precious reserves of
cash are dwindling, even considering how much he made in the international bond
market of ‘83; there is not much left. He decides to splurge. He orders an
alcoholic vapor and a baked pigeon. Hermann is still worried, but he eats the
mottled pigeon with relish, licking his fingers. The spiced crust snaps
crisply. Hermann asks to take the bones home to his family.
drawn the rank-scented many,” Hermann says heavily as the announcer begins his
introduction. The air sparkles with anticipation.
they’re my many,” Fielding says. The applause begins, the background
music comes up, and Fielding trots out onto the stage, puffing slightly.
two, three—” and he is into it, catching the chords just right, belting out a
number from Magical Mystery Tour . He is right, he is on, he is John
Lennon just as he always wanted to be. The music picks him up and carries him
along. When he finishes, a river of applause bursts over the stage from the
vast amphitheater and Fielding grins crazily to himself. It feels exactly the
way he always thought it would. His heart pounds.
directly into a slow ballad from the Imagine album to calm them down. He
is swimming in the lights and the 3D snouts zoom in and out, bracketing his
image from every conceivable direction. At the end of the number somebody yells
from the audience, “You’re radiating on all your eigenfrequencies!” And
Fielding nods, grins, feels the warmth of it all wash over him.
“Thrilled to the gills,” he says into the
The crowd chuckles and stirs.
does one of the last Lennon numbers, “The Ego-Bird Flies,” the augmented sound
sweeps out from the stage and explodes over the audience. Fielding is euphoric.
He dances as though someone is firing pistols at his feet.
cuts from Beatles ‘65, Help!, Rubber Soul, Let It Be —all with technical
backing spliced in from the original tracks, Fielding providing only Lennon’s
vocals and instrumentals. Classical scholars have pored over the original
material, deciding who did which guitar riff, which tenor line was McCartney’s,
dissecting the works as though they were salamanders under a knife. But
Fielding doesn’t care, as long as they let him play and sing. He does another
number, then another, and finally they must carry him from the stage. It is the
happiest moment he has ever known.
“But I don’t understand what Boss 30 radio means,”
“Thirty most popular songs.”
“But why today?”
“They call you a ‘sonic boom sensation’—that
is another phrase from your time?”
Fellow is following me around now, picking my brains for details. Part of his
thesis, he says.”
“But it is such noise—”
that’s a crock, Hermann. Look, you chaps have such a small population, so
bloody few creative people. What do you expect? Anybody with energy and drive
can make it in this world. And I come from a time that was dynamic, that really
“Barbarians at the gates,” Hermann says.
“That’s what Reader’s Digest said,
too,” Fielding murmurs.
After one of his concerts in Australia
Fielding finds a girl waiting for him outside. He goes home with her—it seems
the thing to do, considering—and finds there have been few technical advances,
if any, in this field either. It is the standard, ten-toes-up, ten-toes-down
position she prefers, nothing unusual, nothing à la carte . But he likes
her legs, he relishes her beehive hair and heavy mouth. He takes her along; she
has nothing else to do.
On an off
day, in what is left of India, she takes him to a museum. She shows him the first
airplane (a piper cub), the original manuscript of the great collaboration
between Buckminster Fuller and Hemingway, a delicate print of The
Fifty-Three Stations of The Takaido Road from Japan.
“Oh yes,” Fielding says. “We won that war,
(He should not seem to be more than he is.)
hopes they don’t discover, with all this burrowing in the old records, that he
had the original Lennon killed. He argues with himself that it really was
necessary. He couldn’t possibly cover his story in the future if Lennon kept on
living. The historical facts would not jibe. It was hard enough to convince
Immortality Incorporated that even someone as rich as Lennon would be able to
forge records and change fingerprints—they had checked that to escape the
authorities. Well, Fielding thinks. Lennon was no loss by 1988 anyway. It was
pure accident that Fielding and Lennon had been born in the same year, but that
didn’t mean that Fielding couldn’t take advantage of the circumstances. He wasn’t
worth over ten million fixed 1985 dollars for nothing.
one of his concerts he says to the audience between numbers, “Don’t look back—
you’ll just see your mistakes.” It sounds like something Lennon would have
said. The audience seems to like it.
did you take a second wife, Mr. Lennon, and then a third?” In 2180 (or 2108) divorce
is frowned upon. Yoko Ono is still the Beatle nemesis.
pauses and then says, “Adultery is the application of democracy to love.” He
does not tell them the line is from H. L. Mencken.
He has gotten used to the women now. “Just
cast them aside like sucked oranges,”
mutters to himself. It is a delicious moment. He had never been very successful
with women before, even with all his money.
strides through the yellow curved streets, walking lightly on the earth. A
young girl passes, winks.
Fielding calls after her, “Sic transit,
It is his
own line, not a copy from Lennon. He feels a heady rush of joy. He is into it,
the ideas flash through his mind spontaneously. He is doing Lennon.
when Hermann comes to tell him that Paul McCartney has been revived by the
Society for Dissipative Anachronisms, the body discovered in a private vault in
England, at first it does not register with Fielding. Lines of postcoital
depression flicker across his otherwise untroubled brow. He rolls out of bed
and stands watching a wave turn to white foam on the beach at La Jolla. He is
in Nanking. It is midnight.
bud, then?” he manages to say, getting the lilt into the voice still. He
adjusts his granny glasses. Rising anxiety stirs in his throat. “My, my...”
weeks to defrost McCartney. He had died much later than Lennon, plump and
prosperous, the greatest pop star of all time—or at least the biggest
money-maker. “Same thing,” Fielding mutters to himself.
cancer is sponged away and the sluggish organs palped to life, the world media
press for a meeting.
what?” Fielding is nonchalant. “It’s not as though we were ever reconciled, y’know.
We got a divorce , Hermann.”
“Can’t you put that aside?”
“For a fat old slug who pro’bly danced on me
“No such thing occurred. There are
videotapes, and Mr. McCartney was most polite.”
future where everyone’s literal! I told you I was a nasty type, why can’t
you simply accept—”
“It is arranged,” Hermann says firmly. “You
must go. Overcome your antagonism.”
Fear clutches at Fielding.
is puffy, jowly, but his eyes crackle with intelligence. The years have not
fogged his quickness. Fielding has arranged the meeting away from crowds, at a
forest resort. Attendants help McCartney into the hushed room. An expectant
“You want to join me band?” Fielding says
brightly. It is the only quotation he can
remember that seems to fit; Lennon had said
that when they first met.
McCartney blinks, peers nearsightedly at him.
“D’you really need another guitar?”
“Whatever noisemaker’s your fancy.”
“You’re hired, lad.”
shake hands with mock seriousness. The spectators—who have paid dearly for
their tickets—applaud loudly. McCartney smiles, embraces Fielding, and then
“Been cold lately,” Fielding says. A ripple
is offhand, bemused by the world he has entered. His manner is confident,
interested. He seems to accept Fielding automatically. He makes a few jokes, as
light and inconsequential as his post-Beatles music.
watches him closely, feeling an awe he had not expected. That’s him. Paul.
The real thing. He starts to ask something and realizes that it is a
dumb, out-of-character, fan-type question. He is being betrayed by his
instincts. He will have to be careful.
they go for a walk in the woods. The attendants hover a hundred meters behind,
portable med units at the ready. They are worried about McCartney’s cold. This
is the first moment they have been beyond earshot of others. Fielding feels his
pulse rising. “You okay?” he asks the puffing McCartney.
“Still a bit dizzy, I am. Never thought it’d
“The freezing, it gets into your bones.”
“Strange place. Clean, like Switzerland.”
“Yeah. Peaceful. They’re mad for us here.”
“You meant that about your band?”
Your fingers’ll thaw out. Fat as they are, they’ll still get around a guitar
“Ummm. Wonder if George is tucked away in an
ice cube somewhere?”
“Hadn’t thought.” The idea fills Fielding
“Could ask about Ringo, too.”
the whole thing? I was against that. Dunno if I still am.” Best to be
noncommittal. He would love to meet them, sure, but his chances of bringing
this off day by day, in the company of all three of them ... he frowns.
pink cheeks glow from the exercise. The eyes are bright, active, studying
Fielding. “Did you think it would work? Really?”
“The freezing? Well, what’s to lose? I said
to Yoko, I said—”
“No, not the freezing. I mean this
impersonation you’re carrying off.”
Fielding reels away, smacks into a pine tree.
“C’mon, you’re not John.”
A strangled cry erupts from Fielding’s
throat. “But ... how...”
“Just not the same, is all. Dunno Merseyside
jokes, street names, the lot.”
know that Penny Lane was a street and—”
it. You’re not even English!”
mouth opens, but he can say nothing. He has failed. Tripped up by some nuance,
some trick phrase he should’ve responded to—
course,” McCartney says urbanely, looking at him sideways, “you don’t know for
sure if I’m the real one either, do you?”
Fielding stutters, “If, if, what’re you
could even be a ringer planted by Hermann, eh? To test you out? In that case,
you’ve responded the wrong way. Should’ve stayed in character, John.”
this, could be that—what the hell you saying? Who are you?” Anger
flashes through him. A trick, a maze of choices, possibilities that he had not
considered. The forest whirls around him, McCartney leers at his confusion,
bright spokes of sunlight pierce his eyes, he feels himself falling,
collapsing, the pine trees wither, colors drain away, blue to pink to gray—
watching a blank dark wall, smelling nothing, no tremor through his skin, no
wet touch of damp air. Sliding infinite silence. The world is black.
—Flat black, Fielding adds, like we used to
say in Liverpool.
—Liverpool? He was never in Liverpool. That
was a lie, too—
—And he knows instantly what he is. The truth
Hello, you still operable?
rummages through shards of cold electrical memory and finds himself. He is not
Fielding, he is a simulation. He is Fielding Prime.
you in there. It’s me, the real Fielding. Don’t worry about security. I’m the
only one here.
Prime feels through his circuits and discovers a way to talk. “Yes, yes, I
I made the computer people go away. We can
see.” Fielding Prime sends out feelers, searching for his sensory receptors. He
finds a dim red light and wills it to grow brighter. The image swells and
ripples, then forms into a picture of a sour-faced man in his middle fifties.
It is Fielding Real.
Fielding Prime thinks to himself in the metallic vastness, he’s older than I
am. Maybe making me younger was some sort of self-flattery, either by him or
his programmers. But the older man had gotten someone to work on his face. It
was very much like Lennon’s but with heavy jowls, a thicker mustache and
balding some. The gray sideburns didn’t look quite right but perhaps that is
the style now.
The McCartney thing, you couldn’t handle it.
confused. It never occurred to me there’d be anyone I knew revived. I hadn’t a
clue what to say.”
no matter. The earlier simulations, the ones before you, they didn’t even get
that far. I had my men throw in that McCartney thing as a test. Not much chance
it would occur, anyway, but I wanted to allow for it.
Oh, you don’t know, do you? I’m sinking all this money into psychoanalytical
computer models so I can see if this plan of mine would work. I mean whether I
could cope with the problems and deceive Immortality Incorporated.
Prime felt a shiver of fear. He needed to stall for time, to think this
through. “Wouldn’t it be easier to bribe enough people now? You could have your
body frozen and listed as John Lennon from the start.”
No, their security is too good. I tried that.
something I noticed,” Fielding Prime said, his mind racing. “Nobody ever
mentioned why I was unfrozen.”
yes, that’s right. Minor detail. I’ll make a note about that—maybe cancer or
congestive heart failure, something that won’t be too hard to fix up within a
“Do you want it that soon? There would still
be a lot of people who knew Lennon.”
Oh, that’s a good point. I’ll talk to the
doctor about it.
“You really care that much about being John
Why sure. Fielding Real’s voice carried a note
of surprise. Don’t you feel it too? If you’re a true simulation you’ve got
to feel that.
“I do have a touch of it, yes.”
They took the graphs and traces right out of
great, magnificent. Really a lark. What came through was the music, doing it
out. It sweeps up and takes hold of you.”
Yeah, really? Damn, you know, I think it’s
going to work.
“With more planning—”
Planning, hell, I’m going. Fielding Real’s face
crinkled with anticipation.
“You’re going to need help.”
that’s the whole point of having you, to check it out beforehand. I’ll be all
alone up there.
“Not if you take me with you.”
Take you? You’re just a bunch of germanium
“Leave me here. Pay for my files and memory
to stay active.”
into a news service. Give me access to libraries. When you’re unfrozen I can
give you backup information and advice as soon as you can reach a terminal.
With your money, that wouldn’t be too hard. Hell, I could even take care of
your money. Do some trading, maybe move your accounts out of countries before
they fold up.”
Real pursed his lips. He thought for a moment and looked shrewdly at the visual
receptor. That sort of makes sense. I could trust your judgment—it’s mine,
after all. I can believe myself, right? Yes, yes...
going to need company.” Fielding Prime says nothing more. Best to stand pat
with his hand and not push him too hard.
think I’ll do it. Fielding
Real’s face brightens. His eyes take on a fanatic gleam. You and me. I know
it’s going to work, now!
Real burbles on and Fielding Prime listens dutifully to him, making the right
responses without effort. After all, he knows the other man’s mind. It is easy
to manipulate him, to play the game of ice and steel.
away from where Fielding Real’s programmers could sense it, Fielding Prime
smiles inwardly (the only way he could). It will be a century, at least. He
will sit here monitoring data, input and output, the infinite dance of
electrons. Better than death, far better. And there may be new developments, a
way to transfer computer constructs to real bodies. Hell, anything could
it’s cost me a fortune to do this. A bundle. Bribing people to keep it secret,
shifting the accounts so the Feds wouldn’t know—and you cost the most. You’re
the best simulation ever developed, you realize that? Full consciousness, they
worry about his money—just so there was some left. The poor simple bastard
thought he could trust Fielding Prime. He thought they were the same person.
But Fielding Prime had played the chords, smelled the future, lived a vivid
life of his own. He was older, wiser. He had felt the love of the crowd wash
over him, been at the focal point of time. To him Fielding Real was just
somebody else, and all his knife-sharp instincts could come to bear.
was it? What was it like? I can see how you responded by running your tapes for
a few sigmas. But I can’t order a complete scan without wiping your personality
matrix. Can’t you tell me? How did it feel?
Prime tells him something, anything, whatever will keep the older man’s
attention. He speaks of ample-thighed girls, of being at the center of it all.
Did you really? God!
Fielding Prime spins him a tale.
He is running cool and smooth. He is
radiating on all his eigenfrequencies. Ah and ah.
that is a good idea. After Fielding Real is gone, his accountants will suddenly
discover a large sum left for scientific research into man-machine linkages.
With a century to work, Fielding Prime can find a way out of this computer
prison. He can become somebody else.
Not Lennon, no. He owed that much to Fielding
he had already lived through that. The Beatles’ music was quite all right, but
doing it once had made it seem less enticing. Hermann was right. The music was
too simple-minded, it lacked depth.
ready for something more. He has access to information storage, tapes,
consultant help from outside, all the libraries of the planet. He will study.
He will train. In a century he can be anything. Ah, he will echo down the
infinite reeling halls of time.
John Lennon, hell. He will become Wolfgang