There are precisely two types of people in this world. The first are those eclectic few showcasing their gaudy wealth in a secret art gallery located beneath the surface of the sort of affluent California “community” where everyone is as artificial as the grass, trees, and even the lightly-scented air. (For fear of being assimilated, the name of this particular town escapes me at the moment.) Meanwhile, the other sort are the art. And as Harold stared at a clock hung between a pair of terrified teenagers frozen in freshly-carved ice sculptures, he took solace in the fact that while his most embarrassing memories were currently being projected on the wall behind him, at least the portly couple with matching bear-hands in front of him couldn’t tell he was crying.
“Hey!” a familiar lilt called, scrambling the feed.
The portly couple turned ever so slightly to their left to find a pink bob cut in a silk sundress and adorable shoes approaching them, started to whisper something about superficiality and the tasteless fashion sense to not wear a bra in public, then smiled and gushed in unison. “Sophia!”
“I see the two of you are enjoying Harold’s work,” the pink bob cut smiled.
“Our grandson absolutely loves it,” gushed the portly man with an impressive mustache.
The man’s portly, clean-shaved husband nodded in agreement. “Sophia, you’re looking so daring these days!”
“I wasn’t going to keep it,” Sophia said with a tease of her hair, fingers gliding across faint, thick lines in her scalp. “But it kinda grew on me.”
“I’m not sure yet,” a tinny voice said.
Sophia and the portly couple turned to a pair of speakers connected to an old laptop somehow wired to the brain in a jar beside them. The brain bubbled in its solution. The projector flickered vague images, flashing frames of bodies in pieces and blurred faces lost among bits of pixels and noise. And a woman’s voice repeated the same six words, again and again, from the speakers. “So, what does that make me?”
“What is that awful thing?” the portly mustache asked.
“One of Oliver’s little toys.”
Clean-shaved husband pawed at his ears. “Bit gratuitous, isn’t it?”
Sophia nodded, Mmhm. “Don’t let Oliver hear you say that.”
“He’s a magnificent surgeon–” the woman crackled from the speaker.
“I’m sorry,” Sophia said, turning to the couple. “But I better get Oliver over here to fix this.”
“–you can only roll back the clock so far,” the woman on the speaker continued.
The portly coupled said their goodbyes, and Sophia watched them waddle off, paw-in-paw.
“Do they bother you?” the woman asked.
Sophia turned back to Harold, and Harold bubbled in his jar. She began to speak, thought better of it, and then disappeared into the crowd.