50. Trust but verify

Michel woke and looked down from the tree he slept in.  He rarely slept in the same tree for more than a week, as he could damage it. He was sleeping in the tallest tree in CRAB Park to stay close to George’s apartment, so he could keep watch on George.

He could see the ocean.  There was always the possibility she could swim into the harbour to see him.

More fool George, to spend money on shit like an apartment. With his hair out he didn’t even have to get wet in the rain if he didn’t want to. And cable? — which Michel was convinced was among the last of the really great corporate scams — why bother with it? He’d once watched a lot of TV but it was mostly to see what people were thinking was important, and then he realized that none of it was. His preference for carefully curated personal interactions over media reasserted itself in the 1990’s, and he’d never bothered with anything but radio news since. 

He stretched out his arms and legs and performed a controlled fall like a Jacob’s ladder down the trunk of the tree. Sometimes he went for a run and a dunk in the morning, but not always. He silently and invisibly raided one of the trash bins for his breakfast. His nutrition buds told him what was necessary, and he ate it. 

Humans made such a big deal out of food that he felt sorry for them. Obviously their evolutionary path was much more sociable, and there wasn’t really a moral problem with it, but being that dependent on other people for something without which you’d die in less than six weeks gave Michel the shivers, so he avoided dependency. He silently and invisibly defecated and buried it.

Sixers vary widely in their sleeping habits. Watermorphs sleep in the ocean. Most of the four-legged versions of the landmorphs sleep on the ground, and any birdmorphs sleep in trees or on rooftops if trees are not available.

Jesse, hearing this, asked what the hell happened during thunderstorms.

“Nothing. I love thunderstorms.”

“What happens if you get hit by lightning?”

“I die, probably. It’s one of our swears, ‘rocks and lightning!’ ‘cause they’re just about the only two things that can kill us.”

“Hunh! Bullets can’t kill you but lightning can!” Jesse said in wonder.

“Oh, I’d have a tough time if somebody hit me with a few quick rounds from a 50 cal,” Michel said, placidly.  “Or a drone strike. That’d make me hop around for sure. Buckshot’s nothing, just makes me clang for a while after.”


“You know, echo,” Michel said, illustrating this by cupping his hands, palms together, about 15 cm apart and shaking them.

“I don’t echo inside; I’m not hollow,” Jesse said.

“Neither me,” Michel said. “And that’s not quite right ‘cause you’re a tube. But at least you know what’s inside you. I got no clue. Could be ghosts and water beetles and cupcakes, for all I know.”

“Don’t you have a heart? And I don’t get how you can both eat and shit without having a tube to do it with.”

“I don’t know if I do have a heart, and I don’t know if I don’t have one. Just know that everything works,” he said, and slapped himself.  There was a loud reverberation, as if a gong had been struck.  Jesse inserted his fingers in both ears and waited for the noise to die down.

“You say you don’t breathe.”

“No lungs,” Michel said. “Talk with a diaphragm.”

“You live on Earth, but you don’t breathe air.”

“Most of us live in the water. Never been a big fan. Did I tell you I swam out to meet Kima and by the time I got there I was so fuckin’ tired I couldn’t mate?”

Jesse burst out laughing. “You’re kidding.”

“No. She was pissed.”

“This face is not surprised,” Jesse said, pointing to it. “So is she the greatest, or what?”

“Don’t know ‘bout that, cause I don’t know ‘em all, but of the ones I ever met, she’s the greatest.”

Michel remembered the conversation with his usual good humour.  Kima had only been mad for about ten seconds and then she was dying to talk to him. Her brain seemed like an elaborately geared toy that was going to catch fire from being spun up so high, so it was good thing she was sitting in four degree water all day. He had fondled her for hours, which was amusing in itself, while she talked. Her English was getting better, but she rattled at him in a disorienting mix of the language of light and Greek, sometimes at the same time, until he could feel his ability to keep up drop into unfathomed incomprehension.

It was obvious why George needed her for the project.  He still wondered why they’d picked Vancouver when Halifax was a better choice, but you couldn’t go up against the two of them once they’d made a decision.  Halifax at least he could keep living in Montréal and visit, but nobody had thought of his needs when they’d committed to this ‘logistical challenge’. This was George’s way of saying he was declaring war on the laughably named Western Civilization while hoping that nobody important or possibly nuke-tossing noticed. So far it was fine, or so George said. Michel was not a deep thinking individual, but he was no fool, and he wanted to practice the well known human aphorism Trust but Verify.

Today was the day he was going to hang out with George and see what he did all day.  He had this big plan, which he and Kima and possibly Hermes and others had been dragged into, but Michel was still not clear on what was happening. He had no fears for himself, but Michel didn’t think much of George’s plans for his human acquaintances, and wished to satisfy himself that George wasn’t marching them all off a cliff.