Aimée

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic
A Saturday girl, soaking up excess demand. Aimée: paid for love. Paying to survive. A homage to the character 'Molly Millions' from William Gibson's 'Neuromancer'. -- (2,500 words, 4 chapters).

Submitted: March 22, 2019

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Submitted: March 22, 2019

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Chapter 1: I arrive at uni broke

I arrived at uni just as the budget cuts kicked in again. Maybe I shouldn't have bothered, I had zero aptitude for anything academic. But I guessed a course in moderating social-media wouldn't be too much of a stretch.

You know what they say: no degree - no job.

Yes, there was always that.

---

Leaving home was a joy. My father had vanished when I was young. He existed only as childhood memories - and those not pleasant. My mother was remote and preoccupied, her attention focused on her habits .. and the unsavoury men who supported them.

So, me. A solitary, introverted girl on my first day at university with a bill for tuition and an unpayable rent demand. What was I going to live on? I had no skills worth speaking of.

Turned out my situation was far from unique. I wandered the stalls amongst the crowds at the Freshers' Fair with all the other hopeless wannabes. The student union was a large enough space, would easily host a good disco. Tables lined the walls, each backed by a colourful banner advertising its wares, each manned by two or three enthusiasts, eager to help us pay our way.

I rejected the chauffeur opportunity: can't drive. I ambled past the other offers, heart sinking. Can't sing, can’t dance, can't do accounts, can’t nanny, can't counsel.

Can't.

At the end of the line, the sex workers stall.

Sheila must have seen it all before. Her warm smile of sympathy said: Now dear, it’s not nearly as bad as what you’re thinking.

She gave me a small card with an address.

“Come and see us for a chat. Any afternoon after two.”

---

Once, when I was a teenager, I had been on a school trip to London. Tottenham Court Road. We’d had some free time and I was window-shopping with a girlfriend. We were approached by a friendly-looking girl who had been hovering outside the Scientology office. Come in, she'd said, trial consultation is free.

Of course we had heard about Scientology. Everyone had. But we were brave. We allowed ourselves to be led inside, to be sat down with an earnest young man, to be interviewed, to be tested. It was all harmless - except that we both had so many mental health issues. Engrams. They’d be pleased to help us if we made an appointment.

We made our excuses and left.

It was with enormous trepidation that I turned up the very next afternoon at a nothing building in a run-down area. You see those places everywhere on the edge of town: brick garages with no work being done, windowless walls hiding silent workshops, unloved warehouses. Nobody lives there. All is deserted.

There was no nameplate on the door. There was a camera and some buttons to press.

Once inside I was shown into a plain room, brick walls plastered white, with a small round table and one seat. Light came from a small, high window which must have overlooked the street. The woman reminded me of her name: Sheila.  I was given a bright smile, a cup of coffee and some detailed forms to fill in.

Twenty minutes to change your life forever.

Chapter 2: Not all is explained

Sheila led me farther into the building to her office, which was considerably more congenial. We steered around her executive desk to the low, comfy chairs circling the glass-topped coffee table. Over another round of drinks she began the interview.

It was a calming, reassuring experience. Sheila was warm by nature. She was a woman in her thirties, full chested and matronly with auburn hair to her shoulders.  A wish-fulfillment mother. I already basked in her approval. Not a feeling I was used to.

An early conclusion of our conversation was that I was quite unsuited to any kind of escort work.

“Don’t worry, dear. Although the pay is better, the high-end stuff is really hard work. Making conversation, not making any social faux pas, being interested in people who often aren’t that interesting.”

She smiled sympathetically.

“You don’t really have the background, my darling Let’s just agree among the two of us that we’ve both seen posher girls?”

How could I disagree?

It turned out the real demand was for puppets.

I really hadn’t engaged with that at all, had barely heard of it. The notion, or service, or whatever had only been around a few months.

“It’s the easiest thing really,” Sheila said. “At the start of your shift you just go to sleep. You’re completely relaxed. And at the end of your shift you wake up none the worse and you go home - considerably better off. The pay is almost as good as what the escorts get.”

I’m not an idiot. I wanted more details.

Sheila obliged. “You come in half an hour before your shift. You shower, and change into something appropriate which we provide. Then you put on a special choker necklace. The active ingredient is in the band at the back, which attaches to your neck. You activate it, you fall asleep. The house AI takes over for your shift.”

She dangles a sample necklace from her hand, passes it over to me.

“See how it works, dearest,” says Sheila, showing me her tablet.

The very pretty girl lies on the bed and puts on the necklace, pressing it against the back of her neck. The camera zooms in as her eyes close. Then, spookily, the eyes open again, she gets up and moves around. She does a little languorous dance to a soothing soundtrack. She lies down and the AI relinquishes control. She opens her eyes and takes off the device. She gets up and smiles to camera.

It’s all very civilized.

“I know you have a thousand questions,” says Sheila, “So let me run through the bullet points.

  • No-one gets hurt here.
  • All the customers are vetted.
  • Everything is recorded.
  • There's privacy and security.
  • Nothing bad can happen.”

I’m open-mouthed, eyes-wide, breathing in small shallow gasps. Is this what a panic attack feels like?

Sheila hurries on. No doubt this is the protocol.

Get the info-dump over with as quickly as possible.

“You will be wondering what our clients request and what the AI is permitted to do with your body. The answer is that clients have a variety of requirements, and that you decide which services your body is prepared to offer.”

And what is that in her hand?

A brochure?

There are 24 pages, each with a separate service. I turn the pages very slowly, studying each scenario intently. It’s not until page six that we get to the standard stuff, the kind of thing you think your parents might have done once or twice. By page thirteen things have gone rapidly downhill. My stomach turns and I give a little retch.

Sheila hands me a glass of water.

“Don’t worry, dear. We never had a girl who signed up to the entire 24.”

She flips to the back page where there is a numbered list. Twenty four checkboxes.

“Just tick the ones you’re happy with. Don’t worry, you can start conservative and add more later. See the pay rates? Right there?”

Each checkbox has a number. They get bigger down the list.

“Like I said, you can, if you want, review the videos after each session. Their faces are blanked but you’ll see what they and you were doing. We stick to the contract. And if any of the clients displeases you in any way, you only have to say and you'll never see them again.”

She shows me a benign and not-at-all shocking video, with the participants anonymised. It's all-too-familiar soft-focus, pastel-colour erotica. Everyone's having such fun.

“The contract provides for free healthcare and check-ups, and you get a sign-on fee in advance. If we could start you on Fridays and Saturdays?”

I’m sent home to think about it. That unpaid rent bill is burning a hole in my pocket.

Chapter 3: The myriad forms of fear

They say you have no memory of pain. You may recall that you were in pain, but not what it felt like. Not how very bad it was.

The same is true for fear.

I have anticipated fear so many times. As a distant prospect - just one more fact to suppress, to ignore.

But get up close .. .

So I had signed the contract four days ago - as we both knew I would - and I had been apprehensive. Now the day had rolled around and I was sat in my bedsit in the dark - rent paid with my advance - waiting for the taxi.

My new employers pretend it’s part of the service, the taxi shuttle. But it’s obvious they want turning up to be easier than the alternative.

And maybe later, you’ll be in no state to get home under your own steam.

I sweat. My stomach  uncontrollably lurches inside my belly. I have visited the toilet way too often. Part of me screams for a way out. But wouldn't I have found it by now?

If I could only think.

---

Sunk in paralysed apathy, I’m delivered to that dreary estate which looks so much worse under street lighting. I’m not delivered to the front door. As we drive past I see the parked cars there. Men clustered around the doorman: talking, negotiating, wheedling.

The taxi takes me round to a parallel street. The mercifully-unchatty driver takes a look at the huddled misery he’s carrying and says in a kindly tone, “Through that gate, miss.”

There’s nothing to pay.

I walk through an abandoned back-lot, hard to make out the rubbish in the dull lights from the house. I press the call button. I stare into the camera. Another doorman takes me through to a room where I’m to get prepared. There’s a girl already sat down.

Extra help for the weekend, just like me.

Donna has the hard, tired eyes of a regular. Those eyes widen in sympathy as she realises I’m a newby.

“What’s your name?” she asks - before hurriedly adding -“Not your real name, no-one uses those here. What do you call yourself?”

“Aimée,” I say, barely registering her.

“OK, Aimée. Listen girl. It’s not like you were told. Obviously. You knew that. But it’s not totally insane either.”

I huddle. Shrouded in my misery. Apathetic. Barely listening.

“When you wake up you’ll most likely feel sore. You know, down there. Maybe some bruises? You’ll have a strange taste in your mouth. The AI puts you through the shower. You get a quick check-over and a good mouthwash before you ever wake up."

I look up and meet her eye. Honestly, I am grateful.

"Look, we’re a scarce resource as far as they’re concerned. It pays to keep us in good shape, prepped to come back. They don't want us ruined."

She examines me closely, checking to see whether I'm taking any of this in.

“Oh, and you’ll need a strong stomach for the videos. Seriously girl, don't do it unless there's something you really need to check .. is my advice.”

At that, a middle-aged businesslike woman in green scrubs came in to prep me - and then it was just like in the instructional video.

Chapter 4: The meaning of 'enjoyed it'

I wake up in what they called the Green Room and it was as if time had passed, but no time. Like a dreamless sleep .. or anaesthesia. My new friend Donna was right. I'm battered, stiff and bruised and my mouth tastes of Listerine.

They had woken Donna first and she was reviewing her night’s performance. I move over and sit next to her.

Donna is unfazed.

This is all paying for my course. The one in social-media moderation. I can spend days looking at clips just like this. I'm more than familiar with the many acts a man paying for sex can imagine .. and execute.

So here’s what unsettles me: Donna seems - in the video - to be enjoying every minute of it, a level of ecstasy I have never summoned up in my entire life.

I have no doubt that my own record of achievement over the last few hours would show similar unbounded joy. The AI plainly knows my potential better than I do myself. Knowledge it uses on behalf of my employer.

I don't look.

Something to think about on the taxi ride home.

---

A highlight. So there was the time I was reviewing a video. For aching cause. They blur the face and distort the voice but you can still see their body tattoos, the pattern of their movements.

The punter with the overflowing mounds of flab who pulled my happy, smiling face into his lap would have had an excellent opportunity to recognise me. When he enthusiastically bent my compliant body forward over the bed - the screen showed my moaning face and bare breasts fronting his heaving, pile-driving, blur-headed, inked flesh - he surely knew what he was doing.

And I knew him.

I got really battered in that session, but I guess he knew it would be his only shot.

What kind of man does that to his own abandoned daughter?

---

Everything gets routine. It was better than front-line infantry work. Nobody was trying to kill me. They kept their word on that.

I paid my way through college. Useful synergy with my coursework, I told myself.

Nothing I had ticked was on our banned list. Not even close. Everything my body did was counted as good, clean fun. All passed fit for human consumption on social media.

I'd consented, hadn't I?

So now I have a degree in social-media moderation. Jobs in the real world for that?

Oversubscribed by a thousand to one.

Life today.

I could work in one of those new factories. They say the combination of of human bodily dexterity and AI mind-control beats pure robotics any day. Ten hour shifts where you're switched off. They say you really know you've been worked. You get to sleep a lot, off-duty.

But Sheila tells me there's an exciting new gig coming along. They've learned to switch out the AI control, let some person take over instead. You rent your body to a stranger.

Sheila tells me they vet the clients carefully, they're civilised and rich. She talks of insurance, damage indemnities, penalty clauses. Clients looking for new experiences - or stuff they can't or daren't do themselves.

It's Sheila's new thing.

They say I'll be well-trained. And going forward, there's excellent prospects for someone with flair.
 

--- END ---

 


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