Wax Works

waxwork

In this wicked little stinger, social satire and speculative fiction converge to burst some techno-utopian bubbles.

No fewer than three doctors had told Icarus to not get too close to the microwave, but Icarus went ahead and got too close: we came home to find him melted all over the floor. 

He’d oozed all over the machine itself, down the kitchen counters, into the grooves between the tiles, and dripped all the way to where the kitchen meets the living room.

That’s where he got himself all gunked up in the carpet, and instead of sitting down for the popcorn — microwave popcorn, there goes that — and watching movies, we had to call Dr. Mark’s emergency line and have him come over with the wet vacuum to get the damn kid out of the carpet and into St. Mary’s for emergency surgery. 

He’s a good kid, and it’s my fault in a way, because I wanted a boy after all these girls, and his dad was about the greatest craftsman the world had ever seen. The fancy degrees, the commendations — it was an obvious thing to create a new little man in his image.

The passion had gone out of our marriage, and Viagra was too risky, considering the pacemaker, so even if we’d still been in love, it would have been tricky to make a baby. 

Enter Icarus. The things you can do with wax are phenomenal these days. The things my husband could do, specifically. 

He had the world’s biggest corporations regularly coming to him looking for a new labor force, a pleasant army of workers who wouldn’t belch or unionize or die, who wouldn’t get their bodies all shot off or shoot up the place. Workers who certainly wouldn’t need to be insured. 

[Remembering Rin Kelly — An Appreciation]

He was the Leonardo do Vinci of his time, really: a man who hated humans and created humans, who was burdened by being such a future-man. 

In the early days, when we had to use Mexican-type humans to do the manufacturing labor, he just couldn’t take having to be around them at all. I once saw him walk the factory floor wiggling his thumbs in the air and then go up to a worker and stick them right in her eyes:

“Stop me before I evolve again! Stop me before I evolve again!” 

Then he just laughed. And really, they weren’t using their evolution very well. Not like he did, my famous future-man. 

Those framed letters, those commendations! Cargill, Ford, Tyson chicken, Walmart, Exxon, Apple, Taco Bell. With a handshake they’d walk away with 300,000 wax workers that ran on nothing but the mechanical heart we had the patent for.

There was no way those creatures would evolve into anything, no sir. Aim a beam at them — that was another great patent, one that paid for all our bullion investing, his “knocked-up gold” — and they’d melt right down the minute they might become self-aware. 

(Not that that ever happened. Not with the flesh kind, either. But we made good money coming up with patents like that.)

He wanted everything fast, which was another reason the passion ran out early. That man, in bed! Imagine bedding Leonardo, humping the future like that. Usually he’d roll over and conk right out. Sometimes he’d say “Evolution invented the orgasm” as explanation, which I suppose meant that mine didn’t matter, what with science not knowing what it was for.

Not for creation, certainly. Not now. Not anymore.

There was the one thing, the one glitch: human error. It just couldn’t be engineered away. Do not put a microwave in the break room, he’d tell them again and again. Under no circumstances should you put a single microwave in any break room! 

The reason they’d always go ahead and do it anyway made sense, because until you can replace all your humans, you want them powering up as quick as they can, and they still ran on food — Cargill, the agro giant, was a customer after all. 

But that was the old way of thinking, before our patents changed the world. 

I remember one night when he was working on Icarus, cradling that precious little head in his arms. He said to me, “Cait, the past is full of losers.” 

We had been half-men, half-beasts, built by chance and stumbling around. But here was the child of the man of the future! A child who would never put a microwave in a break room. 

But General Electric and Samsung, they couldn’t see what my husband had seen — so off he’d go into the night with his vacuum and his tools, off to clean his creations out of the carpets. 

I told him — I begged him — not to go into those break rooms. 

“Jesus, Tom, they can get a janitor to do basic retrieval!” 

But he just couldn’t trust his creations to losers. He was a workaholic, that man, and his heart strained beneath his pride. 

So here are tonight, just the girls and me and our precious fixed-up Icarus, whispering our prayers in the ICU.

Rin Kelly was a film editor at Los Angeles culture magazine L.A. RECORD and an alumna of Columbia Journalism School’s Toni Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism. Her writing, photography, and investigative reporting have appeared in publications throughout the U.S., including Salon magazine and newspapers in New York, Washington D.C., and the Bay Area. She recently completed the manuscript of her novel, The Bright and Holo Sky, a speculative piece with young narrators.

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