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“Fantaisie Impromptu No. 4 in C#min, Op. 66” by Carlos Hernandez

This isn’t any ordinary piano. This is the infamous Bösendorfer Imperial Concert Grand that Václav Balusek had custom-built for his comeback at Carnegie Hall. One of the first things you’ll notice is that it has nine extra keys: five whole-tones and four half-tones beyond the lowest A of an 88-key piano. All the extra keys are black.

I was fascinated by them when I first saw them 15 years ago, and I’m even more fascinated now. They’re the bad boys of the piano-key world, the kind of piano keys my dad would never let me date in high school. They whisper to me, in the way only inanimate objects can sweettalk the insane: “Play us, and you will evoke sounds so forbidden your very soul will thrum.”

Like everyone, I want my soul to thrum. I run my long nails over the keys like I’m scratching the back of a lover.

But playing Balusek’s piano uninvited would be unforgivably rude. I’m here at the home of the Baluseks in Coral Gables. Consuela, Václav’s formidable lawyer wife, is being a proper Cuban host and fetching cafecitos for us, which is how I ended up alone with the piano in the mansion’s conservatory. I remind myself that you don’t just start playing world class musicians’ priceless instruments, especially not without permission. But I’m still sitting on the bench, petting the keys.

Gabrielle Reál, I think to myself, using my full name the way my mother would when she chastised me, tickling these ebonies might be more than bad manners. It might be sexual harassment.

I don’t really believe that, but the thought helps me come to my senses. I rise from the bench, take a breath, lift the hair off the back of my neck to let it cool. To remove myself from further temptation I circle the grand piano, taking notes and pictures like a proper reporter should.

God but this piano’s a work of art. At first glance it might pass for a traditional grand, lacquered to a gleaming black and oozing old-world, Austro-Hungarian charm. But soon you’ll notice the brass-and-glass touches that a generation ago would have been called Steampunk: the scrollwork on the brushed metal hinge of the fallboard; the rectangular portholes in its body, framed by verdigris-veined copper; the gorgeous, Rube Goldbergian system of pulleys, wheels and hinges that make up the gloriously overengineered pedal lyre.

It’s the kind of grand piano some billionaire archgeek would order as a showpiece for a living room, more for the eyes than the ears. It’s not the instrument I’d expect a world-class pianist like Balusek to commission. And it’s really not the vessel I’d expect Balusek to choose as his home for life after death.

Did I forget to mention that? Yeah, in case you’ve been in a coma for the last decade: Václav Balusek is dead. At least his body is. But true believers like his wife have maintained that his soul lives on in this beautiful, diabolical piano.

***

Consuela (maiden name Oquendo) returns bearing a silver tray that looks like she lifted it from The Cloisters. It’s laden with demitasses of espresso and squares of buttered Cuban bread piled up like a carbohydrate Tower of Babel.

I thank Consuela and pluck myself a demitasse; she rests the tray on the Mondrian coffee table and sits next to me on the parlor’s zebra-stripe sofa; apparently Consuela gives exactly zero fucks about matching décor. The Baluseks oft-photographed home used to be filled with B-movie bric-a-brac, back when sci-fi enthusiast Václav had a say in matters like these. But even if you believe Václav’s still alive in the piano, Consuela’s the only one with eyes anymore. So I guess she gets to make all the interior design choices in their marriage now.

When I don’t take any bread, she says, “You have to eat, mi niña! I never would have landed Vaclavito without my curves. Take it from me: men don’t like broomsticks.”

Ah, the cheerful, feral brusqueness of the Cuban jefa. It’s a type I know, and have even sought to emulate in many ways: tireless, self-assured women who work 80 hours a week at their jobs, keep their homes impossibly clean, go to church every Sunday and never, ever let their kids forget who’s in charge.

They’re great 85% of the time. But they can be a bit, shall we say, peremptory. Like Consuela, they’ll tell you to your face you’re too skinny. And God help you if they think you’re fat.

“Thank you, Señora Balusek,” I say, “but I’m vegetarian. Cuban bread is made with lard.”

Now, the typical Cuban jefa would make a passive-aggressive production of “hiding” how much your words have hurt her. Yes, she would take it as a personal attack that you didn’t want to eat her store-bought bread.

So I start to strategize how I can get back on her good side when, to my surprise, I see Consuela is embarrassed, apologetic. “Ay, mi niña, I’m so sorry,” she says. “It didn’t even occur to me to ask, you being Cuban and all.”

“Yeah,” I joke, to show no harm’s done. “Who’s ever heard of a Cuban vegetarian? What’s next, vegan crocodiles?”

She laughs politely and after a moment adds, “I shouldn’t have called you a broomstick. Forgive me! You’re so beautiful. You must have more boyfriends than you know what to do with.”

Since it’s required that I return the compliment, I scan her person for inspiration. Consuela’s a 48-year-old salt-and-pepper odalisque who’s barely as tall as my chin (and I’m 5’3″). Her smile has a practiced guilelessness she probably learned in law school.

But she’s not dressed for court today; today, she’s cultivating the Miami MILF look. She wears a tight floral blouse, and a crucified golden Jesus bobs on her cleavage like a castaway on a raft. Her teal pants bell at the bottom, and her ratty house chancletas look like they’ve been passed down from mother to daughter for five generations. I’ve seen Cuban women dress like this all my life, and genetics guarantee that someday I, too, will dress exactly like this. Though I’ll draw the line at the crucifix.

“Me?” I say. “What about you? You’re beautiful, rich, and single. You’re one of the most eligible bachelorettes in Miami.” I sip a little cafecito and watch for her reaction.

She smiles and gives me an I-see-what-you-did-there look. “I’m still married, mi vida.”

“Not according to the law. The court has declared Balusek dead.”

“The law is slow to change. It will come around eventually. Who knows how many lawsuits it will take? But eventually the courts will recognize what has happened to Vaclavito and people like him.”

“Which is what, exactly?”

There’s a little melancholy in the way she tilts her head. Then she says, “He moved.”

I let my eyebrows speak before I do. “Moved? As in, out of his own flesh?”

“Exactly. His mind persists. He just ’emigrated.’ Out of his body and into the eneural.”

“Emigrating out of your body sounds to me like a pretty good definition of death.”

She tsk-tsks me. “Only if you don’t have somewhere else to go,” she says. And then her gaze guides me to the piano.

After a moment’s contemplation, she asks me, “Do you believe people have souls, Gabby?”

I never lie during an interview, even when I know my answer may cost me greatly. I suck through my teeth but tell the truth: “No. Sorry.”

Consuela smiles, stands and offers me her hand. “In ten minutes you’re going to wish you said, ‘Not yet.'”

***

Before we sit on the piano bench, Consuela helps me into a black leather jacket with built-in gloves. It’s four sizes too big, but even so, I can feel it’s actually an exoskeleton of the “python-rib” variety. A concatenated series of metal rings reside within the jacket’s arms and fingers. Consuela fastens me into it from behind and adjusts the arm-length so that it fits me. Kind of.

She can’t help but laugh. “Oh Gabby,” she says. “You look so cute! Like a girl playing dress-up in her papi’s biker clothes.”

She unceremoniously plants me on the bench. “Right thumb on middle-C, left pinky on the C# an octave lower,” she says.

I place my hands on the keys as instructed. The eneural that imaged Balusek’s mind has been installed in this piano. It’s about to connect wirelessly to this jacket. It’s a little freaky, waiting for him to “arrive.”

I keep my hands on the piano keys but turn to face Consuela. She pats my shoulder and says, “This is going to be fun! Relax!” The most unrelaxing thing a person can say.

While I am still looking at Consuela the exo makes my left thumb and pinkie play a two-note chord, C# and G#. I turn to look at my hands.

“Well hello, Mr. Balusek!” I exclaim. I really do exclaim: embarrassingly fangirlishly.

The exoskeleton is not nearly as powerful as I thought it would be. I could resist it if I wanted to. The glove holds the chord for a melancholy second, then leaps, the left thumb landing on C#, the pinkie on the G# below it. I watch, amazed, as the left glove start an arpeggio, slowly at first but quickly gaining speed.

A blink later my fingers are moving faster than I can move them myself. The right glove transforms itself into a fairy ballerina who leaps and runs over the keys, leaving a contrail of dulcet music in her wake.

I am not making this music happen, but every time the glove strikes a key, the music shoots up my fingers and passes into my body, just as if I were playing this piece myself. It’s so pleasurable to feel the music course through me that I forget for a moment to hear it.

So I remind myself to listen as well as feel. The piece reminds me of the ad-hoc soundtracks pianists of yore would play to accompany silent movies. The black-and-white scene the music describes is one of peril, pursuit, combat: a runaway locomotive, a showdown at high-noon, pirates battling for control of a wave-pitched ship. My fingers race down the length of the keys; the music reaches a climax that reminds me of a car tumbling down a hillside. Will Bonnie and Clyde escape the V8 Ford before it explodes?

They do, because the music shifts now to a love-story. We see the lovers from behind. They sit on the shore – he wearing a top hat and tailed tuxedo, she in a glistering silver gown and tiara – holding hands and watching waves climb up the shore. There is nothing so beautiful in the world as the oversized moon of a silent movie. It grows a face suddenly and winks at them, but they’re too in love to notice. They turn from the ocean and face one another. They lean in, closing the distance between their lips. They almost kiss.

But the music shifts back to the rollicking, riotous fairy-gambols where we started. Again the melody grows ominous; again I am falling right to left down the length of the keyboard: Lucifer cast from heaven and plummeting through the firmament until he finally, with terrible impact, crashes into Hell.

But this time a humble coda rises up, murmuring. One hand mumbles out a pianissimo arpeggio as the other dolefully hearkens us back to the earlier love story. Only this time, love is over, never to return; love is Ophelia drowned, Samson casting one last pleading look at Delilah, Eurydice reaching after Orpheus as she’s pulled back into the Underworld. All that remains of that great passion is a memory that is even now fading, fading. Then the music stops and even the memory of love evanesces into nothingness.

The leather jacket goes limp; my arms drop dead and slap against my legs. I didn’t do a lick of work – the exo did everything – but I’m exhausted, breathless, tousled. I’m simultaneously euphoric and heartbroken. I finally understand what Aristotle meant by catharsis.

I turn around to face Consuela. She smiles and shrugs and says, “Now you know Vaclavito. Down to his soul.”

***

The piece Václav played was Chopin’s Fantaisie Impromptu in C# minor, Opus 66, a devilishly difficult composition that has become one of Chopin’s most-performed works and a kind of rite of passage for piano virtuosos the world over.

But even a player piano could be programmed to play the composition flawlessly, if lifelessly. There was only one way to verify that this wasn’t just a robotic recording. Václav would have to play it again, with me still wearing the jacket. And he would have to play it differently.

Which he does. The second time around, Václav plays it more athletically, less dolorously. I learn later that this is the way most journeymen play it: it’s so challenging to perform that merely getting through it is an accomplishment, and so many pianists end up treating it as a showcase for their technical prowess. Yet, even here, there are millisecond delays and dynamic changes that carry from the first performance to the second. Now that I have lived inside of Václav’s style, I can identify some of its qualities, through the way he uses me to apply pressure to the piano keys. I feel I am starting to get to know him. I feel that Václav Balusek has shared a bit of his very qualia with me.

That’s quite an achievement. Normally, you can’t even get inside someone’s qualia when they’re alive. And Balusek is dead.

And I don’t just mean legally dead. You won’t catch any of the major eneural manufacturers claiming they can give your mind a new home after your body dies. They never use the term for an eneural the movies and the media throw around: “cyberreliquary.”

An eneural, the manufacturers will tell you, is merely a “cognitive prosthetic” implanted into the brain to help those who have suffered debilitating brain disorders. Like any prosthetic, it’s custom-built for the individual. Epileptics get a different eneural than those who’ve suffered a traumatic brain injury. Those with advanced Alzheimer’s get a different one altogether.

There are common elements, of course: there’s always, for instance, an AI that, like an eager infant, learns to mimic the patient’s brain, synapse by synapse. Over time, the AI’s “thinking” acquires an uncanny similarity to the patient’s. After a training period that can last for months or even years, the eneural has essentially become an artificial ganglion that provides the patient’s brain with supplementary memory recall and cognitive power.

The effects can be positively transformative, as they were for Václav Balusek. I was 14 when Balusek was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. His illness was worthy of global sorrow; the world’s most beloved living pianist would all too soon lose his ability to play. The media characterized it as a fate worse than death: he would live to see his gift, his life’s work, fall to ruins before him day by day.

That was bad enough. But for millions of teenaged girls like me, for whom Balusek was a particular kind of celebrity crush – not muscular, not macho, but artistic, intellectual, and adorably geeky – it was our first taste of life’s cruelty.

In the post-diagnosis interviews that followed Václav, holding hands with his wife Consuela (whom I hated back then with unbridled jealousy), vowed to fight the disease. He was a famous proponent of science and futurism; over the years he’d donated millions to the SENS Research Foundation to support a “cure for aging” and was, you will remember, an avid collector of sci-fi movie props. He cheerily described advances in medications and deep brain stimulation that could stave off the ill effects of Parkinson’s for years. He made me believe he could win.

By the time I was a junior in college Václav had disappeared from public life. The disease was worsening more quickly than anticipated and wasn’t responding to treatment. He hadn’t performed in years, and most assumed he never would again.

And then, back when I was just starting out as a lowly copyeditor at The San Francisco Squint, Carnegie Hall announced that Balusek would perform there, one night only. Tickets sold out in seconds.

Consuela shares some black/white photos of that performance with me. Picture 1: a steampunk-inspired Bösendorfer Imperial Concert Grand (yes, the same one) sits on the stage. The piano choice is curious, but perhaps the most unusual thing about the shot is that there’s no bench with it.

Picture 2: wheelchair-bound Balusek takes the stage, smiling and waving. He’s puffy and paunchy; he’s aged a thousand years; but most shocking of all is that his hairline is disrupted by a surgery scar as big as a scarecrow’s mouth.

Consuela shows me more pictures, but they don’t really capture what happened next. Václav rolled up to the piano. He folded his hands in his lap, and never moved them again until the performance was over. He played the grand piano with his mind.

Specifically, he played the grand piano with the eneural he’d had installed and the wireless connection built into the Bösendorfer. His performance consisted of works he had commissioned from promising young composers for this occasion.

Consuela tells me the commissions were her idea, as a way to prove that the performances were really being given by Balusek. Before playing each work, the audience saw a video interview of each composer. The composers spoke of their intentions with the piece, the process of composition, the inspiration: but mostly they talked up Balusek as they rehearsed the work at his Coral Gables home.

The audience watched videos of Balusek, in his wheelchair in front of the Bösendorfer, playing a portion of the piece with his mind, then consulting with the properly-awed composer about it. There was laughing, jokes, and moments of dignified awe as the young composers watched Balusek move the reading he had formed of their music from his mind directly into the piano. My favorite of the composers, Cynthia Gazón, put it this way: “He’s fired the middlemen, the hands. He can perform now without having to navigate the cumbersome bureaucracy of the body. It may be the purest music that’s ever existed.”

***

“That one-night-only engagement at Carnegie Hall turned into a world tour,” I say to Consuela. I’m still in the jacket, still on the piano bench. Still catching my breath from my second impromptu fantasy with Václav.

“130 shows in 37 countries,” Consuela, sitting in a chair to my left, says wistfully. She’s traded the cafecito for a redolent, blood-dark Malbec.

“Playing works no other pianist could play,” I prompt.

She smiles. “Vaclavito was no longer limited to two hands and two feet. He could play duets by himself. He commissioned over two dozen works that would be impossible for any other person alive to play. The 97-note smash that ends Gazón’s ‘Singularity Sonata’ is still considered one of the defining moments of 21st century music.”

I ask for a little of that fantastic-smelling Malbec. But when she offers to get it for me I get up, grab a glass from the wine rack and pour it myself. Then I carry the bottle over to Consuela. As I’m refilling hers, I say, “Lots of people were never convinced. They thought the performances were prerecorded. That this was all a big money-making ploy. A last grab at fame.”

Consuela gives me a “you ain’t kidding” look. “Because how could you prove it, at the end of the day? We were using the most advanced cybernetic technology in the world. It’s not like you could just lift the eneural’s ‘hood’ and let people see for themselves how it worked.”

“And then, when Balusek died–”

She stops me short: “He didn’t die.”

“Sorry! When his physical body could only be sustained through life-support, the attacks became more vicious. That’s when the media turned on you.”

“I could take it. Because I knew the truth.” And she completes the thought the way Cubans often do, with an aphorism: “Fear is the poison. Truth is the antidote.”

“They called you a ghoul. They said you were using your dead husband to make yourself rich.”

Consuela smiles and shakes her head like she’s dealing with a child. She contemplates her wine for a moment, then says, “He could still play the piano, there from his hospital bed! All those fancy machines were saying he was dead, but then I would say, ‘Vaclavito, would you play “Moonlight Sonata” for me?’ And then the Bösendorfer would immediately start to play it.

“There wasn’t a doctor or nurse who would to pull the plug while he could still play the piano! So it fell to me. But I wasn’t going to rush anything. I waited until I was sure his migration was complete. And when I was, I had the life support turned off. And I was right. As you now know, Gabby. Now that Vaclavito has passed his music through you.”

I sit at the bench again. I drink half my wine, then set it down on a side-table. I’m still punchy from the aesthetic tidal wave that was Václav performing through me. And the Malbec’s making me tipsy in the more traditional sense. I’m getting a little loose, a little unprofessional. So I exhale with unmastered longing and say, “Yeah. If only everyone could wear this jacket for a little while.”

Consuela leans forward. “So you believe me. You know that Vaclavito’s still alive.”

I tell her the truth. Goddamnit. “No. I think Balusek is dead. I wish I could give you another answer.”

There’s something leonine in the way Consuela’s looking at me. I feel like I’m walking into one of her lawyerly traps, but for the life of me I can’t see what it is. And she doesn’t tip her hand just yet. Innocent as a telenovela ingenue she asks, “But what about the music you just played?”

I sigh. “People have been leaving behind huge chucks of themselves after death for eons, Consuela – in their diaries and paintings and the notes in their cookbooks and the stories they tell their children. The eneural is the latest in a long line of media that help us capture some bit who we were when we were alive, and give it to the future. It’s the birth of a new artform. One I already love.”

She frowns skeptically. “That’s it? My husband is art to you?”

I don’t back down. “Art makes life make sense.”

“Art is a dead thing trying to tell the living how to live.”

There’s an edge there. But again, I can’t tell if it’s real, or just some manufactured anger required for some larger scheme of hers. I feel she might be playing me. I can’t see where this is heading.

Only one way to find out. I pick up my wine again and say, “Look, I know you really believe Balusek’s soul resides in the eneural, and I don’t want to insult you. But you’ve gone to court to plead your case and lost. You famously consulted with the Catholic Church on the matter, and Cardinal Bianchi’s commission on cognitive protheses was quite clear on the matter: eneurals are wonderful, but they’re not human. So the law and the church agree. Whatever Václav’s eneural has retained for us, it’s not his soul.”

The Malbec’s almost kicked, but Consuela stops refilling hers to offer me a little. I say no and she tips the rest of her bottle into her glass. “What if they’re wrong?” she says to me; it’s not really a question. “The state and the church have changed their minds many times in the past. What if 300 years from now they decide, ‘Actually, yes, eneurals are living people. Sorry for any inconvenience.'”

“Well,” I say, “assuming proper maintenance, Václav’s eneural will still be around to hear that. So that’s something.”

“But what does it mean if Václav’s soul is still on Earth 300 years from now?”

Consuela’s urgent, eager. I’m getting increasingly leery of her. “Don’t ask me,” I say noncommittally. “I don’t believe in souls.”

She peers at me, smiles a little. Her face decides something. She gets up and leaves the room. When she returns a half-minute later, she has a chrome disc the size of a frisbee in her hand.

“Do you know what this is?” she asks, and when I shake my head: “This is a neodymium rare-earth magnet. Super-strong. I had to get special permission to buy one this big.”

I don’t say anything. I watch.

“Will you sit on the sofa for a moment?” she says sweetly.

I move from the piano bench to the sofa.

She puts the magnet on the floor and moves the piano bench out of the way. Then she slips out of her chancletas and gets on her knees and takes the magnet in both hands, like a steering wheel. She knee-walks over to the piano. I can see the magnet is already pulling itself toward the piano; she has to fight it. She hugs the magnet to her chest, lies on her back and scoots herself under the Bösendorfer.

“What are you doing?” I ask, wine in hand.

She looks at me. I’d been so busy watching her antics with the magnet that I had neglected her face. Tears stream out of her eyes. “This is why I brought you here,” she says. “To bear witness.”

Then she lets go of the magnet upwards, and the magnet launches itself into the piano.

The jacket squeezes me so forcefully I gasp. I can’t inhale. This is what a boa attack must feel like.

I am about to panic when the jacket slowly slackens its grip. Its strength fades, fades. Then it’s completely powerless.

Consuela, still on her back under the piano, sobs into her hands. My addled brain slowly assembles a kind of sense of what has just happened. I guess my mouth understands before any other part of me, because before realization has fully dawned in my mind I can hear myself saying, “No. Oh God. No no no no no. Oh God, please no.”

***

Almost a month after my interview with Consuela, Leniquia Yancey, my editor at The Squint, comes up to my desk with a manila envelope. “Mail call!” she cheerily chimes.

If you’re thinking it’s weird for an editor to bring a reporter her mail, you’re right. Leniquia’s been checking in with me several times a day since that interview, because frankly, I’ve been a wreck: useless at work and experiencing random panic attacks a few times a week. Every night I dream of being crushed to death.

I smile at Leniquia. “You’re a good friend, m’dear. But you don’t have to bring my mail every day.”

Leniquia’s constitutionally incapable of pessimism, so whenever her face grows solemn the way it has now, it’s cause for worry. “This time I really had to,” she says as she hands me the envelope. “It’s from Consuela Balusek.”

The Squint’s mostly a wall-less workspace where snoopy reporter-types spend all day eavesdropping on each other. I look around and, yes, everyone’s pretending not to look. Fuckers. “Can we do this in your office?” I ask Leniquia.

A minute we’re in her office. I hand the envelope back to her. “You open it.”

She grabs a letter opener and starts slicing open the envelope. “It’s clean, by the way,” she says. “I had our guys check it.”

I make a WTF face. “Consuela wouldn’t try to kill us.”

She stops opening the letter to look at me incredulously. “After what that crazy bitch did? Erasing Václav Balusek right in front of you?”

“She thought she was freeing his soul.”

Her affect flattens. “That is pure bullshit. She didn’t think his soul was really in there. She just wanted the publicity. Think about how famous she is now. This was all part of her big plan.”

This is a fight we’ve had before. I take my traditional tack: mocking her. “You’ve been in San Francisco too long, here amongst the godless liberals. You’ve forgotten that there are radically different worldviews out there. Consuela’s actions are totally consistent.”

They are. My therapist and I have been over it several times. If you believe in a human soul, and in a Catholic heaven, and that your husband’s soul resides in an eneural, then, QED, you have prevented your husband from entering into an afterlife of bliss: for your own mortal, selfish reasons. After much soul-searching, Consuela decided she had to erase Balusek publicly – in front of a reporter – to show the whole world the pitfalls of that thinking: immortals never get to go to heaven. They’re destined to an eternal Hell on Earth.

“There is no way a woman of her intelligence and education could possibly believe that,” Leniquia insists, arms crossed.

All I would need is a week with Leniquia in Miami to prove to her how wrong she was. But for now we’ve reached our traditional impasse. “Are you going to open the letter?” I ask her.

She smiles and shakes her head clear. “Almost forgot!”

She finishes cutting through the top and blows open the envelope. From it she extracts a picture and a note.

We look at the picture together. It’s a photograph of Consuela and Guy Sauveterre, Chair of the Board of Regents for the Smithsonian Institution. They’re wearing expensive suits and are sitting on a piano bench, hands on knees. Behind them is a 97-key Bösendorfer Imperial Concert Grand.

I grab the note. “Dear Gabby,” I read aloud, “I’ve had Vaclavito’s backup eneural installed in the Bösendorfer and donated it to the Smithsonian. You’ll be receiving an invitation for its debut. I hope by then you will have forgiven me. Please come. Que Dios te bendiga y proteja. Consuela. P.S. They’ll be playing ‘Fantaisie Impromptu.'”

Leniquia’s mouth hangs open for a good five seconds. Finally all she can manage is “Bitch had a backup?! Oh, that woman’s all kinds of fucked up!”

But I understand completely. In fact, the absolute validity of her logic is sending waves of delight through my body. A soul can’t be mechanically reproduced, goes Consuela’s thinking. By definition, a soul is singular. So when they made the backup copy of the eneural, they didn’t copy Václav’s soul: merely everything else. In her eyes, she sent her husband to heaven by destroying the original eneural. In the meantime, she’s donated the soulless backup to the Smithsonian, thus preserving his art on Earth forever.

“Eneural ex machina,” I say to my poor bemused Leniquia. And then exhale.

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About the Author

Carlos Hernandez is the author of over two dozen works of sf, spec, magical realism, and fantasy, with short stories forthcoming in the anthologies Local Magic and A Robot, a Cyborg, and a Martian Walk into a Space Bar, and a one-act play in Geek Theater, an anthology of sf drama. By day, Carlos is a CUNY Associate Professor, where he teaches English and Creative Writing courses at BMCC and is a member of the doctoral faculty at the CUNY Graduate Center. He is also a game designer and the lead writer on Meriwether, a grant- and Kickstarter-funded CRPG about the Lewis and Clark expedition. He lives in Queens, which is most famous for not being Brooklyn.

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