A young girl is singing a song, it's one of the most beautiful things you've ever heard. Somewhere somewhere else 3 men are listening. One of the men (2) gets up and the other (3) touches his arm, lightly. The first man nods. 'She's good,' he pauses - 'Get her a nose job and I'll put her on the mid morning slot. Make sure she never sings again.'
The young girl is older and she sits on a purple sofa inside a short pine-coloured set. She's interviewing a transsexual and she isn't very nice about it.
Far away, a young girl watches the television. She wants to be just like them. Her mother thinks she means the woman and smiles. She’s in for a surprise.
It was the same man now listening to them. They describe their act. 'I talk about my trauma for 10 minutes, and then I dance for 5.’
'Are you a good dancer?'
'Does it matter?'
He smiled. They could see he was tracing their body for leftover traces of fuckability. He clicked his fingers and one of his entourage hopped in to action - a faggot with a full head of hair. 'Well?' he said. The faggot surveyed them and then gave a slow, arch smile and nodded at the man. 'You'll do,' he said. 'Load up the test audience'.
The test audience was calibrated by demographic. There were 10 of them - only because the man liked even, round numbers. It had been a headache for the science types, but why fuck with an out of 10 rating? It was important to the man to hold on to signifiers, otherwise he may as well be overseer at the pipe factory, like his younger brother.
'You need to play it to the pipes,' he said to them, 'this is how it's going to be now. If it doesn't look good, sound good through the pipes you may as well be dead.'
They began their act. Many miles away, across cities and countries, people sat at their end of the pipes and had their reactions monitored. It wasn't a steady job, but it was an easy one.
Amongst each demographic, there was a clear pattern: a disconnect between the inner and the outer reactions. This was good.
'Hopefully,' said the man 'you'll only need to do this once.'
'The test?' they asked.
'The act,' he laughed.
They smiled, a half smile, and thought to themself: I am the golden goose.
The man had been wrong. There was one more time that they would do their act. It was 40 years on and it was the only work they owned. Unfortunately, it didn't play very well to an audience 40 years in the future. It played even worse than it had the first time.
A young person watched them struggle through the act and shook their head in disgust. I'll never be like them, they said. The man was dead but another one would surely come along to prove them wrong.
The pipes had rusted over. Today was the day of replacement. They'd scored a coveted gig at the changeover event. Everything but water was wireless now, and there were places where you couldn't get water but you could see, hear ME doing MY act and that excited them no end.
The demographic had been retired too - it wasn't needed anymore. It had been a symbol anyway, and the new man didn't like symbols. He found it quite tasteless that the ceremony was happening at the former site of his father's pipe factory.
When the ceremony ended, they went home with the man to his penthouse and fucked him. They fucked each other both ways, because they believed in progress. They did coke and whatever new synthetic was out that week, because it was fun. The man had kept his arsehole nice and clean for them, and they appreciated that. It was a meaningful gesture, given the nature of their dynamic. They would only use their front hole until they got a pay rise, and the man found that admirable. He cared more for them than he did his wife, although he cared for his wife very little. His wife called him a fag and screamed at him, threw his cut glass Humanitarian award at the wall. 'You haven't been the same since your father died,' she said, which was possibly true. Change was a good thing.
His father, the owner of the pipe factory, was not a good man. His uncle, however, had always been kind to him. They liked hearing him talk about his father, his uncle. It made them feel closer to him, and also functioned as dirt should they ever need it which - they knew in their heart of hearts - they probably would.
They stared out of the penthouse window to the city, which had barely survived as a concept let alone a space. They imagined their understudy Wendy, with her perky tits - like them, but the other way around - sat in her sad little room thinking about them both. What was Wendy's dream?
Wendy dreamed of sliding a knife in their gut, slowly. Imagined it like butter out of the fridge.
The man would smile at them and say Call me __, __ was my father's name. She wanted to stab him too but it just wasn't practical, not even in her dream.
Wendy did makeup in the mornings and assisted them at night. At night someone else did their makeup and Wendy got to sit around drinking herbal tea. Noone was really sure what they were supposed to be doing now the pipes had shut down, but they thought they might as well carry on until someone said otherwise.
The girl who brought the tea was a newer type of girl than Wendy. Ze was smart, and made up something about an ancient family recipe to get the job. 60 years ago, ze would've only had to lie once but now ze had to sustain the lie every day. Noone really seemed to care if ze was lying because they wanted to believe that something like an ancient family recipe was still possible, even when they’d done their best to destroy it. It's not like anyone was from the same town as ze anyway, no one even knew it was a town and not a village. It was the future and everyone was an artist, and lying is the proper aim of art. 'I made up that phrase,' ze told them. They were very impressed. Wendy grinned at zir, flashed an expression like you'll be sorry.
In a brief interlude while ze was changing teapots and Wendy was fetching a handkerchief, ze stopped.
‘Why are you riding my dick, Wendy?’ ze asked, ‘you know neither of us are in the same slot as them. Not really.’
'I don't know,' said Wendy, which was true. They surprised themselves by laughing. Wendy pursed her lips and then opened them.
'When I was a little girl, I saw this advert on the pipes. It was Xelda, do you remember her? It was her first big commercial. I think it was for toothpaste. I never forgot it.'
'What ever happened to her?'
'There was an accident - with the pipes.'
'Oh, is that why they're-'
'Oh no, this was years ago,'
'How old are you?'
Wendy narrowed her eyes.
Just then, a woman in a beige suit walked past with a line of fresh interns. 'This is the side show,' she said, plainly.
1,2,3,4,5 seconds passed - when would it be too late to say anything? They both stood frozen in the corridor.
Time jumped, and ze stepped forward. Ze put one on Wendy - a real big Hollywood kiss that made the earth turn beneath their feet.
'I've got something we can use - if we want,' ze said, 'It's a special type of tea.'
'If you think you're ready?'
'I was born ready.'
Wendy and ze lived on the moon in a small but elegant apartment. Noone ever found out about the tea - their death certificate stated 'exhaustion'. The man started dating a trans guy from the tech crew who was much more discrete. His wife stopped throwing things. Wendy and ze sometimes got lunch with him - Damon. He lit Wendy really well. She had a whole 2 hour act planned but only got to do 5 minutes. The rest was always scripted by Haitch, the man's 24 year old son who was very nostalgic for the year 2031.