OF THE CITY OF THE SAVED...
DELETED SCENE: LAURA TOBIN'S RESURRECTION
This bit just wasn't working.
Part of the problem was that it's frankly a bit of a cliché – the “waking somewhere unfamiliar” scene has been done to death, in sf and elsewhere, as has the “body comes to life” thing.
Part of the problem was that this scene, originally the Prologue, didn't really sit flush with the rest of the novel, whose action takes place during the course of a single week, 291 years hence. The Prologue's presence was tending to pull the whole book out of shape.
A small part of the problem was that Tobin inevitably spends much of the scene naked, which introduces unwanted titillatory overtones. At least for me.
Mostly, though, the difficulty lay in Tobin's backstory – which, since she's Lawrence Miles' character, came to me as a fait accompli. She's led such a complicated life that her thoughts on finding herself resurrected are terribly convoluted. To explain her reactions adequately necessitated several pages of barely-digestible exposition. Not a good beginning to a novel.
It was easiest to cut the Prologue. In Of the City of the Saved..., the only glimpse we get of Tobin's resurrection is her “Note”, pruned considerably from the version given below, which comes as a prelude to the novel proper. The Prologue's function is taken over by the “Voces Populi”, which I feel start the novel with more of a bang.
The story of Resurrection Day needs to be told at some stage, I feel. But Of the City of the Saved... wasn't the place to do it.
All at once, life returns. The woman's body stirs, as in deep sleep; her eyelids flicker. Her chest swells and, all unknowing, her body sucks in its first quickening breath. It holds, then lets it go. A cycle is established.
For some time the woman sleeps, seemingly naturally, her rust-hued hair tangled about her head, her arm outstretched beside her like a strand of bleached-white seaweed. Her mouth is open slightly, as if in mild astonishment.
Then, with barely an instant of transition, the woman is awake and sitting upright. Her green eyes dart about suspiciously, evaluating, speculating. One hand strays to her thigh, encounters a foil sheet. Puzzlement overtakes the woman's face as she becomes aware of the bed beneath her.
The room is clean, near-clinically so: no signs of former occupation. The woman's glance has taken in wall-mounted lighting panels, sliding cupboard doors, a standard widescreen. The walls are antiseptic pastel blue, quite inoffensive. A hospital? It seems unlikely. Medical skill is virtually extinct in Anathema. There's little point, when people come back, same time next week, just as if they –
Anathema. (A momentary memory, fleeing before properly grasped.) The room is familiar, in a generic kind of way. The styling's right, that clean utopian aesthetic. She could well be still in Anathema, but it's not her room.
The woman pushes the sheet aside and stands, bounces experimentally on the balls of her feet. It feels fantastic. She hasn't felt this healthy in –
Another thought. She's old, though, isn't she? Nearly eighty? She remembers being ancient, withered, weak. Her limbs stick-brittle, drooping empty skin. Her eyesight milky. This can't be her real body.
It's comfortable, though, intricately and nostalgically familiar. She's sure her body was like this at one time. It's how she's always thought of herself, in secret; and if reality differed, as it so clearly did, reality was the one at fault, not her.
It looks as though reality's stepped into line.
If she was that old, though –
She died, didn't she.
There wasn't much to remember, just lying in bed while younger, mostly callous idiots came to pay ironic respects to Anathema's most eminent senior citizen. (None of her family, thank God. She'd left them behind long before.) The oldest of them all she'd been by then, the only first-generation presence left among them. She'd clung to her own body with a tenacity which amazed the others.
So, this was remembrance. Strange. She'd not expected to... remember. After she died, she knew, another person would continue using her face, her appearance, name and personality... at least to a reasonable approximation. But her new iteration would be just that: another person, born anew. Their existence would impact her own oblivion not in the slightest.
She'd obviously been mistaken. But she didn't feel like another person. If this was remembrance, she should be simpler, streamlined, a caricature of herself. She didn't think that was what she was. But maybe everybody felt that way.
Where the hell had they put her, though?
Well, she wasn't about to go and find out with bugger all on. They'd not changed her that much.
The first door she slid open, as expected, was the wardrobe. Inside were seven figure-hugging jumpsuits, all bright colours, all in different cuts. Essential Anathema.
Oh, and a note, pinned to the foremost garment like a price tag.
Setting it aside for the moment with a grimace, the woman pulled on the one-piece outfit. Leaf green like her eyes, it fit her renewed body perfectly. Somehow, this too came as no surprise.
Returning to the bed, she sat down. Unfolding the crisp paper, she stared at the neat typeface. She began to read.
The City of the Saved
I hope you don't mind being called “Laura”. Apparently you prefer “Tobin” under normal circumstances, but these aren't those – and we won't go into the convoluted implications of calling you “Compassion”. When you've reconstituted someone, body mind & soul, without corrupting their most delicate details, you feel entitled to talk as if you know them.
You haven't any privacy left, I'm afraid. You find intimacy difficult and I'm sorry about that, but in a situation like this – not that there's ever been a situation like this – it's unavoidable.
The woman – Tobin – scowled. Elsewhere in the building, a door slammed.
The note was not in English, or any language she'd seen before, which surprised her. She'd never been good at foreign languages (what was the point?), but this one came primed and ready for use inside her head.
She hated that.
Anyway. In case you're wondering, this isn't a pain-induced hallucination or a near-death experience, it's real.
It's not the rebirth you were expecting, either. You were reconstituted by the tanks of course – at least, a version of you was. She's not you. She's here too, somewhere in the City, and so are her successors. That's not the point, though – there are a lot of people here. Forget her, forget them all.
Forget the Faction, too. You're naturally suspecting them of a hand in this, but not everything in the Universe revolves around them, much as they'd like it to.
That's another thing, incidentally. You're not in the Universe any more.
You died – ‘obviously’, you're thinking. So fine. Work out the rest yourself. You may find this note's header helpful to you there.
Patronising bastard, Tobin thought.
She scowled. So, she was dead. The note merely confirmed her memories, and Tobin saw no reason to doubt their contents. True, if the note was correct then all those memories had been rebuilt from the bottom up. They could have been edited in all kinds of ways in the process. But they were all she had to go on. She'd rather trust them than the letter's supercilious author. Even if it amounted, in the end, to the same thing.
So, “Resurrection Day”? Tobin had believed in a technologically mediated afterlife, the kind she saw in operation every day. People died, they were put into remembrance tanks. Their biomass was broken down, their friends remembered them and their memories were collected by the tanks. After a week something emerged which seemed familiar, and which most, if not all, of the deceased's compatriots were able to accept.
This must be something similar. It worked more accurately, obviously, and there appeared to be someone/someones in charge. “City of the Saved” suggested an old-style computer program, a veeree simulation. A software model, stocked with simulations of dead people? That would do for now.
In the distance a woman's voice was raised, in sobs or laughter. A man's voice shouted the same few words repeatedly, too muffled to make out. Others were waking up, apparently, and evidently they were as confused as she was. Shrugging, she turned back to the letter's neat, foreign, utterly familiar typeface.
You see? I knew you'd get there. You've had practice. You were a security expert, and the nearest thing to a police force Anathema had. You'll be wanting a career here, too, and – as you'll be finding out – security is no longer so much of an issue.
Would you consider private investigation? The pay's good, and you get to make your own hours.
Tobin rolled her eyes despairingly. Crumpling the note, she pitched it at the litter bin she knew would be located out of sight, beyond the bed foot, and heard the satisfying ‘pap’ of a direct hit. Rising to her feet, she stretched, and was for moments lost in admiration at the firm swell of muscles underneath the fabric of her sleeve.
You've just stopped reading, haven't you? You'll fish this out again later, though, so hear me out.
I may have mentioned there are a lot of people here. There's everyone who ever lived, for a start. Everyone human, anyway, including posthumans, panhumans, part-humans & prehumans. (Sentient ones, that is. Resurrecting prehistoric lemurs or lungfish is not what we're about here.)
We don't care what you do with your afterlives. Without wanting to give too much away, it's the resurrections themselves that are the point of the exercise. You're free to take it where you like from here.
But there are social functions that always need fulfilling. Tracking down someone's family or friends, for instance, among a population with so many noughts on the end it makes you feel ill. There'll to be a lot of doubt & confusion for the first century or so, and people like you can help make sense of things.
There were more voices now, filling the corridors outside, rising in panic, loss or jubilation. Crossing the small room, Tobin palmed the door-lock and stepped outside. A woman rushed past, a wild look in her eyes, laughing uncontrollably. She was vaguely familiar from Anathema – a later generation, possibly? Tobin wasn't sure.
She followed the woman along the corridor, and down a silvered spiral ramped down around a giant lobby area to a pair of sliding plate-glass doors. Somebody was going to some effort to make her people feel at home. That made Tobin uneasy.
You're determined, you're unfailingly suspicious, you've got a sharp mind and you know how to look after yourself – though, as I mentioned, that won't be such a problem here.
A P.I. is the archetypal City job. Symbols will be important, here as much as anywhere, and people need icons they can rely on. The City will need detectives just as it needs postmen, police and – unfortunately – politicians.
You'll reassure them that the truth, though hard to find, is solid and unshifting, something real. They'll lap it up.
Through the glass doors the other woman hurried, outside to where white light shone on a speeding slidewalk, and domes and saucered spires rose up towards a spotless sky. Laura Tobin followed her, stepping out into the glory of Resurrection Morn on the streets of the City of the Saved.
No pressure, just think about it. There's plenty of time.
Buy Of the City of the Saved...:
- at Peculiar Tomes
- in ebook format from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com
- in paperback from Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com
- direct from Mad Norwegian Press.
www.infinitarian.com created and maintained by Philip Purser-Hallard.
All material © Philip Purser-Hallard 2003 and 2004 except where otherwise noted, and not to be used without permission.
Of the City of the Saved... cover © Steve Johnson 2003.