by Tom Doyle
Tom’s comments about this story can be found here.
Dev Martin surrendered his exterior electronic devices, then submitted to a scan of his head chip while it received the new cultural downloads. Exiting customs, he moved against the human tide of the Shannon Air and Compiler Portal. Around him flowed the fleeing hundreds—slow, wide, orderly, not panicked and poor like the North Korean Implosion, but of the same weary tradition. Their worldly goods, already shipped or decompiled, still seemed to weigh on their shoulders. The departing gazed at Dev with a disbelief and dark humor that assumed the new arrival didn’t know what awaited him.
Dev could have told the refugees that he understood, that he had lost everything too, but they wouldn’t believe him. They’d probably kill him. So Dev kept walking, avoiding their gaze, hoping that no one in this disconnected zone would recognize him.
A Garda officer stopped him. “Forget something?” she asked.
“I’ve just arrived.”
“Haven’t you already caused enough hurt?”
“Yes,” he agreed. Shite, she knew who he was.
The big woman smiled like an Irish wolfhound at a hare. “Why don’t you just turn yourself around then, before I tell these good people who you are?”
Dev pulled out some hard-copy papers. The garda’s brow furrowed, then she waved the papers away. “UNI can kiss my Irish arse. No one here cares anymore what they say, boyo.” But she didn’t tell him again to leave. “You know the terms of the Referendum?”
“Yes,” he said, knowing that she would give him the bad news anyway. Some Irish just couldn’t resist giving the bad news.
“Then you are aware that the final Cúchulainn Barrier goes up in three days, and entry and departure for Referendum Ireland will be sharply curtailed. If you decide to remain after that time, you’ll be committing to stay for one year.”
She studied his face. “You’re not just here to write reports for UNI.”
“I’m looking for someone.”
She shook her head, but spared him most of that bad news. “Don’t look for too long. You have three days.”
“Oh, don’t forget to turn on your Irish.”
“Turn on my what?”
She tapped her head. “Language.”
“Right.” Dev told his head chip to switch to Irish Gaelic. He said “thank you” and out came “go raibh maith agat.” Christ, what a gobstopper. He strode to the terminal exit, and Shannon kept flowing around him, an Irish wake en masse.
When he stepped outside, his head chip synced with the circumscribed Irish net. From overhead, a cry of challenge. A large dark bird, perhaps a raven, circled in the morning sky. Just a bird, Dev thought, somewhere between statement and prayer. Not that AI goddess. Not the bloody Morrigan. Not before lunch.
In Galway, Dev sat alfresco with his third pint and his untouched fish and chips. Seagulls and pigeons hounded him, probing for any opening, but no raven-like AI joined them. Dev should’ve been looking for Anna or leaving town, and shouldn’t have been drinking, but he had ample time and means for his future failures, so he got pissed and took in the view.
The traditional music of an afternoon session cut through the other pub noise. Analog instruments and “one touch, one note” were again the rules. The biologicals and Personality Reconstructs mixed with easy familiarity: football-jerseyed drinkers laughed with baroque and Victorian PRs. The June sun and brisk breeze were busy drying the fresh paint covering all English language signs. A banner over Eyre Square declared in Irish that Galway/Gaillimh was “The Capital of the 2nd War of Independence.”
With her unerring eye for the heart of the matter, Anna might be here if Galway was to be the new capital. Even if not, this protean town of gossip was a fine place to start hunting for his ex.
As Dev finally tasted a chip, nanobots slowly chewed down global-style buildings they had fabricated only a few years before, their work sustained by generated energy fields in this often sunless city. Other nanobots were restoring castles, reroofing monasteries, and extending the wall of the Spanish Arch; Galway had no room for nonfunctional ruins. The nanos were also busy redecorating any modern structures spared to accommodate the biological population. All buildings would be in Celtic harmony. Light gray flakes of nano-trash floated away from the sites and fell in small drifts.
“The newspapers are right: snow is general all over Ireland.” A lanky-looking galoot with an eye patch and thin mustache wandered past Dev’s table, swinging an ashplant walking stick. Dev about choked on his chip. “Jim?” The galoot walked faster. Dev got up and sprinted after him. “Jim. It’s me, Dev Martin.”
“My apologies, sir, I’m very busy right now with my work in progress. I’ll have your money soon.”
“Jim, what’s feckin’ wrong with you? You don’t owe anybody shite. Though it’s grand to hear you’re writing again.”
James Joyce stopped cold and slapped his forehead. His face seemed to ripple with the impact. The eye patch disappeared. “Shite and onions! I’m sorry, Dev. The new Sinn Fein have been at my inner organs again. It seems I’m not Irish enough for them.”
“You never were. Why should you change now?”
Joyce whispered, “The revolution has plans for Dublin. They want to rebuild it as it was on the sixteenth of June, 1904.”
The day of Joyce’s Ulysses. “Bloody Bloomsday every day, forever.”
“World without end amen,” said Joyce. “I was just feckin’ joking when I said they could do it. If I fight it, they’ll have me utterly domesticated, like poor Roddy Doyle. Or they’ll set the Morrigan on me.”
Dev winced. He wasn’t sure which was worse. The revolutionaries kept the uncooperative Doyle PR confined to a working-class living room in front of an old-fashioned telly. Day after day, he spouted the Da’s bits from The Commitments. The Morrigan would be quicker in objective time, but an AI could do almost anything with subjective time.
“Jim, have you seen Anna?”
“The mother of my resurrection? You can’t find her?”
“I couldn’t track her on the global, and the Irish net isn’t cooperating. I need to find her. I need…” Dev opened his hands.
“My young father and artificer, I’ll assist you, but,” and Joyce lowered his voice again, “you must get me out of here. Even if they leave my ballocks attached, I’m cut off from the broadbands, and these other PRs—even you have no idea.”
Dev nodded. “I’ll do whatever I can.” Probably less than bugger all, sorry. “As for the PRs, you’re right, I don’t have an iota of an idea—my access is desperate. For example, what are you doing here in the Wesht?”
“It’s June, and I thought things were all up with me—I wanted to see Nora’s house one last time.”
“Oh, right. Let’s go then.” Dev wouldn’t press the tetchy, deadline-adverse Joyce for an immediate response to his question.
They walked the short distance from the square to Nora Barnacle Joyce’s childhood home. They passed tourist shops, shuttered since the Referendum The irony that the PRs were designed to improve tourism was not lost on Dev, their codesigner.
Joyce stopped across the street from Nora’s house and looked it over up and down. “It seems so small now.” Two windows on two single-room floors, for a whole family. “Dev, I never asked you—why didn’t you bring her back?”
Because I didn’t think she was worth trying and trying again until we got her right? Now, having lost the love of his own life, Dev knew better. “What can I say? She didn’t write literature. Anna and I tried a PR like that once, and it didn’t work. I’m sorry.”
“Barnacle. Stuck to me, all her life.”
“You could, maybe, you know, do it yourself?” Dev felt like he was talking about sex and death with an adult son.
“No, you’re right,” said Joyce. “I’ve seen some of our solo efforts, like Swift’s Stella. Poor ghosts. They don’t pass the Joyce Test.”
“The Joyce Test?”
Near tears, Joyce cackled. “You can’t have a decent drink with them.”
Dev laughed and wiped his eyes. This good friend could distract him for years, but Dev only had hours. “So, where’s Anna?”
“I may have been addled by Sinn Fein attacks, but I’m certain your flower of the mountain left here after I arrived. She had been asking for Yeats.”
“She didn’t seem particular.”
Sligo was Yeats country. Dev couldn’t know where Old Yeats or Young Yeats might haunt—the town, the old family house, anywhere. But Dev knew where Newly Dead Yeats was. Dev had put him there himself.
If Anna and the Morrigan had discovered the true reason behind Newly Dead Yeats, then Dev would soon join him in the grave.