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If you're reading this, it probably applies, a simple message

blinking on a map page: You Are Here. It doesn't matter where.

You realize you're just a digit kept alive in some accounting

scheme. The quantum zing that's singing in your nerves

is just a data stream that's being cooked in actuarial books

on the top floors. You were tested for it as a youngster,

and tested through the years that flow into the numbered sea

of now. You're right. You hear them all singing that song.

Count up! Count up! Hey Mister Tally Man tally us our numbers,

downtime comes and we won't go home! So Mister Tally Man

count us up those numbers! Tell us all where they're going to go.

You are absolutely right. It's there on every page that links

into the junction of that throbbing dot. You are here.

You are the dot. You feel the links connected to the ebb

and flow of your electron blood, each cell a promissory page.

If things out there get rough, log in. You're wanted in this

place, you'll have some fun, the only trouble comes

when trying to decide. If you're reading this, you must apply

or you are out of here. Click this link to join our numbers.

You're really living now. The post-modern, post-material,

post-everything age. You find a sexy other avatar, and wow!

When in silks your lover goes, how sweet the liquefaction

of those ersatz clothes as bits and bytes cascade

across the virtual skin; and in the torpor of the stats arrayed

in data matrices, the breathy sighs of programmed satisfaction.

Nothing beats that tingle as it zooms throughout the intranet

of your nerves. Plugged in! So good! You're ravenous for more.

Sign up, log in, any time is right, up-time comes

and they want to stay on. Hey Mister Tally Man tally up

their numbers, we all know that they won't go home.

You are here and feel the joy, yet something drags at you,

an anchor on a line left uncut. It hooks on something solid

and goes taut. You flop on the boney slats of a bone-made

boat that plies your crimson river. The Boatman holds the tiller

as he points: you see them there, the Lotus Eaters plugged

and wired on one shore, all other links are cut. "I tally up

their pennies. Since you're reading this, it can't apply."

He drops you on the other shore. "You are here. Go home."

Gene van Troyer is a past editor of Portland Review and Star*Line. His poetry and fiction has appeared in Poly: New Speculative Writing, Velocities, Last Wave, Amazing Stories, Asimov's SF Magazine, The Umbral Anthology of Science Fiction Poetry, The Rhysling Anthology, Snow Monkey, Strange Horizons, and other books and journals. He also edited with Grania Davis a collection of Japanese science fiction and fantasy stories in translation: Speculative Japan: Outstanding Tales of Japanese SF/F from Kurodahan Press, and Collaborations: A Collection of Collaborative Poetry from Ravenna Press. He is a native Oregonian transplanted to semi-tropical Okinawa, Japan. He can be reached by e-mail at
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