The Carson Twins
They had no choice but to enter the saloon; that’s where the bastard spent his nights before he became an outlaw and took a pretty red-haired farm girl with him – a girl he was presently charming into leaving with him. He would eventually leave her behind, once she got pregnant, without giving it a single thought.
It was the weirdest contract they’d ever gotten to date. How many people pay to be wiped from history? This would be their first. They’ve had some lousy missions, but not this. Why this? Lindsey wondered why they took this job every few seconds.
Both of them were visibly uncomfortable as they walked in and could see unashamed, ogling eyes looking in their direction. Lindsey’s face was flushed and some of the men in the room would notice and found it very appealing. They appeared as attractive and young women who wore proper attire but intentionally exposed a little more skin than what would be appropriate for 1874.
The private school girls of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries entered Alex’s mind – the way they modified their uniforms just enough to be suggestive. Alex knew it was rather common in those days to alter one’s uniform. He’d read about it in some historical article about young people of that era. That was when only some schools had uniforms and young adults were allowed to be “teenagers”.
Alex’s thoughts were pulled back to the present. He thought about what the men must be thinking seeing the two of them in a saloon and, better yet, unaccompanied by a male relative. The men wondered who they could possibly be. Alex considered that if he had told Lindsey they were being very provocative and capturing the men’s attention, Lindsey would have lost his mind. They had never done a job where they were required to be women. How he wished they hadn’t turned down the George R. Crook assignment, but at least this one wouldn’t be so bloody. Neither of them were unmanly by any means, but Lindsey could be described as a brute and was all testosterone – when he wasn’t a woman.
Some of the men would wonder if these young things had ‘certain curiosities’ and others would question how two young women dressed the way they were managed to be out at this hour and in a saloon of all places. This was very exciting for the ones that weren’t smart enough to be suspicious, but they remained put for fear of being thrown out. It was said that their own Sherriff – who could have been an outlaw as easy as he was a lawman – was related to Pat Garrett.
The guy with his head on the bar was out cold. He may miss his chance to see the women, with undone buttons, exposing their necks in this manner, in a saloon at this hour. These were soiled doves, and the men felt very uncertain. They were of a higher breed, but there they were. There were always a few men that preferred a woman with experience but most preferred a fresh one. It made them feel human to touch someone so unspoiled – or at least giving off the impression of being unspoiled. Only outlaws coming through town could get away with the vulgarity of grabbing a woman without her consent in a public place – there wouldn’t be a single man brave enough in this soulless town. Well, maybe the Sherriff – and the two ‘women’, unbeknownst to the men, were highly capable of taking care of themselves.
Another man sitting at a table was pushing his tongue through the gap where his missing teeth should be, and it is clear that he’s aroused. Thankfully, Lindsey hadn’t seen him. Alex did and just wanted to bolt. One leather-skinned drunk asked the bartender if they were the new ‘saloon girls’.
Lindsey overheard and his eyes bugged out of his pretty face, “Did you hear that? Saloon girls.” Alex was trying to appear calm but was also feeling rather awkward, “Calm down. Saloon girls were rarely prostitutes. Didn’t you do your reading?”
“Rarely – that’s comforting. You realize that there’s a good chance we’ll blow this assignment because I can barely take another second of this. You and your stupid ideas. I would have taken the Crooke massacre over this any day. And we had ten hours. How the hell was I supposed to take this stuff in over such a short period, uh? Plus, I was with one of the Carson twins this morning …” He was shocked by the reflection in the mirror behind the bar. “Now I am one of the Carson twins.”
“Just settle down and keep your voice down.”
The longer they sat at the bar, the more Lindsey found himself pulling on the dress he was wearing and ‘adjusting’ himself, now and again, just to realize in repeated astonishment that there was nothing to adjust. Looking around wasn’t doing him any good so he was glad to be sitting on the stool and asked for a bourbon. The bartender raised a brow but returned with a bourbon. The bartender looked at Alex and when he realized he was supposed to order he said “a bug juice for me.” When the bartender moved away, Alex’s face broke into a grin and he said, “… in the Wild West that’s slang for whiskey.” Lindsey scowled and looked away.
As Lindsey put back his bourbon he wondered why their selfish client would want to rewrite history instead of just doing what everyone else does … go to EndLife Corp for “the painless, most satisfying and only graceful way to leave your life behind … because why be unhappy when bliss is waiting for you on the other side.” Lindsey hated that woman in the ad and he felt sickened by the fact that no one cares they couldn’t possibly know what’s on the other side – people love to live in denial. In their time, a tidy suicide is a good suicide.
He hated EndLife, like all the other government-owned establishments in the nine nations. He missed people who overdosed and just got it out of the way like in the old days. There was no ‘send off’ party or pretending to be ‘transitioning over’ with such certainty. Back in the good old days people left a note – they didn’t want some big production. They were in pain and the people left behind grieved and felt their own pain – and sometimes would rather hold on to that pain than letting their loved ones go. Now, no one grieved. No one gives a shit about much. Just about everyone that managed to stay off the pills is either dead, part of the underground movement, a government agent or simply a tough loner. The latter of which is rare and made up of the oldest population. Some people even ‘check out’ for attention – or maybe somewhere deep down they just want to feel something even if they’re unaware. This thought is actually comforting to Lindsey – maybe there’s still someone inside. The suicide from their perspective is broadcast on EndLife’s reality programming, once the chip is removed from their heads – and the good-bye message recording at the end to ‘introduce’ the dead person, with their hollow eyes and big, plastic, creepy grin, blowing kisses at the end serves as the grand finale. The word ‘suicide’ wasn’t even used anymore.
Lindsey knew the world had become a place where people didn’t want to deal with unpleasant things – everything was turned into a party, everything was sugar-coated (even suicide) and everyone walked around with those smiles you’d only see on the androids at first. Now no one could really tell the difference. People were so unhappy, but no one knew they were because of those damn pills. He couldn’t understand how no one was forced to take them, but people just did – they popped those things like mints. The world had lost its mind, become insane, thought Lindsey. How EndLife managed to package taking one’s own life as some glamourous event he couldn’t understand.
He started to think of the black market and, in particular, their services. What they did was unethical in every way but at least it was direct and honest. Those with services or sales in the black market didn’t have to pretend to be virtuous or care … they needed to get fed and pay their rent and did whatever they did for money. They knew there were less than two dozen working in the ‘timeline modification business’ – at least that was the word. It’s hard to know for sure when it’s an illegal activity. So many black market time-travelers were sentenced to a life in prison or worse and those without government protection would have to be very selective in regards to which clients they took on. Lindsey and Alex were more ethical than all the other rewrite artists they’d come across, but they were still impacting other people’s lives.
This particular client would rather rewrite history and make other people disappear than kill himself and leave things how they should be. It would be too embarrassing, he said. Alex always justified it as ‘something that never existed can’t be angry’. Lindsey was getting increasingly more conflicted. They were only tolerated because they did cheap work when the government wanted something done in exchange. They had sold their souls to The Agency so that it would turn the other way, but with countless conditions and complete confidentiality. The Agency approved this job because it was only concerned with matters of the state – a lineage of no real significance meant nothing to them. Lindsey knew the government’s tech wasn’t accurate, because sometimes things were changed outside of the expected scope when they returned. The world wouldn’t remember but he and Alex would. It hadn’t been something too catastrophic but even sporting events had an impact on what businesses existed … and who had a job and so on and so on. He knew they couldn’t possibly know every way that their actions changed the world and Lindsey worried about every altered event. He thought one day they would be the ones impacted. He was pondering how he ever got into this disgraceful line of work when Alex shook him. “Look like a shady lady.” He tilted his head and placed his palm on his neck again. caressing it. Lindsay asked, “What are you doing?”
“You know the plan. When we see him, I’ll get him into one of the vacant rooms and you find a way to bring his girl to the room. She has to see him in a compromising position. I’m doing the hard part so you should be grateful. And for the record, you looked desperate when you were massaging your breasts at the apothecary.”
Lindsey resented the fact that they couldn’t take out Mackle but were allowed to ‘undo’ an entire lineage of seemingly good people, but The Agency said that Mackle had to live.
“I didn’t know what I was doing … besides, it calmed me down. I wouldn’t even have breasts if it weren’t for you. You picked the worst time for this.”
“He’s heading into town this evening and is likely to be here …wanted me to wait until morning so we spend more time in these bodies?”
“No. I mean you could have picked a few decades before h is birth. We would have minimized the impact on other people’s lives. And it would have been better for us.”
“This was the smoothest plan. It was a sure way to keep her from having his baby. He wouldn’t force her to leave … he got involved with the Trigger Boys gang after making it out to Barren Harvest. Besides, you have a woman’s name – you fit right in.”
“I’m getting too old for this.” Lindsey turned back to his drink and waited for Mad Mackle to walk in so they could just get it over with.
Written by: Leni Sosa; Permanence of Wings