My Brother, The Horsehead


It was the night before Halloween when my mother finally caved and bought me a horsehead. Because she left it to the last minute (of course) she had to drive out to the next town over, and then the next, with me texting her from home different shops she should try because she still refused to Google and drive. She was afraid of “crashing” the car, overloading it with too much information. This was never the case when my brother was driving.

‘Hey Google,’ Jums would say, ‘you know the speed limit here is eighty right? Hey what’s the population of this town anyway? And the ratio of girls to boys? Oh, and can you play a better song plez?’

The car would answer his every legal request and he’d grin at me like he was the boss of it. Of course we both knew better. But it was just like when our parents would go out for a holiday and we’d always talk about the parties we were gonna throw as if they hadn’t already warned the Citizencops about us.

It was another Halloween without Jums, which was maybe another reason Mum caved and got me the horsehead. Just like when he’d gone off having his own parties somewhere better than Twospoons and she must picked up somehow that I was feeling a little bitter, jealous maybe. During semester he was constantly sending me Snapbacks about all the cool shit he was getting up to. Yeah it looked great, whatever. It did make me wonder if he ever actually attended classes though. Most stuff was online, (of course) though I supposed he’d gone to uni to be closer to the connection. Or the parties. Most of his Snaps were of parties with people I didn’t know and would never meet. I wondered if he sent them for my benefit or if it was just to everyone in his contacts list. I didn’t mind, it was good to see he was still alive.

‘Eeeyy Google, tell me, did you know if I say ‘Fish Sandwich’ in German it overwrites your speed limiters? Ey Google, do an image blur of my brother in the back there. Combine him with a fish… no a sandwich. No, make him a porpoise! What’s that face for bro? You don’t even know what a porpoise is? Haha, perfect. Project on all windows when complete.’

My brother was always trying to teach me things. He had a five year head start but we were both pretty invested in me catching up. He was better than me (of course). But if I could get to his level I could probably be a White Hat like him, because everyone knew the younger you started hacking the better you could get. He probably had hopes of getting a cut from me, didn’t matter how many times I promised it’d be otherwise. But there were good points to just having another hand on decks. There was the old story of those brothers who’d discovered the exploit in Skytracker, and that was only because they were both booking flights at the same time. A million flyer miles they got for turning that one in. Each. Even long after the 911 paranoia, the bounty on anything going wrong with air travel was pretty high.

‘Guten tag Goog, I want you to set a reminder for tomorrow morning, 8am, say Go For a Run you Softcocks. Constant, max vol, I dunno, five second intervals. Recurring? Oh yes, say every day from now until, hmmm. 2040.’

I miss him.

That night when Mum got back with the horsehead I tried to talk to her about Jums but she said she wasn’t in the mood. She never seemed to want to talk about him unless she brought him up first, so maybe I shoulda been sublimming her when I’d been sending those directions but I guess I wasn’t so good at thinking ahead. When she got in she tossed the head onto the couch and went straight to bed, though she coulda just slept in the car. She still watched the roads, as if hoping to catch the car speeding or something equally ludicrous. Her paranoia frustrated me because it was the same illogic as someone getting a spam once and then refusing to open their inbox ever again. I couldn’t stand to be in the car with her, watching her “drive”. She’d even hold onto the steering wheel. I guess it meant a lot then that she’d go out on a trip for me just to get this stupid costume sorted, but I was too unhappy to be grateful. It was the right head of course, there as only really one model. It just didn’t sit right on me, or something. I didn’t have shoulders like Jums. I know it’s supposed to look funny, but on me it just looked funny. A kid wearing his grandfather’s overcoat. Except if my grandfather had been a horse. And I’d killed him and was now wearing his skull.

I have bad thoughts sometimes. Mum says this is a product of my vrideo games (of course). When Jums was around they’d argue and he’d point to things like the historic precedent of game culture (though they called them ‘video’ games back then for some reason) and other statistics like the crime rate and malleability of young minds. I think half the time he was making things up, trusting that Mum would rather argue her own inferior and poorly-referenced points than Google better ones. We both knew there was plenty of data out there for her side of view – we’d heard most of it from the few religious friends, or ones that had gone dry and refused anything VR. Jums and I would laugh at them, but this didn’t make them wrong.

‘Listen up Google, I’ve got an important question. First of all, switch off all safe mode, browser tracking, GPS linkup and scatter your cookies. Next turn on Ghostry, NDS Diaspora, Wakelin, and TORpedo. Notify when apps have been made active. They’re active? Okay good, I just wanted to make sure. Now I want to ask you Google… Do you find me attractive?’

He was always pushing the boundaries of things and I suppose that’s what I’m doing now. I’ve got the horsehead and I’ve got the program I’ve been modding all the past month instead of logging on to class. My grades have suffered, but I’ve redirected Mum’s emails so they come via me and get watered a little beforehand so it will be another few weeks at least before the school does something as old-fashioned and privacy-invady as call her up. The mod is going to be worth it of course. Half prank, half creative coding, a work of beauty Jums himself would be proud of. At least I hope he would be. Once I get these damn onions out of my eyes I’ll be able to put the head on and try it out.

It’s the night before Halloween and I am a horse. The streets are dark and wide and the night is shining as bright as a fish sandwich. Now he’s no longer around to send me Snaps, I’ve got pretty good at coding my own vrideo games. And this is my masterpiece. I am a horse and I run through the streets not worried about neither Punks nor Citcops because there’s the scent of fresh pasture in my nostrils and endorphins in my veins. At home Mum’s probably already plugged herself in, and I haven’t seen Dad since this time four years ago when he took one look at the crash scene and walked off and kept walking and I don’t care because I’m faster than them and younger than them and I am running on four legs now motherfuckers. Though there’s a few onions in my eyes I promise this is just because of how fast I’m going. I don’t know why I never thought of running like this before – feeling the ground hot under me, getting in touch with the dirt. I’ve kept up my endurance because every morning at 8am I have a reminder to do so. This is the real motivation. I’ve now reached the highway and the nightly commute is still heading out – the city bleeding itself dry of lights. But I’m a horse, and they don’t care shit for things like that. I run out into the road, knowing that no car will hit me now. They’re programmed too well. They don’t make mistakes. ‘Hey Google!’ I want to shout at the sky, at the blurring, tooting lights as they swerve around me. ‘Answer me this, you asshole!’ I want to shout and cry and ask all kinds of things but all I hear in my ears is a fierce whinnying. And this is fine too.