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Hacking into the Matrix
by Joy Hewitt Mann

The baby screamed in the living room, but still Aleece continued to masturbate, making love in the Matrix: Keanu Reeves as Neo with his mouth on her crotch.
     The screaming continued, escalating to a siren wail of anger and frustration.
     "Shit, shit, shit." Aleece pulled up her jeans and flung open the bathroom door. The baby's cries stopped abruptly as Aleece approached. The baby smiled up at her, reaching up her tiny hands, cheeks wet with crying, and a feeling of acute guilt swept over Aleece, as strong as the feelings of sexual obsession he had instilled in her. She picked up the baby and held her tightly, rocking her, letting her own tears trickle down her cheeks.


* * * * *

     His full name was Keanu Charles Reeves and he had been Aleece's obsession for four months. Her world had changed when she had seen him in The Matrix: warped as in a science fiction movie. The real world receded day after day and Aleece lived in the world of the cool breeze that blows over the mountain. That was what his name meant in Hawaiian and it described him perfectly, for thinking about him, fantasizing about him during the day, brought fresh air into her life.
     Aleece had all his movies on VHS or DVD now: The River's Edge (God! He was so innocently gorgeous in that one), Point Break, The Devil's Advocate, and even Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. Last week she had bought The Last Time I Committed Suicide. It was only a bit part, but it was Keanu. And she couldn't understand why people said he was such a wooden actor. In The Matrix . . .
     She'd tried to discuss it with her husband Jay, but he was just so dense, so like a male when it came to Keanu Reeves. They were all against him - unless they were gay - and she didn't get it.
     Jay had looked at her incredulously. "Jesus, Allie. You both blind and deaf? The guy can't act worth shit. He fuckin' ruined Dracula." He closed his eyes for a second. "Though I'll give him The Matrix. That rocked! And Carrie-Ann Moss . . . ooo Baby! I'd like me some of that lady's action."
     Aleece had felt bile rise in her throat. "You don't know nothing Jay. You don't know fucking nothing!"
     Couldn't they see it? God! His eyes! His wonderfully, wonderfully expressive eyes. They made her almost orgasm just looking at them. She'd never been turned on so easily before. Certainly not with Jay.
     "Jesus Christ Allie. Move or something. Don't just lie there. You make me feel . . ." He groped for a word. "Inadequate."
     "You're not inadequate. I'm just not into it. But it feels good. Really."
     They'd tried different positions, trying to get her excited enough to react - from behind, standing up, even sitting on the edge of the kitchen table, but . . .
     There'd been a Redbook article she'd read - a sex positions article - in which the writer said that the missionary position was made for men like Keanu Reeves, naming him specifically, saying that all a woman wanted to do was lie there and look up at his face. His face.
     Young and innocent in River's Edge. Intense in Speed. The embodiment of Christ himself in The Matrix. So calm. So cool. God, but he aroused her!
     Aleece was always aroused lately, yet the thought of Jay making love to her sent shivers of disgust up her body. She would rather make love with Keanu: stroking herself and drifting in the Matrix; masturbating in the bathroom while the baby slept; walking around the house daydreaming, dispelling the feeling of tense anxiety that often invaded her.
     Aleece daydreamed of Keanu constantly - of talking to him, touching him, and him touching her - and that feeling of anxiety that ate deep into her solar plexus and made her feel that she was standing on the edge of a tall building would disappear, and she'd be at once calm and safe.
     She'd struggle out of these day dreams - to do her housework, look after the baby - dreading the everyday, the ordinariness of her life, and God! -- the desolate feeling of loneliness, and never, never being anyone special, overwhelmed her! Each day it got harder and harder to make her way back into the real world.


* * * *

     She wasn't aware that Jay was behind her until he reached a hand forward and turned off the computer. Keanu's picture imploded into black.
     "What . . .?"
     She spun in her chair.
     Jay said, "We've got to talk." He was holding the sobbing baby in his arms. "When was the last time you changed her?"
     "I . . ."
     "She's soaking, Allie. And loaded. She's almost raw from sitting in it. Couldn't you hear her fuckin' screamin'?"
     "I'm sorry -"
     "Your sorry. The dog left a pile of shit at the back door. When was the last time you let him out?"
     "I . . . What time is it?"
     "It's four Allie. Your fuckin' husband is home from work." He looked around the room. "It doesn't look like you've done anything all day." He looked down at the baby who was sleeping now. "Did you even feed her?"
     "I think so."
     "What in fuckin' hell's that supposed to mean? You think so. Don't you even know if you fed your own kid?" He started to walk away, "I'll change her. Bet you didn't even feed the dog," then stopped. "Get a hold of yourself, Allie. This infatuation of yours is getting a little sick. It's not real, Allie. This -" he looked around the room, "and this -" then at the baby, "is real." He headed for the bedroom.
     But Dogstar's real, Aleece thought. Dogstar was Keanu's band and the only way an ordinary person like herself could get to see him. A woman had flown in from Australia to see him perform. Five women came regularly from Japan. Aleece had been searching all day for additions to the Dogstar schedule, trying to see if he'd be playing near enough for her to get there. Nebraska was nowhere. Nobody came to Nebraska. She had to see him, so that he could see her and know that she, and only she, was the one.
     They had so much in common: he was left-handed, so was she; he was afraid of the dark, and Aleece was also. And he had, well . . . he had almost had a baby, but it had died. The photographs showed how devastated he was, standing there with that Jennifer woman, who no one had heard much about, except that she didn't live with Keanu, which meant she wasn't the one. He had dumped her shortly after, hadn't he? Which said a lot about her. But the baby. God! that was so sad.
     Aleece suddenly remembered her own baby and walked fast, almost running, after Jay.
     She stood in the bedroom doorway watching her husband's back as he changed the diaper.
     "Does she have a bad rash?"
     "Not too bad. Where's the ointment?"
     Aleece walked over and reached around him, under the changing table. "I'll go let the dog out.' She handed him the zinc ointment.
     "I already did. Let him in and feed him, will you?"
     Was he ordering her around? It sounded like it. The hackles rose on Aleece's neck and she felt anxiety hard in her stomach like a knot. Jay was so irritating lately. Everything he said to her sent angry adrenaline rushing through her body so that she wanted to hit him. And he seemed so annoyed with her. Sure she'd forgotten to change the baby a few times, but what mother hadn't done that?
     Jay was no cool breeze over the mountain. He was hot air . . . No. More like irritating, sweltering heat, making her want to scream at him to get the fuck out of her face!
     And he drank too much. He always smelled of sweat and beer and was developing a gut. Keanu never smelled of beer. He probably never drank too much, except in that scene in The Devil's Advocate, but he was celebrating and it only made him sexy. He'd bitten his wife's ass. Aleece pictured him biting her ass and felt her clit swell.
     A week later, Aleece sat at one of the public computers in the town library. On Tuesday she'd come home from shopping and found their computer gone. She'd been at a midpoint between wanting to kill Jay and bursting into tears. He sat watching TV.
     "You fuck! You lousy, lousy fuck!" The tears streamed down Aleece's cheeks.
     Jay turned, saw her face, and looked at her imploringly. "Hey, come on. It's for your own good, Allie."
     "Fuck you!"
     "Allie, please. You're sick. Can't you see just how sick you are with this Reeves shit?"
     "You have no right. You can't control my life."
     "I'm not trying to control you, Allie, for Christ's sake. I'm just trying to make you see what you're doing to yourself. To us." He reached out his hands. "Jesus Christ, Allie. Do you realize how long it's been since we fucked? What kind of a life is this? You hardly care about us anymore."
     Aleece refused to take his hands, holding hers stiff against her sides. "I do. I do, Jay. I still cook, don't I? Wasn't I just out shopping?'
     "For everything, Allie. For fuckin' everything! You haven't shopped for two weeks. I'd starve if I didn't order out."
     "I've been busy."
     "Busy?" Jay stood up, grabbed her shoulders roughly and shook her. "Busy? You spend all day watching movies and reading magazines and searching through that damn Net. You're off with Jennie twice a week to watch some crappy movie with that fuckin' Reeves in it."
     "Let go of me. Get your fucking hands offa me."
     Jay's hands dropped. "I give up. Jesus Christ, Allie. What's happened to you?"
     A month later, on a Thursday, Aleece left Jay. The baby was with her friend Jennie. Jennie had orders to let Jay know where the baby was in two days.
     Jennie had said, while she helped Aleece pack, "God, he's so dreamy, Allie. Those eyes. I envy you something awful. I'd die to see him for real." Jennie understood.
     Dogstar was playing 430 miles away. Aleece had taken half the money out of Jay and her joint account. She'd booked a bus to take her there, and then she'd take a taxi to the club where Keanu was performing. She had no idea where she'd stay, but she know that fate would help her as it had so far.
     Dogstar. My God! They'd been playing in Japan all summer and had come back to the States for what the Net called, "A long recuperative break after their two month Asian tour." And now, by some shift in real time, all that had changed. They were playing in a small club in Cedar Falls, Iowa. It had been posted on KeanuWeb only three days before the event. They had noted that it was "a favor for a friend."
     "Fate," Aleece said out loud as she stepped off the bus. "Fucking fate!"
     The small club was packed. People knocked into Aleece as they shoved past. She could hardly breathe for the smoke. Two Dogstar members fooled with equipment, but no sign of Keanu. Off in the corner, six women sat smoking and drinking beer -- dressed in black leather, hair cropped short. Mini-Trinitys. Probably figured that publicity stunt of him dating Moss was the real thing, that he liked women in action and black leather. Stupid.
     On the way into the club, squeezed in a throng of female bodies, Aleece had overheard someone - the manager, maybe - say, "Sure they suck. But he brings in the customers, and I sure need them."
     Aleece didn't care. The man, being male, was probably voicing his jealousy. They couldn't really be that bad. But even if they were, she didn't care. She was here. She was going to see him finally, but more important, he was going to finally see her.
     And then Keanu stepped on stage and the screams slammed into her. Aleece stared at him through the smoke, trying to absorb every feature of his face, though she knew that soon his face would be above hers, looking down at her, and she would get her fill of him. Realizing another dimension to the word, she felt her clit throb and her breath catch. She shivered, letting the air out slowly.
     He looked almost angry on stage, as if he didn't like this adoration. All these silly women who didn't give a damn about his music. Aleece would show him she was different.
     She tried calling his name in her head, not screaming it out like the ones in the corner, but sending her mind out into his. He struck a few chords. Tried again. Nodded to the others and then they began to play.
     Aleece stared and stared, feeling her mind almost burning with the concentration. Thoughts vibrated from her eyes and up onto the stage: "Look at me, Keanu. Look at me. I'm here." Her whole body thrummed like his guitar.
     He looked at her. He missed his chord.
     Someone behind Aleece groaned derisively. Keanu gave an apologetic lift of his eyebrows to the others and a shrug of his shoulders as they began again.
     Again Aleece sent her mind out, and again Keanu misplayed. He stopped. He turned. He stared directly at her. He placed his bass guitar against a speaker, jumped off the stage, and walked slowly toward Aleece. The air around her hung suspended with nothing but faint whispers penetrating it.
     Aleece held her breath as Keanu approached. God, I must be dreaming. This can't be real. But it is. This is real. He knows. Her heart beat so wildly, blood pulsing in her ears, she could hardly hear what he was saying. She smiled.
     He stood above her. His eyes glared down at her. His red-rimmed eyes. "Lady, stop staring at me like that! You're fuckin' ruining the set."
     What? She stared back at him.
     "Just knock it off, eh? Please." He looked so tired.
     Aleece looked at him, really looked at him, and felt herself begin to dissolve inside. All the beautiful things she had dreamed about Keanu Reeves trickled away like a thousand raindrops on a dark window. Running down, down, forever.
     He was unkempt, his hair mushed down and sticking out from under a hockey toque. His two-day growth of beard didn't quite hide a rash near his left ear. He smelled of stale sweat and beer. He was just like Jay. He was just another guy.
     And something grew in Aleece, some power she didn't know was there, fueled on all the lost dreams she had had since she was a little girl and dreamed that Prince Charmings, then rock stars, then movie stars, would come and take her away from her world to their world.
     Aleece saw her hand, more than felt it: saw it hand-upon-hand like a bouquet of flesh, saw the ripple behind it like bullet time. The slap when her hand connected with Keanu's face had no sound as the cool breeze from the mountain roared in and took it away.
     And she saw how it was all Keanu Reeves' friends could do to keep him from hitting her back.

Joy Hewitt Mann, a Canadian writer of literary and speculative fiction, admits to an ongoing addiction to The Matrix, but has been able to -- with a lot of will power and many Aero bars -- cut down to one fix a month. Her work has appeared internationally in Canada, the U.S., Ireland, England, Australia and Switzerland. Twenty of her stories have appeared online this year at sites such as Images Inscript, Ascent, Fantasy Today, HotRead, Jackhammer, Aphelion, and Palimpsest, and are due soon at Jackhammer II and The Animist. Print publications include The Malahat Review, The Fiddlehead, The Dalhousie Review, On Spec and Whetstone. Her first collection, Clinging to Water, was published in June 2000 by Boheme Press, Toronto. She is currently working on her first novel, Lacrima Christi, scheduled for publication in Fall 2001. Joy lives in a small village in Ontario with her husband, three children, and a large screen TV.

Publications: Clinging to Water


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