Illustration for Naomi by Claire Orrange

Naomi. Light of my screen. Fire of my intellect. In you I have found my muse and myself. In you I have come to understand firsthand the arc of progress along which we all drudge each day. It bends to new heights as you bend to and fro and we, mankind, may soon be able to walk on the surface of the sun, gilded by his yolky fire as I am gilded by my proximity to you, Naomi. We herald the machine as the apotheosis of achievement, the sole means of raising our station from the ground to the heavens. Only, you have proved this mythology hollow at its core, haven’t you? Or rather, you have shown me, through your daily video gifts, that it is man, or rather man-woman, who may incorporate the machine into itself and render flesh the avenue upon which our forward march may be tracked. I am indebted to you for this, which is to say that I am indebted to myself. The carnal throb within me which presents itself as first and foremost a curiosity of the mind needed you, Naomi, to draw itself together into the subversive and innovative genius which I may now lay claim to. You should be proud of yourself.

I write to you after I fear our last moment of connection has passed, gone with the wind, as it were. It has been a year (or rather, 296 days; precision is yet another virtue I owe to your hand) since I last saw your beautifully odd face alight upon my laptop. I know not what has become of you in the meantime. I do not know what name you respond to these days. Hell, I hardly know where I shall address the envelope once I have considered my heart and soul sufficiently poured out into these lines. Although, I suppose I do have an unyielding faith in the divine providence (divine as the stock market is divine, as the cogs of human progress look something like divinity) which initially brought you into the fold of my ego. She will deliver these words to you, I have no doubt, for she has no other choice. 

When I was a boy I did away with the notion that there was some higher power orchestrating the various fortunes and misfortunes of my life. In fact, the Bible itself contains some rubbish about putting away childish things when one is grown. Some would perhaps feel unmoored and directionless by the loss of this illusory tether, but for me it was an abiding comfort. In the age of camera-based sex work, the old gods are sure to be buried. It is up to us, the men who remain, to seek out new gods to worship, new gods who will tether us once again to the human coil. All my life I was an atheist treading water in a vast ocean I could not be bothered to understand. Naomi, when you appeared, it was like lightning struck out on the horizon line, illuminating the primordial fluid in which I had been stewing. The futility of my station was suddenly so clear, and so I set upon the task of swimming out to that spot where you had descended from the heavens, seared into the back of my retina and reilluminated in negative contrast at every close of my eyes.

Perhaps I should backtrack and give some specifics so that this letter to you has the comprehensive quality of a manifesto. In fact, my recounting this to you, Naomi, may be just as informative to you as it is satisfying to me. I may be underestimating the extent to which our playtime slowly but surely pulverized that cute little mind of yours into mush, and it would require untold amounts of hubris indeed to assume you, what remains of you, could remember me on the strength of my genius alone. So, from the beginning, with the attention to detail of those damned literary realists I have long thrown off the ship of modernity with the pushing of my keyboard:

It was a balmy spring evening, and I was incredibly horny. During my youth, while I lazed about in my inherited wealth, my sexual appetites quickly became desensitized to the cornucopia of copulation (do you appreciate my alliteration, Naomi?) readily available on the internet. When I was not sating these tastes with a flesh-and-blood woman, which was often enough, the only thing that would do for me was the verisimilitude of the camera girl, an agent of my desires who could respond in real time to payments rendered with services exchanged. In one such interaction, I spent $470, paying ten dollars to blixter42069 for every quarter swallowed down her esophagus. What fun I had with her, and for such a small price. This vulgar economic equivocation is beneath you Naomi, I assure you, but it is an unfortunate reality with which all men must contend that women, even boy-women such as you, lack the animalistic need for sex which men possess. Your kind only responds to financial consideration. It is a defect in your code, I should say, one that some miracle men in some lab will surely rectify on a genetic level someday. But until that precious moment, I had and have to content myself with paying camera whores to do their job to the simultaneous pleasure of my loins and plead of my pocketbook. 

So, I dusted off the computer, typed into the search bar and, in short, there you were. LilyoftheBrook1927. I will refrain from describing the physical attributes which immediately struck me with the truth of our compatibility. Although your penis must have been one of those things, since it is what makes you a sexual chimera. I knew very quickly, instantly, that you would be the beloved of my life, and indeed the physical embodiment of all the endeavors which have been percolating in my mind ever since I can remember. I knew immediately that I was looking at my Naomi. Which brings me to my first act of generosity: your renaming. ‘Lily’ is a name weighed down by dead and defeated connotations: of purity, of virginity, of new beginnings and sweet smells. The mawkish quality of these things revolts me, not because I do not cherish your lily-white pixelated form or fantasize about the virginal the smell of your hair. But because of our digital divide, many of these particularities of sensory pleasure would forever be withheld from me. I could not bear, not at all, the name reminding me, with its simple beauty and promise of someone with a past and a mother, of our fleeting and limited capacity to know each other. 

I asked you to kill Lily and replace her with Naomi, a name fit for a cyborg, for $400 dollars. And so, you did. This initial action symbolized the beginning of your little life alighting upon the flat rectangle before me. But even the renaming was not enough to purge you of yourself and your will such that you could be rendered utterly and completely my pet project of passion, my thesis, my manifesto, my Naomi. I may be straying too closely to the subtext of my mission, but I feel I owe you my honesty after all of this time. Regrettably, all humans are simply organic matter. While this reality is to thank for the fleshiness of a woman’s curves and a creative history that is tirelessly taken up with death and decay and rebirth, I term it ‘regrettable’ because only that immortal product of cognitive labor, the machine, should be bequeathed to the sons of the future. The brick and mortar of our forefathers is now voiced through the new dimensions of the cybernetwork, an invention which combines the solidity of steel with the pliability of your luscious breasts, Naomi. It follows, then, that the only way to realize this new world order is through the integration of computer-machine with flesh-girl-boy. 

Some could say that this intention to make a cyborg out of you was overwrought, or simply evil. “Cyborgs will bring nothing but pain and suffering,” I hear them shout. But is that not the circumstance in which all innovators find themselves at some point or another? When one does away with the old morality and imposes the new, as the revolutionary mandate of modern times continually demands, there are always those who do not understand and are fearful. The disrupted palates of these counterrevolutionaries are a cost that must be borne so that real progress may be made. Lily was a casualty in this process, a necessary evil. I need not explain to you that the feudal logic governing relations between the sexes is a thing of the past. But so is that particular brand of monogamy found in the twentieth century which sought to possess the emotional and spiritual aspects of one’s partner prior to and in lieu of a physical commitment doomed to fail. You and I have forged new ground. We have shown them that love does not have to look like an economic calculation, a contractual obligation, or even a communing of lost souls rejoined. Love may indeed be a one-way street, a symbolic representation of technological innovation, a continual transformation of the body while the mind remains as pure and pointed as a bright beam of light (remember the lightning analogy, Naomi?). With this vision, I set out to perfect you and to gratify myself (hehe). 

I want to remind you what this meant for us. The renaming caught your attention, but that was only the beginning. I then paid for a private video chat with my newly christened Naomi and asked you how much it would cost for you to deactivate your profile and become my own private camgirl. You were incredulous and named an obscene amount of money, which I readily paid. I was sure to emphasize the ongoing nature of your allowance so that you did not simply run off and away with my initial investment and my dreams of grandeur. I requested that for our first date, you strip the clothes from your back and present yourself to me like a prize sow (was I not entitled to some fun too, Naomi?) so I could inspect the goods I had purchased. You happily obliged, although the banal optimism relayed by your face always did seem to hint at a despair hiding somewhere within the murky layers of your interiority, and this stubbornly remained the case even when I bought a new device with a higher-definition screen—

As I write I am finding myself faced with an ethical dimension of my project that I had not heretofore considered: what did you think of all this? I weep upon these pages to think of it. I suppose it is too late now to sit with that question for long, but it keeps ringing around in my head. I have gone soft in your absence. I am ashamed of myself, as my father would have been. But, when one looks back upon all of the creative giants preceding one, the distance between themselves and their subject matter continually asserts itself. Shakespeare, after all, was a petty thief who wrote with the language of kings. Naomi, I needed you to provide a blank canvas.

I keep getting sidetracked. I will walk you through our time together in a more expedient way:

1st date: 
You present yourself to me like a prize sow. Your body caresses my screen with its pale velvety folds, and I shudder, and gasp, and cum. You are wearing a distinct purple necklace which glimmers upon my screen, warping the pixels through which it swims. It hurts my eyes to look upon you. I now cherish that feeling of pain mixed with pleasure. It haunts me that your absence has only brought me one and not the other.

2nd date: 
I first share with you my invention, the result of years of my own emotional labor and brief consultations with the manufacturing plant: the microcamera. My engineers were paid well for their flawless execution of my vision, but not nearly as well as you were for your flawless execution of my plan. Let us together reread the manufacturing logline: The microcamera is the size of a grain of sand. It comes equipped with high-definition streaming capabilities and a built-in industrial grade fleshlight flashlight. A window into the soul. I quite relish the confusion on your face as you, likely, contemplate the delirium of the old man drooling in front of you, virtually. I imagine you thinking: “Does he simply want a pretty young face to nod absently along while he rambles on about this so-called invention of his?” But one mustn’t spoil dinner with dessert, as they say. In due time, you would be privy to my plans.

3rd date: 
Unfortunately, I think with something other than my head this time. We proceed as we had on the first date, disrupting the tight schedule I had laid out. You owe me an apology for this, Naomi. I seethe with rage when my screen goes blank without having made any progress on my mission. I should have listened to those biblical enjoinments against women, warning of your cruel nature. My semen slicks my keyboard as I berate you in the chat. This I do regret. How romantic that we both acted against our better judgements that day. We draw something untamable out of each other. 

4th date: 
I propose that you consume large quantities of microcameras while you yourself are on camera, and I finish this proposition with a flourish: “Naomi, my muse, my love, my light, my fire, my balm, my—”
This proposal does not go over well. You laugh at me. I end the date quickly. As you fade to black, my hope, my purpose, and my phallus dwindle. I cry and cry that night; I am not afraid to admit it. I fear I have already tarnished the opportunity to redeem myself in your eyes, Naomi, so I do not hesitate to admit it.

5th date: 
You stand me up. I guess I throw a “tantrum.” I feel indexed into the category of ‘men who punch holes into their bedroom walls out of rage’ to admit that at this juncture I punch a hole into my bedroom wall out of rage in your absence. But I do, and that is okay, because: 

6th date: 
Following my donation of an additional $3,000 to the veritable university endowment of an investment I had made in you, you attend this date with that same, bland, deceptive, and yet breathtakingly beautiful smile plastered to your face. I quickly proposition you again.
“It’s just like this; these cameras are so small that your body will hardly register their presence,” I lied. “You need only consume a cereal bowl’s worth, enough to canvas those lovely contours with surveillance footage, which will obviously feed back to my computer. The box of them is already signed and sealed, it need only be delivered to your address. Say the word, Naomi, say the word.” 
You ask, “Why would I endanger myself just to be your little science project? What would that even accomplish?” I always found it quite amusing, how you selectively applied this fierce, incorrigible will of yours. 
“I cannot explain it with so few words, Naomi, I’m sorry. How could I? You must have faith in me; I know what is best for you.” 

How indeed could I explain art? I might as well detail what I had in mind now that you’ve long since boomeranged out of my life, surely to return soon (please). This is the meat of my manifesto, so take note, Naomi. All of the developments in economics, in technology, in politics, and in art itself have held humans as the raison d’etre. For example, every increase in manufacturing efficiency or new wave of aesthetic production has sought to be utilized by man, whether to improve his quality of life or edify his creative sensibilities. We are far past the moment, however, in which machines and artificial intelligence have usurped humans as the ultimate subjectivity, that which should be thought of as the lover and viewer to our newly minted status as beloved and viewed. It follows that the integration of human with machine is the only way for us puny men to maintain our privileged status as the ordained subjects. If society at large had taken these theories of mine with the same gravity with which I arrived at them, curbs to the computing power of machines would have been enacted generations ago, probably in the Soviet Union or some such place with little institutional inertia. As I sat with these thoughts during my youth, contemplating the futility of our collective situation, which increases with each day, I tried not to give into a fear welling up within me. I discovered my penchant for camgirls during this time, for their two-dimensional, computer-generated bodies seemed to symbolize the fate I had prophesied, and it was much easier to indulge sexual cravings that did not sugarcoat things. 

I had resigned myself to suicide during those bleak months. But then I had an epiphany, as virtuosos do. The one thing which distinguishes human beings from machines is an inherent mystery, a dark recess left forever unplumbed. Where machines are quantifiable down to each datapoint they are composed of or unit of something or other that they produce, humanity is an entirely arbitrary, internally discontinuous thing. There is something to the human form which we may never quite grasp. I had to try to grasp it. I started by inventing the microcamera, the only means of dispelling the fog that has plagued the human form since the beginning of time. Millions of tiny cameras viewed one-by-one in high definition and surgical-grade lighting would surely reveal a truth, a sublimity of the human experience none had yet discovered. The plan was foolproof, the key to its success being found in the unbelievably small scale in which the cameras could move through the body, first absorbed into the bloodstream through the villi of the digestive tract and thus given carte blanche to illuminate and explore humanity’s last remaining mystery. 

What I did not account for was you, Naomi. My love of you first annoyed me, and then distracted me, and finally allowed me to transcend the initial problem I had set out to rectify. You gave my life a meaning I did not know I had been searching for all along, although the cliché of such a sentiment grates against me. I had half a mind to abort my mission entirely and give myself over to my emotions. But the task at hand was already in motion, and my faith in my genius was not shaken off course. You finally obliged, ate up your bowlful like the good little girl you are, and I viewed your insides from every angle, pulsating in a warm corporeal glow. 

Your screams were music to my ears. You screamed and screamed, and finally, gulped, blinked, sighed, and fainted. Such overtures did not sway me. You could not claim ignorance of the risks to your bodily integrity inherent in the discovery of your insides. Excruciating pain was a given, yes, but that would be temporary, and at this point your insensate little body lying resplendent across the screen had ceased to register any feelings, and so no harm was done. All was going according to plan. My second monitor burst into red flaming licks of smooth muscle, your smooth muscle. I was so hard in those moments. Delicious. I rewatch that footage when in need of a pick-me-up (get it?). I miss you, Naomi. Your viscera, yourself. My Naomi. I had been so naive to think that I had sufficiently explained myself, fed you all of the apples in my intellectual orchard and showed you the error in everyone else’s ways, such that you would submit to your role in my method. That you woke up in cold fear, trembling, begging me to make it stop was a disappointment indeed.

You said: it hurts. You said: what have you done to me? You said: I will pay you anything, anything, all of it back to you if you only make it—

I cannot linger on this, Naomi. We love each other too much. Please write back. Please. I can’t be without you for any longer. It is your duty to get back to me, somewhere, somehow. Please, Naomi, before I am tossed out upon that hopeless open ocean again. I am alive when encircling you Naomi, penetrating you, circluding you, call it what you like. I am one with you. Do not let me down. The end is nigh, Omi. Omi, the end is nigh.

Claire Orrange is an American writer residing in Brooklyn. She self-styles as a socialite, but really she’s just an unemployed, very extroverted doll.