Non-Fungible Human

Angus walked towards his owner. He carried the silver platter high above his right shoulder, his other hand tucked neatly behind his back. The smell of freshly grilled lobster tails with lemon and herb butter made his stomach growl. He hadn’t been able to eat breakgruel this morning. He was too nervous. The kitchen knife he held under the cloth behind his back weighed heavily in his hand. He was sure it was shaking. He was sure someone would notice.

He focused on breathing deeply. He focused on his training. Stand up tall, face impassive, eyes downcast, long strides to take him smoothly along the length of the eating hall towards the sole occupant. Having been trained his whole life for servitude his body posture was perfect. His movements were almost second nature.

How many steps? 5 more. Make them even. OK, here we go.

He set the tray down in front of Mr Hang and lifted the silver lid. It looked amazing. He stared down at the meal, seeing colours in foods that he was not used to seeing. Vivid oranges and yellows smattered with green. He surreptitiously switched the knife from his left hand to his right under the guise of shifting his waiter’s cloth to the other arm.

Mr Hang shifted, turning his head ever so slightly, annoyed.

Angus gripped the knife tighter, still concealed but now in his stronger hand. He knew he should have stepped back long ago but he couldn’t bring himself to pull his eyes away from that delicious food on its silver platter, torn between doing what his mind screamed at him to do and what he came here to do.

“Well? Is there something else?,” snapped Mr Hang.

Angus opened his mouth, closed it, and then placed one foot behind him. He was halfway between worlds. One was the world of servitude. The one he knew. The other was freedom and unknowns. This was it. This was the moment when he would break free from this sadistic slaver. Today was to be the day he started living his own life.

If only it wasn’t so goddamn terrifying. He was still frozen. He had to do something quickly.

There was a noticeable throb building in the vein at Mr Hang’s temple. It was a sure sign he was angry and that all hell was about to break loose. Angus said the first thing that came into his mind, “I thought they were extinct.”

Mr Hang turned to look at him. He looked at him full in the face, astonished at the gall of this serving boy breaking the rules by talking to him. He looked him up and down with a malevolent glint in his eye.

“Well, they are now, boy,” Mr Hang sneered, “now fuck off and don’t ever interrupt me again.”

Angus stepped back. His heart was racing. To be honest he was almost relieved to be obeying commands. The concept of free will was enticing but damn taking action was hard. Well, it wasn’t so much that taking action was hard. It was that this action would completely uproot everything he knew. So maybe now isn’t the right moment?

As Mr Hang cracked limbs with his fat hands, slurping the prized meat noisily from its shell, Angus shifted nervously. His waiter’s cloth was over his right arm, the pommel in his hand and the knife running up along his wrist. Out of sight.

He leaned back against the wallpaper and tapped his head lightly against the hard surface, grimacing as he tried to jolt his brain into making a decision. Holding the knife was awkward and his hand was starting to get tired. He couldn’t focus on anything but that sensation of weight and fatigue. It seemed every beat of his heart was emanating from that knife. Like the inanimate object was beating. It’s probably just the pulse in my wrist felt through the knife he thought.

His brain had frozen up. When he needed his faculties most they had deserted him. He couldn’t think of what to do. Should he do it? If he didn’t, this was his life until he was as old as Jeeves. And Jeeves was old. Or so he assumed. He’d had never actually asked how old his tutor was, but he had wrinkles everywhere, so he must be old. Jeeves had been in servitude to one family or another for his entire adult life. But at least Jeeves had experienced a childhood. He’d been around at the very start when the world economies collapsed, the fabric of society started to unravel, and technology stepped in and broke the neck of sovereignty, country, and laws. The environment was already on the downward slide when the populist revolutions destabilised the world’s biggest economies. The far-right political ideologies of independence and freedom from government quickly turned into a bedlam of guns and hold outs. The whole thing had taken a mere 10 years and had propelled the human race backwards a thousand years or so. At least socially. The economic powerhouse of globally resilient distributed monetary and asset systems meant there was no need for central banks or any banks at all. Bitcoin and its brethren were the financial system.

In this backwards era, the few controlled the many. Borders were ephemeral and not worth fighting for. Countries were subsumed into corporations and fiefdoms. And because the morals of society had become so muddied, somewhere along the line someone decided people were a commodity that could be traded. Slavery 2.0. Backed of course by that wonderful invention: the blockchain. But that was beside the point. Jeeves had been there when this was all in its infancy, and he had willingly traded his life into servitude. Sure it was to escape a world of poverty. But Angus had never even had a choice.

The door at the far end of the room opened. Damn, it was Jeeves carrying the pastries. Even though he was damn near flipping out, Angus couldn’t help but marvel at the old man’s grace. His head was held high, eyes seemingly closed, tray held aloft. He seemed to float rather than walk. Jeeves was very good at what he did, and everyone knew he damn well enjoyed it. Angus’ forced his awe into a bitter hatred. He hated that Jeeves was just fine with this whole situation. He hated that Jeeves had had a choice, and thrown it away. He hated that Jeeves was the closest thing to a father figure he had ever known.

Mr Hang raised one grotty paw and snapped his fingers. Without thinking, Angus stepped forward, took the waiters cloth with his left hand and placed it in Mr Hang’s open fingers. The knife was now pressed against his midriff, still hidden but feeling horribly exposed. He stepped back against the wall quickly and shifted the knife slightly so he could clasp his hands in front of him in the standard position now that his cloth was being put to use. The change in positioning was a relief for a series of muscles in his hand he never knew he had.

Jeeves swung by and delivered the tray to the table with panache. He raised the lid off the dish to reveal a platter of sweet pastries. He whispered a “Bon Appetite” which was met with a grunt and then stepped back next to Angus. Angus had not moved his head but had tracked Jeeves with his eyes. Jeeves had definitely tried to catch his eye when he had moved over to the wall next to Angus, one eyebrow raised.

Oh shit oh shit oh shit. He’s onto me. Keeping his face totally impassive, and his posture relaxed, he could feel the panic rising. He was sweating a little. Maybe if he went for Jeeves first he could then hit Mr Hang and still get away. He’d make it a glancing blow on Jeeves, just a flesh wound. But Mr Hang would receive the full strength of his spite and hatred. He’d cut him into a million pieces. The arrogant f-

Jeeves elbowed him and Angus in his panicked state nearly spoke out. He took two deep breaths to calm himself and turned his head ever so slightly. Raising his eyebrows slightly. A gentlemanly “Yes sir?”

Jeeves motioned toward the table with an ever so slight nod of his head.

Angus shook his head with the barest of motions. He didn’t understand what he was supposed to do.

“Lib,” whispered Jeeves, his lips hardly moving.

“Hmm?” said Angus. Was Jeeves talking about liberation? Was Jeeves egging him on? Did he know?

Angus took in the sweaty back of the fat glutton making short work of several pastries. Mr Hang never ate with cutlery. He liked to rip apart his food and stuff it in his fat face with his bare hands. Right now he was sucking blueberry conserve from one fat finger. Angus wondered glumly whether the knife would even get through all that blubber. He glanced back at Jeeves and shrugged slightly.

“Pray,” said Jeeves more forcefully, but still without moving his lips.

“Eh?” whispered Angus. Jeeves wasn’t even religious. He must know. He must have seen the knife and guessed his motives.

“Pray Lib”, said Jeeves again, with a little more urgency. Angus turned his head slightly so he could see the older mans face more clearly. Jeeves was waggling his eyebrows and darting his eyes from Angus to the table.

Mr Hang belched, leaned back and grunted loudly. The servants snapped back into position.

“What the fuck is this,” growled Mr Hang.

His lobster encrusted fingers jabbed at a silver lid gleaming brightly on the table. He lifted it up, smearing the polished surface with grime. There was nothing but the starched white table cloth underneath. Angus glanced over at Jeeves, who was looking at him. Jeeves was holding the silver serving tray lid from the platter of pastries he delivered. He looked down. He was holding a concealed weapon, and his silver lid was on the table. He had never, NEVER, done that before. Shit shit shit. He must have put it down when he transferred the knife to his other hand and then completely forgotten about it. He hadn’t even realised. Jeeves’ cryptic message suddenly made sense – “tray, lid”.

Mr Hang stood unsteadily and turned on them.

“Is this some kind of fucking joke? A prank to get back at me perhaps?” he said, his face red, jowls jiggling.

“Sorry sir,” said Angus and Jeeves in unison, lowering their eyes. Mr Hang lumbered towards them.

Jeeves head smacked wetly against the wall. It took a second to realise that Mr Hang had struck him. Jeeves groaned and attempted to stay upright. He dare not even move his hands to his head. A thin streak of blood ran down the antique wallpaper.

“You think I’m stupid you old fuck? I can see yours in your hand, it was this little runt. Oh fuck look what you’ve done now. You’ve got your worthless blood on my wallpaper. And I heard you whispering during my meal, what were you doing? Planning to stab me in the back?”

“No sir! I’m sorry sir,” said Jeeves woozily trying to right himself.

“I’ll give you something to be sorry about,” yelled Mr Hang.

Angus watched Mr Hang’s feet, not daring to look up, but knowing that the grunting and wet noises were a maelstrom of meaty fists on poor old Jeeves frail body.

“Sir, please,” Jeeves cried out.

“Don’t you fucking ‘Sir Please’ me you scum, you worthless piece of shit.”

Jeeves had collapsed against the wall. Angus could see him even though he was keeping his head down. Jeeves held his hands up, but the meaty blows kept coming. When Mr Hang couldn’t be bothered to lean over to throw punches, he used his knees. And when Jeeves finally collapsed prostrate on the ground he kicked him, once, twice, thrice. Putting his considerable weight behind each swing of his oversized leg.

Jeeves groaned.

Angus stood, paralysed. He was terrified. He had flinched at every blow. He didn’t like what was happening to Jeeves, especially because it was his fault, but he didn’t want to be the guy getting laid into. His hands were sweating.

The big man placed a booted foot on the back of Jeeves’ neck.

“I could kill you old man. You would wink out and nobody would care. You are worthless,” said Mr Hang, leering down at the prostrate man. Jeeves was still as he could be, his hands still atop his bald spot, protecting his head as best he could. There was blood in his greying hair. At least he was still breathing.

Angus was staring at a fleck of blood on the ground. Willing that fleck would whisk him away to another place. Somewhere safe. His room, yesterday, when Sally-Anne had come by to see his new card trick. They’d laughed and talked about how to run away. Angus snapped back to the present when Mr Hang burst out laughing.

“Haha! That’ll be fun. Let’s actually find out what you’re worth,” he roared, his voice filled with venomous delight.

Mr Hang had pulled a small tablet from somewhere. As he flicked on the screen he removed his boot from the back of Jeeves’ neck. He swiped the tablet where his boot had been and the tablet bleated an incongruously jolly sound. Mr Hang stood up with a wicked smile on his face.

“Let’s see here. Nathan Worster is it?” he said,

What? Nathan Worster? It’s Jeeves, isn’t it? thought Angus, his mind racing to catch up with the events at hand.

Mr Hang swiped his finger down the screen, “Blah, blah, who cares, who fucking cares. Ah here we are,” he said.

“Well, that’s surprising. Looks like you’ve been here for 10 years. I bought you from some putz on OpenSea. Sheesh. I paid a lot more than you’re worth.”

Despite the horrid situation, Angus was now mesmerised. Mr Hang was holding the very thing that could set him free. The tablet was unlocked, and the details of the token that represented the ownership of Jeeves – Nathan Worster – was displayed on the screen. Angus could see it all right there, no more than a meter away, around the curving bulk of the monster. The soft bluish light shining upon the sweaty grinning face making the man look like a huge sweaty imp, direct from the gates of hell.

“I’m going to sell you. And I’m going to take the boy here up to my room and teach him a lesson about knowing his place.”

Shit. Shit. Shit. Things had gone from bad to worse. His room? Oh no no no.

“No,” said Jeeves weakly, still covering his head.

“Haha, you’re pathetic. There. You’re up for auction. It ends in an Hourraarrrrrgh”.

Angus stepped back, the pommel of the knife firmly embedded just below the right shoulder blade of Mr Hangs back. Mr Hang swung around with a chaotic fully bodied reaction to being stabbed. Angus had already been retreating and as the whole scene slowed down he watched the edge of the tablet arc gracefully a few centimetres from his nose. The improvised weapon tasting nothing but fresh air. The momentum of the violent backhand took the tablet out of sight behind the back of Mr Hang, whose full attention was now on Angus.

Unfortunately, Angus had eyes only for the tablet. He was so focused on it that he didn’t see the second meaty hand, still travelling with the force of the initial turn. It collected him by the neck and slammed him flat against the wall, cutting off his air supply and pinning him so only his toes reached the floor.

“Gonna kill you,” spat Mr Hang, his face a rictus of pain and anger as he placed his second hand around Angus’ neck and begun to squeeze. Angus’ was scrawny, his body having grown vertically but not yet filled out horizontally. He was a twig next to this mountain of flesh, and his hands ineffective as he scratched and grasped at the sausage-like fingers around his neck. His neck was being crushed. He couldn’t breathe.

“Hrrg,” grunted the man, his eyes widening and grip loosening for a moment before intensifying again.

Angus was going to pass out. He was losing his vision. He was going to die here.

“Hrrg,” grunted Mr Hang again, wincing.



Those horrible mitts were loosening. Growing slack. That was when Angus noticed the wet “thuck” noise that accompanied the grunts.

Thuck, “Hnngh”.

Thuck, “hrrg”.

Thuck, “hrr”.

The big man tilted, his fingers still wrapped around Angus’ neck and the two of them toppled to the floor.

As they landed Angus was freed and he took a deep, reflexive breath. It was the most amazing thing he’d ever felt. The endorphins from not dying were better than any high. Better than those moments alone with Sally-Anne. There was a dark puddle spreading out underneath Mr Hang’s rage-filled face. That horrible mask was slackening. Loosening and blanching. Mr Hang’s eyes were moving, he looked slightly confused for a second. Blood dribbled from his mouth, his breath ragged and wet. His eyes darted around the room, once, twice, then slowed, and stilled.

Angus focused on the joy of breathing. His fingers gingerly probing his tender neck. His eyes watching for any sign of life from the monster.

Standing a long way above them was the blurry shape of Jeeves breathing heavily. He was looking down at the knife in his hand, his fingers covered in blood.

“Are you OK?” said Jeeves shakily.

Angus rolled onto his back, away from that horrible face and the result of the play he’d set in motion. There was something very uncomfortable under him. The tablet.

He sat up quickly, turned, picked it up. This was their chance. They’d done the unthinkable already, they just had to make it count.

He quickly turned it on. Lock screen.

“Arrgggghh,” he yelled. Frustration, anger and raw emotion boiling out of him as raw vibrations of air, “What’s the password?”

“It’s face,” said Jeeves quietly.

“Err, I can’t type that in, it’s just digits,” said Angus, hearing the panic in his own voice. There was precious little time.

“It’s facial recognition,” said Jeeves softly “and his face is right there.”

Angus quickly pivoted and put the tablet in front of the lump’s dead face. Mr Hang had ceased to be human as far as Angus was concerned. He’d never really considered him much of a human in the first place. Everyone else had called him a whale and the motherfucker was now a beached one.

He tilted the tablet this way and that until at last, the screen flickered and unlocked. The keys to his manacles were now his.

“I’m in!” he said, looking up at Jeeves with an excited little smile. Jeeves looked terrible. He was white as a sheet and holding a bloodied hand out to the side as if trying to keep the murderous thing as far from his delicate sensibilities as possible. The knife had disappeared.

“Jeeves. It’s still on your page. The auction ends in about fifty minutes. What do you want to do? Cancel it?”

“I don’t know,” said Jeeves quietly.

“I’m cancelling it. Jeeves, you don’t want to be sold like livestock. Wait, is it Jeeves or Nathan?”

Jeeves didn’t reply.

“It’s cancelled. This is our chance to take life into our own hands. We can escape. We can free everyone,” he said, thinking only of Sally-Anne. The near-death adrenal surge was subsiding and making his hands shaky as he tried to navigate the site. He found his way to the page detailing Mr Hang’s “assets”.

He found his own token. The token that represented him. He took a few minutes to read the details of it and it made him feel sick. His dead shit father, the one who had sold him before he had even been born, got a 10% cut every time Angus was sold. His own fucking father. All of this was encoded into the contract of his token. It was on the blockchain and the parameters of the token were impossible to change. But who owned the token could be. A simple transfer from one wallet to another was all it took. And the beauty was that there was nothing in the world that could change it back. It was irrefutable, unhackable, and completely transparent. So theoretically he could transfer his ownership to anyone in the world. Once he left this place, there would be any number of places where the data would be checked. If he was passing through a security checkpoint or was picked up by a gang or enforcer they would scan the chip embedded into his spinal cord to identify who he belonged to. In this fucked up world stealing slaves was a big deal and not tolerated, so he would be returned to his owner post-haste. It was impossible to remove the chip, he’d already been told that by multiple people. Surgically removing it would sever his spinal cord and he’d be a paraplegic, which was useless to an owner and he would be sold off for “parts”.

He wasn’t really concerned about the murder. There were no laws, no police, and Mr Hang was a lone wolf. Nobody would miss him.

So here he crouched, tablet in hand, on the precipice of freedom.

“Shit,” he said. He realised he didn’t know who to transfer it to. He didn’t know what to do. He didn’t know enough.

He looked up at Jeeves. Eyes imploring.

Jeeves breathed in deeply. He nodded. “We’re in this together,” he said, his voice still shaky. And then after a pause, in a much more confident voice: “and I have an idea.”