“Well, I guess I'm up for that because I haven't had dinner with anyone in a while,” said Rita. “But I'll give you fair warning, I'm not the kind of girl you would want to have a relationship with.”
“Let me be the judge of that,” said Hank.
Hank and Rita started dating. On their first date they went walking through Central Park, checking out the holographic statues that had been installed a few years back. The New York City government had replaced all of the old stone and metal statues with holographic statues that would stay perfectly still until a visitor approached, and would then start moving and interacting with the visitor. On another date Hank and Rita went to a 3D dome-shaped 360 degree movie theater in which the movie projected on all of the walls, the ceiling, and the floor.
Hank was struck by how different Rita was from all the ladies he had ever dated. It was hard to pin it down exactly, but Hank noticed some odd things about Rita. She seemed to have a huge amount of knowledge about a very wide set of topics: world history, science, politics, art, culture, and countless other things. Hank couldn't figure out how a woman so young could have learned so much about so many topics. But despite all her knowledge, Rita's mind would often seem to briefly stall. She would struggle for seconds to recall a common word or some bit of knowledge that anyone else her age might recall very quickly. At one time Rita seemed to struggle for seconds to recall Hank's name, even though she had used it many times before.
Despite these oddities, Hank found himself falling in love with Rita. The first time he kissed her, she acted rather strange. She closed her eyes tightly as he kissed her. From then on Hank noticed whenever he drew close to Rita, she would always close her eyes tightly, and not open them until he moved away from her face. It was as if she couldn't stand to see a man kiss her.
One day Hank maneuvered Rita to spend the night with him. When he made his advances suggesting an intimate encounter, Rita agreed, but only on the condition that the lights be turned off throughout the experience.
Hank decided that he wanted to marry Rita. He thought about how he might ask her to marry him. He decided he would ask her on the observation deck of a tall building overlooking New York City. Hank bought an engagement ring to give to Rita.
After bringing Rita to the observation deck, Hank nervously started to speak.
“Rita, I know we haven't known each other all that long, but the moments we've had together have been the best times of my life,” said Hank. “Your name is engraved on my heart. Darling, will you marry me?”
Hank took out the engagement ring, and offered it to Rita. But Rita seemed to recoil.
“Hank, I don't think this is going to work,” said Rita. “There's something about me that you don't know about.”
“Don't worry,” said Hank. “Whatever it is, it doesn't matter. All that matters is I love you.”
“I'm afraid I must tell you something very, very shocking about me,” said Rita.
“Go ahead,” said Hank. In his mind he thought: could it be that she used to be a prostitute?
“I am a protoplasmic proxy,” confessed Rita.
“A proto what?” said Hank.
“A protoplasmic proxy,” said Rita. “It's an exciting new development in medical science. Haven't you ever heard about protoplasmic proxies?”
“No, never,” said Hank. “What are they?”
Rita began to explain.
“In the world there are many very old rich people, who are living longer and longer because of medical advances,” said Rita. “But many of those people are so old that they can't move around much anymore. To help these people, the scientists invented protoplasmic proxies. A protoplasmic proxy is a body developed in a lab, which has all of the human parts except a brain. Instead of a brain, a protoplasmic proxy has a tiny radio transmitter that allows the proxy to be controlled by someone else, located elsewhere.”
Hank stared at Rita with a worried expression on his face.
“Whenever a protoplasmic proxy moves or speaks,” explained Rita, “the orders to do that don't come from a brain inside the proxy's own body. Instead, the order to move or speak comes from the brain of someone else located in some other place. The other person has a controller that allows him to control the proxy remotely through radio transmissions. The external person moves around the protoplasmic proxy kind of like a puppet master moves around a puppet.”
“That's fascinating,” said Hank. “But what does that have to do with you?”
“I am one of the protoplasmic proxies controlled by someone elsewhere,” confessed Rita. “I have no brain inside my head. All of my words and decisions come from a person located miles away from here.”
“And who is that person?” asked Hank nervously.
“It is an old person,” said Rita. “A very old person. The real me is some wrinkled old invalid lying on a bed. I probably won't live much longer. That's why it wouldn't be fair for me to marry you.”
“So let me get this straight,” said Hank. “Your body is just kind of like a remote control puppet that is controlled by some incredibly old lady who can hardly get out of her bed?”
“That's basically it,” said Rita. “Except that the real me is not a very old lady. The truth is...I'm a very old man.”
“An old man?” said Hank.
“I'm sorry, Hank,” said Rita. “I never meant to deceive you. When I was lying incapacitated on my bed, the salesman offered me a choice between two models of protoplasmic proxies. The female model was cheaper.”
Hank put his fists to his forehead, as his face contorted with a horrified expression. Which person had he had sex with before – a man or a woman? He couldn't even figure it out now. It was all a swirling, agonizing, tangled, revolting, hideous futuristic mess that made his skin crawl.
Dropping the expensive ring on the observation deck floor, Hank fled the building alone.