'It's not a joke. The tone is humor and it's comedy, but it wasn’t a joke.' – Brandon LaGanke, Drone Boning co-director
The first time I saw the film I was pressed between some pierced burnout I had a crush on, and a mature-aged student who was actually the coolest woman I’d ever met. Our tutor only showed us censored stills and told us we could watch the whole thing at home if we wanted, so all I remember are these striking aerial landscapes with fuzzy, fleshy smears showing up suggestively between grapevines or pine trees. That was years ago. I never did see it properly until this week.
On Tuesday I turned up to work to find an old-school UAV sitting inactive on my desk. According to the paperwork, the unidentified drone was spotted along Thompson Street, in the no-fly zone at about 7:30 Monday night. I could tell right away it’d been given a bunch of mods. The outside was covered in weird transparent silicone things, all in different colours – blue, slime green, purple, pink – which to be honest looked like sex toys, but couldn’t possibly be functional. In any case, it should have automatically detoured at the no-fly zone instead of busting right in.
The retrieval team had filmed their normal interviews. A couple of witnesses identified the drone, one of them noting its 'retro' clover-shaped body. Other people said they couldn’t really see because there had been another dust storm that day and everything was red and glaring. There was one girl at the end of the tape, hunched in the gutter. Sweat trickled through the dirt on her forehead. I turned the volume right up and could just hear her saying, 'It didn’t see you, just breathe,' while staring down the amber-lit street.
If the retrieval drones had been able to find a rego on the thing it would have been put in processing, but instead it landed with me. It had lost power and was so old it needed an electric recharger, which I didn’t have.
Since it was too heavily modded for the scanners to identify, I had to figure out what it was with my own two hands. Usually I’d suspect your standard roaming drone, used for lifestyle enhancement. A personal shopper or child monitor that had wandered off track. But the batteries and overall shape of it made me suspect it was older than that. Like, something from way back when drones were first a thing. I had to assess it for security reasons too; its unusual appearance made it a potential threat in the eyes of the UAV Authority, which meant checking for any evidence that might be discernible only to the human eye.
I found myself looking deep into the two blue silicone shapes on either side of the drone's main protrusion. For some reason they reminded me of the UAV my husband bought when he first went blind. It would lead him around town at the end of a string like a weird joyless balloon. Darlene was actually a fairly terrible guide, and could only speak through the voice in Kingsley’s phone. Even though she didn’t last long, there was a kind of affection between them. This was the first time my husband looked fragile to me. All the mechanisms of his body lucky to fit together even in the flimsy way they did.
I gently turned the unidentified unit over in my hands. The strange colourful decorations made it seem more alive. There was a dull click, and something on the drone flickered on. A projector.
The wall opposite lit up.
'Lights down,' I said. My computer gave a small flash and the lights in the room went off. The wall shifted into landscapes too intricate to take in. A sweeping shot of a forest cut to a couple in an awkward position, naked and thrusting. After years of not getting around to it, I was finally watching Drone Boning. The camera swooped over another couple – or was it a trio – and the movement made me feel as though I was flying too, as though the landscapes were as intimately connected as the people fucking in them. The film was admittedly beautiful and as I watched I felt a warmth spread downwards from my gut, but as the wall went back to blank I was left feeling as though the room was too small, or maybe too large. I couldn’t figure out which. I switched the projector off with a flicker and rested the drone in my hands. Though it still had not power, it seemed to hum. A bee’s nest. A sleeping cat. Rising heat.
On Wednesday the retrieval unit tell me they’ve found their man. Footage was sent in of a couple chasing the drone through the foyer of a cinema. The owner is coming to get his freshly tagged, practically vintage toy and pay his fine. I’ve been watching the footage over and over, of the man in his sandals and too-big shirt, rampaging after his toy. I’ve watched the wife, her hair in butterfly clips, knocking over the extra-large popcorn of a couple waiting by the games arcade, before falling into a display of Dakota Fanning all got up in leather.
I put my hands on the porn-drone and carry it to the reclaim desk. The both of them are there. The woman sees the drone and folds her arms, hair bouncing about her cheekbones.
'That isn't ours,' she shakes her head, pointing at the attached projector.
The man's eyes bug out and he swallows hard, but steps gingerly forward.
I give the man some papers to sign. He hurriedly pays the fine for an unregistered flyer. The woman looks at the ceiling. I get a flash of forest behind my eyes: a woman’s head thrust back in pleasure.
'Thank you,' the man looks down at the thing, swallowing again. It still hums beneath my palms with all the possibilities of what it could be. A record, a spy; a guide, or a weapon. Whatever it is, it’s out of my hands now.