â€œOops!â€ a golden egg dropped from Yizzies mouth onto the glowing floor. â€œThere goes another baby!â€ she laughed and a skittering spider came with a dustpan to clean the mess. Raich pulled his eyes out and threw them halfheartedly at Yizzie before plugging his sockets into the curling white wall.
â€œYouâ€™re a fashion slut.â€ he said, and dialed up the sexual exploits of AmiAmi, the Lacronic music star. The spiders rushed to service him.
â€œDonâ€™t be so viral Raich, the duckling eggs are the New Thing! The capsule people love to see the gold drop from my mouth.â€ Raich wasnâ€™t paying attention. His body was gyrating under the sensory nodes, his extra parts swelling and expelling orange juice. Yizzie sighed and dialed into her audience, accepting their mechanic adulations.
â€œMmm!â€ she moaned, her green hair flashing with static sparks. â€œThey love me!â€
â€œYouâ€™re a slut.â€ muttered Raich between gasps as the spiders swirled over his pale body.
Yizzie giggled and removed her top, the first request of the morning. Her breasts greeted a thousand screens. She licked her finger. â€œSomeone has to pay the tax.â€ Yizzie said, shaking her chest. â€œWhat you do doesnâ€™t make us anything but juice.â€
â€œAt least I donâ€™t whore myself.â€ He grunted and orange juice plopped on the floor, followed by a scrubbing spider. Raich fell backward to the sound of Lacronic melodies, landing on a cushion held by a hundred robotic limbs. â€œI only plug in for the music.”
â€œThis planet needs a Messiah so you and I have to fuck.â€ Sydec said. He didn’t mean for it to come out that way but the tests were absolutely fail-proof, and he needed to express the urgency of the matter to Vsha. Thatâ€™s aside from the fact that he wasnâ€™t always too keen on delivering. When science finally broke the genetic code, religion took a look at it and had an idea. Sydec had an idea earlier that week, and so he went to the clinic to see if the stars and the scientists agreed.
â€œWell thatâ€™s a bit crude, isnâ€™t it!?â€ Vsha snapped. She stormed from the room and grabbed her atmospheric suit to go out for a walk on the soil. Vsha had talked about this with him thousands and thousands of times. No sex before marriage, period. No post-script, no addendum, just no sex.
Sydec was already leaping after her in a bout of apologies for the words that dared cross his lips. â€œVsha, please! I had the tests run and you know how solid they are. Look, all Iâ€™m saying is that this is one in every million successful pregnancies. You canâ€™t give up a chance at destiny, can you?â€
The reluctant girlfriend stopped at the airlock, her suit half zipped up and her shoulders slumped in a defeated motion. â€œCanâ€™t it be someone else? I mean, heâ€™s going to get martyred or get captured or just disappear. You know how these things happen, Sydec.â€ Her voice was distraught.
â€œSweetie, darlingâ€¦ â€œ the man began as he placed his hands over her shoulders. Rubbing his palms against her muscles gently he resumed, â€œThis is not about sex, itâ€™s about the future of the planet. Of existence! The genes are right, everything is right. The clinic says that if we conceive in the next month or so thereâ€™s an 85% chance that it will be a true Messiah.â€
She turned slowly. Her smile was weak and so was her conviction. Her gorgeous green eyes stared up at him, looking for a hint of compassion. Vsha saw something to hope for on the surface of her boyfriendâ€™s face. She needed him to agree. It was the only way he could feel comfortable. When the heavens put pressure on you, it was far worse than a bad boyfriend. â€œSoâ€¦ itâ€™s really not about the sex?â€ she asked.
It was. â€œNo, of course not!â€ he exclaimed as he shook his head in a desperate attempt to persuade her that he meant it. She leaned into his arms and Sydec knew that heâ€™d made the right move. â€œLetâ€™s just sit down and think about this, honey.â€
They both turned towards the kitchen and he graciously pulled the chair out for her. â€œIâ€™ll get the wine.â€
The cloister, in the grand tradition of all ancient edifices like it, is cold. It is by necessity metallic, unlike its predecessors, but as if to make up for this failing, its cold is that of the utter desolation of space. To walk inside, I must wear a full survival suit, though gravity is maintained for the sake of the visitors. It does not impact the nuns in the least.
The cloister is composed of only three rooms. The foyer contains the airlocks, used by visitors and maintenance workers alike, as well as official dignitaries from the church. It is also the house of the cloisterâ€™s huge crucifix, depicting Our Savior in his moment of sacrifice. To the left is the control room, accessible only to those who come to maintain the stationâ€™s mechanical systems. Directly below the crucifix is the door that leads to the chamber of the nuns.
They hang on the walls suspended, preserved, each encapsulated in the soft blue glow of her life support pod. They are frozen in time, heartbeats only once a year, in perfect homage to He who drew them here. There are no novices in the cloister. The cold, silent hall is the pinnacle of a nunâ€™s creed: from the moment she arrives with her vocation, she is inducted into perpetual solitude, perpetual suffering. Only His true brides, those who intend to spend eternity as His handmaids by eschewing all worldly ties, wish to enter here.
I stare at the faces of the nuns, high above, each illuminated by the humble glow of their chambers. Their faces are similar but unique, each contorted in a different stage of silent ecstasy. Some are worn and caved in. The tissue-rotting microbes have done their slow work over decades or in some cases centuries, blessing the nuns with the sweet scourge of His sacrifice, extended over millennia. These are the faces, drooping and unrecognizable as they might be, that hold the most joy.
They are strong. They are meek. They are beautiful. They are modest. They are filled with conviction. They are eternal.
They are Woman. I am mere flesh.
Subject 643-M, age eight, sits cross-legged on the floor. Before him, a wide array of screens flicker rapidly, some with pictures, some words, some numbers. Thick tubes connect from the ceiling to a horizontal row of ports on his back.
He doesn’t remember. He doesn’t have to. Time is meaningless to a Scryer.
The boy’s fingers hover over a small black control box. He touches it sometimes, and images flicker more rapidly, or pause, or rewind. He rarely rewinds. The boy never misses anything.
When he sleeps, he sleeps in front of the screens. He likes the patterns, and he needs the ports. Sleep is a symptom of increased elusidol tolerance, so his dosage is increased to match.
Soon, the boy will be disconnected. The man worries about this. There are 12 others, but this one is the most talented. The man is concerned, but he knows he can get a few more years. He hopes the war is over by then.
The boy speeds through another segment, selecting words and pictures. No numbers this time. It’s not the boy’s responsibility to break the code, merely to locate it. The man hits record, and the pattern vanishes from the screens.
The boy doesn’t remember it. The next feed begins, and he touches the controller, upping the pace. The man closes the door behind him when he goes to check on the other children.
Iâ€™m sore and smiling from last nightsâ€™ athletics. My lover is still sleeping, his blue-green head resting on my pale pink chest. There are tiny raised welts on my hip and thigh where he bit me, and light red scratch lines on my back when, just a few hours ago, he was urgently pulling me closer, merging sex and devotion, hungry and hard.
My undergarments shimmer across the room, artfully hung on the lacquered box of drugs he smuggled from his homeworld. I run my fingers along a tentacle that slopes from his head to curl around my breast. He sighes and squeezes my ribs.
Sex isnâ€™t just about what parts can go into what hole, or physical pleasure or reproduction. Sex is about forgiveness, sex is about communication, and mostly, sex is about chemistry, the ph balance of mind and body. We could be acid to one another, but I can protect him, and we can lay here, sentient to sentient. He loves me as I will never understand.
I turn towards him and kiss his smooth, dry lips, inhaling the scent of sand and cinnamon. My lover opens his crimson eyes and trails amber nails softly against my cheek.
The first day we met, I described myself as a reader, but she never called herself a writer. Instead, she would always say she “had writtenâ€ and would pull down her collar or roll up her sleeves and show people. They would catch a paragraph or two as it ticked across her chest or revolved around her forearm. Her hands and face remained un-marked; every other body part was fair game, parchment awaiting ink. The scrolling tattoo was connected to an implant in her skull, allowing her to add and edit as she saw fit. Her novel was about a girl with a scrolling tattoo of a novel about herself, her life and loves; it wasn’t the deepest subject matter, but she had a brilliant turn of phrase.
I flatter myself that I read more of it than anyone. This probably has less to do with her willingness to be gazed upon while naked, than it has to do with my being a compulsive reader. I was very easily distracted when we had sex, for example. But having a girl who not only had written, but also was a book (a book!) was too good to pass up.
That was, until, he showed up. She called him the “The Reader,” and he was an obnoxious new character in the world that was scrawled around her body. The Reader arrived innocuously enough. We were watching TVâ€”or rather, she was watching TV. I was reading the words that poked out of her exposed middriff. And there he was, circling lasciviously around her belly button. A man, close to my description, introduced himself to the main character of her novel as “a reader.”
“Is this supposed to be me?”
“Who?” she said, straightening up and pulling her shirt down. “Is who supposed to be you?”
“You know who I’m talking about,” I said. “The Reader.” She feigned innocence and crossed her legs in such a way that her right leg stuck out from below her skirt. Marching along her calf was a part I hadn’t read yet. I let the matter drop.
But The Reader showed up again. And again. It started to get unsettling. It wasn’t so much what he did, it was that he didn’t do anything. All he did was read the novel on the main character’s body, a passive presence in her life. It was disturbing.
“Is this how you see me?” I asked, several times. There may have been a few times when I said this that were perhaps louder than necessary.
“You’re reading too much into it,” was always her answer.
When The Reader accused the main character of writing about him, I about near lost it. I held up her own arm as proof as it circled by, but she merely shrugged it off. When The Reader started yelling at the main character, and forcing her behind closed doors, crying tears he would never see, I knew our relationship was over. The Reader had ruined it.
I let her keep the television.
I saw her again, a few weeks later. She smiled at me, and we acted as old friends. But then The Reader showed up again, as brief description of what had happened to him since slowly crawled across her cleavage. Apparently, he had contracted prostate cancer, Asian bird flu and some sort of flesh-eating virus, as well as now taking it Thai Lady-Boy style from an ex-con named “Bubba.”
We don’t talk much anymore.