Author: DJ Lunan
“I just see me, Ma’am”, I reply into her bathroom mirror through clenched teeth, hoping I can preserve my volley of lies deep inside, hermetically sealed in a light-resistant jar, preserved in termite vinegar and moon-salt.
But this mirror doesn’t lie. I am clearly getting younger. She will have sensed this through her 8000 light receptors.
This mirror frames this bathroom like a movie scene: my face in close-up loomed by her dark silhouette against the mauve lightwall portraying the stormy weather on her home planet.
A spoonful of immortality cream. Every day. I didn’t think she’d miss it. She didn’t. For two years. My family are going to live forever. I may not.
My boss Troy had warned me, “Even if you get caught, they sort of love you to death, so its kind of a win-win”
“But I die?”, I’d protested.
“True. A heart-attack, but with a smile! A small price for our everlasting lives …”
I know I look scared. This mirror doesn’t lie. It’s my eyes. They’re shifty. Or as we cleaners say, maggy. Always looking for treasure, darting around their unkempt excretion-plastered palaces. Aliens are oddly disorganised, forgetful. Some say they are addicts. That Earth is their last resort. Halfway house for cosmic wastrels. A kernel of mildly superior technology is enough to fund an enviable party lifestyle.
This mirror is crystal-clear, but with minute evaporating arcs that only we professional cleaners notice. Off-world chemical volatiles stirred up by invigorous human hands deploying low-quality earth-soap mixed with peasant-class alien discharge. An interstellar germ factory.
Troy is ceaselessly philosophical about our role: “Trade is an epic catalyst for economic growth, leveraging comparative advantages and all that jazz, but unfortunately, every nation, race and cosmic consortia also strives to trade the dross they don’t need – or want – at home”
“So we are enslaved by the cosmos’ ‘black sheep’?”, I inquired.
“We are eternally thankful that even malevolent alien races send their crap here. It kinda proves that ‘trade is trade’ the Universe over. And you, short-arms, can clean up, and side-profit. In return, I’m giving you eternity to pay me back….”
She approaches with swift menace and clutches my shoulder to communicate.
“And cleaner, I also see you”, her soft mind-whisper pulsing through my ears, head, limbs, and cyber-interface, with an emphasis on the ‘you’ that expresses greater desire, vulnerability and wanton accessibility than any human partner could muster in a month of love-drug osmosis in a floating nectar tank.
My eyes are scared no longer. I am mired in bliss. My jar is opening, its contents animated, my secrets itemised, my crimes prioritised and played back at quad-speed from multiple angles: every day seeking her hidden treasures, squirting liquid eternity into my vials and secreting angular alien artifacts in my orifices.
She is suddenly contiguous, flapping her purring tendrils around my legs and chest, lapping my senses with electromagnetic pleasure.
“Are you unhappy with my work, Ma’am?”, I attempt to distract, my heart-rate spiking.
“You clean fine. You break nothing. You smoke outside. You steal my cosmetics. You hate me. Everyone has always hated me.”, she emits a persistent high-pitched scream.
Her vibrations crescendo. She transmits her blissful pain to me. I am smiling but doubled-over, retching and screaming as she shows me her angry parents, tears, pleading, bundled into a spaceship, launched into space. Eons on a polluted ship. Enslaved for male fun and obliged to clean for food: scrubbing, scouring, shining. Slave girl for the castaways.
I can hear her nearby. She clasps my shoulder, and communicates with clemency, “Don’t hate me. Cleaners stick together. Forever.”
365tomorrows launched August 1st, 2005 with the lofty goal of providing a new story every day for a year. We’ve been on the wire ever since. Our stories are a mix of those lovingly hand crafted by a talented pool of staff writers, and select stories received by submission.
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