Touch and Kiss a Stranger
Her eyes are still beautiful, even though theyâ€™ve seen everything.
Typical. Thursday afternoon, not a cloud in the sky. The coffee had two shots of nicotine. There hadnâ€™t been a cloud this far south for over a year. Yavneh sitting opposite me, floating.
In and out of the dreamstate.
She moans from way off. I relax, let the dream happen: a halo falling from the sky. I donâ€™t know exactly what a halo is, associate with the saints.
Her eyes drift opaque, the dream slides from her fingertips, angry with me: if a halo screams like a demon. I let that thought wander off, not knowing that much about demons. Her eyes still not used to their protective film.
The opaqueness driftdeepens.
Iâ€™m saving my eyelids until they came back in fashion. Sheâ€™s had her eyeballs tattooed as well, with shimmering blue tuna fish. The rest of the world chose the whale for extinction.
-Didnâ€™t they used to spend their life in a can?
Iâ€™m unsure who asked that question. The caff is split down the middle, full to the brim, with more than its fair share of puppet-thought. The kind of low signal telepath that crawls out of the gutter at sunrise.
I flick on the jam. Way off in the distance she smiles. She doesnâ€™t care about them, doesnâ€™t need to, never has. They canâ€™t make sense of her thoughts anyway. It amuses her, my reliance on tech countervention.
From the distance she lets me hear the image she glimpsed in her mind. Thatâ€™s one meaning of fate, to know something you can never forget. To know it so much that its real. I fall out of her dream and tune back to the floor.
Nothingâ€™s happening. A couple of kids throwing darts at the wall. One half of the bar on a blind date. I donâ€™t know why that nameâ€™s stuck. You have to kiss each person in turn, then kiss them again in random order with your eyes closed, with the jam on. Then you go to a booth, fuck the person you find there. I tried it once, discovered I didnâ€™t have a fetish for dwarfs.
Further down thereâ€™s a clump of dogpunk biker dudes, selfstyled lowest of the lowlife. Thatâ€™s their motto anyway, the only running dogs that ride on the ground these days. Old skool, leather grown on a cow, canine implants inspired by the earliest science fiction. In a world of their own theyâ€™re even more on their own, but then everyoneâ€™s getting like that these days.
The scene bored me, blipped 5 ekuus to cover the bill, got up to leave. The waiter caressed me in recognition of payment. He was too anodyne to be attractive, libido-lite in the popular phrase, nice body though without overkill, biceps excepted. One grade from the cheap end: plasticised aluminium. Probably he was saving for the nanotech organics.
Very slowly Yavneh kissed her black teeth.
The waiter wasnâ€™t her type either, no-one was. She twisted around in her coffee cup while me and the biceps exchanged pleasantries. She had a knack of listening, even when she wasnâ€™t, which was most of the time. The biceps gave me their booth address.
Her not listening turned suddenly into waking up. Thatâ€™s her habit. The tuna fish tattooed on her eyes looked like they were swimming, like there was an ocean in there with the wind gathering the waves. The kind of eyes that have existed from the beginning of time, the kind men and women have for centuries dived into.
-Youâ€™re gonna volunteer, Saffron and the rest of the crew?
I let the waiter finish kissing me before I replied.
-Thatâ€™s what I spent the last hour trying to tell you.
-Volunteer, as in volition, like nobodyâ€™s making you?
-Volunteer, as in haul our pert, shapely asses over to the volunteer bureau, list our names on the volunteer sheet, voluntarily take the medical, followed by a voluntary stint on the tour. We even volunteered for payment. Canâ€™t say more social responsibility than that.
Even though sheâ€™d woken up she hadnâ€™t changed her expression. As far as emotions were concerned she only deals in collateral. Iâ€™ve never been convinced. If you have your tear ducts removed and half the nerve endings on your face.
The waiter was caressing someone else now, retro having taken his shirt off. His body hair had been electrolysed. Not liking his slick look I erased his address from my databank.
-The assignment is lunar treble one point one, intersection point six. Thereâ€™s an initial registration of 8000 ekuus; reimbursed midpoint tour. Youâ€™ve got time to make application for your departure rights to be reinstated. So, what you sayin?
-That kind of volunteer.
She was starting dreamstate again. The opaqueness in her eyes came back and quivered. I slapped the side of her face, the right side. The side with the most nerve endings.
-You can go back to strangeland in a minute. Whatâ€™s the news with the tour, you in?
She pushes her coffee towards me, waits until I take a sip. Coffeeâ€™s a misnomer, its mostly nicotine. The experience makes me nervous. Apparently alcohol is an even older drug, people have been manufacturing it since before we even learnt how to write.
Her eyes reflect the colours of the darts as they whimper in the hands of the kids.
-Tell me itâ€™ll be fun. The tourâ€™s on the dark side, no? A year is a lifetime in darkness. You know what thatâ€™s like, that kind of darkness? Its like a stranger you take to bed every night and never get to know. A lifetime in darkness with eight human souls, everything you own in a little black case. Saffron likes speeches so this is my speech:
In the company of the Tiamat. Whoâ€™s fucked up craziness is that? Youâ€™ve not been in proximity, have you? I have. Thereâ€™s no other way to describe it, their smell. Can you imagine smell? Even you can you canâ€™t imagine that smell. Unearthly, we canâ€™t even manufacture it. Remember what happened when they first grew a human ear on a mouse?
That wasnâ€™t the question Iâ€™d been preparing myself for. I searched my databanks, futile I knew because I tended to only store relevant information.
-Not in your relevant information.
-Well, yeah. My instruct didnâ€™t include history on the curriculum.
-You have no idea, erase the past you erase the future.
-Yavneh, nobody does history. Well, one kid in my intake. They found him on the freeway. Hence the saying, history is history.
The opaqueness began widening. I didnâ€™t want to slap her again.
-The answer: it was deaf. The ear that is, the mouse could hear perfectly well.
It was deaf. I repeated the sentence to myself. Not unlike saying the first prosthetic leg couldnâ€™t feel. Or the first heart donors still needed their hearts. Technically, of course, some of them did. She didnâ€™t bother listening in to my thoughts, the window more interesting.
The ocean lay as always on the other side, slowly evaporating.