Poetry-Thing Thursday: Made “For You”

You play a good game.
Most would surely miss it.
But there’s no denying,
the heat on the air,
or slight stutter of breath;
that quiet calling,
the closer we get.

You can try to deny it,
fool even yourself,
but I know the truth.
Know it as you do too;
that heat and that lust,
that animal want,
that searching for pleasure,
that you and I share.

It is passion confined,
compressed to singularity,
and no matter our senses,
it will always endure.

We can fight it forever,
die with it alight.
Stay separate to douse it,
but it’s stronger than might.

Last of all,
we could feed it.
Unleash its full force,
on one another,
hope to survive–
to hell with our senses
and the consequences.

No matter our choice,
little may change,
whether we like it or not,
our “I,”
is made,
“for you.”

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Hard Lessons: Part 11

11.

Walk the Walk

Angela sat in yet another filthy alley awaiting Titus’ contact. There was no question as to his arrival, only how long. He was as likely to show early as late. Dealers were like that. Most times, it couldn’t be helped or blamed.

So, she sat, helmet on and arms crossed atop her bike. She’d pointed it for an exit in the unlikely event a fast getaway was needed. The rain made sheets of low visibility between here and there. Good; better prepared than trapped.

Rain drummed on her helmet, perfectly blended with external mics feed environmental sounds to her aural implant. It gave rhythm to her thoughts, forced her to face facts; Crystal and Arthur had been right.

Right or not, Lucas was her brother. She had to help him. At least try. Their conversation replayed in her head endlessly, examined for selfish intent. Over the rain pelting her and the morning thunder rattling her chest, one question he’d posed rang true; why hadn’t she gone back for them?

Truthfully, she couldn’t be sure. She’d left her siblings to criminally overbearing parents a decade ago. Wrongful as Lucas’ accusations were, she hadn’t attempted to re-establish contact. After Julia, she could easily have transplanted Lucas and Alison from their parents’ dangerous invasiveness.

Then again, whether Ali could be saved most pressing. She’d grown up almost entirely without Angela. The teen-aged girl might not remember her beyond photos together. Angela couldn’t bear the idea of having left her behind, alone.

At least Lucas went through the worst of it with Angela. They were together when they’d first learned of the cult-mentality of their parents and their religious groups. They endured an utterly nonexistent privacy brought about by a so-called open home for precisely as long as they had to, then fled.

Angela was certain her parents’ surveillance cameras and intrusive snooping trained her to be the thief she was. It gave drive to violate that net of security, regardless of where. Or, at least, it made it more bearable and natural to do so.

As soon as she could, Angela put the past to work for her. She’d never have known anything about herself or the world were she there much longer. Sexuality, adrenaline, success; all “improper” for a girl of her stock. So, she fled to the streets and ended up stuck there.

For far too long.

She’d had enough one birthday night. Childhood was excruciating. Adulthood wasn’t looking better. Street life was cold reality; day-to-day survival of eating from dumpsters, trash cans, drinking from half-crushed cans and broken bottles, choking on random cigarette butts and refuse.

No-one would’ve blamed her for having had enough.

Were it not for Julia’s timely discovery of Angela’s slow death, their eventual love, she wouldn’t be around to worry about her brother’s addictions. She wondered if that was a bad thing, but immediately recalled Crystal.

She breathed easier, if only a little.

Wet ceramic squealed from the import beyond the alley entrance. Her helmet faded and compensated for the rain and light reflected from the NSX’s futuristic angles. A skinny Japanese kid, no more than nineteen, hustled into the alley. He stopped mid-way through.

This wasn’t a dealer. Angela saw it in the rigid spine, the uncertain but shrewdly narrowed eyes. He was a courier, running any and everything any and everywhere for cash. A kid with a part time job under the table. He had no idea what he was carrying or what he was doing.

Angela swung her leg over her bike and started over, helmet on. She stopped at arm’s length. He hunched forward, cradling something.

“All here,” he said.

Angela unzipped her jacket, exchanged a manila envelope for the bag. They double-checked their swap, then about-faced. Angela zipped her coat, chest now damp from the bag, and returned to her bike. In moments, she was gliding through pelting rain.

Across town, Titus sat at the bank of laptops, increasingly more concerned that Saito had yet to show. Most of him didn’t mind, not at the thought of Crystal’s milk-white body nude beneath the blanket behind him.

The rest of him felt the same, professional agitation of any long-term job. He did his best to calm himself with that thought; just another job. He sparked a joint, deciding he could wait as long as he had to. Extra time with Crystal, wasn’t something he’d mind.

They’d tacitly agreed on no strings for now, unbidden as the future was. All Titus knew was that he’d managed a night with a woman aching for pleasure, and was now aching from his best attempts to provide it. Judging by her deep sleep, he’d done a decent enough job.

He kicked back, puffing deep on the joint to watch the various camera-feeds. Their drones were still flying pre-programmed routes, quick and easy labor he’d cooked up during job-prep. With the aid of a GPS satellite and locator chips in each drone, he wrote macro subroutines strung together in a specific structure;

A series of flight routes within a few blocks of one another. Between their size and camera feeds, they could monitor most of the area three-dimensionally, auto-adjusting against wind within tolerances to retain patrol feeds. What was more, they could be live-edited to compensate for the worsening rain as it blew in from the Pacific.

In effect, he had total command of the area. Until now, he’d only ever used components of the system, but the various drones’ programming seemed to need only ironing out, polishing. In other words, it was smooth sailing until Saito finally decided to show.

As it had been since the job had begun. Agitation was the monotony setting in then.

Titus didn’t like complications, but he liked monotony even less. It made him anxious. Mostly, monotony meant the target, in this case Saito’s hidden vault, was used to an interruption in its routine similar to his method of interacting.

In other words, that it was aware of his presence, however benignly. That problem was obvious to anyone aware of his and Crystal’s intent.

Crystal stirred amid sleep, but did not wake. He couldn’t help but glance back. The toned muscles of her back and silk-smooth skin showed the obvious commitment to making herself whole again. She’d lived on the streets long enough to know; caring for every part of oneself was as much a privilege as a responsibility.

It wasn’t hard to see how far she’d extended that mentality. Her hair was long, luscious. Her eyebrows were prim, even. Her skin was soft, clear, and clean. Her entire body, as Titus could attest, was pampered. More than that, it was appreciated, loved anew as few could be.

Crystal had received a new lease on life. Any astute observer knew that. Therein it gave her something few others had. A lust and love for life impossible without her history. It intoxicated him with his own lust for life, especially given the profound and beautiful woman few wouldn’t be enamored with.

Alarms rang in his head.

He’d kept things fast and loose for the sake of work. Letting anyone in exposed both sides to risk. Especially for two playing the game on different levels. It was dangerous to be more involved than necessary. Crystal didn’t know the extent of his role in the game. And It was for the best. Certain affairs weren’t for the faint-hearted. Even less, for those potentially vulnerable to their knowledge.

He couldn’t allow Crystal too deep in yet. Otherwise, she might end up learning things she wasn’t allowed to know. Not yet, anyhow.

Selfish as it seemed, the game took precedent in every facet of life. Everybody playing knew that. That rule extended to partners, was the sole reason he refrained from any, serious ones.

He admitted himself a bit of a romantic. Not a bleeding heart, of course. Far from it, in fact, but a man aware of a few specific things about relationships. He used them as guide-lines, nothing if not principled. A reality that made him all the more fit for the game.

Unfortunately, it also made it more difficult to admit there was more to bringing Crystal.

The thing at the heart of matters he hadn’t been ready to admit, now confronted him beneath the warmth of cannabinoids, post-coital ecstasy, and plain emotion.

He was forced to admit he liked Crystal. Liked her in a way that would lead to more.

Careful or not, it was there. The more he denied it, the worse he’d make things. Much as Crystal was right about his vulnerabilities, she’d missed the extent. His actions were entirely transparent to. He’d miscalculated, and for someone living on output, that was dangerous.

For all of his smoothness, all of his careful planning and cool, Titus was a romantic and he did want Crystal.

But those were vulnerabilities.

Forced to recall his own sentiments about vulnerabilities, he reached an epiphany; he felt a helluva a lot better off with Crystal around than not.

Short Story: Love or Not

Taryn was young, lean, and more or less healthy– if eternally under-the-weather looking.

Strawberry-blonde flax crept from her head. The strands formed great sheets of otherwise-silk whose ends were too frayed to allow proper naming. Her clothing was perpetually clearance-rack, tattered edges, and at least one-two sizes too big in one placed or the other. Nonetheless she was happy.

She loved life. She loved living.

And she loved the smell of opium. Mostly, its flowery hints blooming on her tongue between lung-smothering bellows of robust smoke. Real opium was hard to find nowadays. Even harder when the bi-annual shipments to pharma-corps vacuumed up the poppy harvests like whores on-the-clock. Everyone felt it those times; street dealers, their suppliers, their supplier’s suppliers. Everyone.

Even the large corps like Bonne Nuit and Neuro-Kinetics needing stuff for their own, meager manufacturing for inhouse aug-testers were left with only scraps. No help for the poor bastards with neural-shock from malfunctioning augs during those dry times either. They were as likely to off themselves then as the addicts drying out in gutters.

Users and abusers weren’t the only people hurting during those times of year.

Taryn personally recalled hearing the feelers from Megacorps like Cameron and Byrne for any and every hint of true Opium from the shadows. It was obvious in the rumors of double price for already-astronomical street values.

No user or abuser had that kind of cash. Corps wanted hard stuff. Real stuff. What Uncle Emile and his Bonne Nuit ilk cooked up in synth labs just wasn’t pure enough.

Taryn had taken one, deep whiff and agreed; Opium had started thousand year wars for a reason. Funny to think it could do it again if it tried.

She relaxed like some ancient rebel under dim light, to smoke it now. New. Sweet. Fresh. Sprinkled a gram of grass that those ancient rebels never could have dreamed would exist. She inhaled far deeper than few else could.

Dry times meant an end to the extremely sluggish downers that kept her mind limber. She was too high-strung, anxious otherwise. Always had been, really. To a point, sometimes, of unintentional self-harm.

Only past a certain age had she learned the usefulness of street drugs in treating that. Doctors all insisted her condition was normal adolescent angst.

Until a shadow-dweller took her to his street-doc.

Even as she kicked back in the dingy apartment, she remembered the visit. As if it’d just happened. Burning opium buried a damp mildew that clawed through the darkness. Its filth was held at bay by her leather clothing, but she barely recalled it later.

She was focused at her nostrils. That was how she remembered it. How she wanted to. That first hint of flowering sweetness.

Spot looked the typical shadow-type; half-balls, half-brains and utterly average save his personal history and grotesqueness. He’d gotten his nickname from a massive burn along one half his face. It left him eternally looking like he’d lost a fight to a waffle-iron. Nobody would have laughed about it. He was more a mental image of Harvey Dent than any actor could hope to achieve.

Ironically, that scar was earned as a result of someone else’s two-facedness.

Spot had been married once. Technically still was. He’d even been by a corp-suit. Not an exec, but high-up. He had all the nice things a suit had, too: big penthouse condo. Super-cars in the garage.Drivers and limos, and more money than even the catholic church managed at its height.

Anything he didn’t have, he had access to. Even Opium. Any time of year.

Then, one day, Spot arrived to find his best friend drilling his trophy wife on his kitchen table. The fight that ensued ended with the guy dead and Spot looking freshly-cooked. The guy stupid enough to be drilling the wife did so while she was cooking Spot’s dinner.

Consequently, Spot was stupid enough to lose the upper hand and have his face held to a burner.

Spot’s former-friend didn’t last long after that.

That was the end of it. The eventual repercussions, perfectly in-line with what one expected of corps, swept the murder under the rug and ostracized him from his former-world. Because of his ugliness, they disowned him socially.

He burned through what remained of his accounts and and took to the shadows. He’d been screwing the corps every chance he could get. And Taryn, too. Incidentally, he’d never said what happened to trophy-wife. Taryn didn’t much care anyhow, but knew not to ask.

All the same, Spot was good to her.

Since the day he’d taken her to his weird-ass street-doc, they’d been working together a while. They’d been screwing only a little less. It wasn’t love. Just sex. Neither really believed in love, anyhow.

But both believed in orgasms.

The one nice thing about their partnership, for lack of terminology, was the mutual benefits they afforded one another. Ones other people simply couldn’t provide. Sex wasn’t even one. Anything with genitals could fuck.

Sometimes, even without.

What was most important was their link, one they’d decided was the same between confidants, but stronger. She could look at him, ignore his scars, listen like a human being. No staring. No judgment. He could let his guard down.

And she, too.

Neither were squeamish. Utterly lacking any ability to be physically disgusted– for her, another effect of her conditions. Because of it, he enjoyed hints of normality.

She, on the other hand, enjoyed his presence. The Jaded, corp-life rebellion. The simple, delicious irony in his new roguishness. His gun-for-hire ways perfectly complimenting her invisible thief’s skills.

In a world full of boring, typically average people Spot had connections, stories, motive. He had plans. He was human. He knew big-time players too. From his status and previous employment. More than that he– and her through him– had full access to resources most only dreamed of.

They were a hell of a pair. Brought together by what they’d learned at the Street-doc: Taryn wouldn’t live as long a life. She had, at most, twenty years before her heart gave out.

For anyone under thirty, that seemed unfair.

How could it’ve been missed? How was the street-doc sure? It was, he said, a difficult disease to diagnose, both due to obscurity and being commonly mistaken for arrhythmia. He knew it though, had seen it.

The disease– whatever it was the Doc called it, had a long and irritatingly difficult-to-pronounce name. She never bothered trying to learn it. Spot might’ve known it, but like the trophy-wife thing, just never bothered bringing it up. It served as equally little purpose to either of them.

Taryn left, utterly overwhelmed. Unaffected by everything in life until then, she and Spot returned to the apartment only for the tables to turn completely.

Suddenly,Spot was listening, making her feel human. Then, something altogether new. It manifested something more until the pair found themselves drenched in tears, faces wet and choked for air like small, sobbing children. She, for her lost time; he, for fear of being without her.

Neither recalled much afterward, more an effect of the Opium they’d taken to. They still worked, kept themselves clear-headed thieving and gunning, but all bets were off after punching out.

Most time was spent working, fucking, and getting high. Or, when the Opium was light two or three weeks in purgatorial boredom before intervening normality where new memories were formed in various ways.

Problem was, of course, once the next phase of smoking came about they dissolved again.

Didn’t matter, Taryn felt; she lived for the moment, never guaranteed the next. Besides the drugs kept her from spazzing out more often than not.

She took another hit, heart skipping its arrhythmic beat as if reminding of her dwindling time. Life wasn’t shit, but it wasn’t roses. It was a flowery hint of something wafting on smoky, mildew-damp air; as fitting a metaphor as anything.

He submerged himself in smoke, carrying a brown-bag of groceries in from the door. Simple day-time stuff. Just bare essentials. Neither had a taste for much else.A strange normality from a dysfunctionally average life.

That strange semblance of normality culminated when she found her, upright, naked on the sofa. Her feet flat on the floor. His face pressed her groin; scarred and smooth sides brushed her inner-thighs in a similarly dysfunctional mirage of feeling and rightness.

It was the same sort of duality, she decided, that their lives were filled with. The slow death and fast life. Their coldness fostering peculiar warmth between. Their love that wasn’t love.

But because it was more, something stronger.

All of it was their lives. For good or ill. Through thick and thin. And she never wanted it to end, and thus knew it must. Eventually.

She locked her ankles behind his head. Folded scar-tissue pressed one thigh; warm stubble the other. She thrust against him. She decided then that twenty years or less; twenty years or more, and love or not, life was for living.

Poetry-Thing Thursday: Nothing So Cutting

Sweat Glistens.
You listen–
skin-to-skin–
to my lesson.

The heart beat is true,
but one of few,
yet to be felt,
‘tween thee and you

Sex clings to air,
fingers grip hair.
So sealed are your fates,
of impassioned despair.

Stuttered breathing.
Milk-white breasts,
heaving.
Hefted in-hand,
what devious seething.

Miles away,
‘tween millions of days,
none can deny,
the animal sway.

It could be wrong,
but long heard’s the song,
of those now regretful;
“don’t worry, just do it,”
and
“cause life isn’t long.”

But the sea’s in your eyes,
and though known to defy,
even shallow oaths,
should now make you comply,
for recall there’s nothing so cutting,
as the sound of “goodbye.”

Short Story: Dead Men

It wasn’t possible. It just wasn’t. Not in a million years. Jake was dead. The trial was over. Martin was cleared of all suspicion. He’d done everything right. He’d passed all the detectors. His lawyer had made all the right arguments. Yet here he was, staring at what appeared to be a live image of Jake Cooper; recent adulterer and still-fresh corpse. The body hadn’t begun to decompose yet.

It had to be a tech trick, he knew. There was no explanation otherwise. He’d broken Jake’s neck himself. Felt the snap. He’d done it in just right, too. He’d had to. Otherwise, there would’ve been no doubts of reality.

As it was, he’d almost cooked his own goose leaving evidence suggesting he knew of the affair. The prosecution had a field day with that. Both Martin and his lawyer stood firm; he knew, but he’d still been deciding how to handle it. He was torn between disbelief and refusal to admit it to himself.

It worked. That was what mattered. The courts, the jury, the judge, his lawyer, everyone believed his version. They believed, per usual, he and Jake had been drinking heavily at his home; that he’d passed out on the couch; that Jake got up to piss; that inebriated as he was– and his BAC concluded– he fell, broke his neck against the bathroom sink; that he wasn’t found until Martin awoke around noon, hung-over and in a panic.

Everyone believed it. All of it. It was a masterful play. One for the ages. If he could only tell someone.

Courtney was still off somewhere, quietly mourning the asshole dicking her despite the five-year relationship with Martin. She was the type to want cake and eat it too. Or in this case, want cock and eat it too. He should’ve known years ago.

He found out in the most mundane way. It still angered him to think about it. He deserved better than looking at Courtney’s phone, being suddenly met with Jake slamming her from behind. Hell, they’d been friends twenty years. He wasn’t even snooping. He was looking for something from an old party. A picture of the two of them. If he’d wanted to snoop, he would have.

But then, there it was: her getting railed from behind. In front of a dirty mirror. Her face half-visible and Jake’s blotted out by the flash. All the same, Martin recognized the tattoos, had seen that filthy mirror often enough. He didn’t need to guess anything.

In hindsight, Martin was proud of himself; of his handling of things. Premeditated murder notwithstanding. He didn’t fly off the handle, and for all he knew, Courtney still wasn’t sure he’d seen the picture. The trial’s nonspecific terms, and his own lies, put the revelation on a discussion that had never taken place. The conversation said the adultery was formed of another, drunken circumstance. Courtney too, enjoyed getting shit-faced. And dicked too. The two collided.

She was just lucky he couldn’t bring himself to off her too.

Martin had killed Jake with his bare hands. Premeditated. No fit of passion. No irrational rage. Rather simple, measured vengeance. Intentional. Indifferent. Not cold. Not hot. It just was.

Just as it was that Jake now stared at Martin from the other side of a vid-call.

Tech. Pre-recorded.

But Jake didn’t know shit about computers. He worked janitorial. He wasn’t the brightest bulb. For that matter, neither was Martin. Nonetheless, he didn’t know shit about tech. He could barely program numbers into his cellphone– though apparently he knew how to coordinate taking a photo with dogging his best-friend’s girl.

The dead-stare in Jake’s face contained the slightest hint of amusement. It told of more to the state of things than a simple VOIP-call.

“SurprisedI’m back from the dead?” Jake asked suddenly. Martin vaguely noticed his own repulsion. “I seethe terror in your face. Don’t worry. My death’s our little secret… for now. I just wanted you to know why I did it. I figured the time would come, sooner or later, when you’d find out.”

Martin cast aside all doubts of a recorded message. It was clear by his implication. Jake managed to pre-record and program a vid-call. He wasn’t sure he’d ever known how to, but he was too focused now to care.

“Fact is, Mart, you’ve always been a cunt.” Martin reeled. “Can’t say I really cared for you most of the time, but brothers’re brothers, right? Can’t choose your family. Just happens. Something kept us friends all these years. Until…”

“Until you start railing Courtney, you fucking asshole,” Martin blurted.

There was a laugh. Too on-point and lag-free to be software. Or maybe not. Fucking eerie. It forced a shudder along Martin’s spine. Goosebumps rippled his limbs.

Jake was chuckling, “Yeah. Courtney.” A “hmm” trailed off into an obvious “mmm.” Martin grit his teeth. Jake ignored it, either in life or death, whichever was represented. “Fact is, Marty ol’ boy, you were a cunt. A royal one. You treated her in accordance with that mentality. You manipulated her with small nudges, quiet words. Everything an asshole does.

“And you drove her straight to me. And I let you. Because she deserved better. Hell, you didn’t even know how to fuck ‘er. Just spasmed on top’a her like a dying fish. Then you had the nerve to go and off me for giving her what she wanted. What she needed.”

Martin’s eyes doubled in size.

“Oh yeah, I know. Dead or not, I know.” He smiled, chuckled. “Funny thing is, Martin, I know a helluva lot more’n you do. A helluva lot more’n you think. For instance, I know how to wire an entire apartment for video and sound without making it look it. I know how to continuously offload that data to an encrypted, remote-server, to spool forever– or until the cameras are destroyed.

“I also know how to automate a botnet to search for relevant news keywords and program it to await specific phrases. For example, “Idiot fuckhead cleared of murder charges in killing of friend.” Then have it send the collected data… well, wherever I want. To an old girlfriend, say.”

Martin’s pulse began to race. He wanted to flee, knew it would do no good. Not yet. He had to know the rest. Had to know what else he was missing.

Jake smiled; a sinister smile. It told Martin more was coming than he wanted. “I know how and when to strike to get the best drop on people. I also happen to know there’s no conceivable way a dead man can be convicted of murder. Even if he were, I know he wouldn’t have two shits to give anyhow.”

The sinister smile tightened. Darkened corners emerged in Jake’s face that terrified Martin. He’d never seen such a monstrous creature before, especially not one in the guise of someone he knew so well.

“Most of all, Martin, I know if you mix a series of house-hold chemicals into a clay-like block and place it in the vicinity of a proper, electrical charge, it will level a building. A charge that, say, could easily be generated by the short in an overclocked computer chip.”

Martin was up, fleeing. Malevolent laughter followed him. He bridged half the distance to his door. Then, nothing– for dead men do nothing more.

Short Story: Nothing Better to Do

Snow plummeted at odd angles, reducing visibility to near-zero. Even if she’d had a car, Elizabeth Arnold would’ve never driven to or from school in such a blizzard. She’d rather take her chances on frost-bite getting through three layers of clothes, rather than risk totaling what would be the only set of wheels she’d have for a decade. So, she was stuck walking home.

Another day, another pile of shit, she’d say. Today that was at least half-true, given how oil darkened and grit covered the snow was. In Bacatta– and most snow-afflicted areas– snow wasn’t white or even gray most times. It was black, or brown, caked with mud, sand, salt, oil, anything the roads picked up between winters. And it was always ugly.

White snow was reserved for lavish places that could as easily afford to import it as choose to live in it. Those sub-human morons could keep their white snow, Elizabeth decided, even if human snow one ice, one part old beef stew without the carrots. All she cared about at the moment though was putting one foot in front of the other, and hoping the effort wasn’t in vain and that she’d get home more or less whole.

For all she knew, the whole city had disappeared beyond the few feet of continuous sidewalk and piled snow that peered in from either side of her hood. Bacatta could be little more than an endless void of white particulates where humanity sound as if it were hiding, but wasn’t. She guessed the answer to that would remain a mystery for some time to come. The forecast for the next few days was, to utterly no-one’s surprise, snow, snow, and more snow. The walk-home white-out was just the start of it. Seventeen years of living in Michigan, Bacatta in particular, had taught her one thing if nothing else; Winter was long and it came early, like the most teasing and disappointing sex partner ever.

Of course it was going to snow. It always did. A lot. So much so the first white-outs closed up the town with a collective “fuck it” that intended to wait out the coming storm. After a few days, and a few feet of snow, the city dug itself out and started up again.

If it weren’t for her foresight, Liz would’ve been forced to trudge home, freezing all the way. Truth was, she expected to get to school only to be turned away. That they’d managed to hold a few classes was as surprising as it was pointless. Half-days were as much snow days as exercises in futility. Especially for high-school students, whom usually weren’t alert until their third or fourth class, all a half day meant was waking up early for no reason or having a free ditch-day.

But Liz had never been one to ditch. She wasn’t sure why. There was no moral obligation compelling her to attend school. The only explanation she’d been able to manifest was “having nothing better to do.”

That apathy was largely prevalent in her life, regardless of venue. Between school, homework, getting older, more cynical, and the trials of recurrent menstruation, too many emotions had bludgeoned her since childhood had ended. So, rather than get angry like some people, she just sort of switched off.

It wasn’t that she didn’t care about people, or even things, just that a once easy-going organism had evolved into one comfortable wherever it found itself. Or, if not comfortable, then indifferent. School was no different. Neither was snow. Even the half-hour walk that should’ve taken ten minutes didn’t really bother her.

She pushed into the house to find it still empty. No surprise; big sister was usually gone and Mom was always working. Most times she had the house to herself. Apart from the day’s excess mental energy, nothing was all that different.

She headed to the basement. It hadn’t use until Liz had moved into it. Since then, she’d entirely taken it over. Apart from laundry and utility rooms, there was nothing anyone had used or needed otherwise. Having an extra bathroom she wasn’t forced to share was nice too, and she’d done her best to decorate the place.

Noon was lunch time. Always. At school, at home, at any other place she could think to go. No matter what she’d eaten for breakfast, too, or what she was doing, as soon as the clock hit noon, her stomach growled and grumbled for sustenance or recompense– usually in the form of fainting. Funny, even her gut seemed to have a do or die attitude despite her otherwise total indifference.

She slapped together a sandwich from provisions she’d squirreled away in a mini-fridge in her room, then sank into a chair in front of her computer. The screen faded on to a web-browser and her open email account. To one side, a message app flashed an alert. Above it read, “Sam Ellery,” in alternating green and white with black text. Below was “Hey Chickie, U round?”

If Liz had to guess, Sam was eating lunch and praying she’d suss out a way to spend the day with her. Liz’s charteristic indifference struck again;she had no strong feelings, one way or the other. Then again, logic begged the question, “what else did she have to do?”

Nothing. Ab-so-lutely nothing.

The next three or four days would be boring as hell unless she rectified the problem now. Sam was probably thinking ahead as much as she was caught in the moment.It didn’t make her any less on target.

Sup?

Liz scarfed down her sandwich, sucked down some soda, and read the next message.

Shit. U?

Same.

Wanna chill?

Liz shrugged to herself. My place or urs?

Urs. Rents r home. Fightin agn. Mind if I stay 2nite?

Another pointless shrug. If u want.

Coo. C u in 10.

With that, at the very least, the next few days had been secured against boredom. Sam always had a heavy bag of grass and at least a handful of ideas to offer to pass time. Liz had plenty of ideas herself. Seeing as no-one ever entered the basement either, incense could cover the smell of even a few bags of lit grass.

Ten minutes passed quicker than Liz expected. Sam entered without knocking. Even had she, Liz would’ve never heard it. It was just easier this way. She shook snow off herself, dropped a heavy backpack just beyond the closed, basement door, and dug out a separate pair of shoes to change from her snowy ones.

Liz watched with something like envy; Sam was always stunning, even in spite of a little pudge around the love-handles. Perhaps it was just her confidence– her small build made the pudge more noticeable but she seemed ever the force of nature. Her larger cups and the petite hourglass they hung on couldn’t hurt, Liz knew.

Liz was the opposite in almost every way; a hair taller than average, lumpy in all the wrong places, flat in most others. If it weren’t for the aloof personality she’d cultivated, she’d have probably been a neurotic mess of insecurities. Weed helped too.

Sam settled onto the small couch beside Liz, pack beside her feet. She broke out a bag of grass and a few cigars and rolling papers, set them on a book atop the coffee table.

“What’chu been up to?”

“Had lunch. Now this,” she said, focused on the TV.

“Wha’s it?”

She shrugged, “Some movie. Started just before you came in. Dunno know what about yet.”

Sam poured weed onto the book, put one half onto another book, and handed it over with the cigars and a knife. “Roll the blunts. I’ve got more weed if you need it. I’ll do the joints.”

The pair worked autonomously, eyes focused intently on the screen ahead. The idiot box had claimed two more victims for their foreseeable future. By the time the pair were done rolling their respective smokeables, they were on the edge of their seats.

The movie, it turned out, was about two young girls, both friendless and alone with great responsibility riding on them. All that usual mumbo-jumbo about strength and companionship and how greatness was a measure of someone’s birthstone or something.

As they sparked their first round of grass, the pair derided the movie. It wasn’t for lack of enjoyment, but rather to mask the awkwardness of the increasingly misplaced sexual tension between the two, female leads. The weed descended and the awkwardness disintegrated into its own, self-derision with giddy glee. Everything was suddenly hilarious. Especially when the two women ended the movie with a cliched, triumphant-victory kiss.

The pair fell about in stitches, their second joint burning down in the ashtray.

Liz laughed through tears, “Jesus, that was the worst kiss I’ve ever seen.”

Sam giggled with screeching breaths, fighting to open her mouth and stick out her tongue, flick it around with exaggerated movements.

Liz gasped for air, “You look… like a cow!”

Sam managed to lock herself into a rhythm of the movements. Between it and the tearful laughter, she found it nearly impossible to stop. It only fueled the already maniacal fires of laughter.

By the end of it, both girls feared for their lives from airless lungs and watery eyes. The laughter settled enough for breath to return as credits faded to commercials began, separating the end of one movie from the start of another.

“I mean, really,” Liz said, laughs still bubbling out here and there. “Who kisses like that?”

Sam’s laughs were lighter, arguably more under control now, “I honestly don’t know.”

“Oh jeeze, what the hell were they thinking?” She forced laughter away with a wide grin.

“I know. Such a lame ass ending.”

“And such a bad kiss.”

Sam chuckled with a roll of her eyes, “Not like you could’a done better.”

“Oh I so could,” Liz balked with a smarmy smile.

“Prove it,” Sam challenged with a raised eyebrow.

What? You want me to kiss you?” She asked, her eyes gigantic.

“Put your money where my mouth is,” Sam giggled. “I bet you’re all wet and sloppy.”

Liz’s mouth hung open, “I dunno’ which is worse, your insult or that you wanna’ kiss me!”

“Oh c’mon.” She hissed playfully, “Wussss”

Their eyes met for a moment: the simple challenge in Sam’s, and the deranged question of sanity in Liz’s. Sam’s raised brow said putting her money where her mouth was– or rather, where Sam’s mouth was– was the only way out of the challenge without a forfeit. Whether from Sam’s confidence that she was, in fact, a terrible kisser, or something else entirely, Liz couldn’t back down. She stiffened her face, finally not indifferent toward something; and that was that she wasn’t about to back down.

She grabbed Sam’s face almost sarcastically, hesitated, then stuck her tongue in with fast movements. The sarcasm suddenly slipped away. Her body flared with heat. It slowed her tongue, Sam’s with it. Almost a full minute passed before the girls parted.

Sam’s eyes nearly closed, her voice soft, “That was really good.”

Liz nearly panted, “Agreed.”

Before either one realized it, Sam was straddling Liz, their hands roving and tongues dancing. For the first time, Liz’s indifference was nowhere to be found. In fact, the only thing she could find was a certain, undeniable lust to continue running the bases.

Likewise, Sam didn’t want her to her stop. One thing was already leading to another, and being teenagers with home plate never far off, she didn’t see a reason for it not to keep leading there. By the end of the night, a lot of things were in limbo but one thing was certain; even if they’d had nothing better to do before, their few snow days were now full, and they’d be anything but boring.

Sam rolled over and kissed Liz’s neck. Then, as if to confirm their shared thoughts, Liz giggled and pulled the blanket over their heads.

Back in Sol Again: Part 7

7.

The Colloquial Human

The few people aware of the anti-Humanist development were on-edge, Simon among them. Something about knowing utter chaos is poised to break out makes one absolutely paranoid. This is yet another example of universal phenomena. Every sound was an attack. Every light-flicker an assault. Every shadow an assailant.

Were it not for occasional trips to the break-room, and seeing Lina there, Simon might’ve lost his mind. She fared more or less normally. He grew worse over time, internally and otherwise. His feelings became mirrored, first by rumpled clothing and dishelved hair. Then, in a grease-slick face and wide, red-veined eyes.

Ultimately, Niala had been right; hours could pass as quietly as needed, but even five minutes before contact was enough it to a mockery. Simon still remembered confronting Josie– or whom he assumed to be her– and having his throat cut. Things had gone from zero-to-bloody carnage in a blink.

Lina didn’t quite understand that. She was an innocent, in her way. While he wouldn’t recommend near-death experiences– or rather, near-murdered ones– blissful ignorance made it impossible to relate. Then again, she wasn’t entirely ignorant, just in disbelief of her own vulnerability. At least, she treated it as such.

Despite his gratitude for her reassurances, she simply couldn’t make things better. Danger turned him to rubber. Until forced to become stone or become dead, he was useless. He’d done well with the stone part in the past, but his wasn’t an on-off switch engaged at will like Niala’s.

He was tense. So were many others. Like Lina with him, the whole ship felt it even if most didn’t know why. Sleep was restless, difficult. Lina felt it too–

And materialized unexpectedly at Simon’s apartment.

He’d zoned out on his couch, staring at a Vidscreen. Nowadays most people had dual, inbuilt Vidscreen/holoprojectors, but given the cabin’s circumstances, vidscreens alone would do. As spacious as the state-rooms were, space was at a premium. Yet another con to add to the ever-spooling list. Simon didn’t care. In fact, the movie he was currently watching was older than anyone or anything ship-board.

On-screen, the 1000ft tall lizard, played by Haruo Nakajima in a heavy rubber-suit, stomped out and belched atomic breath across Japan. The metaphorical atom bomb Godzilla represented seemed the perfect fit to Simon’s circumstances. Much like the atom bomb, no-one really knew what to do in the event of this new species being met. Everyone had their theories, their protocols to be adhered to, (or discarded) but no-one really knew how to act.

Nor could they. Not until the moment had passed and they could benefit from hindsight.

Much like them, Simon was indecisive, uncertain. He’d inherit enough of the chaos sure to overwhelm Homer’s crew when, if ever, it descended. He currently preparing for that possibility by imbibing as much down-time as manageable. Though something was bound to come and ruin it eventually, he felt the knock on the door premature.

Then the door opened, and there was Lina.

The first thing Simon thought was to check his watch: Despite being more light years from home than most of his species could manage, everyone aboard Homer still went by Zulu Standard time. That is to say, Earth-standard 24 hour day whose zero-hour aligned with the zero hour of an arbitrary line drawn upon a map of “Earth, Sol system” somewhere far far away.

Consequently, the debate of time’s existence and effects is a long, heated one which most often descends into fecal flinging no matter one’s location in the universe.

His first thought was answered by his digital Casio, which gave the time as 02:30.

His second thought was spoken aloud, went, “Lina? What’re you doing here?”

Her eyes fluttered, brighter than she’d have liked. The air around her said she was wired. Simon sympathized, but for once it wasn’t his reason for remaining awake. He’d simply become used to sleeping a certain way aboard Homer. Given the last week was their first aboard, he saw no reason to break the habit yet.

Lina replied to his question with an involuntary sigh. “Can I come in?”

He thought of what happened the last time she’d entered his stately hell-hole and realized he was once again in his underwear. She pushed past for the couch and vid-screen, took in the screaming, atomized breath of Godzilla.

“Old monster flicks? I had no idea.”

He eyed his exposed lower-half, its tightie-whities persisting despite their generations of unflattering fashion, and shrugged. He shut the door and sat beside her on the couch, only then noticing she was clad in a robe, with little more than boy-short panties, slippers, and a dark, see-through tank-top on beneath.

“Y-yeah,” he stammered. “So… is everything alright?”

She nodded, eyes glued to the screen. “Just can’t sleep. Too much work. S’like running on I-V adrenaline.”

He did his best to be at ease with things that otherwise made him feel nervous. Perhaps that was Lina’s plan; arrive as relaxed as possible and catch him in a similar state.

She leaned her head against his shoulder and his eyes fell to her, then beyond to spy the hint of pink peering from beneath her bra-less, tank-top. Panic shifted his attention to his tightie-whities that tented swiftly despite his will.

He squirmed in terror. The heart attack sure to come was fed by the path he found himself on and a dark primal desire. The path was one of real, deep love for Lina. The desire was a hot, slobbering, myopic beast that sought nothing but another of its kind.

The cause, unfortunately for Earth descendants like Simon, Lina, and every other creature hailing from Sol, was the very thing they owed their existence to. An act of bonding between two halves of genetic data in formation of one, new one. This act, known as conception, was an incident (or more oft-times, accident) stemming from succumbing to one or another’s love, lust, or simple boredom driven by that primal, beastly desire.

Early in Solsian history, the goal of this desire was building a genomic legacy that, in the grander scheme of things, was as self-serving and pointless as all other activities life engaged in. Despite never receiving an answer as to its purpose, life was not dissuaded in its attempts to carry on. In parlance, this process was done through “having sex,” “doing it,” “fucking.”

In reality, there was no purpose to life. As evidenced across Sol, the Milky Way, or indeed the known universe. For, in order for it to bear purpose it required one assigning said purpose, a reality with even less evidence than a “life’s-purpose” itself. Like everything, life merely existed. Reasoning was an abstract side-effect of intellect and sentience, just as it seemed, was making an ass of oneself. Believing otherwise was the result of imagination, ego, and the need to belong, to understand.

If one required a meaning for life, in an effort to fulfill some facetious need, they must first recognize that need was no more necessary than life’s existence itself. One would then need recognize “purpose” was merely their own desire to have purpose. Only then could any purpose be ascribed. Thus one must recognize all of the preceding as moot; as unnecessary as anything could be.

If one managed thus, and was not turned away from pursuing the result entirely due to existential dread or elsewise, the following could then and only then, be regarded as life’s purpose– as evidenced by its own commitment to one, inherently adhered to principal; to persist.

The only purpose life, known and unknown, might be said to have was that which coincided with empirical evidence. From the vacuum of space, to the molten core of Earth, and beyond it entirely to the volcanic world of G876-d, and beyond it still, life had done nothing but attempt to, and ultimately succeed in, persisting. In doing so, it had made possible adaptation through the process of evolution.

And thus, it reinforced the idea of persistence as a means of course. That purpose, in its way, was so grand yet simple it seems the greatest rationale as any might find, especially where science is concerned. Grand as it was in its attempt to persist, Nature; the conglomerate of living things and forces acting upon them, had thus imbued the varying species and races with implements to continue persisting.

For Sol, these methods of persistence, fucking, were carried out via the concept of attraction. The bridging force of spaces between two beings capable of mating, attraction, led colloquially, to fucking. As all things regarding evolution, fucking required primers be engaged before the act could be carried out– no matted how satisfied or not the effected parties found themselves after.

For most, Solsian males (and Human males in particular) one of these priming events was the inward flowing of blood to the male sex organ, officially known as the penis, colloquially known as The Rod, Dick, Cock, etc. The blood, then kept from flowing out again and forced to pool, filled The Rod’s spongy, internal tissues. The experienced erection, or “hardening” of The Rod, continued until it more or less stood freely of its own accord. (Other Solsian males, most often politicians, merely found themselves a few inches taller.)

Life’s intent and success at persistence had imbued itself, and Simon specifically, with this tightie-whitie tenting capacity. Blood cells had arrived, and as a family at picnic on a breezy summer’s day, had pitched a tent as large and wide as they could muster. Some were shamelessly proud of it.

Contrary to logical deductions and life’s own “purpose,” this was absolutely the last thing in all the universe Simon wanted to happen.

Or so he thought. For the actual last thing was what came next.

Lina giggled. “Happy to see me?”

He tried to hide it by crossing his legs with an obviously desperate chuckle. Instead, he thrust it forward and grunted. (Recall the male propensity for grunting.) Lina snickered. Before he realized it, she was atop him, straddling The Rod in all its hard glory.

“Lina, I–”

She shut him up with a kiss. Then another.

And a third.

Like their male counterparts, Human females too, had ways of preparing for the act of mating– fucking. It involved a series of secretions released within the reproductive organ, (officially termed Vagina, but also known as pussy, snatch, satin pouch, etc) that lubricated it for The Rod’s reception whilst signaling arousal. (Personally, Lina preferred “pussy,” but like The Rod, there were equally as infinite an amount of names.)

Lina’s body had been worked to a near frenzy before ever arriving at Simon’s door. Admittedly, her intentions had never been to straddle him, but as they were both rather enjoying it now, she saw no harm in it. Rather, it was a reaction to seeing that, like her, he found himself involuntarily aroused by their combined presence.

The near-frenzy she’d achieved before her arrival was the result of her inability to sleep. Temporary insomnia had been a problem of Lina’s since she was a young girl living outside Sussex and dreaming of bigger, more amazing things than England’s southern grasses.

It had taken quite a few years to master her bouts of temporary insomnia, but most of the time, could be done with a single act. If however, that act failed, as it could from time to time, she would be forced to toss and turn restlessly until sleep came far too late and far too short– unlike her.

Incidentally, that act of stress relief was meant to also temper the lust of Solsian creatures. An act that, as a result of Solsian life’s evolved methods for persisting, required essentially fucking oneself somehow. Literally.

Lina had used masturbation as much as a tool for relaxation as for relieving pent-up sexual tension. Since her early youth, when insomnia attempted to rear its ugly head, she skirted and explored her own southern, English grasses until climax left her writhing like a drooling, drugged psych-patient.

From a youth experiencing it for the first time, through restless post-adolescence and adulthood’s nights of grad school, and now to her place on the first expedition outside Sol, Lina’s use of the act had varying degrees of success. Unfortunately, as then with now, failure meant not only failing to achieve sleep but also the intended climax– cumming, and largely the only conscious reason for any creature to attempt fucking, alone or with others.

Lina had failed to sleep, failed to cum, and failed to relieve herself of the growing tension within. Instead of wallowing, she felt it best to visit Simon, hoping to spend her restless night in the company of a warm and familiar embrace, if nothing else. What she did not realize, nor could Simon have anticipated in a million years, was the sudden, unconscious drive that would seize Lina at seeing The Rod so proudly supporting the raised tent.

She wanted to fuck.

Simon.

And Bad.

Thus, the pair found themselves half-clothed, fully aroused, and headed for “the next level.”

The painful confinement of Simon’s tighty-whities suddenly gave way to sexually-heated air between his and Lina’s groins. In a breath, that too gave way to a welcome, constricting wetness. After minutes of astoundingly extreme physicality, the pair collapsed on the floor beside the couch, pleasure trickling through them.

Neither could help wanting more, nor receiving.

Events repeated in prolonged fashion until they once more found themselves on the floor, propped on pillows, with Lina’s robe across them for warmth. Simon was still a ways from it himself, but Lina quickly fell into sleep, her head on his chest and her body against his.

There was no doubt this would prove only the first of many such encounters. They’d already established that desire and more in one another’s minds. Thus, such fucking undoubtedly led to that most highly-regarded of delusions, love. And though Simon could only vouch for himself thus far, he was perfectly fine with it. As other, omnipotent forces could relay however, Lina felt exactly the same.

Unfortunately, things can get much more complicated before settling for any protracted period. For Simon, Lina, and others prepared to board the temporary outpost over G876-d, that time was roughly… now.