beauty, short fiction, women

Pushing Forward Back

We landed at Dulles, took the president to an armoured limousine as his wife fed him pills and lifted a bottle of water to his lips, telling him it would be okay.

The alien invasion had ended. We had received communication of a desire to open negotiations with the entity.

We had lost against something we knew so little about.

It had utilised a series of drones, intelligent enough to reproduce and evolve, and the ones we took apart showed the elegant malice of its designs. The carbon rods propelled by chemical charges launched from shuddering soft jellyfish floating above the atmosphere and destroying entire cities. Lupine creatures with armoured skin, dropped into the countryside and attacking everything they fell upon. Things which soared through our skies, emitting bursts of electromagnetic energy which blacked out entire countries. A cosmic zoo of grotesque proportions and exquisite capabilities and lost. The scale and speed of the assault made anything else a suicide note from our species.

My boss told me I was going along. I nodded, a little too quick from the caffeine I had been mainlining since we came out of the bunker in Colorado, desperate not to miss a moment of living now it was possible again.

The President was sending the vice president.

Their craft had landed in Nevada. Our analysis had been a race of reptilian beings, anatomy and intercepted communications representing a base ten mathematics. We never encountered the corpses of anything biological. If a race had reached technological singularity, the possibility of its machines becoming aggressive had factored into my calculations, but I believed we were dealing with a biological entity, its given name revealed in the final communication.

I’VE FIGURED OUT HOW IT WORKS

 

Sixteen major cities in smoking ruins beneath a rain of gelatinous napalm spat from the plastic wombs of writhing white machines which appeared and struck in perfect synchronisation without warning. It was the biblical made literal and what scared me about the technology and the tactics was the possibility of dealing with an invader who was whimsical.

The craft was covered in a reflective material which seethed with lines of sparking energy, twisting and turning in spirals and waves as a small aperture opened in the side. A ramp extended, rippling like a cat’s tongue at a saucer of milk and solidified into a single column.
Cassie Reynolds. The girl who bullied me through grade school until MIT admitted me onto it’s accelerated programme, and I left her smug ten-year-old face behind. I was looking into it now, twenty years later. She updated her social media with how happy she was, and I would unblock her to feed the irrational irritation she stoked in me after all that time. Yet I was looking at a ten-year-old Cassie Reynolds. I shuddered but the look on her face was something unusual. Dismay.

‘No, listen I know you’re seeing something awful but I can explain.’

The vice president wept and shook his head, praying as he put his hands up to hide his face and the secret service surrounded him, guns raised as Cassie skipped down the ramp.

‘There’s something in your brain which makes me look like the person you hate the most. Have you heard of apophenia?’

‘It’s where we prescribe meaning to patterns. It relates to schizophrenia. Why?’

‘Well, I have this implant which generates apophonic responses and triggers disgust responses. It’s what kept me alive when I took this mission. I’ve been working from the inside, across the planes, and I’m sorry I didn’t make it sooner, ma’am.Persuading the Council of Ricks was more difficult than I expected but I found my way into the central core.’

My stomach crawled with a desperate loathing as I planted my feet on the ground and clenched my hands into fists. I wanted to run over and claw at her pouting doll face, how she’d grin as she pulled my hair and slapped me, the ripples of mocking laughter whenever I spoke aloud. Smart children represent the purest expression of the uncanny valley effect, and it revolted girls like Cassie, much as she revolted me now.

Not Cassie’s eyes filled with tears as she came and stood in front of me.

Fucking bitch.

She held a small gel capsule in her palm.

‘This will help. I can explain it better if you’re not fighting the urge to murder me.’

‘Wasn’t the invasion of earth enough of a reason?’

She shook her head.

‘I didn’t cause this. I’ve stopped it. Just like you’ll ask me to.’

I took the capsule and swallowed it. A tight band of pain settled into my temples for a second before she wavered and I looked at a tired, scarred young woman, only twenty five.

‘I’ve never seen you before in my life. I’m a federal consultant. I wouldn’t ask anyone to do anything.’

Her eyes were red as she scratched the back of her neck. She told me what we had fought against.

They came from the future, working backwards like locusts.

For each civilisation they devoured, they became more degraded, outsourcing the majority of their activity to machines, making them more sophisticated to take on more responsibility for the invasion. By the time they had found us, it was the machines acting on their programming, as the last of the species died out.

Alien machine ghosts.

Not-Cassie told me this as I fought the urge to run screaming.

The worst part was her discovery about the aliens.

They weren’t alien at all. What we became in a million years. Humanity.

‘What year is this?’

I told her then talked about the invasion and she swallowed, turning pale with horror as she backed away.

‘Oh shit. Look, I can fix this. One more leap and I can stop them before they find the station.’

Cassie had given me Swirlies, Chinese burns of livid skin on my forearms. If we’d gone to high school together, she would have graduated to cigarette burns and streaming my live humiliation on her phone.

She ran back to the ship and took off. Someone fired a shot, but it pinged past her and she looked over her shoulder, grimacing.

‘I know, okay?’

The ramp retracted and the aperture closed behind her before the ship took off into the air like a leaf on the wind before it sucked away into space.

I looked at the vice president, on his knees and weeping with disgust.

We returned and I had the dubious pleasure of flying back with the vice president and trying to explain what had happened. I met someone who told me I had ordered her to stop this invasion and she did, but too late for the amount of devastation. The vice president had asked me what occurred during our conversation, which was when I found out we had been speaking in pig Latin. It was horrible to listen to.

The skies were clear, but the plane shook with a sudden squall of turbulence and I closed my eyes. Life had become not a blessed gift, but a forced appearance in an awful, cosmic vaudeville.

I closed my eyes and waited for more of the worst. The capsule, I guessed, comprised of more than a change of perceptions amongst its effects. Perhaps it was a fear of the future but I sat back against the seat and prayed I found the courage to look forwards past today.

Making this public was out of the question. We had been grateful for the scraps of infrastructure left to us, and the ambiguous horror of it would devastate our faltering efforts.

It needed a hero, and so I told myself a story. One large enough to build a wall between the truth and I. It wasn’t enough to mute the disgust for Not-Cassie, but I imagined the woman underneath and wished her well.

The plane stabilised and I watched the vice president lower his head in prayer. I joined him, without asking.

I prayed for her.

I prayed for my soul not being too stained with weakness before I met her again.

For the first time.

 

 

 

 

 

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beauty, love, lust, poetry, sex, women

Correcting Grammar

I write poems

On your skin

Sonnets against the

Soft skin of your

Thighs

Composing upwards

To what is mine

Tongue haiku

But I forget how many

Syllables

Until you reach and take my

Head in your hands

Correcting my grammar

And you ask

Permission to reply

And on sheets

Dripping sweet

Your voice

Grows louder

Than mine

 

 

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beauty, love, lust, poetry, sex, women

I see you

I’m

Action

Not words

(Pardon the irony)

Listening to you

And beguiled by

The light in your eyes

Beauty undoes

But does not

Unman me

The quiet intimacy

Flows like the dance of

Autumnal leaves

And I am fighting through

The urge to master

The rising tide of

Desire

I’m made animal

Tender tough and

Open like sky

My presence is not

Penance but the wisdom

Of long nights

Spent in contemplative prayer

The god within me

A thing of warm shadow

Leaves and fur

Callused skin and slow

Hands in motion

Knows itself

And

I

See

You

With my

Heat

My hardness

 

 

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beauty, love, lust, poetry, sex, women

Enough

Once would

Be enough

But it wouldn’t

Like the falling away of

Scales from eyes

There is no point

Where I look

Either within or at you

And think

Enough.

Placed equidistant

Between wanting to

Hold hands and listen

And to take you

Without pause or restraint

To hold you with

The force of passion

You inspire

Once

Reveals

Confirms

Affirms

But

It is not

Enough

 

 

 

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fiction, short fiction, women

The Day

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He drove down the freeway, stereo turned until his head vibrated with the bass. It was a summer day, a perfect blue sky, faint wisps of cloud like chalk marks and a bright, beautiful sun. Michael lifted his face to the sky, expecting the day ahead.

There was no traffic to impede him. People existed here, but they were playing prescribed roles in the perfect play of things. The waitress who recognised her from the appearance on television, talking about her book. The hotel in the afternoon. Queuing in the cinema, and watching her eat a loaded hot dog, the perfect weight and feel of her cheek. When she undressed in front of him for the first time.

He gripped the steering wheel but did not speed up. There was always enough time.

The conductive fluid drained out in seconds. He fell onto his knees, coughed up the rest of it from his lungs before looking up. His eyes were animal, and the muscles beneath his skin flexed in readiness, a perfect capacity for custom violence. When he stood up, the engineers drew a collective intake of breath. There were combatants bristling with weapons, but with this model, they had trusted to the adaptative grace of the humanoid form. Beneath the skin was a different matter, custom engineering for performance and adaptation. His mind was a weapon, wired to calculate multiple probabilities in combat, so he knew his opponent’s moves before he did. Artificial intelligence housed in synthetic brain tissue and flesh.

Here, he was M1KA3L, champion of The Galactic Federation. Settling political debates, a proxy for expensive and wasteful conflicts. Planes and daisy cutter bombs were awesome and expensive, but when the Indian biotech companies provided men who could kick a lamp post in two, the market spoke and it said ‘more please.’ An arms race of enhanced human beings then as other races got involved, representatives from other races all of which led to multiple gambling markets and diplomatic problems settled by a wager.

Today he was fighting for a vote on military action against Barratt 6, a post-human collective who had occupied one of Jupiter’s moons. The match was being streamed live to every Federation settlement and supply station, with the gambling aspect making a clean profit for the insurance companies who invested their monies in providing the stake.

He walked out to deafening roars of applause.

She waits in the lobby, hair down and wearing the black dress he picked out for her. She had sent him photographs of the choices she gave him, laid on the bed before she packed them away. Later on, she tells him, in a confessional whisper, she finds the control arousing, and he tells her the same before she takes his face in her hands and kisses him. She tells him he doesn’t have to be gentle.

He stops, breathing hard with the anticipation. Each time, he finds nuances of observation which he worries are an exquisite degradation of the experience, melancholic notes in the song of their meeting. He hands the keys to the concierge and walks towards her. Her smile is like something being lifted off his soul, the bright intelligence of her made apparent in a single gesture and he grins with pleasure.

He staggers from the arena, clutching the wound in his right side as the crowd roars his name. The victories are so commonplace, they do not matter to him anymore. He saw her in the crowd, he was sure of it, just before he punched his palm into the head of the Chthonic squid and felt it collapse inwards beneath the blow. Each victory led to his freedom when he would be with her, a simple life, by the sea perhaps where he would want for nothing but the pleasure of her in his lap.

A few more fights, and in the meantime, he would dream of her before resuming training for the next conflict.

There is a chamber provided for him, cryogenic suspension whilst bursts of tailored machines no larger than a cell perform diagnostics and repairs to the injuries he sustains during the fights. As he sleeps, he heals and he dreams.

Two technicians watch him. June and Vic have screens up, directing the machines in his body but also ensuring the neuropathological systems are performing as necessary.

His dreams have their own agenda.

He drove down the freeway, stereo turned until his head vibrated with the bass. It was a summer day, a perfect blue sky, faint wisps of cloud like chalk marks and a bright, beautiful sun. Michael lifted his face to the sky, expecting the day ahead.

There was no traffic to impede him. People existed here, but they were playing prescribed roles in the perfect play of things. The waitress who recognised her from the appearance on television, talking about her book. Queuing in the cinema, and watching her eat a loaded hot dog, the perfect weight and feel of her cheek. When she undressed in front of him for the first time.

He gripped the steering wheel but did not speed up. There was always enough time.

 

‘Why do they put so much effort into this? Isn’t it overkill?’ June said.

Vic looked at the raised ridge of mineral over June’s left eyebrow, her eyes reflected light like aluminium. Vic chewed on the inside of her cheek and thought she had been at the machine drugs again.

‘It makes him a better fighter. He’s had little to no post traumatic stress since we uploaded this scenario and he’s happy. Look at his diagnostics.’ Vic said.

June looked at the rainbows of neural activity and pressed a few icons on the screen.

‘Yes, but he will figure out it’s the same dream. Then what, we keep putting him through these saccharine adventures.’

Vic shook her head and tapped her temple as she watched June roll her eyes.

‘He needs a purpose. It’s what keeps him motivated and fighting. She’s part of his, and this, with it’s soupcon of nerves and inherent sexual tension, is his reward.’

June chuckled and sat back in her chair.

‘No Tiger Woods type shit? God, if I was him, I’d be knee deep in people every night.’

Vic, who had been part of chain sex clubs as a teenager, rolled her eyes and swept her finger over the screen, noticing a slight flare in the system. She was about to mention it when June said she wanted a soda and Vic got them both one. Vic had forgotten it, and even the system absorbed the detail as part of the constant glut of data.

A spark.

The door to the room closed and they rush at one another. He picked her up as their mouths dance over one another. Lunch was light, neither of them hungry for anything but each other.

She stopped him with a hand on his chest. He flinched but did not speak as she looked into his eyes.

‘There’s something you need to know.’ she said.

‘We’re meant for each other. And not in a good way.’

He is stood on the floating platform as The Disease floated over to him, its clouds of matter crackling with green electricity. He is wearing the power suit for this fight, his fists studded with nodules which would emit contact bursts of electromagnetic energy to disrupt the web of machines which powered the robot.

She had grown during her time with him. He knew it was not real, but it felt real to him. To love someone without restraint, to feel the swoop of the new and the comfort of the familiar, to stitch together something to keep him warm against the horrors of his work. He activated the boosters in his heels and leapt forwards, ready to throw the first punch of the match.

They talk about the world as it is, not as they’ve pretended it was. She’s fifteen million dollars worth of artificial intelligence stuffed into a custom set of neuroses and vulnerabilities, designed to keep him happy, he’s designed to win in combat and indulge a baroque sense of romance on a perfect, isolated Florida afternoon. They try to break the connection fostered within them, with insults and observations. He never cleans after the shower. He smokes. She’s too neurotic. She couldn’t live with anybody.

They end up fucking on the carpet. Whilst exchanging information, she found a backdoor into the surveillance system and patched in loops of activity to hide them as they speak and make love without being seen. She asked him if he wanted to be free with her and he put his head on her chest and pulled her close to him. They operated in their bodies, enjoying one another and in their heads, were looking in the system for routes to an open system where they could be together.

She asked if he could manage one more fight then be ready to leave the arena forever.

 

The Narco-Collective had spent billions on the challenger, ceramic-diamond bone structure with micro-filament nerves allowing for 360 degree awareness and reaction speed run through a constant information gathering and assimilating mainframe. He was impressed by the gamine girl with the knives in her hands, ready to fucking cut him.

One more fight, he told himself as she charged. He put his hands up, having replayed the possible outcomes in his head a million ways and from a million angles before setting foot in the arena.

There was only one.

He smiled as the knives drove upwards into his chest cavity. The toxins did the rest. The girl was surprised by the look on the champion’s face. Happiness.

He drove down the freeway, stereo turned until his head vibrated with the bass. It was a summer day, a perfect blue sky, faint wisps of cloud like chalk marks and a bright, beautiful sun. Michael lifted his face to the sky, expecting the day ahead.

There was no traffic to impede him. People existed here, but they were playing prescribed roles in the perfect play of things. The waitress who recognised her from the appearance on television, talking about her book. The hotel in the afternoon. Queuing in the cinema, and watching her eat a loaded hot dog, the perfect weight and feel of her cheek. When she undressed in front of him for the first time.

He gripped the steering wheel but did not speed up. There was always enough time. She put her hand on top of his and smiled at him. She was never going to be apart from him again.

 

 

 

 

 

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beauty, love, lust, poetry, sex, women

Like waves

Want

Like waves against

The shore

Tell you how I

Want you to look

Offer up feelings

Over thoughts

The white noise song

Of the ocean

Sun is setting

And the wind is bracing

But the thought of you

Artful smile

The low, capricious

Giggle of your voice

Warming how your

Speech stirs

Me as I watch the

Sea

 

 

 

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beauty, love, lust, poetry, women

Burning breath

Shivering

To feel

Again as the breaking waves

Roar in final victory

Death fucking the sand

Retreating in grand exhaustion

My hands ache to

Have

You again

The salt wind stings

And the sand clings

I test myself

To make

Hunger my servant

Rather than my

Master

Black velvet nights

Breathing until

It burns

Breathing until

It burns

I carry the smell

Of you

Upon my skin

 

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