On the Dark Side of the Bum – An erotic friend fiction

on the dark side of the bum3On the Dark Side of the Bum – An erotic friend fiction by J. Fitzpatrick Mauldin

 

 

 

The light of the sun faded away as my spacecraft plunged into the shadow of the moon. I was terrified for a moment, afraid my neutron reactor might not be enough without the vast energy provided by the sun. No turbo boosters would be available. No beta lasers. No easy escape. But the more I thought of it, the more a strange comfort enveloped my heart.

    I told myself: I had always lived in the dark. Always been denied something great and bright and life giving. The dark side of the moon would be no different.

 Maybe that was why I took these fool hearted missions. Missions that most members of the Star Corps would have laughed at and said no without hardly a thought. It was voluntary to put my life at risk in this way. Then again, all space travel was a calculated risk. It’s cold and dangerous in the void—and even more so in my heart.

  My radio crackled. “Identify yourself.”

  “This is Allison Rainbowhair of the Penetrator. I’m on a mission from the Star Corp, I—”

  “Ally?” The responder gave me pause. I’d heard someone say my name like that before, but it was years ago on a dark, damp night, kicking legs hanging off a pier upon the Puget Sound.

  “Sherry?” I swallowed, feeling my heart flicker. Her name felt wonderful to vocalize. “What are? How did you?”

  “There’s no time! I can see your approach vector. Take the Penetrator in hard. We’re waiting for you on Moon Base Gamma.”

  “It’s bad, isn’t it?”

  A long moment passed, radio crackling with empty static. “It’s always bad when zombies move in.” The line went dead.

  I shoved down on the controls and pointed the tip of the Penetrator at the tight hole of the docking bay. Once I was inside, it was clear other Star Corp members had taken on this mission. Half a dozen vehicles were docked within, their weapons and engines cold, power cores running at bare minimum.

  I slipped into my skin-tight EVA suit, vacuum fabric tracing the curves of my body, caressing my breasts and hips and legs with gentle pressure. Two years ago, dressing like this would have made me feel embarrassed, self-conscience. I inspected myself in the mirror and marveled, the bend of my backside pristine in the thin, environmental suit.

  “Now that’s a butt.” I twisted. “Wish it always looked like that.”

  The vacuum fabric flashed to life, spewing pinks and reds from the lighted panels that covered it. My helmet slipped over my head, clicked onto the collar and sealed me in.

  I took a rifle from the rack and hit the airlock release.

  Among the shadows of the docking bay, black figures slithered and writhed. One wrong move and I would be just like them, a carrier of death, a 22nd century zombie. I sauntered towards them with my rifle lowered, determined to see this mission through.

  “Put on a brave face,” I told myself.

  Flash. Flash. My plasma rifle sizzled, cutting holes through anything bold enough to come too close.

  More of them appeared, trundling about in groups ten or fifteen strong. It seemed that somehow, they had learned to live without oxygen, unlike their ancestors. I fired my rifle again, heading for the airlock into the base. Flash. Flash. They burned and fell smoking, got back up.

  “Tougher than I thought,” I groaned, shaking one off my leg. I prayed it had not pierced the suit. “AHH!!!” I shouted, putting the plasma rifle into full auto mode, spraying into the oncoming flood of necrosis.

  I tripped over a power connector and fell on the ground. Tentacles wrapped around my face mask. Death was near.

  “No!” I heard a scream, and then, I was being drug across the floor. A moment later I was inside the base, a tentacle being peeled away from my helmet’s visor.

  “Damn, I hate tentacle zombies,” someone said as my helmet lifted off. “Are you okay? Geez, girl, that was close. They almost made it through the fabric. And, if they had, there’s a fifty-fifty chance you’d be a unicorn, or another one of Cthulhu’s rejects.”

  “Not the worst odds I’ve had.” I sat up, tossing back my rainbow hair. It had fallen out of my scrunchie in the fight. “Who are you?”

  Before me, a girl in sexy power armor, unhelmeted, head topped with a tumble of luminous, red-hair, grinned down at me. She cocked her hip to the side and gave an arched brow, armor hissing with the movements. “Name’s Shelby Starshine, Corp rank 6. This over here is Clinical Size Clint, Chevonne, and Dave the Gunslinger.”

  They too were wearing skin-tight suits just like me. All had beautiful, big butts. Butts so plump I wanted to pick them like peaches.

  Dave gave me a rakish grin, toothpick flipping in and out of his mouth. Unlike the rest of the Star Corp members, his suit was shirtless, revealing a range of defined musculature. Calling it an eight pack would have been an understatement. “How ya doin’?” He lifted his belt and let it fall, rocking his hips a tiny bit while making a clicking noise. Clint rolled his eyes at Dave.

  “All any of you ever think about is sex,” Chevonne said. “You’ll be the death of us all. That’s why I got married.”

  The moon base groaned for a moment, making everyone stare at the ceiling. The zombies were putting too much stress on the structure.

  I peered past the Star Corp members. “Who’s the girl watching the hallway in the spandex fairy costume?”

  “Oh her? Yeah, that’s Eleesha. And it’s no costume. She’s a fairy.”

  Clint raised an eyebrow.

  “A space fairy!” I raised my hands to cover my gasp. “But I thought—”

  “No, the zombies didn’t get all of us,” Eleesha growled in reply, her rainbow wings and thigh length tutu glittering with anger. “They only got the one’s that mattered the most.” Her head lowered, a tear forming in the corner of her right eye.

  “Then ain’t this a good time to be repopulating the fairies?” Dave suggested, spitting out his toothpick. “I’m properly engaged for the job. Let’s make it happen, Tinkerbell.”

  “Ugh.” Eleesha scowled and shook her head. It seemed that the angrier she got, the more her rainbow colors glittered.

  “Where’s Sherry?” I asked. “She radioed me on the way in.”

  “On the other side of the base,” Shelby said, then licked her lips. “I can show you the way if you like.”

  I felt my face flush with red. Shelby’s soft lips were glossy and beautiful, begging to be kissed. “Okay.”

  “We go together.” Chevonne dusted off her pants and checked her spare ammo. “Main hallway, take a left. She’s in Dr. Olsakovsky’s office.”

  “He’s the key to figuring this out,” Eleesha beamed. “Without him and his great knowledge…”

  Shelby’s armor hissed and clanked as she repositioned herself. “The queen’ll lick humanity from the face of this solar system.”

  I nodded. “Then let’s lick her first.”

  The five of us rushed up the main hallway, Shelby in the lead, others behind, me taking up the rear. They fired their weapons into the flickering dark whenever something moved. I found myself getting lost in the undulating swish of their butts, in how their suits clung to them so well. Juicy, round, soft, firm. I had no idea. Why couldn’t we just go into one of these other rooms and see what they felt like? My heart pulsed to the rhythm of their steps. So many butts. All just as beautiful as any work of the Renaissance.

  The more I thought about their butts, the more the sound of zombies grew louder. Tentacles were banging on the walls all around us like they were drums. The only path was ahead.

  Bolts of plasma sizzled from the end of my rifle, sheering off tentacles as they closed in from the rear. One came within arm’s reach, I cracked it in the face with my weapon’s stock and shoved the barrel down its non-throat, giving it a new hole not to breathe from. Shelby whacked others with her weapon, squishy tentacles doing their best to try and pierce her thick armor. She pushed grenades down their throats and tossed them down a side hall. Black ichor covered her shapely, pneumatic legs as she started crushing the ones that came too close by hand, then stomping on the remains.

  “Now that’s what I call having a crush on someone,” Eleesha commented, spewing butterfly rainbows from her fairy weapon.

  Clinical Size Clint caught one of the zombies climbing up the ceiling beside me, and it fell dead on the floor.

  “Thanks for the assist!”

  He nodded. “Anytime, Rainbowhair.”

  Our butts pumped harder. My thoughts turned darker.

  A tentacle shot out from one of the side doors, clasping Dave around his eight pack. “Pterodactyls and ice-cream!” He fell to the floor, suction cupped arm dragging him away.

  Eleesha aimed her fairy weapon, a line of green butterflies showering out the end. They were not as friendly to the target as you would have thought. The tentacle zombie fell dead.

  “Aww damn,” Dave felt his stomach, his muscles. They were covered in blood. “I’m done. Please, someone end me now.”

  “You might come back as a unicorn,” Shelby said, taking his hand. “There’s a chance!”

  “But I might not. I can’t take that risk. Please, you’ve known me the longest.”

  She unholstered her sidearm and pressed it against Dave’s head. His perfectly chiseled body slumped to the floor.

  Clinical Size Clint began to sob. “The suit would have saved him! But damn did he look sexy shirtless. Why! Oh, why did he want to look so damn sexy!”

 “That’s how we should remember him,” Shelby said, putting away her smoking weapon.

  “At least they didn’t harm his butt,” I said under my breath.

  “Come on! We gotta move fast!” Shelby waved her arm over their heads, steam shooting off her power armor. “Go! Go! Go!”

  The remaining four of us dashed to the end of the hall, overhead lights flickering like a bad horror film.

  “Sherry! Open up!” Chevonne shouted. “They’re on us.”

  But the door didn’t open.

  “Come on, please! I don’t want to die out here!” Clinical Size Clint shouted. “Unless there’s a way to up my unicorn chances. I wouldn’t mind being a unicorn. Do I get to keep the same anatomy down below? Please, tell me there’s a way to up my chances.”

  “There isn’t,” Eleesha replied. “At least you aren’t a fairy. Our chance of unicornification is zero percent.”

  The door ahead cracked open. The zombies were at our heels. I switched my plasma rifle to full auto and sprayed the oncoming flood. They didn’t slow at all, the winding mass of tentacles closed in.

  “Come on! Come on!” Shelby said. “Open that door.”

  Blessed light poured into the hallway.

  “Get in!” Sherry shouted. “While you still can.”

  We piled inside the lab but the door wouldn’t shut.

  “Damn it. Everything in this place is broken. We should have just nuked it from orbit.”

  “It wouldn’t have killed them all,” I said, raising my weapon to point it at the opening. I pulled the trigger three times, bolts of energy slicing zombies in two.

  Shelby raised the butt of her weapon, and with the strength of her power armor, crushed a large one pressing itself through the doorway, reducing it to a puddle of gore.

  “What do you need?” Eleesha turned to Sherry. “I have fought them before. I have a few tricks up my sleeves.”

  “I need time.” Sherry tied her hair into a quick bun. I could see her neck beyond the popped collar, see the tattoo she hid from everyone. “Just a few seconds. All I need are a few seconds.”

  “Okay.” Eleesha stepped back out into the fray.

  “Don’t be stupid!” I said. “You’ll die!”

  She gave us all a wink and blew a kiss, lifting her back leg, wings fluttering. “I was prepared for this, Alliboo. All fairies are ready to give their lives to save another. It’s our code.”

  Sherry fumbled with the controls, pulled wires out of the wall. “I just need to reroute the… wait… here…” Butterfly plasma discharged in the hallway. There was a flash of rainbow light, zombies screeching so loud my eardrums wanted to shatter, and then silence.

  “Eleesha,” I said, holding out a hand. “Eleesha…”

  Sherry tied two wires together and pressed a button. “There we go.”

  The door swooshed shut.

  “She’ll never be a unicorn,” Clinical Size Clint lamented.

  Shelby put a mechanical hand on his shoulder. “But you might.”

  This seemed to perk him up.

  “Can someone disinfect me?” Shelby shouted. “I’m covered in zombie blood!” A lab assistant came forward with a table high bottle of Purell.

  “Can I get a squeeze of that?” I stuck out my hands. As my palms turned cold, 99.99999% of the bacteria being killed, I looked over at Sherry. She was not wearing the same skin-tight EVA suit the rest of us were, but rather, a pipeish pinstriped pant suit. She wore a yellow tie and a pressed white dress shirt, black wedges and a single, white rose pinned to her lapel. Something about this look was quite French, but I couldn’t say how.

  “Dr?” Sherry asked. “It’s safe. Go ahead.”

  Dr. Olsakovsky was leaned against the wall, arms crossed, lab coat hanging. He took a drag off his hand rolled cigarette, holding the smoke in his mouth for a moment before blowing it out his nose.

  “Can I have a puff?” Clinical Size Clint asked.

  The doctor obliged, then readjusted his glasses. He was a beautiful specimen of a man in his late thirties, salt and pepper hair close cropped, a bushy mustache resting on his upper lip. The look he gave me implied that he was just as starved for love as the rest of us. Maybe even more so.

  The sexual embargo on Earth had made life hard.

  “Have you met my staff?” He waved a hand across the room. Sherry stared at me as he made his introductions. “This here is Jonus and Silvia. Toni and Johann. My head biologist and zombie expert, Kim.”

  Kim shot past Sherry and extended a hand to me. “We’ve met before!”

  “We have?” I wasn’t so sure. I’d have remembered a cute half-pint like her.

  “At the academy, I was the one that accidentally puked on you at the second-year party. That, and, well, I was in your astrophysics class.”

  I shivered at the recollection. Pickles and Heineken didn’t mix, despite their matching colors. “Two memorable events. You’re looking—um—great.”

  “Thanks,” she said, averting her eyes and rubbing her neck with a free hand. “You too, that EVA suit looks great on you, really brings out…”

  “Her ass?” Shelby leaned to the side, taking another look. “Damn.”

  I wanted to hide my face but tossed my rainbow hair back instead. That should show Sherry how it is. I wasn’t the one who had backed off when we became so close, that was her. How very un-French of her.

  Sherry’s expression went hard.

  “Okay Okay. We cannot be having much time,” the doctor interrupted. “The queen is here on Moon Base Gamma, this we know. You must stop her, yes? That is the only way to save the human race! If she gets off the Moon Base and back to Earth all will be lost. Doomsday.”

  “But where is she?” I asked, stepping forward. “We just came through a gauntlet of groping nasties.”

  Shelby chuckled. “And the queen wasn’t with them or she’d have taken Eleesha out first. The queen loves to drink the blood of fairies.”

  “Then what do we do to find her?”

  “Ahh! That is for the best question of all!” Dr. Olsakovsky finished his cigarette and stubbed it out. “My research has uncovered, that if two people show on another the physical affection, it will draw the queen into the open.”

  “So, when two people love each other?” I asked. “Is that what you are saying?”

  “Perhaps love.”

  Shelby took a glance at Clint, then at me. “What are you asking us to do, Doc?”

  “I am believing the only way is for us to all make out,” Dr. Olsakovsky said. “As hard as we can! Put our very souls into the kissing.”

  I coughed in a closed fist. “If that’s what we have to do. It’s what we have to do.”

  Sherry rolled her eyes.

  He slowly took off his glasses. “It is. We must work our way around the room, swapping partners till the combination is just right! It is like, what do you call it, square dancing? But with lips!”

  Shelby kissed me first, putting a mechanical hand on my butt. The cold of it felt good as it caressed and squeezed, her steel pelvis pressed against my suit. I could taste the strawberry gloss on her lips, breathe the sweet air she was filled with. Her hair smelled of strawberries and conditioner. She eventually let me go with as saddened groan, a grin lingering on her face.

  That wasn’t a bad first kiss. I had always thought it would have been someone else standing in this room.

  Dr. Olsakovsky was next. He kissed me with less passion than Shelby had, but was no less interesting. The brush of his moustache prickled at my upper lip, making me giggle. Though it was nice to kiss such a strong man, I found myself wishing it was Dave. Hands on his strong lattice of defined abs. But Dave was gone. I squeezed the doctor’s butt and smiled.

  “You are good at this. You must have had long hours of practice.”

  Only with myself and the back of my hand, I thought.

  Kim came next, and though I thought it would be awkward, it wasn’t. She was a comfortable sort, the kind of person you could sit back, have a few drinks with, watch a few movies… Kiss and kiss and kiss and kiss, till you ran out of spit. But sadly, there was no spark in the deep places of my heart. There was no spark with any of them. No stir in the percolator of my soul.

  I kissed the lab assistants next, boy boy girl boy girl girl girl. The blond at the end wouldn’t hardly let me go, plunging her tongue too deep for my taste. It kind of made me want to gag.

  “I really hope my husband doesn’t mind,” Chevonne said, joining in.

  Dr. Olsakovsky responded, “We are doing this for to save the world. To save the world! He will understand, I think.”

  Everyone who wasn’t kissing paired up and started making out, but for two.

  The sound of smacking lips intensified along with the banging tentacles. Smack smack. Bang bang.

  Sherry huffed, arms crossed, not liking what she saw. When it came her turn to kiss me, she spun away and started disassembling her rifle.

  “Pass,” Clint said next, waving a hand. He spun to fix eyes on a slender blue eyed boy with a sweep of raven hair standing alone and nervous in the corner. “I see you’re without a partner. We can’t have that.”

  They paired up.

  “It’s having no effect,” Dr. Olsakovsky said, taking a breath from kissing Chevonne. “The queen is still disinterested.” He whispered, “Your husband is a very lucky man.”

  Chevonne pushed him away and scowled. “Gross.”

  Tentacles banged harder against the walls.

  “They sure sound excited,” Chevonne commented. “A hell of a lot more than me.”

  Dr. Olsakovsky checked the sensors. “Still no queen. It’s not working.”

  I took a moment to look at the map, how the base was laid out. Through the back doorway there were two paths, one led back to the docking bay. The other led to the fusion core.

  Windows in the lab began to shatter, writhing, black arms poking through.

  Sherry shot up from where she sat, and clicked her rifle back together. “They’re breaking in. Stop now! Stop! Quit the kissing!”

  Everyone followed her orders but for Clint and Johann. They were in their own little world.

  “Dr., your plan will never work. You know why, it’s because—”

  One of the doors slammed open and tentacles zombies swarmed in. Shelby was on them, bathing the portal in hot plasma. I cocked my weapon and moved in beside Sherry out of instinct. The table in front of us flipped over when the corner met my kicking boot heel. The zombies threw themselves against it.

  “There is one other option,” Dr. Olsakovsky shouted over the chaos. “Get to the power core! We must set it to overload. Get to the—agh—” A tentacle shot through his throat. The doctor gurgled as he collapsed to the floor.

  “Doctor!” Sherry said.

  “No time!” I told her. “Shelby, clear us a path!”

  She grinned. “My pleasure.” And thundered into the press of swarming zombies.

  “Mother of God, there’s so many! I knew I should have stayed in Rocket City,” Chevonne said. “Let’s see if they like this.” She grabbed a tank of oxygen off the wall and tossed it into the hallway. As it spun into place, she fired at it.

  The hallway exploded, black ichor splattering the walls.

  “Go! Go! Go!” I shouted, and took Sherry by the hand. She did not resist.

  As we were exiting the lab, Clint and Johann, snapped out of their reverie. But it was too late. The tentacle zombies fell onto them, ripping apart their bodies one limb at a time. I couldn’t listen as they died.

  Our group made a run for the power core but in the fighting got split up. Sherry and I were alone. We made to turn back and find the others, but the path was closed off by a swarm of zombies.

  “This way,” Sherry tugged my hand. Electricity flowed up my arm. It felt good.

  We made a sprint and tumbled into the computer room. The door swished shut.

  A moment passed and the sound of the zombies abated.

  “I can’t believe you!” Sherry shouted in a whisper.

  “Believe me how? What are you talking about?”

  “That you would… and in front of me!”

  I grabbed her lapels and put my nose against hers. “I was doing what I had to.” We paused there, lips nearly touching, moment pregnant with uncertainty. My heart pounded in my chest. I withdrew first, afraid of where this could go.

  Love was illegal.

  “Where are we?” I asked.

  She brushed off her suit and fixed her hair. “The computer core.”

  “This is where the real story is, isn’t it? Not just what the government fed us.”

  I powered up the main computer.

  “Don’t Ally! Please don’t! Let it go. You don’t need to know.”

  “But I have to know.” I pushed the big red button marked KNOWLEDGE.

  A video scrolled past with an old man sitting in a leather chair. In dry tones, he told the story of why love had been banned on Earth. After the third zombie apocalypse, the result of World War 4, the zombies had adapted, taking this new form. Tentacle form. Unlike the other zombies, who ate brains or flesh, that were drawn by sound or light or blood, these fed on love. They were drawn by love, feasted on it. It was thought that if their queen needed love to survive, that the easiest thing to do was to make it illegal to fall in love.

  Humanity would starve the tentacle zombies as they starved themselves.

  “That’s why we can’t be in love!” Sherry started to sob. “That’s why they banned touching butts.”

  “To keep the tentacle zombies away?”

  “It puts them into a frenzy!” She threw up her hands. “Look, all our friends did was share a brief moment of happiness, now they’re all dead! Dead I tell you! Dead! Dead!!!”

   I shook her by the shoulders. “Calm down woman!”

  “I’m sorry. It’s just too much.”

  “If we’re going to survive this we have to stick together.”

  “Then what do we do?”

  I squeezed my eyes shut. “We have to make for the power core.”

  “But the doctor was wrong, even if we blow the place, we have to draw out the queen first.”

  I nodded and squeezed her hand, brushed my fingers against her cheek. “We’ll figure it out.”

  She put her soft lips on my wrist. The zombies became louder.

  “There’s no way out of here,” I commented.

  The door swished open, not a zombie in sight. Instead, standing before us, was the bright light of a massive white unicorn, its mane flowing back on imaginary winds. It spoke with magic, “I’ll hold them off.”

  “Clinical Size Clint?”

  “No more. I have… transcended.” His lyrical voice redoubled.

  “Let’s go Ally,” Sherry pulled me by the hand and we took off.

  A roar of magic exploded behind us as Clint fought off the horde of zombies. Lasers cascaded from his horn like a gatling, sawing into their ranks.

  “He got his wish,” I mumbled. “I hope the rest made it out.”

  Sherry squeezed my hand. “Me too.”

  We rushed into the control room of the power core, locking the door behind us. There was a finality as the latch clicked shut. We knew that no matter what happened, it would never open again.

  Sherry went to the controls and started flicking switches. “It won’t take much to force the reactor critical.”

  I watched her work and felt my heart flutter. The zombies started banging on the door, tentacles desperate. They knew something was wrong.

  “Sherry, I—”

  “It’s okay. I was the fool, the one who turned my back on you when we were in Seattle at the academy. I let all this get in the way. I should have told you that day what I still feel.”

  “And what is that?”

  She took my face in her hands. “That I love you, Allison Rainbowhair.”

  And as the tentacle zombies banged against the door to the power core, hungry for human flesh, flesh that had tasted of love and happiness, Sherry and I met lips. Sparks skipped between us in such intensity I had never known. To hell with the law, I wanted nothing more than to be with her for the rest of my life.

  The queen rose from her hiding place at the center of the moon, each moment moving a step closer. I felt Sherry’s love envelope me like living fire, the very essence of the sun. In only a moment, the ugly bitch was just outside the core’s window.

  “Push the button,” I whispered in Sherry’s ear, lips brushing the lobe.

  “Together.”

  And in a flash of white light, the moon base, along with the zombie queen, was no more.

The Collar – Narrated by Ivy Tara Blair

Interesting and magical things happen in life from time to time. One such event happened to me just a couple of days ago, and I’m still basking in all of it’s awesomeness. A wonderfully talented audio book narrator, Ivy Tara Blair and I had spoken off handed of her tackling my short story “The Collar”. I’d let the idea slip from my mind, given all the work on Final Solution, the holidays passed by, and then lo and behold she hits me up the other night with a file.

“Care to take a listen?”

I was at the end of a long day and not sure what my state of mind would be when listening. Any fellow writers know the anxiety that comes with having someone else read or perform what you have created. This was no exception. Frankly, I was terrified to take a listen. Terrified her presentation would reveal things in my story I didn’t want to know about. Bad things. And, with My wife and daughter gone for the night my moral support wasn’t present.

“Crap,” I told myself. “What the hell do I do now? I want to listen but…Crap crap crap.”

And so I went and got another beer from the fridge, filled the bath with hot water (because it’s been freakin’ cold outside), locked myself in the bathroom and took a listen.

I sat in the tub till my water went cold, eyes wide, headphones in, attention fully arrested.

Ivy brought The Collar to life in ways I never thought possible. And so, I invite you to listen to her performance, hear her tell the story of an unnamed girl and how that girl’s special gift has stolen all choice from her, but yet she is still not hopeless.

However it is you feel like listening is up to you. A beer and a hot bath isn’t a bad option, though. I’m just saying.

Ivy Tara Blair: Website Twitter

The Collar – A Short Story by J. Fitzpatrick Mauldin

“A young girl’s special gift robs her of the ability to choose her future, making her a slave”

When a special gift manifests itself in the life of yet another, unnamed girl, she is subjected to use it in ways she does not believe. By compulsion, the Collar around her neck forces her to do as the Man in White bids through a young boy, Her Tamer, as proxy. More than anything she wishes to have her life back. One of safety, security, and love with her family—but that path is no more. She is a slave to their will in all but her deepest mind. And perhaps that solace will be enough to keep her alive until she can make her move, and have her vengeance.

Audio narration (performed by Ivy Tara Blair):

***

“Please struggle,” the Man in White said, aiming his words at the Boy in Orange. “You must. It’s for posterity.” He stroked the instruments beside him on a metal tray. A scalpel. Pair of scissors. Set of hemostats. Stethoscope.

The boy was trembling. All he’d done wrong was download illegal music. A few films. Maybe a dirty video or two, but only since they’d been banned. He was young and curious, that’s all. Just a boy coming of age. Another one of their victims. And my first.

“Come now, it won’t hurt badly.” The Man in White put a finger to his lips and then pointed at me. “Girl, this will be easier if we don’t have to force you.”

My eyes drifted up to the digital maps ahead of me on the wall. Several planets were displayed—Pluto, Saturn, Earth—lines I thought of as threads in intricate, fractal weaves encircling them all. Words like “Seeds” and “Gifted” were displayed in the corners, their numbers changing by the moment as an object set to the side marked as Archive grew larger.

The Boy in Orange tipped his head and looked up at me, his green eyes glistening with tears.

The fingertips of my right hand danced up and down my thigh. The room was cold in that paper gown, knees and legs and arms exposed to the recycled air. I reached for the band around my neck out of reflex and felt sick. It was there, the other end tethered to my Tamer. It was always there.

“Don’t make me, please, don’t make me,” I pleaded. “Give me another choice. I’ll—I’ll do anything. Anything.”

The Man in White’s face did not change expression; there was not even a twitch of empathy, only carved granite and weary eyes. “Your gift, my dear, is what steals your choice away. We need what you are to survive. They have ones just like you. Some—even better.”

“But why?” I asked. “Why? Can’t we make peace with the other countries? Can’t we all just get along.” But as soon as the words left my mouth I knew they’d been a mistake. Even my dad would have found that statement naive.

“Do it, child!” he demanded. “Do it, or you will suffer!”

Standing close by my Tamer was another boy, not much older than the Boy in Orange, not much older than me. But he was different. He was hard, hard as stone, and I was water, eroding him one drop at a time.

I shook my head. “I—can’t.”

My Tamer’s mouth went tight, his grey eyes cold. And though I knew what was about to happen, I swore I saw a kindness there, regret sketched in the edges of the lines of his face. Still, it came.

“Do it,” The Man in White said, waving a hand to My Tamer.

Pain is a concept people only think they understand. The Boy in Orange had known pain before coming here. I was sure of it. He’d been beaten, thrown on a bus, malnourished, and insulted. It was possible he’d been abused in ways we don’t speak of, told how little he was worth to society, and not ever had a place to call home. Those pains were all real. All legitimate. But the Boy in Orange’s pain was a five year old’s doodle on the back of a lunch menu; whereas mine, was a Van Gogh, a work of art. Wild, yet organized, bright and colorful. Thousands of strokes of oil, texture in impasto, a masterpiece of agony and suffering.

My Tamer tapped his wrist and used—it. Colors washed before my eyes, flowing through my mind and into every nerve of my body.

Yellow: Like the crack of a broken femur.

Red: The cutting of flesh and dread over its depth. Burning away of nerves and healing of wounds.

Blue: Silent and gasping, desperate for air.

Green: Decaying and mad.

Purple: Twisting and clawing, dragging and peeling.

And the worse of all. White. The antagonist, the very nemesis of pleasure itself.

It was all I could do to keep my hands from my throat. Tears would have been welcome, but it did not allow me to cry. In fact, it made me unable to move. Unable to scream. Unable to think. It set my brain asunder with cascades of licking fire; and so I fought, focusing the pain on something else. Wildflowers and vineyards, forests and fairies. It was all in my mind. A cool summer day, the early mists of a campout, the smell of frying bacon.

After my Tamer was finished, my stiff frame went slack and I crashed to the floor. My insubstantial legs trembled. My knobby knees clicked. My teeth throbbed. I put a hand to my chest. I wasn’t sure how long I could keep this up. The colors were becoming more vivid than ever. Synesthesia was another symptom.

At this age I should have been in dance class or making plans with friends to see a concert, but I was here. And the world where girls did things like that no longer existed for girls like me. So many girls like me.

My Tamer glared at the Man in White.

“Fine, fine. Take her back for now.”

I should have felt relived the Boy in Orange had been left alone. He would feel no pain. Not like mine. I only hoped he understood my sacrifice.

A warm glow suddenly enveloped my mind. It was My Tamer. He hid that he did this for me. He took away the pain and threw my unwilling masterpiece into a vat of sugar and honey and cloves. The parts of the brain which triggered pain, so very close to what triggered pleasure.

My Tamer was kind.

“Back inside,” he said, voice iron. How could a boy with dimples, soft lines, and eyes of dough be baked into something so hard and crusty? Boys in the other world weren’t this hard. My brother hadn’t been this hard.

I scampered through a barrier of wild, shimmering color and into my concrete block, back aching from stooping over. The door closed with a quiet, mountainous click, and color faded from around the opening. The room was nothing but an apathetic grey, the only different tones left were swimming in my own head.

My hand brushed the right side of my head. Prickling bits of stubble remained just above the ear. Then I ran my fingers through the hair on the left side of my head and smiled. They’d let me keep that side long, the hair I’d grown when I was still with my family. When I was happy.

I sat on the stone bench and gathered up my blanket. It had was always been  cold in here. I used my fingers to comb the long strip of blond. My mother used to do this. It made me sleep more easily when I couldn’t stop thinking. When my mind spun round and round like dervish. It made the demons in the shadows flee, just like My Tamer did after I refused. But my mother’s comfort was better, different. Mother was part of my soul, an intertwined thread which wound its way through my heart.

I stopped.

She was gone. I was gone. My father, with his strong arms and sympathetic eyes, gone. My brother. Gone. Sister. Gone.

I remembered that our house had a soul, alive with those who lived in it, but the cold walls of my box had nothing but apathy. These walls looked the other way while girls like me were forced to stay here by the Man in White. Forced to do things they did not believe in. Things they did not understand.

I reached for my neck. Tugging. Shaking. It did not move. It never moved. It made doing anything impossible. Made sleeping difficult. Breathing strenuous.

I tugged one last time and gave up. My chicken fingers were no match for titanium. I hugged my knees and rocked for a while, thinking of a way out. I was too big to fit in the drain. Too dense to slide through the window. Too soft to break down the walls. There was no way out. No way out.

I rolled the blanket around me and laid down on the stone slab, skin prickling. This was all in my mind. All in my mind. All I had to do what turn back time.

As I stroked the golden strands of my hair, I let my mind wander and left this place far behind.

I was at home. My brother played in the living room with our tan cocker, as my sister complained about not going shopping with friends. Mom was in the kitchen making spaghetti while dad was out back cutting the lawn. I ate crackers with peanut butter and drank milk from a short glass, sitting on the staircase dreaming of going back to the mountains.

I was in a green field of colorful flowers riding a mighty steed. My golden hair flowed behind me like a banner on the wind. A staff of power thrummed in my hands. A white dragon came down from the infinite blue and scoured the land with a strip of fire. I raised my staff and bar of rainbow light crashed into the beast. I did not need a prince to rescue me.

I was on the swings. A boy with brown curls and pretty wrists looked at me. It made worms of cinnamon and ginger wriggle around in my stomach. I went to the jungle gym and he pushed me down. He told me that girls were gross, but yet, wouldn’t stop looking at me. Wouldn’t stop fidgeting. All I wanted to do was smile at him.

All in my mind.

 

——

 

Days were always the same.

The Women in Blue were not kind. They did not smell of honey or cake like My Tamer. They shouted at me, forced me into a damp, open room, body bare, flesh itching with shame. But I was not alone in there, though I might have been in my own head. Other girls were there. And the Man in White, he had to be, standing hidden among the luminous corners of the showers, leering at us, seeking pleasure in the dismantling of our humanity.

They scrubbed us till our skin felt raw, turned pink and dry. They covered us in soaps and oils, shaved our legs and forbidden places. Scoured us in white hot water, and froze us in a purple cold rinse. I used to meet eyes with the other girls, but all it did was make me feel yellow with anticipation. Our connections made through those brief glances, would only later be snapped in half. There were always new girls.

“Let’s go you freak of nature,” the Women in Blue would tell me, grasping my arms so hard they would bruise.

They led me into the hallway, my naked body dripping water onto the floor. My precious strip of hair sticking to my jaw and neck. A thousand tears I could not shed, a thousand times I wished I was dead, were left beneath me in my passing.

They were not kind like my Tamer.

This happened every day. I slept. Tried to remove it. The women came and washed me. I fought not to make eye contact. Came back to my box and waited. My Tamer would arrive, and I would feel better. Till he led me to the Boy in Orange. The Man in White would say his words and I would resist. My Tamer would follow the Man in White’s orders, and I would experience the pain.

The colors became brighter and brighter.

On good days, I passed out.

My Tamer would comfort me, and put me back in my box.

For seven times three it went on.

“Please,” My Tamer said one day, pleading. “Do what he asks.” He took a deep breath and his iron eyes fixed on my lips. Something made my heart lurch, my legs wobble.

I turned my head and went back into the box.

I finally understood. The Man in White held his leash too. My Tamer was just like me. But instead, he had a chain he could not see, a chain he did not wear. That was why he was kind. He did not hurt because he wanted to. He comforted because he wanted to.

I put my hands to my face and found that my cheeks were warm, then laid down on my slab and twisted my hair, imagining it smelled like wild flowers and lavender. I began to hum a silent tune just like mother.

Two times five. The days carried on.

I was stripped naked. Scrubbed. Waited. Taken to the Boy in Orange.

“Come on now,” the Man in White groaned. “It’s not hard. He’s a criminal. He deserves such. He brings chaos into our world of order. He steals from others. Risks our ideals. It is because of people like him you are here! We must protect our country from threats both inside and out. If you do not do this, thousands will die. Millions will die! Don’t you understand?”

I kept my face down. I couldn’t bear to meet any of their eyes. Dangerous things could happen when I met peoples’ eyes.

The Man in White turned a pair of scissors over in his hand. He approached the Boy in Orange, running their sharp tip over the boy’s throat and across his Adam’s apple. The boy began to gush sour sweat.

“Don’t make me take drastic measures.”

I looked sidelong at My Tamer and found no emotion. He stood bolt-upright, in attention as stiff as a flagpole.

“Well?”

I considered the Man in White’s words. Was this the boy’s fault? Our world had been perfect before his like. Before the hackers and data thieves, illegal torrenting and requisitions.

I looked up, meeting the boy’s eyes, and touched his mind. It whirled inside of me like a tempest, ribbons of color so bright I felt my third eye burning. The boy shuddered and gasped. A thread ran down the middle of the vortex, white light reaching out into black. All I had to do was cut the thread and the pain would stop. His pain. My pain. It will all stop.

“No,” I growled, turning my eyes away. “No!”

The Man in White rushed forward, his voice level, “Then you will pay.”

I reached out for My Tamer, but he did not come to the rescue. He stood there as stiff as stone. I wanted him to be a prince, but all he was, was a statue.

A flash of scissors shot past the corner of my eye, and the Man in White took hold of my strip of long hair, wrenching it away from my skull. Red and blue blossomed in my head. I screamed. This was pain I could channel. He jerked me up by my golden strands, nearly pulling me off of my feet. My arms went limp, and I was unable to fight back.

Snip. A thread inside of me snapped. He cut again, and again. Snip. Snip. Snip. Golden rays showered the floor. He discarded me and walked away.

The hair I’d grown with my family, at home in happiness and in peace, had been cut away. It was all I had left of them, and he had taken it from me. I went to gather up what remained but he pushed me away with a foot.

“Take her back to her box,” he hissed, sounding drawn, stretched thin. I glanced up at him and for an instant I swore I saw moisture in his eyes. But it didn’t matter.

My Tamer led me out of the room.

My family was gone. I was alone. Never to be rescued. Never to feel safe again. As I limped back to my box, I hoped the fork from meal time was still there. Maybe I could open my veins with it. End the pain.

We reached the box and my Tamer opened the door.

He touched his bracelet, and I felt the pressure release in my head. He closed the door and left me alone.

My emotions rose from the aquifers of anguish deep inside in my heart, gushing forth in a river pressing against my eyes, the long held dam crumbling. My body trembled under the weight, breaths impossible to catch. My lips quivered and I moaned. The rainbow colors of iron pain woven into my heart melted into a fountain of bitter sweet, salty tears.

He was a prince after all. He had let me cry.

 

——

 

“Finish this,” the Man in White said, and I refused. “Then there is nothing else to do.” He turned to My Tamer and nodded. “We gave you the chance.”

An unreadable expression flashed on My Tamer’s face. I had to remind myself he was being forced. He did not want this.

He reached into my mind, using it, and I lost all control. My gazed snapped to the Boy in Orange and I felt compelled to act. I reached effortlessly into his heart, swirling of life and emotion and freedom, and clipped the thread.

The boy fell limp to the ground, and a wash of blue-green came over my mind.

I shouted, throwing my hands out, “I didn’t want to. I didn’t mean to!” I clutched myself in a vain attempt to find comfort.

The Man in White sighed and waved us off.

“You had to,” My Tamer told me, taking me back to the cold box. “We all do what we have to.” He opened the door and sat down beside me, gazing into the lingering pain of my eyes. Warmth and sunlight filled me, a sense of bliss and guilt, in equal, excruciating measures.

Then, at great risk for his own safety, he told me why. Why we did this. Why the Seeds had been planted on our world, and of who the true enemy was.

  The Archive.

We were not at war with other men. In fact, the other nations of Earth told the same lies to their own people. Propagated false reports to invent conflicts between us that never really happened. We were at war with something so far beyond what we could easily comprehend, something who had not just empowered us, but also, created us. Something that did not understand morality, only slavery, only knowledge. And they would come to harvest their seeds. We would be part of their Archive, and thus, no longer human. No longer having choice. This alone would wipe us out just like many others.

But when he was done telling me the truth he did not let me cry. He needed me to be hard.

I felt the stubble on my bald head and all I wanted was my life back; my family, my freedom, and I knew he wanted the same, but it could never be spoken, never.

It was logical what he told me. Cold and dark as it was. The only way for us to survive what was coming. And what had come before. Perhaps it was truly necessary. We had to use the enemies weapons against them. But I didn’t care. It only made me angrier.

I was not my own person. I was a slave. And more times than I’d like to admit, I’d considered killing myself in order to see my freedom again. Ridding the world of my mistakes and short fallings. But never once, in all that time, no matter how someone had wronged me, had I considered killing someone else. But there was one thought in my little head now, one choice I could make if I was careful for long enough.

I will see the Man in White burn.