Excerpted from the short story The Vision, published in The Vision and Other Tales http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004D4YK7I
Nashua Crowley, twenty-seven, failed medical student and wannabe artist-photographer lived in the house next to the Hudspeth home. Nash inherited the house and a substantial sum from his deceased parents, so the failed part of his bio didn’t trouble him as much as it might someone less economically fit. What nagged him that morning was the knowledge that he had seen something truly extraordinary and had been thoroughly unprepared to capture any part of it.
The would-have-been doctor in him charged for the door the moment he realized what he was looking at, but the decadent hung-over drunk in him had fallen face first in the pile of mail, old newspapers and empty pizza boxes before he could get out. By the time he actually reached the drive the vision of the bag-covered body being pecked in the head by crows was gone and he wondered if by chance he had gotten a different kind of mushroom on that last pizza.
Sometimes they give us alcohol or foods like hash brownies. When this happens we know it must be Sex Saturday. Every last one of us is sterile and cannot reproduce but they told us sex keeps our organs healthy. I believe they do it for their amusement, because they like to watch. I try to avoid the sex, but I can’t always. Some of the remaining males are cruel to females. If they put you with a male that hurts you they move you the next morning. I’m glad for that much.I was once with a male I remember very well. I think he was the same variety I am, but I don’t know because some of us have mutated. I know I felt good around him, and that he was different from other males. He bristled with nervous energy when our keepers were near, as if he was holding himself back from doing something dangerous. I loved feeling his heat and intensity; it left me perspiring and breathing quick, short breaths. His awareness was contagious and left me humming with possibility, as if I could act at any second and gain freedom.For a long time afterward I thought about him on Sex Saturdays. I pictured his face during the sex and it made my organs feel better. I may see him again someday. There are at least three instances when they have placed me with males I have been with before. I keep hoping they put me with him again so I can relive the taste of sweat on my lips and feel the rapid thumping in my chest. Of course they thought I was ill when it happened. They took me away from him and tested me for hours afterward, all of them wearing white masks and sticking me, testing this, testing that.Idiots; they no longer know excitement when they see it. Just because I’m sterile and grew up in a controlled environment does not mean I can’t feel things. I feel plenty. I may not experience everything my grandparents did before they became exposed and began incubating what they would pass on to my father. They lived with the first incarnation of the virus, the one that was actually treatable but that somehow became lethal by the time I emerged from my mother’s womb. People died because of me, but I was a baby, what could I have done? I was taken away and put with other lethal babies just like me. They killed my father because he deceived them about having the slow death second variation of the virus. My mother had the second variation as well, and when two second variations had a child….No one understands this thing inside us; why it didn’t simply kill us in the womb rather than allow us to be born and kill others. There have been other viruses since. Sometimes we hear them talking, the ones looking after us. They believe their containment measures have worked, by isolating all of us and preventing us from breeding they are certain they have stopped the strain. It’s all very humane, of course. They didn’t kill us, after all. And they’ve tried to give us adequate accommodations after so many congressional bills have bled our funding down to zero.I know he must see the same things I do, the male I liked so much. He must see that our staff has been reduced, our meals are smaller, and our rooms are hotter or colder, depending on the season. They have finished studying us and no longer want to pay to take care of us. Maybe someday there’ll be something other than hash in the brownies. Yesterday I said this to a female I sat down next to and she choked and nearly stumbled trying to run away from me. They make us all so paranoid of one another. God knows why but in each place they put a wire on one person in the room so they can hear what we’re saying to each other. No one ever knows who’s wearing it. One time they put it on me and since it looked just like the drug patches they give us I didn’t suspect a thing until the end of the day. The man who ripped off the patch pulled too hard and the little transmitter fell out onto the floor. I pretended not to see. Now I avoid those wearing new patches.I’m not sure what will happen to me if I speak again. They’ve been watching me since I vocalized the question. It was something I should have thought about first, but I can’t stop wondering if the energetic male I liked is someone they have chosen to send away. They’ve done it several times over the last decade, and when I read we were at war again, I couldn’t keep my mouth shut. I had to ask if that was why there weren’t as many males left. One of them chuckled and the other one stared. We’re not supposed to know they send infected males as troops into enemy territory. It’s against international law. Like letting one of us pee in a toilet. It’s never supposed to happen.But there aren’t as many males left. I know there aren’t. And I heard a keeper say they’re letting females go over now as well.I hope it’s not just for Sex Saturdays.Copyright 2011 S.K.Epperson
A collection of short stories by the author of Borderland, The Moons of Summer, The Neighborhood, and HWA nominated Brother Lowdown, available from Amazon Kindle Store and other e-book retailers!
Eight tales sure to give pause for thought…about whether the doors are locked, the windows are closed, the neighbors are who you think they are, and if you’re sure you put that key where no one would ever think to find it.
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