Monday, May 7, 2012

Begun but unfinished fiction #004: Flesh like paper

© March 14, 2005 mykl g sivak

Flesh like paper

Mary stood naked before the mirror, each hand gripping the triceps of the opposite arm, her small breasts pressed between biceps, her nipples erect from the unheated air and cold hardwood floor of her bedroom.  She’d been standing there for minutes, not looking at the mirror but studying the floor with her eyes and her flesh with her fingertips. Is it long enough? She though wincing, resentment pushing her jaw into a imitation under-bite, her lips to a pucker, her full eyebrows down to a “V” between her eyes. Can I stop? The words hung in her mind. How dare it make her plead like this? Fucking tin can. Fucking monster.

Only a moment more. The voice echoed in her mind, more clearly to her than the sound of her own thoughts, like sound through in-the-ear headphones. It was stereophonic, and clearly inorganic. Robotic. In a moment you may stop. Now touch your breasts with your palms.  Tilt back your head. She did as she was told.

She felt her small breasts against her thin fingers, her hard cold nipples pressed into the soft meat of her palms.  For an instant she was back in middle school.  Forced to change naked in the girls’ locker room, forced to shower with the others.  To view their bare bodies, pubic hairs, and vulvas pinched between thickening thighs.  To smell the scents of cheap perfume, powdery deodorant, gym sweat and burgeoning womanhood.  She could hear their comments, the snide gibes that mocked her unformed chest, her unkempt pubic curls, the small white pimples that clustered upon her bony shoulders.  She always felt sick when she saw those other bodies, thick flowing lithe curves, all muscles and fat and plump opulent glands.  It was pure physiology transposed with sociology.  She had always been a genius, and even at thirteen years of age she knew enough to hate her genes.  The ones that made the bridge of her nose angular instead of flowing, her chin sit weak beneath copious bottom lip.  The genes that had failed to tell her baby incisors to fall out instead of simply sliding back to allow the mature ones to sprout from her gums above them.  The ones that made her all ribs and hipbones when she should be puffy fat with pubescent ripeness.

These recollections bled into memories of school nurse inspections, the cruel, indifferent women with clipboards and cold stethoscopes who diagnosed her scoliosis, her acute psoriasis with little more than a click of a ballpoint pen and a check of a box, as she stood there naked and unshod upon the dirty cold institutional floors.  And what good had it done her?  What assistance had they offered? What had any of her years of mandatory institutional enrollment given her in the end? She had sworn that she would never subject herself to such treatment ever again, and yet here she was now, standing naked against her will, forced to look at her body in a full-length mirror in the cold uncompromising grey light of early dawn.

Tell me about this spine. The voice echoed in her mind.  I can see that it veers drastically to your right near the shoulders then arcs lowly back to center at the base of your ribs.  I see a well, from these images you are offering, that this is not a normal configuration for your species.  That at the end of your childhood you were described by a medical technician as being defective, or perhaps more accurately, as possessing defective components.

The voice’s impersonal matter-of-fact tone was at first insulting, but paired against the tone the school nurse had taken years earlier; it seemed somehow less heartless.  She had sensed an air of inquisitiveness in the voice, of interest and naivete, a willingness, no a desire to understand the facts before it.  It was not human and so she should not expect humanity.

It’s scoliosis. She though, not speaking. My spine is bent in a way it isn’t supposed to be.
I see. Said the voice. Unfortunate for you. Does it impact your functionality? That is, does it effect your day to day operations in a detrimental way? Are you aware of your defect?

She did not respond, vocally or with thought, and a strange momentary pensiveness slid across her mind. Then she answered in thought: No.

This interests me. The robot voice responded. An inconsequential defect. A reworking of design, purely aesthetic? Not a defect, then. A mutation. Variety.  There should be no reason that this deviation should impact its own continuation. Given purely random mathematics, it may even eventually become this species norm.  There are other factors however. Please Mary, explain.

She was unsure of the request. It was clear to her now that not only was the voice’s owner able to read her thoughts, but she was reading its thoughts as well. Somehow, an intrusion of this type seemed less uncivil, a strange communion of two sentient minds.  Of course, she thought, it might have been nice if someone had asked her to participate instead of merely assuming it was all right. I apologize if this makes you uncomfortable. Please Mary, dress yourself.  Go to the kitchen. Make yourself some tea. Sit at the table and we will continue this in a more comfortable ambience.

Mary felt a sigh of thanks move through her body.  She lowered her head and peered into the mirror, for the first time looking directly into it. A shock of fear jolted up her crooked spine when she spotted the reflection of the metallic figure sitting in the rocking chair behind her. She turned around quickly to face the robot, but in turning found the chair empty.  She looked back into the mirror, it was there, turned again to the chair, it was not. 

Do not be alarmed. The voice said. Please, put on your clothes.  We will speak again in the kitchen.

Mary looked again at the chair in the mirror and saw that it now sat vacant.  She quickly dressed herself in a loose fitting cotton dress and made her way downstairs.

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