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1

Its so dark, I can hardly see to write this, and Im not certain why Im writing it. Superstitiously, I think I believe I made everything happen by writing the first part of it down. And so, if I write another part of it, another part will come after. But things may only get worse. As if they could. But no, they could.

And then, somewhere inside myself, I dont care. I dont care about anything, because the thing I need is something else than what Ive lost. And then again, I go on thinking, beyond this grimy darkness and the shadows like purple rust flaking on the page. I think about tomorrow and the next day, and I wonder what will become of me.

In the morning, at seven A.M., because I couldnt sleep, I got up and made a short tape for my mother. I said: My problem was about Clovis and the callous way he treats his boyfriends, and about how M-Bs behave to each other anyway. But Im over it now. I was just being silly.

It was not exactly the first time Id lied to my mother. But it was the first time I knew Id have to stick to the lie. I couldnt break down. I couldnt tell her. I couldnt decide if I was desperate, or only desperately ashamed. But Id tried to cry myself out in the night, and by six A.M. the pillows were so wet Id thrown them on the floor.

I knew there was no solution.

At eleven-thirty A.M., the video phone rang in the Vista. I knew who it was so I didnt answer. At noon, it rang again. Somehow it sounded louder. Soon my mother would emerge from her suite, and then Id have to answer it, so I answered it.

Egyptia reclined in the video in a white kimono.

Jane. You look terrible.

I didnt sleep well.

Neither did I. Oh Jane

She told me about Silver. She told me in enormous detail. I tried not to listen, but I listened. Beauty, acrobatics, tenderness, humor, prowess.

Of course, the stamina, the knowledge, the artistry are built in. But I believed he was human. Oh, hes magic, Jane. Its ruined me for a man for weeks. But I nearly fainted this morning. So much ecstasy is destructive. I think I have a migraine attack. This awful pain in my temple. Oh, he should carry a government health warning, like the windows by the Old River.

A wire was stretching tighter and tighter in my spine, and the end of the wire was in my head. She hadnt said which temple had the migraine, so both my temples beat as narrow spikes ran through and through them. The room clouded. When the wire snapped in the middle I would scream.

I checked my account to see if I could buy one, but Ive overdrawn for this month. And then theres the Theatra. Oh, Jane. Hes taught me so much about myself. He found such sensual nuances in meI was a woman with him. Thats so strange. Hes a robot, but he made me feel more like a woman, more conscious of my desires, my needs, than any man ever did. But I had to beg him to stop

One of the spacemen entered with a breakfast tray for my mother, and I said, My mothers just coming, Egyptia.

Oh. All right. Call me back.

Yes.

I turned off the phone and started to fall, but I landed on my knees in an attitude of prayer as my mother walked through the doors.

Even when she gets up, my mother is beautiful, her face empty of makeup and full of green eyes, her hair loose on her shoulders.

If only I could tell her

Hallo, darling.

Hallo, Mother.

Did you drop something under the couch, darling?

OhI I stood up. I was speaking to Egyptia, I added, for this might well explain any strange behavior.

In half an hour, said my mother, you can tell me what it was you wanted to talk to me about.

I must tell her, I must. No, no, no.

I left a tape. But it doesnt seem important now. Mother, Im so tired. I have to go back to bed.

Shut in my suite, I wept all over again. How I needed, how I wanted to tell her what had happened to me. Shed be able to rationalize it all. She would show me why I felt as I did, and how to get over it.

Thank God Egyptia couldnt buy him this month.

How horrible, to sleep with

I shut my eyes and knew his kiss again on my mouth, that silver metal kiss.

I fell asleep lying on the wet pillows on the floor, and I dreamed of all kinds of things, but not of Silver.

At two P.M., my mother called my suite on the internal phone, and asked me to have lunch with her in the Vista My mother was very concerned about my having privacy, and the feeling that I could be alone when I wished; she never simply knocked on the door. But I felt I had to go down, so I went down and we ate lunch.

Youre very quiet, darling. Has anything else happened that you want to tell me about?

Nothing, really. Was the dinner interesting?

My mother told me about the dinner, and I tried to hear what she said. Sometimes what she said was very funny and I laughed. I kept beginning to say to her, Ive fallen in love, and preventing myself. I imagined saying: Id like to buy a special format robot. Would my mother let me? Generally, I pay for things I want with a credit card that links into my mothers own account, but there was a monthly one thousand I.M.U. limit on the card. This was just so Id appreciate about not overspending, because my mother always made it quite clear that what was hers was mine. But she wanted me to be sensible. A verisimulated robot would cost thousands. The ionized silver alone would cost thousands. A purchase like that wouldnt seem sensible at all.

In any case, if Egyptia hadnt bought him, someone else had. He belonged to them. To an Egyptia, or an Austin. Did he enjoy giving joy? What happened to him when he made love?

After lunch, my mother switched on the news channel of the Vista visual, and took notes. Shes a political and sociological essayist and historian, too, but mainly as a hobby. There had been another bad subsidence in the Balkans. Social collapse seemed likely again in Eastern Europe, but reports were garbled. An earthquake had rocked the top off a mountain somewhere. There were subsistence riots in five Western cities. My mother didnt switch to the local news channel, which might have carried something about the Sophisticated Format robots, but when she switched the visual off my throat had closed together with nerves.

Then I realized shed made a sacrifice to be with me, since generally she watches the visual in her study. She must guess something was wrong, and I didnt really know how long I could hold out. What would she say if I told her? Darling, this would be quite all right if you were sexually experienced. But youre a virgin. And to make love, initially, with a nonhuman device, is by no means a good idea. For all sorts of complicated reasons. Firstly, your own psychological needs I could just distinguish her voice in my head. And shed be right. How could I ever hope to have a proper relationship with a man if I began by going to bed with a robot? (He is a man. No, fool, he isnt. He is.)

I went down to the library and took a book, and sat in the balcony-balloon watching the sky drifting out from the house and fathoming away in a luminous nothingness below me. And eventually I seemed to be hanging by a string over the nothingness, and I had to move from the balcony, and go back to my suite and lie down on the bed. It was the only time Id ever had vertigo in Chez Stratos, though Clovis wont visit us, saying all the while hes in the house he can feel his groin falling farther and farther away below him.

Finally I called Clovis, not knowing what to say.

Hallo? said Austin invisibly. Clovis has never incorporated a video.

Oh. Hallo. This is Jane.

James?

Jane. Can I speak to

No. Hes in the shower.

Austin sounded like a fixture, despite the seance, if a not very happy one.

Is that a woman? Austin demanded.

Its Jane.

I thought you said James. Well, look, Jayven, why dont you call later. Like next year? And he switched off.

As a matter of course, then, I dialed Chloe, but she didnt answer. I looked at Jason and Medeas number, but didnt dial it.

My mother called me on the internal phone.

Ive run your tape, Jane. Its rather vague. What did Clovis do?

He had another seance.

And this disturbed you.

Only because he plays with people like a cat.

Cats dont play with people. Cats play with mice. The seance table is rigged, I seem to recall.

Yes, Mother.

The spirit world can be reached, under the correct circumstances, said my mother.

Oh, you mean ghosts.

I mean the psychic principle. A soul, Jane. You mustnt be afraid to use the correct terminology. A released soul, unattached to the physical state, and which has lived through many lives and a diversity of bodies may sometimes wish to communicate with the world. There was a great incidence of this at the turn of the century, for example, prior to the Asteroid Disasters. A theologian notes a connection. Clovis shouldnt be meddling with table-tappings.

No, Mother.

Ive left you some vitamins in the dispenser. Robot three will give them to you when you come down.

Thank you.

And now, I must get ready.

Having avoided her for hours in terror of giving away my awful secret, I was now stricken with horror.

Are you going out?

Yes, Jane. You know I am. Im going upstate for three days. The Phy-Amalgamated Conference.

IdId forgottenMotherI really must speak to you after all.

Darling, youve had all day to speak to me.

Only four hours.

I really cant stop now.

Its urgent.

Then tell me quickly.

But I cant!

Then you should have spoken earlier.

Oh Mother! I burst into tears. Where did so many tears come from? A lot of the human body is water. Did I have any left?

Jane, Im going to make an appointment for you with your private doctor.

Im not ill. Im

Jane. I will take half an hour away from my schedule. I will come up to your suite now, and well talk this through. Do you agree?

Panic. Panic.

The door opened, and my mother, already burnished, pomaded, glittering, stepped through. An abyss gaped before me. And behind me. I could no longer think. Id always, always leaned on my mother. Was anything so perverse, so precarious, so precious I couldnt share it with her, especially now shed wrecked her schedule for me?

As precisely as you can, dear, said Demeta, beckoning me into her arms, into La Verte, into bliss and anchorage. Now, does this have anything to do with Clovis?

Mother, Im in love! I tumbled against her, but not too hard. I could tell her. I could. Mother, Im in love. No, I couldnt. Mother, Im in love with Clovis, I shrieked.

Good Lord, said my mother.


CHAPTER TWO | The Silver Metal Lover | 2