Something was wrong.

She looked at what she was doing. She had a glass in her hand. She was sitting in a secluded booth and she was talking to a man from Bloy named Miller. Bloy's people had recently extended some feelers in her direction, and they were now engaged in the usual ritual dance that occured in these circumstances. She had liked what was on the table, and been seriously considering taking the offered position, but now...

She got up and she walked away, absently discarding her crumbling glass as she did so.

This was the correct thing to do, but she knew that something was still wrong.

She looked at where she was. She was in a dimly-lit building with lots of corridors and hidden angles. She wound her way to the front door, and yanked it open.

There was a momentary flash of sunlight, and then she was in a room which was deep underground, evidently hacked out of the very bedrock. The battered wooden door she had stepped through slammed itself shut behind her. It was cool and damp here, with enormous ugly shapes carved deep into walls, and thick masses of purple- blooming plants growing everywhere. Water trickled soothingly from pool to pool. Sweet incense and flower pollen filled the air, making her head spin. This was pure. This was perfect.

But something was still wrong.

She looked at her hair, rolling up her eyes. It was pulled back in a tight bun, skewered in place with numerous pins. She yanked the dark-reddish mass free, let it spill around her shoulders, down her back. The pins went spinning away in a collection of tinkles. This was good.

And something was still wrong.

She looked down at what she was wearing. A business jacket, a skirt, black pumps. Various bits of jewelry. She took off the jewelry, the slender gold watch, one careful piece at a time and tossed them in one of the pools, one specific pool ringed with sculptures, tiny half-melted metal mannikins all waving their hands in the air. She was a very good shot. Plop plop plop. She kicked off her shoes, into the same pool. She tore at her remaining clothes. Rip rend and shred. In the end, she had left herself barefoot, wearing only a collection of rags which both clung to her curves and shifted loosely around her as she moved. It was perfect.

While something was still wrong.

She looked at how she was standing. Tall, proud, her shoulders thrown back. Alone and independent. She dropped to her knees, in front of the man and the woman who stood there with her, stood there over her, towering high over her, spreading their shadows far and wide.

No. The man towered and cast shadows. The woman was just there in the room.

It didn’t matter. It was pure. It was true.

Nevertheless, something was still wrong.

She looked at how she was kneeling. Back straight, chin up, hands resting on her thighs. She slid forward in a single quick jerk, slapping her hands onto the cool stone floor in front of her knees, dropping her chin so she was staring at that same floor, which was wonderfully black and laced with a multitude of thin overlapping cracks. Among the cracks were millions of specks of silver and gray, shining in the soft light. Her hair spilled forward, around her face. It was good.

Except that something was still wrong.

She looked at what she was doing. She was sitting still. She wasn’t in motion. She was being lazy and shiftless and wasting important people’s time. She started rocking rhythmically in place, back and forth, back and forth, and it was perfect.

Only something was still wrong.

She looked at her hands. They were empty. Still rocking, she lifted her hands up off the stones, and something was immediately placed there, where her fingers had been.

An ordinary yellow sponge and next to that a silvery bucket filled with warm water and faintly odd-smelling soap bubbles. There was a ring of symbols engraved around the upper edge of the bucket, much like the ones on the walls, only more delicate and swirling.

She closed ten fingers around the delicious rough wetness of sponge, started scrubbing the stones of the floor, back and forth, endless, and it was good.

One last thing was wrong.

She looked at her neck without a mirror, she felt at her neck without lifting her hands away from the sponge, without breaking her motions. It was bare. Naked and grotesque and shivering, like the flesh of a dead plucked chicken. She lifted her head and shook her hair back out of the way, just enough for the collar to come in, to be be clicked into place, sealing tight and seamless. Lovely smooth steel, sliding endlessly around and around against her skin, getting down under her skin, crawling around and around and up and up inside her head, reaching her eyes and
cracking them and it was it was good. It was perfect. It was clean. It was joy. It was bliss. It was life and it was death.

It was right.

It was him.

She dropped her eyes back to the floor and she scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed and absolutely nothing was wrong and she wept.

He lifted a gentle hand off of the kneeling woman’s head, and he directed his gaze towards the woman standing silently beside him. He smiled, showing a few too many teeth, as even his genuinely pleased and friendly smiles tended to do.

“You approve of her, Andrea?”

The grave dark-haired woman in the maid’s uniform nodded silently.

“Good. One more assistant for you should be enough, for now at least, shouldn’t it?”

Another firm nod.

“Good. As it happens, it appears that I will be talking to a man tomorrow who may be... offering... us just who we need. I’ll leave you two to it, then?” He raised the two bare spots on his face that would normally feature eyebrows.

A final nod. Andrea touched the woman as he had, and she stopped scrubbing, looked up at Andrea through placid tear-stained eyes. Andrea explained what would happen now, and the woman of course indicated she understood, accepted it utterly.

“Good. Excellent.” He strode from the room, no longer smiling, no longer thinking about what was going on behind him.

Because things were still wrong...

To be continued?

Return to the

story page

All contents © Voyer, 2000