By Mizu Ash
A Mare Inebrium Story
Mare Inebrium Universe created by Dan Hollifield
She was already waiting at a table when I stepped inside the main room of
the Mare Inebrium. My mother. It had been two and a half years since I’d
seen her. She hadn’t noticed me yet. Good. That gave me an edge. I took
a deep breath and went to her table.
“Hi, mother,” I said as coolly as possible.
Her whole face lit up when she saw me. That radiant smile, those doe-like
“Oh, baby, I’m so pleased to see you again! Come here, let me give you a
I sighed and bent over to let her kiss me, but she grabbed me and hugged me
fiercely. As she was sitting and I was still standing, leaning over, it
an awkward position. Finally she let go, and I looked around to see if
anyone had noticed this little display of affection. Fortunately not.
I sat down and had a good look at her. My God, how did she do it? She
still looked as young as when I was a kid. Still dressed as if she was in
her twenties too. That’s my mum all right: young body, old mind.
I noticed she had her handbag on her lap. She probably didn’t trust the
regulars of the Mare Inebrium. Our home-planet, London Green, only has the
one sentient species: humans class II. We’re not used to seeing giant
scorpions having a quick nip at our local.
She was looking me over as well, a little frown on her young face. Yes,
that was the sign: she was going to start in on me.
“How is Euan, dear?”
Right. Sore topic number one. My boyfriend. Made an emergency-stop on my
home-planet two and a half years ago, left a day later with extra-cargo.
“He’s fine, mum. He’s not flying any more.”
“Is he out of a job?” Was that hope in her voice?
“No, mother. He works as a dispatcher at his old firm. He processes
clients’ orders and organises the flights.”
She fell silent. Good. One-nil for me. Nothing like a visit from your
mother to wake the old competitive spirit.
“Did you know Basil is getting married, dear? Very nice girl. Lizzie
Althorpe, you remember her, she was in your class at school.”
Yes, I remembered her. Yes, I also remembered Basil, my old pal Bassie.
And wouldn’t my mum and his have loved to see us getting hitched? Trouble
is, if you’ve spent the whole of the first eighteen years of your life
mates with someone, you just long for the sight of a stranger. And
strangers were hard to get by on our colony-planet where people were still
I beckoned to the waitress. I didn’t have a drink yet, and I desperately
needed one. Getting grilled by my mother is thirsty work. I ordered a
Tequila Samba. And wouldn’t you know, my mother shot me a disapproving
Drinks arrived: milky tea for her, and a very alcoholic cocktail for me.
She looked at me anxiously.
“You’re not thinking of children yet, are you, dear?”
Oh brother. No, I’m not, but just her telling me not to have children is
enough to make me want to run out and have quintuplets by a total stranger.
She has that effect on me.
“No, mother, I’m not. I’m on birth-control. I have to work on my career
“Oh yes, you wrote about your job. You’re a hairdresser, aren’t you?”
“Yes, mother, you could put it like that. Or you could say that I’m the
first assistant hair stylist at the top hair business here on Bethdish,
catering to a jet-set interplanetary crowd.” Up for promotion in a few
weeks’ time, if I keep up the good work, too.
“I don’t think there’s any need for that tone, Emmeline Jane.”
Yep, an oldie but goodie. I must have heard that sentence about a hundred
thousand times, growing up. And bingo, I still remembered the correct
“No, mother. I’m sorry, mother.”
“That’s all right, baby.”
I was beginning to doubt my own sanity: a few weeks ago I’d got in touch
with my mother after two and a half years of silence. I’d run away on my
eighteenth birthday, but you would think things change after a while. They
My mother looked at me, a bit sadly, it seemed. She seemed to brace
for the next question.
“Look, dear, I know it’s not really my business, but are you and that … you
and Euan happy?”
I could have seen this one coming.
“Yes, mum, we’re deliriously happy.”
“But he’s … he’s so much older than you.”
“Yes mum, he is, and no mum, it doesn’t matter at all.”
Technically speaking, that was not completely true, I have to admit. It’s
silly of him to worry about his age, really. I mean, he’s only 42 and I’m
almost 21. He’s in the prime of his life. He’s got a good 20 or 30 years
ahead of him, and by that time who knows what will have happened? We could
all have died from Appolonian scurvy by then. And still, I was half right
in my answer. It doesn’t worry me one bit. I love that guy.
“But he’s … he’s not completely human, is he?”
“Yes, he is, mum! He’s from Dagoowe, a human colony planet just like ours.
And they’re humans class II, just like us.”
Humans class II: real humans with slight genetical modifications, sometimes
for colonisation purposes. That’s what the dictionary says.
“Yes, but do you know what those changes in Dagoowe men are?”
Her voice became a bit shrill, and some customers looked us over quickly
before turning back to their own conversations. I must say the question
took me by surprise. She didn’t need me to answer it, though, she was
already answering it, and a bit loud too, for my taste.
“Because they have warrior sperm, did you know that? Because they
have sperm that attacks and kills women, did you know that?
Oh my God, how I’ve worried over you, eloping with that Dagoowe flier!
Everyone knows about Dagoowe men! They’ll murder you with
Now everybody was looking at us. I could have died. Warrior sperm indeed.
But my mum was on a roll.
“They have sex with women and they pump these women full of
sperm and then that sperm attacks these women from the
and wrecks havoc in there. And they get those awful sex
diseases that you can die of, and cancer and everything!
“Whoa mum, slow down! Slow down, please! Look, I don’t know where you got
your information, but it’s just wrong. I mean, look at me, I’ve been
…, er, what I mean to say is: I’ve lived with Euan for two and a half years
now, and I’m not dead yet. I’m not ill, honestly, there’s nothing wrong
“But it’s true, that sperm has been genetically altered. It carries
disease. Oh, baby, baby…”
“Mum, please! I’m healthy as a horse. Look, I don’t mean to be impolite,
but I didn’t contact you after two and a half years of silence to be
about my boyfriend’s sperm. For heaven’s sake. Please. I got into touch
because I thought it was time to let bygones be bygones. Look, you made a
long trip to see me, let’s not fight over some silly gossip.”
Nice speech, even if I say so myself. It got to her, too. She took a deep
breath, noticed her tea as if for the first time, and took a sip.
“You’re right, dear. I’m sorry. It’s just that I worry about you. I’ve
been worried sick for more than two years now. Until I got your message, I
didn’t even know if you were still alive. That’s hard on a mother.”
She looked at me sadly, and I must say I felt sorry for her. She went on.
“And I also wanted to tell you something. I’ve got some news.”
I was surprised. News? From that dreary little planet that was my home
the first eighteen years of my life?
“You’ve got a brother.”
Now people were staring at me, but I couldn’t care less. At her age,
a kid? What was she thinking? Me, an adult woman with a baby-brother!
“Yes, he’s a very nice boy. He’s called Callum. He’s eighteen now.”
“What do you mean, he’s eighteen months old?”
I was doing the math in my head, and it didn’t seem to add up. She must
have got pregnant right after I left London Green. Talk about cheering
“No, he’s eighteen years old, dear. He’s just finished secondary school.”
Eighteen? Eighteen years old? I couldn’t even answer her any more. I
sat there, probably with my mouth hanging open.
She took a deep breath. It seemed our day for deep breaths.
“Emmeline Jane, I have to tell you something. You should have heard it on
your eighteenth birthday, but you ran away with that, with Euan that day.
You, I mean, we all, London Green women, have been altered genetically.
Well, I was, and I passed it on to you.”
“It’s got to do with colonizing London Green. When we left earth, we knew
we had a big task ahead of us. We knew we’d need all the manpower we could
get. So we were altered so that we could have babies quicker. And they
could grow up quicker.”
“Quick? How quick?”
“Well, er, from conception to birth: one day.”
We were now getting more stares than a bald man at our annual ‘Mister
Luscious Hair’-competition, but I was past caring.
“It doesn’t take nine months?”
“It’s just one day?”
“Just the one day, dear, yes.”
I fell silent. I couldn’t ask the question. She looked at me.
“Don’t you want to know how long it takes to grow up?”
“Not particularly, no.”
“How long it took you to become eighteen?”
I remained quiet.
“It’s not so very long, either.”
I wasn’t biting.
“Six weeks. It’s six weeks. After six weeks you’re eighteen, and from
on you grow older at the normal rate.”
I couldn’t believe it. This woman was mental. That would mean … it would
mean I was only, er, two and a half years plus six weeks, that I was born
less than three years ago! It was insane, I had a whole childhood full of
boring memories to prove her wrong! The endless family-visits, the games I
played with Bassie, the math homework for school, day in day out, the
thousands of family meals…
I didn’t say anything, but she knew what I was thinking.
“You’re not yet three, baby, in real time, but physically and mentally
you’re twenty. Your memories are real. It’s just, something that happens
once or twice gets split in your brain in a hundred or a thousand memories,
each slightly different. So we went to visit your aunt during your first
two or three weeks, maybe once a week. And that got split in your brain.
So now you have the memories for the full period your childhood should have
lasted. It’s perfect!”
If looks could kill, she would have fried to a crisp on the spot. She
noticed and faltered a bit.
“Well, it’s perfect if you’ve got a whole new planet to colonize and only a
few thousand people to do it. Children grow up fast, have a nice childhood
and become useful citizens of London Green. A few years later they can
I was only half listening. I was still thinking about that one little
sentence ‘You’re not yet three yet, baby’. Euan. That’ll cheer him up no
end. The gap between us has just increased by eighteen years. He’s on the
brink of middle age and dating a toddler, so to speak.
“Like I said, you’re an adult, dear. You learnt from your experiences,
like anyone else. We make sure as parents that those six weeks are as nice
as possible. But the thing is, and that’s one of the reasons I came to see
you here, you shouldn’t have kids too soon. Because otherwise there’s no
time gap, you know. You should wait a bit, say eight years or ten.”
A thought struck me.
“So how old are you, exactly?”
She stared at me before answering.
“Well, 28, dear.”
Oh brother, this was getting better and better.
“You see, that’s why you have to wait before you have kids. I mean, it
would just be too weird if I was only 25, wouldn’t it?”
Yes, huge difference. A mum of 25, she’s a mere child. Now a mum of 28,
there’s a mature adult mother you can respect. I kept the sarcasm to
I just looked at her and remembered my rebellious puberty, those endless
Boy, that must have been some week.
When I came home, Euan was in the kitchen. He was chopping up vegetables
for soup, his speciality. He looked up when I came in, winked and smiled,
and went back to his chopping. Just the sight of him filled me with such
longing. I couldn’t imagine ever loving anyone else that much. His broad
shoulders, his curly dark hair, already going grey in some places. The way
he stood at the kitchen counter: his feet apart, his shoulders hunched, his
movements as precise as if he was docking a freight ship in a tight spot.
No one can chop vegetables like a flier. It’s all in the finger movements.
It doesn’t hurt when you’re making love, either, believe me.
I went over to him, took the knife out of his hand, and started kissing
“Hey, what’s …”
But I wasn’t going to discuss the matter with him. I was planning to
my man and I was going to do it now. I needed it. I wanted it. I
it, after that interesting conversation I’d just had with my mother. I
wanted to feel alive again, and loved, and adult, for God’s sake.
I kissed him as ardently as I knew how, and I started stroking his back.
responded readily enough, but not quite passionately enough for my taste.
doubled the efforts with my mouth and my hands, I was going to have him in
ecstasy whether he wanted to or not. I bit his ear, not very softly, I
dragged my nails across his back, my tongue was all over the place. And
yes, I felt him wake up and pay attention. Goody. Now get him to the
bedroom. I’m not too keen on kitchen worktops for some action, to be
honest, and I didn’t want to break the mood. So I started leading him,
sweetly, sweetly, down the hallway to the bedroom. Fortunately no stairs
our apartment flat, because I’m not sure we could have kept kissing while
navigating stairs. Now we could, keep kissing that is, and it was a very
sexy waltz into our bedroom.
You know, on the way home from the Mare Inebrium, after that chat with my
mum, I’d made up my mind: I wasn’t going to tell Euan yet. As my old
teacher, Mrs Williams, had told us a thousand times, in her singsong voice:
“We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it!” Well,
come to think of it, she probably just said it once. Never mind. I’m on
8g-gas, that is 8th generation contraceptive gas. One whiff a week and I’m
as safe as houses. I did NOT want to have a baby and see it growing up
jerkily for a few weeks before having to buy a dress for the graduation at
the local high school. No sirree.
When we got to the bed, I just jumped his bones. I’m sorry, I don’t know
a more delicate way of putting it. I wasn’t gentle or sweet about it, I
wanted him, and I wanted him right here, right now. If I hadn’t loved the
guy as much as I did, I’m not sure my actions wouldn’t have qualified as
attempt at serious bodily harm. I tore off his clothes, pinned him to the
bed and started in on him, as determined as can be.
As we live in the Old City, in a cheap old flat with walls which seem to be
made of cardboard, we normally try and keep the noise down when we’re
sex. No need to rouse the neighbours, or to arouse them, for that matter.
But now wasn’t the time for such niceties, oh no. I don’t think I could
have been quiet if my life had depended on it, and my enthusiasm seemed to
inspire Euan as well. Quite frankly, it was the best sex I’d ever had, and
judging from Euan’s reactions, he wasn’t bored either. He groaned:
“Baby, baby, …!” in my neck, and silently I said amen to that. We
fell down on the bed and lay panting for minutes. Yes!
Later we lay spooning. Euan was the first one to speak again.
“Not that I’m not grateful, but what brought this on?”
I turned to him and grimaced:
“Yeah, I met her today, at the Mare Inebrium. Remember I told you I was
going to meet her?”
“Yeah sure, so how did it go?”
I sighed. I nestled a bit closer to him.
“Well, just what I could have expected. She felt compelled to criticise
about all aspects of my life, including you.”
“Me? Oh come on, I’m such a loveable guy! What doesn’t she like about
I couldn’t resist it.
“Your warrior sperm. You know, the sperm you shoot into poor unsuspecting
women like myself to give them all sorts of horrible, horrible diseases.
Little sperm armed with little clubs and bows and tiny little knives to
carve me up on the inside.”
“Warrior sperm…” he said softly, “It’s been ages since I heard that word.”
“You mean it’s true?
I shot up like a rocket. Oh please God, don’t let my mother be right,
“No, at least not the disease part. Don’t worry, baby, my sperm isn’t
to hurt you.”
“Well, what is it then?”
He sat up as well, and rearranged the pillows so that we could both lean
against them. He put an arm around my shoulder and pulled me to him. I
love it when he tells me a story in bed. He tells a nice story, my Euan.
“It’s to do with our history on Earth. Women were liberating themselves,
having careers, using birth control, not wanting children. But some men
want children, and their biological clock was ticking. I mean, you don’t
want to become a father when you are sixty, do you? You can’t play
with your kids, you get out of breath just teaching them how to ride a
So a number of men had genetic changes done to them. They had normal
sperm until they subconsciously felt that having children was taking too
long, that the clock was ticking, that they were getting older. At that
moment their sperm mutated into ‘warrior sperm’ or ‘G.I.Joe semen’ as it
called, although the scientific term for the whole process was
“But what happened with the sperm, then?”
“It meant the sperm got stronger and worked together in a very special way:
it went in at about, I don’t know, say a thousand times the normal speed,
went into the womb and the ovary, and then abducted the egg. Then, and
is the weirdest part, the sperm returned to the penis, with the egg of
course, raced through the spermatic duct and made a small opening into the
belly of the man. There the egg and the surviving sperm finally slowed
down, one lucky fellow with a bit more stamina than the rest fertilised the
egg, and the egg started to nestle in the abdominal wall. The whole process
only took a minute or so, because the sperm was so fast.”
“So the man got pregnant?”
“Yes, and nine months later he had a caesarean and that was that.”
“I’ve never even heard of this! I mean, how often does this happen?”
“I don’t think it happens any more, to be honest. You remember the
Chromosome Riots from 22nd century history? No? Well, after that, the
royal president of the United States, Dan Quayle VI, had the progressive
neighbourhoods in the larger cities surrounded by the National Guard and
the inhabitants arrested for Wilful Incitement to Think Progressively,
whether they had been genetically altered or not. They were called C-women
and C-men. They…”
“Hang on, hang on, C-women and C-men?
“Career women and caesarean men. They were given the choice to renounce
importance of personal freedom on national TV, or to emigrate to Dagoowe,
which was one of the first planets to be colonized. They did the
thing and emigrated.”
“But the joke was on the colonists. They returned to conservative ways and
values almost as soon as they set foot on their new planet. King Danny Q
would have thoroughly approved. You know how it is with colony planets,
grew up on one of them. You have to build a society from scratch, and that
is just easier in a traditional framework. So it was the sanctity of life,
mother at home, father knows best, for everyone around. No pressure to do
it that way, mind you, just their own choice on a harsh planet. And with
people marrying young and women having children straight away, there was no
need for men to get pregnant any more. It hardly ever happened on Dagoowe,
I only knew of a few cases when I grew up.”
My head reeled from all this information. Boy, was I glad to be on birth
control! Still, I had to ask.
“But these C-women, weren’t they on birth control?”
“Well, yes, I suppose most of them were. That is really where warrior
got its nickname. It could penetrate condoms and circumvent most forms of
Euan belched with his hand clasped to his mouth. I couldn’t answer. This
couldn’t be true, it couldn’t, this was a nightmare, this was my worst
dreams, only much, much worse. I could just look at him in shock, in
complete and utter shock.
“Still, nothing to worry, baby. It’s a recessive gene, so I doubt if I
carry it. Wouldn’t it be neat, though, me carrying your child?”
He burped again.
“Sorry, baby, I don’t know what it is with me. Must be that tuna sandwich
I bought at the cafeteria today. I think I’d better get to the bathroom.”
He got out of bed and walked to our bathroom. I heard him belch once more.
Is that retching sounds I hear from the bathroom?
Is he, is he throwing up …?
Oh please God, let it be food poisoning…
Please, please, please, let it not be what I think it is…
Copyright 2002 by Mizu Ash
Biography: Mizu has told me that she has no idea what to say in a bio. But her e-mail address is email@example.com
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