by Connley (Lee) Landers
Culmination One-Eleven was a stark monument. It was habitat to over one million people and many businesses; a four square mile tribute to Sapiens's necessarily, ultra-proficient evolvement. It had twelve floors below ground level and two-hundred above, providing a challenge to the Otis Elevator Company. They responded with sixty fast, stomach-fluttering lifts. Each could whisk ninety-three people at a time from deep in the ground all the way to the roof's moorings for the six-sided, giant dirigibles that had soilless, mist-ponic, agriculture. They grew precious crops on the flat tops and tiered sides. The floating platforms were called the Hanging Hexgardens of Goodyear. They gave tours and had special events so people could see and be near green plants much like they did at something called 'zoos' ages ago.
Sonja wanted to meet her donor, Bon Tra, in person, much to his surprise. All nine of his chilclones had been initiated with him flashing his information and genetic code to their lab in a copyrighted, encrypted ion-packet via Introm. He was lucky to have a wholesome appearance, disease-free genetic markers, and a high IQ, so, gladly helped. Bon didn't think a face-to-face was really necessary. Those former ways were officially frowned on.
It was prohibited, but Sonja suggested doing it the outmoded, messy, dangerous way and flashed him a shocking, black-market, 180 year-old YouTube hologram to show exactly what that meant. Although it made him queasy, he gaped at it four times with barely a breath as though he was removing his helmet on a new planet.
Bon agreed to meet her at the feeding hoses in Culmination One-Eleven's food atrium. He had been formulating his refusal speech. The least he could do was tell her in person. Sonja, a fertilization lab technician, had a half-liter of the primitive Gray squirted in. Boy, she was old-fashioned -- all the way. You can tell a lot about a person by what they allowed into their body. You are what you squirt. He had the latest Indigo puree pumped with a Droom 55 algae-biobeer chaser. He could have boasted that he was responsible for the building having Indigo and Droom, but he didn't. Twenty-four year old Bon, the nutritionist, was supposed to set an example.
Just as he was about to blurt his rejection, Sonja wiped her mouth, smeared a putty-colored, antique streak on a napkin and smiled at him. She reapplied coral-colored lipstick, pursed her lips and smacked like they did in the golden oldie movies. The sound made him squirm. He'd never seen lipstick for real. He didn't think it was allowed. When the Collector came for the napkin she didn't pay any attention.
Those lips! The smile froze Bon. She said, "Did you watch the holo of the old way?"
"Uh... I...I really didn't get much of a chance..."
"We had to watch it during my training and I made off with a copy. It was supposed to disgust us and show why we're so safety conscious now. Some people in my class threw up. They made us look at our fingernails and cuticles under a microscope, too." Her violet eyes were so big when she spoke. She put her hands up and wiggled her fingers. "We washed our hands a lot better after that."
"Well, I'm surprised you'd be so retro and go against..."
"Guess it's my family. I was raised by my Grandparents.
"You were raised by relatives? Unprepared?"
"Yes. They were fined but didn't care. Grandpa was an English professor, and after it was banned from the school, recited poetry around the pod. Grandma and I thought it too beautiful to let go. His favorite was Shakespeare:
What is love? 'Tis not hereafter;
Present mirth has present laughter;
What's to come is still unsure;
In delay there lies not plenty;
Then, come kiss me, sweet and twenty,
Youth's a stuff will not endure."
Three nearby scanners mechanically turned fisheyes toward them and made him self-conscious. He whispered behind his hand, "It sounds impatient and impetuous."
"That Spear-shaker is anti and your Grandpa's the type that would have hidden books from the scanners. We need the plant fiber for food. We use the cellulose from recycled paper and wood in the Gray you know." She winked and moved her eyebrows up and down. Bon blushed but couldn't take his eyes off of her. Whatever she was going to do next, he might be a part.
"I'll be ovulating for the next three days. Will you come to my pod tomorrow night about nineteen hundred?"
In Bon's pod that night visions capered before his eyes making his restlessness rise to fever. Holo images wouldn't stop giving those lies rudely to his fantasy. He tried to recall colorful moments from his past but could not -- memories of his childhood preparations fading in a steely fog of time. Only gray, gray and more gray.
Bon was assigned to Cul 111's Prep when he was three, then College of Nutrition. It came to his mind that even his instructor, Dr. Kraynac, had that grizzled, bramble, professorial beard that issued his lipless mantra, "We eat to live, we don't live to eat -- getting the right nutrients in fast and efficiently to 32 billion mouths. That's our job."
Professor Kraynac had invented and introduced feeding hoses first into Cul 111 years ago during World Famine III. "Eleven hundred and one calories and all nutrients squirted in a few seconds. That's where the building's name came from." Bon's Indigo contribution caused a rift in their relationship.
Kraynac said, "Color and flavor are not necessary. We've used the Gray for almost a century and it's kept us alive. This is how it was done."
Bon said, "Let's give them a choice and see which they choose."
"But the system works like it is. Why fool with it?"
The next evening her coral-colored lips consumed him. Bon flashed his genetic packet unencrypted, sans Introm. There was an indigo smear on the sheets. In his memory two nights melted and ran together like beads of sweat between her breasts. Maybe that much power should be controlled by a panel of staid, un-impetuous judges.
At work rainbow thought-waves of those nights swept over him. He couldn't concentrate for long and kept staring at a wall as though it was a picture window. Through it Bon saw himself swimming at the beach in Phoenix years ago when Pacific swells moved him and he felt tiny and huge.
They paid the fine. Raised the twins. Cleopatra and Scarlet learned Shakespeare from secret books.
© 2012 Connley (Lee) Landers
Bio: "Connley (Lee) Landers suffered a skeet shooting head injury and lost his cerebellum. Afterward, he wrote and won an award for his novel, Catethics, which proves he’d overthought previous work. Using only his medulla oblongata, had stories published in Rope and Wire Magazine, Darkest Before the Dawn, The Horror-Zine, Houston Literary Review, Metazen, Static Movement, Perceptions, Nexus, and Slushpile. Lee is looking for representation for his story collection, novel and his new memoir, Gray Matter, Don’t Matter. Can be reached with simple, large print words at the address below or via his website, Miminalistmenufesto."
E-mail: Connley (Lee) Landers
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