My brother Jon Matos is guest writing today, a flash fiction glimpse of a dystopian future.Jon Matos – @jonmatoswriter on Twitter
Odette peed. Her skin resonated with a warmth that climbed to her cheeks. She sighed, grateful for a minute to herself.
“Mustang Sally!” the PA system crooned.
Odette shot up, not wanting the Bidet-bot to scorch her for sitting too long. The music only started if you were sitting without urinating or defecating for ten seconds. Odette didn’t know which she feared more: hot water to the crotch or Muzak.
She covered herself with her burka, wondering if her grandmother, the ex-librarian would say if she saw her. Probably something dismissive. “In my day, those things hid bombs, not implants.”
Odette pictured her, flat-chested and grim, sitting in prison, dreaming of her books. She drifted into the waiting room and sat, the image of her grandmother blinding her, temporarily. Odette didn’t see the furry woman, two paws away from full doghood, or the Sikh man, shivering at the sight of her. Odette’s hand reached for an arm rest, but landed on another man’s hand. Her heart implant fluttered.
Odette’s eyes scanned him. Tight jeans. Pink sunglasses. Top knot. He smirked.
“It’s fine,” the man said quietly, his lilting voice signaling his harmlessness. “I just got my sex drive deleted, if you catch my drift. My doctor-bot just needs to comm with my insurance agent.”
Laughter eked through Odette’s sackcloth headdress. “Oy. I thought my uncle was the last insurance agent. Such a cliché, being a Jew – – ”
Odette stopped, paralyzed at this sudden intimacy she was having with a man in public. It would be fine, so long as they heard he was mechanically castrated, but she didn’t want to take the chance. Her hand searched for a magazine on the table beside her and found a small pamphlet. She shook her head upon seeing the garish cover of a tiny tract. It reminded her of the hippies, like her hopelessly romantic grandfather. The songs he would sing, about Boaz and kindred redeemers. Like women could be bought.
“Check it out,” she whispered, slipping the tract to the man beside her. He ogled the Renaissance-style painting of Jesus fraternizing with the woman at the well.
He rolled his eyes. “Oh trust me, I’ve read it. My church is full of these sentimental love monkeys. Wait ‘til they hear I took the plunge. They’ll get off my back about making babies for good then.”
The nurse droid whirred over on its rubber treads and clamped its porcelain claw onto Odette’s forearm. Porcelain was a favorite material of the Comrade-Fascist party, who ran all the procedures. Odette looked up at the fake smile painted around the bot’s mouth slot; it reminded her of the porcelain dolls her aunt gave her. She slipped her husband’s order form into the droid’s lips, tense for the pregnant second it took to process. Nurse droids were known to douse you with ether and dial the special police if you forged an order form. The Comrade-Fascist accords dictated that only a man could define the beauty routines of his life partner. Odette was proud to see it happen in her lifetime, even if meant limited toilet time.
Odette relaxed at the bright *ding* of an accepted order. Her forearm buzzed with blood as the droid relinquished it.
“Follow me,” the droid sang.
The she-droid shepherded Odette to an adjoining room, where she removed her burka once more. Her olive skin quivered as she stretched her bare body across the starched sheets, strewn over a crude gurney. This was her least favorite part. The gas.
“HELGA HELGA HELGA,” the nurse-bot hummed, her voice echoing in the cloistered room. Two arms descended from the ceiling, one like the censer an alter boy would swing during a Catholic mass, the other like the knife that would let him be a choir boy for life.
Helga was the face of this procedure, the gorgeous dynamo who disrupted the beauty market. Odette’s life partner loved her titanium thighs and plastic lips. He had pre-programmed the nurse droid to say the name, HELGA, to help Odette keep calm. It would comfort her to known, with a few simple procedures, she could look just like her heroine, the for-profit priestess of the Comrade-Fascist ministry. She was the real Madonna, not that slut that sang about sex being “like a prayer.”
The gas clouded Odette’s brain. Sharp images emerged from her mind, crowding out her beloved’s reminder of ideal beauty. Instead, she saw it again: a delicate swan, bathed in a soft glowing light, floating in a crystal river. None of the supplements from CF explained what it was, or why it would haunt her when her life partner cried out Helga’s name instead of hers.
The knife edged nearer, ready to rip away the scaly exoskeleton that hid her true self. Odette let out a quiet moan, as the blade began its holy work.