All Stories, Fantasy, Science Fiction

Sexed by Mark Saba

It took seven minutes of her time, seven minutes of his time, and time was as precious as ever to them. He was on his way to a potluck breakfast (for which he hadn’t even bought his dish yet) and she was on her way to buy a new dress for her mother’s wedding before going to work. Neither of them had time for this but, luckily, it didn’t take much time. Everyone was in agreement about that.

There were coupling booths all around the city now, each crowned with an iridescent “C” boxed in black. She had noticed him before, riding the escalator up every morning as she stood in line for her coffee on the mezzanine. His thick black hair caught the light so nicely, like dark kelp underwater. He might even have noticed her once or twice, though it was hard to focus on anything during the morning rush. His mind wandered continuously, from the potluck to the game next Saturday to the order he hadn’t finished to the woman in line on the mezzanine. He checked his watch. The train had pulled in a few minutes early that day, and he was feeling spry enough to push his way through the enveloping crowds and gain even more time before arriving at the revolving door. A fresh beam of light from the sky window landed on his confident shoulders as he stepped off the escalator and made his way to the coffee queue. He pulled up beside her and stopped.

She turned slightly, as if to look past him, and that was all they needed.

They skipped coffee (having reallocated their dispensable time now) and headed for the nearest of the eight coupling booths on the first floor.

Luckily, there was no wait. The self-cleaning mechanism was almost finished when they got there, and the green light came on almost just as they were about to step inside. A voice greeted them, but stopped mid-sentence when he flipped the first switch: it was his decision to terminate the directives, having heard them so many times he could recite them at will.

Next he flipped the “seven minute” button and they removed their clothes. Various instruments were available for expediting the process and maximizing the outcome. In the end their orgasms were at peak level. The yellow light went on after six minutes to remind them of their duty to pick up and leave so that the booth could be scoured and prepared for its next visitors. During the last fifteen seconds, fully clothed, they put on the desensitizing helmets so that the memory of the coupling, along with any attending emotions, would be permanently destroyed.

They came out as they had gone in, never having exchanged a word, and just as hungry as they had been before entering, though now they must go to work.

The grind never let up for him until 4:53, when he finished his last call of the day. He knew the weather would be sizzling outside, and wondered how big the crowd would be at the subway and superway. He knew the smells of the hot waiting areas already, the sticky concrete floors and wafts of petrified urine. Nothing about the trip home that evening would be memorable.

And yet, as he scurried along the baking pavement with his head down, he chanced to look up, and noted another scurrying businessman on his way home, three paces to the left and four paces ahead of him. He had loosened his tie and unbuttoned the stranglehold on his neck. His hairline was wet; his eyes determined. He too would rather be someplace else, but he slowed after he caught our friend Uomo from the corner of his eye. They stopped at a crosswalk. Uomo looked at him straight on, and the man did not budge, though he did draw a long breath. He wasn’t sure at first what Uomo had in mind: wrestling, staring, or straight-out sex?

There were booths readily available for all three, though the nearest Staring Booth’s light went red just as, it seemed, Uomo looked down the street to find it. Was it sex they wanted? Not from his point of view. It was something male and instinctual, but not sex. The nearest wrestling booth was another half-block away, and they trotted toward it as if in warming up for the event.

The wrestling booths were the largest of the three kinds, and the relative spaciousness inside gave them a heightened sense of freedom and abandon. Images of boulder-laden plains, blanched by a strong sun, melted into view on the four walls. The scents of dust, sweat, and fresh blood replaced the metallic blandness of city summer air. Everything they had learned left them, and all that mattered was the feeling they shared, a feeling that grew so strong there was nothing for them to do but act on it.

Uomo sized up the other’s body: it was, in all respects, the opposite of his, the kind of body he’d always wanted to have (even if he had received many compliments on the one he owned). Everything about them was different: Uomo had fair skin and dark, concentrated tufts of hair. The Other had golden skin and highlighted, chestnut-colored hair that grew in radial lines along his stomach and chest. Uomo was thick and long-waisted; the Other was lean and high-waisted. They were like two species meeting at the edge of time, regarding each other with a curiosity that was both awe-inspiring and uneasy.

As the hologram light shifted behind one of the hills they fell upon each other, hands and arms responding spontaneously to each other’s strength. They drew back several times and rethought their moves, calculating exhaustion against time and instinct, as the sky changed colors, feigning dusk.

For the last minute they rested leaning against one another, drained of strength, but charged with masculinity. Then the images faded, the room became white, and after being dry-cleaned, they dressed to leave.

Our Uomo and his contestant nodded their goodbyes and resumed their beaten paths homeward. Uomo felt no need to push his way onto the subway, but patiently waited his turn, even surrendering his seat once he got on to a woman and her baby. The aggressive advertising posters did little to hold his attention, and several boom boxes fused into a primal background noise that he considered acceptable. Indeed, the even jolts and swaying of the train sent him deeply into reverie.

Across the aisle, seated uncomfortably between two young businessmen, a mature woman gazed thoughtfully at the floor. Uomo chanced to focus on her, noticing her fierce blue eyes set into the delicate mask of contentment she wore. But when she looked up at him he turned away. There was something painful about her, yet something good too.

His stop came, and it was her stop too. They exited together, and once on the platform she turned to look at him. Uomo felt the same need. He scanned the signs to find the closest booth that would allow them to discover what it was that drew them together. These Staring Booths, or SBs, were less frequent than the other two types, but soon he noticed their tell-tale icon: a blue circle enclosing a white wheel of radiating spokes. It was this eye that gave people the freedom to plumb the depths of another without touching, an activity that acknowledged spiritual contact in place of the physical; and a place where mystery was allowed to dwell, even flourish, in the midst of a businesslike world.

The sign pointed them in the direction of a small recess along the wall of the exit corridor. As they entered, the walls, ceiling, and floor turned from a dull, colorless material to a brilliant, translucent white. Two seats appeared, facing one another, carved of transparent plastic. As they sat down, the ceiling opened up to a vision of radiant streaks of cool colors and white light. The light fell over them, illuminating their eyes and warming their spirits.

Uomo had seen her once before, long ago, when the setting was less significant and he hadn’t yet learned the importance of cultivating relationships with those who interested him. He had been a child, perhaps so young that he couldn’t express his feelings well in words. The wonderful face of his great-grandmother was one that made him feel something that he felt now, while looking at this strange woman. He had not dwelt in that feeling for so long, that excited calm, that connection to someone who is an ancient part of you. All the years fell away to that time; that short, distant time before he could speak, when he would gaze at the stone-still face of his great-grandmother.

And then that memory opened other doors for him, other feelings that had been gone so long her felt he was discovering them for the first time. He felt that he was the most important person in the world, that no harm could come to him, that everywhere he went there was a set of hands to protect him: they were large and strong or smaller and soft; they were dry and warm; they were bony and streaked with blue lines. He felt that vague feeling of time that children know opening up in him again, that disregard of the beginning and end. And finally, he lost himself in the slow hum of the car as he fell against the back seat, feeling as if those old, old hands were holding him still, and that they would never let go.

Never let those eyes go, she told herself, sinking into their deep brown. All the eyes in her family were blue, blue or blue-gray. Those eyes, though, she had seen before; she had lost herself in them. They were her brother’s eyes, and she had last seen them when she was eleven years old, the night before he left for War. She sees them again now; they are laughing eyes, angry eyes, guilty eyes—eyes torn away from childhood and re-anchored in manhood after a brief adolescence. She liked the liveliness in those eyes, the care and wisdom in them. She has been searching her whole life for them. And now they have come back to her.

Have they been sleeping under matted European fields, those fields of blood and wreckage now plowed under to change the face of history? Have they been seen in the dreams of French women too, or the dreams of soldiers who made it through, and now lie sleepless next to their old wives? Her brother’s eyes must have melted into many; others surely have not forgotten them. But have they been fortunate enough to find them again?

Oh, she knows they belong to someone else now. She knows this man could never understand the ache she’s carried around all these years, or why she wants to stare at him. He might have had a deep life until now; it might bear a small resemblance to her brother’s. It might not. And none of this matters. They are giving each other ebony keys into one another’s past, unlocking that small darkness at the center of each other’s eyes. They are, both of them, filling with renewed care and enthusiasm for the cruel world in which they live.

It was as simple as that.

Mark Saba

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6 thoughts on “Sexed by Mark Saba”

  1. Mark–
    The MC’s instinctive attempt to seize humanity where it has been effectively deleted is wonderfully presented. I found the Wrestling Booth idea amusing. Fresh look into what may be someday–probably not as far off as we might hope.


  2. Hi Mark,
    Leila mentions humanity which is interesting as we also need to consider instinct and need.
    This has many levels and is a very clever piece of story telling.


    1. Thanks. I wondered what kind of world it would be if we embraced our attractions instead of running from them and becoming suspicious.


  3. A very human piece that speaks of a not too impossible future. Kind of like Brave New World with the sex! I think it’s a great premise and worth considering taking to novella / novel length.


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