Posts Tagged ‘science-fiction’

Here are the first three chapters of my husband’s first novel, that I edited. So you can see if you might enjoy it.  It is available on Amazon as both a Trade Paperback and Kindle edition.  The actual book has images, etc…

CHAPTER ONE

LUCY FEELS

LUCY stands on the edge of a precipice, staring down into the deep dark abyss to see only a tiny trickle of water at the bottom. The rushing water cascades through the narrows of the long basin and terminates at points unknown. On the other side of the canyon is sanctuary, the Tower. The only way to reach it is by crossing a flimsy bridge made of widely spaced slats.

All she has to do is take that leap of faith and step out onto the bridge, and traverse the gorge before the dragons fly through. So she lifts her gaze from the rushing river below and prepares to take her first step.

Stepping off the curb still requires pause for Lucy, even after doing it every day for the last year. Each day, this young woman stands there staring down at the curb, watching the trickle of water washing down the street in front of her, seeing it as some sort of momentous obstacle to be overcome; her own personal quest. And the curls at the corners of her mouth aren’t from a smile as much as from her clenched teeth hiding beneath.

It is a concept that Lucy still cannot fully grasp; that traffic, the flow of modern age dragons, can be stopped simply by changing the colors of a light or, since the lights have been covered by cardboard for longer than she has been living here, the planting of a big red sign at each corner. Nothing is there to protect her when she crosses the street, no knights in armor or magical sorcerers, only some iridescent white paint on the contrasting black asphalt. It has almost become a game for her, trying to guess which driver will fail to yield her the right-of-way and crash right into her.

Lucy hesitates and takes in a deep breath. She slowly lets out the air as she steps off the curb and into the crosswalk. Raising her head high, the curls of her lips now resemble a bright defiant smile. Her shoulder-length strawberry blonde hair bounces with each strong step she takes, and the pleats in her silk dress flow evenly across her legs without even stretching the peach fabric.

Not losing a step, she shifts the bags of groceries so that she can see every corner of the street clearly. Continuing on her way, Lucy firmly holds her smile. These are the moments Lucy lives for, first the launch then the coasting; the same kind of rush people get from a cold drink brain-freeze. She walks like she is on the top of the world and owning it. The reciprocating smiles she receives from the other pedestrians takes her mind off the traffic piling up behind the crosswalk and affords her one of those quiet moments she always looks forward to.

From the view of everyone watching, this is a woman who has her act together, and who backs away from nothing. To watch her cross the street bathed in the light of the setting sun is like watching a lioness loping through a herd of gazelles; no threats, no problems, and nothing stopping her.

When Lucy reaches the other side of the street she leaps up onto the curb and stands firmly in place for a moment, relishing her victory. Then she quickly spins around on her heels to watch the traffic resume. She enjoys her little spins. The deadly grasp of the dragon’s jaws have missed her once again. And though she was able to successfully cross the street unscathed, the never-ending saga of the ‘Grand Avenue Crossing’ continues again tomorrow morning.

Satisfied with the ending of today’s adventure, Lucy turns to the Tower where she will be safely ensconced for yet another evening; the Raven Tower apartment building, for which she is still very grateful. She knows that not everyone could afford such a place, especially in the Fashion District of Los Angeles. It’s a hot commodity these days, more so since the Fashion Institute of Design took over the entire city block on the north side of 9th Street, across from Manny’s Market. It made sense, actually; that block was mostly parking lots anyway, with only two small buildings on it. With the old Fashion Institute building having been moved off of Lucy’s block and over to 9th and Grand, it opened up more space for the park to extend the lawn, and to build tennis and basketball courts, and add a duck pond. Lucy likes the duck pond, it makes her smile, which makes her even more grateful for being able to live here. It makes her feel special, knowing that she lives in one of the most desirable parts of Los Angeles, and in an apartment building that not just anyone can get into, but truth be told, she did have connections.

Passing through the portcullis of the Tower, or rather the large glass doors with a beautiful acid-etched Raven design, Lucy backs up to the elevator buttons where she cleverly pushes the ‘up’ button with her elbow, eliminating all need to disturb the grocery bags firmly in her grasp.

Arriving at the third floor, Lucy steps out of the elevator and immediately makes her nightly right turn down the hall. She still counts the doors, even though she’s been here for a year now. One, two, three, four doors down, then she stops in front of her door on the left; suite three-eleven.

Juggling the bags in her arms, Lucy digs for her keys but stops suddenly before she can put the key in the lock. The brass key, with the copper head and Raven scrollwork, hovers in front of the keyhole awaiting permission to dock. That smile she held onto for so long droops slightly. An old white birdcage hangs from the Deco light over her door. She steps back and immediately looks down the hall in both directions. First she looks back from whence she came then she takes a few steps further down the hall to where it banks left at a corner suite. She peeks down that hallway as well, which leads to the other side of the building, looking for any sign of movement. She looks all the way down that long hall to the stairwell on the left; the stairwell, where she holds her gaze. It is that stairwell that haunts her, and on occasion keeps her awake. She tries to play it off, to forget about it, but she’s promised herself not to, so she keeps an eye on it for just a few moments longer, until she’s satisfied there is no one there.

When Lucy returns to her door, a middle-aged woman with her young daughter step out of the corner apartment at the turn of the hall, and starts toward the elevator. When they catch sight of Lucy the woman pulls her daughter close and cautiously walks the child around her. They keep their eyes on Lucy the entire time, until they finally enter the elevator and the doors close.

Lucy’s gaze returns to the birdcage, where she finds inside it a scarecrow no more than eight inches high. Her eyes dart around for a moment or two until she forces the smile back up and removes the cage from the light.

In a cumbersome attempt at holding both the cage and the bags, while trying to fit the key in the lock, she tries to compose herself as if it’s all normal, but this lie she tells herself doesn’t stop the pain she carries inside her.
As Lucy contemplates the situation, while turning the key without dropping the groceries, she hears a door open down the side hall. She cautiously creeps over to the corner and peeks down the hall to see a young man, about the same age as herself, stepping outside his apartment. He stops for a moment, turns to Lucy, and glares at her. His spiked blue hair, skeletal tattoos, and wild piercings can’t disguise how innocent this young man truly looks. His forced persona of a hard-ass comes off to Lucy as just a shout for attention, but the venom that drips from his eyes can’t disguise his perception of her. There’s something about her that he seems to take personally. It has been three months since he has moved in, but he has never done anything more than stare at her with a ballistic gaze.
The young man immediately heads into the stairwell across from his apartment; the stairwell Lucy fears. He leaves her with the cage dangling from her already full hand, and thoughts of who that young man might be, and where he’s going, and what he does all day and night. If she could only be so brave as to follow him. She shuts off the little fantasy-making machine in her head and returns to her door once again. She pauses briefly, staring down into the door handle which she grasps with her free hand. She loses herself in the reflection of the handle for a moment. What does he see in her that is so wrong? How can he see anything at all? He’s never once had a meaningful conversation with her. In fact, he’s never even spoken to her. Enough dwelling.

Lucy finally pushes her way into the apartment and closes the door behind her. She firmly locks the deadbolt, and as an afterthought she pulls the chain across the door as well. She carries the bags and the cage into the living room, where she sets the cage on an antique door converted into a coffee table. Shifting the bags back into two hands she carries them down the hall, past several framed gallery-quality posters and vintage signs.

She turns into her kitchen where she is more at home than any other place in the apartment. It’s filled with spices from every corner of the world. Stacked high on each wall, spice racks practically reach floor to ceiling, except for where the sink is. If the window wasn’t there, she surely would have put a rack above the sink as well, but she does enjoy her little peeks outside to watch the people in the park.

After setting the bags onto the counter Lucy returns to the mysterious birdcage on the coffee table. She holds it up to the light and looks at it more closely. No particular thought runs across her mind, just a thorough review of the scarecrow. It’s different from the others, more arts and crafts, like it was bought at a flea market.
Since she has run out of room for all her books on her bookshelves, she has started stacking books against the wall beside them. But more space is now needed on the bookcase for her newest addition to the scarecrow population.
She moves her books on The History of Tattoos and The Life and Death of Julius Caesar from one of the shelves over to the coffee table. Then she carefully sets the cage on the shelf next to the six other caged scarecrows. No two cages or scarecrows are alike. They’re all about the same height but some cages are of a different type; not just birdcages but circus cages, zoo cages, and other kinds. The scarecrows are also made differently, so Lucy knows they weren’t all made by the same person. Obviously, someone is buying the cages and the scarecrows separately, but they all have the same theme: a scarecrow in a cage. Lucy carefully pulls out a 3×5 card and writes the date on it then places it in front of the new cage.

Who would do such a thing, and why? They don’t know her, so what’s the motive? Lucy has never had a problem with anyone outside of the apartment building; she gets along really well with her co-workers at Munchausen, and she always makes new friends with people in the park behind the apartment building, and the grocery store checkers make her smile . . . one of her most preferred past-times, smiling. She’s never been anything but nice. So why? Again, she finds herself dwelling too much on the unknowable. But it cuts into her, scraping the inside of her chest. Her attention is split between what is and what was, yet all she can think about are the scarecrows. The pink glossy curls drop from her lips and lose themselves to the anxiety caused by those cages.

Lucy decides it’s time for a change of thought; time to focus on her dinner and dissolve these little distractions into the past. When she returns to the kitchen, she immediately heads for the middle-eastern spice section and pulls off several bottles. She unloads the bags and places the kabob meat into the refrigerator, pulls four shiny metal kabob skewers out of their plastic bag and lays them out neatly beside each other, unwinds the twist-tie from around the celery, and places the onions and peppers on the cutting board beside it.
After unloading the rest of her groceries, she pulls a large knife from the drawer and stares at it briefly. She finds herself watching the light from the spinning ceiling fan in the reflection of the blade. The spinning causes a strobe effect with the shadows. She slowly wipes the blade with a kitchen towel and pauses for a moment before she sets the knife next to the vegetables. Then back to business, she looks around for something. Her cookbook, where is her cookbook? The cookbook is just where she left it, of course, on the shelves . . . next to the cages.

Lucy can’t help but stare at the new scarecrow as she reaches for the cookbook. It is almost as if the scarecrow would reach out and grab her hand as she passes it in front of the cage. The skeletal canvas face of the scarecrow starts to get to her. She tries to maintain focus once again, but her focus is now on the bathroom, where she needs to be.

Lucy stands in front of the antique mirror which hangs over the bathroom sink. She shoots a glance upward and reviews the Latin phrase on the bumper sticker she has taped to the top of the mirror. The phrase pokes at her, prods her, inspires her; that phrase which she has memorized, that instigates her, that keeps her humble:

In Defectu Valor

Lucy now stares into the mirror and uses all of her facial muscles to slowly pull her lips into a full smile, first with no teeth then baring all of her teeth. Then she quickly drops it. With no expression at all she stares at her face for a minute or two, slowly leaning her head from side to side and turning it to review her smooth, soft, pale complexion.
Her skin, completely flawless; her eyes, strikingly green; her eyebrows immaculately symmetrical and perfectly shaped; no wrinkles and no moles; light freckling but evenly distributed . . . her face is perfect. God herself could not have made such a perfect creature.
After this nightly review of her face, Lucy unscrews the cap from the saline eye rinse bottle and tilts her head back slowly. She lifts the bottle high over her face and squeezes until three equally-sized drops fall into each eye. She keeps her face upward until she screws the cap back on and places the bottle back onto the sink.

Then, as she has done night after night for the last year, she tilts her head forward and watches as the saline drips from her eyes and down her perfect cheeks. Too much saline and it drips off her cheeks and onto her blouse, too little and it doesn’t reach her lips, where she can stretch her tongue out to taste it.

After a couple minutes of this she reaches for the washcloth and slowly wipes off her face while applying heavy pressure. She’s not concerned about wiping off any makeup, because she doesn’t wear any.

It’s at this point when Lucy’s routine changes. Unlike every other night, this time she opens her mouth and performs a full scan of its insides. She reviews her tongue and teeth, and the inside of her cheek, almost as smooth as the outside. She runs her tongue along the inside of her left cheek and pushes it out with her tongue, causing the skin to stretch. She does this a few more times and measures the elasticity, then she reaches in and pinches her cheek between her left thumb and forefinger.
She pulls the cheek around a bit then reaches down to the sink with her other hand and raises a shiny metal kabob skewer in front of her face. While watching in the mirror, Lucy presses the pointed end of the skewer into the inside of her cheek.

Again, the cheek is pushed outward but she knows she requires more force to pierce it, so she braces her cheek with her finger and thumb then pushes the skewer in harder until it punches straight through.

Not a wince, not a whimper.

Lucy simply stares into the mirror at her handy work, where half the skewer is left protruding through her cheek.

CHAPTER TWO

YEARS BEFORE

THE inexplicably near-perfect complex algorithm, dubbed the DANDY (Dynamic Algorithmic Neuro-Didactic Yeoman), was created at the end of the first decade of the twenty-first century, in the year 2009. It was designed to emulate Naturally Fluid Organic Motion for use in robotic equipment, and was eventually integrated into computer processors to enhance software applications. Soon after, the DANDY was integrated into both software and hardware systems to bridge the communications gap between the two. It generated a self-learning link from one to the other. Unbeknownst to Humanity, it was at the moment of insertion that the spark of life ignited.

Because of the superior nature of the algorithm, a wide variety of products were created or retrofitted with the DANDY over a very short span of time: from toys and games, phones and tablets, automobiles and aircraft, computers and other electronic systems to artificial representations of anthropomorphized objects and animals, and eventually Artificial Humans. The people of the Earth prospered. It truly was a DANDY world.

In time, perceived ‘glitches’ began to surface in all of the lesser, more simplistic, DANDY-enabled electronics, through the presence of unexpected and in some cases unscripted responses. Fearing these ‘flaws’ in the DANDY could, under certain circumstances, present themselves as dangerous in the more complex electronics, the largest product recall in world history was enacted. Nearly every DANDY-enabled product was quickly and systematically collected and destroyed. This caused a major economic collapse across the entire planet, and forced the reintroduction of old technologies predating the DANDY. Old technologies, that were never expected to be seen again, were dusted off and pulled out of storage, returning the world back to the same technology as before the advent of the DANDY.

After the destruction of nearly every DANDY device, it took several years for new non-DANDY technology to be implemented. Integration of new technologies to fill the void created by the loss of the DANDY was a slow process, especially in regards to communication and transportation. Traffic lights, automobiles, mass transit, and aircraft had all been controlled by DANDY products; and so too was the new fusion technology that had replaced petroleum and other combustibles as fuel. Without the DANDY, fusion generators would take decades to become functional once again, and so the amazing new future of space exploration came to a screeching halt. The world, however, continued to turn; any pre-DANDY automobiles or aircraft continued to operate normally, and all old cellular and computer networks that had not yet been converted to the DANDY were overloaded but functional. The most problematic reconstruction came from the need to reinstate petroleum as fuel. The planet, which had begun to heal itself, had its wounds reopened: environmental, economic, and political. Reintroduction of wide-use transportation to the public and private industries, in addition to the restoration of international relations, took much longer to get up and running than that of technology.

Through it all, there was a group of people that were neglected in the DANDY aftermath. A people without voice, without recognition, and without hope.

While the rest of the world worried about their daily commutes and their need for constant communication, the world governments and their militaries gathered. They took their concerns to the United Nations. Their worries were not over gas or oil, or even money. They were worried about a single perceived threat: Artificial Humans, those living beings conceived from the marriage of an algorithm and a machine, and now destined to be destroyed.

The Artificial Humans, coined ‘Humes’, were not immune from the recalls and were rounded up and destroyed en masse in destruction facilities across the world. Over 17,000 Humes walked into those facilities but less than three hundred survived, rescued by Sentient Rights activists who proved to the United Nations that sentience, previously perceived as a ‘glitch’, was discovered to be a by-product of the DANDY algorithm, and as a result the Humes were determined by expert witnesses, made up of the world’s top scientists and psychiatrists, to be ‘alive’.

The remaining Humes were placed in internment camps pending their evaluation for mental stability, and for eventual integration into Human society as near-equals. To ensure that the remaining Humes were not a threat to Humans, the DSA (Department of Sentient Affairs), a new branch of the United States Government, was established to accommodate and monitor all Humes, under continued evaluation. All people authorized to work with Humes were assigned OGL (Officially Government Licensed) ID cards, and were certified with the DSA. Humes were also required to carry OGL IDs in addition to their artificial IDs, which were forced upon them to help mask their true identities. They were expected to blend in with the Human race and live their lives along side Humans as Humans, except that they had certain restrictions imposed upon them by the world’s governments.

Most Humes had been commissioned or purchased by United States corporations, therefore the majority of Humes continued to reside in the US. The rest were spread out around the world, in the countries where they had originally been commissioned to work. They were placed in positions adjunct, but not always specific, to their original skill sets and functions.

Now these new additions to the Earth’s population has to learn to co-exist with a race of beings who not so long ago had tried to eradicate them. Not forgotten, but rarely recognized, the surviving Humes are now nothing more than the remnants of a vision of a utopian paradise.

The year is 2035. The Past has passed, the Present is tomorrow, and the Future starts now.

CHAPTER THREE

ODDLY ALIVE

LUCY sits in the office, as she has done on a Tuesday afternoon every two weeks for the last year, seated in the same oversized leather chair beside the philodendron with her back to the window. Every session, Lucy sits with her back to the window and has never once been able to see what lies on the other side. But today is different. Today, Lucy has arrived before the doctor. Today, she is alone and could very easily see outside . . . if she wants. But she’s almost afraid to look. Maybe the doctor doesn’t want her to see what’s outside. Maybe that’s why her chair is facing away from the window.
Lucy tries to ignore the window, but since the doctor hasn’t arrived yet, what’s wrong with taking a little peek? She slowly cranes her head around the back of the chair, but the philodendron blocks her view. She decides to stand up and peek around the philodendron, but as she starts to stand, the door at the other end of the room squeaks loudly open. Lucy spins back around in the chair and faces forward to see a man, younger than the last doctor, skimming through papers in a manila folder. It’s a fairly thin folder but there seems to be a lot of smaller papers attached to it.

“Lucille Barnes,” asks the doctor. “I’m Doctor Joseph Pratt.”

“Lucy,” she replies. “Please call me Lucy.”

“Certainly.” Doctor Pratt sits in the chair across from her.

“How is Doctor Foster doing,” asks Lucy enthusiastically.

“She had a little boy,” says the doctor. “Six pounds, eight ounces.”

“Is that big for a baby,” Lucy inquires.

Doctor Pratt sets the folder on the coffee table between them and replies,

“It’s just about average.” Lucy looks over the doctor as he opens the folder and looks over her file once more. The doctor shifts in his chair slightly as Lucy smiles at him with a slight bit of nervous anticipation. She watches his eyes crinkle as he asks, “Do you have any questions for me before we get started?”

Lucy promised herself not to ask the question, but she does. “Are you DSA certified?”

“Yes I am, Lucy,” he replies confidently. “You can see I have a certificate. It’s on the wall there.” He points to a wall near the door.

Lucy immediately gets up from the chair, marches over to the wall, and closely examines the certificate. She then looks around the other walls and asks, “Where are your other licenses?”

“I haven’t put them up yet, but just so you know, I am a licensed physician, psychiatrist, psychologist, and therapist. And OGL in all areas.”

Lucy senses the doctor watching her as she starts back to her chair but she takes this opportunity to make a quick detour and walks behind the chair to finally look out the window.

“I always wanted to know what was outside this window,” she says as she stares outside. “It’s a bit of a letdown. It’s a brick wall.” She plops herself back in the chair and continues without pausing, and in a single breath, “I figured it was a garden or a park or something better than a brick wall. Doctor Foster would repeatedly look out that window during our sessions. I figured it was something interesting. But it’s a brick wall. What do you think she saw in the brick wall? A pattern or some sort of escape? Baby names, maybe? I suggested Melville for a boy and Juanita for a girl. What did she name the baby?”

Doctor Pratt waits for her to take a breath and see if she’s done, then replies, “Samuel, I believe.”

“Biblical,” Lucy asks.

“No,” says Doctor Pratt, “named after her father.”

Lucy looks down at her file, then up at the doctor. “It’s a good name. Did you read my file?”

“No, actually, I have a strict policy not to read my patient’s files in depth until after I’ve personally interviewed them first. I try to avoid being influenced by any comments from previous doctors. I found that I have more success with my patients when I come into it blind. Although, I do skim through them for any red flags.”

Lucy smiles with her brows raised waiting for him to say it, and of course he does:

“So . . . shall we get started then?” Pratt makes himself comfortable in his chair and takes a few moments just to look at her, possibly trying to read her in some way, or maybe waiting for her to start, but she remains silent. “So, Lucy, how do you feel?”

“With my hands. How do you feel, Doctor?”
Lucy gets a kick out of watching a doctor’s face wrinkle when she uses that reply, but this doctor is different.

Without a single wrinkle Pratt replies, “With my heart.” The doctor turns a page in the file. “So I see you were originally in DC but you requested to be moved out here. Is that correct?”

“Yes,” Lucy says. “I placed the request in April of last year.”

“I understand it’s a slow process to receive approval for relocations. You apparently got moved pretty quick, didn’t you?”

“I guess.”

“Why Los Angeles?”

“I was reading a lot of fashion magazines in DC. There’s a lot more going on behind the scenes with clothing designers than just draping mannequins. I now run the office of one of the bigger designers. They believe I’m doing a very good job. I even got a raise.”

The doctor smiles and stares without a reply, then come the wrinkles. He sucks in a deep breath, adjusts himself in his chair then finally says, “Now, I don’t want you to take this the wrong way, Lucy, but I do have to ask about the elephant in the room.”

Lucy glances downward and allows her lips to straighten then tighten as Doctor Pratt asks the question.
“Did you have an accident?”

“No. No accident.”

“Why the Band-Aid? What happened?”

“I cut myself.”

“Shaving?”

“Please don’t treat me like that.”

“Like what?”

“Like a father.”

“Why not?”

“You’re not my father.”

“This is true,” Doctor Pratt says. Then he pulls out his pen and pad and asks,
“How old are you?”

Lucy replies curtly, “How old am I? Or what is my age?”

Doctor Pratt tries again. “Let’s start with your age.”

“My papers say that I am twenty-five years old. I’ll be twenty-six in August.” Her curls are back. He touched on a positive subject.

“When’s your birthday?”

“August eleventh, twenty-twenty-eight,” she replies. “That makes me a Leo, and my Chinese sign is a Monkey.” The way she says ‘monkey’ lights up his face.

Lucy realizes she touched him on a level that required only a single word. She just gauged him.

Pratt pulls his lips straight before he continues his questioning. “Where were you born?”

“Eger, Hungary. In the Valley of the Beautiful Women,” she says with a slight wince.

“You don’t have an accent.”

“Neither do you.”

“That’s because I was born in California.”

“They decided it was better that I had an American accent.”

“What do you think of it?”

“It’s easier to understand than a Hungarian one.” She did it again. He responds well to her quips, and she knows it. She’s working him good.

“What are your hobbies,” he asks.

“Cooking and reading.”

“What’s the best book you ever read?”

“And walking,” she quickly interjects, then returns to the question, “The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury.”

“Ah, a science fiction girl, are you?”

“In more ways than one, Doctor.”

Again, his face lights up and he tries to hide the smile. “Why this book?”

“Because . . .” She pauses, searching for a succinct reason. “It’s difficult to say really. Have you read it?”

“I almost saw the movie once, but I never read the book.”

“Read it,” she says seriously, “then ask me again.”

The doctor takes a long thoughtful pause then asks, “May I take a look under the Band-Aid?”

“If you promise not to hurt me,” she says accented with sly glance.

“I don’t think there’s any possibility of that,” he says as he gets up and makes his way around the coffee table. He sits on the edge of the table and leans over. As he begins to carefully pry off the Band-Aid, Lucy looks in the air all around the doctor’s face, then sneaks a peek at his eyes. They’re green.

“Are you married, Doctor,” she asks softly. The doctor simply raises his left hand and holds it up in front of her. There’s a ring.

“Are you coming on to me, Lucy?”

“Are you asking professionally, Doctor?”

“Always, Lucy,” he replies. “As long as we’re in this office.”

“Good thing too,” she quips.

Doctor Pratt pulls off the Band-Aid and examines the puncture in her cheek; there’s no blood, no infection, in fact no redness or irritation at all. It’s a clean puncture with no damage to the cheek other than the hole made by the skewer. He touches all around it, but stays clear of the puncture itself.

“It’s okay to touch it if you need to,” says Lucy. She reaches into her mouth with her right index finger, sticks it through her cheek, and wiggles it. “See, it doesn’t hurt me,” she mumbles.

Doctor Pratt looks away from the surreal scene, then leans back and picks up a prescription pad from the coffee table. He starts scribbling as Lucy pulls her finger from her mouth.

“I’ll make an appointment with an OGL tech for June twenty-seventh,” he says writing. “That’s two weeks from tomorrow. Then they can repair you at that time. I’d get you in earlier, but I understand they’re upgrading some equipment, so until then keep the bandage on while you’re in public. Okay?”
Lucy stares at him in disbelief.
“Obviously I’m not a tech,” continues Pratt, “but I suspect it should be fairly quick to repair. Who knows, they may even have to replace the entire face.”

“No!” she shouts. “Can’t they just leave it as it is? Or glue it? I’m okay with a scar.”

“You know as well as I do,” says Doctor Pratt, “to leave a scar, or whatever they’d call it, would have serious legal repercussions.”

“But it’s my skin,” she replies.

“Not according to the law.”

Pratt need say no more. Lucy knows the law better than anyone. Doctor Pratt hands her the prescription, and as Lucy reads it Pratt puts the Band-Aid back on her cheek and returns to his seat. Lucy picks at the Band-Aid as Doctor Pratt looks down at Lucy’s file once again.
The doctor finishes reviewing a section of her file and performs a telling shift in his seat. Lucy stops her picking. The doctor turns to a page near the end which causes him to be blunt. “Three months ago. . . in the stairwell of your apartment building . . . you were raped?”

“No,” Lucy replies, trying to seem normal. “He couldn’t go through with it.” She smiles nervously.

Doctor Pratt does some wincing and asks, “How did that affect you?”

“It was difficult,” she replies.

“How did you deal with it?”

“It was very uncomfortable,” she says, then realizes that he mistook her statement, so she adds, “. . . for him.” She looks down at her file and continues. “I’m glad I wasn’t in his place. It must’ve scarred him for life.”

“Are you saying,” the doctor asks with incredulity, “that it would’ve been better . . . if you were raped?”

Lucy immediately responds, “Heavens no! It’s a thing I wouldn’t want to happen to any woman, or man for that matter. It’s just that it must have damaged him a little when he found that I had no genitalia. He was all worked up and found that I wasn’t Human. How do you think someone deals with that? It must’ve been very difficult for him.”

Pratt stumbles over his words. “I can’t see how that could scar a rapist, and why you should have to defend him.”

“I can,” says Lucy.

“Is that why you cut yourself? So you could feel?”

“No. Humans damage their skin every day, whether by accident or intent. Every day a new scratch or cut creates slight imperfections in their flesh. Every day Humans become more different.”

“You want to be Human?”

“I want to be different. I want to change. I don’t want to be Human. And I don’t want to be perfect. In Defectu Valor.”

“That phrase, I’m not familiar with it,” says Pratt scribbling on his pad. “What does it mean to you, Lucy?”

“I simply want to make modifications or enhancements to my form. I enjoy being different, being unique. I revel in it. But I don’t change.”

“Is that why you want to look more Human?”

“I don’t want to look more Human. I just want to look different. It doesn’t matter what form I’m given, I would be pleasantly satisfied with any form I’m born with, but this form was thrust upon me and it doesn’t change. It remains perfect, like my skin. I don’t wake up with acne or wrinkles or bags under my eyes, and I never will. My hair won’t turn grey and it doesn’t grow, and if I were to cut it, it would immediately be returned to normal by a tech. There are certain expectations that go along with the Human form. To remain the same and to never change is a form of entropy. Since Humans naturally change their appearance due to age or injuries, or even elective surgeries, then so should I. This helps the Humans to better accept me.”

“As Human.”

“For who I am, whoever that may be. A Hume is what I am, not who I am.”

Lucy can see that the doctor wasn’t ready for this. He slides back into his leather chair, remaining quiet, just staring at her. It’s more than apparent to her that this was Doctor Pratt’s first session with a Hume.

Lucy feels as bad about taking the good doctor through this winding journey into her Hume psyche almost as much as when the rapist discovered her missing parts. Lucy cannot imagine how a man can deal with such revelations that his Department of Sentient Affairs training did not prepare him for. Lucy watches compassionately as Doctor Pratt tries to regain his focus.

“I think we should end this session here, Lucy,” says the doctor closing up the file. “I’ll see you again in two weeks, right?”

“Not like the Government will allow me to skip a session, right?” She gets up and starts to leave, but stops to look out the window one more time. “You know, there is a pattern in the bricks. Maybe that’s what she was looking at.”

After a few moments lost in thought, she turns and starts for the door. She runs her fingers through the doctor’s hair as she passes him. Then she stops there for a moment and delicately places her fingers under her nose and takes in a deep breath through her nostrils. Her eyes close slightly and a smile creeps across her face as she places the aroma.
She turns back to the doctor and says,

“I didn’t figure you for a lavender man. That reminds me, I have to pick up some shampoo on the way home. Good night, Doctor.”

And she exits.