Margaret Ballif Simon
She's sent word, it's time. You have no choice.
You approach the horse. They've had someone pick him for
you, saddle him. All you have to do is mount. You can feel his heat, his
heartbeat in the early morning air. He smells alien, heavy. You do not
His skin jerks to dismiss blood flies the size of your
thumb. Tail slaps across back, whips again. Stings your cheek.
You see his eye roll back to whites as he nips your arm
but you pull yourself up, slap buttocks into saddle. You wish you were
stoned. But it can't be this way, not this time. If things get too bad,
you can always have a toke before you reach the cabin. Your heels urge
his heaving sides into a trot until you enter the foothills.
It's hot. You take off your hat, flapping the brim to
cool your face.
Monotony collects. All things repeated become dull. You
try to imagine you're somewhere else. Anywhere but here, on this dumb beast,
clumping up a narrow mountain trail to that forsaken Promised Land on the
far side of the mountain.
How inane, pathetic. Is this stupid sweaty gelding
your Rosanante? What happened to your visions? Now only windmills, daydreams.
Talent such as yours should have brought you power, wealth. But pursuit
of self interests wasn't part of the plan they had for you. And this isn't
your dream. No, not a bit of it.
You find her by the stream. Her face is in shadow. She's stretched out
reading a book, head propped against a tree stump. Strands of her silver
hair catch the afternoon sunlight. You know she heard you approach, but
she gives no notice until you dismount and stand to stretch.
"It's me," you say, feeling rather lame about introductions.
You know none is needed.
"Yes," she answers, putting aside the book. She
gets to her feet slowly, arranging her skirts. You notice she must have
at least five of them underneath the overskirt. You wonder how she can
stand this in the summer.
The horse snorts and shuffles off munching the tall
grasses by the bank.
"Well," you say. May as well start this and get
it over with, but you don't say that. Instead you say, "Well, now what?"
"We will engage in the sex. After that, you go.
This has been made clear, and this is our destiny. Let us proceed."
You are surprised that she's literate. They
told you so little about her. She leads you to a narrow footpath and you
follow, saying nothing, for there's nothing more to say.
Shortly you come to a small cabin. There is
no light, but she pushes you towards a bed. You take off your boots, jeans,
and find her lying there still in her many layered skirts. But they're
pulled up. She's waiting.
So you do what you must do. Once, she opens
her eyes and you read her clearly, It is unbecoming for our spirits,
but we must..try..again.
You respond. You are wondering if she'll
be offended, so you don't tell her that she smells foul, needs to do something
to stimulate your reluctant passion. Eventually, though it was not a pleasant
exercise, you succeed. You see her face relax.
It's done. There will be a child.
She lets down her skirts and gets off the
bed. Looks back at you, a question in her eyes. He is waiting for you.
You sigh, telesend. Admit it's time for acknowledgment, it's overdue. You
find yourself feeling sorry for you both.
Yes, it's done. I thank you on behalf of
our Government, that we may preserve this gift, through union of our genes.
You find the horse still knee deep in green, grab
the reins, mount and give him a kick toward the trail leading home. You
smile bitterly, sigh. Then she sends you a final message.
Though our union was regrettable, it speaks
well of our selflessness. I pray it need never be repeated, so I
wish you well.
You don't look back and you're sure that she's disappeared
by now into the forest.
The evening settles as sunset fades, night creatures
unfamiliar to your senses come alive to waken your mixed emotions. She's
the only fertile female telepath on the continent. The only one that matched
your genes and blood type. Your superiors made it clear that you were the
Don Quixote of some mad geneticist's dream. When she agreed to this, it
had to be done on her terms. You admire that, now. It might work out.
You wonder why neither of you used your gifts between
one another, other than the short exchange. Then you realize why.
Duty and mutual loathing would have accomplished
nothing. A mission best left to beasts of burden. You decide it's time
for that joint. You fumble it from your pocket, light, take a long drag,
cherishing the relief.
Dimly you realize that like the Don's craziness,
like all this misconstrued mess that humans do to one another for the sake
of perpetuating a higher strain of sentient beings, the Weed survives.
You realize you're laughing about this. The ride back won't seem near as
long. Or so you hope.
Art by Cathy Buburuz.
Background graphics by Silver