Some stories are just too damn personal. When my stepfather Bruce died of Lou Gehrig’s disease and my grandmother went blind, then senile, then died in a sad nursing home, I had a lot of emotions churning about.
So I decided to write a story about love, and what happens when the person you adore is taken from you.
Being me, I made it science fiction, and I may have switched the protagonists to be an elderly gay couple, and I may have raised the subtext to, er, text, by infecting one of them with an identity-eating virus that consumes his personality. But the emotions in this story are roiling and true, and it’s one of my stories that cuts so close to the bone that it’s hard for me to reread.
Thankfully, Escape Pod – the premiere science-fiction podcast - picked it up as an original story, and Dave Thompson gave it a gorgeously emotive reading (saying, quite kindly, that it was “brimming over with humanity and love“), and now it’s live! Obligatory sample:
“I want some water,” Sergio says. The bicycle chains clank as he strains to put his feet on the floor.
Sergio designed his own restraints. He had at least fifteen plumbers on his payroll who could have installed the chains – but Sergio’s never trusted anything he didn’t build with his own hands. So he deep-drilled gear mounts into our guest room’s floral wallpaper, leaving me to string greased roller chains through the cast-iron curlicues of the canopy bed.
“You’re doing well, Bruce,” he lied, trying to smile – but his lips were already desiccated, pulled too tight at the edges. Not his lips at all.
I slowed him down; I had soft lawyer’s hands, more used to keyboards than Allen wrenches. Yet we both knew it would be the last time we could touch each other. So I asked for help I didn’t need, and he took my hands in his to guide the chains through what he referred to as “the marionette mounts.”
Then he sat on the bed and held out his wrists while I snapped the manacles on – the chamois lining was my idea – and we kissed. It was a long, slow kiss that needed to summarize thirty-two years of marriage. And it should have been comforting, but his mouth was a betrayal. His lips had resorbed from their lush plumpness. His tongue had withdrawn to a stub.
His kiss still sent flutters down my spine.
I pressed my hands against his back, moving towards making love, but Sergio pushed me away. ”We don’t know how transmissible this is,” he said. Then he tugged on the chains to verify he could lie down and sit up, but not leave the bed.
I pressed the keys into his palm, trying to burn the feeling of his skin into mine forever. He snipped the keys in half with a bolt-cutter, then flung it all into the corner.
“That’s that,” he said, and rolled away from me to cry. My arms ached – still ache – from not being able to hold him.
Six days later, I’m still here. And Sergio is still leaving.
Now, Dave’s reading is top-notch, but the #1 complaint I get with audio readings is that people want to read, not listen. Which is why it’s nice to say that the entirety of the story is in written form at Escape Pod, if you are low on time. Go over, check it out – and if you like it, please link to it, Tweet it, Facebook it. As you should do for every story you love. Each scrap of PR helps fledgling authors, remember.
Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.