April 15, 2003

Flowers from Alice

Here's an excerpt from "Flowers from Alice," our last collaboration, forthcoming in Mike Resnick's New Faces in Science Fiction anthology, forthcoming (soon!) from DAW Books:

I don't know why I invited Al to my wedding. Nostalgia, maybe. Residual lust. She was the first girl I ever kissed, after all. You never forget your first. I couldn't help but turn my head when round-hipped, tall girls with pageboy hair walked by, hunched over their own breasts in terminal pubescent embarrassment, awkward and athletic at the same time. You don't get much of that these days outside of Amish country, no parent would choose to have a kid who was quite so visibly strange as Al had been as a teenager, but there were still examples of the genre to be had, if you looked hard enough, and they stirred something within me. I couldn't forget Al, though it had been twenty years since that sweet and sloppy kiss on the beach, ten years since I'd run into her last, so severely post- that I hardly recognized her. Wasn't a week went by that she didn't wander through my imagination, evoking a lip-quirk that wasn't a smile by about three notches. My to-be recognized it; it drove her up the wall, and she let me know about it during post-coital self-criticism sessions.

It was a very wrong idea to invite Al to the wedding, but the wedding itself was a bad idea, to be perfectly frank. And I won't take all the blame for it, since Al decided to show up, after all, if "decided" can be applied to someone as post- as she (s/he?) (they?) [(s|t)/he(y)?] was by then. But one morning as we sat at our pre-nuptual breakfast table, my to-be and me, and spooned marmalade on our muffins and watched the hummingbirds visit the feeder outside our nook's window, one morning as we sat naked and sated and sticky with marmalade and other fluids, one morning I looked into my fiancee's eyes and I prodded at the phone tattooed on my wrist and dialed a directory server and began to recite the facts of Al's life into my hollow tooth in full earshot of my lovely lovely intended until the directory had enough information to identify Al from among all the billions of humans and trillions of multiplicitous post-humans that it knew about and the phone rang in my hollow tooth and I was talking to Al.

"Al," I said, "Alice? Is that you? It's Cyd!"

There was no sound on the end of the line because when you're as self-consciously post- as Al, you don't make unintentional sound, so there was no sharp intake of breath or other cue to her reaction to this voice from her past, but she answered finally and said, "Cyd, wonderful, it's been too long," and the voice was warm and nuanced and rich as any human voice but more so, tailored for the strengths and acoustics of my skull and mouth which she had no doubt induced from the characteristics of the other end of the conversation. "You're getting married, huh? She sounds wonderful. And you, you're doing well too. Well! I should say so. Cyd, it's good to hear from you. Of course one of me will come to your wedding. Can we help? Say we can! I, oh, the caterer, no, you don't want to use that caterer, she's booked for another wedding the day before and a wedding *and* a Bar Mitzvah the day after, you know, so, please, let me help! I'm sending over a logistics plan now, I just evolved it for you, it's very optimal, you don't have to use it, of course, though you should really."

And my to-be shook her head and answered *her* phone and said, "Why hello, Alice! No, Cyd sprang this on me without warning -- one of his little surprises. Yes, i can see you're talking to him, too. Of course, I'd love to see the plans, it was so good of you to come up with them. Yes, yes, of course. And you'll bring a date, won't you?"

Meanwhile, in my tooth, Al's still nattering on, "You don't mind, do you? I respawned and put in a call to your beautiful lady. I'm resynching with the copy every couple instants, so I can tell you we're getting along famously, Cyd, you always did have such great taste but you're *hopeless* with logistics. I see the job is going well, I knew you'd be an excellent polemicist, and it's such a vital function in your social mileu!" Posted by Cory Doctorow at April 15, 2003 10:38 PM | TrackBack

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