Every now and then I deliberately challenge myself to write something that will make me personally uneasy...even revolted. And every now and then it surprises me with an unexpected reward.
Just now I’m working on a short novel about a very unusual crime, coupled to an even more unusual romance. The co-protagonist is a young woman, genetically engineered for reasons I’ll keep to myself for now. This young woman, whose one and only name is Fountain, has been raised in total isolation from the larger world, and conditioned practically from birth to be property: a sex slave. Fountain has never come in contact with virtually anything you and I would take for granted. For example, she’s never come in contact with any food eaten outside her place of confinement – and all her conditioners ever fed her are nutritional gruels essentially without flavor. Fountain escapes captivity and comes under the protection of an unusually ethical young man who has no inkling of any of that. He acquires the legendary “Chinese obligation” for Fountain without knowing what she was raised to be or how she views him. I’m writing the story from a combination of his and her viewpoints.
The most difficult part of this undertaking is writing those scenes which must be told from Fountain’s viewpoint, especially the early ones in which Fountain first rubs up against the American context as we experience it daily. I have to imagine what Fountain’s consciousness is like, with all its inherent preconceptions and limitations, and convey that to the reader. And it is a considerable struggle to attain verisimilitude when Fountain first encounters coffee, or an Airstream trailer, or the unusually gentle, considerate, undemanding man whom she assumes must be a great and wealthy lord, who has taken her under his wing, and who doesn’t view her as a rightless piece of meat.
However, it just allowed me to write one of the strangest scenes, and funniest bits of dialogue, I’ve ever penned.
The trailer door opened. Fountain immediately laid the book aside and assumed the pose of waiting. Her lord and master entered and stood before her, looking as troubled as he had earlier.
Perhaps we have reached his manor. I must be absolutely attentive. I must overlook nothing and forget nothing. I must please him in all things.
I want to please him.
It was a thought she had never before entertained about a master, even in her most remote fantasies.
“Fountain,” he said, “we’re here. It’s time to get you, uh, settled.” He gestured at the paperback. “Bring your book if you haven’t finished it.”
She bowed her head. “As you command, my lord.”
A spasm crossed his face, and she tensed.
Have I displeased him already?
She forced the thought away.
I will learn in due course.
She followed him in silence, out onto the unfamiliar surface, over the grass, and onto the concrete stoop that stood before the door of a long, low house. She looked about quickly. The houses around it were greatly similar in size and form. They stretched off into the distance on both sides.
I must remember everything.
He pulled a key ring from his pocket, fumbled with it briefly, inserted a key into the lock on the door and opened it. He gestured that she should enter before him. She hesitated.
That is not how I was taught.
I must do as he commands.
She stepped into the darkness. A light went on overhead. She surveyed the surroundings, found them unaccountably plain and meager for a master, and turned to face him.
“My lord? Forgive me this presumption, but...is this your manor?”
“It’s my home,” he said. “Yours too, for now.”
For now. So it is a way station and not his place of power. Of course it is not. He is too great a lord to endure such paltry accommodations. For him to be surrounded by such hovels is unthinkable. Perhaps he intends that we shelter here only until he has alerted his other servants and has been notified that his palace has been made ready for his return.
He shepherded her into the structure, brought her to a room that contained a sink, a stove, an oven, a few other items she could not identify, and a small table and four chairs. He bade her sit, went to a tall stainless steel box, and pulled open a drawer near its base. He glanced over at her and grinned.
“Are you a little hungry, hungry, or very hungry?” he said
“I am...hungry, my lord.”
“Two slices then.” He drew several triangular shapes from the drawer, straightened, and went to the oven. He pushed a couple of buttons on its face and it beeped. He nodded, pulled a metal tray from a cabinet and set it on the countertop, unwrapped the triangles and arranged them on the tray.
Why has he not commanded that I make ready to see to his pleasure?
The strangenesses were multiplying faster than she could register and absorb them.
It appears that this way station was not fully prepared for him. Perhaps someone will soon suffer for the neglect of it. I will learn much, if I am permitted to witness it.
He slid the tray and its burden into the oven, pushed a few more buttons, closed the door and seated himself facing her at the little table.
“It’ll be ready in a few minutes. Hope you like your pizza with peppers and mushrooms.”
She had no idea what he was talking about, so she merely bowed her head.
I must learn. I must overlook nothing and forget nothing.
He peered at her in a curious fashion, as if she presented him with some sort of problem. As frightening as the notion was, she had no recourse except to do exactly what he commanded, as he commanded it and when he commanded it.
I am his. I must wait upon his will.
The oven beeped. He rose, pulled a heavy glove from a drawer, opened the oven, and slid the tray out. Before she could rise or speak he’d put the triangles on two waiting plates, brought them to the table, and placed one before her.
The triangles steamed up at her. The aroma was wholly new, and wholly luscious. She put a fingertip to the surface of one and jerked it away, scorched. He immediately rose, face tight with alarm.
“Damn. I should have known better.” He took her hand gently in his, examined the scorched fingertip, and pulled her out of her seat toward the sink. In a moment he had blessedly cold water running over her finger in a torrent, greatly easing the pain from the burn.
“Let’s hope this doesn’t blister,” he said. “You’ve never had pizza before, have you?”
“I have not, my lord.”
“I should have realized, damn it.” He banged a closed fist on the countertop. “You didn’t know coffee, so why did I expect you to know pizza? Stupid, stupid fuckhead.”
His dissatisfaction was evident...and evidently entirely toward himself.
“My lord?” she murmured.
He looked back at her. “Yes, Fountain?”
“What is a fuckhead?”
It had me in stitches – and I wrote it. Truly, wonders will never cease.
Working title: Innocents. Coming soon to an eBookstore near your browser.