Ninibe was flipping through a positively ancient magazine when the doorbell finally rang. Now she was nervous. She got up and checked herself in the mirror; like always, the face and the body she had would have to do. She wasn’t a robot, and she wasn’t an android; she was just a human being made out of metal. But she wasn’t made out of metal all the time; she fluctuated, between flesh and metal, like wet ice. It was like a dream you understand? And like most things, she had no control over it at all.
She opened the door to her house. He stood outside, holding a black bag in his strong hands, Tyyrhenus, dressed in expensive slacks and shirt, beautiful shoes and expensive watch. His dark purple eyes drank her quickly. Tyyrhenus was also made out of metal, but a harsher kind, a sharper kind.
“Is this 224 Rocksledge Lane?” Tyyrhenus asked.
“Yes, it is,” Ninibe replied quickly.
“Did you order something hot?”
“YES. Yes, I did.”
“Where do you want it?”
“Right this way. Come in.”
They followed each other into Ninibe’s kitchen. Tyyrhenus unzipped the bag and spilled its contents across the kitchen table. It was filled with dildos, whips, paddles, bottles of lubricant, and other tools of carnal extremity whose proper names only an expert would know.
“Is this what you ordered?” Tyyrhenus asked.
“Yes.” At last, Ninibe thought. At last something like this was actually happening. Thank God for the internet.
“Get on your hands and knees.”
Tyyrhenus shoved her to the ground. “I said get on your hands and knees.”
Ninibe nodded, high on fear and anticipation. She got onto her hands and knees.
Ninibe worked downtown, tall and airy in one of the glass buildings that stood like aliens above everything else in the world. There, she argued with clients and fended off co-workers’ romantic intentions. She didn’t understand quite how she ended up in this job, but it paid well and most of her material needs were met.
She didn’t have many friends. But she didn’t mind. She had somehow lost the ability to bear people around herâ€¦mostly she just preferred the comfort of objects and fantasies and worked at her job in the city and hung out at her house, which sat some fifteen miles outside of the city proper. Every morning she flew to work, landed on the roof of her building, took the elevator down to her floor, and did what she did. The commute to work in the morning – across the air, lifted by a jetpack attached to her back — sounds much more fun than it actually was. Sometimes it was cold, sometimes it was rainy, and just because her skin was metal didn’t mean that she did not feel cold. And though yes, sometimes it was beautiful, floating across the blue with the world like a bubbling creek beneath her, mostly it was routine, and she spent the time worrying and daydreaming.
Sometimes she felt that she was only the skin/metal that caged her – whoever she was, the haphazard personality constructed out of firing electrons in her brain, her soul, whatever: all that seemed nothing but trees in the winter.
Many men worshipped Ninibe, but that’s not what she wanted. She wanted something very different.
Tyyrhenus opened a compartment on his torso and pulled from it a glimmering razor blade. He twirled it in his fingers.
Ninibe gasped as Tyyrhenus cut the denim, cotton, and other organic membranes from her body, revealing her quivering metal to the glaring fluorescent light of the kitchen. Often the razor blade cut deeper than the fabric, scraping and scratching against her. Ninibe clutched at the linoleum floor, but her fingers only refracted and slipped against it.
“I want you to fuck me like I’m nothing,” Ninibe spoke, biting her teeth into her lip.
“I don’t care what you want,” Tyyrhenus replied.
Instead he decided to slowly and patiently apply the stinging balm of the whips and paddles.
Afterward, after they had fucked until she was ragged and after he had left, walking out the door into the milky purple of the Autumn dusk and disappearing it seemed like a wish into the air; afterward she stared at herself in the mirror for a long time until her belly clawed at her in hunger, and she sat naked at the kitchen table eating sweetened cereal and drinking water that tasted like cold saliva.
Then she took a half-handful of sleeping pills and waited for sleep to come.
When she awoke the next morning her body felt smashed and dented, pain just everywhere. She had to shower with cold water because the hot water made her tender skin/metal scream in agony. She dressed in a turtleneck to hide the dents on her neck.
But it felt wonderful, really. It felt so crisp and clear – she existed suddenly. She was here. And as she glided across the sky to work she found herselfâ€¦smiling. Smiling!
She touched her fingers to her lips and felt it. Memorized it. Almost tried to grasp it, so it wouldn’t slip away.
They became a “thing”. Though intermittently, and bound by rules that I will not even attempt to explain here. Needless to say, her weekends invariably soon became filled with him, and all that that entailed.
Time ceased trudging along and instead began to spin and fly around her, and the once limp string tying her to it picked up off the ground and tugged. Moments with him seemed to flourish forever and then they were gone like letting a lightning bug escape from your cupped hands. These moments, which seemed so distinct and permanent, soon slipped slowly out of her memory as well – and after awhile she could barely remember her time with him any better than her time without him.
In an attempt to hold on to these things she bought a stack of index cards and took to writing simple memories upon them and filing them in a gray plastic box that she dug out of her closet. The liquid blue ink glowed across the white paper as she fumbled the memories into permanence as best she could:
tracing my fingertips over the hard angles of his body
laughing as we walked through the noise on Chestnut st
his voice in the late dark of my bedroom
the color of his metal in the morning
the taste of his cum in my mouth
the colors and shapes of bruises he leaves upon me, which seed and bloom and then fade like flowers across my metal
And other things too private to mention.
The numbness slowly bubbled up through her again. Chains she had thought shattered by this romance now seemed to slowly form again. She was returning to normal. Thisâ€¦whatever this was, like everything else, wasn’t enough.
And finally one day the anxiety was unbearable. She left work early and clung to herself disastrous and alone in her bed. Finally, she clicked on his name on her phone and her voice soft stretched through the divide:
“I can’t see you anymore.”
And she hung up. It had been something she had thought about. She wasn’t an idiot. She knew how easy it would be for him to “convince” her NOT to stop. How easy it would be for him to convince her to let him come over, immediately. That, after all, was the nature of their relationship. She thought he would call her back after she hung up but he didn’t.
He knew he didn’t have to.
For Christmas, Ninibe flew to Portland to see her mother – an event she had somehow managed to escape from last year but that this year she could find no way to avoid. Anyway, maybe it would be good to be out of Philadelphia. She took an airplane, requested an aisle seat, had no desire to watch the world spinning beneath her.
Her mother met her at the airport when Ninibe arrived. They smiled awkwardly at each other, and then hugged awkwardly, and then chatted sporadically on the ride home.
Her mother’s house lay nestled on a lake deep in the Oregon viridian. It was gigantic, especially for only one person to be living in it, beautiful, shiny. Ninibe’s mother was a lawyer, a globetrotting brilliant tax lawyer, just like her father.
Ninibe’s father did not live here. He had once, but did not now. Ninibe had not been raised here. She had never lived here. She had been raised in a sequence of apartments that she barely remembered, and by a complimentary sequence of nannies, private schools, and generally inappropriately older boyfriends. All of which she also barely remembered.
For dinner her mother prepared something exotic and complex. She did not prepare it well, but Ninibe told her it was fine, and ate as much as she could stomach. Ninibe’s mother was beautiful, even now at over fifty years old. She still kept her hair long instead of going for that butch look that most older women tend to affect, and it was dyed well – that is, it didn’t look like shit. She wore dazzling expensive clothing that more often than not sweltered around her body instead of hiding it. She had a good figure, and even she said she didn’t really have to work that hard at it, which may or may not have been a lie. Her mother liked men, even if she rarely had any lasting luck with them.
Ninibe could never help but stare at her mother’s beauty. It had alienated her when she was younger, because it was not something she had thought she had inherited. But now she just felt pity.
“Anything new, my love? Any new romantic leads I should know about or would like to know about?”
Her mother was drinking wine, rapidly. Ninibe realized that she was too.
“Nothing really new,” Ninibe replied.
“Please. Darling, I am your mother. You can tell me,”
“Just working a lot,” Ninibe said. “Videogames. Anime.”
Her mother was disappointed. “Well, your father is being a serious pain in my ass, as usual.”
“Oh, it’s nothing. Just this paperwork that never seems to end. Never get married, my love.”
“And how about you, mom? Any new boyfriends?”
Her mother thought for a second, began to say something, then shrugged.
After dinner they silently rinsed the dishes and put them into the dishwasher. Then they exchanged presents. Her mother had gotten Ninibe a digital camera, which Ninibe had been wanting for a long time but had not been able to afford. Ninibe had gotten her mother an autographed copy of a new mystery novel from an author her mother liked, which Ninibe had stood in line for two hours for.
Later, her mother caught her staring perplexed out the back window at the large white blur sullen about twenty-five yards out in the dark.
“Is that dad’s boat?”
“Why is it still here?”
“I think because he knows it annoys me.”
“Doesn’t he want it?”
“I think he said he bought another one actually. Your father always excelled at being an asshole. I think maybe that’s what attracted me to him, in the beginning.”
Ninibe thought: Mom, you are drunk.
Her mother continued. “He knows I don’t know how to drive it. He knows I don’t know the first thing about boats. I don’t know what to do with it. I’ve told him a thousand times to come take it and he just says Okay, Okay.” Her voice cracked slightly.
Ninibe had never seen her mother cry. Ninibe thought about embracing her mother, and moved towards her, but her mother batted her away.
“No, no,” her mother said. “It’s what I get.” She wiped the tears from her eyes and turned.
Shortly after that, her mother went to bed. Lingering, saying over and over where the extra pillows were and the extra sheets were, asking if Ninibe needed anything. Finally, she departed, alone up the carpeted staircase in the brown yellow light.
Ninibe stayed up for awhile, watching a strange fantasy movie on one of the movie channels. Finally, after thinking about it for close to an hour, she went to the back door and went outside and walked down the dock to the boat. It made slushy noises as it bobbed up and down on the water. She stared at it for a while and then started untying the knots that held it to the dock. It wasn’t easy. It was cold and the rope was wet. The knots were tight and molded into each other. Her fingers burned in the cold. Finally she triumphed, and the boat lulled unfettered.
She pushed its heavy shape away and into the dark.
The next morning her mother drove her back to the airport. “You are out of your fucking mind,” her mother told her, and then laughed, flicking an ash from her cigarette out the window.
Then Ninibe was back in Philadelphia. She managed a month before she called Tyyrhenus.
“Can I see you?” she asked.
He was ferocious upon her as soon as he came in through the door. He ripped her into her bedroom and they fell across the bed. She was so hot for him she couldn’t believe it. Her clothes were erased from around her body and she opened and drowned in his touch.
Sometimes, she hated this about herself – that she was ultimately human, that she was so simple, that some random combination of pinpointed caresses and kisses could lure her flesh and then her mind into some uncontrollable chemical fever raging and destroying everything in sight until it, the orgasm (or whatever it really was) was released. It made her ill to think of it most of the time, the stupid things it made her do, that reallyâ€¦that really….
But not now. Now she loved it. She lifted herself against his mouth as he licked her. He moaned deep in his throat, dug his fingers into her ass.
Tyyrhenus stopped just when she was about to burst, kissed his way back up her body to her face. Then he climbed up and knelt over her and she sucked him while he continued to play with her in his fingers. It was a routine they had developed, and it pleased her that it pleased him to return to it.
But then he pulled himself out of her mouth and moved his knees up on top of her shoulders, binding her to the bed. It hurt. He opened up a compartment on his chest and pulled out a screwdriver.
He smiled and started loosening the screws that fastened her head to her neck.
“What are you doing?” she asked him. He didn’t respond and she felt one of the screws pop out, fall and bump cold against her shoulder. “What are you doing?” she asked, louder this time, scared.
He only smiled. She struggled against him but it was no use. He started on another screw. She begged him to stop. She felt another screw pop out. This one fell and rolled down her chest. She felt her body falling away from her.
When he pulled out the last screw her head spilled off her body and he carried it by her hair across the room and set it on top of the bureau, and spun her around until she could see her body still lying open across the bed.
Which was where he now went.
She could still feel it, distantly now, her body, as she watched the gross anger of his back curve over her and he started to fuck her. She watched her legs wrap themselves around his hips and she never thought of closing her eyes
She watched her body push itself back at him and felt his pubic hair wet against her. Tyyrhenus looked back at her head and stared in her eyes as he fucked, clenching his face in pleasure.
And then like someone’s shadow standing on a horizon she felt him start to rub her clit but she never thought it would happen. And when she came she watched her body shudder around him but she only felt it like it was only sound in the distance, something happening in another room.
Then she realized that now he had come too, but she could barely feel it inside her — only the echo of his hips vibrating against her thighs.
He caught his breath and exited from her, climbing off the bed and wiping off his dick with a Kleenex. He started to pick up and reattach his clothes. She didn’t want to look at him, stared at vague objects in the room, until her eyes saw her body again, lying satisfied and half-asleep on the bed, glistening in sweat and happiness.
He was dressed. He turned to her, and she met his eyes. Then he headed out of the bedroom.
“Wait,” she said.
She heard the front door to her house opening. Heard it slam behind him on his way out.