This is a story I stumbled back over last night on my old blog while chatting with the wonderful Adam Byatt about growing and developing as a writer. The concept for this story has been floating around in my head ever since I started writing back in late 2007. It originated in a dream about a certain other Adam, and the name stuck for the male protagonist and gave me the idea to call it ‘Adam and Eve’. This installment is long and possibly not brilliantly written… but it’s sparked my interested in it as both a story idea and concept.
Could this be my 2010 NaNo project after two previously aborted attempts to embrace it?
This story comes with a warning. It does have adult content in it – so if you’re likely to be offended by sex, it possibly not the piece you want to read!
It is 12:09pm on the information bar on the TV screen as I walk into my local. I take my earphones out long enough to order a short black and allow the barrista to scan the back of my hand. He smiles at me, out of well rehearsed and imprinted hospitality but I know for a nanosecond that he wonders when I will stop coming in for my short black.
Coffee is a luxury. The price rises each day as the store of beans slowly but surely depletes. Coffee is not considered an essential food item and is therefore not on the Government’s Agriculture charter. There is no land allocation for coffee though I imagine that there are high officials who have the power and access to bribes to have a few acres assigned to coffee for their own personal use. But we down here on the ground will never see it again. There is no international trade so one day, someone will pay an exorbitant price for the last public cup of Joe and that moment in history will be streamed straight into everyone’s mundane existence; another bastion of civilised society gone.
I have few other things to spend my meagre Government allowance or the savings that I have accumulated since I arrived here, so coffee it is today, tomorrow and with any luck the day after that. There was once a saying, “You can’t take it with you when you go.” Where I am ultimately headed, any amount in a digital ledger will be pointless.
The café continues to thrive even with coffee beyond the reach of most. They still serve food and as a Government affiliated eatery there is rarely an empty table. I squeeze between two men at a counter overlooking the street and slip my earphones into my ears. The unit looks exactly like the latest iPod and I notice both men glance sideways in jealousy at it. Every purchase is obsolete or out of fashion with a few months. The drive to work, earn and purchase is obsessive and socially sanctioned, as is the need to exercise, refine and hone the body. After all, there is nothing else now. Despite global constraints on energy, resources and production we have become the ultimate market society – we exist only to consume.
Slipping the earphones into my ears I scroll through the options, a playlist like no other. Immediately there is a flood of static and it takes a moment to tune into a clear frequency. My coffee comes and I smile at the girl my age who works here from dawn to dust. I know, because I’m here for breakfast, coffee instead of lunch and I stop on the way home for the simple dinner that is Government fare.
She is a drone in every sense of the word. No unique thought has ever escaped for her cerebral cortex while I have been in here. Her mind sprouts Government propaganda, responds in the agreed upon format. She is a glowing example of the third wave of the Government micro chipping programme. It chills me to the core.
As I sip my coffee, I surf the frequencies hoping that I will find someone with a dissident thought. There has been a growing trend in the past month. I’ve been able to collect more names since the last new moon that I have the entire time that I have been here. Something is shifting, something is freeing the minds of the population. Cracks are emerging, thoughts are seeping in, biology is working to triumph over technology.
Towards the end of my coffee I come across a thought. A man’s longing for a woman, the brunette with the short bob who had just ordered a green tea and the standard heavy wheat bread sandwich with hummus, and is walking out the door to take a seat with a colleague out in the sun. It is the briefest of indiscretions, so brief he doesn’t pause for an extra moment to stare after her. He will not have even realised that he’s had it.
There are five more minutes left of my lunch break. I have to be back at my desk at exactly 12:46pm. No one is ever late; it’s been programmed out of us. It is in the hands of the Universe as to whether he will be chosen. He stands just as I do and I follow him out. With speed and a lightness of hand, I drop a lolly wrapper in his pocket as I stride past him, with expert agility in my high heels. I’ll find his identity and apartment number later, if the lolly wrapper makes it home. They often don’t. There is with the simple tracker woven into the plastic. And if it does, I will add him to the other names and addresses on the list I will give Adam.
It’s been almost two weeks since I saw Adam last. The thought of him and what we do together in the shadows of the Neo-Burlesque club makes my chest tighten. My breathe catches in the bottom of my throat and my yoni moistens. I ache for wanting his touch, however brief. But I catch myself and file those feelings away for later, alone in bed, in the dark where the cameras can’t catch me. We may have successfully stolen their prototype thought transistor but their face recognition cameras are sensitive enough to detect shifts of emotion through facial expression. The last thing I want to become is a person of interest.
I push open the imposing glass foyer door of the Djerassi Building, the sole manufacturer of the reproductive micro chip that started it all. I sit down at my desk as the TV screen in the PR department flicks over to 12:46pm.
At nine o’clock every night the lights go out across the city. It is as if some naughty cartoon characters pull out a massive plug and the city is plunged into darkness. There are no candles or torches. There is the dim flickering of the LED television screen from apartment windows, powered by the days solar energy, captured by the massive panels that clad the outside of each of the apartment buildings. But they too go out one by one, until the entire city is cloaked in an un-urban like obisidan, with the only illumination coming from the moon as it rises. It is only then that I dare to venture out.
From my hotwired computer portal I link into the security system of my apartment building, over riding the night locks on my front door and the emergency stairwell. I exit the building through the second floor fire door, lift off the manhole cover at the back of the building and lower myself down into the sewer. The water is cold and slimey, I don’t want to think just what is in it. It’s a kilometre before I arrive at the manhole cover I want and climb the dangerously erroded ladder back to the road. The next twenty metres are the most dangerous. I need to walk down the street in full view of the cameras, hoping that Adam has disabled these few from his end. But I can never be sure.
I walk briskly until I come to the next manhole cover, but this one does not lead into the sewer. Lowering myself back into the subterranean belly of the city, I land softly on the paving. My bare feet are grateful for the cool smooth paving. The city is crisscrossed with convict made tunnels that the Eros Network has been utilising to smuggle the Liberated beyond the city limits, out into the country to a safe community.
The Eros Network originally linked people and kept safe houses for couples to meet. That was before my time though. It was a quiet revolution when the first draconian laws were passed forbidding intimate relationship of any type, when people still remembered and longed for sex, for connection, for love – before the yawning cavern inside was efficiently though inadequately filled with stuff. You can never buy what you are missing – you can’t even get sex or love on the blackmarket, even if you realised that was what you were really missing.
Now Eros liberates men and women from the biological suppression of the reproductive chip. I was one of the first to be liberated. I am the first link in the chain, identifying those who are open to being liberated – those who are having thoughts of a sexual nature. I have only met ever with Adam. The network is simple – you know who comes before and after you. In my case there is only Adam. That protects the network.
Now that we have the stolen Government technology, for the first time ever Eros is one step ahead of the Government. We are using their cutting edge technology against them, saving people who would other wise disappear.
Inside the tunnel I run my fingers over the wall until I hit pay dirt, the torch. It’s another of those commodities that are almost impossible to buy even on the black market. You have to have something of greater value to actually physically exchange for it – a mere torch. And few things command the same price. Who would have thought. A fragment of a memory surfaces of a little boy and a blue torch, an argument? Before I can get a mental hold on the memory it is gone, though I feel it, like the others, each memory is imprinting itself with growing intensity on my actual body. They warned me about this, about the memories, when I was liberated. I think I’m doing OK dealing with them as they surface.
The torch casts a thin shaft of light into the gloom. I marvel at the workmanship in the brickwork and construction of the tunnels, and at the lack of dust in them. I can’t help but run my hand over the bricks and know they are more than 200 years old. I hurry then. Adam will be waiting for me.
Beneath the cellar of the Neo Burlesque there is a trap door and someone has rigged up a simple rope ladder. There is an old plastic milk crate filled with misappropriated clothes – lavish costume pieces, simple sheaths of silk and satin. Tonight I choose a leopard print dress. It doesn’t fit perfectly – they never do. The lycra bunches or falls open in all the wrong places. It is also tailored for someone with a waist and hips. I have neither in the classic sense. There’s no time to change once I’ve pulled it over my head. The smell of sweat and stale sex tells me that I’m not the only one to wear it this week. I fold my office clothes lace up the knee high Doc Marten boots that I know fit me from past trips here.
There has never been time to ask Adam how it is possible that the Neo Burlesque continues to operate. It is the antithesis of everything that the Government stands for. It encourages the obscene, the sexy, celebrates the sensual and beauty of both the male and female form. And then there is what goes on in the shadows. Like coffee I guess, officials have their quirks and someone very high up must still have a penchant for this.
The club is one huge room, an old theatre. On the stage there is a band singing original, unsanctioned material. Two girls, one tiny and the other huge are dressed in bustiers and huge tattered tulle skirts that are short at the front exposing their fishnet stockings, and long at the back in an exaggerated bustle. A tall flamboyant feather is tucked into each of their upswept hair dos. The guitarist is in his usual knee length black trench coat and a top hat. From somewhere deep inside my head I hear a naturist’s voice commenting over the top of the brass section, speaking of the band as though they are exotic birds rather than a mish mash of left overs from Mardi Gras. Mardi Gras … where did that come from?
Before I have time to contemplate the new thought, there is a hand on my arm. It is Adam. We melt into the deep shadows at the perimeter of the theatre. There is a good reason that so much light is magnified to the middle, it creates these safe havens along the wall.
Adam’s mouth is hard on mine, his body pushing me into the cold, broken plaster wall. His hands are on my body, fevered and impatient, as mine are on him. He pulls the dress up to my waist, as I struggle with the button and zipper on his pants. My hands are shaking – again. There is no time for foreplay, for any tenderness or exploration. A chance for us to look each other in the eye, to traverse the histories we see there … for intimacy or love. There is only the physical act now and we are grateful for that.
Adam tears open a condom packet and rolls it over his cock in a single fluid action, then hoists me up onto his thighs. I wonder where he gets them – the condoms, but there’s no more time to think about it. There never seems to be any time to think about anything that matters. He presses me harder into the wall and fumbles for a moment with his erection, trying to get it inside me … and then for a delirious few minutes, we rut and pound our bodies into and against each other. Even with the anticipation and the two week wait, Adam cries out in the hollow of my neck and comes before I’m close to being there. That’s the way it is.
We untangle our bodies; Adam rolls the condom off, ties a knot in it and hides it in his pocket once he’s fastened his Government issue pants back around his waist. A used condom is the worst possible thing to have on your person, yet he doesn’t just drop it on the floor. I pull the dress back down and bend over to extract the list of names and apartment numbers from the inside of my boot. Our fingers linger, entwined for a moment as I pass the list to him.
There are screams as the outside doors of the theatre are beat in.
Adam grabs my hand and we dash for the stage, racing up the stairs and pushing through the startled musicians, making our way for the backstage dressing rooms. Adam takes the first of the Government’s henchmen in the throat with his fist, crushing the man’s windpipe. I grab for the Tazer as he goes down. There is enough of a gap between the two black clad men for Adam to pull a knife from his belt and fell the second with an expertly thrown knife to the heart. We waste precious seconds stripping both men of their weapons, but there is no alternative. I’m unarmed and Adam only has his knife. I fasten the second man’s belt around my waist and try to make it fit. They’re not meant for women.
We hurry through to the dressing rooms, pulling open the trap door in the toilet in the largest of the dressing rooms, jumping down into the cellar. Adam sets me first down the rope ladder into the tunnels, following me as voices erupt above. And we’re running, hearts pounding in the darkness, my hands clutching at the belt which threatens to fall and trip me up. It’s dark and only Adam’s hand in mine keeps me moving forward. It is a bad time to realise that I have a mortal fear of the dark.
We come to an intersection. We stop and we’re both breathing hard and shallow. I can feel a breeze coming from a different direction. I have no idea how we got here, or where we are. I’ve only ever come the one same way to and from the Neo Burlesque. We are only just ahead of the beams of light behind us, there is not time to falter.
“You go this way Eve. We need to separate.”
I want to say something, but he is gone before I can and I’m all alone in the world – running for my life in the dark.