A story about the future of prejudice
Maggie still believed in being nice to people. Even those she thought were hideously disgusting. She knew those people still had to live, still deserved jobs, still had to feed their kids. It wasn’t her fault that they were better off doing those things where they couldn’t be seen. Sure, everyone has to live, but they don’t have to upset each other in the process of living. She couldn’t imagine eating a meal at a restaurant while having to deal with an Ugly waiter or waitress. It would simply put her off her appetite.
I’m a nice person, she thought, staring into the mirror and smiling. She looked like an e-zine cover. I’m not a faceist. I’m just honest, and I am beautiful. This world deserves more people like me, and less that want to tear it apart for their own selfishness.
It was nearing six o’clock and she had a date with Joseph Spielberg in an hour. They were going to one of her favorite places, The Pageant. The food there was always exquisite, and the atmosphere was heavenly, nothing but perfect skin and white smiles from wall to wall. It was a Beauties Only establishment, like every place in the Hills. She had already dressed in the most ravishing attire she owned, a red sequined strapless that clung to her like a second skin of glitter, accentuating every curve of her body with sexy sparkle. It stopped just below the base of her buttocks so her long legs were allowed to glow and breathe and bask in the light of the room like the tensed limbs of a goddess, dipped in oil so her feet could be slipped into some trendy candy-colored heels that she had just picked up the day before. She had even spent an hour that evening perfecting her toenails with the Pedi-pamper, making each toe gleam with the glossy portrait of a clownfish. Maggie loved the sea for its simplicity. It was always beautiful, even when it spawned hurricanes to destroy coastlines.
Having an hour before the date gave her plenty of time to practice her smile. So, that was what she did. She practiced smiling over and over in the mirror, so the first time she greeted Joseph that evening, she would greet him with perfection, just the right amount of teeth and head tilt, just that hint of a squint and mischief in the eyes that said she wasn’t all angel, wasn’t daddy’s little girl any more, but she wasn’t a slut either, so don’t expect any blowjobs. Her Mind-Shield was a barrette styled one, in the shape of a silver butterfly perched on the right side of her head, where it pinned back her auburn hair. The blue LED lights in its wings were the only sign of its purpose, and they winked at her, each light a tiny Apple logo in the reflected image of herself, ticking away the seconds as she smiled.
Tonight could be the night, she thought, and the idea made her tingle in her most human places.
She was no prude, they had had sex on the first date of course. Why not? They were equally attracted to one another, and neither had the slightest misconception that the other could have a disease. Their bodies made wonderful music together, and every time they had made love, she liked to pretend they were on a photo shoot, delighting in the way their poses seemed so picturesque, his heavily muscled arms holding him above her as she gripped a firmly toned buttock in one hand, and the back of his neck with the other, urging him forward as she cried out and seductively bit her bottom lip. It was everything one could hope for in a physical relationship, but Joseph had hinted at more the last time they spoke, something that she had never dreamed of with anyone else. Could she open herself up completely to someone? She thought she could with Joseph. His eyes were the azure lakes she could get lost in, perfect mirrors of the sky in which she could feel like she were flying. And his abs were like polished stone.
For a moment she lost herself in lust, closing her eyes and pushing the hem of her skirt up with one hand. In two minutes time she had climaxed, and was just shaking off the jitters of pleasure when she saw the first blue flash of her Comm-Lens, probably a message from Joseph that he had arrived. She tapped her left temple to confirm it was him, and then tapped it again to clear the message from her vision.
I wish I could come with Joe, she thought, as she stood and straightened her dress, then dabbed on a fresh coat of lip gloss. She had never been able to orgasm with a partner. Perhaps tonight would be different. Maybe it was what she had been missing all along.
Dinner was all that could be expected of a meal. They had white wine that was warp-aged to 200 years, and dishes of such elegantly presented cuisine that she almost didn’t care what she ordered, or what it tasted like, but it tasted marvelous of course. And it was outrageously expensive, which seemed to make it taste even better. The waiters and waitresses at The Pageant all wore elaborate costumes, gowns full of flowing frills or layer upon layer of multi-colored sequins, or gold and silver embossed swimwear finished with skin sheathed in either glitter or silver or gold lotion that turned them all into living statues of perfection. They wore sashes that declared them representatives of select cities or corporations. The waiter they had been given was Mister Exxon. Maggie liked the way his gold biceps bulged as he leaned to refill their glasses. There was something comforting about being surrounded only by your own kind. Something intoxicating, freeing.
“Did you hear about the latest Truther bombing?” Joseph wanted to know. His Mind-Shield doubled as an ear-piece for his Comm-Lens, and its blue pulse nearly matched the blue of his eyes. He said he could never let someone wire something into his brain, because who knew when they might crawl through that open window and rearrange the furniture? Maggie thought that was absurd. Everyone she knew had their Comms hardwired in. Joe could be odd now and then, but he was the most attractive man she had ever known. She admired his jawline, the way he kept a faint shadow of stubble, how his cologne seemed like a masculine extension of his self, a cloud of man-scent that she felt at peace inside, and sometimes brought ripples of gooseflesh to the backs of her legs.
“Of course, who hasn’t?”
She smiled her practiced smile. Sometimes Joe asked dumb questions.
Does he think I am an idiot? she thought. Only an idiot would have missed the latest Red Scare Alert, just more people blowing themselves up for nothing.
“Right, right. It’s been all over the Comms...so, what do you think about it? Do they have a chance in hell of getting anything done? They seem to be gaining some momentum.”
What’s this? Sympathy for the Uglies? Oh, Joe, you never struck me as the sensitive type.
She smiled again, and sipped her wine, letting the effervescent tastes float over her tongue.
“Well, I don’t know about any chance of revolution in today’s world. Besides, the Supreme Court already ruled that a person’s right to privacy overruled a person’s right to telepathy.”
“That’s true, but I’ve heard they have whole communities where no one wears a Mind-Shield. Everyone shares everything. It’s just out there, nothing to fear, or be ashamed of. Doesn’t that interest you at all?”
She wished she could place the look in his eyes. For a moment he seemed distraught, and then filled with a sense of hopefulness. There was an earnestness in Joe that she couldn’t understand, a type of honesty that made him unbearably attractive, sort of dangerous even. She was unmistakably aroused.
I wish I could read your mind, that’s the only one that matters, she thought.
“Oh, you know, I don’t think about stuff like that. And anyway, it doesn’t matter what you or I have to think about such things. This world has made its choice, nothing will change it.”
“I suppose you’re right about that. Who cares about what goes on out there, as long as we are happy where we are, right?”
They each sipped their wine again as an awkward silence passed between them.
“But, Maggie, have you thought about what I asked you last week?”
She noticed his lip trembled momentarily as he worked the words out of his mouth.
Why does he seem so afraid? Should I be afraid, too?
And she realized that she was. She was terrified, terrified and excited at the same time, a sensation of two emotions warring in her guts, that ultimately surrendered into one mutual feeling of exhilaration.
“I have, and I think we should. I can’t wait to try it.”
She smiled her practiced smile, though her heart was pounding as if it had just been shot full of adrenaline, and a million doubts began to knit themselves into anvils in her brain, like ants building a bridge across the Nile.
“Good. Well, what are we waiting for? I’ll get the check.”
They stood at the foot of her bed, already naked, arms on each other’s hips. Their clothes were scattered about the floor like collapsed victims of a disintegration ray. Maggie knew that Joe was impatient to be inside her, as his erection throbbed and stiffened against her leg as if with each of his heart beats, but they were not fully nude yet after all, and she wasn’t sure if she could go through with it.
“Don’t be afraid,” he said, and his eyes were the simplest blue of summer that they felt like truth incarnate, “I’ve read about this, and this is the best way to experience each other, to really be inside each other. It is supposed to be the most beautiful experience two lovers can share.”
“Have you done this before, with anyone else?” she felt like a child, a virgin, though she had had sex with countless men.
“Of course not, but it is perfectly safe. It’s just us. Just you and me. We love each other, right?”
He was stroking his fingers up and down her spine, making her knees weak.
What is love? she thought.
“Yes, of course,” she said, and she kissed his mouth, savoring the soft warmth of it, dancing her tongue inside it as he massaged one of her breasts and lightly teased a nipple, making her gasp, and inhale his wine-scented breath.
“Then, free yourself from all shields,” he breathed, pushed nearly to the point of animal instinct, as he reached up clumsily and unclipped the Mind-Shield from his ear, clicked a button on its underside so the blue lights stopped, and dropped it into the folds of his pants on the floor, smiling.
Her hands shaking, she smiled, and carefully pulled the butterfly clip from her hair, letting that side of it fall to her shoulder. At first there was nothing, until she clicked the power button on the underside of the barrette, and then everything changed.
Such an overwhelming surge of emotions, and tumultuous thoughts tumbled through her head at once, it was disorienting, and he must have felt the same, as they collapsed into each other’s arms, holding onto one another for balance.
(what will she think of me)
(will I orgasm?)
(never told her)
(i’m not a faceist)
(my only child)
They looked at each other, nearly overpowered by the other’s railroad of spiraling consciousness, and they began to kiss, for the first time realizing they were strangers. Tears flowed from both of their eyes, as they were wrapped up wholly in that moment of discovery, and it was beautiful, it really was, for about thirty seconds.
Suddenly, not two breaths after Joseph had settled himself between her thighs and began to slide himself inside, Maggie shrieked and pushed him away violently, scrambling away from the bed, and pulling a sheet from it to cover herself. She realized Joe wasn’t upset about this. He was already pulling away himself, shaking his head in what appeared to be a look of disgust, rubbing his temple as if he was trying to force something out of it. They each raced for their respective Mind-Shields, hurriedly searching for the power buttons to shut out the voice of the other. Once they were activated they sat and looked at each other from opposite sides of the room, neither knowing what to say.
“I...I never knew that you were married before.”
“I never knew you were a slut.”
“But, Joe, everyone does it. A fuck means nothing. But you, you had a wife, an Ugly wife, and you had a baby with it!”
“Don’t say another word about my dead wife, or my son.”
“My God, what if, what if you gave me a disease!?”
He was already putting his pants back on, his actions full of a vigorous anger. His eyes had gone from summer to winter.
“And that, that’s why you’ve brought up the Truthers so many times. You support them. You’ve given them funding. How? Why, Joe, why? You betray your own kind!”
He didn’t bother with his socks, just slid on his shoes, threw his shirt over his shoulder, and started for the door.
“Joe, I thought you loved me, but you’re just a liar like every man.”
“I didn’t know you, and you didn’t know me. Let’s just forget that this ever happened.”
“How? I’ll have to be tested now. You’ve polluted me.”
“You really think you’ve never been lied to before? What are these little trinkets we wear for, if not to preserve our naivety?”
“I don’t understand, Joe. How could you be with someone like that, when you can have someone like me?”
“Here’s what you don’t understand, Maggie,” he said, turning back and pointing a finger toward her face, his eyes flashing with an intensity that turned her heart into a block of ice, “my wife was the most beautiful woman I have ever known, and people like you killed her. I don’t know why I thought this was a good idea. You wear a mask of lies. Underneath it, you’re a fucking ugly monster. Stay in your cage. It’s where you’re happiest.”
He didn’t wait for a response, just slammed the door and was gone forever. The room seemed heavy with silence. His words had been a slap to her face, a cruel sting that left her numb, but she would have the last laugh. Sniffling, she rubbed the tears from her eyes, and carefully re-pinned the butterfly in her hair. She selected her best nightie, and put it on, feeling chilled.
Who is he to call me ugly? Can he even remember his wife’s face? What a troll!
She placed herself at her vanity, and began powdering her face, removing all traces of the tears that had fallen. Once she was returned to the polished visage of grace that she was accustomed to presenting to the world, she calmly practiced her smile for fifteen minutes, and then tapped her left temple, activating her Comm-Lens. She thought the number and it dialed, and when a man answered, his visored face filled her vision, along with a digital readout of the number and its owner.
“Hello, Special Police, I have important information for you, regarding the Truther Movement, and one of their sponsors.”
That night, as images of the burning buildings and police officers bludgeoning Truthers with their lightning sticks lit up her wall, Maggie sipped champagne from a crystal flute and smiled a perfect smile. She refused to let the tears in her eyes fall.