a Short Story by Kellis
“Joseph, can you hear me?”
His eyelids fluttered open. A beautiful woman hovered over him, looking down with interest and a slight smile. He thought, Aunt Ellen used to smile exactly that way — and realized that this face indeed belonged to Aunt Ellen, a much younger one, however, than the wrinkled visage of his last memories. The hair was short around her head as she had liked it, but brown now instead of gray. She wore the man’s white short-sleeved shirt, tails tied under her breasts as he recalled from the summers of his childhood. A heart-shaped locket dangled from a gold chain around her neck. Uncle Gene’s purple heart? But Aunt Ellen had produced no progeny. Who was this that so resembled her?
“Joseph,” she repeated in Aunt Ellen’s exact tones, now exhibiting impatience, “you’re looking at me. I don’t believe you can’t hear me.”
“I hear you,” he said in a crisp voice. “Who are you?”
She nodded, then cocked an eyebrow. “I’m certain you remember me.”
He shook his head. “I’m trying to figure you out. You are the exact image of my aunt Ellen, the woman who raised me. But Aunt Ellen had no sibling and no child. Or did she mislead us all?”
“I never told you a lie, Joseph.”
He took a breath, studying her. “You claim to know me?”
“I know you very well, Joseph.” Her smile had gone. The eyes on his were steady, the same almost-green that he remembered.
He felt the beginnings of a chill. “Who … who are you, then?”
“You know me, Joseph. I’m your Blue J.”
The chill strengthened. He felt hair rising on his temples. He said hesitantly, “Aunt Ellen … might’ve told somebody …”
Her expression didn’t change. “Besides you, no one ever discovered it after Gene.”
“Aunt Ellen had other men.”
She nodded. “A few, but always at night, in the dark. Except you.”
He shivered. The involuntary movement annoyed him. Compressing his lips, he declared, “You want me to believe you are Aunt Ellen!”
She smiled Aunt Ellen’s slight smile. “Raise up on your elbow, Joseph, where you can see.”
He was lying in a single bed, his body covered by a white sheet. He raised himself as she directed, noting peripherally the taut musculature of his bare right arm, but concentrating on her brief beige shorts, cut off from her dead husband’s britches, that she had also liked to wear in those long-ago summers. Her legs as far down beside the bed as he could see were pink, shapely and full.
Her hands were already at the front buttons. As he watched, she fully unbuttoned the fly, slid her fingers under the pink panties thus exposed and forced both garments down her thighs, bending to push them below her knees. Her bare right foot stepped out of the clothing and rose to perch upon his bedside.
His wide eyes stopped first at the thick pubic bush, dark and wiry as he remembered, then came to rest upon the tattoo inside her right thigh, just below the line of the groin. It was the five-pointed solid blue star, about an inch tall, with the enclosed bright red J, that he had discovered on a memorable day during his sixteenth year. She had explained that her new husband had wanted to mark her as his woman, a proposition to which she was wholly agreeable, but the artist had misunderstood Gene’s first name as “Jean,” with a contrary result. The enthralled lad had seized upon it. The artist must have been prescient. J meant Joseph. He had proceeded with the aid of her inducements to take possession of his “Blue J” more thoroughly than even Gene had managed. Ellen had learned a few things since Gene’s failure to return from Vietnam.
The image now exhibited was crisper than he remembered, its colors more vivid, as it must have appeared a year or two after its application, while Gene was still alive, while Joseph was a small boy in the arms of a mother not yet destroyed along with father and sister in a fiery automobile crash. Orphaned at five, he was not to see the J, called blue though it was actually red, until he had lived eleven years with Aunt Ellen, his legal guardian, the childless widow of his father’s brother. By that time the edges had begun to blur.
His face was hardly a foot away from her crotch. The extension of her leg pulled the labia slightly apart. He took a breath and smelled her femaleness. His eyes rose at last to find hers twinkling. “Convinced?” she asked.
He grunted. “I want to be! But Aunt Ellen must have shown somebody. It’s the only rational explanation.”
The foot came down from the bed but the woman only stepped free of the clothing entangled on her other foot. “What do you remember, Joseph?”
“I remember Aunt Ellen, old, wrinkled, gray, then smooth-faced again in her casket.”
The voice softened. “Did you cry at my funeral, Joseph?”
“I couldn’t help it. Aunt Ellen was the only — Damn it, cut this out! How could you possibly be Aunt Ellen? I personally scattered her ashes off Brighton Bridge.”
“Thank you for that, Joseph… You’ve looked at me. Now look at yourself.” She tilted her head toward the wall. “There’s a full length mirror on that door.”
He hesitated. “I seem to be naked.”
She tilted her head indulgently, another gesture so typical of Aunt Ellen. “I’ve seen you naked countless times, Joseph.”
He threw off the sheet, bounded to his feet beside the bed — and pulled up short. He recalled only too well the last time he had departed a bed under his own power. That maneuver, undertaken with the nurse out of the room, had required most of his remaining strength plus all his capacity to concentrate, yet still had resulted in a fall and a broken hip. Now he stood confidently, correcting his balance with the thoughtless ease of youth. Incredulous, he looked down at himself, seeing a flat belly and smooth unveined legs lightly dusted with the hair that had departed them before he was 60. His toenails were clear and perfectly rounded.
He raised wide eyes to the woman. “My god, Aunt Ellen!”
She smiled, perhaps at the implicit recognition of her identity, but reminded him, “The mirror, Joseph.”
Almost reluctantly he moved to stand before the door. The image reflected to him was that of the young man he had been in university, slim but muscular from workouts in the gym. He was clean-shaven, but a thick shock of close-cut hair adorned his head. Wiry hair curled on ample pectorals. The image was beautiful, but …
“Who’s that?” he asked, staring around at the woman.
Her smile widened. “You don’t recognize him? Oh, I surely do!”
She came up behind him. Her cool arms encircled his chest. Pubic hair tickled his buttocks. She peered over his shoulder at the twin image. “Oh, Joseph!”
Suddenly she frowned and withdrew long enough to untie the shirt tails and shrug out of the garment. Then her arms re-enclosed him and she pressed warm breasts into his back. She kissed his shoulder and the nape of his neck. He felt her tongue like a wet firebrand.
Together they watched her hands creep down his firm belly and play among the reflected genitals. His hands closed over hers. He sighed, “Aunt Ellen, how long has it been?”
Her reflected eyes twinkled. “Who cares, Joseph? It won’t be long now.”
“But how can this be? Am I dead?”
“Do you feel dead, Joseph? I can assure you, this part is certainly not dead!”
He ceased to think of questions. He rotated within her arms, pulled her against him once again and covered her mouth with his own. His whole body resonated to her tongue as it had not done in 30 years. When at last their lips parted, he mumbled, “Aunt Ellen, when —”
“It’s now, Joseph.”
He laid her back on the bed. Her body opened and her legs enwrapped him in paradise. He knew he had felt this before, long ago, but now the poignancy of comparison to enfeebled age made it overwhelming. When they had groaned in mutual orgasm, he pressed a wet cheek against hers. His tears wet her hair.
“That was wonderful, Joseph,” she murmured, relaxing, a gentle hand caressing the back of his neck as only Aunt Ellen had ever done at such a time.
“Oh, god, Aunt Ellen!” he whispered fervently. “I never hoped to have you again.”
“I’m yours now, Joseph, completely, at last.”
He rose off her, rolling to his side, propping his head up on an elbow to study her. She endured his gaze with her slight smile. After a while she turned somewhat toward him and threw a shapely leg over his hip.
“Did you have a few questions, Joseph?”
He shook his head. “I had a few, but no longer. I’m even afraid to think them, much less ask. Whatever this is, I don’t want it to end.”
“You don’t have to worry about that, Joseph.”
“I don’t intend to worry about it.” His hand encircled her breast, squeezing gently. “This is what I mean to worry.”
“Well, it’s all yours. But there are other things you might love. What did you tell me you wanted the night before you went away to school?”
He grinned. “What a wet-behind-the-ears snot I must have been!”
“A precious one to me! But I’m sure you recall telling me your ambition.”
“The dreams of youth!” He sighed. “No skill for math, they said, but who needs math to walk on the Moon?”
“Who indeed?” She released him and got out of bed. “Come on, Joseph.”
He followed her lithely, flexing his arms, and stretched luxuriously. “God, I feel good!”
“Why not?” She went to the mirror door, turned its knob and threw it open. “Take a look, Joseph.”
Through the door he saw a strangely gray and lifeless but sun-drenched landscape. He stood in the doorway, scanning right and left at a black sky and smoothly rounded hills in the distance beyond a flat plain peppered with meteor craters.
“The Moon?” he asked incredulously.
“Go ahead, step out there,” she suggested behind him.
He obeyed, taking several strangely light steps, and found himself standing in warm talcum powder that coated his bare feet. He turned to look at the woman. She waited in a bright doorway — but the doorway stood alone with no building around it. The gray landscape stretched away to a short horizon beyond the impossible doorway.
He murmured, “My god, what a great simulation!”
“You think so? Try a high jump.”
“Jump as high as you can.”
He shrugged, crouched and leapt upward. To his amazement he rose two or three times his own height above the ground and drifted back slowly.
She smiled into his wide eyes. “Could anyone simulate the lesser gravity?”
“B-but … There’s no air!”
She strode to him and put her arms around his neck. Her breasts pressed him unmistakably. She whispered before their lips met, “Who needs air?”
* * * *
The chief veritor turned her attention to the assistant. “Very good. This is most promising, the easiest transition yet. We’ll have to do several more before I can recommend a policy change, but the idea of suppressing background details seems to let the verry proceed without the doubts and fears we’ve seen before. I think you’re well on the way to that award.”
“Thank you, ma’am,” the assistant responded. “And your suggestion to have her sidetrack his questions was brilliant.”
The chief was clearly pleased. “We make a good team, Mr. Ord.”
The attending validator sniffed. “Your mutual congratulations are a bit premature, don’t you think? You have failed to consider the implications. Suppressing Joseph’s final memories, including his experience of the transfer, means that he has no basis upon which to continue his education. I’ll mention that in my report.”
The chief veritor’s amusement was apparent. “Madam, you surprise me. Don’t you understand what it means that we were even allowed to perform this experiment? Your Puritanical insistence on moral instruction by pain and suffering is no longer in vogue on the council. I and a lot of others are very pleased by the new hedonistic tone. When Joseph communicates with his descendants, I think we’ll find most of them a lot more eager to transfer than they are under the present regime. I predict a great increase in rates of acceptance. Isn’t that our common objective?”
The validator sighed. “I suppose so. But in the long run I think we’ll all be sorry for turning Virtual Reality into nothing more than a means of wish fulfillment.”
Copyright © August, 2000, Kellis
Stories at http://www.dhp.com/~kellis