[play .mp3]
back to christmas

by Miracle Jones

The suburban Cracker Barrel is almost empty.  It is a Tuesday night.  Tom, a decent looking Gulf Coast man in a thoroughly retro white t-shirt and a zipped-up black leather jacket—a nod to the basic affinity between all priests and all bachelors of a certain age—sits alone at the bar area.  

His security familiar is surely the most artistic machine that has ever been seen inside this restaurant. It is clearly custom, and not from a package. The few customers here who have augments keep staring at it in abased wonderment.  He designed and coded it from sketches that an old girlfriend drew for him long ago, back when he thought “girlfriends” were a good idea. 

His security familiar is tiny. You can only see it fully through augments of your own, the same kind he and many others have grafted into their ocular nerves in order to opt out of the horrors of consensus reality. To people without augments, his security familiar is just a ball-bearing sized drone.  It buzzes all around him, taking pictures, streaming data, feeding him information.  However, to those with augments, it looks like a six-inch-high woman with fairy wings and bright green skin.  The fairy wears a leather bondage mini-skirt and her proportions are “problematic.” She is made from lights and code, otherwise she would never be able to lift herself up and fly on such gossamer wings, being so top-heavy.

Tom is waiting for his date, a woman named Lila that he has only met a few times.  There is a black bag at his feet full of equipment. 

Lila lives in the apartment complex right down the street from this Cracker Barrel franchise, a restaurant whose survival must depend on rush-hour traffic from the feeder road. He got here way early so he could at least have one drink in him before she showed up. 

The music here is procedurally generated alt-country twang mixed over soulful Bible verses delivered in a manly tremolo, most likely lifted from some audio book New Testament.  Every now and then an oldies pop song comes on that makes him smile. He likes oldies; he likes masturbating to very old porn where all the people in it are surely dead.

He first met Lila at his cousin Charlie’s wedding, and then again at Charlie’s house for a post-wedding, pre-honeymoon barbecue. He lives in the city and she lives out here, so they are exotic to each other, even though they have this mutual connection, this pivot point that draws them together twice in quick succession. He becomes “known” to her: this makes him “safe by default” which makes her “willing to take a risk.”

She was hard to miss at the wedding: her security familiar is a seven-foot-tall baby blue grizzly bear drone.  It’s a package and not custom, obviously, but it’s an expensive package.  She had a date and couldn’t talk to him the way she would like to talk to him. Tom was with his family and couldn’t talk to her the way he would like to talk to her. It was clear from the start that they had a certain dark chemistry.  Lila was bubbly and outgoing…outspoken, not ever deferential when confronted with a sufficiently strong opinion. Instead she flipped her hair around and flushed with excitement at any challenge.  

The second time they met, at the barbecue, she disagreed with him on every point, no matter how trivial. It was too easy. He sent his familiar to rest on her shoulder and she never even brushed it off.  

Every time he said something self-deprecating and mild, she slapped her thigh, contradicted him, and stared at him like she wanted to eat him.  He got the idea.  When he went to the front yard to smoke a cigarette, she followed him, chattering away to create a mystifying cloud of noise.  When they were alone, he passed her his cigarette and she took a drag, holding the cigarette awkwardly. 

“Give me your phone,” he said.

She handed it to him with a small noise of shock and excitement, like a bunny being squeezed.

“Code?” he asked.

“0125,” she said breathily.  “My birthday.”

“Don’t worry,” he said punching it in. “I’ve already forgotten it.”

He typed in his email address for her.  Then he took his cigarette back, inhaled, and blew smoke in her face. She looked around, suddenly skittish, to see if anyone was watching them.
He left the barbecue right after that.  Didn’t even say goodbye.  

He ignored her for a week, and then he sent her a long email that ended by asking her about the closest restaurant to her place. The letter was otherwise effusive and complimentary, full of charming personal anecdotes and revealing personal details. But the subtext was brutal and clear.

She sent him back a one-line response with just a time and a place: a loathsome literally-true answer to his question; a provocation, a bratty dare. And now here he is.

At the Cracker Barrel, he does manage to get one drink in him before she arrives, but only one.  He slides back on his barstool as her security familiar pushes open the doors and lopes inside.  She follows behind the giant blue bear, frowning, timidly inching into the restaurant. Does she ever actually come here?  Surely not. Finally, she sees him and puffs up, grinning, walking over to him quickly and voraciously.

She is wearing a low-cut pink sweater and a white, pleated skirt.  She wears stubby heels.  Her hair is shoulder-length and she is slender and completely flat-chested, like a boy.  She wears bright red lipstick and Tom is old enough to know when a woman has spent a long time doing her makeup.  He surmises that Lila has left work early to get ready for him and this fills him with the good kind of contempt.

“Hello,” she says.  “It is great to see you again.  I wasn’t sure if you were going to be able to find the place.  Or if you would still want to come and meet me.  Thanks for picking a place so convenient.  Nobody ever wants to come all the way out here.  I love that jacket, by the way.”

Tom smooths his hair back.  He turns to the side and motions to the bartender.

“Two glasses of water. And we aren’t staying for dinner.”

He puts a ten-dollar bill on the counter for the one drink and the bartender picks it up, bored, uncaring.  She pours two glasses of water for them and then backs away. Lila sits down on the barstool next to him, her eyes flicking to the bag of equipment at his feet. He knows what it looks like: it looks like he has packed an overnight bag. But he hasn’t. He does not actually intend to stay the night with her. 

Her familiar lays down behind her, resting in the big open area by the door. It is empty enough inside this suburban Cracker Barrel that nobody seems to mind that she has brought it inside.

His own security familiar flits over to them and then lands on his shoulder.  The fairy drone struts along his deltoids, posing as Lila watches.

“I can’t get over how cool your familiar is,” she says.  “Not like mine:  I got my bear from work.  It’s a package, part of our health insurance.  You made your familiar yourself, right?   Charlie said you were an artist, that you do code and stuff.  He actually warned me about you, did you know that?  He said you were weird and quiet but that you always had a beautiful new woman you were dating and he said nobody knew how you did it.  I think he was trying to talk me out of seeing you, but he didn’t do a very good job.  He only made you seem more mysterious.”

Tom picks up his glass of water and takes a sip.  Then he picks up her glass of water and also takes a sip.  The gesture is not lost on her.  

“I just have a regular boring job in an office,” she says.  “I studied psychology and art history and every single person asked me what I was going to do with it, and now I work for an insurance company.”

She slaps her own bare thigh and laughs, throwing her shoulders back.

“I guess there is some psychology involved in working at an insurance company: it’s amazing how people never think they are going to have an accident or die or that their loved ones are going to crash their cars or get brain cancer.  My job is mostly talking on the phone, though I have to travel a bunch.  Which is pretty okay.  I am pretty outgoing.  I don’t mind that part. You know, you don’t look very much like Charlie.  Was your mom at the wedding?  I don’t think I met her there. God, I am just rambling. What did you study in school?”

“I didn’t go to school,” says Tom.  “Just did computer stuff.”

Her thigh jiggles close to his. He pours water into his hand and then puts his wet hand onto the flesh under her skirt, far above her exposed knee.  She gasps.

He picks up her glass of water again.  He spits into it and hands it to her. 

“We aren’t eating dinner here,” he says.

“No,” she agrees.

He looks at the glass of water in her hand.

“Aren’t you going to drink it?” he says.

She lifts the glass of water to her lips, trembling as his hand moves higher up her thigh.

“Hey, whoa,” says the bartender, moving over to them, banging one hand on the counter.  Lila lowers the glass, looking over at the bartender, a middle-aged woman with close set eyes and a strong jaw.  Her neck is chafed and pimply where her stiff collar grazes it.  

“He SPIT in that glass of water,” says the bartender.  “I saw him do it. Don’t drink that water.”

Lila blushes. But Tom puts his hand over hers and raises it to her lips again, sliding his hand higher up her skirt, climbing upward inch by inch.

“He spit in it,” says the bartender.  “Maybe you didn’t see.”

Tom pulls the glass away from Lila and holds it out to the bartender.  

“Do you want to spit in it, too?” he asks. “She’ll drink it and we can watch.”

The bartender stares at him, and then at Lila.  Lila closes her eyes and breathes heavy.  Her skin is flushed all the way down to the long open v of her sweater. The bartender frowns. She walks away.

Tom spits into the glass again and puts it back in Lila’s hand.  

“Drink up,” he says.

She drains the glass, making pretty, girly gulping noises. Then she puts the glass down on the bar.  

“Maybe we should get out of here,” she says. “I mean, I live around here.  We should go, right?”

Tom calls his security familiar over to him.  It perches on the bar and Lila smiles.

“She is adorable,” says Lila.  “Does she have a name?”

“No,” says Tom.  “No name.”

The fairy dances to the twangy country music that is interspersed with the manly Bible verses, swaying, holding herself, blinking her long high-definition eyelashes.  She gyrates in time, running her green hands over her body, over her leather mini-skirt, over the leather bra barely containing her cartoonishly disproportionate curves.  She struts all the way around the empty glass, fluttering up to lick the rim, running her tongue across the clear hard surface.  

Under Lila’s skirt, Tom’s hand squeezes her thigh and rubs the underside of her knee with two fingers in time to the security familiar’s rhythmic gyrations. Lila arches her back and grabs her stool to steady herself.

Tom holds one finger out at eye level, as if he is showing Lila a rare but invisible butterfly.  The fairy drone flies up and kisses the finger, winking at them.  Then the fairy grabs Tom’s finger with both hands and runs her tongue along the bottom, hovering in the air.

“She’s totally tame,” says Tom. "Does whatever I want."

The security familiar hikes up her skirt, extending her long green legs sideways. Without augments, all you would see is a floating ball-bearing circling the tip of Tom’s extended index finger.  But Tom and Lila see the cartoon projection bend over and suck his entire finger inside her dainty ass, throwing her head back in silent ecstasy, squeaking and bucking her hips as she impales herself.

Tom strokes Lila’s upper thigh in time to his security familiar’s dilatory thrusts with one hand,  moving the familiar-fucking index finger of his other hand back and forth in front of Lila’s wide-open eyes.  His fairy clutches her breasts, rocks her hips, and rides the finger like daddy’s airplane knee.

“Oh my god…” whimpers Lila.

Her thigh is sweating.  She presses her legs together and Tom moves his hand up higher until he feels moisture at the edge of her panties.  People in the Cracker Barrel are staring at them. The bartender is whispering to the manager, who is frowning. Tom grabs his security familiar, making a fist, and the projection disappears in his large and gnarled hand.  

“We can go now,” says Tom.

Lila gets up off the stool and moves to the door, clutching her purse.  Her giant bear drone awakens as she stands, alert and protective.

The bartender comes over to say something, but she sees that they are leaving. So instead she just glares at them, taking their glasses away, aggressively wiping away the spots of moisture where they didn’t use a coaster.

“We can walk to my place,” Lila says as they step outside of the restaurant.  “It isn’t far.”

They walk across the Cracker Barrel parking lot toward the side street.  It is dark now, and they are silent, listening to the heavy crunch of the giant bear drone that lopes across the gravel of the parking lot after them, protecting Lila from threats.

“So what do you for fun?” she asks him in a rush.  Her steps beside him are clipped as her kitten heels pick their way between loose gravel and uneven asphalt.  “I have a blog. I know, totally retro.  It’s called Bad Corporate Art. It gets a bunch of hits, but that is totally an accident.  The blog is simple…I take pictures of bad corporate art… the kind you see in the foyers of big business buildings and in the bathrooms at PR firms.  Corporations always think they need to have art on the walls and it is always awful.  How could it be good, right?  I get sent tons of places to sign documents and so on…I mean, we do insurance for whole companies.”

He doesn’t say anything. He lets his familiar loose from his fist. She buzzes upward to land on his shoulder.  

“I think I really like the paintings that are just pastel modernist shapes the most,” she says. “You always see these shape paintings in corporate bathrooms where everything is cream-colored and carpeted, where there are soothing seashell lines everywhere.  Right there on the wall will be some pastel shape painting.  Just a bunch of pastel cones or balls or cubes or pyramids.  They are meant to be relaxing or something.  My theory is that it helps big-time corporate executives take a shit. Like, it might be the one time in their day they might accidentally reflect on their own humanity and so these paintings are there to thwart this.” 

“Creativity is a happy fire,” he says finally.

“It would be better if all these corporations spent money on actual artists,” says Lila. “Who is even making all this stuff? I bet corporate art is so bad because they only buy art from their deadbeat sons and daughters, or else the deadbeat friends of their sons and daughters.  It is all a contained, closed deadbeat system…bad art by bad people.”

“Computer programmers, people who write code, often think of themselves as artists,” says Tom.  “We like to think that what we do is creative.”

“If you have the money, who not invest in some old Russian icons or even just some original prints from comic books,” she says.

They move into the parking lot of a three-story apartment building and she grabs his hand and pulls him up the stairwell.  The giant blue bear ambles up the stairs behind them, analyzing her pulse rate and listening for subvocal trigger words.
“This is it,” she says.  “Second floor.”

She holds his hand for a second and he can tell she wants him to kiss her. 

Tom hefts his shoulder bag, switching arms, pushing past her. She follows him. On the second floor, they thread through the potted plants along the walkway.  She grabs his hand again and he lets her.  She stops in front of a door and unlocks it with keys from her purse. The bear moves in first, trained to always check for danger, just in case.

Her apartment is all pink and lime green.  Lime green couch, pink curtains, pink rug, lime green electronics. There is a coffee table made from an old tree trunk that has been polished to a lacquered shine and there are two giant gifs hanging on the walls of women in beehive hairdos posing with bears. The kitchen has a lime green linoleum floor and Tom can see stainless steel countertops and a 3D drug printer.

Her giant bear curls up in an empty corner, watching them through its milky eyes.

“I tried to clean up a little,” she says.  “I don’t have a roommate or anything. So it’s just us in here. I like living alone, but since I got the bear I feel more safe.”

“Do you have anything to drink?” he asks her.

“Sure,” she says, walking over to her refrigerator.  He checks out her ass as she opens the door and she sees him checking out her ass, so she spreads her legs and lifts her skirt up a little, teasing him.  He smiles.  The bear picks its head up, watching him, watching him, watching him, and then it drops its head back to its paws.

“I’ve got some beers and a bottle of vodka,” she says, opening the freezer and pulling out a chilly bottle of Absolut.  

He comes up behind her and puts his hand around her throat, peering into the cold freezer.

“Not much in here, honestly,” he says. “Are those Choco Tacos?”

“Yes,” she says, breathing hard.  She breathes in his scent. She pushes back against him.

He reaches past her and takes a Choco Taco from the box.  

“Your ice cream is racist,” he says, opening the cellophane.

He moves away from her, also taking the bottle of vodka from her hand.  She lets the freezer door close.

“Sit down,” says Tom.  “And I will tell you what is about to happen.”

They both sit down on her couch.  She watches him while he eats the Choco Taco in three big bites. It is freezer burned. Her eyes move from his mouth to his crotch and back again.  He washes down the Choco Taco with a swig of vodka straight from the bottle. He balls up the wrapper and hands it to her.

“Throw this away,” he says. “Hold your skirt up again as you walk so I can see your ass. I like that.” 

She stands up like a package drone and scurries to the kitchen to throw away the wrapper, holding her skirt up so he can see, just like he has asked her to do. The bear yawns.

Tom pulls his bag over to him and unzips it. 

“You like doing what you’re told,” he says. 

She nods.

“And you feel snug and cozy here with me in your own place.”

“Yes,” she says meekly.

“Then we are going to do some exploring,” he says.  “You are going to help me test something I made. It is completely safe. Don’t worry.”

“Okay,” she says.

“Have you ever messed around with a neural projector before?” he asks her.

“Sure,” she says.  “In college. I mean…I like real life better.”

“Yes, me too,” he says.  “But in this bag I have a SinSations brand neural projector that I have modified.  I have taken out some of the safety features because I think they were put in by fucking Puritans.  But you aren’t a fucking Puritan or a fraidy-cat, are you?”

“No,” she says meekly.

“Usually, with a neural projector, we would both plug our brains into this box and there would be a scenario all queued up for us. I could beat you up using a neural projector and you would really feel it every time I hit you, but it wouldn’t hurt you, not really, and it wouldn’t even leave a mark. Right?”

“I’ve done that before,” she says.  “In college.  But like I said, I like real life better. I don’t mind…real marks.”

“Shut the fuck up, you stupid bitch,” he says.

She breathes in hard, falling to the floor to hug his legs like a koala nuzzling up against a tree trunk. They both get very excited for a moment. But instead of reaching out for her, he reaches for the vodka and takes another sip, washing the last vestiges of the Choco Taco out of his maxillary molars.

“As you are clearly aware, there are built-in limits to what you can do with a neural projector.  The machinery attempts to replicate reality—to create a world that we can interact with physically and that makes sense to us geometrically but which has limits.  Physical boundaries.  But these limits and boundaries can be turned off.  I have altered the firmware of this particular SinSations brand neural projector in my bag and I would like to use it on you and record the experience.  Are you comfortable with that, you dumb art history slut?”

She nods immediately.

“Yes,” she says without even thinking about it.  

He needs her not to agree so fast. 

“You sure?”

She thinks about it for real for a moment.

“Yes,” she says definitively.

“Better loosen up, then,” he says. He hands her the bottle of vodka and she takes a long pull from it, staring at him.

“Let’s go to your bedroom,” he says.  “You will need to be lying down for this.”

She stands up, wobbly on her heels, and her bear stands up as well, cocking its head to the side.  His fairy swoops around the room photographing everything, taking video that he will watch later. He will dissect each moment and plug important variables into an old-fashioned spreadsheet because the act of categorization gives him comfort.

Her bedroom continues the pink and lime green theme.  Her bed is pink, the thick carpet is lime green.  Pink curtains give the room a womb-like atmosphere as the sodium arc lights of the parking lot bleed in.

“Take your clothes off,” says Tom.  She smirks.  She does, removing her skirt and her top and standing in front of him wearing nothing but her short heels.  She stands there while he takes two large bricks of machinery out of the bag, and then he squints along the wall, looking for an outlet.  He holds up the plug end as a question, finally looking at her naked body.

“Over there,” she whispers.  “Behind the night stand.”

“I am going to hit you with this cord,” he says.  “I want to hit your ass with this cord.”

He waits for her.

“Yes,” she says.  “Please.”

He doubles up the electrical cord to make a loop, and he lashes out at her, smacking her thighs and bare ass. She shrieks. He could hit her harder, but he doesn’t raise the cord above his shoulder.  She bends down, pressing her ass to her heels, and looks at him with milky, loving eyes.  She stays that way as he plugs in the box and puts it on the bedside table.  Next, he plugs in a different box…a box that he has constructed himself…and then he opens the binder full of needles and spine clamps.

“Lay down,” he says.  “No, bitch…on your stomach. You have ports?”

She lifts up her hair, revealing two puncture wounds behind her ears. Of course she has ports.  She is eighteen, isn’t she?  

“You sure you don’t want to just smack me around?” she asks, lifting her ass up off the bed ever-so-slightly. She looks over her shoulder and she can see that his pants are bulging.  She can tell that he is enjoying all of this, every moment, no matter how cool he tries to seem.

“There’s no way to make a perfect neural projection without the spine clamps lighting up your nervous system so that the gateway processor can make you a proxy body,” he says.  “It will feel strange.  A lot of people say they feel like they are a robot or on ketamine.”  

“That sounds nice,” she says as he sterilizes the needles with a cigarette lighter.  “I’m not really the type of girl you would think would be into this kind of thing, am I?”

“You are exactly the sort of dumb slut who I think would be into this sort of thing,” he says. 

Her hands jump to her pussy.  She fingers herself mercilessly. She moans. 

There is a lot of preparation required. He has to lube up the ports and get the adjustments right on the spine clamps. She starts to feel like he is ignoring her. 

“When I was a kid," she says, "I remember that I would always make my brothers play ‘capture and torture’ which means that I would hide and if they found me, they could do whatever they wanted to me. Like lock me in the closet or tickle me until I peed.  They were younger than me so I could make them swear not to tell my parents or else I would break their favorite toy or something.  I hope they don’t remember any of that.”

He comes up behind her and puts his hand on her ass.  She curls into him so he slides two fingers into her smooth snatch. She is very wet. She lifts her ass off the bed toward him, clenching it, showing off how firm it is.

“Don’t stop talking,” he says.  “I have to calibrate the projector.”

“What do you want me to talk about?”

“Anything,” he says. “Your favorite color.  Your favorite animal.  Your favorite restaurant.”

“My favorite…”

He forks his fingers across her clit and squeezes. He slides her juices all the way back to her asshole.

“Talk,” he says.

“Have you heard about this place called Googly Eyes?” she says after a long moment.  “It’s a weird new restaurant in the city.  I bet you know about it.  Have you been there?  It is owned by this artist who is getting kind of famous.  All the food has candy eyeballs all over it. The steaks, the potatoes, the dessert, the salads.  It all has googly eyes, like Muppets or something…”

He drives his fingers into her wet asshole now and she gasps.  She hears him unbuckling his pants, and she turns around to look. His pants come off and then his shirt. He screws two bolts into the box and makes some more adjustments with the needles and then he dims the lights.

“I am going to plug in the needles now,” he says.  “Your ports are clean?”

“I sanitize them every day at work,” she says.  

She feels him hover over her, feels the pressure of his body on her back and shoulders.  He grabs her throat and lifts her head up.

“Keep talking,” he says. “Tell me more about fucking Googly Eyes, I guess.”

“I only went there once,” she mumbles. “It was for my friend Katrina’s birthday. She thought it would be funny.  It was actually kind of unsettling.  All the faces made it seem like…”

There is a sudden burst of pain as he inserts a plug into her brain. He isn’t gentle about it. She screams, trilling like an opera singer.  As the connector stabs into her brain, she is overwhelmed by a sudden wave of nausea. Her head throbs and the skin on her face and neck crawls.  She feels so dizzy that she nearly rolls off the bed, flailing, trying to find up and down.  Tom catches her before she can hurt herself.

“I’ve never used such deep pins,” she says. “Back in college…they were basically headphone jacks. And the ones I use for work are just…more shallow.”

“These go all the way in,” he says.  “Can you handle it?  There is one more.”

“Yes,” she says.  “I can handle it.”

“I want this to be a spiritual experience,” he says, holding her face in his hands for a moment. “We can go slower if you like.”

He comes around behind her.  He lowers his face and begins to lick and chew her asshole.  She squirms and pushes back against him, grinding his face between her shanks. With only one plug in her head, she is half in and half out of the neural projection, and so she feels the pressure of his tongue as a depersonalized sonic wave, agony crawling up her spine but also not quite reaching all the way into her mind.  This makes it even better somehow. He puts two fingers inside her, curving upward, massaging the electric crenelations of her moon-map interiority.  Then he steps backward.  She throbs. She has a headache in her asshole.  And then there is a shocking wave of joy and intensity as something hot and hard attaches itself to her clit.  Her whole lower half begins to vibrate.  A star is exploding in her pussy, making her flex her toes and wedge open her legs as wide as they will go. 
“Oh my god,” she says.

“My familiar,” he says. 

“I’m going to come,” she says.

“Go ahead." 

She squeezes her knees together, but the ball just vibrates harder.  She pushes against it, writhing.

“Noooo,” she says as she lets go. And then: “JESUS!” She stretches her whole body out, hooking her arms around her pink pillows.

He waits for her body to stop pulsing. It takes awhile.

She hears the flick of the lighter again.  Her vision swims as new input tries to take hold from the connection in her brain.  

“There’s one more,” he says.  “Are you ready?”

Half-in and half-out, she sees colors and shapes… but nothing resolves yet.  The throbbing in her head becomes a pleasant euphoria that matches the ecstasy in her pussy. The numbing agent in the needle that is already in her head blunts the worst of her brain’s immune response. 

She grabs her own thighs, twisting on the bed. She steels herself.

Tom grabs her neck and then plugs in the next needle, jamming it home.  She shrieks, not expecting how strong it will be.  There is no place to turn now: pain flows into her from both sides of her head.  She chokes on her own spittle, coughing.  The throbbing makes her gag and she grabs hold of the bedspread, moaning. 

“Can you handle it?” he asks again. “I can turn it off any time. Just say the fucking word. Are you with me, Lila?”  

The needles are so deep in her brain.  All she can see is black and purple. It is like falling into a bruise.  She thrashes, but he holds her, and she doesn’t ask for him to remove the plugs.  Slowly, the darkness resolves into shapes and patterns.  Slowly, the pain becomes bearable static and she feels some other ghost-spirit take shape.  The real part of her laying on the bed recedes.  She brings a ghost hand up in front of her face. As she watches, the ghost hand shimmers, becoming more solid. She is a sleeper who came briefly awake and who is now returning to her dream.  She flexes her hand in the dream world, letting her paralyzed body in her own bed be spell-corrected, deleted, typed over, forgotten.

“This feels…creamy,” she says.  “I’ve never been so deep.”

“Are you having physical sensations?” he asks. His voice comes from far away, the voice of conscience or an evil impulse.  

“Yes,” she says.  “It is just blackness now though. Just me in the dark.”

“I haven’t started the scenario yet,” he says.  “Once I plug in, we will join each other in a consensual bidirectional neural projection.  Hold on.”

She touches her own thigh and yes...there is the phantom of a feeling. She smells blood, iron, burnt almonds.  She presses harder and the feeling becomes more firm and solid.

She laughs.

“It’s like being awake during a dream,” she says.

“That’s exactly what is happening,” he says.  “Neurologically speaking. Okay, hold on, I will join you. I put the clamps on you, just so you know.”

From far away, she hears a grunt and feels pressure against her paralyzed shoulders.  Half a man materializes in front of her.  One pin for Tom. The two of them still occupy a formless void.  Then there is another grunt and the world drains into color.  Two pins for Tom. As she watches, she sees Tom struggling beside her, naked and smirking. For a moment, she is afraid. Then she remembers that her big blue bear is right there in the corner, watching over everything.  All she would have to do is shout.

Her vision swirls and then she finds herself in a round rainbow bed in a room with grey ceilings and grey floors.  There are clean, sparkling windows all around them, showing streaking stars.  They are flying through space.  She looks down at herself. She is wearing a blue uniform top with some kind of matching short skirt.  Tom stands above her with his hands behind his back.

“We are on a spaceship,” she says, leaning back, stretching out on the massive rainbow bed.  She can spread both her arms and legs out like clock hands and still not reach the edge. 

“So nerdy,” she says.  “I love it.”

“It takes some practice to maintain an environment like this,” he says.  “One of us has to stay in control. There is no way that you could maintain the solidity of the environment, given what is about to happen to you, so that person will have to be me.”

“What do you mean?” she says. “What is about to happen?”

“First, I am going to hit you,” he says. “Just as a test.”

“Do it, then,” she says.

He slaps her, sending her flying across the bed.  The sting on her cheek is real.  The pain rocks her body and she slips away for a moment.  Her nose stings and she cries out, yelling his name lovingly.  She lands with her knees splayed open and she realizes that he has not provided her with any underwear in this creamy fantasy.  She smirks at him.

“It is fucked up that you like doing that,” she says. 

“Oh yeah?” he says, touching her lip, touching her nose.  It swells slightly. “Nothing I do here will actually hurt your real body. Even though you can feel everything.”

“That’s a shame,” she says.

“You will still have the memory of the pain,” he says. “I can’t do anything about that.”

“Yes,” she says.  “The best part.” She rubs her knees together and then gets up on all fours, crawling toward him.

“Anytime you want to leave, all you have to do is will yourself back into your body,” he says.  “It’s easy as that. Your will here becomes law. You have to want to be here to stay here, so I will always assume that you want to be here as long as you stay here.  A neural projection is basically a consent machine.  Not like real life.”

“Yes,” she says.

“We should practice, though,” he says.  “Try to will yourself back into your real body, like Dorothy with her ruby slippers.”

Lila closes her eyes and thinks “there’s no place like home,” demanding to occupy her real arms and legs. Instantly, she transitions back into her room, back into her bed. Her head aches slightly. Tom is curled around her. They are like two tender drug addicts. She focuses on the feel of her own bed beneath her and the warmth of him next to her, inert and powerless. The clamps along both of their spines connect to wires that fall down both sides of the bed and sweep away to the two modified SinSations boxes. She immediately wants to return to the dream. She closes her eyes again and thinks “there’s no place like getting fucked by a geeky grunting stranger on a spaceship in your head” and she instantly returns, blinking, as if she never left.

He grins as she rejoins him. He lowers his face to her crotch. He spits into his hand.  He kisses her while he roots around for her clit.  When he finds it, he squeezes it with surprising alacrity. It slips between his fingers. His eyes go dead like a fish as he tries to imagine the shape of it, how it swells, what lavas are flowing into and out of it.

“It all feels completely real,” she says. 

“Neural projectors have come a long way,” he says.  

He lifts his hand up and then she feels something cold and metallic slip between her thighs.  She spreads them, ready for anything, but it is only the ball-bearing rolling up her leg.  His security familiar still has a presence in this spaceship overlay. His true love, she thinks.

“Just so you know, we both have dual presence,” he says. “Just in case your house is on fire or something. But you won’t feel anything from real life unless something changes there. The projector is minimizing all holding pattern real world input. You will only feel things from the real world if they are strong or unexpected.”

The ball is warm against her leg.  She shifts to accommodate it, enjoying the cold sizzle and the way it remains in place no matter how hard she pushes against it.

It vibrates, slowly crawling down her body.  She gasps as it plunges into her pussy again.

Tom also sticks his tongue into her while she is splayed out on the spaceship bed.  She feels both things happening simultaneously: he goes down on her here in her dream at the same time that his security familiar vibrates with a rhythmic pulse that organically adjusts to the bucking of her hips.

“Oh god,” she says, after awhile of this team-torture, rocking against both his hungry head and the hot vibrating ball.  “I’m going to come again.”

“No,” he says, lifting his chin out of her and wiping his mouth.  The ball ejects from her pussy and her muscles clench. The ache inside her recedes.  

“Not yet,” he says.

She grabs him and he pushes her down on the bed.  He overpowers her as she struggles while she wonders if she has done something wrong.  Eventually she stops fighting and he returns to her pussy. The ball returns as well, and then she is clenching his head with her thighs and lifting her ass up off the bed. Suddenly he stops again. She flips over onto her belly.

“I want to suck your cock,” she says, frustrated.

“There is a reason for the double awareness,” he says. “There is something that we can do here that we can’t do in the real world.”

“Your modifications?” she asks. 

“Yes,” he says.  “All the nerves modeled by your brain are also modeled by this device and then fed back to you.  But this illusion doesn’t just extend to your external nerves. Your internal nerves are also modeled here.  There are more of them, actually.  And they are autonomic.  Do you know what that means? There is a part of your brain that needs to know what your kidneys feel like at any given moment, but it isn’t part of your conscious awareness unless something goes wrong. Here, the boundaries between us are porous and arbitrary. They are all mixed up together in the box.  The off-the-shelf SinSations box creates simple collision detection and object management code that I have figured out how to turn off.  With my modified settings, if you were to walk through a wall you would feel every morsel of pain in all of your organs as it passed completely through you. I want to fuck you with the clipping off.”

He puts his fingers in her pussy and shoves upward.  She gasps. He keeps pushing.  The pleasure and pain builds as his fingers go further and further.  She can feel his whole fist sliding into her in a way that doesn’t seem real or right. Her eyes widen and she tries to shift her hips to take it.  No, no, no, no, no, she thinks. She feels pressure. Her body is being ripped apart.

She cries out and bends to grab his arm, but he keeps pushing.  She feels him in her belly, feels her organs tickled and then stabbed, feels strange clawing in her abdomen. She screams. His hand is now sticking out of her stomach.  He waggles his fingers.  Her body ripples with the pain and her legs shiver uncontrollably.

“STOP,” she screams.  “STOP.”

“But you are still here,” he says. “If you really wanted me to stop, you would just—poof—disappear. You must really like it.”

She can't help but move where his hand goes as he flexes it.  It is all the way inside her, like a fist making a puppet out of an athletic sock.

He covers her mouth with his other hand before she can scream again. She loves it. She can’t pretend she doesn’t in this place. He slowly pulls his hand out of her. The pain immediately goes away.  Her body throbs, but it is an empty throb. Aftershocks.  He holds his hand out to her. No blood or guts. She rubs her belly where his fingers were just protruding.

“You ripped open my stomach,” she says.

“No,” he says.  “We temporarily merged our neural projections.  My neural cells passed through yours, lighting up both sets, which are tracked and sorted according to a machine-learning algorithm that I hope to sell one day.  Of course, the nerve endings in my fist and forearm are different than the ones in your pussy. But it’s working. We still have discrete boundaries, don’t we? Even though we are testing their limits?”

She laughs nervously.

He stands up, putting his erection in her face.  She gets on all fours and looks up at him. She is happy for something familiar like a dick in her face.

“Grab it,” he says.  “Don’t be shy. Don’t you want revenge?”

She takes his dick in her hands and strokes it, making it slick with spit and friction.  She puts it all the way in her mouth, working her tongue along the big vein on the bottom.  He holds her head there for a moment as she squeezes the part of the shaft she can’t take.

“Squeeze harder,” he says.

She does.

“No, HARDER,” he says.  “Break it off, bitch.”

She lifts from her knees to her toes, getting traction, getting torque.

Her fingers push through the solid flesh of his glans. He roars, putting his hands over hers.  His eyes are wide and totally lit up. Both of their interlaced fingers sink deeper, pushing into the adipose sponge like pizza dough.  She makes a tight fist, stroking the deepest veins inside the shaft itself.  Her fingers dissolve into the flesh and she feels the prickles and itch on her palms as she pushes through his whole dick, skinning it with her fist as if she were peeling a centimeter thick layer of foreskin all the way to the root of him.   

His erection strains higher, punching out of his tightened balls like a yoga-mom saluting the sun.  She leans forward, stroking the inside of his dick as hard as she can, and then loosening her grip on him as she jerks backward to see his expression change.

His eyes narrow and grow more malevolent as she hurts him. Eventually he pushes her hands away, grabs her head, and shoves his dick into her willing mouth.  But their bodies are porous here too and he shoves himself further down her throat than she has ever let a dick go before. Instead of choking her, it goes right through her throat, stabbing into parts of her that have never been touched before. She slobbers as she moans.  

She can’t choke here. She can still breathe through her simulated lungs.  None of this is real.  She could leave any time.  

He runs his hard dick through her entire body as she bucks beneath him, moving it down through her chin, splitting her neck and letting his dick rip open her chest. It is utter agony.  There is an explosion of pleasure as he finally drags his cock down to her clit and lingers there, rubbing his cock on the place in her body that most directly rewards penetration. She is pouring sweat, screaming, clutching at him as if they were falling down an elevator shaft together. 

The colors around them flash and blend.  Her heart beats wildly and her whole body is on fire.  As he turns her over and fucks her in the spine she shouts for him to go deeper.  He drags his dick all the way through her body to the base of her head again.

“Yes,” she says, feeling his dick in her voice box. 

“It feels good when you talk,” he says. “It buzzes.”

“Do it,” she says.  

He rotates so he is above her, bending her over so that he can rub her pussy with one hand, twisting her into a convenient pretzel.  And then he begins to fuck her in the brain.

With every penetration, she sees a flashing light. It is as if her head is being slammed over and over again into a wall.  She screams, but she doesn’t stop him or pull away.  Her vision becomes a hurricane of color. Figures move at the periphery. He is mauling her sinuses.  She rotates her head as he slams into her.  She tries to speak, but his balls slam into the side of her head and each stroke is like a kick from an angry horse.

She trips the fuck out.  Time slows down and colors melt together and she can hear the rhythm of her heart as her thoughts elongate and bisect.  Each heartbeat brings a new wave of pleasure, but the fuck-pain instantly pulls her apart again, opening her like a mylar bag of chips. The spongy nerves in her skull are smashed, busted, beaten by his throbbing cock.

She grabs the sheets, twisting them as her orgasm begins, shooting through her.

“There are…other…people…here,” she says.

“What do you see?” he shouts. 

She isn’t imagining it. Ghostly figures move closer to her.  They aren’t alone here.

“Tell me what you see,” he says.  “Tell me what it feels like.”

“I… feel… so… goddamn… high,” she mumbles as he pumps between her lobes.

She is surrounded on all sides. Faces leer at her.  The faces are painted white…death faces…clown faces…pixels and melting greasepaint.  Red noses and enormous grins.  Business clowns. They have googly eyes.  Googly eyes everywhere.

She screams. She knows she can leave any time. But the stupendous agony mixed with the jackhammer joy-sickness is too wonderful and she cannot will herself away.  What is consent in the middle of an orgasm? She arches her back, gasping and roaring.  The business clowns surround her, leaning closer like doctors at an operating table.  

The business suits become fluttering purple cult robes. The clowns grow taller and thinner.  Pale clown faces become rouged corpses. These stretch into hollow-thin face stalks, barely big enough to contain their death grins. The googly eyes expand. These are giant unworldly praying mantis-like creatures.  Her vision shrinks until she is peering through a narrow hole, like a gloryhole. The demons are feeding from her. She wants them to eat everything.  The creatures dissolve into pastel abstractions: rods, cones, pyramids, spheres, cubes.

Far away, her security familiar stirs and she can feel its breath against her bare feet. She feels Tom slow down, nervous. Her bear could rip his throat out with a word.

“Keep going,” she yells.  “Don’t you ever fucking stop.”

He speeds up again. She takes his load right behind the eyes. The spurt of his orgasm is like splashing into a caramel river: her brain fills with his warm cum, their bodies merge like two whirlpools draining into each other.  The head of his cock bashes into her septum as her mind sucks it all down, containing the spurt and slosh of him like a cheap condom.

more stories

(c) Miracle Jones 2017