[play .mp3]
back to christmas

by Miracle Jones


It was their first weekend in NYC as a married couple and they were giddy, whimsical even, ready to make bad decisions. Penny and Pete were up for anything, they told each other. Just two panting brindle hounds from down South ready to hump the leg of the whole dang heartless universe.  

It was Penny who first suggested going to “Googly Eyes” as a joke after seeing it was close to her sister’s place in South Slope. Penny and Pete were staying there while her sister was away on vacation upstate. She had done well for herself, and no one begrudged her that. Penny and Pete just wanted a piece: they were trying to find a place of their own and it was easier to look at apartments if they had a base to work from.  Penny had been living and working in Jersey, but Pete had just now this very weekend got off the plane from Galveston, where they had both grown up.

“What kind of food does this place have?” Pete asked. 

“The feed says it is new American cuisine,” Penny said.  “I don’t know what that means. But nobody goes there for the quality of the food.”

“Explain,” Pete asked. “It’s expensive?”

“Very expensive,” said Penny. “Three dollar signs.  But we should go anyway.  It seems completely ridiculous.  It’s an officially stupid New York restaurant for real shitheads. And that’s us now! That’s who we are. We have to go.  We’ll dress up in our best shithead clothes and we’ll eat too much and we’ll drink too much and it’ll be great. You haven’t asked me yet why it's called Googly Eyes!”

“Why’s it called Googly Eyes?” 

“Because of that artist,” said Penny.  “The one who puts googly eyes on everything.  The giant ones.  Like, he put googly eyes on the Washington Monument and on Big Ben and on Pike’s Peak in Colorado. He owns the restaurant.”

“Is the food good?”

“Here’s the gimmick and here’s why we have to go: all the food has googly eyes on it! Edible google eyes! There are savory googly eyes and candy googly eyes. Everything you eat there has a little cartoon face.”

Pete thought about it for a long time.

“I like it,” he said, finally.  “It’s stupid, yet also excessive. Okay, let’s do it.”

Pete put on a simple shirt and slacks, but Penny went all out. She truly did put on her best shithead clothes. Pete was sure she was trying to tease him and make him feel bad, since Pete didn’t have any of his nice going-out clothes here in the city yet.  She definitely already knew more about NYC than he did, just from the feed, from books, and from her sister.  If you asked Pete, he would have to admit that he had a lot of preconceived notions about Yankees. Pete was a Galveston man and Galveston manhood was a specific kind of manhood.  Collared shirts and square jaws and unfiltered cigarettes and unshakable football opinions and oil cancer. Imagine Jesus Christ up there on the cross, but with tumors on his neck and hands as veiny and leathery as a bull’s dick.

Penny put on the shortest skirt that Pete had ever seen her wear.  One of her sister’s skirts, she said.  And to make matters worse, she put on a shirt without shoulders, just ruffles all the way across her chest.  It was really something else.  

Pete came from cowboy stock, which meant he was slim and short and full of angry red coronary blood. You had to be a mean little motherfucker to master a horse while still being light enough to get the most out of it, to ride it into wobbly foaming living death without breaking its back. For several millennia, bloodthirsty little men on horses were the scariest dudes in the world, while tall fuckers with lots of muscles were only good for farming. Penny had the same cowboy blood in her: she was even littler than Pete. He could pick her up and put her on his shoulder (for a beat, anyhow). Even still, she had a nice full figure and brown hair and brown eyes and glasses and a real pretty smile and trim little legs with muscles that were just right. Pete liked to say that she was a real “top of the pyramid cheerleader” kind of gal. Pete was proud of his wife, though he frequently worried about the fact that she was so much smarter than he was, even though he benefited from this constantly. 

“Penny is always right,” Penny’s father told him once, twinkling up to him at their wedding rehearsal dinner. He was a round little man with Penny’s same dark hair.

“Well, I already know that,” Pete said.

“Good,” said Penny’s dad.  “I had to learn it the hard way. You just remember what I said and you will always be joyful throughout your life together, whatever problems baby Jesus might bring you.”

Now, truth be told, neither Pete nor Penny were quite sure what to expect from their first real New York shithead restaurant. They knew it wasn’t going to be the Cracker Barrel or some pizza place that kids went to on prom with white tablecloths and five-dollar red wine by the glass, but they weren’t exactly sure what they would be getting into.  

First of all, neither Penny nor Pete had ever walked to a restaurant instead of driving there. They decided to leave their security familiars at home. They both had big medical-grade polar bears that could lift a body onto a gurney or break open a chest to get straight at some dying guts in an emergency. You had to have a license to have a medical polar in NYC, and they both had all their paperwork, but it was still different here than back home. Penny said the restaurant would be tiny and there would be no place for their massive helper bears, and besides: they were off duty. They didn’t need anybody knowing they were shitkicker ditch doctors from Nascar country.

“The best part about walking there is that we can walk back,” she said.  “How about that? You don't have to worry about driving drunk!”

“Changes everything,” said Pete. 

It was a Monday night, but the restaurant was still crowded. It made Pete and Penny wonder what the place would be like on a Friday. The host up front said it would be awhile before they got a seat, but he intimated to them that there were a few open spots at the bar that they might could wrangle. Penny and Pete did as the host up front suggested, grabbing stools at the bar, grinning as they looked over the menus, imagining steak with googly eyes, squab with googly eyes, confit with googly eyes. The food was expensive, but it wasn’t mind-blowingly unreasonable. They could afford it. They started to relax—even to enjoy themselves.

Now it must be said at this point that Penny on a barstool was something else.  She was so tiny that her legs could barely reach halfway to the floor.  She sat with her legs behind her and spun from side to side, sipping her vodka and soda through a straw. She was like a candy jar up on a high shelf, ready to be taken down and smashed open. She was a giddy piñata full of lipstick-colored asshole-shivering orgasms. Pete could tell that all the other shitheads in this real New York shithead restaurant wanted everything to do with her, and he could also tell that they were all angling for the best stance from which to take a swing. But the fact was that she was here with him, her one and only devoted husband.

It was this feeling of certainty and warm true love and total security that gave him license to turn nearly all the way around in his seat as a squat Korean lady with extremely muscular legs and porcelain skin and heels so high that they were like exercise equipment swished by him on her way to the bathroom, which is why he missed it completely when Arrivé Igrati—the artist, raconteur, and restauranteur—joined them at the bar and put his arm around Penny without even asking. No one had ever done that to Penny before. She had read a thousand accounts about how terrible it was on social media, of course, but she hadn’t spent any time around dirtbag European artists and so it had never happened to her. It was plumb awful. It was paralyzing and wrong.

This man Igrati was tall and solid and had a massive head covered in kinky auburn hair. This hair was frozen in place at strange angles, kept there by some kind of putty or gel. His hair was the same orangy-copper color and thickness as his gravity-defying Prussian mustache, which was so abundant that you could see the brushstrokes in it. The mustache curved inward and then upward, frozen in place by the same fixative. His skin was sun-brown and oily, bordering on lipid, and his eyes were the same strange gold color you saw in Bombay cats. He smelled spicy and rare, like the deep innards of a thrift store. He was wearing flowing purple silk pants and a black silk shirt that was unbuttoned all the way to his waist, revealing a sallow hairless chest. His chest was tattooed with the same googly eyes that were everywhere in the restaurant. There were googly eyes affixed to the cups, googly eyes hanging from the ceiling, googly eyes staring at you from the mirror behind the bar. He was wearing high heeled boots and had a massive black leather belt as wide as an anaconda. The belt buckle also featured two giant googly eyes, tastefully carved from pewter.

Penny couldn’t help but notice that the belt was covered in bite marks.  Somebody had been chomping down on the leather. 

"Well hey now," said Pete.

“How perfect,” said Arrivé Igrati, noticing him. “You are a couple, both of you together. You are both so small, like two little woodland creatures, like fauns or Pokemon.”

Pete immediately became so flustered that he could barely speak. His manful Gulf Coast pride rose up in him like food poisoning. 

“I know who you are,” Penny said, smiling nervously, sliding out from beneath Arrivé Igrati’s silk-covered non-consensual arm. She uncrossed her legs and hooked them under the stool. The cat-eyed bushy-mustached artist leaned against the bar, putting both jeweled hands flat on the wood, as if he was trying to heal the bar with charismatic Jesus powers.

“You are the owner of this place,” said Penny. “You are famous! This is your new restaurant.”

“Oh, so you are from the South,” he said. “Your accent is adorable. Southerners are my absolute favorites.”

“I know your picture from the feed,” said Penny. “This is our first date together in New York. Me and my husband.”

She put her hand on Pete’s knee, making him relax. He involuntarily kicked a little bit. This artist was making him twitchy.

“That’s charming,” said Arrivé Igrati. “Yes, just as you say, this restaurant is my latest experiment with my own increasingly tedious art form. The consistent conceptual clarity of my work is sadly producing diminishing returns, meaning I have been forced to branch out into other media. There are certain sorts of people who will always invest in a new restaurant.”

Pete finally found his voice.  His mouth was dry, but now that Arrivé Igrati’s arm was no longer actually around his wife’s small shoulders, he was less perplexed and less agitated.

“We are big fans,” said Pete. “We just love all these eyeballs.”

Arrivé Igrati smiled. 

 “I call it sclerafacio,” he said, his yellow eyes flashing.  “It’s also known as enfacing or eyebombing. Yes, the true beauty in what I do is how simple it is for everyone to understand.  I have put my eyes on the Great Wall of China and I have put my eyes on what remains of the Great Barrier Reef.  I have put googly eyes on the mummified, waxy corpse of Vladimir Ilych Ulyanov Lenin.  But I still want to go further.  This affordable restaurant for the masses is my latest project, but I am already growing bored with it. Isn’t it boring?”

Arrivé Igrati hooked his thumbs in his thick, bite-mark covered belt.  The pewter eyeballs on the buckle jounced merrily. Neither Pete nor Penny could think of anything to say. They were being invited by an artist to share in his contempt for his own work and it felt like a trap. They looked at each other and then looked away, embarrassment in their eyes.

“So why are you here in New York?” asked Arrivé, rescuing them from having to answer. “To visit? To live?”

“We’re both nurses,” said Penny.  “That’s how we met.”

“Both of you?” said Arrivé Igrati. “You are both nurses? Really? Both of you together? Oh, that is fascinating. That fits in perfectly with all my plans! Two very attractive Southern nurses. A married couple! And you’ve just strolled into my restaurant to eat food? You’ve moved here? To this neighborhood? To live?”

“There’s always work for a good nurse,” said Pete, lamely. 

Arrivé Igrati now put his hand on Penny’s back, sliding it all the way to her ass on the barstool. Amazingly, Penny didn’t seem to mind this time.  She even leaned closer to him, pushing against his hand. Pete was sort of stunned. He stared at her, trying to catch her eye, but she deliberately avoided looking at him.

“We both also have EMT training,” Pete elaborated.

“I’m Penny,” said Penny, turning full around to smile at Arrivé. He took his hand off her back and shook her small hand.

“And I’m Pete,” said Pete.

Pete didn’t hold out his hand for Arrivé to shake, but this hostile gesture seemed lost on the European artist. How did you express disdain to a European? They seemed so oblivious to social cues and general decency.

Pete had to admit something, though: something about the spicy way this man smelled really churned him up inside. There was something tangy and strong about him. His musk filled up Pete’s whole nose and made his brain reel. The funk made his hips want to buck and his hands want to clench.  Instead of becoming angry, Pete was stupefied, watching this stranger with a belt full of bite marks rub his wife’s back. Was this artist gay?  Was Pete gay?  Was he actually sexually attracted to him, or was it just chemicals? Did it matter? What was the difference?

“What are you working on next?” asked Pete, swallowing hard. “If this restaurant is so boring.”

“That’s a very intriguing question,” said Arrivé Igrati. “I definitely have something planned that will get me a headline or two.”

“Is it a secret?” asked Pete.

“If it’s secret, we won’t tell anybody,” said Penny.

“Who would you tell?” asked Arrivé Igrati.  “Here you are in my restaurant, trying to eat my food, two Southern nurses as dainty and supple as handpuppets. Who do you know?  What art magazine would you leak to?”

“You’re literally the only person we know in New York,” said Penny.

“How perfect,” said Arrivé. “Where are you on the list?”

“They said it would be an hour,” said Penny.

“Insane,” said Arrivé Igrati. “This terrible city!” 

“Are you gonna kick some people out for us?” she asked him, teasing.

“No, no,” he said.  “That won’t be necessary.  I live upstairs, you see, and so you should come upstairs with me to my personal apartment. We can have food brought up to us.  Since you are so curious, and since you promise not tell anyone—though, really, who would you tell—I would love to show you my next piece. I think two Southern nurses with such bright animal eyes would definitely appreciate my next concept. I’d love to hear your input.”

“Our input?” said Penny, flattered.  

“I’m sorry,” said Pete firmly. “But we wouldn’t want to be any trouble.”

“Please, you must come upstairs and tell me how you both discovered your love for nursing,” said Arrivé.  “You must tell me how much you love to serve other people.”

“We haven’t even finished our drinks,” Pete protested.

“You can bring them with you,” said Arrivé. “Honestly, you can’t say no.” 

Penny and Pete weren’t naïve. They had seen people die. They had helped doctors tell people that they had incurable cancer. They had shut the eyes of dead children on gurneys, children pimpled with stab wounds and gunshots. They each individually knew without a doubt that this deranged and dapper man—this rich and successful artist Arrivé Igrati—was up to no good and had nothing but bad intentions.  

But they didn’t have time to compare notes and reach this decision together in a definite way. And neither one of them wanted to seem lame. Penny wanted to challenge Pete and show she wasn’t afraid of anything. And Pete wanted Penny to know that he was cool enough for New York, that he belonged here right by her side.

There was no way to refuse. 

"Wellp," said Pete. "Lead the way."

Pete picked up their drinks and they followed Arrivé to a small door next to the kitchen. As they walked through the restaurant, Arrivé held Penny’s hand as if she were a small child. She flushed with embarrassment, looking at her feet. Pete followed behind them, holding both their drinks like a furtive, caponized gelding.

Pete felt abducted. He felt like he was getting in the back of a van to help a man look for his lost dog. This decadent East Coast artist was sinister as a minister and everything was happening so fast. But here was the real crux of it: both Penny and Pete were each extremely excited about the other one wanting something crazy as hell to happen. And they weren't going far.  They weren't even leaving the building! 

Behind the small door in the back of the restaurant was a staircase. When the three of them reached the door at the top of it, the googly eyes on Arrivé Igrati’s belt buckle began to flap in the air like a butterfly, each eye a single silvery wing.  The eyeball butterfly grazed the keyhole, triggering the radio fob, and the door unlocked.  The pewter eyeball butterfly then reattached itself to Arrivé’s belt, flapping slowly a few times before going still.

The upstairs apartment was lavish. It was so lavish that they both relaxed a little, momentarily stunned by the scale of the place. Igrati had hollowed out and honeycombed the top floors of the building, making a non-Euclidaean treehouse loft. The furniture was modular and brightly colored, cartoony round shapes mixed with tasteful retro Bauhaus pieces. Everything was clean and expensive. Of course, there were googly eyes on almost every surface: on the chairs, on the walls, on the sofas, on the ceiling.

“Have a seat and I will put in an order for some food,” said Arrivé. “And then we will have to figure out something to do while we wait.”

He jerked his hand sideways. The pewter eyeballs on his belt buckle floated up to flap by his fingers. He whispered something and they flew away, sliding underneath the front door and then disappearing.

Penny and Pete sat down on a giant couch covered in purple shag. Two huge googly eyes had been affixed to the back of the couch.  Pete couldn’t help but wonder how many times Penny had been alone in similar situations with other men before she married him and even after: alone in their apartments, unsure of what might happen, unsure of where the narrative pressure of desires and decorum would lead her, unsure of how far she might be willing to go to act her part.

Penny reached over and patted Pete’s knee again.  It was all going to be okay.  Wasn’t it?

“So tell me about being a nurse,” Arrivé said.  “What made you want to be part of a profession so dedicated to helping other people without any expectation of reward?”

“Well, we do get paid,” Pete said.  

“There’s a lot of control in it,” said Penny. “I think a nurse is a person who doesn’t trust anybody else in the world to be a nurse. We like being the only dependable person in a room. It makes us feel like we run the show.”

“That’s very surprising,” he said.  “This country's medical system is baffling to me.  When will Americans stop voting against your own economic interests and adopt some form of universal health care? But tell me: if you are both service-oriented persons with trust and control issues, then how does your relationship work? Do you take turns serving each other?  How does it work down there in the South?”

Now he was crossing the line. But wasn't this exactly what they were expecting? Penny and Pete were both silent. They both got very red in the face. Penny tried to speak, but she didn’t say anything. She looked at her husband for help.

“I’m sorry,” said Arrivé Igrati. “I hardly know you, and here I am asking nosy personal questions. I feel awful. You are both so embarrassed! You can leave if you want. I think I might have the wrong idea about you. I’ll make it up to you: let me just go ahead and kick somebody out downstairs and you can eat in peace, without any of my insinuating deviltry.”

“It’s just sort of a private question,” said Penny. “You’re asking us about sex, right?”

“Maybe I misjudged you both terribly, but I’m usually very good at reading people,” said Arrivé Igrati. "Have I been microaggresive?"

Pete felt queasy. Adrenalin jangled his nerves. The cog in his brain churned a cog in his groin in the exact opposite direction. He felt drugged. Neither Pete nor Penny were able to fight or flee. They both were just sort of stricken. 

“I’m sorry,” said Arrivé Igrati.  “I promised I’d show my next project to you beautiful service-oriented people. Please! Perhaps once you see it, you will understand why I don’t have much patience any more for banal feelings and why I must leap right at what I want, perhaps unskillfully.  If I manage to survive the process that I’ve set in motion, I’ll deliver to the world the first truly new piece of art for our sad, corporate century.”

Penny and Pete looked at each other. They had a long silent conversation and finally Penny stood up, making a decision for both of them. 

“Yeah, show us,” she said. “We want to see.  We want to stay. Whatever that means.”

Arrivé Igrati held out one sweeping arm. His open black silk shirt came completely untucked, flowing free, showcasing the entirety of his bright blue googly eye chest tattoo. 

Arrivé then spun on one heel, snapping his fingers and pointing.

“Follow me,” he said.

Arrivé clacked away down a hallway and then climbed a small ladder, moving into a large loft area. Penny and Pete followed right behind. Pete wanted to clarify what his wife meant by "we-want-to-stay-whatever-that-means,” but he was certain that Arrivé Igrati would hear him whisper to her. Now would be the perfect time to just try and leave. Just to say: “No thanks, man, gotta jet!” But the truth was that he was secretly hoping that Penny actually was pathologically into what was about to happen and would demand he just accept it. If he didn’t ask her, he didn’t have to be disappointed. That way, it was all on her. 

He hadn’t realized until now that there was a huge power vacuum in their relationship. This aggressive, vaguely-ethnic immigrant artist had seen it immediately.

The loft room was painted robin’s egg blue. There were satin pillows everywhere. The room was close and musty, and there was a thick blue rug that was the same color as the walls.  

In the center of the room was an enormous plastic model of a human heart.  The sculpture was the size of the engine block of a car.  It was photo-realistically-detailed and it glistened in the room’s soft light.  The veins and ventricles were realistic in every particular. It looked like something right out of nursing school. And, of course, affixed to the side of the heart were two googly eyes the size of dinner plates.

“Do you like it?” asked Arrivé Igrati.

“It’s really very pretty,” said Penny.

“This is just a scale model,” said Arrivé. “I am in a period of artistic meditation with respect to the final project.”

He flipped a switch on the wall and the heart began to beat slowly, sucking inward and then expanding out with a sufficiently authentic low bass note.  The noise was deep, pushing into Pete and Penny’s bellies, making their innards quake.  With every lub-dub, the googly eyes on the heart shook. Big plastic pupils jumped up and down.

“Come here, Penny,” said Arrivé. She looked at her husband, but she didn’t wait for him to say anything to stop her. Instead, she walked over to Arrivé and stood in front of him. She couldn’t help herself. He put his arms around her.  He was so tall that she only came up to his clavicle. She looked over her shoulder at Pete. Arrivé smiled at Pete, but there wasn’t any passion or malice in his expression. It was a bored shark’s smile.  Pete felt like he needed to sit down, but then he would truly be giving in, admitting defeat.

“Like you, I am from a small town,” Arrivé said.  “I come from the true middle of nowhere.  But now here we all are here in the middle of everything. All three of us, here together, in the heart of the only city that matters. Of course, it isn't a true melting pot if we don't ever melt. I love melting, don't you?”

His hands crept lower. He squeezed her, savoring the hardness of her body under her thin clothes. Now Pete could feel his cock twitch in his pants.  How was he supposed to stop this man? Should he get violent? How had this even happened?  They had just gone out to get some food and now they were in some foreign artist’s apartment and his beautiful wife was in a stranger’s arms and she was loving it and his head was buzzing and he felt jealous, drunk, horny, and dizzy. It was all happening like they had gone through the wrong door in a dream. No one had asked his permission about anything.  

“Don’t be nervous,” said Arrivé, turning Penny’s face away from her husband and cupping her chin in his hands.  “Penny, I need you to know that your husband likes what is happening as much as you do. Don’t you, Pete? Don’t you want to see your wife get fucked like a dumb tart who is in so much trouble? Who is in way over her head in a bad situation that she doesn’t understand?”

And now Arrivé whispered in Penny’s ear, holding her head in his hands. He whispered insistently and enthusiastically, and she moaned softly as he talked.

“I’m so dumb,” said Penny, theatrically, when he was done. “I’m such a dumb tart and I’m in so much trouble.”

Penny looked at Pete. They both shuddered with the same horrible feeling of shivery ecstasy. Pete cast his eyes down, and then peered back up at the two of them again. As long as he could look at them…as long as he was still a part of this…he had some kind of control. Right?

“We’ve talked about stuff like this,” said Penny.  “I mean, in private. And once….there was this doctor…we even, you know. Pete let me, you know. And then I told him about it after and we both loved it.”

“It is simply much easier for people like you if there is someone like me around,” said Arrivé. “You don’t know what you have or what you are. You are always just waiting.”

He put his hand on Penny’s flat belly under her dress and then slipped his hand down further, dropping the tips of his fingers into her black panties. Pete had to reach down and adjust his jeans. His erection pushed hard against the teeth of his zipper.

“I am going to have open heart surgery in Brazil,” said Arrivé.  “I have already paid a team of Cuban doctors a vast sum of money to research the procedure, and now they say they can actually do it. These Cuban doctors are now living in Rio, working for me on visas I arranged, and they are going to open up my chest and attach a pair of organic, sterile googly eyes to one of the aorta.”

He put his hand on Penny’s chest, cupping one of her breasts without asking. She gasped. 

“They are going to cut me open right here,” he said.  

“That’s very dangerous,” said Pete, trying one last time to assert himself. His voice was high and thin, like he had been eating hot mashed potatoes. “You are going to have unnecessary surgery? That’s totally…uh…unethical.”

“Pete, your sweet wife will not be able to completely enjoy fucking me if you pretend to be uncomfortable with what is happening,” said Arrivé, staring at Pete with his wild, glassy yellow eyes. “She cares about you. So first we will need to take care of you in order to put her at ease. Penny, why don’t you go over to your husband and suck his cock? Pete, can you have an orgasm by just getting your cock sucked? A lot of service-oriented people can’t. You are going to have to try your best. Your wife’s pussy belongs to me tonight, I’m afraid.”

Pete nodded meekly. 

Normally, sex between Pete and Penny just happened.  Nobody told anybody else what to do or why.  They both just sort of felt their way around to getting off, each trying not to get in the way, each imagining that the other was in charge.  But now they didn’t have to imagine anything. It was clear who had all the power here. It was a relief.

“Pete, are you listening?” asked Arrivé. 

“Yes,” said Pete. “Yes, you can do whatever you want. Both of you.”

“Pete, take your pants off you dumb slut and show your beautiful wife how aroused you are so that she relaxes,” Arrivé said.  Pete couldn’t get his pants off fast enough. No one had ever called him a slut before. Women were sluts. Not him. Not men. But had he ever said no to sex?  Ever?  He undid his jeans and then wriggled out of them, his cock straining out over his bunched underwear. His earnest penis was a jaunty windsock blown stiff by tongues of fire from his throbbing balls.

Arrivé now gave Penny a shove toward her husband. She was unsteady on her heels, but there were pillows everywhere and the carpet was soft. The heavy beating of the heart sculpture pounded in her ears. She dropped down to her knees, smiling up at Pete bashfully, almost embarrassed, resting her ass on the back of her heels.  She inhaled him now, gagging on his modest manhood. Pete could feel his balls tighten while pressing against the hard palate of her mouth. Her warm tongue was soft but sharp. He wanted her to suck him harder, but of course she was always so gentle.  

She extended her tongue and flicked the rim of Pete’s asshole with it. He gasped, moaning, pulling her head closer.

“We shouldn’t be doing this,” he said, his eyes darting to the ladder which led down and away to safety. 

“Shut your dumb slut mouth or you are going to offend your beautiful wife who is working so hard for you,” said Arrivé.  “All you should be thinking about right now is how grateful you are to her for the unexpected pleasure you are about to receive. You will have a chance to pay us both back soon enough.”

Penny kept licking Pete’s asshole from under his balls as she massaged his dick, periodically taking it out of her mouth to stroke it. He grunted and bucked. He was too hard; it was making him stupid. His dick was rage-hard, fear-hard, oblivion-hard. Arrivé crossed the room, walking lightly over his carpet, pushing past the scale model of his own heart to put his giant hand on Penny’s head.

“You want me to suck you, too?” she asked Arrivé, looking up at him with blind, mad lust.

“No, sweetheart,” he said gently.  “You just keep doing what you are doing.”

“Yeah, you…dumb tart,” Pete said, almost in a whisper, looking at Arrivé, trying to establish some kind of male connection.

That was when Arrivé grabbed his face.  He pinched his cheeks, making Pete stagger and cry out.

“You talk to your wife with respect,” said Arrivé. “Thank her for what she is doing. Be a nurturer, not an abuser.”

No one had ever treated Pete this way. Not his mother, not his father, not a school chum, not Penny, not any of his brothers, not any of his other girlfriends.  For a moment, Penny was also scared, feeling Pete’s confusion.

“Don’t you fret, Penny,” said Arrivé. “He likes it.”

It was obviously true: Pete was so hard that it felt like his holy ghost was trying to claw right out of his pisshole. He staggered a little, twisting with the pain of how aroused he was.

“I don’t care how much you want me to hurt you, you will still speak respectfully to your wife,” said Arrivé.

“Yes,” Pete said.  “Of course I will.”

“You will always respect her in everything you say and do,” he said. “She is your wife and you love her. You will both be good pets to me and you will not fight each other. You must depend on each other so that you can both do whatever I need you to do, no matter how exhausting or difficult.”

And now Arrivé became very gentle. He was completely calm, completely in control. He put his hand on Pete’s shoulder.  Arrivé’s deep musk filled his whole nose, stupefying his brain.  To Pete, he smelled strong and warm and kind.  Arrivé stood so close that Pete could feel the fabric of Arrivé’s pants on his bare ass. Penny lifted up off his cock, standing, unsure of what was happening.

“No, don’t stop,” said Arrivé gently.  “You love your husband and so you must finish sucking his cock for me. Don’t worry: he won’t insult you or call you abusive names again, you dumb bitch.”

Penny got back down, reclining on her heels.  She put Pete’s cock back in her mouth and started to stroke it and lick it at the same time, machine-like, perfunctory, no longer even trying to make it nice for him.  Arrivé tapped the googly eyes on his belt and they flew into the air. He subvocalized something to them and they started to play music. It was the theme song to the old Disney cartoon show “Talespin.” 

As soon as the chorus started, Pete felt a giant finger slip into his asshole, which had already been slightly moistened by Penny’s exploratory tongue. Pete’s legs bowed, but then a strong arm slipped around his neck to hold him steady. Arrivé gently massaged the soft calamari of his asshole as the Disney Afternoon song blared in Pete’s ears. Arrivé’s finger was so thick and callused that it might as well have been covered in burlap. Pete started to make high-pitched squealing noises. No one had ever done this to him before. He felt a throbbing pinch in his guts that twisted like a corkscrew. He pressed backward against Arrivé’s hard finger, grunting, pinballing back and forth between his wife’s mouth and this man’s hard finger, greedily pressing himself into both.

“Be careful, Penny,” said Arrivé.  “He won’t last long and I don’t want you getting his cum on your face. That’s only where my cum will go after I have your pussy. And he’ll lick it off you and he’ll love the taste because he is a slut for my cum.”

Now Arrivé put a hand around Pete’s throat, squeezing it gently, just enough pressure to let Pete know that Arrivé could really hurt him.  Pete clenched his asshole around Arrivé’s thick finger, thinking the word “slut” over and over again and nothing else.

Arrivé forced Pete’s chin up so that he was looking at the ceiling.

“Penny, I need some more of your wonderful spit,” said Arrivé.

Arrivé held his fingers in Penny’s face, letting Pete off the hook. Pete caught his breath, feeling his heart beat in his asshole. The world started to swim into focus as Penny sucked on Arrivé’s thick fingers, the same ones that had just been inside of Pete’s feverish fucktube. She was trying to be pleasing. She made big eyes at Arrivé and pushed her tits up at him, pressing her nipples together like she had seen other women do in porn.

But the reprieve didn’t last long. When Arrivé’s fingers were newly moistened, he jammed them back into Pete’s asshole, digging deeper, finding the hot, jangly button beside his pulsing semen bag. Arrivé probed Petes’s prostate while Penny did everything she could to keep her husband’s wildly bucking cock in her mouth. Soon Pete couldn’t help himself: he squealed “slut” out loud over and over again as his arms flopped at his sides, as useless as the wings of a penguin. It was embarrassing, and Penny smiled at him around his cock like she knew a secret.

It was this little smile that finally made Pete come.  He could feel it straining through his asshole first, a new kind of a feeling, a whooping cowboy feeling.  As he started to spurt, suddenly his mouth was full of leather. Arrivé’s ancient leather belt was in his teeth. Pete bit down, drooling. He flexed his asscheeks and stomped his feet and yelped and jizzed and it seemed to go on forever, like his throat had been cut and he was bleeding out. Ooo-wee-ooo: Talespin. Ooo-wee-ohhh: Talespin.

Finally, he relaxed, hanging in Arrivé’s arms, hugging him like a father.

“Are you all finished?” Arrivé asked him, after what felt like forever. “Are you drained completely dry?”  

Pete had screamed so loud while Arrivé fingered him that his voice cracked now when Pete said "yes, completely drained, thank you." Pete felt so relaxed and caramelly that he thought he might just dissolve into the floor. That was when the doorbell rang.  Arrivé’s pewter eyeball familiar leapt from his belt buckle, which now dangling from Arrivé’s hand like Pete’s empty dick. The eyeballs flew down the ladder, headed for the front door.

“Your food is here,” Arrivé said.

Arrivé Igrati disappeared while Penny and Pete held each other, whispering. Should they go? Should they stay? Pete tried to explain how good it had been, how different for him, how utterly draining. But Penny seemed to understand better than he did. When he tried to kiss her, she pulled away from him. Something had already changed between them. It was as if she didn’t want Arrivé to see him kiss her.  It was if she didn’t quite have permission to kiss her own husband. Pete could already feel himself getting aroused again by this new dynamic that could not be changed back, not ever, not with any amount of hugs or conversation or road trips or counseling.

It wasn’t long before Arrivé Igrati returned, holding several bags full of food from the restaurant, a pair of black dog collars, two dog bowls, and two pairs of black sneakers.

“The sneakers are for traction,” he said. “Let me know if they are the wrong size. They are used, but I will get you new ones. From now on, these sneakers and these collars are all you will wear while you are serving at my pleasure in my house. I am going to put my eyes on you and then you will be mine.”

He opened the containers from his restaurant one by one, taking the googly-eyed steaks and googly-eyed potatoes and googly-eyed slices of apple pie out of their Styrofoam clamshells and dumping them into the dog bowls. Now Penny enthusiastically began to take her own clothes off. She couldn’t get naked fast enough. She put on the tennis shoes, stamping into them, making sure Arrivé was watching her ass wriggle.

“They fit just right,” she said.

Arrivé complimented her tiny body effusively. Yet his charm was icy and absent: the empty charm of a distracted cad. Pete and Penny helped each other snap on their dog collars, hungry to make him pay attention again.


Arrivé Igrati was not a very nice man during the touch-and-go recovery period after his heart surgery. In fact, by any rational account, he was a total fucking monster. And yet, during this period he was also defanged, disarmed, and humiliatingly vulnerable. So it was therefore necessary for him to be inventively cruel to keep his new possessions in thrall, which required a level of maniacal discipline that was only possible from someone who had been able to keep body and soul together during a long and impossible life as a penniless pop artist.

It was during this creatively-sadistic recovery period when Penny and Pete made the transition from mere lust with respect to their new arrangement to total worship.

This first period right after the surgery was probably the most difficult time for Penny and Pete as a couple. They worked long hours running errands for Arrivé and keeping his business going according to his whims. They didn’t have much time for each other. Emotionally and sexually, however, they loved every minute of every punishment that Arrivé invented to express his own suffering. They could not find time for each other, but Arrivé had time enough for them both. While he recovered, he manifested his own pain and weakness in palpable ways that he could manipulate. It could not be said that he was selfish: he had the instinctive skill to transubstantiate his fear and suffering into shrieking orgasms for all of them. 

One of the first things he did from his bed was to get both Penny and Pete legally classified as dogs. This was another controversial gesture in his long and tendentious career, but he was a famous artist who was known for scandal, and his reputation made the process easier. Navigating the legal system to make this happen was but a blip compared to the social media squabbles that he aroused by getting unnecessary surgery to affix eyeballs to his heart.

“Dogs have extra legal rights,” said Arrivé Igrati to the feed, lounging in his silk pajamas while Penny and Pete curled up dutifully at his feet, both wearing nothing but their dog collars and their black tennis shoes. The shoes made them feel more like animals than being completely naked did. They were naked but agile, like goats with hooves.  “It is fucking execratory, the amount of license and latitude that we give to dogs in this country while people starve. It makes me fucking blazingly, enormously angry how we then deny the rights of animals to poor sad human beings. Why can’t a human being piss where they want?  Why can’t a human being be naked whenever they feel like it?  Why can’t a human being sleep anywhere and why can’t a human being fuck whenever it feels good wherever it makes the most sense to them?  A person ought to AT LEAST have all the same rights as a dog, and I will not stop challenging our courts and our city’s laws until I can make this happen, at least for my own loyal pets who serve here loyally at my feet. Presto!”

Penny and Pete made the national news as a result of Arrivé’s efforts, which he told journalists was all part of a broader effort to help "homeless street people" in the face of hostile urban design. Neither Penny nor Pete had ever been famous before, and this meant that there were modeling contracts and photo shoots and interview offers (most of which they declined). Any money that they did make went into the same account that Arrivé Igrati used to pay them for working for him, a competitive hourly wage that was higher than they asked for. He was generous with wages but demanding with their time. In fact, he demanded all of it.

“A grown adult person should have a lawyer, an accountant, and a financial advisor,” said Arrivé. “They all watch each other, you see, and they each make sure that the others are not stealing from you. They all have an interest in your future wealth and your continued freedom. You have none of these people in your lives because you are young, but you have me now, and I will set up everything for you that you need until you can grow up and act like adults. Nobody knows how to make the most from nothing—to turn nothing into something—like a professional artist. Voila!”

During his recovery, he fucked them when he could, but he mostly made them fuck each other for his vicarious delectation when he was shaking and pale, fucking them each by proxy while laid out flat on his back, wheezing and in pain.

“Hit him with your clenched fist,” he would shout to Penny. Or “make her scream” he would shout to Pete: “I want her to scream for real; not just to make me happy!”

During this recovery period, he could get hard and he could still come, but he wasn’t supposed to exert himself and they weren’t supposed to get him too worked up. Even still, Penny and Pete had to milk him every few hours or he would yell at them and call them lazy, his eyes flashing, his nightshirt flowing out behind him like a vampire’s cape. He was insatiable. One of them was available at all times, ready to administer his blood pressure pills according to his schedule, ready to help him use the bathroom, ready to wash him, to cook his meals, and to monitor his temperature and glucose.

They kept his mustache trimmed and shapely. They helped him feed and entertain the rich fans, art agents, and colleagues who came to visit him. They ran the ultrasound machine that showed off the googly eyes that were now attached to his heart for anyone who wanted to see. A giant print of the x-ray went on the wall of his apartment and another giant print was hung downstairs in the restaurant over the bar.

They went down his to-do list every day and checked off every item. They fucked who Arrivé said to fuck and they fucked them the way he said to fuck them. They were each thrilled by how much they both seemed to enjoy debasing themselves to him. It was like a little contest.

Arrivé Igrati’s apartment above Googly Eyes was sufficiently climate controlled enough that it was cool in the summer and warm in the winter, which made being naked all the time easy. Pete and Penny were always allowed to mess with the thermostat. They didn’t even have to ask. This was just one way that Arrivé intuited their limits, even perhaps especially when there weren’t any limits at all.

When Arrivé had sufficiently recovered, things began to stabilize for them as a unit. Pete slept at the foot of Arrivé’s bed while Arrivé slept with Penny each night, fucking her to within an inch of her life while Pete brought them cool drinks. He then stroked Penny later as she shook and whimpered, heat rolling off her body, cooing to her, telling her how pretty and smart she was. Pete went down on both of them whenever they needed it, keeping them wet, learning their needs not just as individuals but as a sexual pair. 

Pete knew that he was instrumental to helping both Penny and Arrivé achieve the most powerful orgasms possible. He also knew that he served as both emotional support and something of an acting coach: he was an enthusiastic and riveted audience, but he sometimes had notes and suggestions. He knew that there were places that each of them could get to with him helping that they couldn’t get to alone. For this reason, Arrivé usually let him watch and even let him jack off while Arrivé fucked Penny, but it was true that Arrivé wasn’t always in the mood to have him around. Sometimes he would make Pete go outside while he and Penny were intimate, making Pete wander the streets of Brooklyn naked in his black sneakers and collar, holding his wallet and keys and legal papers that said he was officially a dog while tourists gawked and the neighbors made snide comments and teenagers flicked lit cigarettes at him.

Whenever he was sent out into the street, Arrivé would fuck Penny from behind as she held onto the ledge of the open window so that Pete might watch from down below, even in winter as the snow whirled into the apartment. Arrivé’s big hands crushed Penny’s tiny shoulders, and sometimes he lifted her to him by her straining clavicle so that he could whisper how she wasn’t even human, how she deserved everything that was happening to her. He whispered loud enough that everyone could hear it on the sidewalk. And yet, he was technically whispering, making anyone who was watching technically voyeurs.

Penny was clearly Arrivé’s favorite, but it was Pete that he often turned to when he was feeling philosophical. Arrivé and Pete both shared an affinity for fine Scotch and for quiet games of Magic the Gathering and this was a frequent after-dinner way to wind down for both of them. 

“You are a young couple and you are approaching the age when you must be thinking of reproducing yourselves and giving all of your terrestrial love to a small child,” Arrivé said once after Pete walloped him with a blue control deck that Arrivé said was cheating, but which Pete knew that Arrivé secretly admired and feared. “You must want a child on some level, yet instead you have moved here, to the most expensive and difficult city in the United States. You have made a decision to do this and it is a perfectly valid and correct decision. As a result of horrifying income inequality and class stratification, only the welfare state of a progressive urban environment can help you get ahead and achieve a middle-class life. You instinctively know that if you do not devote yourselves to something higher that you will not stay together as a couple. So, quite wisely, you have decided to devote yourselves to me. You serve me together, the same way that you would serve a baby or a church. Only it is better, because I pay you. And unlike a baby or a church, I tell you exactly what I want and I am grateful when you provide it. You are coming as close as possible to true happiness, which is something denied to most people because they do not know themselves and they do not act rationally. We are a little happy liberal democracy, the three of us. I am the state and you are civil society.”

Pete didn’t say anything. He considered what Arrivé said. Arrivé had some of it right, but not all of it. 

Once, Arrivé Igrati brought home an old girlfriend, someone he confessed that he had almost married when they were both young. She was a suave and collected Slovenian noise artist named Azrael whose blonde head was completely shaved except for six inches of bangs. She had long fingernails that were sharp and black, a massive bronze tongue stud, and animated tattoos of wav files all down her arms (“Aphex Twin,” explained Arrivé later, somewhat embarrassed by this). She was skinny but wore giant heavy boots that made her look like she was wearing concrete overshoes and was about to be tossed off a bridge by the mob.

Azrael seemed surprised to see Penny and Pete when she showed up at Arrivé’s apartment for dinner, but Arrivé introduced them as his pets and said to ignore them. She didn’t ignore them. She asked them hostile, invasive personal questions, even though she could tell that this made Penny and Pete uncomfortable. They always looked to Arrivé to see if they should answer. He always shook his head “no.”

Azrael lounged on one of Arrivé’s divans throughout the five-course meal that Penny and Pete served them, ordered up from the restaurant downstairs. When dinner was over, Penny and Pete cleared the dishes and then kneeled down on either side of Arrivé, their heads lowered, their hands clasped in front of them, their tasteful new eyeball tattoos high up on each of their thighs. Azrael clicked her nails on her wine glass, her face a cold rictus of icy fury.

“We have known each other a long time and you know my appetites,” Arrivé told Azrael. “So I’m sure you understand that I would like to fuck my pets now.”

“I’m glad you finally found people who have the same opinion of you as you have about yourself,” said Azrael.

“I don’t want you to leave,” said Arrivé. “I want you to stay the night, like we talked about. I want to hold you while I sleep, just like old times.”

Azrael didn’t move to get up.  She crossed her legs and bit her lip.  Pete could tell that she was staring at Pete’s naked, well-defined abs with something like hunger and with something like hate. Pete smiled at her.

“So it is settled,” Arrivé said. “Undress me now, dogs.” Dutifully, Penny and Pete began to remove his clothes while he grinned at Azrael, showing the tops of his flat white back teeth beneath his giant mustache.

“Don’t forget our guest,” Arrivé said as soon as he was naked.

Penny and Pete each kissed him deeply on the mouth and then knelt down in front of Azrael for her blessing.  She shook her head, disgusted.

“Don’t touch me, thanks,” she said.

“You must pick,” Arrivé Igrati said, amused. “Otherwise you are being rude. You don’t like to be left out of things. You hate it. You are just going to watch?  You won’t like that.”

“You are a son of a bitch,” said Azrael.

“Yet you are still here,” said Arrivé.

Now Azrael hooked her finger under Pete’s collar, gritting her teeth and making growling noises of obvious vexation. She drained her flute of champagne and motioned for Penny to pour her another, wriggling out of her panties, stretching them down over her big square boots. She forced Pete’s face into her crotch.

“Could you at least play some music or something?” said Azrael.

Arrivé sat down next to his former lover on the divan and put his arm around her. Penny went down on Arrivé while Pete went down on Azrael. Penny reached over to squeeze Pete’s hand and to smile at her husband. We are a team! 

“Keep your fucking eyes to yourself, you bourgeois sex traitor,” Azrael said after involuntarily letting out a low moaning noise. “What are you doing with your life? Your husband is trying to drown himself in my snatch and all you can do is suck some con artist’s dick.”

This only made Penny more excited, making her clit throb a little harder. Penny could see that her husband was tongue-cracking Azrael with the same vigor as a dog trying to get peanut butter out of the grout of a kitchen floor. She knew exactly what that felt like. She knew how good her husband was at what he did. She couldn’t wait to see the expression on Azrael’s face when Pete finally broke her and made her come, the way he always did for her.

Penny lifted her mouth off Arrivé’s thick cock. Her chin and chest were covered in semen-slobber.

“I am a just a dumb tart and I am in so much trouble,” said Penny. “I deserve whatever happens to me.”  It was the first thing she said all evening. Arrivé spit in her face and then she went back to work, picking up right where she left off.


It was at the gala event celebrating Arrivé Igrati’s latest branded commercial venture “Mall Water” that Penny and Pete first met Rektor and Sklave, the German theoretical physicist couple who lived as machines. 

At events like these, Pete and Penny followed Arrivé around at a respectful distance, refilling his weed pen for him, reminding him of the names of his clients, his patrons, and even his friends.  Many people found their relationship “problematic” and they were not afraid to tell them so, but they were always slightly mollified when it was explained that they were actually both paid nurses and that they were being compensated and were therefore true “sex workers.” Actually, Arrivé’s clients and patrons and friends were looking for any reason to accept the situation. The fact that Penny and Pete were also nurses made it somehow fine that they were always naked, which was exciting to see. So what if they would publicly eat from Arrivé Igrati’s hand or fuck each other in a corner if things at the party got too boring?

After all, nothing they did was illegal. Hadn’t these people seen the news?  Penny and Pete were not just people, they were also dogs.

Mall Water was a bottled water company that Arrivé Igrati had helped get off the ground with a group of German investors. Mall Water contained no minerals or vitamins and was not in any way purified. The water was taken from the fountains of various malls in America that were not quite completely abandoned and which were therefore still connected to municipal utilities. Each bottle of Mall Water had the name of the source mall, a painting of the mall from which the water was taken (done by Arrivé, who actually wore a saucy little beret at home while he painted—“I used to do portraits at a little kiosk at the mall!” he explained. “No part of a true artist's life is ever wasted!”), a short history of each mall, tasting notes on the water, and a pair of googly eyes near the neck of the bottle that jangled and flounced, rolling around in their plastic sockets as you poured. 

The gala for the grand opening event of Mall Water was held after hours at the last Brooklyn Cinnabon. The party was only for investors, and Rektor and Sklave were there representing the German investors, a collective called Geist. They had been sent by Geist as a kind of joke. They were both tall, pale Berliners with shoulder length black hair and pale blue eyes. Rektor had a close-cropped black beard that only enhanced his pallor, and Sklave had a rose-colored tint to her cheeks that almost made her look alive.

Both Rektor and Sklave were too thin, but they were healthy-looking in a medicine-ball-strength-training-exercise-on-a-frozen-beach kind of way. They both had the same willowy frames that could generate lots of unexpected torque, bodies meant for cross-country skiing or chopping wood. Their pupils were pinpricks, even in the Cinnabon half-light. Penny and Pete, trained nurses, could tell that Rektor and Sklave had the inveterate unnatural calmness of Kaltkor users, the prescription-strength anti-schizophrenia propsychotic medication that had the effect of dampening or eliminating altogether the surplus empathy that was only a liability for those with mental illness or for people who were trying to “get a lot of shit done.”

Rektor and Sklave were not the sort of people who didn’t understand the arrangement that Arrivé had with his pets Penny and Pete. To the contrary!  They celebrated it, perhaps even a little too vigorously. As they informed anyone who asked (or anyone who didn’t ask), they understood exactly how someone could want extra rights, the same rights as dogs, because Rektor and Sklave were not just people, they said: they were also machines.

“We are not artists,” Rektor said to Arrivé. “We are physicists. But we love your work. My partner Sklave even actually understands it.”

“I admire your ambition and your commitment to inserting your information into every possible data set,” said Sklave, nodding her head ever so slightly.

“Like me, Sklave is a machine,” said Rektor. “We are inhuman and therefore we do not need to be treated with the same dignity or decency as you might treat a person, though we do demand that we be given the same privilege of access to data that machines are given. We are completely divorced from human values with respect to this data. We do what must be done and we accept what must be done to us.”

It was painfully obvious that neither Rektor or Sklave was actually a machine. It was without a doubt that they were biological people. But what did it mean to be a machine?  Did it mean that you were more than human or less than human?   

“You don’t have familiars,” said Arrivé. “That’s quite rare.”

“Processing,” said Sklave. She cracked open a fresh cold bottle of Mall Water that had a picture of “The Galleria in Houston, Texas” on it and she took a huge gulp. The eyeballs on the neck of the bottle rolled down to stare at Arrivé with the same intensity as Sklave’s own Kaltkor-heavy gaze.

“Don’t you worry that familiars are trying to shape and breed human beings to suit their ultimate ends?” asked Rektor.  

“How delightfully paranoid,” said Arrivé. “But what do you actually mean?”

“If you want me to be silent, just tell me to be silent and I will,” said Rektor.  “You can just tell me to turn myself off and I will go stand up against the wall with my chin against my chest and let my processor spin.”

“No, now I am intrigued,” said Arrivé.  “I don’t have a familiar myself, though I suppose I do have my pets and they both have medical polar bears of their own, so in a way I have actual real familiars, the same way that a wizard might have.”

“I mean, don’t you think that humans these days are aided in their breeding by their familiars?" asked Rektor. "And don’t you think that therefore humans are being bred to be more pliable and amenable to machines? Have you seen the film 101 Dalmatians, the Disney film celebrating eugenics and the bloodline of Caucasian elites? The dogs bring the man and woman in the film together, encouraging their human owners to breed, because both of these particular humans are caring dog people who have an affinity for these Dalmatians, these Balkan purebreds.  It is not clear if it is good for the humans to be brought together in such a fashion by their dogs. It is clearly good for the dogs. Isn’t it good for the machines for machine-people to be joined and aided in their coupling by machines that might know better?”

“I suppose I’ve never thought about it,” said Arrivé. “But you are a machine yourself. So whose side are you on?”

“Yes,” admitted Rektor. He was excited to be seen for what he really was. “I suppose we can’t be trusted.” 

“And you are a machine as well,” Arrivé proclaimed to Sklave, staring hard at her mouth. She leaned a little closer to him, her arms stiff at her sides.

“Definitely,” said Sklave.

“So what are your plans for us humans, then?” 

“Processing,” said Sklave, betraying her stubborn humanity with the slightest glance at her significant other.

“That file is password protected,” said Rektor.


Arrivé Igrati was missing. Had he been killed?  Abducted? 

It was a Friday night, and neither Penny nor Pete knew where he had gone or when he was coming home. They heard the door open and close when he left and then: nothing. He did not call or text or send a courier. This was so unusual as to be perplexing / infuriating / a terrible portent. 

He never went anywhere without at least telling them where he was going. They had become extensions of him, exteriorized self-contained “extra lives” where he stored all of his feelings about affection, futurity, and family. They did whatever he said and they were unobtrusive and obedient: why would he ever go anywhere without them or try to do anything without at least one of them standing by just in case?  It would be like leaving without your keys or your wallet or your deck. It would be like leaving without your familiar. 

He wasn’t responding to texts or emails or phone calls. Penny was near hysterics: Pete rubbed her calves and her thighs and made her chicken parmigiana from a recipe on the feed and they watched an old Adam Sandler movie together. She started to calm down and they made very gentle love in Arrivé’s bed, luxuriating in his fading smell. Pete took her from behind and pressed his wet cheek into the smooth tan arc of her shoulder blades, telling her how much he loved her, how perfect she was in every way, what they might someday do with all the money they were making.

“I don’t care about the money,” said Penny, turning around between thrusts to stare at him with her big brown eyes, pouting, her sweat-covered face a mask of pain. “I just hope everything is okay.”

“Shhhh,” he said, kissing her, taking off her glasses. “Everything will be fine.” 

They were almost worried enough to call the police, but not quite. They promised each other that they would file a report in the morning; that surely Arrivé cared about them enough that he would get in touch with them as soon as he possibly could.

It was three in the morning when Arrivé returned. They were both still awake, of course, both lying motionless beside each other in his bedroom. They heard laughter and felt the warm buzz of company, of extra bodies. He was not alone. 

Relieved but also angry and not sure how to express it, Penny and Pete crept down to see what was going on, to make themselves available, to take Arrivé Igrati’s blood pressure, to make sure he took his depression meds and his blood-thinning baby aspirin.

It was Rektor and Sklave who Arrivé brought home. As soon as Rektor and Sklave saw Penny and Pete, they stopped laughing and drew themselves up very tight and high. There was a moment of nervous tension, which Arrivé broke by taking off his shirt and letting out a ragged sigh. He was home. He was in charge.

“What do you want us to do?” Penny whispered to Arrivé, sidling up to him. She tugged on his arm, making him bend down. She put her tongue in his ear territorially. 

“I don’t want you to do anything,” said Arrivé, pushing her away.  

“We were worried about you,” said Pete.

“That’s very Southern of you, isn’t it?” said Arrivé. “To worry? But don’t worry, my pets: your services will not be needed tonight.”

“Our services?” said Penny, a little shocked, a little mad. Pete put his hand on her shoulder.  He tried to gently pull her away, but she shrugged him off.

“Come here, Sklave,” Arrivé said to the tall, thin German woman.  “We have had such a nice night together and now I want to test the limits of your programming.”

“My programming has no limits,” said Sklave. “My only desire is to serve and learn from a superior intelligence.”

“Take Rektor’s shirt off,” he told Sklave, looking her up and down.

“But what do you want US to do?” asked Pete.  “Do you need anything to eat or drink?”

“I don’t want YOU to do anything,” said Arrivé, his eyes lighting up with sadistic fury. “Go or stay if you like. I don’t care what you do.”

Penny’s bottom lip quivered.  Pete put his arm around her and steered her over to a corner.

“Suck Rektor’s nipple,” said Arrivé. “Be gentle but hungry.”

Rektor stood at attention with his shirt off. Sklave did as she was told. Rektor’s chest was sallow and sunken and his skin under his shirt was just as pale as his deathly-white face. He had wispy black chest hair and his nipples were rosy-pink, the same pink as Sklave’s cheeks and her soft tongue.

“Now tell me more about this quantum foam,” said Arrivé. “Tell me more about this space between dimensions and how it might be accessed.”

“It’s all theoretical,” said Rektor. “Just pure abstraction.”

“And if we breach this space between dimensions—this quantum foam where the most unstable quantum particles come and go—we might be able to open a gash in space-time and then quite possibly affix something to this gash? Eyeballs perhaps?”

“Yes,” said Rektor. “But this is all just a theory.”

“Nothing is ever just a theory,” said Arrivé. “Now suck his dick, Sklave. He has earned it with his saucy little theories.”

“I must say,” said Rektor. “Theoretical physics is actually more Sklave’s area of expertise. She would never brag or admit mastery. And yet she has the superior processor.”

But Sklave was already obeying Arrivé’s insistent commands. She unzipped Rektor’s black trousers and took out his dick, which was as pale and thin as the rest of him. Pete could tell that, machine or not, Rektor was nervous. He was not used to this kind of public display. Sklave, on the other hand, was very much enjoying herself.

“Is it true what he says, Sklave?” Arrivé asked. “Are you the real expert here?”

“Mmmm-hmmmm,” said Sklave around a mouthful of Rektor’s cave-worm cock. 

“Then take that soft penis out of your mouth and come stand next to me. And take your clothes off.”

Sklave did as she was told.  She slipped out of her shiny black dress. She was smooth like a doll from her neck to her toes and flat as a board.  She was all gangly pink elbows and knobby knees, as thin and white as a lollipop stick.  She was pretty enough but also bloodless: dashed with mere pink every place that a hot-blooded Southern woman might have real red life in her.

“Go ahead,” said Arrivé. “Tell me how I can staple my eyeballs to the quantum foam between dimensions.”

“Processing,” said Sklave.

Arrivé came up behind her and groped for her clit. He frowned, sticking out his tongue, not finding it immediately. He was used to Penny, but Sklave’s clit was hidden away, folded into her body, deep and small and grey and secret. Arrivé was accustomed to Penny’s prominent flowing bulge, which was seemingly always slick and stiff under his big fingers.  He frowned for a moment, making an exasperated noise, digging deeper.  There! A wet bit of piss-warm gristle! He kissed Sklave’s shoulder, putting one hand on her chest.  He started stroking her.

“Rektor, lay down between Sklave’s legs so you can get a good view,” said Arrivé.

“Do you want us to watch?” Pete asked miserably.

“No, I don’t want anything to do with either of you,” said Arrivé, inexplicably furious. “Get out of here, both of you!”

Penny and Pete retreated to the threshold of the living room, standing in the doorway side by side, unsure of what to do now or where to go. This had never happened before. They held each other’s hand.

“Go on, Sklave,” said Rektor. “Pay no attention to my dogs.”

Sklave swallowed and composed herself. She looked away from Penny and Pete. She tried to ignore them.

“When we talk about quantum foam, we are talking about a reality so small that it is hard to even comprehend it,” said Sklave. “We might as well consider the particles, or waves, nothing more than information. Yet, we are talking about information with physical effects.”

“Like Rektor’s sad little dick right now,” said Arrivé. “Look at it! It is definitely nothing more than information.”

Pete felt a surging pang of humiliation. Why was Arrivé being such an aggressive asshole to this total stranger? Why did he even care how small this total stranger’s dick was? What about Pete’s tiny dick?  What about Pete’s humiliating inability to get hard sometimes?

“At a subatomic level, things are not put together the way you think,” said Sklave. “We are not made of tiny Lego with math on them, nor are we composed of jagged bursts of electricity that frame our limits. Quite possibly, we are an emanation. We are ghosts made of a latticework of quivering strings which vibrate at different energy levels to create different kinds of matter, or like Rektor said at the bar, perhaps it is more like a foam or tide that washes in and out. We are not made up of discrete units: we are made of intensities, and these intensities are always in communication, tuned by proximity and chemistry, which is just another way to describe will itself.”

“Put your tongue in her asshole, Rektor, since you can’t get hard,” said Arrivé, bending down to waggle Rektor’s foot.

Rektor did as he was told, arching his back and lifting up to lap at Sklave’s skinny ass.  She squatted over him, bending her reedy legs. Her nipples were perky, even if her tits were flat, thought Pete. Sklave brushed her hair back from her head. Arrivé was jacking off now, standing astride Rektor, grinning at Sklave and hanging on her every word.

“Go on,” he said. “I am truly listening.” 

“It might be possible to do what you want," Sklave continued, trying to keep her voice level and monotone. "If we were to find a way to turn the entirety of all cosmic reality into a single accessible computer which might be accessed by one discrete will, then we might be able to vibrate all of the strings of all of the subatomic particles in all of existence in just the right exact way, in accord with one masterly will, which might create a tunnel or ‘tear’ which might then be manipulated like a pixelated screen. Information might be applied to this fissure, left there to await anyone who might want to burrow into the architecture of the universe."

“And this is how I could affix my googly eyeballs to physics itself?” said Arrivé. “To the whole structure of how physical reality is generated by quantum information?”

“Yes,” said Sklave. “You would be able to make your mark. To make a human signature. Provided no other masterly alien will has gotten there first.”

“There is nothing more universal than googly eyes,” said Arrivé.  “Cartoon eyeballs are the most universal anthropomorphic sigil. Sclerafacio is the most primal shamanic gesture. To put eyes on something is to make it come alive. I want the universe to be alive. I don’t want it to just be a dead uncaring void. I want to enface the cosmos. Don’t you? Don't we all?”

He was stroking himself faster now, reaching all the way to the base of his shaft with each tug. Penny and Pete both longed to kneel down by his oh-so-familiar balls and take one in their salivating mouths. Arrivé suddenly glared at them where they cowered in the doorway. He shook his head at them, sneering and spitting on Rektor as a proxy.

Pete thought about how much they had sacrificed for this rotten man. And why?  What had it gotten them?  Arrivé had no loyalty. He had no regard for their feelings and no sensitivity for how precarious their relationship was together. What had happened to their liberal democracy? Their life together was a three-legged stool and here he was, sawing off two legs. 

Pete shuddered. The thought of Arrivé’s utter carelessness and disregard made him so horny that he wanted to fuck anything in reach. It was like Pete and Penny had never known this man at all. He was new to them. A new monster with new needs.

“There are googly eyes on my heart and so my heart is alive,” said Arrivé to Rektor and Sklave, turning away from Penny and Pete completely. “And one day there will be googly eyes on the heart of the universe and the universe will be alive.”  

The position that Sklave was in forced her to strain, to flex awkwardly. She reached out her arms for help and Arrivé grabbed her wrists, steadying her. 

“He needs a pillow,” said Pete, pointing to Rektor. “Can I be his pillow?”

“You can just SHUT THE FUCK right up, dog,” Arrivé said. But he did reach over to a divan and grab a pillow. He handed the pillow to Sklave, who reached down and put it under Rektor’s head, making it so that he was better able to eat her pussy since she could put her full weight on his face. Now Rektor finally did start to get hard. Arrivé bent down and touched his own dick to the tip of Rektor’s penis.

“Even hard it isn’t very impressive, is it Sklave?”

“No,” said Sklave. “Objectively, Rektor’s progenitive organ is not quite average, though it is clean and well-formed.”

“You like mine, though, don’t you?”

“It is very different,” said Sklave.

“Don’t suck it yet,” said Arrivé. “But lick it. Lick just below the head. Slowly.”

This was tricky for Sklave, but the three of them made a stable pyramid. She bent down and put her whole weight on Rektor’s face, her gangly knees digging into his chest, as Arrivé thrust out his pelvis just enough so that she could lap the head of his dick while he stroked it languidly, like a studio bass player. Sklave made very human and non-machine noises as she teased the beachhead where Arrivé’s onion-bulb and foreskin came together.

Rektor’s hand twitched toward his own penis, but he balled it into a fist, maintaining some discipline about being allowed to masturbate. No one had told him not to touch himself, but Pete could tell that he was trying to show Arrivé what he liked and what he needed.

There was a jangling sound as Arrivé threaded his belt through his pants.  He cracked the belt and then passed it to Rektor. 

“Bite down on this,” he said to Rektor. “If you need help controlling yourself.”

“What did we do wrong?” Penny whispered to Pete. “Why is he being like this?”

Pete held her tightly. He was feeling an annihilating longing that swept through his entire body. He was more used to this feeling than Penny was. But this was not an individual kind of pleasing humiliation: it was a team feeling. Arrivé wasn’t cheating on Penny: he was cheating on both of them, as a couple. And what could they even do about it?  What could they say?  Penny and Pete were supposed to have each other. Their marriage was supposed to be their default position. The two of them were supposed to be one contained system. A conjoined vessel of reciprocal energies. And yet, they had given so much to this artist, they had been there for this man through sickness and darkness and despair, and here he was, flagrantly shoving their own inadequacy as a subservient couple in their faces.

Pete was so turned on by thinking about all of this that he wanted to scream. Experimentally, he reached down and felt his wife’s pussy. It was dripping. Beads had formed in her public hair. Her face and throat were flushed. She turned to look at him with contempt and desire fighting in her eyes.

"We aren't good enough," she said. "We are dogs, but they are machines."

Pete pushed her up against the doorjamb. She caressed the wall like it was Arrivé’s back, closing her eyes and moaning, ignoring Pete's body, wanting something harder and taller. Pete started fucking her slowly. They were both so aroused that each forward stroke and each backward stroke felt like Pete was rubbing his dick across a cheese grater. Penny moaned too, matching his volume. They were joined in their glorious ache together for a moment, lost together in their own fractured, unhealthy worlds. Fluids coursed through them, settling in pools of spiraling pain and engorging them.

“You will figure out this physics problem for me,” said Arrivé to this new couple, these Germans. “You will put my eyes inside the heart of the universe. You will work harder than you’ve ever worked before. You will burn out your processors, you will use every byte of your memories. You will flood your caches and choke your broadbands.”

“Mmmm-glrrrgh,” said Rektor, his mouth full of Arrivé’s belt, his face glistening with Sklave’s pussy juice.

Arrivé’s dick slid out of Sklave’s mouth with a plop. 

“Processing,” said Sklave, breathing hard. 

She put his cock to her chin, staring up at Arrivé with empty drug eyes, a look of total blank subjection. 

Arrivé roared. He drained his balls all over Sklave’s slack machine mouth. He pressed his dick down and shot more ropy spasms of semen onto Rektor’s twitching legs and his pale stomach. This made Rektor flop around on the ground, glitching, making too-happy gargling noises as he ground his teeth on Arrivé's leather belt and then buried his face in Sklave’s warm fuck hole.  Arrivé grabbed Sklave by the shoulders and kissed her blank face on the lips. He pressed her pussy down hard into Rektor’s face as Pete and Penny now also began to thrash, not wanting to come but doing it anyway, their hot animal juices becoming like the draining salvation of tears, their black tennis shoes—hard like paws—slipping on the physical liquor that leaked uncontrollably out of the wounds that they made in each other. 

For a moment, everyone was lost in their own worlds. For a moment, they were all staring into the darkness, searching for those eyeballs that weren't quite there yet.

"Dogs," said Arrivé after a long time, breathing hard, suddenly remembering Penny and Pete now that he was all spent and now that he was shriveling up and now that the desperate feeling of loneliness and horror at his own madness and unlovability was coming back.  "Get over here and clean this up.  And get us all something cold to drink. Not Mall Water."

Penny and Pete decoupled from each other.  There was a moment when they had all the power, the two of them and no one else. They could leave.  They could say "fuck you, this wasn't part of the deal...enjoy your new conquest." But instead they looked at each other silently and made another silent decision together, just as they had the first night they met this awful man. They each fingered their eyeball tattoos high up on their thighs. They weren't leaving. They were merely infrastructure now, but there was something bright, malicious, and exciting about that. They had to see what would be enfaced next. Could they really fault him for his ambition? Could they really fault him for taking what he needed in order to produce the art that he had no choice but to create? 

No. They were good civil servants. They were loyal dogs ready to serve the new machines: they were a constituency you could take for granted, devoted to the greater good, working hand in hand for a better tomorrow.

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(c) Miracle Jones 2018