Idle Thoughts

The fine folks at Apex & Abyss, Magazine of Speculative Fiction, just published my short story ‘Idle Thoughts’ which is a tale of telepathy and retaliation and justice and murder and why boys never call girls who call boys.

You can see it here:

The opening goes like this:

I’m sorry that I smiled at him when he came in, all dripping from the rain. I know it will make my thought-testimony look bad in court. But when you work the late-night shift at the Recruitment Center, and a handsome stranger comes in, even if he is a little sad and grim, it’s hard not to have idle thoughts about him.

But I wasn’t helping him, even if I liked his looks. He shook his coat as he took it off, sending water everywhere. His hat made a puddle on the counter.

“The operation to become a citizen. Is it painful? Does it take long? I’m in sort of a hurry.”

He looked back to the plate glass window. Maybe he was looking at the courthouse and Town Hall across the street. Maybe he was looking at the rain.

“Brain tissue is not sensitive,” I said, smiling, looking up at him. “The major part of the operation, correlating your individual patterns to the standardized symbols, takes less than a minute. It takes longer to decided what to do first, to go cast a ballot or go buy a gun, they say!”

Sometimes men smile when I say that. Sometimes not. He did not. I wish I understood them. Men, I mean.

Did I mention how blue and deep and penetrating his eyes were? And you could not look at lips like his without wondering what they would taste like, cruel and passionate, perhaps with a hint of lingering champagne, as strong arms picked you up and carried you away . . . .

(That doesn’t mean I was helping him. What girl does not have idle thoughts?)

I hit the button which folded back the wall to the inner room.

Beyond, the chair was a black with padding and shiny with wiring. Above the headrest, like a chandelier, were the probe-arms, the injector, and the surgical array.

“So there it is,”  he muttered, staring.

“There it is!” I agreed, cheerfully.

I got up and led him over toward the chair. “When you sit down, you sit down all alone; but when you get up, you’ve got the whole world with you. No more lies and no misunderstandings! At least . . . ” My enthusiasm stumbled, for his dark, sardonic gaze was on me. “Other citizens can’t lie to you. Other people in the same circuit. And the circuit has to be on . . .”

He was smiling now, but I couldn’t tell if it was a friendly smile or not. “I’m aware that there are limitations, miss. I’ve never thought technology was magic; it doesn’t change human nature, or make the users of it more wise.”


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