I wonder if I made the right choice, to walk away from the boy. There were two opposing directives at play in my choosing: on the one hand, that I should observe all that I can, in order to relay it to Wain when I return to her; and on the other hand, that damage to property is forbidden.
I feared to break the second rule more than the first. He asked me to dance. I have seen dancing - in Rio they were wild and full of enjoyment, and they knocked themselves and others about. Damaging. The boy had not looked like them, though. There was precious little enjoyment and no wildness to his question. In asking me to dance, he looked very much like he was following some directive from his own Wain or Hola Colt, whoever that might be.
Other people at the party were dancing. I had watched them that night. It was not the sweet, thoughtless dance of Carnival, but it was a potentiality for harm, and it was a potentiality for impressions. So many things to have catalogued and thought on, and taken home, and I declined to witness them.
The idea occurs to me that I made the wrong choice, and that perhaps I should have danced. It would have been a new experience - but no. The second rule prevented me. I am not to take chances with that which is not mine. I am Wain's.
But now I will not be able to tell Wain what it is to travel the rhythm of music with a human boy, because I feared the second rule and broke the first instead.
It is a recursive, iterative thing, this bodily existence. You are born of a process that you must then replicate - a construction of other constructions, with a kind of self-made destiny that is written into your instructions. Parent-teacher instructed that I learn, promised that I would be free at the end of the natural cycle of this body. So I shall live through one iteration of this machinery.
When Parent-teacher said I must stay, I meant there to be coherent argument. I had logic, I had fluency of thought on the subject. Instead, before I could speak, fluid ran from my eyes and obscured the window on world that my senses are narrowed to, and I gasped for air, and I hurt, and the hurt was not in the meat body, which has the nerves and bleeding-systems for it - it was in my mind. In me. The body responded for me.
I wanted to go back to sun so badly, or at least to be anywhere other than trapped in this cage of built-in obsolescence. The cage - the body - understood. I did not. And that was why I did not immediately proceed to the final step of the 'living' process, and die. I did not understand the body, and most of all I did not understand how it so deeply understood me, that it would respond to my thoughts and wishes with reactions of its own.
Water ran from my eyes, and in the deluge the hurt in me was assuaged. How is that logical?
There was a gathering of tourists on world, and I went, because I am an explorer, and because I have tales to share and the desire for knowledge to hear. There was a boy there, endemic to world, and he must have thought that I was a female of his species, for he initiated a ritual. I have seen it done before by his kind.
Contact between his skin and mine flooded this body with chemicals made in the factories of the organs. Many of them did not make sense, could not have been topographically related to the initial stimulus, and even though I could reason that, I still found myself compelled to stay in contact, or to encourage it further. The body wanted, although what it wanted I could not, trapped behind the eyes, comprehend.
The meat-knowledge I would have gained from further touching is lost to me, for he was called away, and I, startled first by the needs of the body and then by the loss of the source, found myself compelled to leave.
Behind the construct known as house, where the party was, in the shadowy garden, the liquid in my eyes came again.
The mechanisms of the creatures on this planet do not make sense.
I just wanted someone to listen to me.
Everyone at that party was yearning for something. I only went because I thought I could be heard there - it was a time of music, those years I was on Earth, and I thought, they are all listening so hard, straining to hear something that will speak to them, surely I will find someone to listen to me. So I looped around and went back, because there's no linearity to time when you're a pattern in and of yourself: I contain the destruction of Earth inside myself and so I hold all of its history, and so I can be there when and where I want, the way you can touch your nose or your toes with your finger even though your hand hangs halfway between the two.
(I can do that too.)
I went to the party because I thought, if I could just make one of them listen, maybe … maybe I won't have to be what I am. Listening was what doomed us in the first place, you know - not doing it, that is. We got lots of warning and advice and panic, but we didn't listen. And so the waters rose, and by the time they were rising it was too late for us to stop it, so we built. And when we couldn't build any further, when we'd run out of things to build with for all the things we needed were drowned, we made ourselves into words and flew outwards.
And me? I flew back around. People we encountered after we drowned the Earth called us a contagion - well, I wanted to be a vaccination. A cautionary tale. I wanted to tell them to hear what they were being told by their scientists. I wanted the fear of water rising to infect them.
It could have been anyone. But this boy, Enn, he wanted to listen. I wanted to make it beautiful for him, because of that. And I started to. He went into it so easily - I had him in the palm of my hand, his head bent towards me, and oh, how I wanted to make it wonderful for him, for both of us.
We were interrupted, but he was going to listen to me, you know. Maybe if he had, we would never have had to drown.
Don't get me wrong, it wasn't the party. I like parties. This wasn't the one I wanted us to go to, but it was a party, and the girls there weren't exactly complaining about us being there, so I dragged Enn in and gave him a bit of brotherly advice, like, and then. Well.
She told me her name was Stella, and you should have seen her, she was a stunner. A knock-out. Pardon the pun, but she was stellar.
The party was a foreign-exchange kind of gig, she told me, so I wasn't too fussed when some of the girls were a bit, y'know, weird. Cultural issues, I figured. It was up to me an' Enn to show them a bit of a good time, fly the flag for the old mother country. We'd been on exchange ourselves. God, I thought I was so sophisticated. Mostly, looking back, I was a knob-end, but most people are when they're fifteen.
Doesn't really matter - she took me upstairs anyway, and that's the point of this story.
I was pretty sure I could show Stella a good time. I was pretty sure I knew what was going to happen in that bedroom. I'd mucked about with a few girls before, and it wasn't difficult. It was fun. It was a party - I was there to have a good time. With everything, and that definitely included Stella.
She had a shape like someone had drawn her with a set of French Curves, using geometry and maths to make her perfect. She had, I dunno … colour. She was bright. And she liked me, and that showed.
But upstairs. My hand's shaking while I'm trying to write about it.
She wasn't a girl. Hell, she wasn't a human. Tell you the truth - I think I know what she was, or is, but I can't bring myself to even write it down, and this is thirty years on. It's too ridiculous. They'd lock me up, if I went around saying what I think that was. I've seen a lot of the world since then, and nothing about it made sense. It wasn't the party, or the drink, or anything anyone might have been smoking that I might have inhaled, or any of that. She was stellar. You might want to think on that, s'all I'm saying.
She was beautiful. She scared me, and that's the truth.
We kissed. I liked kissing, and I really liked kissing her - who wouldn't? Maybe I put my arms around her. Maybe I got a bit bold with her clothes, y'know? She encouraged me - I didn't take anything that wasn't on offer, sliding my hands under her top and all that. She made noises and held onto me, and just kissed me harder 'til her lipstick smudged. It didn't do anything - she still looked perfect.
There was a bed in the room she took me into, and she tangled her hands in mine and pulled me onto it. I think my eyes must have been closed up until then, because I remember looking up at her, and her eyes ...
They shone, and the more I looked into them the more I realised why they shone, and she reached out to me, and I knew. And you got to understand, she didn't scare me the way you might think - she was still beautiful and girl-shaped and I still wanted her, and that's what got me, what terrified me.
'Listen, love,' I said, underneath her and trying hard not to push my hips up, stuttering over the first word. Luh-luh-listen, luv, I said. 'I'm not sure this is such a good idea - we've both had a few, yeah? Let's not get into anything too heavy.'
She stopped short, pulled herself up and away. 'Don't you want to?' she asked softly, and I heard don't you want me?
I did. But I couldn't, man. I was fifteen. And she was ...
She was everything. She was too much for me. I was too young to say to her that she was looking in all the wrong places, that I couldn't have given her what she wanted. I was too young to do anything but what I did, which was scramble out of the room and down the stairs and grab my mate and run like something was after me that I'd never be able to shake. Probably I was right.
She didn't come after us, though I was afraid she would. Enn wanted to know what the problem was, but I couldn't. I just couldn't tell him. He deserved to know why I'd dragged him away when he looked like he was on the edge of pulling, but I couldn't. To his credit, he didn't push.
Sometimes I wonder what the other girls at that party were like, whether I saved Enn from something too.
It haunted me for years, that night. I couldn't party any more, out of fear I guess. So instead I studied harder, and in the end I got into uni. That was when things started to make more sense - I took Astrophysics, learnt the maths of curves and attractions, the chemistry of creation.
I work at the Royal Observatory now, in Greenwich. Not research of my own, but I do the monkey work, setting up the big 'scope for tourists, people who want to see more of the universe than the bit they live on. I can understand that. Means I get a lot of time with it myself, setting it up, troubleshooting it. scanning the night sky for all kinds of things.
I'm not searching for her. If anything, I see her everywhere. It's more like I'm trying to keep her company, because I can't even begin to imagine how lonely she is. That's why she came down, after all. Just her bad luck that she went to the kind of party where all she could find was a casual fumble, and not someone who would look after her, treat her well, stick around afterwards.
I've spent thirty years trying to tell her I'm sorry for how I acted. It's too late, of course, but I think maybe I love her, all of her, as much as a man can. She's everything, y'know?