Sunday, July 24, 2011

So, uh... did you guys get all that from our scents as well?”

What do you mean?” James replied, failing to keep a slight quaver out of his voice.

All that instinctive stuff about mating and crap. Gods, I thought my ovaries were about to strangle me.”

There was a pause of about four seconds, and then the three of us all burst out laughing, more out of relief from tension than from humour. When the chuckling finally tumbled to a stop, we tried to figure out what else we could test from our hospital bed.

Hearing was an easy one. I found that straining to hear something sort of turned up the volume selectively. By concentrating, I could hear the rumble of engines moving around the base, and form a rough map of where they were, or listen for human voices – too distorted to hear conversations, but easy to tell directions from. Footsteps were everywhere, but I found that the most useful sound was the gentle sigh of wind, marking the corners of buildings on my worldview. After two minutes of quiet listening, I could have found my way around blindfolded.

It seems weird to say, but those minutes lying on our backs in a makeshift hospital ward on an army base were some of the most magical of our lives. I rediscovered every sense I had, and some I hadn’t even noticed. Who really pays attention to proprioception? You just know where each part of your body is, roughly, and it’s enough to reach up and catch a ball, and then one day you get an injection and suddenly you can sense exactly where your liver is. That time made things I’d thought were impossible seem ordinary enough that I could cope with them.

After half an hour, Crenshaw had obviously had his fill of microphone surveillance, and we all heard the latch as the door was opened. I followed each part as it slid and rolled into place, then turned my head as James’ curtains were pulled back a little, noticing two sullenly glowing shapes where the people should be. Infrared too, then. A female voice asked James a few inane questions, then footsteps moved down the ward towards me. The person drawing back the curtains was an attractive female orderly, about 25, and I realised my new senses gave me an excellent idea of the shape of her body under her clothes. I kept my eyes on hers and breathed through my mouth. This could get really, really embarrassing.

And how are you feeling, Mr Masters?”

Oh, just fine. Fine. Itching to be up and about, really.”

She was making notes on the little clipboard hanging at the end of my bed. I could imagine what she was writing: Patient seems extremely distracted and is pitching a tent. Observe for priapism.

I’ll bring you some clothes and get that catheter out soon. In the meantime, there’s a glass of water by your bed. I’ll just check on your friend there. Is there anything you need?” I shook my head quickly, focussing on her left earlobe. She gave me a smile and pulled the curtains to, walking down towards Alex, and I started concentrating on cold things and all my turn-offs.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Hey, Will, you awake again yet?” James obviously wasn’t feeling as lethargic as I was. “Take a look at the lights.” I looked up at the fluorescent tubes.

Imagine the deepest purple you’ve ever seen. Not the darkest, because this was blazing quite brightly, superimposed on the familiar white glare of the tubes, but a rich, deep purple, far beyond anything you’ve ever seen before. Much more than violet. Ultraviolet.

Holy crap,” Alex said, from my other side. “What is that?”

Fluorescent lights are called that because the tubes are coated on the inside with fluorescent stuff, which converts the UV light they make into white light. We’re seeing the UV that gets through.”

I thought Will was the facts guy.”

I usually handle trivia,” I explained, “but James aced physics and electronics.”

So... it worked? We’re... changed? Modified? What’s the right word?”

I like modified,” I told her. “It seems kind of specific, rather than wishy-washy like ‘changed’.1 And yeah, it seems like it’s worked, though we should check out the other abilities we were supposed to get first chance we can.” My words were followed by a few moments of silence, then the sounds of sniffing from the other sides of the curtains. Obviously the other two had both decided to test our olfactory senses next. I drew a deep breath through my nostrils, trying to catch up. New colours were nothing. This was intense.

I could smell the dew on the grass outside; apparently it was morning, but not too early, because the asphalt on the parade ground across the way from the warehouse was beginning to heat up, and the food smells from the mess hall were beginning to get a little stale. All around was the smell of sweat and canvas; from one end of the camp drifted reeking clouds of gunpowder I hadn’t even noticed two weeks before. Closer, stronger, I could smell ozone and a plastic sort of smell from the machine in the main room of the warehouse, and this room was a roil of disinfectant and less savoury hints, which hit my new nose like a sledgehammer covered in sewage. And the people... we don’t really notice that people smell. I don’t mean the armpits. It’s hard to ignore the armpits. But people have a smell, too, all their own, completely ignored by our tiny little scent organs. Now, for the first time, I was really aware of it. James, to my right, smelled earthy and imposing. Somehow I knew that was the smell of someone my age. I mean, I already knew James was my age, it would have been hard to be confused about that. But the smell underlined it twice and drew a couple of arrows pointing to it: male, about my age, prime physical condition, bulkier than I was without being fat. And to my left... it was maddening. Alex had a scent like herbal tea, and a hint of something like petroleum, but it was the other things in her scent that were driving me wild, little markers carrying information into my nostrils. Female, my age, perfect physical condition, good genetic compatibility, two weeks from oestrus and receptive to mating. I knew all that, knew it, and something powerful and ugly and ancient reached up through my torso, grabbed me by the throat and screamed. I stopped sniffing, guilt flooding through me. I could hear James panting through his mouth. Maybe this wasn’t going to be all joyful discovery. On top of everything else, my catheter was suddenly really uncomfortable.

1Modified was always my first choice to describe our condition after it occurred, but to name the event itself I must side with popular opinion, which calls it the Change, because I can’t think of anything else that underlines just how simple, yet powerful, an effect it had on... everything, I guess.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Chapter 2

Sex, Guns, Poison.

To pee, or not to pee: that is the question: whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the pangs and strains of outrageous pressure, or to let loose and make a sea of... troubles?

Mmm. Half-not-there thoughts bumbled through my mind, trying to decide whether to exist or not. The light was bright enough for my eyelids to glow red on the inside, but the air was cool, and no warmth hinted at the sun touching me. My body was under some cover, probably the rough sheet I could feel under my arms. I noticed all this in the fraction of a second before my bladder started screaming for attention, that funhouse-mirror reflection of the point just before orgasm driving a lance up my torso. There was no way I’d be able to move, even onto such as a bedpan. Nevertheless, I would have to pee, and I hoped I was grown up enough to recognise the occasional necessity of doing what had to be done. But first, I’d make a valiant effort to hold it in and move far enough I could drop down over the bedpan, which I guessed at random would probably be on the right. I shifted my hips, just a little, and felt a tug in the relevant area. I had been catheterised.

Well, that was all right, then. I relaxed, and let things take their course with a clear conscience.

Yo, dude, you awake, or is that just your body on autopilot again?” James was sounding a little more chipper than I felt.


Oh, cool. Professor said he’s got us on something to help our body flush stuff out, that’s why we need to piss so much.”

Indignity after indignity.”

James snickered a little, and I drifted off for a while. I’m not that good at sleeping on my back, but I was feeling in the mood to let the world slip past me. I guess James was too, because he didn’t say anything more either. An hour or two passed me by completely.