I’m writing to you from a hotel in the centre of town. There are two beds, a little table between them, a bathroom off to one side, and a small nightlight. My master is asleep in the bed nearest the wall. I’m sitting here looking out the window. There’s little to see. It’ll be dark soon, and there are no passersby.
We’ve had a terrible day.
He’s been dreading going out of the house, he told me. He knew he would have to sooner or later, but it was easier living in rooms he knows by heart, in a little space he’s made his own.
There haven’t been many invitations either, so his agent was quite insistent that he accept this one.
Of course it was necessary that I should accompany him. My direction-finding is good. I know how to guide him through rooms and streets, and I have full knowledge of his dietary needs.
I have never been allowed to do so, but if necessary I could even pilot him from place to place.
The expedition seemed to present few problems. The taxi would come by at 10 am. By then I would have his things packed, breakfast over, his papers ready (he likes to keep his papers by him, even though he cannot read them). His agent, Karen, whom I have only spoken to on the phone (I imagine her as thin, well-groomed, in her mid-fifties, with slightly greying hair and a business-like demeanour – it’s a little game I play, imagining people before I meet them. I’m hardly ever wrong), has given me credit authorisation to disburse small sums for travelling expenses. In a sense I welcomed it – the chance to take on some new responsibilities, to move through the world as if I owned a part of it, as if my skin belonged to me.
The first thing that went wrong was the taxi.
He’d been anxious, extremely anxious, the night before. He was too keyed up to enter me even, which is quite unusual for him. I started to suck at his penis, which he’s always liked before, but he pushed me away and told me not to touch him.
He ordered me out of the room (though it was my room – the room he told me was mine to do with as I wished. He never sleeps in the master bedroom now). I was afraid to leave him, so stood in one corner silently until his breathing stabilised. I think he must have got to sleep about 4 am.
Next morning he was grumpy at breakfast, asking me difficult questions, and then criticising me when I attempted to answer them. “Why am I going out there again?” he asked, and “Will it ever get better than this?”
I asked him if he was so afraid, whether he wouldn’t prefer to cancel the trip and stay at home? He told me I was stupid and didn’t understand the world he lived in.
It’s true. I don’t understand him. I don’t know how I ever would.
I’m very very glad he wouldn’t let me have a kitten. What would I do with my little friend if I had to go out like this? That was the problem the first time – I couldn’t watch over him all the time because I had to do my work. That’s when they came in and killed him.
I’m so much safer without a friend.
The taxi was late. The taxi was very late. Afterwards I wondered if his agent had really ordered it at all. When I rang them to ask, they said they had no record of the reservation. I ordered another taxi, but it took more than half an hour to reach us.
By then we were over an hour behind schedule.
He was very restless. Walking up and down, wringing his hands. He couldn’t decide whether to wear his coat or carry it. I told him I would carry it for him (as well as the two suitcases), but then he was concerned that it might rain.
Finally the taxi arrived. The traffic was heavy, and many of the routes were closed by falling debris from a major pile-up. We might still have made the flight, though, if it hadn’t been for his insisting that he’d left something important behind.
We had to drive back to the house, and pick up the something. He didn’t say what it was, but I think it must have been some kind of good luck charm or little amulet in a box. I could see the bulge it made in his jacket pocket.
We were very late at the airport. Our plane was already boarding, but we had to go through all the security checks before they would let us on.
At first it seemed fortunate that the flight had been delayed. We were able to take our seats after everyone else had already arrived (there was no room for his cabin bag in the overhead lockers, so I had to push it down under my feet instead.
And there we sat. We sat there for an hour or more, while they broadcast messages about a “slight delay.”
A lot of the other passengers were shouting and complaining, especially the ones behind us in what he called “cattle class.” It did no good, though. After a long long time, they asked us all to disembark. There was something wrong with the plane they said, some problem with the reverse thrusters, so they would try to reroute us on alternative flights.
We stood in line for a long time before I could speak to the woman at the counter about changing our flight. At first she said I would have to wait till all the human passengers were dealt with, but then I told her I was travelling with my blind master, and that it was for him I was trying to make the new arrangements.
The connections were complicated. We’d already lost any possibility of catching our ongoing flight, so she had to try and reroute us another way.
The two flights together should have taken no more than four or five hours. Now we were looking at days before we could connect up.
I needed to talk to my master and see if he approved of the new arrangements, but he was (by now) sitting in a corner of the waiting room with all his baggage. I couldn’t leave the desk without losing my place in line, and he couldn’t leave his chair in a room full of suitcases and running children. I asked the woman if I could contact him on his palmpilot, but he must have switched it off when we were on the plane.
Finally I was forced to make the decision on my own.
I confirmed the new bookings.
We would still get to our destination in time for him to attend his conference, although he would miss the greetings on the first day.
We would overnight en route, at the airline’s expense.
So much was settled.
When I got back to him in his chair he was not very friendly. I couldn’t sit next to him, as all the places were taken, so I was forced to kneel beside him. He had a little argument with the woman beside him about that, but she told him she had no intention of moving over for a clone. It made no difference to me. I was surprised that he even wanted me to sit beside him.
He is a very strange man, I think, though I have few to compare him with, only the men in the apartment block and my first master on Mars. He seems strange compared to them.
He was very angry when he heard what I had done.
“You fucking idiot! It’ll take us days! I don’t want to be stuck in airport waiting-rooms for days! Couldn’t you get them to give us a better set of connections than that?”
“You did at least try, I suppose? Unless it’s fun for you, life on the road and all that … at least you can see the passing scenery … for me it’s just a bunch of sharp edges to bruise myself against and voices coming at me from nowhere.”
“I am sorry, sir. I wanted to consult you, but your pilot was turned off.”
“Couldn’t you come over and talk to me in person? I was just sitting over here, not on the other side of the world.”
“The woman said she couldn’t wait – that if I went away I’d have to join the queue again …”
“But that’s ridiculous! Did you get her name? I’m going to put in a complaint!”
“Yes, sir. I have her name and employee number. It was written on her ID strip. She is Ellen Vasa, and her number is …”
“Oh, forget it. I guess you did the best you could. I’m not really angry with you. It’s just that I suddenly thought that I could get out of going to this conference at all, and now you’ve just ruined that for me ..."
“I’m sorry, sir.”
“Never mind. I suppose I should go, really, after all. Karen thinks so, anyway. Getting back on the horse after you get bucked off and all that …”
“What do you care? For you it’s just a carefree travel excursion, meeting new people, making new friends – like this Ellen woman. Vasa, was it? Sounds Swedish. You’re sure she’s a woman, not one of you clanswomen …”
“Yes, sir. I am sure.”
“Fair enough. Just checking. I’d have thought there were quite a few of you around here, maybe not in the executive positions, but doing the smaller things.”
“Well, cheer up then. It looks like we’ll be spending even more time in each other’s company than we usually do. You don’t mind that, do you, Eva?”
I said it, but I didn’t really mean it. I felt very strange at that moment, as if I wanted to be somewhere else – to be by myself, maybe at Marta’s, maybe in the little garden of the apartment block, away from his voice, away from his hands, his cock. I felt as if I didn’t really like him, or the life I lived with him.
We caught our next flight, and eventually reached this hotel. It’s somewhere near the airport, but that’s really all I know. I could locate it on my grid if I wished to, but it doesn’t seem important. All I know is that it’s cold here, there’s snow outside on the streets, and the tyre tracks of the ground cars have left strange patterns there.
He took some time to get to sleep, even after sex.
I feel as if I’d like to sit here for a hundred years. Just looking out the window, away from his voice, the people who push at me and try to trip me up, the other clans making their secret signs, the light that never ceases beating down on me.
If only sleep would work for me. I’d like to go to sleep and never wake up.
your sister, Eva.