These Were the Transitional Years
There were cells on both sides, stacked fourteen high. Every cell was the same. In number 509 lived Marvin and his sluts.
The future is a great place for lonely people. Apps shelter us from regular life; cameras turn ever-inward; sex streams, companionship is chat bubbles. But what happens to lonely people without boundaries? When their most animal needs can be met without ever unlocking the door? Zak Smith is an accomplished artist and alt porn star—who better to imagine the true, solitary nature of the future of sex. And yes, this one's very NSFW. -The Editors
Things were no longer as they are, but not yet what they were going to be. Diane sped west down the cryptic line of the 101 in her Watford, along the cobwebbing, deep in the warm zone through Downing and Los Angeles, the sky a dying yellow, surrounded by the boys.
"I could drive," said Alex, rewedging the gray rubber under his sneaker into the corner where the glass met Diane's dash, as confident and restless in the passenger seat as someone eight or nine, rotating into a stage yawn that left his bearded head just on the edge of what you might call Diane's aura if you believed in auras which nobody did. He'd almost said "…if you're tired," but had decided against it because he was smart.
"Driving keeps my hands busy. I could use a burrito though."
Meanwhile Dean and Chad were bantering about something in the backseat—Diane had no clue what about just now, but she knew you could dip in and out of it, like a show. Alphonso, next to Chad, brooded abstractedly as flylight ran across the worn line of his collar and across his puzzled, impressive face. About eight months ago he'd mastered looking moody in a way you took seriously but not personally.
"This is a fucked place," he said, features widening to shape his accent around it, as Diane brought the Watford into the fenced lot.
Chad: "Are we going?"
No, they weren't. It was good, though, that Chad had asked and that Dean had assumed they would with such protective finality. Alex gave a last-chance look, almost daddish in its generosity and willingness to be refused.
She came toward the sound of machines generating old light and air-conditioning. The code was 509, the buttons were beige and polypropylene and room-temperature. The holes in the intercom box spit out feedback and then an amused girl's voice going "Yo?" Trypophobia was fear of holes—Dean had told her that. There was a dog out in the dark somewhere.
Diane, who hated this place, said her own name.
Only the security was good: a reverse-crushing sound of magnets slackening signaled Diane to push three thick doors deep into the mouth of the looming unit.
There were cells on both sides, stacked fourteen high, smells in the halls, and a lot of sounds not muffled by the thin carpet. There were elevators she needed to use, ringed round glass fronting a drained pool. The old-style machine light caught everything steel at angles, showing smears and prints on the knobs, doors, all over the elevator buttons. She'd touched all of it and looked at what she was touching, but it was either that or look left and right, which she refused to do. Diane had been curious her first time in a Batch but wasn't anymore. Every cell was the same. Not for the first or last time, she got to 509 without seeing anyone.
On the far side of the perforated plexi sat an immense male figure: wallowing, bloated, feet in Asics, eczemic and uneven skin gone the clotted color of caucasians in selfies from the teens, his fat propagating with a corpulence of smoothly interlocking roundnesses interrupting one another like a stack of riverstone punctured by the flexible tube of a TPN feed above a weathered left nipple, sitting on a vinyled chair and covered in sluts.
Into and over his sheer fatness they slid, sucking his boner, biting him and each other, touching themselves with fingers, rubbing clits red on any remotely rigid thing, tonguing all nearby cunts, each different but their bodies exasperatingly precise, perfect in 8 colors, 4 body types and a wide range of heights, with spectacular butts, all pulchritudionus, exiguous, with the curves up their narrow sides like ribbons in mid-twist. To the extent they wore anything, it was the light blue of the nursing trade, including those hats, one Sexinurse even now conscientiously eying the tank of goo feeding the TPN tube. A blonde, balanced on the mounds of him and facing the plexi, sat on his face. Bones of pizzas littered the floor.
"Is it ok if I ask you to stop fucking while we talk?"
Diane said Hello but Marvin couldn't hear her because he was eating so much pussy. The blonde Sexinurse on his face, though—whose name was Natasha—noticed and politely waved.
"Diane's here, Marvin," she said, and switched to rubbing her crotch on Marvin's neck. A girl named Clarissa started fucking him.
"Oh hey Diane," Marvin said, now boning the slut, "How are you? You want to come in?" His voice was very deep.
"No, thanks. I'm alright, I guess," There was a comfortable visitors' chair near the clear wall and Diane got in it.
"Oh my fucking god this fucking cock," Clarissa said.
"What's up?" said Marvin, opening kind green eyes at Diane and wincing as he pudgily fucked.
"Well I…" Diane began. Clarissa pressed facefirst into the slick meat over Marvin's unbelievable stomach and her incredibly intense ass rippled, making Diane wonder about her own butt. "Marvin, I'm sorry, is it ok if…" Diane made frustrated hands like a magician showing the last rabbit to a birthday party that didn't care.
"What? What's the matter?" said Marvin, and tasted some snatches.
"I'm sorry," she felt off and looked around. Two of the Sexinurses were fat in a hot way, with awesome tits. Another had a cock. Diane breathed in apologetically, "is it ok if I ask you to stop fucking while we talk?"
"Oh no problem," Marvin looked up at Natasha apologetically. Natasha, perched like a sex parrot on a vast slather of shoulder, judged Diane unlikely to say anything that might get Natasha less hot cock, dismounted, gave Diane her most hospitable smile, finished herself off and began eating an ass. Marvin then attended to Clarissa, saying "Hold on," as he lifted her off his walrussy lap "I gotta talk to Diane, ok?"
"Ok," said Clarissa, and knelt between his shoes. Groaning, he jerked quickly off onto her face. "Thank you, daddy," she said and pitched back, curling up on the sucky rug.
"Ok, cool," Marvin, who now looked even more like what he always looked like these days, which was a fucked-up sponge, faced Diane. "Alright, what's up?"
"Well," said Diane, trying and failing to ignore Clarissa's impossibly transported, serene expression beneath the white dripping and smothered glaze of cum, "I went to see Stacey's teacher's, y'know, at the teacher conference?"
"Oh yeah," said Marvin amiably, "How was that?"
"I mean, she's doing okay, but I don't know if those teachers are really… I mean they have so many kids, I just don't know if they're paying attention to what's going on with her enough to see things. I mean..."
Marvin advocated for the perspicacity of the school staff, with whom he'd spoken twice this quarter.
Obscene noises echoed down from other cells.
The subtext of the conversation was: as far as either Marvin or Diane knew, their daughter was probably doing fine in school, but they were both actually worried about real, other things.
Diane's real thing was that Stacey had been saying for like five months now that she wanted to be a Sexinurse when she grew up. Diane was a feminist but, still, she didn't like it, for reasons she couldn't articulate. She'd tried to explain that if you were bespoke grown and curated that way, then imprinted—well, of course, what else would you do? But if you were a regular life-span person it seemed odd. And also wrong.
Marvin's real thing was he was afraid that hanging around Diane was going to fuck Stacey up.
Both of these positions being basically unspeakable, the conversation accomplished nothing. Marvin offered Diane pizza, which she didn't want, and an energy drink, which she also didn't want. The nurses slithered like cobras.
One, Illyana, who was unsophisticated, at one point started crying, and Nevis, who was also a chemist, and Nancy, who was a psychiatric clinician, stopped doubly fisting one of the fat girls and took Illyana away to the back of the cell to tell her she needed to be patient.
Illyana's English wasn't good: "But Marvin, I need thousand of his cock. What will I do without cock? Impale my ass!"
"I know, baby, just hang on, we'll get you some cock, just hang on because Marvin is talking to his friend," they said, and dried her tears with the cum-stained hems of their sexy nurse outfits.
Meanwhile Marvin and Diane kept avoiding saying anything useful, then tapered off into not talking at all.
As Diane was about to leave—just as she had said goodbye and Oh well—Diane turned back, the way people do. With an effort, she looked up into the green eyes in his big spongey face:
"Marvin, are you okay?" she said, "Do you need anything?"
"Nah, I'm good. We're good," he waved an obese hand at the sluts readying themselves to crawl back to his boner.
"For what it's worth, I'm….sorry?"
"It's cool," Marvin replied, "I landed on my feet. Really. It's cool."
Diane drew away from the clear plastic cell with its airholes and many women and went back down the echoing hall.
"Your ex seems nice," said Clarissa after Diane had left. And she meant it. Clarissa felt very sorry for Diane. Perhaps as sorry for Diane as a person could feel while still not feeling as sorry for Diane as they were hungry for Marvin's boner.
"She seemed upset," said Leticia, who also felt sorry for her, as she sucked on balls, "like she had something on her mind she didn't say."
"Why did you break up?"
"Hey why does anybody? You know, people," Marvin opined thickly, "Anyway, does anybody want anal? I will assfuck people who want anal."
"I, as well," said another in red contacts, "want anal."
"So like the 'evil of Spain' is people talk too much I guess?" Dean, with the satanic eyebrows, was saying to Alex.
Chad was apart, leaning on the hood of the Watford when Diane got out of the Batch. He swiveled alertly and smiled at Diane, moving, she thought, like a very kind piece of construction equipment. She smiled back.
"I dunno, VS Pritchett kinda gets past me," Alex said to Dean, "or else it's just guys talking? I dunno," then to Diane "All done?"
"Thank god we can get out of this place," said Alphonso, "I hate all parking lots."
A BulbFly landed on the windshield, walked in a semicircle, went away again.
"He was her oldest bespoke, a Zouave 3"
"I've had fun in parking lots," said Dean. They argued in an ignorable way.
Chad asked Diane if she was alright and Alex said of course she was, she looked fine, this was whatever easy. They'd gotten her a burrito. The dark was everywhere now, and they began to drive away.
"Has Stacey told you she wants a Raptor for her birthday?" Alex asked.
Diane had a brief awful image of her only child on a white and gold-striped Raptor with rhinestoned teeth, wearing a Marshmallow Fucks jacket, doing crimes. "I don't know, like, she fell off her Diplo twice and that thing has four legs. You think?"
"Well she's getting to that age where Diplos are considered kind of slow and boring and for babies…"
"My dad got me a candyflake Hyppo when I was her age. It was aqua. I loved that thing, I named it, I put stickers all over its butt, ," for a few seconds she wished very earnestly that she had a daughter she could even picture wanting a Hyppo but they didn't grow Hyppos any more.
"Well, you know kids—they want the cool thing. Wanda Forque's kid got a Maxwell Pony and she just cried all Christmas morning," said Alex.
"Jesus. I would have genocided everyone and their granddad for a Maxwell."
"She only fell off the Dip because the spine was defective," said Chad from the back seat. He almost added "…like I told you" but decided against it because he, like Alex, was smart.
Past the viaduct the bars got less dark and the buildings got closer together.
They went past the observatory, past a refrigerator warehouse, past the shuffling homeless sharing water, past dozens of the city's ways of snapping together lawn driveway window and porch, past palm trees lit by dizzy mating halos of BulbFlies, past emaciated old men pushing Copsicle carts on rusted chassis, past malls, past dispensaries with their fountains and beanbags and marble, past fat-tired rollers picking up suspects, past Marshmallow Fucks and Bloods wearing their colors, past people with strollers, KFC, pie drones, past the stained and sunken nozzles of bus-ports, past the museum and the Tar Pits, past closed cafes with their printed umbrellas wrapped up for the night, past balloon ads for whatever was in theaters or had just come out on injection, past parks split into baseball diamonds, past the dense and reflecting red of 911 boxes, past cars lined up for King Wendy's, past elementary schools, past kids riding their bikes and Dynos, past the Hollywood sign, past celebrity homes set in designer swamp and FastJungle, past meltyards reeking of tire rubber and reclaimed plastic, children selling pills, the Encino crater, past Frogtown, past that record store they made made into a miniature golf course, past secondhand pre-Baes with their weird backpacks walking their owners' piglets and dogs, past ice cream machines, past a crowd smoking at the long mirror outside Shoe Bar East, and past glowing signs advertising chicken.
"How was Marvin?" someone eventually said, like the formality it was.
"I saw him on Facebook it looks like he really let himself go."
"Yeah well, that's Batch life."
"He…he's ok. He seems fine. We talked. It's sorted."
"Diane, did you read that Neecy Mendiata piece on Sexinurses? She said like 90% of unbespoke American men are living in Batch now."
"Fuuuck that," said Chad.
"It is right for someone I guess?" said Alphonso, "But I don't want to be that kind of jelly bouncing guy, you know?"
"Oh hell no."
"He doesn't really bounce," went Diane and then immediately wished she hadn't because it made her think of that ass on Clarissa, "or move, really."
Alex had his hand on her arm before she even realized how shitty she felt, which she loved.
"Let's go to my place and fuck," said Chad, which she loved. Even though she wasn't up for it. He fucked like a monster.
"Go to my place, order tapas and binge-watch Corrupt Asian, drink gin and then see what happens" said Dean, which she loved.
Alphonso took in all this abstractedly, which she loved. He was her oldest bespoke—the one she cheated on Marvin with, a Zouave 3—the only sustainable generation until they'd come out with the Ally-BX.
She saw again the look on Clarissa's face, the buttons on the box you had to press to get inside, the drained swimming pool, Stacey with a lunch, the holes in the plexiglass wall, things she'd touched in the Batch. Everything in her life had at least something about it that felt very thin. Diane began to shake.
"Whoa, it's alright," said Alex, running his hand up her arm and over.
"Aw, lemme drive, Di" said Chad.
"If she wants you to drive she'll say so, chill," said Dean to Chad, barely in earshot.
Alphonso's eyes darted around the car, flashing the implausible green of all 3-series Zouaves, over at Dean, an Ally with an Encyclopac access extension, at Alex, another Ally, with an Androstenedione gate and disk empathy, at Chad, a Bae, and then, pensively, at Diane.
"Just leave me the fuck alone for a minute, ok?" said Diane, to all of them.
Alphonso leaned against the windowglass. He was thinking about Long Beach, and lemonade, and writing a novel. He'd liked novels.
"Do you want…"
"I don't want anything, Dean, ok, just leave me alone for a minute. I'm driving. I'm gonna drive and then I'm gonna go have a glass of water and then I don't know."
They all sat quietly, trying to look casual. They sucked at it. It was already awkward and they were making it more awkward by sucking at it, thought Diane. Linda had a Paladin and it was always fine, maybe she should get a Paladin? Then she hated herself for even thinking that. Then she hated the insecurity of hating herself. She was crying. She tried to remember if any of them could cry. She couldn't and trying to remember which box she'd checked somehow made her cry more. Maybe Alex for Extreme Bereavement and Traumatic Current Event (Local)?
Everything felt stupid as eight eyes watched her like she was the only thing they'd ever love because she was.