From the Glen
This story, published in the 1990s by a small magazine in California called Ellipsis, is a good example of my first love in
genre writing -- SciFi and Fantasy.
Skin Flick
by Valarie Watersun

    Lottie stirred the thin stew, grimacing at the sour smell wafting up from it. She didn't care what Helen said, no
    matter what you did to it, Camper's Delight was still garbage.
    She glanced over to the next fire where Helen and her three kids were settling down to eat. Each of them had
    their eyes fixed, with rapt attention, upon the BigVid screen, high up on the NewAge Bank's nearest wall.
    Lottie snorted contemptuously and poked at the stew. Damned Council. She hated being manipulated and every
    time she thought of the BigVid it reminded her that she was, they all were, right where the Council wanted them
    to be.
    The BigVid was originally put up as an advertising brainstorm. What better way to showcase new jeans than a
    giant TV towering over the city? Eventually the idea got old, the jeans company defunct, and the city was left with
    this huge screen flickering twenty-four hours a day, eating up kilowatts.
    So, instead of cutting the BigVid off, the Council had the area in front of the screen razed. Luckily it was mostly
    slum so there wasn't a great deal of public resistance. The thousands of homeless in the city, as the Council
    knew they would, immediately swarmed into the comforting light cast by BigVid, the mother goddess.
    Lottie pointedly avoided looking at it as much as possible. She had tried moving away once, deeper into the city,
    but discovered, much to her dismay, that she couldn't sleep, couldn't function normally at all, without the
    constant light and sound of BigVid surrounding her. Her family had been here since she could remember and it
    seemed she was here to stay as well.
    "Hey, pretty Lottie." A voice sounded softly behind her.
    "Simon!" she cried, rushing to hug him close. "Where the hell you been? I got supper ready and all."
    Simon had been fighting again, his long, thinly fleshed face was bruised and torn. Tufts of his dirty yellow hair
    had been pulled loose and now lay forlorn amid their still attached brothers. When he smiled at her she saw that
    yet another sooty, decayed tooth had been lost.
    She carefully helped him remove his patched black leather jacket, wincing as he moaned.
    "Damn, Simon. What was it over this time?"
    "I had a Pepsi."
    "A Pepsi?" Her brown eyes lit hungrily. "You had one?"
    "Yeah." He nodded wearily, "Must've fallen out when they were unloading some from the trucks. It rolled under a
    box. I saw something shiny and fetched it out."
    She was busily dishing up stew. "Shame they got it." It was a fragile question.
    He dug into his coat pocket. "Yeah, they got one, but I found two." He produced a battered but unopened can.
    Lottie squealed with happiness, causing families nearby to tear their eyes from BigVid and look over.            
    Lottie shielded the can with her body, wrapping her arms about Simon's neck. They remained that way, kissing
    and giggling until they were no longer the center of attention.
    Lottie found two paper cups that didn't leak and Simon coughed loudly to cover the pop and fizz as she opened
    the can. They sat to one side, shadowed by a pile of their belongings and enjoyed the stew and beverage. Too
    soon the chipped dishes were empty and wiped out and the paper cups carefully dried for next time. They settled
    into their usual watching place, pulling a scratchy military blanket over themselves.
    "Guess what I heard today." Simon murmured softly.
    "What? Where were you?"
    "Over by MedCare, trying to get work. I heard Hospital is paying four hundred credits a square now."
    Lottie straightened her side of the blanket angrily. "Shit! I think that's the biggest ripoff ever started."
    "Why?" He turned curious blue eyes her way.
    "The only reason they're buying skin is for rich old bitches who've been poxed and want grafts to make them
    beeeyuuuuutiful." She prissed a moment before slumping back, disgusted.
    Simon nodded his agreement while the BigVid sang about Caribbean cruises. "I know, but four hundred credits..."
    They fell into silence, watching a woman cop chase a bad guy through city streets. The lady cop shot the bad
    guy, tears in her eyes, and the BigVid switched to a condom ad.
    "I'd buy a Bike if I had that kind of credit."
    Lottie turned to him, "Hmm? A Bike?" She grinned. "Now where would you drive to in a Bike?"
    "Away from the city," he snarled, mad because she was making fun. "Someplace green, and quiet. I'd buy nice
    clothes, too, and a job. I'd buy the job first thing so I could keep credit coming..." He spoke on, his eyes glowing
    as he listed the comforts and pleasures he'd buy if only....
    "Simon." Lottie finally said, trying gently to bring him back to reality. "Forget it, honey. You don't have any skin,
    maybe one square if you're lucky. It won't go that far."
    He swung his gaze around, "Huh? Yeah, yeah, I know. I might have a square though, no shit." He pulled his T-
    shirt up and his jeans down, exposing the fragile area between groin and navel. "What do you think?"
    Lottie bent over, trying to see in the dim light shed by BigVid.
    Alabama Pox, or BamaPox, as it was more commonly referred to, was a venereal disease, a bad one. If you
    didn't contract it on your own, you had to pay for your mama's sins when you were born with bad, grainy skin.
    Most of the people Lottie knew, mainly the homeless and indigent, were affected, but she'd heard that the well-
    offs on the other side of the city were passing it back and forth among themselves now. Thus the need for
    grafts. They could afford to pay the big bucks, and you could get pretty well off yourself, if you had skin. Simon
    didn't.
    "I don't know, Simon...." Lottie murmured, trying to find a good four-inch by four-inch square of unetched
    surface. "You might have one here. I'd give it a shot if I were you. Go over and let them have a look. Four
    hundred credits is four hundred credits, after all."
    He dropped his shirt. "Yeah, I might do it." He looked at her sideways. "Why don't you go down?"
    "Ha! I ain't no fool. I may not have much, but at least I've still got my skin. It'll probably be gone in a few
    years, true, but it's good for now and I think I'll keep it." She grew pensive. "I saw a guy who sold it all. He
    looked like hell, all molded up with PlastiSkin. I don't want to go through the rest of my life looking like some
    grandma's old quilt. That fake stuff is good, but it never looks exactly the same. Credit just ain't enough." She
    shook her head and chewed on a piece of string.
    Simon watched her in the pale light, taking in her fishbelly white cheeks, unmarked and shiny, and felt a deep
    pang of dismay twist his gut. She was pretty, at least for the moment. It wouldn't be too long before her skin
    would also start failing, soon it would be like his. Tears welling, he leaned over and kissed her gently. They lay
    together, their kisses deepening, ignored by their BigVid absorbed neighbors.
    Washed out sunlight woke her softly the next morning. She reached for Simon but he wasn't there. Slowly,
    tiredly, she pulled her disarranged clothing about herself, listening to the early morning stirrings of those around
    her. Her belly rumbled hatefully but she pushed both fists into it and it stopped, at least for a while. She'd have
    to go on a food hunt pretty quick, though.
    Simon was walking toward her, a paper cup balanced precariously in his hand. She smiled fondly at him. He
    really was sweet, and even though poxed, very handsome, with his spiky blond hair and tall gaunt slimness.
    "I brought you something," he said as he got closer. "It's Pepsi." This was whispered slyly, as he darted his eyes
    about pointedly so she'd know not to act excited.
    She grinned her gratitude and took a long sip of the wet, dark carbonation. "Ahh, that's good. Thanks. Where'd
    you get it?"
    "Oh, around." He shrugged, watching her warily.
    There was something about him... some look in his eye that warned her. Too late she saw the achingly white
    Hospital van parked behind some rusting old-timey cars.
    "Blowfish Tox!" she breathed, feeling the numbness and uselessness seeping over her. The paper cup exploded
    on hard asphalt, spraying paralyzing foam.
    "How could you?" she wailed, while she was still able.
    "Traitor!" she hissed, as her mouth quit working.
    She fell to the ground and he caught her head, pillowing it before it hit.
    "It's for us, Lottie, you and me. Our ticket out of here. It won't be so bad, you'll see. They promised me you'll
    be okay. Think of the credit." He looked into her frightened, glazing eyes and spoke with slow force. "Think of
    what we can do with the credit."
    He paused to hold her close. White clad workers were coming with the slings.
    "Don't worry about how you're gonna look, Lottie baby, it won't matter to me. I'll still love you. I'll always love
    you.
Thanking Gertrude Stein was published in 2004 in Sinister Wisdom, Issue #62            

Thanking Gertrude Stein
By  Valarie Watersun

    “Envelope,” she said to me when I came home Monday.
    Monday had been a difficult day at work. Mondays are often difficult. My job deals with problems and I stay busy.
    As one of a team of media troubleshooters for a large publishing firm, taking care of  ‘issues’ that develop is part
    of what I do. Image is everything and when it comes to public relations for the company, I’m one of the ones
    responsible for maintaining a sterling image.
    Because it had been such a rough day, my mind was still chewing leather when I arrived home. The apartment was
    exactly as I had left it that morning, filled with books and magazines and stacks of unopened mail. Dust had
    taken permanent residence. I tried to be irritated. She smiled at me however, and my thoughts slowly stopped
    chewing. I felt a swallowing occur on the psychic level.
    She moved across the living room carpet toward me, accompanied by the subtle hum of her computer. The
    soothing noise is a constant in our life, part of the foundation of our relationship. I could no more picture Macie
    without her computer than I could picture Macie without her hands. The machine was a part of her. Not in a
    computer geek sort of way—I don’t think she knows an XML from a PDF—but the computer is her lifeline, the
    pathway to her inner muse.
    Macie is a writer, author of more than twenty books, two of them bestsellers. You’d never guess this about her
    because she never really talks. Most of her words go into her books. The ones left for real life are rare and
    significant, vital snippets of communication. She avoids people because they talk too much. Not everyone
    understands her. I understand her.
    “Envelope”, she murmured as she moved into my arms. My briefcase fell to the floor, the ugly Time Magazine
    review forgotten in the fragrant fog of Macie.
    “Envelope?” I asked, looking into her dark green eyes.
    “Envelope”, she assured me, tucking her arms under my blazer and around my waist. They felt good against the
    cotton of my shirt, the fabric magnifying the smooth heat of her palms. She slid these palms upward, tickling
    fingers tucking into the dampness of my armpits. The fingers rotated and fell in onto themselves like small half-
    grown hamsters vying for the best position in the nest.
    Envelope was her word of the day, a word that she would use to tell me something, to express an abstract idea. It
    was her art.
    I slid my arms around her thin waist. It always amazed me how small she felt. Her body was like that of a
    longhaired cat. You always assumed there would be more resistance, more substance when you held her. Macie
    felt fragile, her form pliable and tender. And the smell of her--peaches. Always peaches. Never the sick-sweet
    smell of peach schnapps but the musky, hazy, still-on-the-tree-but-ripe smell of fresh peaches. I think it was this
    smell that connected me to her in the beginning: I was the somnolent wasp held in the tractor-beam of her
    pheromone.
    The museum had been unusually noisy the day we’d met. Construction on a new display sounded from an
    adjoining room. We both, drawn by the promise of silence, I believe, had moved into the room filled with old
    masters. Titian pronounced from one wall while Rembrandt enticed from another.
    I noticed her blond hair first. I can’t lie; I have a real thing about blondes. And the blonder the better. I even like
    it when the eyebrows and lashes are so pale that they are barely visible. This describes Macie perfectly. Add a
    heart shaped face, wide cougar eyes and an expressive mouth framing small baby teeth and this is what I saw
    that day. I was enchanted by the fairy tale of who she appeared to be. I felt I had to get closer, had to know this
    person.
    And then the scent washed over me and I knew without a moment’s hesitation that I was a goner. Head over
    heels in love and she had not even said a word.
    Then she spoke. Her first word was “Macie.” Her eyes caught mine and I was intrigued by her enjoyment and by
    her interest in me. I realized that she had spoken her name and I told her I was Carla and that I was a media
    coordinator, as if she cared. I knew somehow deep that she didn’t care, that my own dependence on job titles and
    important tasks had no slot in her world. I found myself wondering about that world and about how I could fit
    there.
    She had taken my hand in hers then laid it high across the warm slope of her breast, as Rembrandt looked on
    with an amused air.
    “Noisy,” she confided in a whisper, rolling her eyes.
    “Yes”, I replied, wondering what to say next. As it turned out, no further words were necessary. Hand in hand we
    walked among the paintings; a beautiful woman crafted by Bellini, the violence of Elsheimer, the sneaky eyes of a
    David work, dozens more. At each one she paused and sighed, as if this subtle beauty was, at last, what she’d
    been searching for. I stayed with her for hours, always touching her in some way, our bodies dancing on an occult
    level. How odd we must have appeared to onlookers, my tall wiry form connected to her tiny, elfin blondeness.
    Now, in the quiet home we’d shared for more than a year, I looked into her eyes and still felt the same
    connection. As well as the same passion she had awakened in me so long ago. The word she had spoken
    lingered. I could taste the sound of it.
    “Shall I fold you?” I asked, kissing the dip of her neck. “Shall I lick you?”
    I felt a prolonged shudder move through her and knew she had embarked on that slow journey to arousal. I
    pulled one hand free to work at the buttons of her shirt. Her small breasts peeked out like cautious ferrets and I
    moved my palm across one, pausing to hold it gently. Waves of sensation washed across me as I thought of
    envelopes, of putting my hand in the sleek wetness between her legs. I felt my own legs start to melt, beginning
    at the apex, the envelope.
    The whispers started then and the sound of the words rang through me, heating my passion and my need.
    “Envelope,” she said.
    “Fill,” she said.
    “Wrap” she said.
    “Fold,” she said, her hands rubbing across the skin of my lower back. She was savoring the whispers, morsels of
    writing nourishment that would sustain her for days.
    “Smooth,” she added as an afterthought.
    I pulled back and began slowly folding the edge of her unbuttoned Oxford shirt. I started at the bottom and
    folded it up until she shed it like a chrysalis that had held her for too long. I looked at her bare torso, the poetry
    of it creating other words inside me.
    All I could say aloud was “Macie.”
    She came to me, smiling and led me to the bedroom. We folded into a packet of primal energy, folding and
    ripping envelopes until we lay exhausted and silent, each pondering the new words generated within.
    Two days later the word was universes.
    The day had been bad and I had fallen behind the team. I had begun wondering if this was the job for me. I
    often missed the days of working in greenhouses, surrounded by sultry air and the smell of new growth and earth.
    Money had called like a blonde siren however, and I had replaced earth with concrete and new growing things with
    a growing bank balance. Daydreams pulled at me and I wasn’t keeping up, dangerous in this business.
    She met me at the door with a yellow book in her hands.
    “Universes,” she whispered.
    “What is that you’re reading,” I asked, turning the small volume over. It was Fist of Sun by Brugnaro, a favorite of
    my father’s.
    “Universes?” she asked.
    “Not tonight, Macie,” I said. “I’m behind and don’t have time to listen to you. I really don’t. I love you but this
    stuff is important.” I pushed my briefcase toward her, pushed it between us.
    She watched me, her eyes darkening.
    “Universes,” she insisted.
    Irritation stirred in me. Every day was the same. Words. Words. Each day I had to discern the meaning. The
    subjective meaning; what it meant to her. It was a sharing I was not in the mood for. I had my own words to deal
    with tonight. I would hear her words tomorrow.
    I sighed and unbuttoned the top button of my shirt. “Look, I’m going to change. We can talk later, when I’m
    finished. You go write something. Work while I’m home for a change so I can work too.”
    She stepped back and I passed by her to the bedroom. As I undressed, I could hear the click of her fingertips on
    the computer keyboard and I let out the breath I hadn’t realized I’d been holding.
    The next afternoon I came home to an empty apartment. There was no one at the door and the air was eerily
    still. I realized within seconds that the computer, with its endless hum, had gone. So had Macie.
    There was a single word written on the ornate living room mirror. Universes, it said.
    I found her at her sister’s house. Rowena was larger than Macie, with coarser features and bright burgundy hair.
    She had a loud house full of rowdy children. I knew Macie was like a fish out of water there. Our life was very
    quiet, the single words very important, not mixed helter skelter with useless verbiage. She would fade here; waste
    away under the onslaught of sound. I swelled with guilt knowing my harshness had brought her here.
    “Carla.” Rowena greeted me with a nod. She held a squirming toddler in her arms and I was amazed the child
    didn’t fall. She held him expertly as she studied my face.
    “Where is she, Ro?”
    “In the back. I don’t know if you can do anything. Her word was ‘done’. That sounds pretty final.”
    “No, that can’t be.” I spread my hands in helplessness. “We’ll never be done. She belongs with me.”
    “What did you do to her?” She allowed the toddler to squirm to the floor and he ran into the kitchen.
    I hung my head, shamed. “I didn’t listen. I didn’t listen.”
    “To the words?” Her mouth hung open in awe. Everyone listened to Macie. It was important.
    I nodded, afraid I would cry if I spoke. I thought of what I’d said. Go write something. I had forgotten for a
    moment that the time she spent with me was her writing. It was how she created life from a void. The time she
    spent away from me during the day was for the mechanics, the typing to paper. When she was with me or with
    others close to her, she was creating.
    Rowena stood watching me, her arms folded into an envelope across her chest. “She’s not like us, Carla. You
    know she’s a writer. She sees the world from a different place, a place of words and transient meanings. You know
    this. Knew this in the beginning.”
    “Yes. Yes, I did. I do.”
    Rowena moved aside with a sigh and shake of her head. “Go try. Good luck.”
    I knew the way to the guest room because Macie and I had stayed there during the Christmas holidays. The
    familiar, comforting hum of her computer wafted from under the closed door. I put my hand on the knob and took
    a deep breath. After knocking gently, I stepped inside. Though surrounded by her reference books, her
    dictionaries, and her manuscripts, she was not home and appeared out-of-place, like a small child perched at a
    grown-up dining table.
    Macie stood and her eyes stared at me from dark sockets lined by grief. I realized the extent of the damage I’d
    caused when I saw her. Tears welled in my eyes and my heart actually hurt in my chest.
    “Macie,” I said and reached for her. She moved back, away from my arms.
    “Farewell,” she said.
    “Irreparable,” she added
    “Macie, no. You can’t do this. I’m sorry. I really am. I forgot what it’s all about. I forgot about the words. I forgot
    what they mean, how important they are.”
    She watched me steadily and stepped toward me. There was no welcome in her face, however, and daunted, I
    moved backward. Soon I was past the door frame and she gently, so gently, shut the door.
    My life ended. I left Rowena’s house in a stupor. I wandered the streets until fear and darkness chased me inside.
    The apartment was a prison cell, a place of punishment now that Macie was gone. Sleep became an icon of faith;
    a thing I merely believed was possible. The next day I stumbled to the office and quit my job. It felt like the right
    thing to do and I had an irrational dream it would make everything else fall into place.
    Days folded one into the other after that. I knew I needed to work although the prospect left me cold. I walked
    into greenhouses seeking peace and eventually encountered a friend who commiserated and found work for me. I
    worked yet found no sustenance.
    I ignored the knock at first, believing it was an illusion designed by a feverish brain, and continued chewing my
    one remaining fingernail. Nestled into the sofa, I had surrounded myself with photos of Macie. They talked to me.
    The knock sounded again, hesitant and slow and I knew suddenly who waited on the other side.
    “Empty,” she said, pulling my hand to her chest. A warm tear fell onto the back of my hand.
    I pulled her into the room and close to me, my own tears welling anew.
    “Envelope,” I said, my voice hoarse with longing.
    “Filled,” she said, a smile trembling at the corner of her mouth.
    “Sealed,” I added, staring into her eyes.
(c) 2007 Valarie Watersun
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