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Better Living with Mantis Shrimp Vision

By Kate M Tyte

 

Image by Mike Workman

 

“Not much call for mantis shrimp,” the man said, leaning forwards over the desk. “Like I said, we usually do owls.”

“But can you do it?”

“Of course we can do it. I mean, we’ve done a mantis shrimp before, but we can give you any kind of eyes you want.” 

He gestured at the photographs on the wall: most of the people had owl eyes, but there was a man with the green mesh of a dragonfly’s eyes, like two huge speakers bulging out of his head, and another with the eerie horizontal slits of a goat’s pupil. 

“Very complex eyes, the mantis shrimp,” the man commented. “Humans have three photoreceptors: red, green and blue; mantis shrimp have sixteen. Their eyes process visual information without routing it to the brain. They can literally see faster than we can. A lot of people get excited about that and think they see in some kind of psychedelic technicolour, but in reality they mainly detect UV and polarised light.”

I hate being patronised by guys like him who think they know everything. I’d done all the research, I knew more about mantis shrimp eyes than he ever would. I felt like walking out but no other clinics would give me what I wanted. 

“What line of business are you in? Some type of artist, I suppose?” He asked.

“I’m an accountant,” I said. My business was none of his business. 

“What’s an accountant going to do with the animal kingdom’s fastest-processing and most sophisticated eyeballs?”

I felt my face getting hot from embarrassment. There was no way I was going to share my plans with this guy, just so he could laugh at me.

“It’s personal,” I said. “Personal reasons. I’ve got the money. Untraceable virtual credits, like you asked.”

I pushed my phone across the desk to show him. 

“Are you sure you wouldn’t prefer a nice owl? We’re doing a discount on owls at the moment.”

“No thanks.”

“How about a slow loris? Young people love them, for that big-eyed manga look.”

“No,” I said, “I need mantis shrimp.”

“Alright then sir,” he sighed, as though he were doing me a favour. “Go through to Dr Chen.” He pointed at the door.

 

***

 

After the procedure my eyeballs felt like they’d been sandpapered. Dr Chen said that when I got to the end of the corridor I would be able to focus clearly. But I could hardly see a thing. What if she’d lied? What if it hadn’t worked? I hesitated and looked back. The door was closed. I continued towards the exit, trailing my hand along the wall to steady myself. 

Halfway down the corridor, my new vision began to kick in and the world snapped into focus. At the door I put on my sunglasses, which felt heavy against my bruised cheekbones.

The bright sunshine was dazzling, so I was relieved when my car arrived. I sank gratefully into its comfortable seat as it took me home, smoothly and quietly weaving its way through the city. I closed my eyes for a moment and when I opened them again I sensed a movement in my peripheral vision. Another car was coming up on our right. It was going to cut in front of us, I knew it. I tapped on the brake button before my car even started to slow and the overtaking car slid in front of us with centimetres to spare. 

I had never pressed the brake before. Cars drove themselves so well there was no need to. Although the laws had changed when I was a child and my father hadn’t driven for about twenty years, he still went on about it: the freedom of driving yourself, the joy of pressing a pedal with your foot and turning a wheel with your hands. I had thought it was all nostalgia, but I had pushed the brake button, I had anticipated, I had practically seen into the future, and it gave me a strange feeling of power. With my new eyes I’d been ever faster than the car. Maybe my dad was right. My phone cheeped.

“Congratulations Declan Smith!” it said.  “Thanks to successful human intervention, an accident has been avoided. Your passenger rating has been increased by fifty points. 

You now have two free journeys.” 

 

***

 

“Close the blinds and adjust the mirrors to one eighty,” I told my HomeHub.

The mechanism whirred and the mirrors folded inwards to give the full view of my face, with its acne scars and pimples; my bulging nose pitted with pores; the pitiful, straggling beard I had tried to grow to conceal my weak jaw line; the obscene, damp hole of mouth with its crenulation of teeth, like a sinister row of headstones. I’d had those teeth straightened and whitened at great cost, but it didn’t make any difference. No wonder I couldn’t get any female attention.

Without needing to be asked, HomeHub misted the bathroom plants with water and released a puff of fragrance. I didn’t really care about the plants, but Brad, my dating coach, said females like state of the art bathrooms with plants, so I’d had all that installed, in preparation.

I took off the sunglasses. The soft area between my brow bone and my cheek bones was swollen and bruised the deep purple-red of two ripe plums. I blinked painfully. My new eyeballs were a mushroomy brown and the shape of upturned satellite dishes. Their surfaces were broken into velvety-looking clusters of photo-receptors. A dark, black band wrapped horizontally across the centre of the eye and a thick, gristly-looking rim of muscle held them in their sockets. 

The more I looked at my new eyes, the more I loved them. I couldn’t believe that guy from earlier, going on about owls. He’d been trying to give me big, cute girly eyes, so I’d look like a queer. My mantis eyes were tough and masculine. They dominated my face and drew attention away from all of its defects. Females would be so fascinated by my new eyes they wouldn’t notice how ugly I was. They would finally see that I was a nice guy, ready to anticipate their every need, like plants in the bathroom and stuff. 

My whole life I’d always been friend-zoned. It had started in secondary school, with Kelly. I was so nice to Kelly, I bought her presents and left them in cute places for her to find, like in her locker and the flowerpot where her mum left the spare keys. After a few weeks the head teacher asked me to her office and she had all the presents piled on her desk, and she told me to leave Kelly alone. Then I discovered Kelly was going out with a good-looking, football-playing idiot called Mike. That’s when I first learned that females were shallow.

I pestered my parents to get my teeth fixed but I was still ugly. I would never be rich because I was too nice to be an entrepreneur, and I was no good at football. By the time I started work, I’d almost resigned myself to a life of celibacy. But on my way to work one day, an advert had flashed onto my screen. 

“Are you tired of watching females throwing themselves at low-quality men, while superior guys like you get overlooked?” The man said. The first seminar was free, so I went.

Our coach, Brad, explained that to females, big muscles were more important than a pretty face. Think of it like this, he said, “it’s not that men don’t like small tits; it’s just that big ones are impossible to ignore. It’s the same with muscles.” 

I followed Brad’s No Hope to Top Bloke programme, lifting weights in the gym and strictly controlling my nutritional intake. My paunch melted away and my pecs got bigger. Brad said females want an alpha: dominant, confident and physically capable. Dominate by taking up as much space as you can: stand tall, puff your chest out and spread your legs when sitting. Brad said lack of self-confidence was holding back my self-actualization.

“Who’s your ideal female?” he asked. 

“Gemma Boone,” I said.

Most of the guys made grunting noises of agreement. Brad whistled. 

“What’s so great about her?” he asked. There was laughter. “OK, OK, so we all know what’s great about her, but in your own words, Declan.”

“Um…” I said. I wished I’d never said anything. I didn’t want to tell them about Gemma, to have her paraded around like that. “She’s sexy but sort of… innocent.”

Gemma was so pale she looked washed clean and no matter what they did to her, it never seemed dirty. She retained her dignity in any scenario. No matter how extreme, she always kept some part of herself pure and untouched. The idea that nobody could ever really possess Gemma drove me wild: it was like she had some secret part of herself that she could retreat into. But what was that secret part? I mean, she had no secret parts. I had seen every square centimetre of her body up close in Real View. 

I imagined her willingly offering that secret place up to me, like one of those plush little boxes rings come in, soft and velvety to the touch, with a thin slit in the centre that you could push your finger into. “None of the others are man enough, Declan,” she said. “You’re the only one powerful enough to control it.” Slowly, slowly, I would open the box, and there it would be, nestling in that little crack, a pulsing, red, wet jewel, slippery and glowing with brilliant light.

“So you see an innocent-looking female like Gemma,” Brad was saying. “You think, ‘she’s a good girl, I can’t close the deal with her,’ but that’s another self-limiting belief. Innocent outside can be dirty on the inside.”

Brad took us hunting in bars. He told us how to scan the room and identify our targets, picking out the 1% of females who were available for immediate sex with us, without wasting our time on attention seekers who just wanted free drinks. Women put out signals, Brad said: you read them; identify the target; engage; and close the deal.

“Hey,” I said, trying to make my voice as deep as possible to deliver a killer neg that would undermine the target’s confidence, and show what an alpha I was. “Your lipstick is a weird colour.”

“What shade would you recommend, then?” she asked.

“Um…,” I stumbled. I hadn’t expected this. Lipstick was either red or pink, wasn’t it? “Red?” I ventured. 

“What shade of red, exactly?”

“Um…” Before I could think of a suitable response, another female had put a drink into her hand and she’d slipped away.  

When I turned around and Brad was standing right there in front of me. He sighed and patted me on the shoulder. 

“Don’t worry, Declan, you just need a bit more practise reading the signals,” he said. 

I kept asking Brad what these secret female signals actually were, but he never gave me a straight answer. 

That night, home alone as usual, I felt too depressed even to watch Gemma. Why couldn’t I pick out the right female, like Brad? I scrolled through the programmes, coming to rest on nature documentaries. A man with a deep voice was explaining animal mating rituals. Mostly, the males fought each other and the biggest, strongest one got all the females. It seemed so simple. I must have nodded off for a moment, because I heard the man say, “…the most sophisticated eyes on the planet… sensing the signals…” and my eyes snapped open. HomeHub showed a close-up showed the eyes of the mantis shrimp, then a series of diagrams. Brad said the only reason I couldn’t close the deal was because I couldn’t see the signals. But mantis shrimp can see everything. If I had mantis shrimp eyes, I would be able to see everything too, wouldn’t I? 

“HomeHub, remind me tomorrow to research mantis shrimp,” I said. 

 

***

 

After the business with the car I felt so confident I shaved off my beard. As I stood in front of the mirror with the razor in my hand I could see every movement of my face: my pulse flickered beneath my skin and my blood rose to flood the surface capillaries and dropped away again. The secret signals had become visible, but now I needed to know how to interpret them.  Using myself as my first subject, I began a systematic study of my reactions. In the mirror, I watched myself watching different things: my favourite comedy shows; Gemma Boone; soldiers being beheaded in the desert. I catalogued and classified they ways my skin expressed my feelings. Skin had always been a barrier, locking me out, but now it was permeable: a porous covering of the wet body underneath, constantly throbbing with fears and desires. 

After a couple of days, I turned to a study of females. From behind the shelter of my dark glasses I watched them on the Underground, at the gym, in the office canteen and at meetings. I assumed that other people’s reactions signified the same things as mine, but of course it was a difficult hypothesis to test. The female opposite me on the tube, with the big rabbit ears, for instance. She was reading on her screen. Her skin flush and her heart beat faster. Those were my first reactions when I watched Gemma Boone, so I assumed she was reading something dirty. If I could catch her eye she might be available for immediate sex with me. 

At lunch that day I stood in line at the office canteen. The server lifted my plate of chicken and salad to the counter and both my hands shot out, jerked it away from her and plonked it on my tray. 

“Careful!” she said, rubbing her arms where a bit of sauce had slopped on them.

“Sorry,” I muttered.

I was disoriented. I hadn’t intended to grab the tray, it had just happened, a reflex action outside my control. I was floating somewhere outside my body, disconnected from myself. 

“Hungry today, Dec?” asked my colleague, Tan, bringing me back to earth. “Probably all this dieting.”

I shrugged. Tan was good to work with, and unlike some of my co-workers, who had started avoided me after I got my new eyes, Tan was always outwardly friendly. But he was patronising; always trying to give me advice and improve me. He didn’t listen. We’d argued about Brad and about my eyes. Tan said I just needed to be myself, which was totally stupid. Today, though, I wondered if he was right. Maybe I was behaving strangely because I was hungry.

I decided to abandon the No Hope to Top Bloke program and eat whatever I wanted. 

A week later, my manager called me into his office. 

“How are you feeling, Mr Smith?” he asked.

“Never better,” I said. 

He cleared his throat. “I’ve received a number of reports about your strange behaviour recently.”

I nodded. A fly was buzzing lazily near the window, changing direction quickly. It was fascinating.

“Like eating trash out of the bins,” he continued.

“I don’t eat out of bins,” I said.

“Let’s just watch this video, shall we?” 

OfficeHub projected the video automatically. It showed a man coming out of the back doors of the office just as a gust of wind flapped open the top of the wheelie bin. The man dropped his bag and sprinted towards the bin, leapt up and knocked it over, then dived in and rooted around. 

The fly was crawling across the wall, over the image. 

The man got hold of an old pizza box. He worried at it with his teeth like a dog, and all the while he was whimpering and snorting, making horrible animal noises. Then a light went on in the office and the man froze. Someone else came out and he grabbed his bag and scuttled away. My boss turned the video off. 

“You can see why we’re worried,” he said.

“That wasn’t me,” I said. I had no memory of eating trash from bins. If I’d been doing that, I would have remembered, wouldn’t I?

“It was you.”

“It could have been anyone.”

“OfficeHub identified you,” he said.

I said nothing. The fly was danced about near his desk now.  Any moment now it would come my way.

“Listen, we’re very sympathetic to eating disorders, but we can’t have employees behaving like this. Since you got those horrible eyes your performance has really been affected. I’ve referred you to a psychologist and I expect you to go. We’re prepared to support you, but you need to meet us halfway.”

“I don’t need a psychologist,” I said. “These eyes are really helping me.”

“How?”

The fly swooped towards me. I snapped it up with my finger and thumb, popped it in my mouth and crunched it up. I felt much better.

Pulses of surprise and anxiety flickered over my boss’s face. 

“Mr Smith,” he said, “Just go to the psychologist and we’ll take it from there.”

 

***

 

I was relieved to reach the weekend. I went to the city centre, to give myself maximum opportunity to look at females. I took the tube to Westminster and walked over the bridge. The South Bank it was all jangling sensation. Children squealed and shrieked as they ran in and out of the water jets that bubbled up from the pavement. A crowd of tourists stared up at a group of acrobats on a makeshift tightrope, hanging off it with monkey tails, flipping around to the thud of music. The tourists squealed with excitement as one of the acrobats slipped and fell, and was caught by another, just before he hit the ground. Those tourists were idiots. It was all staged and rehearsed for maximum effect; the acrobats’ expressions of fear were fake.

I passed by the aquarium and felt a pull somewhere inside me. I went in, and passed into the main attraction, a tunnel under a huge tank, where sharks and manta rays glided smoothly and silently overhead in a dim light. It was so peaceful. I rested my head gently against the thick glass to watch the creatures. 

After a while I moved on to the smaller tanks of less prized creatures. The translucent, shimmering prawns bobbed and weaved amongst long ribbons of green seaweed. They were talking to each other, I realised, flashing effervescent signals over their bodies. I stared in fascination as my eyes adjusted. There was one in particular… a female… her signals sent a warm hypnotic buzz through my body. I could feel those electric pulses beating inside my spinal column, flashing up and down; a low throbbing, bass signal keeping up a dark pulse, a pulse, a pulse; and above it a high, soft, jittery glitter, a sort of cascade of tingling that started in my eyes and spread into my tongue and deeper and deeper…

“Excuse me, Sir.” A uniformed security guard was standing over me. “This is a family attraction. Take your hand out of your pants.” 

I couldn’t have moved faster if I’d spilt hot coffee on myself. I had that awful jarring sensation of being recalled to myself again, from somewhere very far away.

I looked around. A female in pink shorts and a Lion King T-shirt was clutching a child, her mouth open in a pink O of shock. 

“Come with me please, sir,” the guard said. I shuffled after him, my cheeks burning, looking down at my feet. 

The guard ushered me out of a side door and onto the bright, busy street. 

 “Your image is in our data banks now,” he said. “Listen mate, I don’t know what your problem is, but you’re barred from this establishment. You should get help.” He closed the door.  

I went into an old-fashioned pub to calm down and sat there drinking until nightfall. I understood other people better than I ever before, but I could no longer understand myself. On my way home it started to rain, and I stopped, enchanted by the slow blink of the traffic lights reflected on wet tarmac in a long, damp trail, alternating  between green and red. Green and red, green and red, green and red, sending tingles down my spine…

“Oi!” a bloke shoved me. “Fucking nonce,” he said. 

“Hey!” I said.

He turned back to look at me but I shrugged. I didn’t need to fight with pathetic, uptight guys like that. His dominant act was just a show. He was scared. 

 

***

 

I soon stopped going to work. I didn’t see the point and the bright daylight and electrical light gave me headaches. I unplugged all my devices. In the darkness, and without HomeHub to take care of them, the plants in the bathroom died. I’d wasted years of my life staring at OfficeHub’s images all day, to earn enough credits to stare at HomeHub’s images all evening. I was free from all that now. I was a self-sufficient, independent alpha. I could do what I liked. 

But people kept bothering me. The HR department called and asked if I was sick. My boss called. The psychologist called. Tan called, several times, asking if I was OK.  My mother called me every day for a week. I stopped answering. I dreaded them turning up at my door, so I decided to move out. There was no reason to stay in the flat. I didn’t need my mother fussing over me.

I set off for the train station and on my way I saw a throng of men crowded outside a building. I crept up close to them and saw sexual excitement pulsing on their faces, and competition, hostility. The doors opened and two big men pushed out, flanking a petite, pale-haired female.

“Gemma!” the men roared. “Gemma, Gemma!” 

They were shoving and jostling each other now, snapping pictures and thrusting pens and photos out to her. She stopped and quickly scribbled on a few of the images before the bodyguards hustled her away. As she got into a car, she glanced at me for a fraction of a second. She had barely noticed me. I realised I didn’t mind. I hadn’t watched Gemma for ages. I’d hardly even thought about her. The realisation that I didn’t care about my previous passions gave me an odd twinge of painful longing, like looking back with nostalgia on the last pains of a paralysed leg. 

I used the last of my credits to go to Brighton. I slept on the soft white sand of the artificial beach, between the inner and outer tidal protection walls. It was strange to think that the houses and streets of old Brighton were just buried here, under the sand and out in the lagoon. A few days later I found an abandoned building just outside the town, with the utilities long shut off. It was perfect for me. I made myself a nest of old papers behind a rusty refrigerator, to sleep in during the day. 

At night I walked the city. I never went hungry. I saw hunger on the faces of other hungry nocturnal walkers and followed them up to the tidal wall, where there was an old-fashioned place, with a red neon sign saying “Harry Ramsden’s” and on a printed sign below that, “100% lab grown fish-flavoured protein.” There were always plenty of people there, scavenging for food, and in other places. I just followed their signals. 

One evening I woke to see there was something new on the edge of town. It emanated a neon haze, a violent jagged crackle of electricity, all flashing lights and noise. It must have sprung up during the day, while I was sleeping. I followed the crowds, all drawn towards the new attraction, and someone pushed an old-fashioned paper into my hand: Carter’s Travelling Fair. 

Thumping, repetitive music pulsed through the air, the kind of thing my granddad used to play when we were kids. There was a stench of frying oil, hot sugar and chemicals. The immense power of this place throbbed through my body. Every face was sizzling with extreme emotions: fear and desire competed with each other, shifting past each other in a dance of repulsion and attraction, and I got more and more excited.

I remembered my grandfather talking about these funfairs, something he’d done as a kid. It was a different world, he said: none of these regulations about pollution and recycling. At the entrance a big guy with the chest and arms of a gorilla was frisking the crowd, while a hyena-snouted man harried people into line. The females squealed and giggled. At the entrance people were queuing with their phones, exchanging credits for stacks of metal tokens, to exchange for rides and games. Inside there were booths where you shot at targets to win huge toys, or goldfish in plastic bags. The fish were listless, emitting only dull, faint pulses. They didn’t have long left. 

I wandered around and looked at the rides. Shrieking kids were flung up into the sky in a big, flashing ball. People drove little cars over a smooth surface and deliberately rammed into each other. On one ride people sat together strapped into carts which looped around a track spinning faster and faster. Feral-looking men with fox tails and snouts, owl eyes or crow’s beaks, ambled lazily over the ever-shifting boards, as steadily as if they’d been born there, giving an extra push and a leer to the teenage girls who screamed, fear and pleasure racing over their faces. Even the workers were riding that surge. 

Excitement rose up inside me, and then it hit me, fully: a female wanted me. My heart hammered in my chest and I felt light-headed. My mouth was dry. I was reading the signals, they were crystal clear now. She was hot, it was written all over her; I could tell by the way the pulses flashed through her long, curved limbs. For the first time ever, I had identified a target. She strobed and pulsed with powerful light. 

There was a queue of people waiting to spend time with her, but I skirted them and sidled up behind her. When I was sure nobody was looking I clambered over the low, painted barrier that surrounded her and put a hand on her. Her positive signals were as strong as ever. She had a name painted on her side in old-fashioned script: Tracey. 

Somebody was shouting at me. It was the hyena-snouted man.

“You’re trespassing! Authorised personnel only, get away from there!” He snarled and growled at me, and I could see he meant business.

“I only want to be close to her,” I said.

“You pay your money for the rides like all the rest mate,” he snapped. 

Reluctantly I moved on. But I promised her I’d be back. I just needed to find a way to get some tokens. 

As I walked through the fair, I saw all the same mixture of desire and pleasure flashing over every face. All except one. This guy was nervous, terrified, in a higher key than anybody else. He was wearing a hoodie and looking down, keeping himself secret, and holding something up to his chest. He was going to do something dangerous. I went after him, weaving in and out of the crowds, moving away from the main areas and ducking under a fence. I looked about for the hyena man, but I didn’t see him, so I followed. He went past a canvas partition to a hidden area, and I slipped after him. I was shocked to see a bank of fossil-fuel generators. The man stood there for a while, breathing hard. Then he rolled back his sleeve to reveal a mod: one hand replaced by a huge crab’s claw. He was going to cut the cables. My instincts overrode his: my arms shot out and grabbed him from behind in a bear hug, kicking his legs out and throwing him down on the ground. I tightened my grip as he struggled, desperate to keep away from that big snapping claw. 

“I need help!” I yelled.

Several men came instantly. The gorilla-bodied man grabbed hold of the claw man, while a hyena-snouted man snarled at me and backed me up against the hoardings, baring his wicked teeth.

“He was trying to cut the power!” I said. 

“One of those environmental freaks, eh?” said gorilla man.

The claw man gasped, “You people are a pack of criminals!”

A fox-faced man stepped forward calmly and wrapped duct tape over the claw, sealing it shut.

“You should have let him try,” he said. “Fried lobster claw. Delicious.”

The hyena man laughed, an ugly, frightening sound, and the gorilla man pushed the claw man onto the ground. He beat his chest in appreciation.

“What say we have ourselves a little fish supper, eh?” said the fox man.

The hyena cackled again, and the gorilla man grabbed hold of the claw man, and they dragged him away.

“Don’t take it too seriously, mate,” said the fox man. “Walk with me.”

We went out and walked through the swirling crowds. 

“Carter’s runs only on solar batteries,” he said. “As per regs for non-essential services. All fully licenced and strictly above board.” 

 “Of course,” I said. I knew he was lying, but I didn’t care. I was only concerned about Tracey. 

“We get a lot of trouble from these green types. They want to shut down all the non-essentials. They’d have us living like cave men. Not too bright either. Would have cooked himself like that.”

“A suicide mission,” I said. “But clever. You search people on the way in, but you didn’t think about stopping body mods.”

The fox man grinned appreciatively. “Sharp, ain’t you? It’s them eyes, ain’t it? What are they mate? Some kind of insect?” 

“Mantis shrimp,” I replied.

He nodded and looked me up and down and his nostrils flared and quivered. He was assessing me by smell.

“What do they do, then, these shrimp eyes?”

“I can see what people are thinking and feeling.”

He gave a whistle.

“Could come in handy, that. We could use a man like you on our team. Somebody who knows when people are up to no good. It’s dangerous, you know, messing about with the rides. The safety of our customers is always our first concern.”

I nodded.

“Free travel around the country, nice cosy bed, free food. What do you think?”

It was an incredible opportunity. But the fox man was grinning slyly, a little ripple beneath the skin telling me he was testing me, trying to outwit me. I needed to assert my dominance.

“I want tokens,” I said. 

“Tokens?” 

“So I can ride.”

He gave a yip of laughter and said, “You can have as many tokens as you like mate.” He reached into a pocket and produced a bag of them, which he pressed into my hand.

I licked my lips. I was almost out of my mind with anticipation. I ran back through the fair, clutching the bag, and stood in the queue, hopping from one foot to the other. I muttered, ‘Tracy, Tracey, Tracey,” under my breath. The queue seemed to last forever. Finally I handed over a token, climbed into my seat and buckled up with shaking hands.

I felt Tracey’s hydraulics working beneath me, her surging power, she had me exactly where she wanted me, she didn’t mind that it was my first time. I let my head roll back and screamed, ‘Tracey!” and she throbbed with pleasure and lifted me high up into the sky. 

 

***

 

Now I work the fairground, standing at the entrance, scanning the punters – Carter’s doesn’t need an electronic scanner like the one at the aquarium. They have me, standing guard, keeping the punters safe, protecting everybody with my mantis vision. Mr Fox, the manager, gave me a hi-vis with the word SECURITY written on it in letters that glitter in the darkness. A gift, he said. The other men respect me. They bring me gifts: bags of lab-grown fish-flavoured protein, and sometimes pieces of real fish. Sometimes they say, “check out this delicious prey, Shrimpy!” and they throw it into the air, and when I catch it immediately, Snapper, the hyena man, laughs and laughs, and sometimes twirls in small circles. Bigfella, the Gorilla man, pounds his chest, hugs me and slaps me on the back. 

If only those footballers from school could see me now, taking control, spotting every signal, my lightning-fast reactions putting a stop to trouble.

At the end of the night when the fair is closing I spend time with Tracey. She is so full of energy and joy, the most powerful female I’ve ever met. I love her strong, squat, sturdy body: it’s so nurturing and so feminine. Her long metal limbs spiral high into the sky, full of the shrieks of teenagers. Of course, I’m not Tracey’s only lover: hundreds of people ride Tracey every night, but she doesn’t care about the others. I scan their faces, but none of them are attuned to Tracey like I am. 

Me and Tracey love each other. It’s not just sex between us. In the early hours of the morning we spend quality time alone. She’s not communicative after her long day, but she smells so good. I like to hold her as she falls asleep, or just hang out together. We don’t need to talk, that’s what I really like about her. It goes beyond words with us; it’s deeper than that. When it’s time for Carter’s to move on, I always help to pack up Tracey. I make sure the guys handle her gently, that she’s comfortable on the journeys. They make fun of me, but they know that Tracey’s my girl. First thing before we open, and last thing at night before we shut down, they know they have to call me now. It’s like I used to dream of with Gemma Boone, so long ago now: Nestling right at the heart of Tracey she has a shiny, red button, glistening like a jewel, marked “on.” I reach in and press it gently, but firmly, and she shudders into life, all her power surging through her, down next light cascading through her body. Nobody else can do it. I’m the only one.

At night I tuck her in under the tarpaulin, lie down next to her, and whisper, “I love you Tracey.” She doesn’t say anything but she doesn’t need to. I know she loves me too. 

 

END

 

About the author: Kate M Tyte was born in Bath, England. She worked as an archivist for over ten years, before moving to Lisbon where she works as an English teacher. Her non-fiction has appeared in various British history and genealogy magazines. Her essays have appeared in Slightly Foxed, and her fiction and poetry in STORGY; MONO; Riggwelter; Reflex Press; Idle Ink; The Fiction Pool; Press Pause Press; Ghastly Gastronomy; Living, Loving, Longing: Lisbon; Strange Spring: Stories We Wrote in Self-Isolation; The Chamber  and on The Other Stories and Creepy Pod podcasts. She is a book reviewer for STORGY and The Short Story. http://katemtyte.wordpress.com/

 

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My name is Jack L. Bryson and I'm the editor of Teleport. I studied literature at University of Montana. I live in Mountain View Ca, and my email is coffeeant1@gmail.com

One Comment

  1. I was drawn to the story by the title, and it did not disappoint. Funny take on biomorphing body mods.

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