Three Novembers ago I participated in National Novel Writing Month. I succeeded in that my word count exceeded 50,000 and my story had a beginning, a middle, and an end or two; but it was a horrible, disorganized mess with “unpublishable” written all over it. Still, I’m glad I went through all that.
Here is Chapter 29 of Auld Lang Synapse, unedited.
Chapter 29: The strange, continuing tale of Calvin and Iliana
Calvin reworked the faces and forms of his figure study to remove the resemblance to Iliana. Then he photographed the result and e-mailed a gallery, got funding for foundrification, employed the lost wax technique to turn it to bronze, and had it cast. It had never occurred to Cyril and Iliana that he would do this, and they hmmmmmed—but Cyril bought one of the castings through a dummy anyway. To Cyril’s (rare) astonishment, this infuriated Iliana, and she left Cyril Kowznofski for good, taking a substantial quantum of the smartest of the smart dust with her.
Exceeding her allotment of doorstep-drama scenarios by at least six, Iliana rang Calvin’s doorbell yet again.
This time he didn’t come to the door. He used the intercom instead: “You’re torturing me, Eely. Kindly get lost.”
“I’ve left Cyril for good.”
“I want to be with you. I REALLY want to be with you. I miss you so much!”
“Are you going to suddenly become monogamous, Eel? You can’t. You won’t.”
“Maybe things will be different with the dust. I have some. I want to try it with you.”
Long silence. Calvin’s muscles were bunched, the bite-muscles most of all. Iliana waited on the darkening porch, weeping softly.
The lock clicked. “I’m in the studio. Please lock the door behind you.”
Iliana did, and turned lights on in the night-dark house as she went through it. She was surprised to see a dish in the sink and a rag on the floor of the kitchen—outside his studio Cal was fastidiously clean. She was gratified when a quick peek into the bedroom revealed no circumstantial evidence of recent effbuddy visitation. After a moment’s reflection, she decided to bring the dust and its support apparatus to the studio, rather than leave it in the bedroom where it would most likely be used.
In the studio, Cal was making either tall vases or bird-bodies. –No, it was birds: one leather-hard flamingo lay on its side on one of the tables.
Furrowbrowed “Hey.” Cal squeezed a water-laden sponge on the rim of the form he was throwing on his wheel, and the inside and outside wall got a little water-skin from it. He pulled the form to another five inches of height, then switched the wheel off and toweled his hands and arms. She saw bleakness in his eyes as he regarded her.
“Iliana, I don’t know what it’s like to use the dust. I never have. I don’t know if I ever want to. Why should I?”
Iliana, simply: “For love, Calvin. For love of the woman who belongs to you.”
Quoting a song, Cal said, “What’s love/But a second hand emotion?” He was a Tina Turner fan, and he could not sing worth beans.
Iliana just looked at him through teardrops.
Eight minutes and thirty-six seconds passed.
“Tell you what—let’s go get something to eat, and talk about it.” So they got in Calvin’s green Green Jeeper and went to Red Devil Pizza. Iliana had red wine there, and Cal a root beer, and they shared a big antipasto salad and an extra-large mushroom/sun-dried tomato/artichoke-hearted pie with extra cheese. The while, Iliana told Cal about some of the more exotic discoveries Kowznofski had made with different formulations of dust, and described what made the batch of dust she’d brought so special.
“This stuff is like a blender with different speeds. You don’t strobe back and forth, you blend. If it’s at 50 percent you, Calvin, will be able to see through both of our eyes, and hear my thoughts and yours at the same time. At 100 percent we’re in each others’ bodies. But at 5 percent you just get a hint of me. This is especially good for people like you, who’ve never dusted before.”
“What’s being with Kowznofski like, Iliana,” Calvin asked, with a bit of self-loathing for having asked.
“I never did it with him. I’ve never done it with a lover, Cal. Not to say that Cyril didn’t want to. You and I will both be virgins to this.”
“Cmon, Iliana. Don’t tell me you never dusted with anyone.”
“Didn’t say I didn’t. I dusted with my chess teammates. For their sake, not mine. I did get a little out of the session with Katsuji, though. He is wily.”
“Not quite. I put in some volunteer time at the Hospice, but I was asleep and pain-blocked. I have a video. She got to dance ballroom and flirt. It was chaperoned, and a good thing.”
Calvin Enwright could not but smile. “Well, good for you on that one. No pets? No touch of the strange in those weird ‘petting zoos’?”
“No. I’m TELLING you, Calvin. I didn’t want to be really close with anyone but you.”
They finished what they wanted of the pizza and had the rest boxed up. On the drive back they briefly discussed what the dust did and what they would do with it.
Now they were in Cal’s studio, both facing small dust cannons (not much different than the equipment found in the optometrist’s office that administers the glaucoma “puff test”). They closed their eyes, Iliana flipped the switch, and their faces were puff-dusted.
They opened their eyes and looked at each other. Calvin shrugged. He felt no differ—
He got a hint of double vision, an odd overlap of tactility—
They stood and faced each other. Iliana said “Make something on your wheel” as Calvin mouthed her words—
Calvin told Iliana without words to find some music and dance for him on the platform. He (hint of they) got the wheelhead spinning, moistened it with a corpuscular sponge, and threw a five-pound plug of the Rod’s Bod clay body hard on the center of the wheelhead. Dreamily, Eely began undulating to a breathy Macy Grey song. Cal could feel the pole against her back and the silk of her scarf sliding over her collarbones as she swooped sideways. Looking down, they found that Cal had formed the bowl of a loving cup from the Rod’s Bod.
They shut off the wheel/climbed down from the platform/walked in lockstep to the loungey front room/sprawled onto a couch, one’s knee on one’s outer thigh.
Control of the transfer was mutual or other-directed; they couldn’t tell. Tactility was wild; a hand skimming on an other-bodied flesh sparked gentle lightning. As this happened they wandered through the memory trove of their one larger mind, sharing their first kiss and discovering that they really had been in perfect synchronization of want of it. This took them to desire and the removal of their clothing.
In the bedroom the minds parted for a time; the possession switched rhythmically and faster than a Ping-Pong match; when Iliana felt the wall of her own vagina through the tingling nerves of Calvin’s penis, they both gasped and quickly joined minds again. A guidance of motion that they had never achieved as individuals informed this new lovemaking, but that was mere enhancement to the mind-bliss. Orgiastic good-memory cascades and newfound-hope exploration drove them toward (theythey could tell) the inevitable peak—
The dust timed out. Suddenly they were exclusively in their own bodies and blind to shared thought.
Calvin gripped Iliana’s head and locked eyes with her. “We don’t need the fucking dust, Eely—look at me!!”
She did, and saw him, she saw him truly as she never had before, and felt him as well, and he her, and they weren’t blind any more, and they came just then, in astonishing slow silent motion. One of them wept on behalf of them both.
Side-facing, eyes closed, they wordlessly held each other until they fell asleep.
Miles away, Cyril Kowznofski, who had everything any of his post-Werewolf dust do beam a perceptual transmission of the dusts’ possessors to his sensory-recording studio, cursed himself for a weak-willed –voyeur but did not go so far as to commit the higher crime of invading Cal’s and Iliana’s privacy by viewing their doings. He did mark the datastream Special, and had a speed-dial-esque access code for it, should he weaken further.