The award-winning short story, “The Monster,” serves also as the basis for my upcoming speculative science fiction novel, “Sex War One,” to be published later this year. Here’s a taste of it, from the beginning:
The large Pleasure-Room was almost empty. Only three colony-citizens, two women and a man were there. They reclined in deep yellow armchairs, immersed in phonographic video feeds coming from a floating array of small, oval-shaped screens.
D.L. was pleased. He knew that most of the members had gathered already in the Assembly-Hall. He opened an electronic panel by the door and clicked on it, noting how the large, central screen flashed red with his message: “The General-Assembly is about to begin!” He could see, before exiting the room, that the man had disconnected himself from the self-gratifying-instrument (as it was officially labeled), and reinserted it into the compartment attached to the armchair. D.L. couldn’t tell if the man had actually climaxed and had no interest in finding out. He cleared the doorway, letting the door slide silently shut behind him.
Usually, frustrated with the slow speed of the moving tracks, D.L. walked. But not this time: he purposely traveled at a gentle pace, without walking. He gazed aimlessly at the smooth plastic walls of the corridor, dark-red in color, and for the first time in his life felt them elicit a strange sense of fear in him. There was no escaping these walls. Ever. There was no holding onto them for support, either, or to anything else in this isolated colony. For some reason, he could not think about the test that lay ahead of him: the most important, most crucial test so far in his role as the Secretary of the Underground-Colony B/365. He blocked it completely out of his mind. Maybe he simply refused to face its reality head on.
Instead, when he stepped off the moving tracks and headed toward the Assembly-Hall, he thought about K.G., his one and only true friend in the colony. He was sure K.G. was still in the Film-Library, where he had left him not so long ago, still watching those old films, films that were made before the Great-Nuclear-War. K.G. seldom attended the General-Assembly meetings. But, if necessary, D.L. trusted he could summon him for support.
The double door slid open for him, revealing the round hall, with a dome-shaped ceiling on top. The chairs were arranged in a circle and were fixed to the floor where it met the walls. Exactly forty chairs were there: twenty for the men and twenty for the women. There was no podium in the hall, nor was there a desk for the secretary: they were all equals here in this colony. There was a large, rotating oval screen in the middle, on which in all directions, it was possible to view video feeds from individual living units and from separate working stations throughout the colony, as well as – on rare, special occasions – messages from the Mother-Colony.
D.L. took the first available seat, nodding to the members seated on both sides of him. He rehydrated, sucking a bitter, vitamin-filled potion from a nozzle protruding from the armrest, the same slightly chemical-tainted solution he had been drinking – excluding the first year after his birth – all his thirty-nine colony-years. Sated, he looked about him, feeling how all eyes, coming from the occupied chairs around the hall, were fixed heavily on him. He flicked the microphone from a keyboard emerging from the seat’s utility arm and turned it on.
* To be continued next month on the 15th.