Fiction Inferno: The literary magazine that burns you up

Nocturnes: A Triptych

Claude Lalumière


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The Secret Seduction of the Subtle Serpent

ou are lying, relaxed, on a thick rug. Your legs are stretched out. Your bare feet enjoy the heat of the open fireplace. You are sipping an aromatic tea, whose flavour is exotic and unfamiliar, but soothing and enchanting. You swirl the hot liquid in your mouth before swallowing it. You look up and consider your host.

The Subtle Serpent is coiled around a ridged treelike piece of furniture, his weight distributed on many of its branches. His mute servant slips a pungent bowl under the Serpent's barely noticeable flat nose, causing a wave to ripple gently through his entire body.

Despite his name, the Subtle Serpent is not truly a snake, not quite. His scaly, coiling body measures roughly two metres from head to tail. His only limbs are two short, undigited arms that slither constantly. His head bulges into a sphere, ringed by a narrow black mask resting on his tiny ears, with slits cut out for the eyes.

The Serpent closes his eyes, inhales deeply from the pungent bowl. He holds his breath. He is visibly concentrating, keeping his body from rippling in the wake of the inhalation. He repeats this several times, in a slow, ritualized manner. Eventually, the Serpent can no longer hold the waves back and his body thrashes ecstatically for two or three minutes.

When the Serpent's thrashing subsides, the mute servant retreats to the corner from which he watches the room, attentive to the needs of its occupants.

Suddenly, the Serpent's voice booms out loudly, its rumbling tone and timbre at odds with his sinewy body. His eyes remain closed, and he starts recounting his tale, as if in a trance.

"The Subtle Serpent was an alluring, passionate, suave young snake. He discarded lovers like so much dead skin. He saw lovers not as prey, as the casual observer might have concluded, but as works of art, to be savoured to the fullest until every drop of meaning, every shade of emotion had been experienced. But afterwards, once the final page of the affair was turned... to be shelved away, like a book. Not out of disdain or boredom, but because one was done with it. Afterwards, it could still be loved in memory, perhaps occasionally fondled if its spine should strike the eye from the bookshelf, but rarely to reopen its pages and abandon oneself again to its pleasures. There were so many other books to savour. So it was with past lovers: an occasional fondling was pleasurable, but to share once more in sexual communion distracted from the quest to explore fresh new bodies. The young Serpent worked for the diplomatic corps. He welcomed diplomats with his curious, eager body. He revelled in experiencing the sexual rituals of alien bodies. His xenophilia extended beyond his professional and sexual interests. His life was xenophilic. His sexual success could be attributed to his passionate interest in everything alien - not only alien to his species, but alien to himself in any way. His sexual conquests included not only aliens but also many members of his own species. His unfeigned, intelligent, absolute curiosity was an irresistible aphrodisiac. He studied alien art and literature with erotic zeal, learning as many languages as possible. His life was an infinite cornucopia of pleasure. Art, parties, sex, people.... All at his disposal, to be cherished and loved. One diplomat captured his love like no other before him. Their affair started like many others, the Serpent inviting the foreign envoy to an intimate meal, showering his attentions on the new object of his erotic desires, asking careful questions to indicate his interest, the conversation turning towards his guest's native sexual customs, sexual experience, and - eventually - sexual curiosity. Even during their first coupling the Serpent felt something new. The alien's sexual curiosity seemed as intense as his own. Thus, the seed of tenderness was planted within him. The two lovers met whenever possible, their mutually alien bodies learning to please each other more and more intensely. The Subtle Serpent was hopelessly in love. Slowly, insidiously, the character of their relationship shifted. Smitten as he was, the Serpent was oblivious to this change. The alien was taking control of their sexual encounters, casually but certainly dominating his lover, the young Subtle Serpent. Eventually - the Serpent never knowing when the boundary had been crossed - their sexual communion was transformed into sessions of ritualized, eroticized abuse from which he emerged with his identity severely wounded, but to which he grew emotionally addicted - an addiction that fuelled his growing sense of self-disgust. Inevitably, his work suffered. He was no longer the genial, suave diplomat his department had learned to depend on. His self-involvement caused him to blunder too often, sometimes nearly resulting in serious diplomatic incidents. He was ordered to leave his post after many warnings failed to elicit any change for the better in his professional performance. His affair with the alien had destroyed the career that he had loved so much, that had brought him pleasure upon pleasure. Characteristically, he blamed only himself. He went to his lover, in shame and desperation - hoping to find comfort and love. The alien refused to see him and promptly complained to the proper authorities that he was being harassed by a bothersome native. Further humiliation ensued when he was publicly reprimanded for this diplomatic offense. Irrationally, he still yearned for his lover's sexual abuse, his mutilated mind interpreting the attention as affection. He eventually left his homeworld in disgrace, neglecting to inform anyone of his departure. Over the years, he had amassed considerable wealth - his generous salary supplemented with gifts from grateful, wealthy lovers. He established himself on Earth, where he has since lived as a recluse, in comfort and shame, a shallow echo of his former self."

Eyes still shut, the Serpent takes several deep breaths, announcing the end of his narrative. The mute servant once again raises the pungent bowl to the Serpent's face. The Serpent gently breathes in the aroma and, after a subtle wave ripples through him, he opens his eyes and stares calmly at you.

Neither of you speaks for several minutes. The Serpent's tale has left you filled with revulsion for your host.

You watch as the Serpent, with the help of his servant, disentangles himself from his perch. He approaches you, but stays out of reach.

You are disgusted to notice that you yearn to touch him. The Serpent stands upright, supported only by his tail. In silence, he stares at you. Your disgust turns upon itself, upon you. You are no longer disgusted by your desire, but rather by your reaction to it and by your lack of compassion.

Slowly, the Subtle Serpent sheds his old skin. You avert your gaze, turn towards the fireplace.

Is it the fire that colours your cheeks?


The Triumph of the Autosomes

one of this is happening yet.

You will be born in a dome. The dome will be attached to other domes by means of circular tubes. These tubes will be narrow, their width able to accommodate a large person, but no more. Distances between domes will vary. The domes will vary in size.

Perhaps these domes will cover the surface of a devastated Earth; perhaps they will constitute the only area habitable by humans on the moon or some distant planet; perhaps they will form an orbiting space colony; perhaps none of these hypotheses will turn out to be correct.

The dome in which you will be born will be a medium-size one. Several adults will be in attendance. There will be a woman, the mother. She will scream. Her feet and wrists will be tied and secured to the metal clasps protruding from the smooth cold ground.

The light will be harsh and bright. There will be men around the screaming mother with the spread-open thighs.

One of the men will stand guard, holding a long metallic rod with a firm black handle. The exposed end of the rod will sizzle menacingly with hot energy.

The mother will be naked. The men will also be naked, except for long black gloves covering their forearms, and short, thick black boots. The men will not utter a word to the mother. Occasionally they will whisper among themselves, sometimes pointing to some part of the woman's body, sometimes not. Their flesh will not come into contact with hers.

The woman will scream.

Your head will emerge from the mother's vagina. Your hairless scalp will contrast with the thick bush of the mother's groin.

One of the men will cradle your head with one of his black-gloved hands. The rest of your body will follow.

Your whole body will be outside the mother's. Having pulled you from between her legs, one of the men will poke at the vertical slit between your legs, smaller but otherwise identical to the hairless slit between all of the men's legs. This slit will allow the urethra to evacuate the body's liquid waste. An umbilical cord will connect the baby to the mother. One of the men will cut the cord with a sharp tool.

You will scream and cry. The mother will scream and cry.

A second head will peek out from between the woman's thighs. Soft hair will cover that scalp. Black-gloved hands will cradle the head, ease the body's exit.

Between the legs of the second baby, there will be genitals: a penis.

The man holding the second baby will lay her down on the cold ground between the shackled feet of her screaming mother.

The baby will scream and cry. The mother will scream and cry.

One of them will be holding you. You will scream and cry.

The men will be silent as they leave the dome, wriggling and crawling though one of the connecting tubes.

The man with the rod will stay behind.

One by one, three women - two with female genitals and one with male genitals - will step down from another tube after the departure of the men escorting you, carrying you. The women will have waited silently, crouched in the tube. With their bare hands, they will touch the screaming and crying baby and mother. The woman with male genitals will pick up the crying newborn, comforting her.

The women will release the mother. They will drag her and her child out of the dome, through the tunnel by which they came.

Not long after, the remaining man will receive a message. The message will say: The women are back in the enclosure. The message will be communicated through a small implant surgically inserted in all men's brains during their adulthood ritual at age ten. The man will then leave the dome through the same tube used by the other men.

The newborns, you and your sibling, will be dizygotic twins. Nine months prior to the birth, a woman will insert her hard wet penis through the gates of another woman's swollen labia, the one who will become the mother. The woman with the male genitals will ejaculate in the other woman's vagina, and hundreds of millions of spermatozoa will explode into her uterus. Each of these spermatozoa will be composed of twenty-three chromosomes, of which at least twenty-two will be nonsex chromosomes, autosomes. The identity of the twenty-third chromosome will be split more or less evenly between three possibilities: a Y chromosome, an X chromosome, or a twenty-third autosome. All three types of spermatozoa will have the capacity to fertilize an ovum.

Approximately one day before the impregnation, two of the woman's follicles will develop to maturity, each releasing its egg into her fallopian tubes. These ova will each contain twenty-three chromosomes: one X chromosome and twenty-two autosomes. A distinct spermatozoa will fertilize each one of these eggs. You and your sibling will be the living evidence of the dual impregnation's success.

The various combinations of chromosomes will have three possible results. The successful impregnation of an ovum by a spermatozoon carrying the X chromosome will create a zygote that will mature into a woman with female genitals. The successful impregnation of an ovum by a spermatozoon carrying the Y chromosome will create a zygote that will mature into a woman with male genitals. The successful impregnation of an ovum by a spermatozoon composed of twenty-three autosomes, twenty-three nonsex chomosomes, will create a zygote that will mature into a man: a human with no genetalia.

The men attending the birth of the twins will judge that you will have matured from a zygote composed of twenty-two pairs of autosomes and one X-autosome pair. Your sibling's penis will be evidence of her gender, of the absence of a second autosome in the twenty-third chromosomal pair.

Men will have no genitals. They will not breed. The women will breed. That will be the purpose of women's existence: to breed more men, and to breed more women who will breed more men.

Men will have no body hair, no hair whatsoever. Women will have hair all over their bodies: on their legs and arms, on the top of their heads, and thick bushes in their armpits and groins. Some of them will have hair on their faces, on their chests, and on their backs.

Men will be able to move freely between domes. They will perform a variety of tasks. These tasks would seem meaningless to the women, if the women were ever allowed to witness them being performed. The women will be kept in a large dome - the enclosure - away from any tools or equipment. The women will breed. They will not be required, expected, or permitted to perform any other task.

The first ten years of men's lives will constitute their childhood.

Like all men children, as an infant you will be entirely covered by a gelatinous membrane. The membrane will feed you. The membrane will extract your bodily waste and recycle it into the dome's ecosystem. Viscous coils will protrude from the membrane and lodge themselves in your body, through the anus, through the ears, through the nostrils, through the mouth. The membrane will keep you in a perpetual dream state, stimulating your body through the necessary stages of physical development. The membrane will feed you dreams that will condition you to accept the mores of the dome society, and it will feed you dreams that will be indistinguishable from the reality of dome life.

You will turn ten years old. The membrane will retract its coils from your body. The membrane will grow brittle, and you will be released from its embrace. Immediately, you will be surrounded by several men. They will lead you to another dome. This dome will be filled with cold, shiny metallic machines and instruments. There will be a table in the middle of the dome. The men will tell you to lie on it. You will do as they say. They will strap you to the table. They will not administer anaesthetic. A laser will cut through the skin on your head and into your skull. You will feel pain. You would scream, but your mouth will be covered with black adhesive tape. One of the men will insert a syringe needle into the tiny hole. He will press down and squeeze the contents of the syringe into your skull. The men will dance around the table, laughing and hooting and pointing at you.

The fluid from the syringe will contain nanomachines that, once in your skull, will build an implant that will embed itself in your brain. The implant will allow the dome computer to relay messages to you. It will allow you to communicate with the dome computer and ask it to relay messages to any other man with whom you wish to communicate.

You will be assigned surveillance duties. You will watch monitors. You will watch for accidents, conspiracies, rebellions, breakdowns, and damage. You will not witness any of these.

You will become twelve years old. Increasingly, you will watch the screens that monitor the women's enclosure. You will often watch male women thrust their penises into the orifices of other women. During your sleep, you will dream of the women. You will imagine rubbing your body against their alien body parts: their penises, their breasts, their hairy chests, and their hairy crotches. Immediately after waking from these dreams you will feel great pleasure, but it will only be a fleeting sensation. As the details of the dreams unfold themselves to your waking mind, you will be seized by self-loathing; you will throw up.

You will become obsessed with the idea of touching women. You will want to press the palm of your hand against their strange bodies. You will try to imagine the taste of their flesh in your mouth.

You will not mention any of this to the other men.

While on monitor duty, you will notice one woman, a young woman whose face and body you will find particularly attractive. You will dream of her every night, you will dream of feeling her penis thrust inside you between your legs. You will wake up and feel the moistness between your legs, on your thighs. The moistness will not smell of urine. It will be an unfamiliar smell, one you never encounter in the world of men.

The woman on the screen and in your dreams will be your sibling. You will not know this; you will not recognize her. In any case, it would not mean anything to you. "Sibling" will not be a concept in the dome world of men.

Perhaps you will request guard duty and be equipped with an energy rod. Perhaps your familiarity with the monitor system will allow you to steal a rod and sneak into the enclosure. In any case, you will have a rod and you will go to the enclosure, among the women. You will have shed the black gloves usually worn by men.

You will smell the women. You will stare at their bodies.

The women in the enclosure will be frightened by the appearance of a man, you.

Usually, during men's excursions into the enclosure, the women will suffer violence. They will be shoved, beaten, struck, and kicked. The men will always come in groups. The women will not be able to hide in the open space of the enclosure dome. Sometimes, the men will capture women. They will always take away any woman in an advanced state of pregnancy. Usually, these women will be returned to the enclosure, after their pregnancy has come to term. Sometimes the men will capture unpregnant women, for reasons that the women will never know or be allowed to question. These women will never come back.

The sight of your naked hands will temper some women's fright. Those women will find in your naked hands the revelation of a certain vulnerability. The sight of your naked hands will increase some women's fear. Those women will find your naked hands obscene, an indication of a more direct brutality. Other women who will notice your hands will find no meaning in their nakedness. And there will be women who, out of anxiety, boredom, or numbness, will fail to notice your hands.

You will seek out the woman of your dreams. You will dismiss the cramps in your abdomen. You will believe them to be caused by mounting anxiety. You will be too focused on your objective to notice the blood trickling down your thighs. You will find her.

You will be alone, surrounded by women. You will confront the object of your lust, the woman who, unbeknownst to you, is your sibling. She will cower from you. You will run towards her and touch her with the sizzling energy rod.

She will fall to the ground. She will be shaken but not unconscious.

You will push her down completely, her back to the ground. You will hold your weapon close to her face while fondling her testicles. Her penis will grow erect.

You will feel the moistness spreading between your legs. You will take your hand away from her testicles and probe the swelling between your legs. Inside the slit between your legs, your fingers will encounter two labia, a hymen, and a clitoris. There will be blood on your fingers, pain in your abdomen.

Men will have no genitals. Inside the slit between their legs, there will only be the opening of the urethra. You will have genitals like a woman - a breeder - but you will be hairless like men. Your twelve-year-old body will have the angular appearance of a man's body. Perhaps your hips will curve subtly; perhaps your breasts will possess a budding plumpness.

You will slide her erect penis into your vagina. It will pierce your hymen. You will be unable to distinguish between pain and pleasure. The two will seem to be different manifestations of the same phenomenon.

The women will crowd around the siblings. They will watch the abnormal spectacle of a man - or someone they believe to be a man - having sex.

Despite her terror, your sibling will be overcome by the needs of her penis. She will move her hips to facilitate its stimulation. She will reach orgasm. You will reach orgasm. The jerking of your bodies will throw you from her.

In the wake of sex, your senses will be more acute. The smells of the enclosure - sweat, piss, shit, sex - will assail you. The harsh light will hurt your eyes. The touch of your sibling's flesh will linger on yours.

You will reach between your legs. Your fingers will be covered in blood, vaginal fluids, and semen. You will throw up.

You will be filled with a rage fuelled by self-loathing. You will attack your sibling with the energy rod. You will beat her and kill her.

You will scream: "I am not a woman!"

What will become of you?

There's no need to worry.

None of this is happening yet.

Go to sleep.


The Return of the Low Bunnies

he rabbits this year are low, very low," your lover said to you.

And you answered: "It's funny you should say that, I myself noticed that they were quite large, more muscular, more awesome than in previous years."

"That's precisely what I mean. Had you ever thought of rabbits as awesome before the advent of this year's rabbits? I don't believe that these new rabbits are all that new, but simply that they have been out of circulation for a long time, and have now just come back. It scares me how they have returned. True, they are awesome and terrifying, but they are simpler creatures than the rabbits we know. They are giant unicellular beasts. They were long gone and long forgotten. They came out of extinction with no warning. Why would they come back? I believe that humans had not yet been created the last time that these low bunnies walked the Earth. Why would they come back? Are they announcing the end of the Human Era? I believe that they are."

"You're a very funny, my darling. Your sense of humour always cheers me up. Will you marry me and raise children with me?"

"I am not being funny. I will not marry you, and I refuse to become pregnant; nevertheless, if you ever gave birth I would gladly help you raise your babies. But there is no time! These rabbits will be the death of all of us! They are the past returned, and we are not of the past. And if the past is to be the future, then we will be of the present only. We cannot have much more than a week or two left."

"There's no stopping you! Will we invite friends and family? Let's just invite our friends and have a warm, intimate ceremony. Your family scares me. They're even funnier than you are. Much too funny for any public event. My family never goes out of the house. They think the war will start any second now. They've been thinking that for the last thirty years."

"The war has started! We've already lost. The low bunnies have successfully infiltrated human consciousness. Now they're killing us. And those are savage and bloody killings."

"Those reports were published in disreputable tabloids. `Giant Sabertooth Rabbit Chops Man Up in Tiny Bits and Eats Him.' Who can believe a headline like that? Now give me a kiss and cuddle up."

"I refuse to give you a kiss. A kiss would soothe you and help drive away nightmares. Tonight you need nightmares to believe in the truth of current events. On the other hand, I need comfort because I believe and understand these events, so I will cuddle up."

And your lover nestled close to you. And you pulled the sheets over the both of you.

And, with a blissful smile, your lover rapidly fell asleep in your arms. But you... you could not sleep; and your eyes stayed wide open until sun-up, watchful of rabbits.



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