Our excerpt is from The Amnesiaphiliac by Benji Bright.
It started with a single man and spun so far out that no one could have planned it, could have wanted it to go so wrong. My name is Nathaniel Underwood, and if you’re reading this then that’s good. That means you know how to read, and that’s a good sign. There’s no way for me to know whether you acquired the skill to parse this text from the act of picking it up or if you came to it already able. That’s how bad things got. So bad that I had to imbue each word with a desperation to be understood. I can’t rely on memory, it’s like a shifting sand that tilts everything standing above it. So understand these words and make of them what you will. I’ll try to keep this brief.
Apsis is our revolving city. When the first of the terrible earthquakes rocked the area, our engineers and best logicians decided that it would be best to unroot it. The girders were removed and the city floated away, tethered to the earth only by its memory of once being shackled. So we watched from the sky as the ground trembled and spat dust, thinking how lucky we were to have escaped such a miserable fate. And we were miserable too, having willfully divorced our home, but the human capacity for misery stretches only so far. We moved on in part because Apsis moved on. As the city drifted away from the site of our untethering, we could no longer see the scars of the earth, and we started forgetting what it had been like to dwell on land.
Business continued as usual, but it was as if a pall had been cast on the floating city. No one could quite identify it, though it was palpable. It stayed that way through the first year of our revolution, spinning around the earth like orphans to the world. Then I met Joshua, the beautiful man who ruined everything.
He was a memory-scribe–a previously unexplored field that burgeoned after Apsis left the ground. The process usually involved taking an impression of a memory and storing it so that it could be reexperienced multiple times at the user’s discretion. The memory of a warm, sunny afternoon could be stored for a cold, rainy night, the memory of waking up next to a loved one saved long after their passing.
I came to Joshua by accident, and in a way I loved him the moment I saw him. The kind of love that makes you sick, that’s too dazzling to look at straight on. A part of me wanted him to rebuff me, to refuse me so that the desperate thing growing inside me would be cauterized, so I could heal from my infatuation. I was unlucky; he fell in love too.
Our fields were tangentially related: he was in the business of memory and I was in the business of words. I am a logician, a minor talent comparatively, but useful in its own right. I can imbue printed words with some of the elements associated with them. For example, a beautiful painted sign above the entrance to the largest factory in Apsis reads simply “Industry.” For a long time I considered it my most essential work, until I wrote these words in this chronicle, anyway. Anyone who passed beneath that sign felt a little of the spirit of industry within themselves, a desire to produce, to be generative, to create. Others who were more innately skilled in the craft could produce far greater results, but my talents kept me fed so I was short on complaints.
But this story has little to do with me and my skills. It’s about Joshua and his.
I came to him for a favor. I had taken on too much work, a job for one of the city’s newspapers, imbuing authenticity and trustworthiness, and one at a hospital for children, impressing health upon the eaves of the building itself. The work has never been easy for me. It takes a fair amount of focus and time to get the process just right.
I was having trouble focusing with so much on my plate, so I went to Joshua to request he write me a memory of being fully focused, aware, and energized. At our meeting he managed to explain to me–despite our veiled looks at each other, nervous laughter, and occasional “accidental” physical contact–that he could not manufacture the memory, he could only transcribe it, so I would have to feel those things before he could preserve them.
We set an appointment for him to visit me at my shop in the middle of my workday on the following afternoon. I got a full night’s rest and tried not to be nervous about having Joshua visit my personal space. I couldn’t stop thinking about him. He had curly hair and a haphazard goatee, dark skin without blemishes, and a broad, goofy smile. He seemed shy, but intense. Perhaps that’s the way of genius.
He came to my shop slightly earlier than the appointed hour, with a big bag slung across his chest that seemed entirely too heavy for his slim shoulders. He came right in as we’d agreed and found me hunched over my draft desk, painstakingly illustrating the terminal end of the letter e in authenticity. There was so much to be impressed in it, and I had to be very careful. Joshua didn’t say anything, he just watched me work. I was slightly embarrassed to be observed in that way, but the work didn’t leave much room for self-consciousness. After the better part of an hour I put down my brush and turned to him.
“Is that it? Do you have it?” I asked.
He shook his head no.
“I’ve made the impression, yes, but there’s a problem. The memory you asked for was of being fully focused, energized, and aware. Right? Well, you’re focused, and energized, yes, but I detect a nervousness in you as well. Apprehension, maybe? It’s contained within the impression. Is it from being observed? Am I making you nervous?”
I didn’t have to answer the question. It was clear enough to both of us that he was, and the blush that crowded my features just made it clearer. I think I stood up and went to him, or did he come to me? It’s funny that I don’t remember now who took the first step. Maybe neither of us did. Maybe what happened next was totally inevitable.
I do remember, though, that his aggression surprised me. The shy memory-scribe was a mask that slipped off when we kissed. His lips were soft, but his mouth was not. His tongue searched and his breathing was ragged. He pried open my shirt, and his fingers found my nipples. He was gentle at first, but that didn’t last long. He was encouraged by my moans and came at them with rough determination.
He grabbed my crotch and whispered in my ear. “You’re hard. Do you want me?”
I murmured something unintelligible.
“Do you want me?” he asked again, pressing harder against my bulge until it almost hurt.
“Yes,” I confessed. “Please….”
I wasn’t sure what exactly I was begging for, but Joshua was quick to intuit what it was that I needed. He turned me around so that I was no longer facing him but was pressed instead against my desk, and he reached for his big bag lying on the ground. I started to turn to see what he was doing.
“Turn around. Put your hands on the desk,” he commanded.
I did as I was told, even as a chill swept through me. I hadn’t thought that things would move so quickly, that we would be here in my shop and that I would be hard in my pants and waiting for things to continue. When I felt his hands on me again he was pulling my pants down to my ankles.
“I want to fuck you. Badly. Let me?” Joshua said. He pressed his body to mine, and I could feel his cock throbbing on my ass. A warm, steady rhythm. He had been busy because it was entirely wet.
He pushed into me slowly, and the feeling of him left me reeling. I could focus on nothing besides the weight of him, the girth pushing me open. If I was a stronger man I would have wept. I would have let the moment take me completely, instead I bit my lower lip and pushed back against him. He fucked me and I begged him not to stop and he promised never to stop.
He broke that promise abruptly and filled me with his seed. I myself came against my desk, splashing it with come while sounding a cry that was equal parts pleasure and pleading. Afterward Joshua put his fingers in me and watched with fascination as his come dribbled out. It was proof, he said, that he was inside me now, and I him. That we would never forget each other–a promise he only half broke
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