Failure to Mate

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Fiction: Failure to Mate by Ben Marcus

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When I was first put to sire for the Silentists, my father, the senior male, had just been rendered into the hole, and no other youth were sufficiently available to dispense completions into the selected women. Maybe there were boys from the middle Denver who coupled with some silent girls brought in by Jane Dark and Quiet Boy Bob Riddle, but I am to understand that I was the chief agent of physical contact among the various women’s militia that came through town, even the Listening Group, who were loud and often took me with force.

The siring period lasted a full winter. My location was frequently the upper floors of the house. Toward the end of the copulative term, I waited naked on my father’s surrendered bed, a denim ringlet assisting my erratically operative genital arm, an appendage referred to in my mother’s notes as my “error.” The chosen girl at her most fertile moment would make a slippered approach down the long hallway, often goaded along by Dark right up to the doorway, where she might balk until pushed into the room and onto the bed. She’d find me disrobed there, positioned on my back in the snow-angel posture, as instructed. She might gather up her dress and sit across my hips for the transaction. Sometimes she struck a sidesaddle position for efficiency, or T-crossed me, with her bottom smiling toward my face, always averting her eyes from myself or my body or my props. She may have worn a hood or blinders, a mouth-guard, a helmet. A linen jumper possibly covered her body. She was gentle and tall, or small-bodied, with clumsy hands that smeared my chest with some sort of listening grease if she lost her balance and fell onto me. She was shy, or loud, mocking or rude. She had learned to move so silently that she seemed delicately afloat, using a cautious, china-shop choreography, as though she might break herself through gesture alone. She never spoke to me. If I closed my eyes, I was alone.

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    Afterward, she was inverted and slung from the doorway in the conception harness, her face plump and flushed as she dangled there, waiting to seed. I was shuttled from the house and fed a hot plate of brown cakes: pounded, sizzled and salted. Vials of water were stashed in my behavior kit, and I drank them without reading their labels, gargling first, swallowing short and hard, spitting just a trace of water back into the grass around me, as instructed.