The story grew from a report on savant syndrome that was broadcast over public radio. I’d been reading about autism and having discussions with those more knowledgeable than I about the current research. At the same time a lot was happening concerning the rights of people who are viewed as handicapped. Because the main character’s mind functions differently from the norm and her grasp of time is insecure, the story had to be told in the first person and in the present tense.
Folds of Blue Silk
By Danith McPherson
This guy’s chatting at me like an ancient Western. Red and black in the bar’s moody lighting instead of colorized. Sophistication painted over frontier attitude. My fingerprints push shadows across the table so I won’t look for the robot server. Won’t glance toward the bartender. Won’t betray myself to the suit. Somewhere. Who watches.
Ridges of swirls and whorls scrape against the table’s mirrored plastic. I ride the last taste of a silk wave. Near the end of an unregistered sequence of artificial days and nights in a world that has neither naturally. Fear that I will revert to the pattern and not take the risk. Fear that I will risk and again fail.
“It has no corners!” The cowboy laughs, fashionably amused at his own punch line.
Silk pulls sound through me. Mingles it with the internal rhythm of the band’s pounding music over the earvibe. Slow-motion moans from the orgasmic contortion on the wallscreen, bootlegged satellite sex from Earth. Intertwined conversations and real-time movement from the room, street, spinning station.
Blond hair curves around my face like a hood, ending even with my chin. Cowboy tells me I’m beautiful. Does he woo me with truth or a lie? At least I was born with a normal appearance. Spared the surgically perfect face and body the court would have ordered as part of my rights. Can’t have our idiot genius looking mentally retarded, you know, someone might decide it was wrong to use her for high level work.
“Amanda,” he says, a name I use more than others. He finds my inattentiveness chic. He thinks I look away and smile because he attracts me. The tips of my fingers, nails chewed to bleeding, travel through faint residue on the polished table. The absence of numbers puts the curve to my lips.
Numbers, curse of being a genius. Numbers and symbols for numbers. They grow in my head like vines, mental kudzu. Chocking all other thoughts. Only silk flutters them away.
Naked pornography blinks to an overdressed newscaster prepared to display a different set of distortions. Without slowing, the rhythm of the bar turns to the screen. All things from Earth are viewed with the same reverence. And skepticism.
“An unnamed source at the recently created Department of Space Exploration and Management reports that problems with the agency’s new fluid computer have delayed the planned launch of the Pilgrim. A speaker for the department denies the report, saying that although problems do exist with the Ultra4, a back-up system is functioning as planned and the project is on schedule.”
The natives listen while pretending not to. Most of Luna I-I is part of a chain reaction involving the spaceship. The only truly inattentive are the tourists. Cowboy.
Find the complete story in my collection Roar at the Universe, Tales of Crisis and Survival. The ebook and print book are available through Amazon and other distributors. Published by Wayward Serpent.
“Folds of Blue Silk” was first published in Amazing Stories.