Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom – Day 32 of 61

I didn’t find her again until the next movement was done and I went to the bubble to try it out on an oboe. I was just getting warmed up when she passed through the hatch and tied off to the piano.

This time, I clamped the oboe under my arm and bopped over to her before moistening the reed and blowing. I hovered over the piano’s top, looking her in the eye as we jammed. Her mood that day was 4/4 time and I-IV-V progressions, in a feel that swung around from blues to rock to folk, teasing at the edge of my own melodies. She noodled at me, I noodled back at her, and her eyes crinkled charmingly whenever I managed a smidge of tuneful wit.

She was almost completely flatchested, and covered in a fine, red downy fur, like a chipmunk. It was a jaunter’s style, suited to the climate-controlled, soft-edged life in space. Fifty years later, I was dating Lil, another redhead, but Zed was my first.

I played and played, entranced by the fluidity of her movements at the keyboard, her comical moues of concentration when picking out a particularly kicky little riff. When I got tired, I took it to a slow bridge or gave her a solo. I was going to make this last as long as I could. Meanwhile, I maneuvered my way between her and the hatch.

When I blew the last note, I was wrung out as a washcloth, but I summoned the energy to zip over to the hatch and block it. She calmly untied and floated over to me.

I looked in her eyes, silvered slanted cat-eyes, eyes that I’d been staring into all afternoon, and watched the smile that started at their corners and spread right down to her long, elegant toes. She looked back at me, then, at length, grabbed ahold of my joint again.

“You’ll do,” she said, and led me to her sleeping quarters, across the station.

We didn’t sleep.

Zoya had been an early network engineer for the geosynch broadband constellations that went up at the cusp of the world’s ascent into Bitchunry. She’d been exposed to a lot of hard rads and low gee and had generally become pretty transhuman as time went by, upgrading with a bewildering array of third-party enhancements: a vestigial tail, eyes that saw through most of the RF spectrum, her arms, her fur, dogleg reversible knee joints and a completely mechanical spine that wasn’t prone to any of the absolutely inane bullshit that plagues the rest of us, like lower-back pain, intrascapular inflammation, sciatica and slipped discs.

I thought I lived for fun, but I didn’t have anything on Zed. She only talked when honking and whistling and grabbing and kissing wouldn’t do, and routinely slapped upgrades into herself on the basis of any whim that crossed her mind, like when she resolved to do a spacewalk bare-skinned and spent the afternoon getting tin-plated and iron-lunged.

I fell in love with her a hundred times a day, and wanted to strangle her twice as often. She stayed on her spacewalk for a couple of days, floating around the bubble, making crazy faces at its mirrored exterior. She had no way of knowing if I was inside, but she assumed that I was watching. Or maybe she didn’t, and she was making faces for anyone’s benefit.

But then she came back through the lock, strange and wordless and her eyes full of the stars she’d seen and her metallic skin cool with the breath of empty space, and she led me a merry game of tag through the station, the mess hall where we skidded sloppy through a wobbly ovoid of rice pudding, the greenhouses where she burrowed like a gopher and shinnied like a monkey, the living quarters and bubbles as we interrupted a thousand acts of coitus.

You’d have thought that we’d have followed it up with an act of our own, and truth be told, that was certainly my expectation when we started the game I came to think of as the steeplechase, but we never did. Halfway through, I’d lose track of carnal urges and return to a state of childlike innocence, living only for the thrill of the chase and the giggly feeling I got whenever she found some new, even-more-outrageous corner to turn. I think we became legendary on the station, that crazy pair that’s always zipping in and zipping away, like having your party crashed by two naked, coed Marx Brothers.

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