Mississippi Android Queen
When I began rusting under my synthetic skin, he instructed me to be the lady in red. I agreed to wear a red dress that night I was to meet them. I was told there would be six of them—counting him. What good might it have done, to become like a stranger to him, as if we had never met, so I could have a chance to do things over again, to do it right, though I was never sure what I had done wrong besides rusting, secretly, beneath my skin? In the hilltop living room, we were building dream castles out of cocaine before cruising down the sunset.
Out on bail, he was selling most of his androids to pay for his lawyers' fees when he asked me to be his plus one at the android orgy. An orgy? I asked, thinking how quaint, how very retrograde, then assuming I had heard wrong or that he was only joking. I laughed. It's no big deal, he assured me, and I didn't want him to know it was a big deal to me. I had never been to an orgy before, and I'll probably never go to one again. I worried. What if the orgy sucked balls?
That night, I could tell he was embarrassed for me. "Look," he said, "we need a lot of bodies in this place. We're desperate." Afterwards, he was quite the gentleman, apologizing profusely. Because of what happened when the rust started to leach through my skin, I will always dream about dirt roads through a meadow where the only landmarks are occasional trees, stables, and farmhouses. The rickety old cows mooed beneath the wooden bridge we drove over that night. When the dark held us, I felt as if we would fall into the river.
"What would you do if you started to rust?" he asked. "What would you do if you ended up in deep water?"
He drove me to a deep-water orgy for people who worked in slaughterhouse human resources, where he was the director of androids. On the houseboat, people were dancing with androids. I gazed into the reflection of white slaughterhouses on the dark water in the lagoon where they had been dumping animal blood before the city threatened to shut them down. There was still so much blood in the water that when I jumped in it turned my red dress the color of rust.
When he realized I was rusting, he sold me to cattlemen who owned the android-operated slaughterhouse on the edge of town.
Now, I dance at the cattleman's club and at the slaughterhouse, where an audience of stun-gun winos smack cowbells. Blood from the slaughterhouse is red wine to androids who work in the slaughterhouse and have family and friends who work there.
"Baby, here's to you," my new brother says, holding his goblet under a cow during exsanguination to catch the leather and cherry flavors of Tempranillo.
Floors inches deep in blood are flooded in Pinot Noir, but young dudes who love me don't know what I am. I kick. I swirl high. I grab the pole and spin so fast they get dizzy staring. Fueled by slaughterhouse blood, I'm teaching a young man how to love, and he thinks he's learning on a woman who shudders sweeter on wine.
I undulate lower. I jump higher. I crouch kinder. I dance faster. I kiss harder. I suck deeper. I tickle quicker. I trust easier. I laugh louder. I flop warmer. I play longer. I lie better since if he ever finds out the truth, he'd try to kill me because I can't die.
I sometimes wonder what it is to die when I watch androids kill cows as humans programmed us to do. Because humans hunger for meat, they have programmed us androids to get drunk on blood. Tonight, the kill-department androids are drunk as skunks where cows swing by hydraulics twenty feet up in the air, dripping Sangiovese.
Some cows bleed sweet wine and others bled dry burgundy. Some bleed Merlot and others bleed Cabernet. Dead cows circle above a hydraulic pulley system operated by the sweetest android winos in the world, android winos with a gentle enough touch to work a stun gun so that it's like a kiss on the rump. The stun-gun winos collect magnets found inside the cows' stomachs before turning the oldest cows, who bleed the finest aged red, into liquid fertilizer.
I drink Zinfandel and Malbec. Shiraz makes me feel fondly for the slaughterhouse and all who work there for minimum blood wage, until I have to face the stigma of humans who do not work in the slaughterhouse and think it uncouth to drink the Grenache that spurts from cows, though they eat hamburgers every day.
is the author of Refrigerated Music for a Gleaming Woman, which won the FC2 Catherine Doctorow Innovative Fiction Prize. Parkison has been published in numerous literary journals. She is Professor of English in the Creative Writing Program at Oklahoma State University and has published five books of experimental fiction.