I have no voice.
That's one of the Rules. My mouth is fully formed; my teeth are, in fact, rather better than David's, despite his expensive orthodontic work, and I'm much better at remembering to brush and floss. I have a tongue, too. I've toyed with the idea of getting it pierced, a long line of glittering studs. I'm making myself wait another few months, because I don't want to do anything rash. But if I still want it pierced then, I'll go ahead and do it.
It might be that I don't have a larynx; that might be the physical manifestation of that particular Rule. I'll probably get around to checking one of these days, find an excuse to get an X-Ray or something. The larynx would show up if it was there, wouldn't it?
"Hello," David calls, and shuts the door behind him. Quickly. Nervous that someone might see inside. Vestigial reflex; I've been living here for nearly a year, and go in and out all the time. My presence here is no secret, if anyone cared enough to notice.
>>Hello,<< I reply. I have no voice; but the Rules don't say anything about American Sign Language, having predated it by a couple millenia. >>Did you have a good day?<<
"An okay day. I've got a lot of papers to grade." He drops the pile on the kitchen table in front of me. I read the last few lines of a paragraph, before coming to a convenient break.
>>Do you want me to cook?<<
He doesn't wince any more when I ask that. He's finally accepted, for the most part, that I'm offering of my own free will, not out of any sense of obligation.
"I was just thinking pizza," he shrugs. I study him, and decide that he really wants pizza, and shrug back my assent.
He has to call, of course. But he doesn't turn his back to me, even though he knows what toppings I like. It took him a while to get used to living with someone who can't communicate with the spoken word, but now he's very good at remembering to watch me, even if it's just out of the corner of his eye.
>>I wanted to talk to you,<< I say when he hangs up. >>About taking classes.<<
Almost-wince. "I know you feel stifled here--"
I shake my head. Sometimes he purposefully misunderstands; this is one of those times. It's like when his mother calls, and says she's so sorry he thinks she was a bad mother. Just looking for an argument, and an affirmation.
>>I don't feel stifled. I'm happy. But I want a degree.<<
"I guess I could talk with Mike," he says, looking down. Mike is one of those people who firmly believes that cyberpunk will come to pass, and regrets that he's only experiencing the faintest echoes of cyberspace. Or maybe he regrets being too young to have been a 60s radical. In either case, he's a hacker. He knows about me, and has offered to create a past history for me. David has always sidestepped the issue.
>>I know you've got a moral problem, and I can appreciate that. But this is important to me. And I'd need a fake past eventually.<<
I can't go around explaining the reality of my "birth". Conceived in mid-semester ennui, formed from clay in a cluttered apartment, and given life.
Since then, I've read about imprinting. I think that must have happened with me. I don't feel ashamed about it, despite the feminist writing I've gone through. Looking up at him, so completely, utterly surprised.... I can't really say I fell in love with him at that first moment, I don't know that I've ever "fallen" in love. I just couldn't imagine life without that man, even before I knew him.
"I'll call him," David says, and I shake my head.
>>We've got time. I won't be applying for another few months.<<
I've got my application filled out, the essays written. I'm thinking I want to study folklore, in some ways close to what he's doing, getting his Ph.D in Judaic Studies. He's the sort of person who can't not examine his own Jewishness, but he isn't religious enough to be a rabbi. It's probably just as well; it means he doesn't have to worry so much about the issue of my soul, on top of everything else.
When he'd leave the apartment, when I was very new (but not so new that he worried about leaving me alone), I looked at his books. I marveled at their beauty. Not their physical beauty, of course (certainly not with the way David mistreats his books, many of which are second- or third-hand to begin with). But I knew there was something inside. Something important. Something I wanted.
I can read English and Hebrew, now, and my German and French are coming along. My ASL is exceptionally good. David's was rusty, when he began to teach me, a remnant of his days as a camp counseler in high school, but he picked it up again pretty quickly.
He felt very guilty, which confused me for a long time. I thought he was sorry I was alive. But then, after I learned to read--learned to read books and learned to read him--I began to understand. He left things like Frankenstein lying around, in addition to various texts dealing with golems in Jewish folklore, and books from the Feminist section of the university bookstore. Then I understood.
He wasn't sorry that I was here. He was sorry for the sort of person he thought he had to be to have brought me to life in the first place. Victor Frankenstein was an irresponsible parent with a penchant for incest. Traditional golems were slaves, performing acts at their creators' whims, only to be discarded later.
Poor David. It also didn't help that he was sexually frustrated (I put that together later, from what Mike and other friends said). That was why he made me a woman. Imagine the horror of a sensitive Nineties man when he realizes that he does in fact have a sex slave. And one who cannot speak, on top of that.
He sleeps on the couch; I get the futon. I'm hoping that this will change. I think my going to school will be good for him, as well as me. It will help him feel that I am more of his equal, that he is helping me attain my potential.
He'll get past the incest metaphor, I think, just as he'll get past the sex slave imagery. Maybe I should put off getting my tongue pierced; it might scare him. I'll at least wait until we consummate our relationship.
I have no doubt it will happen, that he will realize that I am for him and he is for me. Ani l'dodi v'dodi li. I can't imagine being with any other man. I don't think he could ever imagine being with any particular woman, long term; he certainly can no longer imagine what he would consider a normal life. Which leaves me. Perhaps that means that I will win him by default, but that's all right. All relationships have their disappointments; that one is comparatively minor, and will fade into insignificance as the years pass.
I wonder if I can conceive children; there may be a Rule against it. But I suppose we can always adopt. That's the responsible thing, anyway, what with overpopulation.
The delivery man from around the corner knocks. Almost nobody ever has to get buzzed in, due to the magical forces that dictate apartment building traffic. David and I plotz on the couch, pizza and soda before us, and I turn on the T.V.
I flip around for a minute, and then stop on Fox. David's a little uncomfortable; I react by not reacting, but instead grab a slice of pizza. Onscreen, Agents Mulder and Scully have just tried to exhume the body of a murdered Hassidic Jew, and are puzzled by the contents of the coffin.
Some people have songs. I think of this as our episode, even though it's not the first episode of The X Files we watched together. And it's not at all reflective of our relationship. But it's so wonderfully sad. I almost cried the first time I saw it. I don't know if I would be able to erase the last remnants of the man I loved like that. But then, I probably wouldn't have been able to give him life in the first place. There's probably a Rule about that.
I've started planting books of my own around the apartment, just like David used to do. I've seen him eying Feet of Clay; I think he'll pick it up the next time he's got a light week. I think it will be very good for him.
The classics are so depressingly black and white. Frankenstein's creation had two choices: become a monster, or a martyr. Integration into society wasn't an option. Count Dracula and his fellow vampires didn't have personalities, motives, desires; they were just evil. And mythology's just as bad, with poor oppressed creatures like Blodeuwedd.
I like the modern stuff better. True, most of it's crap, the endless beating of mouldering horses. But there's the occassional gem, a way of looking at the world that is just somehow very right. I've been leaving the life-affirming stuff everywhere. The classics are good for telling me where I come from, what culture made me. I think it's an important thing to study and understand. But I don't read the classics to tell me where I'm going.
>>I'm very happy,<< I sign, my fingers greasy. David smiles.
>>I think we should get a cat,<< I add. It's something I've been thinking about for a while. I'd like to hear the patter of little feet. I'd like to be responsible for something. I'd like to have something that's ours.
For the briefest of moments, it's as if David has read my thoughts, and I can see the fear in his eyes. But then, before I can begin to feel sorry, the fear fades. "I think I'd like that," he says. "Cats are nice."
I smile, and snuggle against him to watch the rest of the episode.
Megan Powell graduated from Bryn Mawr College with a degree in History. She lives in suburban Philadelphia with her husband and their two cats. Ms. Powell and her husband are two of the incorporators of The Meredith Miller Memorial Internet Project, Inc., a non-profit organization founded to do good works on the web. Megan is the editor of the speculative fiction e-zine Fables.
She's had fiction and nonfiction accepted by several e-zines, including Quantum Muse and The Orphic Chronicle, and keeps a running tally of projects in her portfolio. She says this does not represent an oversized ego, but rather a mind like a sieve.