Confessions

Neither of them expected it, yet it didn’t take them by surprise. It was one of those mild nights where the wind held off the frost, and the promise of spring was in their blood, making them feel wild and restless. They walked again, down her streets this time, the stars almost invisible above the orange glow of street lights. Xe wore her old leather jacket, the shoulders slightly too big, the arms slightly too long, the warmth smelling of her making it fit just right.

It was still early, the Market still humming with activity as they wandered from shop to shop, pausing to buy their favourite snacks, spending too much money on sweets. They meandered arm in arm up and down each long, brick-paved aisle, the sound of the other shoppers fading into insignificance compared to the warmth of the body next to them, the gentle bump of shoulder against shoulder, the squeeze of a hand as the crowd jostled against them.

They didn’t talk much. Words spun around them like a waft of perfume, the scent of a flowering daphne being warmed by the sun, hovering on the edge of the senses. If you chased it, it would be lost. You didn’t force it, you waited, let it come to you with the breeze. Xe bought her a baby mint plant in a pretty pot, and she bought xem their favourite hazelnut coffee. They debated over which stall sold the best fruit for the best price, and compromised by purchasing bananas at her favourite, and strawberries at xyrs.

When they emerged, the wind pushed them toward the river, the crowds thinning from the main streets, funneled into the clubs and pubs, or heading home with their late night shopping. They wandered, slowly, their destination only half formed in their minds, their purpose still unspoken. They ate the strawberries and shared one of the chocolate cakes she’d bought, licking the melted chocolate from their fingers, laughing at the icing sugar on her nose.

There were always people by the river, but their unspoken words wrapped them in a cocoon of quiet, the strangers passing no more than shadows, insignificant and irrelevant. The words were stronger now, their scent enveloping them, drawing them closer as they sat on the bank, their jeans damp from the grass.

The words would be said later. For now there was only fingers tangling, breath mingling, lips meeting. At last. At last. It wasn’t expected, but it wasn’t a surprise.

Text: All Rights Reserved to Cambrey Payne 2017

Image from: http://www.phuket.com/shopping/banzaan-market.htm

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The Beginnings of Joy

The coldest nights always showed the brightest stars, scattered across the arching sky like icing sugar carelessly dropped onto a slate tile. Galaxies swirled and danced above them, living creatures made of distant fire. He rarely saw them, living in the city, where light pollution blotted out all but the very brightest. He kept his eyes skyward, a half-smile permanently etched on his features. Here, the faintest lights still glimmered, dust-like, still visible behind their nearer companions. It was difficult to imagine the infinite stretches beyond those glittering crystalline lights, to imagine the lives that were lived around those stars, the other beings who, even now, might be looking up from their planets and wondering about them. And all that light, the seemed so fresh and cold and new, was aeons old before it even reached them. Many of those stars were long dead, along with whatever life had formed from them.
Xe huffed out a sigh, xyr breath fogging in the frigid air, barely visible in the dim lights that lined their path. Xe banished the gloomy philosophic thoughts. This was not the time and place for considering impossibly long-dead civilisations. Here, the air was still clear and fresh, smelling of damp and dead leaves and running water—full of life.
“This way,” xe said suddenly. Xe turned and scrambled up the hill, laughing as xyr feet slipped in the wet grass. Xe felt as though xe danced, although to the casual observer, xe had all the grace of a half-grown puppy, all long limbs and too-big feet, and the sense of always being just on the verge of falling.
“Where are we going?” he called, following more carefully, dignified as always. Xe grinned, invisible in the darkness.
“To get a better view.” Xe didn’t wait for him when xe reached xyr goal, but immediately grabbed hold of the closest bar of the climbing frame and swung xyrself up. The bars were damp and freezing, sending shocks into xyr fingers, but xe ignored the discomfort and concentrated on climbing as quickly as possible. It had been a while, and it took more effort than usual, xyr muscles protesting at such unreasonable treatment. Xe looked down as he reached the top of the hill and grinned again. It was rare that xe got to be taller than him. He examined the frame carefully, apparently not trusting xyr chosen path. He selected a rather more circuitous route to the top, climbing with the caution of one whose usual exercise involved a gym, or at the very least, a paved running circuit.
“Holy shit, these bars are freezing,” he muttered. “If I break anything falling out of this, you’re going to be the one looking after me.” Xe snorted.
“You could try not falling out of it,” xe suggested helpfully. He paused in his climb and xe knew he was sticking his tongue out at xem, even if xe couldn’t see his face. He finally reached xyr perch at the top of the climbing frame and hauled himself up next to xem, looking out over the lake that now spread out below them, the tiny lights that lined the path around its edge twinkling as they reflected off the rippling surface. They were just bright enough to show the edges of the mist rising from the water, the air already nearly cold enough to form frost where they sat. For a while, they sat without speaking, the only sound the muttering of waterfowl below, the chattering of the stream, and the hush of settling dew. The stars watched them.
“My arse is going numb,” he said eventually. “And I can’t feel my fingers. It’s bloody freezing up here.” Xe laughed and shuffled closer, taking his bare hands between xyr gloved ones and rubbing them gently.
“You poor delicate city-boy,” xe said. “A numb arse is all part of the experience.” Xe sensed him turn to look at xem, his expression intense, even in the darkness. There was a sharp intake of breath, then a sigh, then another deep breath.
“City-girl,” she said softly. “Not city-boy.” Xe scootched round to look more closely at her, but she’d dropped her eyes and was staring determinedly at the lake. Xe didn’t say anything, just wrapped xyr arms around her and laid xyr head on her shoulder. She sniffed loudly and swiped at her nose with one hand, the other sneaking around xyr waist. Another long quiet descended.
“Thanks for telling me,” xe said finally. A surprised laugh stuttered out of her mouth.
“I had a whole speech planned, you know,” she said. Xe grinned.
“You wanna give it now?” She leaned back and looked down at xem, smiling as though she would never stop.
“Why not,” she said.

All Rights Reserved to Cambrey Payne 2017. Acknowledge sources when sharing.

The Dangers of Internet Stalking

Written while listening to ‘Bad Liar’, by Selena Gomez. Because reasons.
There is a lot of sarcasm in this piece. I have marked it using / for those who struggle to identify it.

I didn’t plan any of it. I didn’t even want it. And yet, there I was, sending him a friend request, like a twit. /Of course it was because he probably posted interesting things, that I would be interested in, and not because I was being a creepy stalker. Of course./ I was angry with myself, even as I clicked on his name. For Hades’ sake, I barely knew the man. One semester in the same tutorial did not a friendship make, and yet here I was, apparently reverting to teenage behaviour. Thirty years apparently hadn’t taught me as much self-control as I would have hoped.

I’d been single for a while, and I liked it that way. Dating was a nightmare, people were generally awful, and I already had too many things to fill my time without having to worry about spending time with another human being. I wasn’t exactly swamped with offers—to be more accurate, I had precisely zero—but even if I had been, I would have been single by choice. /Which was, of course, why I was scrolling down his Timeline at 3pm on a Thursday afternoon, wondering if he was involved with any of the people in his profile picture./

“Oh for fuck’s sake,” I muttered to myself, turning off my phone with unwonted force. “Stop it.” The person sitting next to me on the bus looked at me strangely. I ran my hand through my hair, wincing as my fingers caught on the tangles, and nodded sharply to myself. That was it, I would let it drop. I was a mature adult.

I was not a mature adult. /When he accepted my friend request two minutes after I’d sent it, my stomach definitely hadn’t flipped itself over three times, and I definitely hadn’t smiled so broadly I felt like the top of my head would fall off. Definitely not. And I hadn’t dressed more carefully than usual the next day on the off chance that I’d see him on campus somewhere. Of course I hadn’t./

It’s situations like this that make self-awareness a thorough-going pain in the arse.

I firmly refused to scroll through his Timeline and see what he’d posted, or to check his relationship status. Instead, I pulled out my reader and forced myself to concentrate on Foucault’s thoughts on power all the way into uni, my highlighter squeaking in protest when I marked the important passages with more violence than was strictly necessary. I stubbornly opened the Action Music playlist on my phone as I walked to campus from the bus stop, not even looking at the Luuuurve playlist. I kept my eyes on the ground as I navigated my way through the people heading to work and school and shops, determined not to see him even if he did happen to walk by. /Which wasn’t why I kept my eyes down, of course, I wasn’t thinking about him at all, I was concentrating firmly on the panopticon and the ways in which it applied to feminist theory. Of course./

I couldn’t maintain that level of determined detachment forever, unfortunately, and I forgot myself so far as to start listening to Ed Sheeran on my way to lunch. I was feeling so good that I forgot I was supposed to be keeping my eyes down, and instead I strode along with my head up, observing the people flowing around me with a writer’s interest (although still avoiding eye contact at all costs).
The first time I saw him, I actually flinched. A second later, I realised it wasn’t him at all, just another tall guy with a neat beard. (/Curse him for having a currently popular hair-style./) I swore at myself under my breath, scaring the poor woman walking towards me as my usual /Resting Murder Face descended into Actual Murder Face/ due to my momentary irritation with myself. The second time I saw him, I managed not to react outwardly, and settled for being astonished that I could have mistaken someone with such bland eyes for him. By the fifth time, I had to physically restrain myself from slapping myself in the face. Fortunately for me, Resting Murder Face is a very good cover for this kind of nonsense.

I was definitely not a mature adult. But, by the time we were four weeks into semester, I got very good at faking it.

Well, I thought I was good at faking it.

I was wrong. All my friends noticed and laughed at me for it. I treated them to a dignified silence and determined not to look at his Timeline again. I reminded myself why I liked being single and wrote a blog post about why modern concepts of heteronormative romance were problematic.

At the beginning of week four, I found myself fighting temptation once again, seconded in a quiet corner of the library and trying to bully my brain into finishing an essay. It wasn’t a particularly scintillating topic, and 500 words in, I found myself searching for any distraction. As always, Facebook was attempting to come to my aid, and I was getting annoyed with myself about it. I managed to write two more sentences, both of which I immediately deleted, before I caved and opened my News Feed. I absolutely did not open his page. No, really! I scrolled down my News Feed, looking for his picture.

The moment I realised what I was doing I swore out loud and closed my browser.

“That bad, huh?”

I looked up into brown eyes and almost cursed again. This him was actually him.

“Maybe not that bad,” I said. By some miracle, I managed not to sound like I was being strangled.

“Mind if I join you?”

I really, really wasn’t a mature adult. It was okay, though. Turned out he wasn’t either.

Image and text: All Rights Reserved to Cambrey Payne 2017. Acknowledge sources when sharing and do not repost without original source.

The Sleeping Princess

Greetings, lovely readers! It’s been far too long, but I’m back at it again. Check in every Monday to get the latest update – there will be short stories, comics, and I will also be posting weekly rants over on my feminist blog (found here: https://msmcrantypants.wordpress.com/ ). Please give me a like and a follow, and check out my Facebook page (found here: https://www.facebook.com/cambrey.payne3 ) for more content, including YouTube chats and songs, and general fictionating. 🙂

– Love Cam

Once upon a time, there was a small kingdom, over which much of the old magic still held its sway. Despite many blessings, the king and queen were saddened, for they had no heir, and the queen had passed the age at which she could hope to bear a child. In a last, desperate attempt to save his family line, the king approached a fairy for help, though he had little faith in the old powers. The fairy agreed to help the king, but in return, she asked that the king return the Great Eastern Forest to the fairy folk, to whom the Forest had belonged before the king’s great great grandfather had conquered them many years ago. The king, hardly believing the fairy could grant him his wish, agreed.

In time, the queen seemed to become ill, and the king cursed the fairy who had promised him a future that now looked impossible. Yet the cause of the illness soon became clear, and the king’s despair was turned to joy, for the queen was with child. She was not young, however, and her pregnancy was difficult. It ended, as such things often do, with the queen’s death, even as the king’s wish was granted. As he held his only child, however, he felt no happiness. His cherished wife was dead, and instead of the heir he desired, he had been given a daughter. The king’s grief knew no bounds, and in his rage he refused to honour his promise to the fairy. In return for this treachery, the fairy promised him that he would not see his daughter reach adulthood. The little princess was cursed to die before her eighteenth birthday, a revenge all the sweeter to the fairy folk who knew how much greater the king’s pain would be once he had grown to know and love his daughter.
The king called out his army against the fairy folk who had thus cursed his family, and hunted down every last one he could find. But the fairy who had done the mischief, and all her court, retreated far into the Great Eastern Forest, where the king – despite all his efforts – could not find them.

It so happened that during this purge, three young fairy folk were captured who, rather than surrender themselves to inevitable death, offered their services to the king in exchange for their freedom. They told the king that, while they could not undo the curse that had been placed upon the little princess, they might yet be able to mitigate the worst of its effects. Rather than dying, they said, the princess would fall into a deep sleep, a sleep that would be ended when a worthy suitor bestowed upon her highness the kiss of true love.

The king, though now despising all things magical, agreed to spare the fairies in order to save his daughter’s life. For though he had not yet learned to value her as he would a son, she was yet his child, and he loved her. So the fairies cast their magic and were released, whence they fled to the North and away from their native lands, for fear their own kind would seek to punish them for their betrayal.

Time passed, as time does. By the time the little princess was three years old, there were no longer any fairy folk to be found in the kingdom, for those few who escaped the purge had gone deep into hiding. Life in the kingdom settled back into its usual routine, and the seasons continued to turn. The princess grew, and in the absence of her mother, became the centre of her father’s life. She was a handsome girl, and though rather indulged, was not mean-spirited and was only a little selfish, in the way of most privileged children. She was never told of the war that had begun because of her birth, and her father protected her most assiduously from any rumours, for fear she would blame him for his actions. As she approached her eighteenth birthday, however, she noticed her father’s increasing disturbance, and was worried for him. After many nights of entreaty and many professions of concern, her father relented and told her of the curse, and of the slim hope that had been granted him, for even now, he doubted the word of the three fairies who had promised to save his daughter.

The princess was naturally shocked by this tale, but found such fantastic ideas impossible to believe. She comforted her father as best she could, and tried to hide her fear that he might be losing his faculties, for surely such tales could come only from the most fevered of minds. Yet her doubts were proved false, for on the eve of her birthday, she was taken suddenly ill, and fell into a dead faint. She was carried to her bed, and the best physicians in the city were called to her service, but to no avail. The princess had sunk into a deep slumber, from which no medicine could revive her. The king was struck anew with grief, and his daughter’s continuing life was but scant comfort. For although she still breathed, she was gone from him, and he knew not how to awaken her.

His advisors, however, knowing of his agreement with the fairies, called upon all the young noblemen within their reach. At first, there were many volunteers willing to attempt to save the handsome young princess. But after the first young man kissed the princess, the other volunteers found themselves suddenly unwilling to take such a risk. For the fairies had neglected to warn the king of the danger of their spellwork: if a suitor who was not worthy of the princess were to kiss her, he would be instantly undone. And as fairies take their business quite literally, the undoing of the young nobleman was quite unpleasant and quite irreversible, as the very dust that made up his body was torn asunder and spread upon the four winds.

Despite this horrific danger, over the years, there were yet young men willing to attempt to awaken the princess. They met, every one, with the same end, and the princess remained deep in sleep.

In time, the king died, and his kingdom passed to his cousins, who, through continual squabbles over who had best right to the throne, eventually tore the kingdom apart, and it was divided up between the neighbouring countries. The palace, having little tactical, or any other kind of significance, was allowed to fall into disrepair. The inhabitants at first thought to move the princess, who, despite the passing of the years, was still as fresh and lovely as the day on which she had fallen into sleep. But there was no one brave enough to touch her, and she remained hidden in the palace, watched over at first by nearby villagers, but eventually forgotten. The villagers had only vague memories of what had happened to the castle, and stayed away for fear it was cursed. All that remained of the princess was her legend.

There were, at times, young men who came to explore the Great Eastern Forest, and who often travelled afterward past the castle on their way to more adventures. Hearing the legends, they would venture to explore the castle in search of the mysterious cursed princess. They never returned.

One day, over a century later, two young knights approached the village, fresh from seeking adventure in the Forest. One, Darion, was a nobleman from a neighbouring country, the other his cousin, Elina. They cared little enough for one another, for he resented her superior skill with a sword, and she his legal right to her father’s property (for her father had no sons). Their fathers had sent them on a Great Tour together in the hope that the sharing of trials and adventures would do what two decades companionship had not. Their plan was unsuccessful, however, and the pair arrived in the village as unsatisfied with one another as they had been at the beginning of their journey.

As with most noble adventurers, the pair broke their journey at the Grey Pony Inn, where they were treated by the innkeeper to the old tale of the castle. Darion was greatly struck with the idea of a sleeping princess and a cursed castle – not least because, should the princess exist, this was a campaign in which his cousin could surely not best him – and, though Elina doubted the veracity of such legends, she was yet interested in exploring the abandoned castle for its own sake. Both had seen enough of fairy folk in the Great Eastern Forest to know that such places could, indeed, be hubs of magic and adventure, and they had not yet had enough of either to content the voracious appetites of the young. To the castle, therefore, they went.

Darion, claiming the right of the eldest (by a mere seventeen days), was the first to ascend the stairs, which were blanketed with dirt and the banister wound around with thorned vines that crept underfoot and sought to trip the unwary. They made their ascent safely, however, and set about making their separate explorations of the upper floors of the castle. After some time, and finding nothing of great interest beyond a beautiful prospect of the distant mountains, and some interesting historical architecture, Elina decided to seek out her cousin so they might return to their inn and prepare for their departure the next day. After searching for some time, she found him in an upper room that she had not yet explored, standing over a large, canopied bed. When she asked him what he did, he would not reply, and coming into the room, she saw why. Upon the bed lay the figure of a young woman, perhaps a little younger than themselves. She was clearly sleeping, and, though covered in a layer of dust, appeared otherwise quite healthy. There was still colour in her cheeks, and her breathing was deep and even.

Darion could not draw his eyes from the young woman’s face. His expression was rapturous, although Elina knew him well enough to understand that it was not the young woman who captured his fancy, but rather the prospect of further adventure, further risk, and – if he should succeed in waking the legendary princess – further glory. Elina, however, felt no such emotions, and warned her cousin to be wary of the curse of which the innkeeper had warned them. While she voiced her concern for her cousin, however, she could not help feeling sorry for the sleeping princess, who had been the unknowing subject of so many Darions over the decades, and who would probably, were she to ever know of it, be quite horrified at the attention her poor sleeping form had received. Were she to ever be so cursed, Elina thought, she would want such a protection as had been offered this maiden, for she was sure it was only the fear of being dissolved that kept unscrupulous men at bay.

Darion, however, comprehended none of his cousin’s sympathy, nor any of her fears. Taking off his gloves, he knelt beside the sleeping princess and laid a kiss on her flushed lips. The princess moved not a muscle, and Darion, after regarding her hopefully for a moment, stood. He turned to his cousin, intending to deride her for baseless fears, but found he could not speak. His disappointment turned to horror, but only briefly, for the fairy curse took hold quickly, and he had not even time to scream before he was transformed into dust and blown away upon the late breeze.

Elina, watching Darion’s undoing with more shock than despair, was frozen to the spot. It was one thing to hear of such magic, and quite another to witness it. It was many long minutes before she could force herself to move, and when she came to her senses again, she was overcome with disgust and pity when she realised that much of the dust overlaying the princess’s form must have come from countless undone suitors.

Although it made her sick to her stomach, she approached the bed and, keeping her gloves on, began to brush the dust from the princess’s sleeping form. After a moment, however, she found there was no respectful way to do so properly, and decided that the only course of action was to return to the inn for some blankets, which might be used to brush the dust off, and then to cover the princess against further injury. As she stood to leave, she laid one gloved hand on the bare hand of the princess.

“I shall return soon,” she assured the sleeping girl. “Have no fear. I will not harm you.” And, all unthinking, she kissed her gloved fingers and laid them on the hand of the sleeping princess, as if to reassure her, for she felt keenly sorry for the girl. Then she turned to go.

Elina had almost reached the door when she heard a rustling of fabric, a creaking of ancient bed-ropes (it was surely only magic that could have kept them intact so long) and a drawn out sigh. Turning, all astonished, she saw the princess sit up, blinking in the late afternoon light and utterly bemused to find her bedchamber ruined and inhabited only by a strange knight.

I will leave it to the reader to decide for themselves what happened next, but I think if they were to imagine that Elina’s comforting presence went some way to easing the pain of a century’s sleep, and led eventually to more adventuring, in which the princess (whose name was Penelope) happily joined as Elina’s closest companion, they would not be too far from the truth.

And it remains only to be observed that fairy folk rarely observe the limiting customs of such small minded humans as often occupy the ruling classes, and that perhaps they know better than such humans what they require. (And perhaps, most important of all, the fairy folk should never be treated as tradespeople to have demands made of them, but that is a lesson no human has yet learned, and I suspect no human ever will.)

This work is based on the traditional fairytale ‘Sleeping Beauty’. This adaptation is the property of Cambrey Payne 2017. Do not repost without original link, and acknowledging sources when sharing.

The Rainbow Agenda

6am: Suzy brings me breakfast.  She’s wearing high heels already, at six in the goddamn morning.  I’m not complaining, mind you.  I’ve always had a thing for girls in business suits and high heels.  She puts the tray on the bed and I watch as she picks out my clothes.  I wouldn’t mind having Suzy for breakfast, but she still thinks she’s straight, poor thing.  I’ll have to settle for pancakes.

“Who was it last night?” Suzy asks, eyeing the vibrator still lying on the floor.  I grin shamelessly.

“Miranda, from accounting,” I reply.  Suzy shakes her head, and I can’t tell if she’s more amused or disapproving.

I wonder while I drink my coffee if it’s possible to grin shamefully.  Of course, one would have to feel shame in order to do that, and I’ve never felt ashamed a day in my life.  Guilt is a cishet problem.  The rest of us just don’t have the time.

“Will you be sending flowers or chocolates this time?”  Suzy interrupts my wandering thoughts.  I think for a moment.

“Both,” I reply.  Miranda is definitely worth it.  Who knew accountants could be so imaginative?

Suzy snorts quietly and puts my Converse shoes down with rather more force than necessary.  I guess disapproving won the day.  She finishes with my clothes and picks up her iPad.  It seems we’ve spent enough time discussing my personal life.  Time to review today’s agenda.

“Did you remember we moved the Civil Libertarians to 8 o’clock?” she asks.  I sigh.  It’s too early in the morning to think about those free speech obsessives.

“What are they whining about this time?” I ask.

“They say the most recent amendments to the Discrimination Act are too open to interpretation, particularly the part about ‘intent to cause offense’.”  Now it’s my turn to snort.

“That’s kind of the point.”

“Martin had lunch with their deputy chief yesterday.  He thinks he can get them to keep quiet about the changes if you appoint one of their people to the next Assessment Committee.”

“Done.”  I climb out of bed and groan.  My entire right leg aches and my ribs feel like someone punched me.  I guess I’m going to have to work out more if I want to keep seeing Miranda.  Suzy gives me a Look over the top of her glasses.  I’d laugh at her if it wouldn’t hurt.  When she’s done judging me, she turns back to the screen.

“The Committee for Linguistic Flexibility is at nine.  You’re discussing the introduction of the gender neutral pronoun into public institutions.”

“That campaign’s going well,” I say, heading for the bathroom.  “The legitimacy of the singular ‘they’ seems to be gaining ground.”  Suzy shakes her head.

“So far the only mainstream publications interested in the idea are The Guardian and the SMH, and probably only because they’re on our payroll.  The others are claiming it’s another example of political correctness gone too far.”

“Do we know why?”

“Apparently the only people who really understand the Principles of the Evolution of Language are the ones we paid to invent them.”  I frown at my reflection as I wash my hands.

“Bugger.  I suppose we should have seen that coming.”  I think for a moment.  “Add it to the agenda for the meeting.  If we can dumb it down enough for the great unwashed, we might be able to sell it as an anti-establishment move.  Sticking it to the grammar police and so on.”

“Noted.”

“And email Clowd-Frostbyn-Raynbo-Hott-Ayr-Ballun Williams.  Get xem to invent some more neutral pronoun options, the more ‘z’s and ‘y’s and ‘x’s, the better.”

“Why?”  Suzy looks confused.  “Surely we want to simplify things for the mainstream, not make them more complicated?”  I sigh.  She still has so much to learn.

“That’s the point,” I say, as patiently as I can.  “Compared to twenty different combinations of zem/ze/zyr, the singular ‘they’ won’t be intimidating at all, so they won’t fight it.”  Suzy nods and adds a note to her schedule.

“What’s next?” I ask, as I reach for the toothpaste.

“If we’re adding items to the Committee agenda, we’re going to have to push back the Safe Schools Coalition to midday.  Do you want me to make it a lunch meeting?”

“O’cor I wa’ oo o ae i’ a ung ee’ng, oo uck’i’ i’io,” I say.

“Pardon?”  I spit my mouthful of toothpaste foam into the sink and roll my eyes at the mirror.

“Of course I want you to make it a lunch meeting.  And don’t forget to order halal this time.”  There’s silence while Suzy emails the restaurant with our lunch order, and for once I’m allowed to dress in peace.  I’m still thinking about the gender neutral pronouns.  Queering language is one of our most important tasks.  When you control language, you control thoughts, or close enough.  That makes me think of the Civil Libertarians.  They’re always accusing us of “thought policing”, which makes me laugh.  Of course we want to police people’s thoughts, if only we knew how.  We can’t have people thinking whatever they like – they’ve been doing that for thousands of years, and look what a pig’s breakfast they’ve made of things.  Straight people everywhere, white people holding all the money, the nuclear family’s still a thing, which means woman are being forced into motherhood while men don’t suffer at all – it’s a disaster, but one that we’re slowly bringing around.  Too slowly, if today’s agenda is anything to go by.

The door is flung open so hard it bounces off the wall and Suzy and I both jump.

“Hiiiii, girlfriends!”  Martin, my second-in-command, always likes to make an entrance.  We wouldn’t normally have men in the Inner Circle, but Martin’s so gay he practically sparkles.  In fact, today he is sparkling – he has shimmering silver painted along his cheekbones, which goes surprisingly well with his eight thousand dollar suit and Gucci shoes.  Next to him, I look like a hobo, which is exactly as it should be.  A well-dressed lesbian is a contradiction in terms.

“Hi Martin,” I say.  “Thanks for sorting out the Libertarians.”  He prances over and we give each other air kisses.

“It was nothing, darling,” he said.  “Their deputy chief is already on our side, if you know what I mean.”  He winks suggestively and I laugh.  Martin certainly has a way with the men, which is proving an absolute Goddess-send to the cause.

“Will you be at the meeting?” I ask.

“No, sweetie, I simply must have my nails done, they’re looking dreadful.”  Only a gay man can really speak in italics.  I slip my phone into my pocket and gesture to Suzy.

“Walk with me,” I say, heading down the corridor.

“Speaking of people on our side,” Martin says, walking with me, “Satan was at the bar last night.  He’s not very pleased with us.”

“He’s never pleased with anyone,” I say.

“No, but he did essentially start our movement, he says it’s not fair that we’re neglecting him.”  I sigh.  He has a point.  If it weren’t for Satan, we wouldn’t be here.  After all, who else could have created a society like the Illuminati?

“I could slip in a drinks date around 4:30 and reschedule your hair appointment,” Suzy suggests.  Martin gasps and stops in his tracks.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” I say.  I can’t believe she could even suggest such a thing.  “I can’t miss that appointment!  My undercut is so long I almost look -” I swallow hard “- straight.”  Martin closes his eyes and makes the sign of the All-Seeing Eye to ward off such horrors.  Suzy looks confused.  Apparently she doesn’t understand what she’s suggesting.

“But surely,” she says, “surely Satan is more important than -”

“Oh. Em. Gee, Suzy,” says Martin.  “Don’t you understand by now?  There’s no point being gay if nobody can tell!”

“I’m sorry,” Suzy says.  “What about if you invite him to the Safe Schools Coalition meeting?  You’re discussing the introduction of explicit content and the destruction of traditional marriage today.  Two of his favourite things.”

“Yes, do that,” I say, relieved.  “They were both his idea, and he does like to feel involved.”  The back of my hand is still itchy, and when I scratch it, some of the skin comes away.  I can see scales underneath.  I sigh.

“And I’ll need an appointment with Doctor Werber ASAP.”  Suzy frowns.

“But you only shed your last skin five months ago,” she said.

“I know, I just can’t seem to make a skin last these days.”

“I know exactly what you mean,” Martin says sympathetically.  “It’s the stress.”  He’s right.  Things were so much simpler on Mars, before we came here, before we had to cover our beautiful scales with this soft pink stuff.  But it’s the sacrifice we had to make.  It’s no easy task, controlling the government, limiting free speech and converting an entire population to queerness.  But someone has to do it.

This piece is satire.  The views and stereotypes contained herein do not reflect those of the author.  Mostly.  Well, only a little bit.  (Up with the super gay matriarchy.)

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Image from https://dillonpete.files.wordpress.com/2015/07/marriage-equality.jpg – found in a great post about marriage equality, please click on the link and take a look.

All rights to this original work are reserved to Cambrey Payne 2016. Acknowledge sources when sharing and do not repost without original source.