What if a virus made it so that you couldn’t touch anyone without going insane? That’s the premise of this speculative sci fi short story-originally published in Infernal Ink Magazine.
Warning: contains bad language, violence and scenes of a sexual nature that some readers may find offensive.
The boys lounged on chairs in Vinnie’s penthouse, drinking beer and making jokes about the fires they could see raging far away in the slums. Naturally they all wore their protective skin suits, but they had taken off their helmets.
Except for Harry, who sipped his beer through a straw attachment in his mouthpiece.
The boys chewed the fat. They discussed designer brands of skin suits- debated whether it was more important to go for fashion or protection.
Vinnie told them about this new range of distress look Skin suits that had actual holes in- rows of tiny circles all over the suit just big enough for someone to poke in a finger.
He said they were meant to be a statement, an ‘I don’t give a shit’. He said they were probably going to be banned.
Luke said he kept hearing this rumour that a cure for ‘touch’ had been found years ago, but the big companies kept it suppressed so they could keep on selling Skin suits.
Vinnie said: “Bullshit,” and showed off his new Fuckbot.
Linda had self-cleaning orifices and synthetic skin that he had been assured was just like the real thing. Better even, because you could touch it and not turn into a diseased Fuckee maniac.
The boys were impressed. Fuckbot Linda even collected your sperm in temperature controlled test tubes and made deposits at the fertilisation centres so you didn’t have too.
Talk turned to Ed, who had been arrested and incinerated only last month. No one had seen Ed for months. They had thought he had taken an extended vacation.
Turned out he had become secretly addicted to touch. Black market drugs had slowed his physical deterioration for a while, but touch addiction was a one way street.
The police found Ed in an underground Fuckee gangbang, a pus ridden link in a very long daisy chain. The Fuckee’s kept fucking even when the police opened fire. Some of them they took alive to incinerate publically, as an example.
Dave said: How could you do it to yourself man?”
“No self respect,” said Vinnie.
“I watched his incineration,” said Luke, “Messed up. His hair had all fallen out and he had this, this, raging fucking hard on. It was so swollen it looked sore.”
He paused and shook his head, “Shit, I think he was even wanking himself off as they pushed him into the flames.”
The boys fell silent. Dave turned to Harry, said: “You two used to be best mates didn’t you?”
Luke said: “I wonder how he got infected?”
“Who cares,” said Vinnie, “Fuck Ed. We’re here to have a laugh aren’t we?”
He pointed at Harrys’ helmet: “Are you going to take that fucking thing off?”
Harry shook his head. He sucked a mouthful of beer, swallowed and said: “No way. Accidents happen. What if you fell and touched me?”
“Jesus,” said Vinnie “I bet you even sleep in it.”
“Yeah, so?” said Harry, then frowning added, “Why, don’t you?”
The others laughed. Vinnie called him a homo. Harry shook his head, “You can’t be too careful,” he said “What if a Fuckee broke into your apartment and touched you?”
Vinnie said: “I have a security guard. And he has a very big gun.”
“But what if he was secret Fuckee?” said Harry “What would you do then?”
“That’s dumb,” said Vinnie shrugging his shoulders. But he made a mental note to have Malcolm take a medical at least once a week.
On the far wall a message alert sign popped onto the projection screen.
Vinnie said: “Here we go boys, skin to skin action. Live” and with a flick of his wrist he swiped the message banner to the side, accepting the incoming transmission, “Show time.”
The boys sat up straight. They glanced at one another and flashed quick, nervous smiles. Harry moistened his dry lips and wrapped his arms tightly around himself. Luke frowned across at him and said: “Are you alright mate?”
“Fine,” said Harry.
Vinnie said: “Sh.”
A man in a purple and gold skin suit and matching helmet appeared on the screen. Flanking him were two burly men in tuxedo skin suits and helmets made to look like snarling gorillas.
Luke elbowed Harry and nodded at the purple figure on the screen. “Tinted visor,” he said under his breath, “So pimp.”
“Evening boys,” said the man in purple, his voice harsh and metallic through the amplified speakers of his helmet.
“Saul,” said Vinnie “How’s it going man?”
“Fucking great,” said Saul, “Is this transmission secure?”
“Course,” said Vinnie.
Vinnie folded his arms over his chest and said, “Do I look like a knobhead?”
Saul said “Do you want the honest answer?” and then, when Vinnie’s cheeks darkened, he added “Relax big man, I’m just fucking with ya. Here, get a load of this.”
On screen, the camera pulled back and panned revealing a concrete cell with bare walls and a filthy, busted up old mattress lying on the cold floor. A woman in a cheap skin suit sat slumped on edge of the mattress, her helmeted head lolling on her chest.
The boys tensed and leaned forward in their chairs.
One of the gorillas lifted the woman by an arm and yanked her up. She stumbled, eyes half closed beneath her visor. The gorilla let go. For a moment she stood swaying on her feet and then one of her knees buckled and she threatened to topple until a gorilla reached out and held her shoulder.
The woman’s eyes opened. She blinked for a few times, her eyes unfocused and dull. The gorilla let go. This time she kept her balance, although she stood uncertainly with all of her weight resting on her back leg.
“Is she stoned?” said Vinnie, his lip curling.
Saul shrugged and grinned, his white teeth flashing half visible behind his visor. “Just something to make sure she doesn’t get stage fright.”
Vinnie puffed out his chest. He glanced at the others from the corner of his eye to make sure they were paying attention.
“This better be good Saul,” he said “I’ve promised the boys here something special. Virgin infection. We want to watch the real deal man. She’d best not be some Fuckee skank.”
“Easy tiger,” said Saul, “You’ll get your monies worth.”
“Best had,” said Vinnie, “Right. Let’s have a look at her then.”
Saul clicked his fingers. The woman turned her head and stared at him, a frown creasing her forehead. Beads of sweat glistened on her flushed cheeks.
Saul said “Take your helmet off,” and then when she seemed not to understand leaned forward so that his visor thudded against hers and hissed, “Helmet.”
The woman nodded and fumbled with clasps at the base of her neck. She managed finally to unclip them and with a grunt of effort lifted the helmet up and over her head.
She held it for a moment tight against her breast until Saul knocked it from her hands and kicked it aside. She stared at it as it rolled across the floor, her lank, lifeless hair falling across her face.
“Her suit,” said Vinnie working hard to keep his voice even. The boys edged closer.
The woman reached for her zipper and missed. Saul batted her hand aside and yanked the zipper down past her navel. He tugged at the suit and in seconds it lay heaped and empty around the bulges of her knee caps.
“Slum Skinny,” said Dave pointing at her breasts, which fell flat and thin against her ribs.
Luke shuddered. “Real girls man. They give me the creeps. Give me a Fuckbot any day.”
“As you can see,” said Saul turning her round, “No infection. She’s never been touched.”
Dave said: “Where do you find these girls man?”
“Never you mind mate,” said Saul “Let’s just say she owed me a favour. She good enough for you?”
Vinnie lowered himself onto a chair and flicked a strand of hair from his eyes. “She’ll do” he said.
“Wait,” said Luke rising from his chair, “she’s too out of it. It’s better when they know what’s happening.”
“Man, you are sick,” said Vinnie grinning.
“It’s boring when they’re like this. Tell him to wake her up.”
Vinnie nodded at the screen.
Saul slapped the woman across the face. She gasped and opened her eyes. Saul turned her head to the camera and said: “The big boy’s want to have a word.”
Luke took a swig of beer and swilled it around his mouth. He said: “Do you know what’s about to happen to you?”
The woman nodded.
Vinnie and Dave cheered. Luke shook his head and said: “Jesus, it’s like she doesn’t even care.” He pointed at the screen, “Why don’t you care?”
“Who gives a shit?” said Dave, Luke glared at him and said: “You are going to be touched, are you too stupid to know what that means?”
Thewoman shrugged. Luke threw up his hands and slumped in his chair.
“Alrightie,” said Saul “Are we going to do this or what?”
“Fucking right,” said Vinnie punching the air.
Saul gestured to the gorillas. They nodded and disappeared through a door. A moment later they reappeared, muscles bulging as together they struggled to hold back a Fuckee on a leash.
Vinnie whistled and said: “That is one ugly bastard.”
“Isn’t he just,” said Saul.
The Fuckee strained and screamed. The leash, biting into its swollen neck burst a score of boils which spat yellow pus.
The boys groaned. Saul said, “You’re lucky you can’t smell that.”
The gorillas yanked the Fuckee back and turned its face towards the girl. The Fuckee froze. Knotted cords bunched under its jaundiced skin. Drool pooled between its feet.
The woman tried to sit up. Saul pushed her back down. She said: “No. I’ve changed my mind.”
Luke nodded and said “That’s more like it.”
The gorillas let go of the leash. For a moment the Fuckee stood motionless. Then it leaped. The woman opened her mouth to scream but the Fuckee was on her, its fingers in her mouth. It gibbered as it caressed her face and neck.
A gorilla pulled the Fuckee back.
The woman tried to get up then doubled up in pain. Saul said “Gentlemen, I give you infection.”
She clutched at her stomach. The camera zoomed in tight to her face. Her eyes, huge, stared out at the boys, the pupils dilated. Black, empty pits.
“Now she knows,” said Luke to himself.
The camera began to track back slowly. The boys watched as the woman began to spasm; limbs flailing as her head whipped from side to side. Vomit sprayed from her mouth. Convulsing, she slipped from the mattress and pounded her head against the concrete floor, so hard that the boys were amazed her skull didn’t split.
She stopped writhing. The pain twisted muscles of her face began to relax. Her tongue parted her lips and she made a low moaning sound.
Dave said: “Here we go.”
The gorillas let go the leash. The Fuckee charged again. It dived. The woman opened her arms. They locked mouths. She wrapped her knees about its wasted buttocks and took it inside of her. She bucked her hips and raked its back with her nails, popping sores and opening scabs.
Vinnie glanced at the boys who stared transfixed, erections making their skin suits bulge at the groin. Only Harry didn’t seem to be enjoying the show. His cheeks had flushed and his forehead shone with sweat.
“What’s up with you?” said Vinnie.
Harry took of his helmet.
“Just hot,” he said, as he swept a strand of damp hair out of his eyes.
“You look like shit,” said Vinnie.
Dave muttered quietly, as though to himself: “What do you think it feels like, to actually touch someone?”
Harry waited for Vinnie to turn away and then peeled off his gloves and flexed his fingers. The cool air made them tingle. His stomach clenched and a dull ache throbbed in his balls.
He had fought his desire for months. Tried so hard to resist but the urge had been building and building until he couldn’t sleep at night and he didn’t want to fight it anymore. It hurt too much to deny it and besides, he was doomed anyway.
The drugs had stopped working. The boils on his chest had spread and gotten worse and ever since he and Ed had made that pact and touched he had thought of nothing else. He gazed at the boys and pitied them. They didn’t know what they were missing.
It was a beautiful thing. The bond of flesh, he had to share it with them-
A Gorilla put a gun against the Fuckee’s head and pulled the trigger. A red mess splattered the woman’s face. Delirious, she tightened her hold on the corpse and kept on bucking her hips.
Harry said: “Vinnie.”
Vinnie glanced over his shoulder. Saw Harry stood behind him. Hands outstretched. Skin suit open to his belly, a cluster of weeping boils spreading up his discoloured abdomen and onto his throat. Vinnie said: “Don’t-”
Harry grabbed his head and thrust it onto his chest. He said: “Don’t be scared,” and held him tight.
Vinnie’s arms thrashed. He choked and spluttered. The others turned and leaped out of their chairs. Bottles hit the floor. The air filled with the stink of the infection.
Harry let Vinnie fall to the floor and watched as he thrashed about, bile spewing from his mouth.
Dave made a dash towards the screen and yelled “Help. Fucking help.”
Saul peered out of the screen, said “Oh shit” and broke the transmission. The screen turned black.
Dave backed away towards the door and bumped into Luke. They watched as Harry ripped off his skin suit and stood naked, a pearly drop of fluid making the tip of his swollen erection glisten.
Luke thumped his fists against the glass door of the apartment and said “What’s the fucking password?”
Dave picked up a bottle and smashed it against a wall. He thrust the jagged end out to Harry and said: “Stay back.”
Unable to open the door Luke pressed the intercom button and began screaming ‘Security.’
Harry held out his arms and took a step forward, he said: “Please let me. You’ll love it.”
“Fucking hit him,” said Luke. Harry lunged. Dave swung. The bottle sliced across Harry’s chest drawing blood and slicing sores.
Oblivious, Harry lunged and took Dave to the floor. He wrapped his fingers in Dave’s hair and pressed him against the dribbling mouths on his chest.
Dave gagged and spluttered. He said: “Fuck,” and then fell silent, his hands clutching at the empty air. His bowels opened.
Harry rocked him and said: “You see. You see how good it feels to touch.”
“Oh fuck no,” said Luke as Vinnie sat up and began to crawl towards him.
Outside the apartment, at the end of the corridor, an alert sign began to beep and flash on Malcom’s desk.
Malcolm groaned and turned the distress call volume right down. It was his lunch break and he didn’t want to be disturbed and besides it was probably just Vinnie demanding he go out and fetch more beer and he was fucked if he was going to play errand boy for the prick.
When he had finished his sandwiches and the last of his coffee, he sighed, took his feet off the desk and strolled to the apartment. He used his security override key to unlock the door and then stepped back as it slid open soundlessly.
Hot foetid air rushed out.
Malcolm said: “Jesus fucking Christ,” and covered the mouthpiece of his helmet. The stink seeped through his fingers.
In the middle of the room the boys lay sprawled in a pyramid of naked bodies. They sighed and moaned together, the pyramid rising and falling in time to their perfectly syncopated breath.
Malcolm unclipped his gun and whipped it out of the holster.
The boys all lifted their heads at once. Harry slid out of Dave and tumbled onto the floor. The pyramid fell apart. Harry drew himself up, he grinned as his foot slipped on a pile of excrement. Then, regaining his balance, he spread his arms wide and said: “Join us.”
Malcolm took aim and began to fire. He kept firing until all the bodies lay in pieces and didn’t lower his gun until the twitching had stopped.
He waited until his pulse rate returned to somewhere around normal then raised a hand to his helmet and activated the inbuilt camera. He panned the room, lingering on the bloody chunks of meat, on the blue and white snarled intestines, the lumps of brain and the emptied, shattered, brain pans.
He whistled through his teeth and said: “This is so going on Youtube.”