I hate conventions.
If you’ve ever gone to one, you’ll understand exactly what I mean. I’m notÂ real to them. I don’t exist. Well, I do, and that’s why I’m there. TheyÂ all want to see me, touch me, assure themselves that I’m some physicalÂ thing, but that’s the point at which my interest for them fades. I’m not aÂ person in their eyes. I’m a fantasy made flesh. I’m a celebrity, of a sort,Â and that’s what they want. They want the embodiment of their dreams.
I knew my arrival at the hotel would be noticed and propogated to theÂ crowd milling in the dealers’ room, the video room, and the rest of theÂ fan-infested areas, so I didn’t bother dropping into them. I’d have beenÂ crushed in the wave of well-wishers that wanted a lock of fur or somethingÂ if I had, anyway. When I signed my name at the desk, I waved over theÂ clerk and spelt out, in rapid ASL, if he could please do me the “courtesy”Â of informing someone in charge of scheduling that I had arrived and was inÂ room 319, but that I wanted to lie down for a while? He nodded and saidÂ he would, and I slung my duffel over my shoulder and made my way up toÂ the room, key gripped tightly between my fingers.
Three-nineteen was an executive suite, as befitting my status as the guestÂ of honor for the umpteenth year running. My presence alone generatedÂ who-only-knew how much revenue for the convention and the hotel itself.Â At just under three thousand of us world-wide, we were still pressworthy,Â though the news media had grown bored with us after a few years of livingÂ in the limelight. They’d probably want to do a ten-year reunion in the nearÂ future. I wondered sardonically if they’d want Albert in the group photo,Â humping someone’s leg wearing a straitjacket.
The bed was king-sized, made with a thick comforter and soft pillows, aÂ small piece of chocolate resting on the pillow. I snickered and threw itÂ in the trash; telling them that it was poisonous would have them scuttlingÂ about in a frenzy of apology and asskissing, but they meant it in the bestÂ of intentions. The road to hell, I thought.
I lay back on the bed, duffel tossed across the clothing rack, and closedÂ my eyes, ticking off the seconds internally, waiting for the inevitable. ItÂ didn’t take long. Four minutes, twenty-two seconds after starting the count,Â I heard the telltale rap of knuckles against my door. I rose and padded toÂ the hall, tail flicking, peeking out the security port. Male, human,Â probably early twenties. Glasses, short-cropped spiky dark hair, a wisp ofÂ stubble on his chin and cheeks. I sniffed, but the only thing I smelled was a hint of soapÂ and fresh sweat from the California heat, a pleasant shock to my nose.Â I stood upright and, tail held high, unfastened the chain on the door andÂ pulled it open, cocking my head to one side in the universal gesture ofÂ inquiry.
“Hey.” He was wearing a black shirt with a stylized wolf’s head on theÂ shoulder and a pair of khaki bermuda shorts, with sandals over his socks,Â all of it apparently freshly laundered according to my nose. His voice wasÂ low, but still shaking a bit. I could hear his heartrate jump when I openedÂ the door, and the scent of his sweat changed, taking on a metallic tinge.Â Nervous, I knew, and I fought back the urge to sigh openly.
Instead, I waved him into the room, trying to smile charmingly and thenÂ turning and walking back to the bed, my tail flicking back and forth behindÂ me, reaching behind me to crook my finger at him. When I looked at the doorÂ from my perch on the bed, though, he was still standing in the doorway withÂ a puzzled look on his face, his nervousness gone to confusion.
I cocked my head to one side and smiled, tilting my head forward to giveÂ him the big brown eyes; I knew they loved that. Why’re you still overÂ there?Â I signed rapidly, still in ASL, ears and tail raised.
He raised his arms, and it actually took me a moment to realize he wasÂ signing back, in clumsy furlan, I want talk?
Since he started it, I switched to furlan myself; it was a lot easier thanÂ American with three fingers. I could do it with two, if I were hoofed; it’dÂ been designed for use among furries, after all. Of course you do. YouÂ could talk from here just as easily, right?Â I patted the bed for emphasis.Â I could already feel my insides churning and tried to force it back intoÂ its box. Four hours and already I was feeling nervous and edgy. AnotherÂ and I’d be crawling the walls.
He shrugged, a gesture that meant the same in every language, and walkedÂ over to the bed. As he sat down, I scooted over and rested my paw on hisÂ knee. He stiffened and jerked back. “Hey!” he said aloud, returning to
I withdrew the paw and inclined my head backwards, baring my throat for aÂ moment, the furlan shortcut apology. A show, I guessed. Some of them justÂ want to see me, but don’t want to be involved. Probably he’s got a mateÂ already and doesn’t want to feel like he’s cheating on zim. “What did youÂ want to discuss?” my paws asked as he settled back onto the bed.
Want meet Todd Messner,Â he replied in his awkward gestures; he probablyÂ only barely knew it, but it was endearing so I didn’t say anything. WantÂ talk court case, most of all.
Just talk? My paws fluttered a bit, then rested on the bed as I leanedÂ over them, gazing into his eyes, hoping he would just hurry up and let meÂ know what he wanted so we could get around all the foreplay.
He looked surprised again. What else?
Hard to get. I sighed internally but had gotten too good at the game toÂ let it show. Oh, you know… a little of this… a little of that… IÂ traced one claw around on the bed, my tail slowly swaying behind me, stillÂ studying his eyes while the fingers on my other paw spelled rapidly whatÂ I wanted to say. All you have to do is ask.
At that, he looked genuinely startled. “Say what?” He had slipped backÂ into English.
Oh, don’t be so coy.Â I signed, perhaps a bit testily, my fingers jerking.Â I know why you’re here; it’s not like it’s any real secret….
“You sick fuck, is that all you’re here for?” His words shocked me intoÂ dead rigidity, even as he rose off the bed and stormed towards the hall.Â “Christ, there’re some sick people here and you’re one of’em!” The doorÂ slid open on silent hinges and caught itself after he slammed it, whisperingÂ shut with a hiss of escaping air.
The insistent demand of my loins eventually broke through the numbed shockÂ of my unnamed guest’s departure and I ripped off my clothes, grabbing forÂ myself. Fortunately, someone else was along presently who was more thanÂ willing to help me satisfy my needs. We danced between the sheets, then,Â each of us using the other for our own benefit, a beneficial exchange toÂ all involved.
I made the rounds of the dealer’s room at 18h00 as I was scheduled in myÂ appearance contract, and afterwards I served as a model for several localÂ artists, the pictures from which would be sold to help pay for the conÂ itself, the artwork to be signed by both artist and myself. The whole time,Â though, my mind kept hauling itself back to his outburst. His outburst. IÂ didn’t even know his name.
Why did it bother me so much? I found holding the pose difficult, even thoughÂ I was supposed to be relaxed. In truth, I was tense, irritated over whatÂ should’ve been a passing issue. I was here because I needed it and theyÂ wanted it. It’s not my fault he misunderstood that. I tried telling myselfÂ that, but I couldn’t make the words ring true, even in my own head. By theÂ end of the session, my paws were sweaty and I was fighting not to pant, evenÂ as my body was telling me it was time for another fix. The suggestion of aÂ nude modelling session with one of the artists, and some quick research intoÂ vulpine anatomy solved that problem, but it left me with an even biggerÂ nagging doubt.
I couldn’t to sleep a wink, just tossing and turning in bed. The sheetsÂ seemed starched to cardboard and the comforter irritated my fur. Curling upÂ on the carpet was worse. In the end I gave up and went roaming the hallways,Â not really sure what I hoped to find but knowing it wasn’t in my hotel room.Â A few people asked me if I was alright, that I was up really late, but forÂ the most part they were just so glad to see me and have my attention forÂ fifteen seconds that a plastic smile and a few pat gestures got me past theÂ need to interact.
I found him sitting in the all-night restaurant attached to the hotel aroundÂ two in the morning. He wasn’t with anyone, just sitting alone, watching theÂ news on the television over the counter, sipping coffee and picking his wayÂ through a plate of eggs and ham. He looked up as I entered and rose but IÂ held out a paw to him, looking at him, trying to give him the big eyesÂ without overdoing it.
He stood out of his chair and dug in his pocket for a moment, then sighedÂ and dropped back into it heavily, looking back down at his plate. IgnoringÂ the obvious turn of heads, I walked over and pulled out another chair atÂ his table. When my tail was through the back and I was almost comfortable,Â he said, “First you think I want to fuck you and now you think I want toÂ talk to you,” punctuating his words with a jab at his plate.Â
I froze again and some part of my mind rose up in indignation at beingÂ addressed like that. I stuffed that part of my mind back down and bared myÂ throat to him, holding my head back, my eyes looking up at the ceiling.
He shook his head and looked down at his plate. “Stop it already, youÂ look like somebody just kicked you.”
I lowered my muzzle to gaze at him, and I lifted my paws to start talking,Â but suddenly I had no idea what to say. I sat there, waiting for the wordsÂ to come to me. You wanted to talk aboutâ€”
“Hey, hey, slow down,” He snapped, then sighed. “I’m sorry, your paws areÂ shaking and my furlan’s not that good.”
I sighed and nodded once, another universal motion, then pulled out aÂ palmtop and scribbled on it for a moment, passing it to him to read. WOULDÂ THIS WORK BETTER?
“Yeah, sorry.” He nodded. “About earlier, too. I… I lost my cool back there.”
I shook my head, writing fast. THE FAULT WAS MINE. Seeing the words onÂ the screen, I had to admit their reality. I THOUGHT THAT WAS WHY YOU WEREÂ THERE.
“Shit,” was his only reply for several seconds. “You must get hit on a lotÂ here.”
I shrugged. IT SERVES A NEED. WHY WERE YOU THERE, IF NOT FOR THAT?
He read the screen, then looked up at me. “I wanted to talk about theÂ court case. I was a poli-sci major in college, wanted to be a lawyer butÂ didn’t pass the pre-law exams. I’m doing grad work right now, and IÂ thought your court case would be a great basis for a thesis. I tried toÂ email you but all I had was your public address.”
WHY DIDN’T YOU WRITE ME?
He shrugged, picking at his congealing eggs with his fork. A waitress cameÂ by and filled his coffee, then asked if I wanted something to eat. I lookedÂ up at her and shook my head; either she was oblivious to who I was, or sheÂ didn’t care. Either way, I was grateful. She wandered off and he continued.Â “I didn’t figure you read that address; it was the one on your site, so IÂ thought it probably just dumped to some lawyer or secretary for scrutiny,Â so I didn’t bother. I knew you worked the con circuit.” He smirked darkly.Â “I didn’t know you worked the con circuit. I was… I dunno. I had thisÂ vision of a statesman, of a young revolutionary fighting for freedom. IÂ wasn’t expecting a gigolo.” He spit the words, mocking us both.
I sighed, my ears drooping. MAY I EXPLAIN? I THINK I CAN SATISFY BOTH YOURÂ INTERESTS AT ONCE.
I passed him the pad and waited for him to read, trying not to look hopeful.Â I couldn’t believe what I was doing, and yet his words had so badly burnedÂ me that I found myself wanting to unburden. It seemed almost religious,Â confessing my sins to a stranger.
He looked up from the PDA and shrugged, passing it back to me. “Whatever.”
PLEASE. FINISH YOUR BREAKFAST; THIS WILL TAKE SOME TIME. I held out theÂ screen so he could see it, waited for his nod, and than began writing,Â scrawling the loops and whorls of the palmtop’s native recognitionÂ software.
WHEN UPLIFTING BECAME A REALITY, THE SCIENTISTS WENT CRAZY, OVERGROWNÂ KIDS WITH THE BIGGEST TOYBOX IN THE WORLD. WE WERE CREATED, AT FIRST, WITHÂ EVERYTHING THEY COULD WANT. INTELLIGENCE, WIT, CHARM, LIBIDO. WE WERE THEIRÂ FANTASY PLAYMATES COME TO LIFE. WE WERE WHAT THEY WOULD BE IF THEY COULD BEÂ US. THEY WERE PROBABLY IN THE FANDOM.
THEY STARTED OUT MAKING US DEPENDENT ON SEX. THEY WIRED OUR NERVOUS SYSTEMSÂ TO REQUIRE SEXUAL STIMULUS ON A REGULAR BASIS, ENGINEERED PHEROMONES INTOÂ OUR SWEAT, BUILT US SMART, AS CLEVER AS THEY COULD, GAVE US PERFECT BODIES.Â THEY TANK-RAISED US TO SIXTEEN IN TWO YEARS, CRAMMING US FULL OF THEIRÂ IDEA OF WHAT WE WERE SUPPOSED TO BE. I CONTACTED A LAWYER WHEN I LEARNED WEÂ HAD BEEN BUILT TO NEED SEX TO FUNCTION NORMALLY. THEY TRIED TO ENGINEER AÂ RACE OF SEX SLAVES.
I paused, tapping the pen against the side of the case. WE LEFT MESSNER WHENÂ WE REALIZED WE HAD THE FREEDOM TO DO SO, AND WE TRIED EVERYTHING WE COULD TOÂ CURE OURSELVES. DRUGS, MEDITATION, COUNSELLING, EVEN SURGERY. NOTHING WORKS.Â ALBERT, ANOTHER MEMBER OF BATCH ONE, CASTRATED HIMSELF HOPING IT WOULD GOÂ AWAY WITHOUT THE STIMULUS. HE’S IN THE CLARK INSTITUTE NOW. I closed my eyes,Â remembering. Albert had been even more harder hit than I had; his eyes lookedÂ haunted when he wasn’t in the throes of passion, and his days had been spentÂ masturbating or looking for partners when he wasn’t eating or sleeping. InÂ the end, he’d taken a knife to himself and called 911. They fixed his body,Â but they could never fix his mind. The last time I went to visit him in theÂ ward, there was nothing left of him, just a crazed wolfman grinding himselfÂ against the wall, the floor, anything that moved. They’d declawed him afterÂ the second time he’d tried to kill himself. They would’ve been more humaneÂ if they’d shot him.
I resumed writing while he ate. AFTER SIXTEEN MONTHS, TWO SURGICAL OPINIONSÂ AND TONS OF GOVERNMENT MONEY SPENT ON FAILURE, WE SUED OUR CREATORS. IT WASÂ MY IDEA, SO MY NAME WAS THE ONE ON THE SUIT. IN CREATING US THE WAY THEY HAD,Â THEY HAD DELIBERATELY CRIPPLED US. MESSNER DIDN’T SEE IT THAT WAY, BUT THEÂ COURTS DID. BATCH TWO WAS TOO LATE TO SAVE OR ABORT, SO THEY CAME OUT ASÂ DAMAGED AS WE WERE, BUT THE HIGH COURT AND LATER THE U.N. PUT DOWNÂ RESTRICTIONS ON THE DEGREE OF ALTERATION TOLERABLE BY LAW. THEY ALSO RULEDÂ THAT WE WERE FUNCTIONALLY DISABLED AND DUE COMPENSATION FROM MESSNER FORÂ BEING UNABLE TO WORK. THEY HARDLY NOTICED THE PAYOUT, BUT IT WAS THE THOUGHTÂ THAT MATTERED.
I hesitated a moment, chewing on the back of the stylus, then finished theÂ thoughts, explaining the rest. I HAVE TO HAVE SEX ABOUT FOUR TIMESÂ A DAY OR I SUFFER. My ears grew hot as I wrote, holding the equipment withÂ slick paws. THE FANDOM PROVIDES THAT. THEY DON’T WANT ME; THEY WANT MY BODY.Â I NEED THE CONTACT. I HATE IT BUT IT’S BETTER THAN NOTHING. YOU’D THINK I’DÂ GET TIRED OF THE SEX. I DON’T, AND THAT’S THE WORST PART OF ALL.
I put the stylus away into the palmtop and passed it over, drumming my clawsÂ against the tabletop, listening to the soft rhythmic clicks while he read myÂ impromptu essay. “Jesus,” he muttered, looking up at me. “Is this for real?”
I nodded and he continued reading. “So that’s why you thought… shit.”
I nodded again, my ears perking a bit. At least he understood.
“Jesus,” he repeated, shaking his head. “Why not just fuck each other?Â If you all need it that badly…?”
I sighed and nodded. WE TRIED, I wrote slowly, trying to ignore the painÂ in my paw from too much writing. IT FELT LIKE INCEST TO ME, OR LIKE I WASÂ AN INVALID, UNABLE TO GO ANYWHERE. SOME OF US DID THAT, ACTUALLY. I TRIED,Â BUT I COULDN’T. I WISH I HAD. I set down the pad and passed it across toÂ him, massaging one paw with the other.
He winced. “Ouch. I’m sorry, man. I didn’t know.”
It’s alright, I signed slowly, not wanting to write any more. You didn’tÂ know. And… I’m sorry too. I’m so used toâ€”
He held out his hand. “No, I read it. I understand.” He stood up, droppingÂ his fork. “C’mere.” And he held out his arms to me.
In all the encounters I’d had, male and female alike, I’d been asked toÂ hug people before, but it never felt like this. I had always been theÂ object of affection, literally. I was the receptacle for someone else’sÂ fantasies. This time, his arms carried not desire, not lust, not evenÂ envy or childlike innocence, but genuine tenderness and concern. IÂ sunk gratefully into his arms, resting my cheek on his shoulder. MyÂ cock stirred, briefly, then subsided.
An eternity of moments later, I stepped back and smiled. Thank you,Â I flashed with my fingers.
“Thank you,” he returned the gesture. “You gave me my thesis topic.” TheÂ corner of his mouth turned up in a smirk.
At that, I laughed, a short repetitive bark that did turn heads at theÂ counter. Is there anything else I can offer you?Â I signed. Oh! IÂ grabbed a napkin, dug a pen from my pocket and wrote my email addressÂ on it. “The real one,” I wrote below, and passed it to him.
He snickered; it was the same as the one he had. “Thanks again. Nah, IÂ should sleep. Alone.” He dug some bills out of his pocket and dumped themÂ on the table, then waved. “I’ll see you, Todd.” He smiled and waved to theÂ counterclerks on his way out of the restaurant.
As I stood there, it occured to me that I still didn’t know his name.Â I wondered if I would see him again around my schedule.
Maybe at the next convention.