Raising the Lid
Volania felt...how to put it...heavy...not entirely herself. The news had
not been wholly unexpected, of course... but nonetheless, perturbing. All
bodies age eventually, even bodies as genetically superior as hers. Still,
Volania had not expected the decline to begin so soon. Only thirty six
hundred earth rotations or so. Hardly a life time. So many performances to
give, so much acclaim to receive.
Volania raised her hand, then hesitated before placing her palm against the
identification module. For perhaps the first time in her existence, she
paused to consider the composite construction of flesh and sinew. She
frowned, drew that which offended closer, then pouted. There. Yes, there.
If one examined minutely, one could just distinguish the flattened
appearance of the flesh between pores. The epidermologist was correct, her
skin was becoming less vital. Fine lines branching from each pore formed a
pattern of waterless creeks. "I'm drying out, Volania thought, I=
am." Shaking her head, she set the river of dark hair in motion throwing
off the unpleasant thought, then stretched out to the device completing the
action which gave her access to her chambers.
Immediately, lights sprang in action like lurking predators. Entering, the
tall beauty swished about the relaxation compartment, irritated and agitated
in equal quantities. She desired immediate compensation for the evil news
she had received and she would have it. But where could she be? Surely not
engaged with more of that antiquated rubbish? Striding angrily to access a
monitoring module, she dialled the code to establish a location. Yes. At
it again. As usual. Volania pressed the summoning code then turned to the
refreshment dispenser. A moment later a portion of the compartment's wall
slipped noiselessly to one side and a tall girl, a younger version of
Volania herself, stepped meekly into view.
"Do you need something?" the girl inquired softly.
Inclining her head almost imperceptibly, the newcomer conceded the need.
"What? No. Of course not. I was superb.... It's just that...careful!
Don't spill my Nebulant.
"Pardon my clumsiness, the girl apologised taking her position behind=
slumped, tense figure, reaching forward to administer the massage. "Am I
doing this right?"
What? Mmmm, yes. She paused to absorb the girl's soothing=
"Tell me, were you fossicking through father's things again?" The=
fingers stiffened, a reaction perhaps, to the tight muscles they'd=
"Yes." There was no point in lying. Each compartment monitored=
faithfully, without remission.
"I thought so. I don't know why you waste your time trying to decipher
that mouldy rubbish."
"It's not rubbish to me,"the standing figure responded gently. =
snorted, a most uncharming sound."
"It='s trash. I would have thrown it all out aeons ago only it seemed a
little, I don't know, disrespectful to my father's memory."
The probing fingers halted, leaving room for a timid whisper, "He was my
"Don't be a fool! Volania rolled out the phrase comfortably, you=
father". She shrugged her shoulders to indicate the massage was no longer
welcome. "Plait me," she commanded, leaning forward to allow access to=
river of silk which was her greatest fame."
Lifting the almost living weight as tenderly as one might a new born child,
the girl proceeded to follow her elder's instruction. Deft movements
indicated familiarity with the chore. "I wish you'd let me grow my=
she commented, the sigh in her voice more implied than actual.
"To what purpose?"
"Seems to me you've answered your own question."
Volania breathed deeply, bringing the Nebulant to her lips. Resting tiny,
almost Lilliputian teeth on the rim, she made small, porcelain sounds. "I
visited the epidermologist today," she began. Her companion failed to
answer. "He presented me with some...disturbing news." Chink, chink,
chink. While the beautiful one considered, the one who stood behind waited,
hands by her side. "It seems I have gone beyond the ability to=
"I am sorry," the standing figure responded throatily.
"I'm not interested in your commiserations,"Volania snapped, "I=
know if you understand what that means."
"Yes." The weight of that single word hung between the two speakers=
"I think you should go to your room."
Obeying without any perceptible hesitation, the younger of the two glided
noiselessly to the opposite wall. For the briefest of seconds she paused
while an opening unseamed itself, then she disappeared. Volania blinked a
number of times, thinking rapidly, then spoke the command which would allow
her to examine the departed girl's behaviour. Instantly, a screen lowered
itself coming to rest a comfortable distance from its reclining mistress.
"Closer," Volania instructed, then dissatisfied with the effect,=
The pale, smooth column of a youthful neck presented itself, a neck inclined
in concentration. Noting the "book" which the girl sat reading,=
nostrils twitched in irritation but she fought her anger down. After all,
she hadn't expressly forbidden the reading of books, only declared it
"Closer," came the whisper as breathy as worship while the speaker=
forward in a voyeuristic pose. "Clossserrr." Peering with the=
a research scientist, Volania scanned the image checking for the slightest
hint of aging. She found none. Exhausted, she flopped back against the
overstuffed recliner. "Return," she ordered, right hand groping for the
receptacle which could not at first be found. Locating the draught, she
returned to the chink, chink, chinking of before, dark eyes narrowed in
concentration. On the screen, only the brown spotted pages and one youthful
Had she chosen to do so, Volania could have zoomed in on the contents of the
aged parchment, but there would have been little reward for one uninitiated
in the antique art of reading. When the initial draught of Nebulant was
consumed, she rose lazily to prepare another, then returned to her former
position to further brood. How could the girl absorb herself so completely?
she wondered, downing another much faster than the first. Surely she could
find a better way to spend her time? Volania had had just about enough.
Read, read, read. The little fool.
The second summons came not entirely unanticipated, though the girl could
have wished for a more considerate interruption. Placing the crumbling
volume down tenderly, careful to mark the appropriate place, she turned to
face the viewer, stripping her face of any regret. It would not do to
infuriate the other, not, if as expected, she had reverted to her normal
mode of evening entertainment. The tall figure sighed through carefully
"There you are, you took your time." The quiet figure did not presume=
answer aware that any comment would only invite further rebuke. "When I
summon you, you should come immediately, not wait till you finish fiddling
with whatever it was that so important you could not drop it the moment I
"I came immediately," was the meek reply.
"You came when you felt like it, dawdling all the way." The unjust
accusation hung between the two like a partly drawn sword.
"Did you want something?"
"Yes. Yes, I do want something." Somehow, the words sounded menacing.=
want something you have. Something you were made for." The standing=
quivered as a taut wire vibrates when plucked by uncaring fingers. "Come
over here." Moving a few feet closer, the younger of the two did as she=
bidden. "Not there," Volania growled, "here. Here, right next to me.=
the recliner. Here." Careful to stifle a moan which threatened to worm=
way through bitten lips, the young girl forced herself to approach the
elder. When she reached the recliner, she dropped stiffly to her knees.
"That's better. Now, let me see...
Gripping the girl's hair, Volania dragged her downwards. Buried in the
other lap, the girl's trembling soon increased to the point where her
terror could not be concealed. "Stop that," Volania demanded, slapping=
girl smartly on the arm, "stop it right now. Anyone would think you were
frightened of me. I won't have that, I won't tolerate that reaction. =
it or I'll really give you something about which to tremble." Sucking=
breath, holding it, willing her heart to slow, the girl succeeded in
controlling her dread. For the moment. "Your hair is impossibly thick,=
Volania observed. "I think it's time I relieved you of an=
accessory. Besides "she added, a certain cunning creeping into her too
suave voice, "I want to see what is underneath. Wait here, I've exactly=
right thing for the task."
Volania rose unsteadily to her feet leaving the girl curled in foetal
acceptance and strode, muttering unintelligibly to the far wall. The wall
obligingly unseamed itself. Aware that the immediate threat had subsided,
the girl raised herself on shaky elbows and stared in the direction of the
departed woman. She knew she had only a few moments before the other's
return, but still, even a few moments were something to be savoured.
Sniffing dejectedly, she concentrated on steadying her shaking hands. If
she could but succeed in drawing attention away from her fear, perhaps the
other would tire sooner and look elsewhere for amusement.
"Here we are," came the excited announcement, "never thought any of=
hoard would prove useful, but here I am, proven conveniently wrong."
Giggling with a mixture of satisfaction and self revelation, Volania
stumbled forward waving an object the girl failed to identify. "You='ll=
to hold still," she advised, solicitous, "I've only seen it used=
Clumsy fiddling levered a flat squarish blade from a bowed, bone handle.
"It's called a razor. I wouldn't trouble you with its name but I know=
are sooo fond of words. Now come here like a good little girl and let me
unburden you of that heavy head of hair."
Eyes terror widened, the girl remained half crouched, desperate. Blood
pooled in her mouth, the result of an attempt to clamp down a whimper.
There was no escape, she knew that. No choice other than submission. Yet
crippled by apprehension, she could do little except crouch paralysed.
"Don't make me ask again," Volania warned, tapping the handle against=
thumb. A low moan was the only response. "I said," snarled her=
striding forward, "don't make me ask twice." Clutching a handful of=
yielding hair, she wrenched the girl to her knees. Unsheathing the blade,
she brought the evil instrument parallel with her victim's eyes.
The girl forgot she was threatened with merely losing her hair. She forgot
the futility of resistance. Rearing back suddenly, she startled Volania who
fell, astounded. The razor knocked clean from her hand rose like a graceful
bird then landed with a light plink. Two sets of eyes focussed on the
lightly spinning implement. One pair of eyes were perplexed, unregistering,
the other pair of eyes were hot with determination. Beginning slowly to
stand, the girl moved towards the razor. When she had it firmly pressed in
the palm of her hand, she turned to face Volania, who sat, still stunned,
legs akimbo. "You will not remove my hair." It was not a challenge, it=
a statement of fact.
Uttering an ugly, gurgling, inhuman sound, Volania sprang to her feet and
lunged. The girl yelped, stiffening the arm that held out her only weapon.
The impact sent both crashing to the floor. Of course, the elder had the
advantage being charged with a sense of outrage and spurred by innate
aggression. But the younger was more desperate. Surprisingly, no noise
punctuated their struggle. Grasping the razor clenching wrist, Volania
forced her superior weight on the joint, grinding the bone back and forth as
if the weapon were already in her hand and she planned to saw away her
adversary's limb. The girl emitted a silent howl inspiring a responding
sneer. Volania was beginning to enjoy herself. She had never suspected how
dissatisfying submission had become. Forcing a knee into the other's
abdomen, she began to bounce, ramming into the other's vulnerability.
the searing intrusion of recollection halted the frenzy. With a white hot
flash, sharp as a whip lash, the epidermologist's instructions imposed
themselves on her memory: "Keep the skin well hydrated and avoid all
blemish, particularly bruising." She halted.
Sitting back on her haunches, still astride the other, Volania considered
the possible extent of the damage. Naturally, the razor had already been
retrieved. With a contemptuous sniff, she unsheathed it. Gripping a
generous quantity of the prone girl's clothing, she sliced through=
revealing the heaving abdomen, smooth skinned as ever but now mottled and
discoloured by her enraged reaction. Volania scowled, slashing at the
remaining clothing in her continued investigation.
"Look what you've done," she exploded, unable to contain her ire. =
operation will have to be delayed." Gripping the razor with a fierceness
that threatened to splinter the bone handled object, she glared, impassioned
by unreasonable urgings. But no, this would not do. Much as she longed to
rip, to mutilate, to punish, it could not be done. "Get up," she
hauling the limp figure to her feet. "Remove your clothes. I'll be
an instant. You had better be prepared." Stabbing the air with a warning
gesture, Volania turned on her heel and left the room. Inside the girl,
thoughts of escape, of rescue, tumbled and whirled. To no purpose. Utterly
forlorn, she began to remove what remained of her clothing, dropping the
discarded items, completely disconsolate.
"Dawdling. As ever." The other's presence erupted through the=
entry. "I said to be ready before I returned. Did you think I had
forgotten?" Sliding up to the girl with predatory ease, Volania grasped a
hank of hair pulling the other's head back. "I haven't forgotten=
either," she hissed, producing the blade whose obscene sharpness was
highlighted by a shard of light which leapt along its edge. "First
rehydration, then..." the word, released was almost spat, "this."
"No." Spoken without force, the word was an icy block with the power to
ward the searing poison of the other.
"No?" Volania queried with venomous irony. "I don't believe you=
"I appreciate it perfectly," the girl responded, still quiet but gaining=
"You!" Volania yelped, emphasising her anger by shaking the other's=
"belong to me. I can do as I please with you."
"That is true," her victim replied, "I have no power, no name, no=
But one thing I do have," her voice sinking to a low whisper, "I have a
sense of self. Kill me if you choose, you plan to flay me in any case, but
I will not let you remove my hair."
"You defy me?" Volania gulped, disbelieving.
"I defy you," the tall, slim girl agreed, gently but firmly.
For a brief moment, the world stood still as Volania absorbed the impossible
statement uttered by her clone. Stunned to the point of near imbecility,
she failed to register the other slipping from her hold. When her eyes
refocussed, she saw the girl, literally saw the girl for the first time in
all her naked, youthful beauty. It was this more than anything else, this
flaunting of nubile loveliness that blasted the last shreds of human reason
from her mind. Bursting from the depths of her narcissistic envy surged the
need to destroy. Snarling, she leapt at the girl who merely stepped aside. =
Volania suffered a mere split second of disappointment before her head made
contact with the refreshment dispenser. Lone relic of her father's deemed
worthy of display, the counter was of solid marble, a real collector's=
Had her head not been turning in instinct to follow her quarry, had she not
leapt crouched, ready to kill, perhaps her neck may not have broken. Who
Immune to grief, the girl stood blinking, silent witness to the other's
demise. Nothing could be done and so she stood staring. "I should feel
something," she chided herself, but she could not. She waited. A faint
plink gained her attention. Relaxing in death, the woman had released her
hold on the razor. The girl frowned, stepped towards the recumbent figure,
squatted, took hold of the razor. Over and over she turned it in her
fingers, avoiding a decision. Then, with a deep breath, she took the
woman's hand slicing open the palm, extracting a tiny disc. Before
could interfere, she opened a similar slit on the back of her right hand
inserting the object. It would not do to damage the palm. Each whorl and
line combined to form a singular pattern, a signature palm print.
Stepping boldly to the identification module, the girl suddenly recalled her
nakedness and returned. Escape she must, but appropriately attired, who
knew what waited in the world beyond the door? A few minutes found her
dressed and prepared to leave, razor in a pocket, crumbling relic in one
hand. Before exiting the chambers however, she turned and scanned the area
which had constituted her life's experience. Here she had spent her
existence. Here in these lonely chambers. Subconsciously, she stroked the
cover of the book pressed to her chest.
Seeing her tormentor lying crumpled, negated, the girl did finally feel
something, something which could not be identified, a sadness of sorts.
"I have no name," she said aloud as if gently admonishing the sprawled
On impulse, she opened the greying pages. Slowly, almost shyly, a smile
began to creep across her features. With the book open at the page to which
fate had directed her, she strode to her genetic twin, laying it where the
sightless eyes could bear witness. The tall beauty nodded as if a question
had been asked, turned and left the chambers forever.
The one left behind stared mournful, uncomprehending. What can it mean?
arched eyebrows seemed to query. On the page kneeled a girl, equally
astonished, a girl opening a box.