Joy Reid.



Raising the Lid


Volania 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.

"A rub."

Inclining her head almost imperceptibly, the newcomer conceded the need.

"Difficult performance?"

"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

father, too."

"Don't be a fool! Volania rolled out the phrase comfortably, you=

had no

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=

want to

know if you understand what that means."

"Yes." The weight of that single word hung between the two speakers=

like a

motionless pendulum.

"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=

intensity of

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

hand, moved."


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

neutral lips.


"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. =

"Now, the

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

back in

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=

about this

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=


your position."

"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

can tell?


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.