Customer 09-15-2024-56 located Priapus,
Inc. on the board in the lobby. Then he took one of six elevators
up to the fifty-fifth floor of the building. The car disgorged
him onto a lush tropical simulation that soothed his nerves
as much as they could possibly be soothed under the conditions
that had brought him here.
It was too late to back out now. He'd had the appointment
for three months, and even if he were to change his mind,
he would forfeit his deposit and Priapus would retain ten
percent of the twenty-thousand Euro rehabilitation fee. It
was a clever way to discourage reneging.
Customer 56 walked forward, past a
wall-length stained glass relief depicting Adam and Eve, nude
and succumbing to an apple borne in the venomous fangs of
a coiled serpent.
That was where it all went wrong, he reflected to himself
as he stepped into Priapus's main office. There was a direct
corollary between their actions some millennia ago, and his
presence here today in this office, A.D. 2024.
He was glad to see that no one else was in the waiting room,
and doubly pleased to see that the secretary behind the desk
with ear-bud and mouthpiece was not female. Knowing that they
went by number and not name wouldn't have given him enough
consolation, could never have shielded him from the shame
of some random woman knowing that he was a preemie.
56 could imagine her commiserating
with her fellow female coworkers around the water-cooler.
Minute Man. Premature ejaculation was funny so long
as one wasn't the victim of it. He could never understand,
this male secretary before him, confirming his appointment
with the nano-sized computer in his ear. He would never appreciate
what it felt like.
And hopefully, 56 thought, after today,
I won't be able to remember what it felt like. The secretary
looked up at him with his color-shifting contacts, as lambent
as mood rings, and said, "Fifty-Six?"
"Yes," Fifty-Six said.
"Through that door." The
secretary pointed around the winding kiosk. 56 followed the
varnished wending of the rotunda through a door where a man
stood, stooped as if afflicted with spina bifida. Another
man lay, full length across a gurney, invisible above the
The standing man said, "I'm Doctor
Kremins. How are you, Fifty-Six?" They shook hands. 56
returned the doctor's firm pump with a limpid, milquetoast
How are you? The question was
a wasted, rhetorical formality. The doctor knew how he was,
knew too much about him, in fact. The important thing at this
point was the state of that faceless man strapped to the gurney.
Was he really as pure as they said he was?
56 looked at him again, giving a more
thorough inspection than when he had first come through the
door. A graduated conical device, almost like a lampshade,
funneled out around his head, glossed with a heavy resin.
The thing terminated in an identical reflection which spread
across an opposite gurney, where 56 would place his head,
once his fears had been properly allayed.
Dr. Kremins could tell that he still
needed some convincing. He fidgeted with one of the few remaining
wisps of hair on his nearly-bald pate, and said, "Do
you have any questions of me before we begin?"
56 pointed at his headless, supine savior and said, "You're
sure he's normal?"
The doctor chuckled, spittle whiting at the edges of his liverish
mouth. "He's as American as apple pie, Fifty-Six. General
issue, standard heterosexual male, one each." The doctor
flipped behind the main contract, and its carbon, to read
the specs on the Linker-Control.
"He boasts an average performance
of twenty-seven minutes before reaching ejaculation."
That's about twenty-six and one half minutes longer than me
on my best day, 56 mused bitterly.
The doctor continued. "He's not
only dealt with premature ejaculators. He's cured more than
a dozen pedophiles through linkage." The
doctor flipped back to the contract, and proffered a pen.
"You're in good hands." Then he nodded toward the
subject. "And you have my
assurances that you that you will be in a good head."
56 glanced down once at the subject.
Then he took the pen and signed. The doctor tore the black
carbon from behind the original. He fanned it on his way out
the door. "I'll give this to the secretary to hold for
you. Just ask for it after your treatment is completed."
Doctor Kremins left the room, making way for the two attendants
who guided 56 onto the gurney. He trembled slightly as he
felt his head forced into the funnel. The bright fluorescent
lights of the room worked in tandem with the echo-chamber
acoustics of the funnel, lulling him into a state of full
submission as he succumbed to waves of anesthesia that carried
him out of consciousness, and into the mind, the sex, of another
On the other side of the two-way mirror,
the good doctor sat with his back to his intern Sanjiah, who
was still new enough to be fascinated by the pupilometer.
He locked eyes with the massive right eye of 56, which shared
a split screen with the left eye of the Control.
Sanjiah watched the monitor for a period
of three minutes, his slight curiosity morphing into fear
until he was perturbed enough to bother Kremins.
"Doctor," the intern said.
"What is it, Sanjiah?" Kremins
Without taking his own eyes away from
the eyes of two men on the monitor, Sanjiah said, "I
think we have a slight problem."
Dr. Kremins stood and joined his employee
in front of the monitor. They watched as 56's eyes blinked,
then blinked faster, shuttering at a hummingbird speed until
each flutter cut into them like the edge of a serrated knife.
"Jesus," the doctor said.
The Control's left eye was just as spastic, offering no solace,
no soothing of the mania that the customer had brought with
him into the office. No one was being treated. Neither man
was being helped. Both had to be in absolute agony.
The chaos imprisoned in the eyes suddenly
erupted into the bodies of both men, animated enough to strike
fear in the doctor and his intern, even with the barrier of
the two-way separating them from the room and its gurneys.
56 began struggling with his straps,
flailing with his arms and legs as if he were in the throes
of a nightmare. But there could be no question that he was
no longer asleep. The sedative had worn off, and no amount
of piped-in vapor anesthesia could hold him.
He tore all four bonds at once. Then he stood. The doctor
opened the line on his ear-bud, speaking to the secretary
in the waiting room. "Nathan, something has gone terribly
wrong! I need security from Wing-A!"
Sanjiah's eyebrows furrowed into a
look of confusion. He had never heard of a Wing-A, as only
key personnel had been informed of the clandestine world that
was waiting on the other side of these walls, a violent world
that may have finally bled into their peaceful clinic, the
way Dr. Kremins had always feared. That goddamn lieutenant
and his reassurances that nothing could go wrong.
The doctor's anger gave way to terror
as he watched the morbid scene of 56 struggling with his cranial
link, the image of a chicken with its head cut off volunteering
itself at the most inappropriate of moments.
56 stumbled and pulled with both of
his hands, until his head was free. Then, in one motion, he
flipped the cone and suspended it over the chest of his counterpart,
still in the bondage of sleep. He brought his link down hard
onto the man's chest, a sound like a redwood snapping along
its ringed trunk accompanying the crack of ribs.
Superhuman from the exertion, 56 had
little trouble with breaching the door, and even less trouble
escaping from the building. When it was all over, and two
useless security staff from Wing-A had arrived, the only good
news to report was that Nathan the secretary had somehow survived
the rampage by hiding underneath his desk. The Control had
not been so fortunate.
Paramedics carried him out on a stretcher,
blue-purple striations of bruised tissue flowering out around
the thin puncture that had ended his life. The two Wing-A
flunkies stood before the livid doctor, who had nothing to
say to them, and everything to say to their superior.
"Tell Consiogn to get his goddamn
ass in here! He probably just cost me my license. I'm going
to cost him his commission." Sanjiah slinked behind the
doctor. Nathan half-remained underneath his desk. The police
officers, one a corporal, the other a private with measly
mosquito-winged rank, turned and left.
* * *
Lt. Consiogn, Los Angeles Sex Crimes
Division, arrived at Dr. Kremins' office some thirty minutes
later. He looked contrite, wringing his beret between his
hands. But he did not seem afraid. And why would he be? The
doctor was privately financed and stood to lose everything.
This cop lived off the public trust, and would not have been
doing his job had he not betrayed that same trust every once
and awhile, like any other crooked public servant. Dr. Kremins
hated him, and the lie of his broken promise.
"You assured me," the doctor
began, "that this would never happen."
"What?" Consiogn asked, twisting his beret until
it was formless.
The doctor intended to show him what.
He booted the monitor above the pupilometer and replayed the
feed from yesterday. On it, in black and white, both men saw
the door that was supposed to remain closed at all times flung
wide for the criminal to repose at leisure on the gurney opposite
the sleeping (now-deceased) Control, oblivious and afflicted
with whatever this criminal had carried in his mind, his soul,
and in his sex.
The doctor stopped the tape and said, "I only agreed
to provide you with space and equipment because you had a
federal writ. This equipment was created to cure sexual malady
The doctor tapped the blank cathode
of the pupilometer. Above it, the transgression from yesterday
replayed on an endless loop, the closed door opening again
and again. "This equipment was not created to study criminals
and sex offenders."
"Profiling," Consiogn corrected,
gaining a little bit of courage under the chastisement. Regardless
of whether the doctor was right and he and the entire LAPD
were wrong, he still had the physical advantage of size, and
he imposed some of it as he stood over the sitting doctor.
"If we can see into a criminal's
mind, we can develop a more fully realized system for profiling,
one that doesn't rely on half-measures, like race."
"And who is this?!" the doctor
asked, tapping the glass of the security feed above the pupilometer.
"This man who disturbed my Control while he was hibernating,
fed his mind God knows what, to be unleashed onto the next
man who came into this clinic with the intention of being
healed? Who did you let into my clinic, lieutenant?"
"I," the lieutenant
said, stressing the spuriousness of his culpability, "didn't
let anyone into your clinic, doctor. I'm not responsible for
security. The city commissioner has charged me with oversight
of the sexual predator profil"
"Who!" the doctor shouted
loud enough to force the policeman to flinch. Lieutenant Consiogn
stared through the two-way, into the torn shambles of gurneys
and blood-spattered walls.
"His name," Consiogn said, "is Martin Galman."
"His crime?" the doctor coaxed.
The officer pursed his lips. "Rape
The doctor sighed, put his head in his hands, massaging his
face as the Lieutenant attempted to mollify him with consolations.
"He's safely in Wing-A right now, doctor. I honestly
can't tell you how he snuck out. If you'll let me review my
own security feeds, we'll coordinate"
"No," the doctor said, cutting him off for the second
time. "It's too late, and you're wrong."
"How?" the officer challenged.
"This man, Martin Galman, is not in Wing-A anymore."
The doctor pointed through the two-way. "He was on that
gurney less than an hour ago. He walked out of this building,
and now he is out there somewhere."
The doctor threw up his hands and swiveled
in his chair. It was no longer his problem. The Lieutenant
could now handle it, get out there and do what he did best,
beat the pavement, what he and the LAPD should have been doing
from the beginning, instead of trying to play doctor and bringing
true members of the Hippocratic order down in the process.
Doctor Kremins glanced up, saw that
the policeman was still there. The man probably wanted further
argument. But the doctor was done with him, and strangled
by the thought as it hit him, like some cryptic lyric from
a song that made no sense.
56 came in a preemie, and left a