Kawika Guillermo is the author of Stamped: an anti-travel novel (Westphalia Press, 2018). His short stories can be found in The Cimarron Review, Feminist Studies, The Hawai’i Pacific Review, Tayo, Smokelong Quarterly, and many others. He is an Assistant Professor at the Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice at the University of British Columbia, where he works on prose fiction, Asian diasporic literature, and cultural studies. He also writes blogs for Anomaly (formerly Drunken Boat) and decomP Magazine, where he serves as the Prose Editor.
Its dance caused my nails to extend past the palm rest until they minutely scratched the down-sloped curves of the plastic grated floor. I fidgeted in my seat. Never had I seen a pure-blooded human without an impregnated egg sack before. Who knew our kind could move so fast, with such skill and gyration. Its dark skin flashed beams of yellow light. Its dance made me forget about the theater's decrepit decor. Its smile awakened the human-nature inside of me and I was again the rampant, desiring youngster that brewed beneath every Pjara. Its dance was of the body, hips slipping up and down, left and right, culling all my desire.
It was so unlike those bovine humans who gathered in the city streets, dragging their sacks about. I was of the same kind—but so unlike its kind. My wit and acumen, praised by all races, enabled me to climb out of those work colonies and into the markets. I made a small fortune selling spliced lungs to clients who wanted to inhale toxic air, spliced legs to mimic equestrian poses, and then the cosmetic products: spliced claws, spliced chins, spliced purple torsos. Whenever I encountered other humans, they saw me as their savior, someone who understood their ancient technology, who could remake it (or at least, pay others to do so). But they were not to be trusted with it. Look at what they had already done, those humans, when not cared for!
After the performance I demanded that the proprietor, a stout Mrien, take me to the human. His red gel-like skin absorbed my threats in a tremble.
“I set something up for you,” the Mrien said. “Go now. Mankind needs its rest. It must hibernate.”
“Man-brained fool,” I said. “You better not try to run off with it!” I exposed my stacked teeth and extended my nails, right towards the Mrien's belly. “If it has strength enough to carry those pregnancies for months, and go through such labor, then surely it can have energy enough to see me!”
Acquiescing, the proprietor brought me backstage. The human sat in a dark room, its hands clasped, its face raised towards me. It faced a spotlight just like an ethereal piment, one of the Enuj’s six mother-deities. It knew how to mask itself well, yet, knowing this, I still could not help but hope to have it, my own little mankind! A pulse from my mother race.
“What is your name?” I asked. It stared back with a muted consternation.
“Its name is Mister Dzin,” the Mrien said.
Dzin, the frail beautiful insect whose wings the Tuek clip and decorate about their abodes.
“Why does it not speak for itself?” I asked.
“This one, it does not speak. Either it chooses not to or it cannot. Also, it has no sack.”
“Either it was removed or it was born without one.”
So this was why it danced. Unable to reproduce for the moon mines, unable to respond to commands with words, it spoke only with its body. Its eyes startled me when I glanced, and I was reminded of the human who raised me, its wavy yellow hair and curved body. But this human carried something so unhuman—the fire and demand shooting from its eyes. The humans I had known were servile, weak, and drunk. Mister Dzin was one of a kind.
“I must have it,” I told the proprietor. “You will not screw me on the deal.” Child-bearing humans always fetched more than juveniles.
“You have young ones then?” he asked.
“I have no young ones.” As soon as I said it the human’s eyes glared up at me, its smile turned to that odd cracked mouth that it carried in dance.
“But this human cannot bear children.”
“I know that!”
“I see,” the proprietor said. “My aunt had a human once, who stopped birthing. And it made a fine leather pouch."
“You were truly born from the wrong end of a human!”
“So that’s it! Of course—”
“Of course I will be discreet! I just want it.”
“But does it want you?”
Our glares pounced on Mister Dzin. Its wonderfully pretty face had become yellow in the glaring spotlight hanging above. Suddenly the human laughed—a trilling, devilish laughter I had never heard before, not even from the human who raised me.
“It wants me too?” I asked the proprietor.
“Of course not! It is a human. It just wants your technology.”
I took Mister Dzin through the painful crowds of the department corridors, instructing it with my spliced tentacles to stay three steps behind me, as if it was my child bearer. Besides some untoward gazes we were left alone, and away from the crowd I felt at ease.
“You must know our love will be forbidden,” I told it. “Others will be suspicious of a human without an eggsack. So you must be caged in our home.” I stroked its long dark hair, and its oils made my nails extend only slightly. “But your cage will be one of gold.”
The human seemed to understand, its mouth curved in a flurried smile.
Once we reached my abode, Mister Dzin walked in ahead of me, eager perhaps to see the inside of a rich splicer’s home, decorated with vivid Dzin wings. It followed the streams of water that twisted along the jagged floor. Perhaps the human knew where the water came from: a heavy static cloud of three-dimensional images and sounds, the very technology that many of our kind had been traded for eons ago, but only few of us had obtained permission to use. Mister Dzin stared at the device, mesmerized, then looked at me in desperation. The Mrien was right.
“Don't worry,” I said. “I will not forbid you to use it.” I taught it how to access the human archives, how the static hissed back from voice commands. Mister Dzin immediately took over, searching in the music library—the old historical files that only scholars of human culture could access.
Music played from the cloud in my mother tongue, a language I could not understand. Mister Dzin’s legs began to shake as the volume went up. To me it sounded like pure noise, indiscriminate and bothersome. Yet I could spot tears welling in the human’s eyes. Then I heard its voice, matching that of the music's: “écoute-moi…”
Perhaps I had been robbed. Was she, my little mankind, my Dzin without wings, still so human after all?