The Aeneid Reboot: Chapter 1

Published April 21, 2017, 4:31 p.m. - 178 views


The glass windows are being pelted by white crystals from whipping winds. Dido’s sofas, walls, cabinets and bedsheets are milky, but cobwebbed in black patterns. 
Dido sits on the edge of the bed, her long black dress ruffling at her feet. She holds Aeneas’ gaze. She makes the first move.
“I am sorry about sending Anna to attack you earlier. There’s enough suffering in the world without my adding to it.” She shrugs, raising an eyebrow. “Are you okay staying here?”
Aeneas thinks she’s asking a different question, his glasses’ microexpression filters forgotten, transmitting only raw light via radio into his occipital lobe. His blind eyes narrow as he explains why the refugees traveling with him will work hard to prepare for the coming winter flurries.
“Uh, no.” One of her cheeks turns up, slanting her lips on one side. “You have been running for a long time, haven’t you?”
Both his hands remain casually at his side, but his thumb and forefinger are tapping. “We’re leaving as soon as the storm clears.”
Dido stands. “You don’t know Canada like I do. Maybe thirty years ago you could wait for an opening, but now...” She rolls her eyes. “You know this. Troy, way down in Argentina, very similar weather.”
“Yeah.”
“I know that must have been hard. Running, driving, flying all this way. I lost my parents too. Don’t even have a brainalized copy.” She gestures to a nearby wall, its glass fridge filled with two dozen biocanisters. “Made one every year since I was twelve. Updates. It’s amazing how, in only twelve months, you can become such a different person.” She tilts her head, still gazing deep into his eyes. Still smiling. “Guess I’m compensating for something, huh?”
“Sure.”
Dido steps closer to him, sober, serious. “They’ll never find you here. It’s safe.” 
Aeneas is quiet. His thick shoulders and broad chest are tense, like when he was remembering his wife’s death.
Dido’s eyes are flashing between his, searching for something she’d never dreamed she’d see in another’s: permission. Even since she was a child she had to conceal without feeling, keep control without even the slightest gesture that could be construed as “hysterical.” Even now, even after the safety and technological flourishing she’d brought the reservation, two bad rumors could turn the electorate on her like wolves. But there was one with whom no rumor would be bad: one man so great, rumors could only grant power.
She reaches for his glasses. “You’ve been running all your life, haven’t you?”
Aeneas’ thoughts are identical to the winds outside, but one thought emerges. “I need those. To see.”
    Dido pauses, and then breaks a cunning smile.
***
As she pulls the lenses from my face, the cameras continue projecting to my blind occipital lobes. I’m between her hands, looking up at her enormous, smiling face. She turns them and I’m standing there, armored in tense ripples, pulsing my arms and chest. My eyes, pure white, are sweeping back and forth as though searching for myself. My mouth is hanging open. She giggles, I hear her only a yard away, her soles brushing carpet in circles around me while I gaze up into long batting lashes and full, rosy lips. She sits on a sofa a moment, turning her head like a quizzically, hungry bird, and then placing the lenses on her own face, giving me her own POV as she rushes me. I can see myself backing up, hands outstretched and defensive, still smiling in spite of myself. 
She takes them off, dangling them by an earpiece, and I can hear her somewhere ahead of me as I see spinning whites. She’s placed my eyes on a table, gazing defiantly into the white and black storm.
I can hear something moving closer, cooing and giggling as though hidden out in the crystals. A soft breath brushes on my lips, and I reach out and embrace a cloud of warm, silky sensations, kissing it as it moans back. I explore that void of tingling, tickling, touching, as I roll and bounce and smell lilacs in the swirling white.

ericks4@stolaf.edu

Matthew Erickson ’19

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