Friday, December 2, 2011

Ladder Marriage

London balanced on his feet. Marla managed to keep her back to him while she packed her bag. She applied crisp folds to her two all-purpose blouses, darts and inserts that could be warped so the top fit either casual or business needs, currently in a neutral brown waiting for her to dial the color scheme to match her day's moods. A skirt and slacks to match the tops, and morphing shoes. The teeth of the bag's zipper snapped together with finality. She turned to go, continuing to avoid London's gaze.

London blocked her way. His throat thick, his hands flapping like old fish caught on rusty hooks at his sides. He wore his favorite Hawaiian shirt, not made of the nano-weaves that could reconfigure style and color because those made his skin itch and his eyes run.

"We're not compatible." Marla spat the words. Time seemed to slow down to London, he saw flecks fly through the air, their time together turned to poison, disappearing into the haze of the room. Outside light lit the curtains from the microwave beams from the solar panels and space, enough light to backlight Marla, make her look like an angel.

"Can try to make this thing whole."

"We've tried. Best make a clean break." Marla moved to pass him, but when he positioned himself so she'd have to brush against him, she dropped her bag instead. "London, you must see this."

"You and I have a life together. Twenty-four years." London remembered every one of their anniversaries and was the one who answered whenever an acquaintance asked how long they'd been together.

"The contract only called for twenty."

London had hated that clause and argued against it, but Marla had badgered him. Even back then he should've seen her need for all the newfangled detritus. "Only an option."

"Four years too long."

"But we won't live forever."

"Exactly the point." Marla's eyes met his for the first time. Her contacts smoldering, showing a fiery ring around her eyes, the AI in the lens picking up her emotions. "I'm the only one of my friends still with her first husband. Exceeding terms. Putting up with this... waste." She waved her hands at the natural fibers of London's shirts filling the closet. "Beyond time to move on."

"Once, life used to be so short. They dedicated their entire life to a single marriage. It wasn't that long ago and if it was good for them, why not us?"

The flames extinguished. London knew it wasn't because she'd changed her mind, but because the AI wouldn't push the illusion too far, couldn't override the tears that welled in the corner of Marla's eyes. "It's not you. It's me." Her hand caressed his cheek. She took a breath and exhaled before pushing him away from her, into the door, and walking into the light, leaving London with a vanishing halo.


  1. Hm… Marla doesn't seem to have much of a heart, but there's not enough here to make London sympathetic either. A high-tech future, but people are the same.

    Verification word: "redgismo" — which is probably how the contact work. :-P

  2. Uncanny to read this directly after Tom Gillespie's "Two Shirts" where the two blouses went missing, only to have two appear in your first paragraph. You two didn't plan this, right?

    Also dug the weariness of London, and the character's unusual name.

  3. I want that blouse. ;)

    And a marriage with a built in expiration date - that's cold.

  4. @FARfetched, Thank-you! I need to think about the sympathy and see if I can concoct an exercise to improve it later this week. The story emphasizes the conflict and I think this helps to leave the reader outside the conflict.

    @John, I wish I could say it was planned that would be fun.

    @Sonia, having traveled for almost four weeks, a configurable self-cleaning outfit that I can morph into something different every day. The expiration date wedding came from an article discussing Google's Singularity University and one of the founders who postulated that by extending lifespans people would add sunset clauses to their weddings.

  5. You write such interesting pieces Aidan - a marriage of the future where commitment is not forever - cold and yet this piece emphasises that even when a contract is struck, not all parties do feel they can honour it.

  6. Thanks Helen, I find it fun to play with ideas.

  7. nicely done Aidan.

    The characters felt real. It seems like her friends are more important to her than London. A very real thing regarding both sexes.

    I would love some of those contact lenses, preferably ones that can shoot daggers too.

  8. Interesting concept here...and it always comes down to the fine print, doesn't it? Funny how even AI can be shallow.

  9. A very interesting situation you have here, Aidan. It seems technology has left things feeling cold an indifferent - or at least Marla seems that way.

  10. I must say Marla's clothes would make traveling a breeze. I'm not really into fashion but I'm always intrigued by how people describe clothes. The little details like that make the world so much more immersive. :)

    Did the marriage start as a contract/business arrangement or did they marry because of optimistic love? I'm curious if couples in this world have the option of skipping the clause, or if it's just pre-built into all marriage licenses.