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This is the eighteenth chapter of a fanfiction adaptation of Christine Love's visual novel Analogue: A Hate Story. You do not need to have played the game to understand what is going on. This story is designed to be accessible to newcomers as transhumanist dystopian sci-fi, and many liberties were taken with the setting and dialogue, as well as with certain events.

Content note: This chapter consists entirely of self-indulgent introspection on the part of the POV character. If that isn't your cup of tea (or coffee), feel free to skip it.

* * *

We stayed there in the cockpit just talking, for the rest of the day. I scripted some furniture for *Mute to sit on, and she helped me pick out designs that were close to what they had on the Mugunghwa. I don't know if she actually cared, since she'd never had to use it before, and I was pretty sure she was just humouring me. But it was as close as I could get to what I actually wanted to do, which was watch her try on different clothing. I didn't want to press my luck.

I was careful not to bring up any subjects that I knew, by now, would offend *Mute. But it seemed like my life wasn't all that objectionable to her, which ... well, it was probably a sign that I needed to get out more, instead of hiding in my spaceship all the time. You should've seen her try to follow the plots of some of the games that I've played, though.

For her part ... I really felt like if I'd had to pick only one person to survive the Mugunghwa, then it would have been her. Not just because I l- er, liked her, but because she was so passionate about it. Its history, its society, its people ... she had been there for hundreds of years, watching it. And being a part of it, as much as they'd let her. Just on her own, she could give the historical society so much data about the lost ship that they wouldn't know what to do with it all.

The one subject I noticed her shying away from -- well, besides girl-on-girl sex -- was men. I mean, her tastes in them. She'd get this look in her eyes as she started describing what she thought was a fine specimen, but then it's like she'd remember that I was there and start backpedaling. "Well, maybe he wasn't that handsome, he just-" Things like that.

I just smiled, and didn't say anything. I didn't want to spoil her fun. But I also felt like, for her, this was part of the fun.

After centuries of watching other women fulfill this role, that she thought was essential to all women's happiness, she was determined to be "a good wife" if it killed her.

* * *

We had to stop around the time that I needed to go to sleep again. Curse my biological needs, I thought. She told me how to set her downloading, and then we said good night to each other, which was surprisingly hard. After that, she went offline, and I typed in the commands.

Now I'm laying here in bed, writing instead of sleeping. Remembering the longest couple of days of my life. No ... not remembering them, so much as trying to get them out of my system so I can forget. Trying to look forward, instead, to my new life with *Mute. Or I should say, her new life with me, since it looks like a lot more has changed for her. Her entire world has just ended, and is being replaced by another.

For me ... I am now in a live-in, committed relationship with an AI. Me, of all people. And she is also the last survivor of an unbelievably repressive society. One which was made up of individuals, all of whom did the best they could with what they knew how. Or most of whom did, anyway. I am reminded of this every time she tells me about them, and I realize I can sympathize with them.

Our "marriage" is, in some ways, as confusing to me as it is to her. I've always seen the word used to mean that you've registered your intent to never, ever end your relationship. I think for her it means that, but it's also some kind of entry pass to society. Like you're not a real person, or at least not an real woman, until you're married. And most women don't even get to accept or reject a proposal, the way that she did.

I feel like that cheapens it, since you can't know if someone married you because they love you or because it was pushed on them. Either way, I don't know whether or not she is settling for me. But I do know that this expectation that you ought to be married has to have factored in to her decision. That, and her being "programmed as a woman," as she described it ... which I can't help but feel is *Mute blaming her loneliness on her gender.

I'm not going to argue with her about it, though. If I were in her situation, I would have settled for what she did. For a socially awkward, introverted, not-at-all-adventurous waif, wrapped up in sweaters, blankets, and plushies. Who is no more a real woman, or at least a real human woman, than *Mute is. And for all that we're "married" to each other now, our relationship so far isn't like any married couple's that I've ever seen.

I can't tell her I love her, even though I care very deeply for her. I can't have sex or do anything physical with her at all, not even hold hands. But then, the only other relationships I've ever been in were all distance relationships, so I think I'm okay with this for now. I think I'm okay with helping *Mute adjust to modern society, too, which is good because right now I'm the only person that she knows or trusts.

I don't know how I'm going to do that, though. Frankly, I think we both need therapy. I know I do, at least. I'm going to schedule an appointment for myself as soon as they'll let me. I'm also going to rethink my life as a private investigator, because I was exposed to all kinds of physical and mental dangers here, unprotected. Even granted that some of that was because of my own foolishness, I'm not sure that it's worth it just to make the payments for the ship that I use to go do it in.

I'm not saying that *Mute wasn't worth it. I just ... never want to go through anything this traumatic or hazardous ever again.

Not even if cute girls are involved.

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