"I keep a milk dog in my apartment," Ivanna had taken to saying to friends, stretching languidly in that way that always drove me wild. "I like to lie on the carpet in front of the wall and suck its teats."
We'd given up the baby for adoption months ago, of course. Her spines were starting to play hell with the carpet, and we didn't want to have to forfeit our damage deposit. But we kept the milk dog they gave us at the hospital. Ivanna really would stretch out on the floor in front of the plasma wall we bought with the adoption money, and suckle for hours on end, until the milk dog's teats were red and raw and she - the milk dog, that is - was whining for a chance to visit the kitchen and the back yard.
I'd get home in the middle of the night, sometimes, my fingers still twitching on virtual keys, trying to get one more revision in before the server cutoff at two o'clock. She'd be there on the floor, watching whatever was on, eyes glazed with vid, lips glazed with milk, and I'd wonder if we'd made a mistake, marrying at ten.
Tonight I stood in the doorway, watching Ivanna. She barely seemed to know I was there. The milk dog reclined beside her, panting. The Abstract Expressionist channel pulsated on the wall behind her.
"Vanna," I said. Her left eyebrow flickered in response.
I tossed the virus at her underhand. It struck her cheek and adhered, throwing out sticky purple tendrils, searching for vulnerable orifices. She stiffened, eyes fully open now and focused on me.
"What. The fuck. Did you do that for?"
Answer a question with a question.
"When's the last time you updated?"
Ivanna pouted - or so her voice betrayed; the virus was already spreading over her face and I couldn't really read her expression.
"I dunno. April, I think."
"April. It's July, Vanna. D'you have any idea how fast viroids evolve?"
Her reply was indistinct; the purple virus had grown over her mouth.
I tossed the AV injector into her outstretched hand. She recognized it by touch and shoved the spike into the socket at the base of her tongue, wincing as the full updated signatures forced themselves into her ware all at once. Regular upgrades don't hurt that much, but you've got to remember to schedule 'em.
Scheduling wasn't exactly Ivanna's best subject. Neither was forgiveness.
She shuddered and the virus began shrinking, its tendrils retracting until it curled up into a little sphere again and dropped off of her face, rolling over the floor to my waiting hand.
The milk dog had watched us for awhile with her liquid brown eyes, but appetite soon got the better of her. While we were distracted, she wandered into the kitchen to eat some food and replenish her stock of sweet genemodded milk - indistinguishable, said the brochures, from mother's own.
Enjoy it, bitch. While it lasts.
Vanna let the spent injector drop to the end table without looking at it. I picked it up for her. It's the kind of service I perform... though in this case I had more reason than usual. If she'd thought to ask - if she'd been suspicious, or queried her own ware to find out exactly what was in that update - she would've found out what I'd done. For her own good, and for ours. A little bit of lactose intolerance wasn't that hard to slip into the mix.
I think it's high time she was weaned.
©2006 Alan P. Scott. All rights reserved.
Last updated September 23, 2006.