With the old stuff finally up and live, I’ve been focusing on the new stuff to come. Here’s where we’re at.
The Wizard’s Daughters. The text for this is basically done. I’m just waiting on the cover. As this is a fantasy adventure, I opted to commission some original cover art, and that’s taking some time. I promise it will be worth the wait.
The Hunt. The cover for this one, on the other hand, is done. I just need to finish the climactic sex scene, and since it needs to be, well, climactic, it’s taking longer than I expected.
What’s left? I keep trying to write a new story to include in the short story collection, but as with The Hunt, the latest one I started has also turned into a novella. So, in apology for the delays, I’m posting the first chapter here. It’s titled The eGirl, and you should be able to figure out what that means pretty quickly.
I woke to the feel of a hand on my erection. Megan was already awake, groping at me, hand inside my pajama bottoms. I fought the lingering sleep as I felt her stroking me, squeezing me. I reached for her, but she sat up beside me, pushing the covers back. She pulled me out through the fly, bending to take me in her mouth.
That was when I woke up for real.
I reached for her, but she wasn’t there. Just like she hadn’t been there for a year and a half.
I knew where she had spent the night, and it killed me to think of it. So of course the thoughts came unbidden to my mind every morning.
She had often complained of being cold at night, and I would spoon with her to warm her up.
Now she was cold all the time, and there was nothing I could do about it.
“Dad! Make them stop!”
My 14-year-old daughter Alisa drew my attention away from the sports page on my tablet. I looked up to see her two younger brothers competing to see who could expose more half-chewed cereal in their mouths. Which of course they were doing with the express intention of annoying her.
Cole gulped down his mouthful of chocolate-frosted-whatever-they-were. “Dad, can we get a robot?”
I looked up again from the preview of the 49ers game I was reading.
“Why do we need a robot?”
“Then we wouldn’t have to do any chores.”
“Yeah,” Keith said. “The robot could clean the catbox. I hate cleaning the catbox.”
“Chores are good for the soul. Besides, robots are expensive, especially ones that can do stuff like that. And Mittens refuses to use self-cleaning boxes; I doubt she would tolerate a robot cleaning it.”
“If we got one of those robots that look like people, I bet she would let it,” Cole said.
I rolled my eyes.
“Do you have any idea what those cost?”
“If I gave you my allowance, it wouldn’t cost so much.”
“It’s still a lot, pal. More than we can afford.”
Alisa began clearing the breakfast dishes and piling them in the sink.
“Alisa, let your brothers clear their own dishes.”
She didn’t look over at me. “They won’t do it. They’ll just leave them there until the milk spoils.”
Unstated: It’s what Mom always did.
I got up and went to the sink. “Your brothers need to do their own chores, robot or no robot,” I said quietly.
She set the cereal bowls down and leaned against the sink, still not looking at me.
“You don’t need to be Mom. I’ve told you that.”
“There’s no one else,” she said softly.
I was going to the 49ers-Giants game that afternoon, but the friend I’d planned to go with messaged me right after breakfast to tell me he had to back out: One of his kids was sick, and he couldn’t find a babysitter.
I called a couple of other friends offering them the ticket, but no one was available. I would have enjoyed taking Alisa, but like her mother, she had no interest whatsoever in football. As for her brothers, they didn’t have the patience to sit still for three hours. Besides which, I only had two tickets, and I couldn’t take one twin and not the other.
That meant going stag. But to be honest, three hours on my own wouldn’t be such a trial. I loved my kids, but I needed a break.
Alisa had wanted to babysit Keith and Cole, but I had told her to go out with her friends instead and arranged with the college student I’d often used in the past to watch them. When I got off the phone with the last friend I’d called, I came down the stairs to run into Alisa struggling with a huge load of laundry I hadn’t asked her to do. I tried to take it from her, but she resisted.
“Dad, I’ve got it.”
Not wanting to start a fight, I let go. She went up to the boys’ room and starting putting things away.
Megan and I met in college at UC Davis.
I’d been out one Friday night with some friends. We’d been eating at this Mexican place on 2nd Street. I noticed a cute girl sitting a couple of tables over. She had the most perfect cascade of blond hair I’d ever seen. She noticed me looking at her and smiled quickly. Our eyes met a few more times before I worked up the courage to go talk to her.
We talked for a long time before she had to go. We planned to meet up later that night, and I half expected her to flake on me, but she hadn’t. We realized we knew a few of the same people, and ended up going to a party off-campus. We were making out heavily a few hours later.
We dated for a few months, broke up, then got back together when we mutually agreed we were making a huge mistake. We got engaged a year after graduation and moved in together in a tiny studio apartment in Daly City.
Alisa came along unexpectedly two years into our marriage, a tiny bundle of blonde joy. Megan had blossomed in motherhood in ways I’d never expected. I’d always known she would be a good mother, but I had still not anticipated the way she had grown into the role so completely, nor how much more I would come to love her watching her with Alisa. When she had become pregnant with Cole and Keith a few years later, she’d asked if we could find a way for her to stop working and be a full-time mom.
We’d worked it out, shuffled some things around. The first year or so hadn’t been easy, but we’d gotten used to it. I’d taken on more work; we’d cut back on other things. In time, it had felt normal.
Then we went out for a date night one evening, and only I had come back.
Megan had been 19 when we met, not much older than Alisa was now. Alisa was starting to turn into Megan’s ghost, which both comforted and distressed me. She’d been a vivacious, outgoing 12-year-old when Megan died. Now I had a world-weary 30-year-old in a coltish 14-year-old body.
She had taken over Megan’s role as woman of the house without my ever asking, ever even supporting it. She’d just done it, and she fought me when I tried to stop her. I’d let it happen. The pain I felt watching her do it seemed to be less than the pain I would inflict taking it away from her.
Cole cornered me right after I got out of the shower.
“Dad, they’re giving away two robots at the football game. You could win!”
“What are you talking about?”
“They’re giving them away. You just have to find them.”
“What, you mean like a contest?”
Keith came up behind him.
“Vertex is giving away two of those robots that look like people.”
Now I understood what they were talking about. The Vertex eGirls and eBoys were high-end robots covered in silicone flesh. They were programmed to act like human beings, though the effect wasn’t entirely convincing. I had seen a few of them, and they reminded me of walking sex dolls—which was apt, since they were designed to be “100% anatomically correct” and pretty much everyone suspected the people who bought them were using them for quite a bit more than housework.
“I wouldn’t get your hopes up, guys.”
Cole handed me my phone.
“You have to put the Vertex app on your phone to win. I did it for you.”
I groaned at him.
“Cole, I’ve told you not to fool around with my phone without asking first.”
“But, Dad, you can’t win unless you have it. You have to win.”
“Yeah, we need a robot,” Keith said.
They both looked so earnest that I had to give in.
“Okay, I’ll try.”
When I got downstairs, I found Alisa cleaning up the kitchen. When she saw me come in, she glanced over at me with a conflicted look on her face.
“Dad, aren’t those Vertex things, like, the sex-bots?”
With Megan gone, Alisa and I had been forced into the sorts of conversations that should have been mother-daughter, and consequently we had discussed sex and reproductive issues several times, as awkward as it had been for both of us.
“Only if you program them for it, I think. They can do a lot of stuff.”
“What if you win?”
“There will be 80,000 other people there. I’m not going to win. I’m not even sure how you’re supposed to do it.”
“Cole was telling me you have to ask people ‘Are you my eGirl?’ If you ask the robot, you win.”
“Christ. There’s no way I’m going to go around asking random women if they’re ‘my eGirl.’”
“Okay. That seems like it would be pretty gross.”
I sat down in front of the TV to flip through the morning football games and had a sudden thought. Every eGirl and eBoy I’d ever seen was obviously a robot. What Alisa had just told me made no sense.
I grabbed my tablet and ran a search on “egirl giveaway.” What it pulled up clarified things a bit. Vertex was about to release the fifth generation of their robots, and they boasted that the eGirl 5 would be indistinguishable from a human being. And to prove that fact, they were conducting a giveaway at the game this afternoon. To get the robot, you had to find it, and the pitch was that that would be very hard.
Vertex was based in Silicon Valley and was the 49ers’ stadium naming sponsor, so it made a certain amount of sense. Still, what they were proposing to do sounded pretty nuts. If the robots were really that good, the result would be absolute chaos.
I opened the app Cole had put on my phone but found little more than information about Vertex and a lot of stuff about the giveaway I’d already read. There was little clue what it was supposed to do.
That’s it for today!