Looking down to avoid Aleph’s accusing, red glare and weighed down by a suffocating, invisible, black cloud; I watched my feet drag their way along the path through my front garden. I didn’t want to raise my hand to the lock so it would recognize me and open but I couldn’t think of an alternative. White electric light spilled out into red night as the door opened and I reluctantly stepped into the house.
“Here he is!” said Mum, right inside the front door with Dad. “Where were you Clindar? What happened to your clothes?”
“Did a girl turn you down?” asked Dad.
It occurred to me that I can’t have been very late so I’d probably only lost a day’s memories. I didn’t want to tell them what had really happened. I was sure people would just dismiss it because there wasn’t enough evidence anyway and the last thing I needed now was to deal with something like that.
“The girls won’t have sex with him,” said Attan, my thirteen year old brother who I felt was my mother’s favorate and most people seemed to like him more than me, “because he’s weird.”
That did it! I was sick of this constant humiliation and I decided I had to do something about it. I had to prove I was a heterosexual boy, nearly a man. Starting now!
“All the other boys at school have had sex with girls! Why won’t they do it with me?”
“Just try some charm,” said Dad.
“You think I don’t? Whenever I think I’m getting somewhere with a girl, she suddenly goes all fornicating weird on me and won’t talk to me.”
I realized there was only one way to prove I was a heterosexual boy, nearly a man.
“That’s because you’re weird,” said Attan.
I looked very crossly at him. Mum and Dad were between me and him or I’d have hit him.
“Probably just the time of the ten light cycles,” said Mum.
“No! It happens every fornicating time! That should only last a few days. They stay that way for fornicating ever! All the other boys at school have sex! The girls will have sex with them. Even the stupid, ugly, evil ones, even the homosexuals, the quadriplegic and the Winemakers and Nuharas, even complete faeces like Ifrac who’s hardly worthy to be classified as a fornicating chordate!”
Yes only one way to prove I was human and at least as good as the other boys.
“They’re probably exaggerating their success with girls,” said Mum.
“Boys lie about these things,” said Dad.
“But I’ve fornicating seen them! They’re doing it all over the fornicating school! Somebody told them sexual morals were outdated and just a hangover from when we lived on starships! As sexual morals are religious, the school isn’t allowed to enforce them.”
Attan went to a different school because he hadn’t wanted the stigma of being my brother.
“Don’t swear!” said Mum. “I don’t think that can be right. You really should stay a virgin until ...”
“One of the local rabbis keeps telling everybody sexual morals are old fashioned and it doesn’t matter if you have sex before marriage as long as you use a contraceptive spell!”
“Don’t blame this on me,” said Dad.
Yes, I had to have sex with a girl, by which I mean a female human who had boobs, I’m not a pedophile!
“But it’s your fornicating fault! And when Svindac complained his father had stopped him when it looked as if he was getting somewhere with his sister’s friend, you said his father was wrong because a boy of that age needed to have sexual experiences to develop self confidence and good social skills.”
Svindac was a friend who went to a different school. He was sixteen, a year younger than me!
“Language,” said Mum.
“Is there anything to eat?” I asked.
“It’s in the kitchen,” said Dad.
I went into the kitchen, thumping Attan on the way. It occurred to me they hadn’t asked why none of the girls would have sex with me. I suspected they knew but didn’t want to say. My father preached korbarim, like gods, were merely symbolic and not real. Narblo, the school councilor, although he mostly agreed with Dad’s teachings, did believe in korbarim and had told me he thought that korbarism was part of my problem.
In case you don’t know, most humans believe almost all humans belong to one of four korbarim. People in the same korbar tend to like each other and find each other sexually attractive while people in different korbarim tend to dislike each other. Which korbar you belong to is decided by your psychic powers, which are determined by your genes.
Clindar wrote this in Faharni and assumed a fair knowledge of the planet Midbar in his readers. Therefore it will be necessary to explain a number of things to those who aren’t familiar with Midbar. This will be done as things are raised which need such an explanation.
Midbar is the planet Clindar lives on (the one he’s on currently).
Aleph is a red dwarf which provides most of Midbar’s natural light.
Red night is when Aleph is the main source of light.
Nuhara is a minority religion which is notoriously intolerant, violent and boastful about its superiority. It’s followers, called Nuharas, tend to be unpopular.
Winemakers are followers of a minority religion (Winemakerism) which is even more unpopular than Nuhara.
The word translated ”rabbi" is Semic (ancient language associated with the religion Yohoism), and originally referred to a Yohoist religious teacher. However it’s now almost always used for a Trulist lay preacher theologian, and that’s what’s meant here.
Trulism is the main religion on Midbar, it’s ancient and polytheistic and is very concerned with fairness and equality.
Korbarism is unfair discrimination based on korbar. Unfortunately hipsickim (non psychics) tend to discriminate against psychics but aren’t capable of consciously identifying korbarim.
After I’d eaten (I wasn’t really hungry and just picked at my food and put what was left in the fridge), Dad took me to the temple, saying he had something that would cheer me up. He and Mum had been together in his study and I suspected they’d discussed my situation without me hearing what they said but Mum gave us a dirty look as we left.
The temple of Yoho in Laraget was larger than most Holy Sites, a hulking building on top of a hill, that sat there like some hunched monster waiting to strike. In the black and red of red night, it looked particularly ominous. Inside there was a large sanctuary with seats, like a big theater. There were also many small rooms and somewhere, accommodation for priests and prostitutes and the rooms where the prostitutes had sex with their clients. I’ve always thought it odd that Trulism has temple prostitutes while the more intolerant religions, Winemakerism and Nuhara, don’t.
Dad left me in the seats and went to talk to somebody I thought was a Love Priest. I always thought it incongruous to have Love Priests and prostitutes in the temple of Yoho but Dad just said that was one of the things that proved gods were only symbolic. Was he really going to get me a prostitute? I had mixed feelings about this. Sure I wanted to have sex but I didn’t want to basically force a girl into it. I couldn’t be sure as I’d never done it and it may depend on how the prostitute behaved but I didn’t think it would give me the sense of accomplishment that seducing a regular girl would. It was kind of like passing an exam by cheating. Perhaps it would activate some instinct that would allow me to seduce regular girls. Was he going to hand me over to be a prostitute? No. My sister had been taken to be a prostitute and they only took one per family. I considered what could solve my problem? Girls were supposed to try to find genetically superior males with good resources who could give them genetically good children and help raise them. Theoretically I was a good choice: a faharni, the main race on Midbar although I had ten toes and ten fingers, male, heterosexual and in good health. I was more intelligent than most people and did well at school (as least in terms of academic scores). My parents were still together and had good jobs so my family was fairly well off and had a nice house in a good area. I lived in Laraget, a large prosperous city on the fertile plane in the Great Basin. This was in Pax, a peaceful country which; like Trulism, the main religion; was very concerned with fairness and equality. I was a Trulist, the eldest son of a well known and respected, if somewhat controversial, rabbi who was also a lawyer. I’m just being honest, as a good Trulist, I’m not prejudiced. Yet theory didn’t seem to count for anything and the girls at my school had sex with boys who, by all objective criteria, were vastly inferior to me. The most likely explanation was my korbar.
Had Dad thought of something I hadn’t? I could see him talking to the Love Priest, or perhaps a priestess? They both dressed the same although love priests were male. I couldn’t hear what they were saying but the conversation clearly didn’t go well. Then the priest came over to me. When he got closer, I could see he was a man and therefore a Love Priest.
“I hear you’re having some trouble at school?” he asked.
“Are you being bullied?”
“No, none of the girls will have sex with me but they’ll have sex with all the other boys.”
“Will any of the boys ..?”
“I don’t want to have fornicating sex with boys!” I screamed.
“Strong emotions can be dangerous.”
“I’m a teenager who has to watch complete sub-human faeces fornicating decent girls while none of the girls will fornicate me. Of course I have fornicating strong emotions! What are you going to do about it?”
“I suppose exclusion is a form of bullying but I’ve never heard of something quiet like this.”
“Our school has a zero tolerance policy on bullying,” I said, looking into his heavily made up face. The shape suggested he was a faharni, like most people in Pax. This was confirmed when I noticed he had six fingers on one hand. “Yet I’m being bullied?”
“What do you expect? The school to order girls to have sex with you?”
“That’s rather hypocritical coming from you! I’m a psychic aren’t I? That’s why they won’t have sex with me. Well some of the girls are psychic but I’m guessing I’m an anav and they’re nibeyot and katcheyot. A few times I thought I was getting somewhere with a psychic girl but they always go weird on me and stop being friends. That’s also the reason you won’t let me have a prostitute, isn’t it? It doesn’t exactly help having a father who doesn’t believe in korbarim! Of course Trulism doesn’t allow psychics to have sex with each other but sexual morals seem to have been utterly abandoned, thanks to my father, so perhaps if you won’t let me have a prostitute, the school could bring in an anavah or something.”
I was fairly sure he was a katchey, they’re moderately powerful, mostly mind reading and foreseeing the future. I think he was trying to foresee the future. “You can’t have sex with a psychic.”
“Some of the other psychic boys fornicate psychic girls!”
“There are issues you don’t understand here. What you plan to do is going to cause a lot of trouble.”
“So I’ve just got to put up with this and end up with no self confidence and fornicating poor social skills because, well the school seems to be fornicating ignoring the rules and my father doesn’t fornicating believe in korbarim and you’re fornicating sticking to your rules about not letting psychics fornicate each other. I’m just going to demand my school treats me fairly, isn’t that the Trulist way?”
“I’m sorry but I can’t help you,” he said and then got up and walked away sadly. “I must take the moral high ground and obey the rules.”
“You’re a pimp who uses religion as an excuse for prostitution!”
“I’ve got another idea,” said Dad and started leading me out of the temple.
“Why wouldn’t he let me fornicate a prostitute?” I asked.
“Some stupid, outdated rules but rabbis have no control over priests.”
Of course he was avoiding referring to korbarim.
We nearly reached the door when a rather fat man, who looked faharni but had bennis ears, ran in, sweating heavily and panting, his face red. “Thank Yoho you’re here!” he gasped to Dad. “You said that case was settled but it isn’t!”
“It is, I’ve got ...”
“Then why are there bailiffs taking all my possessions? Jaradin is packing, saying it’s my fault!”
“This isn’t legal!”
“They had a lawyer with them! Has a huge pile of papers and computer things written in Old Faharni, Semic and several other languages I can’t read. He says this proves Ruashni is right!”
“A data deluge!” said Dad. “I thought that was beneath Clathmior! Even so, they can’t take your property until...”
“Apparently they can! It’s the law of Reasonable Acceptability or Accountable Reasonableness or Acceptable Reasons or something. It’s from before the Cataclysm and isn’t used much but it’s still on the books and there was some president set in 100AC!”
“Faeces, I suppose I’m going to have to deal with this. You go and get the police, I’ll go to your house, that’s where the bailiffs are is it?”
“Last I saw.”
As we walked out the temple, I asked, “What’s a data deluge?”
“It’s when you present a very large amount of information and falsely claim it supports your position. It’s very hard for your opponent to go through all the stuff and prove otherwise. Doing this is actually illegal but it’s a hard case to fight because you still have to prove the information doesn’t support your opponent’s position.”
Yoho was originally the god of the extinct religion called Yohoism but in this period, he’s mostly worshiped by Winemakers. Trulists consider him to be the god of parties and sexual morality.
All religions on Midbar agree there are only a limited number of holy sites where temples etc. can be built.
The faharni race has moderately dark skin, usually brown eyes and black hair but other hair and eye colors aren’t uncommon. A dominant gene that causes polydactylism (having extra fingers and/or toes) is also common among them.
The Great Basin is a very large meteor crater, where most the water is located and therefore where nearly all the humans live.
Bennis is a race of people with light skin and pointed ears.
Old Faharni is an ancient version of Faharni. Few people in this period can read it.
AC is an acronym for After Cataclysm. The Cataclysm was a series of wars and natural disasters which officially ended about 300 years prior to this time.
Dad drove, rather faster than normal, overriding the autopilot, across town and screeched to a halt in a residential area. A truck was parked outside a house and men were carrying furniture out and putting it in the truck as several people stood around staring.
Dad gave me a small object, “This is a film camera, look through this eyepiece and keep it pointing at me and whoever I’m talking to!”
“Oh wow! I didn’t know you had such an interesting device!”
I collected devices but I didn’t have many as they tended to be expensive and there wasn’t anywhere where you were likely to find them just lying around in Laraget.
He got out the car and marched up to two men who were carrying a sofa. I got out so I could hear and get a better look, keeping the camera trained on Dad. I had some idea how to use such devices, because devices were my hobby, although they were from before the Cataclysm and not that common.
“This is illegal!” said Dad. “I’m Wennifarg’s lawyer and I know all about this case.”
“Sorry,” said one of the men, “we’ve got orders!”
“Where’s your documentation? The police will be here soon and they’ll arrest you if you don’t have it or if it’s fraudulent.”
The men put down the sofa and started searching in their pockets. Then they asked a couple of other men who were clearly working with them. They also went through their pockets. One of them found a small bit of paper and handed it to Dad who looked at it.
“This is fraudulent!” said Dad. “Well at least it mentions a law I haven’t heard of and half of it’s written in what looks like Hecrini, which I can’t read, and very few Paxians can. That’s dubious enough for an arrest at least!”
“Clathmior said it was OK. Sorry but we’ve never seen you before and he gave us strict orders.”
With that the men picked up their bits of furniture and continued putting them in the truck. Dad stood around looking cross for about an hour. Then the police arrived. The police looked at the bit of paper and decided it was legitimate in spite of Dad’s protests to the contrary.
“Expect to get sued!” Dad shouted at the police as they left. “Get back in the car!” he marched towards me looking furious. “We’ll need to find Clathmior, he’s probably gone home.”
“This isn’t getting me fornicated!” I complained.
We went to Clathmior’s house and his wife told us she thought he’d gone to his office.
We went to his office and found nobody there.
We went to the homes of several people from Dad’s firm to get them looking for Clathmior but half of them seemed to be out.
We pulled up outside a house I didn’t know.
“This family have a nice daughter about your age,” said Dad. “Obviously she isn’t a prostitute but you can try with her but promise to be nice to her.”
“I’m always nice to girls.”
“Then why don’t they like you?”
“I don’t know. They have sex with boys who are ugly, stupid and obnoxious, not to mention disabled, gay or Winemaker.”
We got out and went to the door and Dad rang the bell. A dog barked. After a few minutes, the door opened but had a chain on it and a teenage girl I didn’t recognize peeked through it. “What?”
“Can I speak to your mother?” asked Dad.
“She’s out!” the girl said and closed the door.
Dad knocked again and the girl opened the door, still with the security chain on. “I said ...”
“I’m your mother’s boss! I need her for an emergency. Do you know where she is?”
“No!” she tried to close the door again but Dad stuck his foot in it to wedge it open.
“I also need to leave my son ...”
“Everybody hates him, he’s the rapist!”
“No I’m not!” I said.
“That’s the only way you can get a girl.”
“Who told you he was the rapist?” asked Dad.
“Everybody knows that! Can you ...”
“Look you stupid vagina!” said Dad. “I’m trying to deal with two crises at once and you’re not helping!”
With that Dad let her close the door. “Well that didn’t go well,” he said.
“The police haven’t even questioned me about the rapes!” I shouted at the house. “I didn’t do any of them and I’ve no idea who did!”
“The girls hate you because they think you’re the rapist because the girls don’t like you,” muttered Dad walking away. “I supposed we’d better try to fix... Which problem is more urgent? What would cheer you up other than having sex and preferably something I don’t need to hang around for?”
“Right now I’m really having trouble thinking of anything. Isn’t it slander to claim I’m the rapist?”
“Yes but proving that in court is difficult. Do you know why they think that?”
“No. I thought this guy used a date rape spell to erase his victims’ memories so... I don’t know who the victims are...”
“That’s kept confidential.”
“It’s possible he raped one or more girls I liked. Also I don’t know exactly when and where the rapes were.”
“I think it’s difficult to be sure because of the use of date rape spells and it may also relate to concealing the victims’ identities.”
“It’s possible I was seen near the scene of one or more of the rapes at about the same time but I don’t know that, I’ve never seen something that looked like a rape in progress. How can I know if I was near one when I don’t know when or where the rapes happened?”
“Let me know if you think of something that would cheer you up.”
By now we were back at the car.
“Fornicating a girl!”
“That’s obviously very difficult, unless you rape one but ...”
“No! I won’t do that! She’s got to want it!”
“Good but I don’t know how we can find one who would want it. There are street prostitutes but that’s illegal and I don’t know where to find one.”
I was fairly sure he wasn’t being entirely honest about that but I considered prostitution to be uncomfortably close to rape so I didn’t want a street prostitute.
“There’s one other thing,” I said, “but I’m not sure it will really cheer me up. Can you answer a question?”
“You know there are lots of things I’m not allowed to tell anybody.”
“Am I an anav?”
“You know korbarim are just symbolic but you are a very powerful psychic. That’s probably part of your problem.”
“Then can you take me to another psychic like me? I don’t think I’ve ever met one and they may be able to help me.”
“You have met one but it was a long time ago and I don’t think you realized at the time.”
“That doesn’t help.”
“Sorry but I don’t know any. I don’t think there are any in Laraget.”
“What, I’m the most powerful psychic in the city!”
“I suppose but you’re not a mage and your powers aren’t a lot of good against magic, particularly as most magi are also psychics.”
I thought about that and then decided to take a different approach. “The girls having sex with all the boys except me constitutes bullying by exclusion. It’s likely to cause me to grow up with poor self esteem and bad social skills. Can’t you take action against the school for that?”
“Difficult. You’d need evidence.”
Dad got out a pendulum and a map and tried dousing for Clathmior.
“Why didn’t you try that before?” I asked.
“Because I don’t like doing this sort of thing and I’m not sure it will work because I don’t have a biological sample of Clathmior and we’re not very close. Looks like he’s in the King of Photoorganisms.”
A street prostitute is basically any prostitute other than a Temple Prostitute.
Almost all magic on Midbar is associate magic. It uses normally invisible and intangible things called associates which can be invisibly linked to objects using bindings. Associate magic is really a branch of previously unknown science that was discovered after humans left Earth. It isn’t forbidden by the ancient religions.
A mage (plural “magi”) is somebody who has associates bound to them and has had training and taken vows to obey certain laws so they can do magic without artifacts (objects with magical power because they have associates bound to them). Some people have bound associates but are not magi, these are called chelases. Unlike psychic powers, this is not genetic.
Dousing is a pychic power that allows you to find things. It’s probably the easiest psychic ability to learn.
The King of Photoorganisms was a bar on the edge of town. We just arrived as several people were leaving.
“Clathmior!” said Dad, stopping the car in the entrance to the parking lot and jumping out.
I got out as well. I still had the camera so I trained it on Dad.
Dad walked up to a fairly normal looking faharni man who looked worried.
“What the feces do you think you’re doing? A data deluge! A fraudulent confiscation order!”
“Slander!” said the other man, who had to be Clathmior.
“Half the order was written in Hecrini!”
“Not if it’s excrement!”
“Just go home, calm down and ...”
“By that time all of Wennifarg’s property will have been confiscated and it will take a court order to get it back! I’ll help him sue you for everything you’ve got but I think we can come to a quicker and less painful arrangement.”
“Sorry, there’s nothing I can do.”
“What does that mean? You’re a good lawyer, you can think of something.”
“From whom? Who else cares about this apart from our clients? The settlement’s hardly going to bankrupt them!”
This shocked me. I’d heard of them but didn’t know much. They were a rather secretive organization who raised money for charity. However, they were reputed to conspire to manipulate big business and politics and mess up the lives of people they didn’t like.
“What the feces! That’s the most pathetic ...”
“Why do you think the police wouldn’t arrest the bailiffs? Anyway, I’m told they’ll give Wennifarg his stuff back and make it up to him.”
“They just want to frighten him or something. Who knows why they do any of the things they do? I think half the time they do things that make no sense so people can’t figure out the motives for the things they think are important or to spawn ridiculous conspiracy theories so nobody believes any conspiracy theories that might be onto something.”
Dad came back to the car and looked at the camera. Then he reached out and switched it off. “Did he mention Benai Nibeyim to complicate the case if I try using this footage as evidence?”
“How should I know. Why’s that a problem?”
“Because people think you’re nuts if you start claiming it was some sort of conspiracy. There are a lot of Benai Nibeyim working as judges and things and they won’t like being implicated so they may interfere if I try using this in court.”
I was afraid to look at my underpants, when I took them off. Then I thought Mum might realize there was something strange about them when she put them in the wash. I thought about getting rid of them but thought Mum might notice that as well. I took a look and didn’t see anything unusual. I just put them in the laundry bin as normal but I was worried about whether Mum would notice anything odd about them for several days.
I was walking with strange ghostly images swirling around me. The light suddenly got a lot darker and red and I stopped. The haze evaporated like surfacing from water but my head was still muddled. I was struck with the most horrendous realization, somebody had used a date rape spell on me! That probably meant... I checked myself quickly. My clothes were a bit dirty but... I felt sick and broke out in a cold sweat. My bottom didn’t feel sore or anything, how did you know if you’d been raped? I’d heard there was a serial rapist in Laraget but I thought he only raped girls. I told myself date rape spells left you unconscious but I knew there were a number of variations, usually mentally incapacitating the victim long enough for the attacker to get away. I was standing in a street, I think just after sapphire dark but Aleph was still high in the sky, must be day three of the light cycle so I’d only lost about a day’s memory, or a multiple of three days. Now I stood in red night feeling sick and disorientated. Where was I? Tianamet Lane. What was I doing here? It wasn’t far from my home but not on the bus route from school. Perhaps I’d been robbed? I checked my pockets: money chip, bus pass. I still had my bag so I checked that as well: notebooks, textbooks. I suppose you could be robbed and raped but the fact that I hadn’t been robbed ... I didn’t even think anybody wanted to have sex with me. I didn’t understand why. Of course I’d willingly have sex with about half the kids at school and lots of people who didn’t go to my school. I didn’t think any of the people I didn’t want to have sex with fancied me either but that didn’t bother me. Perhaps they had some strange thing about me because my father was a rabbi. Many people respected him greatly but he’d greatly angered others by his modern, rather rational approach to Trulism. He’d once told me it was very difficult for a Trulist to be a heretic but some people thought he was one. Although Nuharas were generally friendly towards me, I knew they disliked my father’s teachings although he was strongly opposed to religionism. What was I going to do? I wasn’t even sure if I’d actually been raped, did I want to know? Date rape spells did have other uses, maybe I’d seen something somebody didn’t want me knowing about. It would be a great relief if I hadn’t been raped but if I had, I’d rather not know. That was no way for a boy to have his first sexual experience, even if he couldn’t remember. What time was it? Oh yes must have been about six in the evening on the third day of the light cycle. Should I tell anybody about this? I knew enough about police procedures to not talk to them. I didn’t want to tell my parents. I considered Narblo, the school councilor, but decided I didn’t even want to talk to him about it. I headed for home.
Midbar orbits a brown dwarf (an object intermediate between a gas giant and a star) named Bet about once every eighteen hours. It’s rotation locked to Bet, meaning that the same side of Midbar, on which all the humans live, faces Bet all the time. Bet orbits Aleph, which is the source of most natural light on Midbar. Therefore Aleph rises and sets in an eighteen hour cycle.
As plants don’t grow well in the red light of Aleph, there are associate magic cyan lights in the sky called sapphires. These go on and off in a roughly 24 hour cycle imitating Earth’s days and seasons. The interaction of the 18 hour cycle of Aleph and the 24 hour cycle of the sapphires results in a three day light cycle. The time when the sapphires go off is called sapphire dark.