Even twins suffer a degree of separation. However close, they do not occupy the same space, and their lives unfold with perspectives skewed by spatial difference. One will catch a cold that the other doesn’t, one will fall from a tree and the other won’t; one will turn a corner soon enough to spy a secret, the other will be too late. The years will grow them apart with a thousand details not shared in common.
But Morgan walked in absolute unity.
* * *
On the first day of class it is my habit to ask each student why he or she is there. It gets me beyond first impressions, the stereotypes. As I scanned the faces before me, matching them to the names on my roster, I spotted them: The feminist, who would challenge with tiresome—if largely justified—predictability the patriarchal prejudices of every major thinker; the party animal who would try to scrape by on charm and bull; the brooding, self-identified artist who would quote Nietzsche with darkly posed conviction.
But then, second row, a bit to the left, was Morgan Kaiser-Caine. Curly chestnut-brown hair of shoulder length, simple adornment, neutral colors, a careful balance of male and female that favored neither. Morgan had the face of an archangel painted by an Italian master. Peach-perfect complexion, luminous eyes, sensual bow of a mouth; lines of strength and curves of gentleness. I tried not to stare.
I was determined not to single Morgan out in any way, but ran into a problem almost immediately.
“Mr. Roth, may I ask why you are here?”
“I’m pre-law,” he replied. “Philosophy and Political Science were recommended by my counselor.”
“Valid choice,” I said, nodding. “Ms. Scheiber, why are you here?”
She had a gleam in her eye as she replied, “I am taking Philosophy because I want to find the answer to that question.”
I grinned. “Good luck.”
Then I turned towards Morgan and realized the dilemma I had gotten myself into. In Morgan’s case, neither Mr. nor Ms. would be appropriate. So I improvised.
“I’ll rephrase the question,” I said as I addressed Morgan. “How about, ‘Why have you chosen to take this class?’”
Morgan sat back in the chair, pausing thoughtfully, ignoring the rapt attention that filled the room. What sort of voice would emerge from those lips?
“We wish to learn about everything,” came the answer in a smooth, cultured alto. “To specialize in a particular subject would be limiting, so we are choosing to major in Philosophy. There is a philosophy of history, a philosophy of science, indeed, every discipline has an underlying philosophy. And it seems to us that the Ancient Greeks mark the beginning, not just of the history of philosophy, but of scientific thinking as well. Therefore, we have decided to begin our studies here.”
There was a moment of silence in the room. I could feel the tension, the hostile jealousy mixed with awe and intimidation, inspired by this expression of self-assured eloquence. They all knew who Morgan was—what Morgan was. It would prejudice them. I fully expected a good number to drop the class within the week rather than have to deal with this divine freak in their midst. Fine, let them go. All the better for me to focus my time and attention on Morgan.
* * *
I wouldn’t allow myself to be caught reading tabloids, but Joyce Dusek was addicted to them and left them in the lounge. I picked them up when no one was looking. They were splashed liberally with the celebrity drama of Morgan’s parents. Kate Caine was cast in a starring role; Caleb Kaiser could have written it. They were poles of opposing energy in violent attraction, powerful egos propelled by soaring genius.
They met, so I was informed in romance-novel prose, at an exclusive reception glittering with entertainment industry stars. Kate, emeralds at her throat, sipping champagne the color of her dress, caught the eye of Caleb, who was wearing the austere black that defined his image, a diamond scintillating on his finger, his sharp tongue tersely carving the air. She tossed her head with bored disdain but within the week it was rumored they had slept together.
The gossip sheets reported with glee the hissing, snarling, shouting conclusion of a dinner at Ruffio’s. She slapped his face. He struck her back. In December they flew to Mexico together. Three months later they were in court: Kate had thrown the diamond and onyx ring he had given her out the hotel window; Caleb had pushed her through a glass door. In June they were married.
Out of this steaming monsoon came Morgan.
Morgan Kaiser-Caine was an extraordinary case of tetragametic chimerism. These rare prodigies begin life as fraternal twins; two ova and two sperm create the complete genetic code for two unique individuals. But then for reasons unknown, they fuse. A single organism develops. The two persons, the two distinct and separate lives, meld together into one.
I was fascinated by the concept. Genetically distinct, yet cooperating to build a single body. Test the DNA from a drop of blood, and you would find one. Analyze a sample of liver cells, you would find the other. Two beings occupying the same space, two minds occupying the same brain, awash in the same chemicals, understanding the same things, the cells of one intimately pressed up against the cells of the other in perfect cooperative harmony.
In Morgan’s case the two persons were male and female. The result was an exquisite hermaphrodite.
Such a profoundly hard-wired thing, this need to establish gender! Morgan defied definition, presenting a problem with language that went far beyond any feminist objections, and creating a conundrum to convention that threw every social situation off-balance. How does such a person cope with the unpredictable mix of unhealthy curiosity, discomfort, hostility, and patronizing sympathy provoked by a perfectly balanced ambisexuality? I speculated that it must be terribly isolating.
I was determined to be an exception. As far as the difficulty with pronouns, I had only to follow Morgan’s lead. It made perfect sense to use the plural, since this remarkable bicameral person was neither he nor she alone, but two distinct beings cohabiting a single body. I scheduled my first conference with them for Thursday afternoon. I scheduled nothing else.
“Come in, Morgan, take a seat.”
They tended to wear long vests or sweaters which hung below the knee, rather like a dress. But the simple, masculine lines of the shirts and pants they wore beneath balanced the impression. Morgan preferred subdued colors, earth tones, and fabrics that would not be troublesome to care for. Today they were in shades of blue and green, with a modest necklace of malachite. The leather bag they carried was unadorned, but of a durable, well-made quality. Morgan let that bag drop onto the floor beside the chair. “We apologize for being late.”
“No trouble, I hope?”
“There was a bit of unpleasantness,” they said with a shrug. The gestures were casual, an attempt at indifference, but Morgan sat rigidly defensive in the chair.
“Did you call campus security?”
“No need. We simply retreated and took a different path.”
What must it must be like to be the object of such relentless curiosity and persecution? I was determined to offer them sanctuary.
“I’m sorry to hear it. But delighted to see you, of course.”
We began discussing the readings I had assigned, the early Greek thinkers: Thales, Anaximander and the Milesian School.
“They were brilliant!” Morgan exclaimed, “Eratosthenes calculated the circumference of the Earth correctly to within a few percentage points. And Aristarchus postulated the heliocentric system 1,800 years before Copernicus.”
“It was a major paradigm shift,” I said, “looking for natural explanations for things, instead attributing it all to the gods or supernatural forces.”
Morgan began to thaw, leaning forward in their chair. “The Greeks represented a breakthrough in the evolution of human intellectual development. Why didn’t this progress continue?”
“The religious establishment saw skeptical inquiry as dangerous to its demands for religious faith,” I explained.
“It still does! The superior methods of science are gradually overcoming religious superstition, but it is taking thousands of years to accomplish, when it should have taken only a few generations.”
“Intellectual evolution works slowly,” I said.
“Intelligent beings could accelerate it,” Morgan said. “Intentional instead of natural selection.”
Then, on an impulse, I said, “I think you’d benefit greatly from Plato’s Dialogues. Start with The Symposium. There is a particularly intriguing passage attributed to the Greek playwright Aristophanes.”
“Really?” Morgan took out a pen and pad to make a note of it. “The Symposium.”
“Aristophanes suggests that at one time humans were dualistic beings, not unlike yourself. Oh, he describes them ludicrously as possessing four legs, four arms, two faces, four ears, and so on. But he also says that these proto-humans were powerful, so strong in intellect and character that the gods feared them. Feared them, and perhaps envied them in their wholeness, for even the gods are divided into quarreling genders. So Zeus and Apollo caused the beings to be split in two, creating a race of incomplete creatures who were doomed to forever languish in the agony of their amputation. Each sought reunification with the other, all in a vain attempt to escape the lonely misery of separation and become a unified, powerful whole again.”
Morgan was staring at me in astonished silence. Then their eyes became unfocused, a sign I later learned meant they were conversing internally. I waited. Their eyes refocused on me.
“The doctors,” they said quietly, “say we represent a unique case of a rare mutation.”
“Mutation,” I replied, “is a means of progress in the evolution of organisms. Perhaps you represent the correction of a long-standing biological dysfunction. To put it colloquially, an example of the genes finally getting it right.”
A slow smile spread over Morgan’s face, the first genuine smile I’d seen. Our connection was forged.
* * *
I’ve always been the sort who sat at the table with my eyes glued to a book, barely noticing what I was eating. Some of the people I’ve dated were good cooks, and I’ve appreciated their efforts, but I’ve never bothered to learn the art myself, much to my mother’s despair. She did try to teach me, but the only thing that stayed with me was the ability to boil water. So I always serve pasta to company.
Morgan was in the living room, sitting sideways in a chair, their legs draped over one arm and a pillow supporting their back against the other arm. They read aloud to me as I stirred the fettucini boiling on the stove.
“Suppose Hephaestus, with his instruments, were to come upon the pair who are lying side by side and say to them, ‘What do you people want of one another? Do you desire to be wholly one; always day and night to be in one another’s company? For if this is what you desire, I am ready to melt you into one and let you grow together, so that being two you shall become one.’ There is not a man among them who, when he heard this proposal, would deny that this meeting and melting into one another was the very expression of his ancient need.’”
“Hephaestus,” I said, “was your midwife.”
“So it would seem,” Morgan agreed.
This was all harmless, of course. There were some who would frown on my inviting a student to my home for dinner. The department head would no doubt call me into his office for a stern lecture if it became known. But this was different.
They closed the book and leaned back. “It must be so terribly lonely for all of you,” they said, “being separate and isolated.”
“Are you never lonely, Morgan?” I asked, putting the colander in the sink.
“Not in the same way as you, we suspect. Still, we have often wished we had a friend. It is such a relief to be able to enjoy the company of someone who doesn’t consider us to be defective.”
“The pleasure is mine,” I said, vindicated. Whatever trouble it might cause me, it was worth it to be the friend that Morgan needed. I emptied the pot of pasta into the colander. Through the clouds of steam that rose from the sink I could see Morgan smiling at me, and I felt a smug pride at my position of privilege. My intellect was able to rise above its primal programming to appreciate this gifted, graceful being without prejudice.
“Quite absurd, really,” Morgan said, leaning over to lay the book on the table. “They look upon us as abnormal in the most pejorative sense, and yet they are the ones who are crippled. They endure anguished longing, suffer with jealousy and envy, desire and rejection, misunderstanding and anger, all because of their monosexual nature.”
They. Them. It did not include me. I was exempted from Morgan’s cynical appraisal of the single-gendered world.
I carried the plates to the table. “I hope you don’t mind, the sauce is from a jar.”
“We’re sure it will be fine,” Morgan said, swinging their legs around to the floor and standing up, adjusting the hang of the long, intricately patterned vest they were wearing.
We settled at the table and I opened the wine. Serving alcohol to an under-age student was strictly against policy, but Morgan was an exceptionally mature individual, brought up in the presence of such sophistication. It would be absurdly hypocritical to pretend otherwise. “I suppose,” I said, “since you’re not being constantly distracted by romantic urges, that you can devote more of your time to intellectual pursuits.”
“For the most part, yes. Although—“ They paused, and I looked over. They had that odd, selves-conscious smile on their face, and the unfocused look of internal dialog. “Our lives are not without romance,” they said.
They held out their glass to be filled. “We have had our discoveries, growing up. The awakening of our body to the excitement of exploration, of our feelings, of the physically sensual possibilities as we matured.” They turned their amber-brown eyes onto me, their mouth quirked into a provocative smile. “We don’t suppose it would be terribly good form to go into the details at the dinner table.”
I felt my mouth go dry, uncomfortably piqued by the implications. “I’m curious about you, Morgan,” I said with an awkward laugh, pouring the wine with difficulty, “but not that curious. Monosexual or unified, one’s sex life is one’s own business.”
Morgan sighed, gazing into the deep burgundy of their wine glass wistfully. “Nothing about our body is our own business, according to the doctors. It was dreadful going through puberty. Every tiny detail was recorded and examined closely. We had no privacy at all.”
“Good God,” I murmured, flashing back to my own teenage transitions, grateful that I hadn’t undergone such intimate scrutiny.
“They tried so hard to define which one of us was dominant, to give them grounds to suppress the other. In fact, what they really wanted was to sterilize one of us. They have always been so afraid that we might get ourselves pregnant. They are forever emphasizing the dangers, genetically speaking, our being brother and sister, you see.”
“Taboo in most cultures, true,” I replied, “and with good medical reasons. But there have been exceptions. Among the Pharaohs of Egypt, marriage between brother and sister was not only permitted, it was sometimes required.”
“Egypt,” Morgan observed thoughtfully, “was a great civilization.”
* * *
It is always dangerous to develop a romantic relationship with a student. With Morgan the danger would be ten-fold. But I would never allow it to get that far. I was merely mentoring a lonely and extraordinary individual; all perfectly acceptable.
I pulled up to the curb in front of the Science Building, looking for Morgan. I glanced at my watch; I was five minutes late. Then I spotted them, not standing apart in aloof disengagement as I was used to seeing them, but involved in conversation with two other students. I was immediately alert. Were they harassing Morgan? It didn’t seem so. Frowning, I touched my horn. They all looked over in my direction and Morgan said something to them. The woman smiled and the man laughed, but it wasn’t derisive laughter. It was friendly, companionable laughter. It surprised me. And bothered me in some vague way.
“Friends of yours?” I asked as Morgan got into the car. They shrugged.
“We share certain interests.”
“It’s good to see,” I said firmly. Of course it was. Morgan was learning how to relate to their peers. If that bothered me it was only because I feared they might be hurt. They were so vulnerable.
We often took walks in College Woods, encountering few other students as the weather grew colder.
“Our father wanted a son,” Morgan said. “The doctors told him he had one at first, until they realized our true nature. So he commanded that the offending hole be sealed. Our mother protested that if a choice had to be made, then she would have us castrated and raise us as a daughter. In the absence of clear agreement, nothing was done and we remained intact.”
“Thank God for that!” I said.
“Our parents would have disagreed in any case. Father accused Mother of delivering forth a monster, and Mother accused Father of wanting to mutilate their baby. Divorce was inevitable. The legal battles for custody went on interminably, complicated by unpredictable bouts of reconciliation. We actually saw very little of either one of them, growing up. There were always highly qualified caregivers, nannies and tutors and, of course, doctors.”
“And every advantage money could buy,” I said. “No doubt your parents competed to see who could spoil you the most.”
“Actually, gaining custody was just another battle each was determined to win. Neither really wanted us. The responsibility of a child was a restriction on their freedom. Particularly a child like us.” Morgan turned a Botticelli smile to me. “But we’re tired of talking of ourselves. Tell us about your family, Peyton.”
“I have a brother,” I said. “He chose business over academics. Sometimes I think he made the smarter choice. He married well and prospered, and retired early.”
“He is older than you, then.”
“Not that much older!” I said. “We don’t talk much. He’s a conservative Republican.” I thought that would explain it all.
“What about your parents?”
“They live in France. We email now and then. I think they rather hoped I could have turned out more, well, conventional.”
Morgan nodded in sympathy. “Our parents have as little to do with us as possible. They provide for our financial means, of course, but we are an embarrassment to them. We are in some ways more famous than they are, and they can’t abide the competition.” They kicked the frosty leaves. “Tell me, have you never married?”
The question caught me off-guard.
“Well, no, as a matter of fact, I haven’t. Never met the right person, I guess.”
“Oh, Peyton!” Morgan scoffed, “That is so trite!”
“It is, isn’t it?” I admitted. “I suppose, to be honest, I’ve never really felt able to commit myself either way. I’ve gone out with men and women both, you see. It exacerbated the family disapproval.”
“Really? I never would have guessed that about you.”
I shrugged self-consciously.
“Then,” Morgan said, leaning closer to me, “we would be the perfect solution to your dilemma, wouldn’t we?”
I choked, heat spreading to my face.
“Are you in love with us, Peyton?” they teased me.
“No, of course not! Good lord, I’m twice your age!”
“You are not! Besides, that has little to do with it.”
“But,” I blurted, “you are already happily married.”
Morgan tipped their head back, clapping their hands and laughing with delight. “Excellent answer! Perfect!” They took my arm, pinning me with the possibility. “Then what do you say to a ménage à trois?”
* * *
It became an obsession. I had never been so completely engulfed by anyone. Intellectually, emotionally, physically; Morgan consumed me on every level. No lover I had ever known could possibly compare. I would have done anything for them. They complained that they were short of cash; the allowance from their parents was too penurious. I made them generous loans which I never intended for them to repay. I sold my house and we moved into a large apartment in the secure complex in which they lived. My position at the University was thrown into jeopardy and my career cast into doubt. I didn’t care. The greater glory of Morgan was all that mattered.
“Peyton, can I get you some coffee?”
“No, thank you.” I was surrounded by stacks of term papers which I had to grade. I’d been at it for hours; I’d be at it for hours more. Morgan could not abide being deprived of my attention.
They massaged my shoulders and whispered in my ear, “You need to take a break.”
I gave up. “All right. Maybe for a few minutes.”
They pulled me away from the table and over to the couch, pressing me back with a long kiss.
“Morgan, for pity’s sake, it’s year end! Don’t you have to study or something?”
“We’re done with all that. We’ve had our exams and passed in all our final papers. We wish you’d be finished.”
“Ha!” I said. “You students pass all that stuff in, then it’s the professor’s turn. We have to grade it all.” Morgan’s fingers caressed me. “This isn’t getting it done any quicker!” I pleaded.
Morgan sat back. “Do you love us, Peyton?”
“Hopelessly,” I freely acknowledged.
“Then marry us.”
“I could only marry one of you,” I said. “Same sex unions aren’t allowed in this state.”
Morgan laughed. “You couldn’t marry both of us, anyway. It would be bigamy.”
“Good Lord!” I groaned. “We’ll talk about it during break, all right?”
Morgan’s expression grew serious. “Forgive us for being so possessive, but we can’t help it. We hate being dependent on our parents, who have no love for us at all. You really are all we have. The only person we can depend on. We suppose we just want some sort of tangible assurance that you are committed to us.”
Knowing their past, I could understand their insecurity. “Morgan,” I said, “I am absolutely committed to you. Just let me get through this end-of-semester madness, and I’ll prove it to you. We’ll see a lawyer.”
They graced me with their warm, divine smile, the seamless blend of Adonis and Aphrodite. And here was I, a mere mortal.
* * *
I had to get away from it. My colleagues had gone from the sober chats with me in their offices, to the professional equivalent of crossing the street when they saw me coming. There was a very ominous letter from the dean on my desk that I hadn’t yet opened. Even though I couldn’t really afford it, especially given that my career was in doubt, I rented an isolated cottage on the shore for the week of spring break.
It was a beautiful place, set up on the cliffs on the south side of San Ricardo, overlooking the sparkling blue waters of the bay. It was only a short walk to the private beach, which assured a minimum of prying eyes.
The weather was perfect. We sat on the deck drinking some decadent concoction of rum and fruit juice. Morgan’s hair was hanging damp around their shoulders, still wet from a morning swim. They did not wear a bathing suit, preferring the neutrality of shorts and a t-shirt, their breasts outlined through the wet material. Their feet were propped up on the railing; I was admiring their long, lithely muscled legs. Morgan hadn’t bothered to shave that morning, and a fine, copper-colored growth of beard shadowed their normally smooth cheeks and chin.
They picked up their glass from the porch railing and held it to the sunlight, admiring the color of the liquid. “We wonder, sometimes, if there have ever been any others like us.”
“Never,” I said, “Not possible.”
They flashed me a brief grin. “The doctors introduced us to others with, as they called it, ‘the condition.’ Failures, all of them. None of them aware of their own duality as we are. Merged persons of the same sex, indistinguishable from ordinary monosexuals. Or victims of gonadal dysgenesis, ashamed of their malformation.”
“You are unique,” I said.
They took a drink and rested the glass on the arm of the chair. “We do not wish to remain so.”
“I don’t blame you, but what can you do about it?”
They spoke slowly and precisely, articulating thoughts which had been carefully formulated. “We shall no longer be the object of research. It must be we who learn, we who find out. Analyze the data collected about us, and discover what caused us to be. We will, of course, require a great deal of help, and finding allies will be difficult.” They smiled at me, that lovely, beguiling curl of their lips. “We have you, of course. But there must be others like you, who understand the necessity of what we must do. We must find them, make connections, bring them together and put them to work in our cause.”
“Your cause being…?”
“To perpetuate our kind. Once we know more, we wish to begin having children.”
I sat up straighter. “What, you think chimerism might be genetic? I didn’t think it was.”
“The research is not conclusive. Certainly in the normal course of random mating it doesn’t appear to be.” They smiled. “Of course, we are in a position to conduct a unique experiment.”
I was in the midst of contemplating what it would be like to start a family at my stage of life—let alone with someone like Morgan—when I realized they meant having children with each other. I wasn’t intended to be a part of it. Sex was one thing; reproduction was a far more serious matter.
“There will be opposition, of course,” Morgan continued. “If we keep our efforts quiet at first, we may be able to acquire enough power to resist any attempts to stop us when our ultimate purpose becomes known.”
“Your ultimate purpose,” I echoed, holding my glass very tightly. “And what might that be?”
“To assume dominance on the planet. We represent a quantum leap forward in evolution, not just of human beings but of higher forms of life in general. By eliminating the pernicious distractions of courtship and sexual competition, we free the individual for higher pursuits. The triumph of unified beings over monosexual beings will be not unlike the triumph of science over supernaturalism. But on a far greater scale, of course.”
“It might be better to just let things progress naturally, without pushing,” I suggested. “If you promote your agenda too aggressively, you’ll only provoke opposition. I believe we can all learn to live together.”
Morgan turned to look at me reproachfully. “That is not realistic, Peyton.”
“It makes more sense than trying to organize a hostile conspiracy.”
They took their feet off the railing, sitting up in the chair and abandoning all pretense of relaxation. “It is all about competition. Superior forms do not coexist with inferior ones; they replace them. That is, unless the inferior form perceives the threat to its survival and actively takes steps to prevent it while it can. We think it is unavoidable that ordinary monosexual human beings will be unable to coexist peacefully with us, and will attempt to exterminate us, particularly if they see our kind multiplying and taking over. We will become the enemy. We must be prepared for that and contrive a defense. Indeed, we must take the first offensive step, for certainly it will come to that, and our best chance will be to strike first.”
“You’re talking about war,” I said, chilled.
“Of course,” Morgan replied. “Surely you see its inevitability.”
“I suppose I do,” I admitted.
“And of course, we must prevail.” Morgan was watching me closely.
“Of course,” I said.
Their eyes narrowed, then acquired that unfocused look as they conferred internally. Refocusing, they said, “Your answer lacks a certain conviction, Peyton.”
“It’s not a particularly attractive prospect.”
“But we thought you understood. That you realized the evolutionary progress it would represent. In a succession of species, the lesser must necessarily pass into extinction for the new form to dominate.”
“Nature, red in tooth and claw.”
Morgan smiled. “Who mourns Australopithecus? Or for that matter, Eohippus? Any of those transitional forms.”
“There is a certain tragedy in being a transitional form,” I said.
“We are all transitional forms,” Morgan replied. “Someday perhaps our kind must give way to a form even greater.”
Morgan as übermensch. I took a long drink, the pleasure of the day evaporating. I considered Morgan, and a world filled with beings like Morgan who dealt with each other with cool, calculated indifference, each content in their own company. Would it really be the great step forward that Morgan predicted? Warfare between—and among–the sexes would be ended, but would it not be replaced with competition of a different sort, driven by ego and desire for power? And what of love? I thought of all the poetry, the glorious art, that came out of our romantic yearnings. Religion may have its pernicious effects, but it gave us the Sistine Chapel.
“Well,” I said in an attempt to recover my mood, “At least it isn’t likely to happen in my lifetime. With several billion on the planet and the number still growing, I guess it may take a while for the transition to take place.”
“The process can be artificially accelerated. In fact, it must.”
I looked at Morgan sharply. “What do you propose to do?”
“We must study the matter, of course. But we shall use every means at our disposal. I foresee a number of parallel strategies.” They sat back in their chair, taking up their drink again and gazing thoughtfully at the clouds. “We could make use of the monosexual’s irresistible drive to mate, and tendencies towards promiscuity. Studies in epidemiology are most encouraging. If one were to introduce a sexually transmitted virus of some sort, it would likely spread rapidly.”
“What sort of a virus?”
“A number of possibilities come to mind. Most obviously, one which would cause tetragametic chimerism. Or perhaps, one which would cause monosexual sterility. Or, in its most blunt form, one which would cause death. Something not unlike the AIDS virus, which acts slowly enough to allow for its spread before becoming fatal to its host.”
“You can’t be serious! Good Lord, Morgan!”
My Adonis-Aphrodite turned their head to regard me with silent speculation. The sun ceased to have any warmth.
* * *
A chill settled in between us, one which did not dispel as the day passed. I had seen a side of Morgan that I did not realize existed—no, that I had not allowed myself to acknowledge. I had been so much inclined to forgive them anything and make excuses for them. But Morgan was in love with Morgan.
I stood at the edge of the narrow lawn in front of the cottage, watching the gulls dropping mussels on the rocks far below. The mussels were smashed open by the fall. The gulls swooped down to feast greedily on the exposed viscera. Out of the corner of my eye I could see Morgan walking towards me with those long, liquid strides that embodied divine superiority. I was surprised at the emotion that boiled up in me, surprised at its vehemence.
Morgan stood beside me. “You are changed towards us.”
Changed, yes. Sobered. Horrified.
I said, “You are really serious about what you told me this morning.” It was a statement. I didn’t really need them to affirm it.
“You do not approve.”
“How can I? You propose something monstrously evil. And you speak of it not merely hypothetically, but with intent and purpose.”
“We are ensuring our survival,” Morgan replied. “We are promoting the welfare of our race. We are the good, and must overcome.”
“At the cost of millions—even billions—of innocent lives?”
“All lives end eventually. We cannot allow the evolutionary advance that we represent to be lost, the species lapsing back into sexual dysgenesis until another of our kind by chance comes along. Natural selection is too slow and uncertain.”
So calm, so rational. So difficult to argue with.
Beyond the shattered and shattering rocks, the sea threw itself into great plumes of foam. Its violence spoke to me.
“What about me, Morgan?” I said in a flat voice, “Is mine one of those lives which you would end to your greater good?”
They said, “If you oppose us.”
I turned on them, furious. “Of course I must oppose you! What you propose is an abomination!”
There was a moment of internal dialog, then they refocused on me. “It was a mistake to confide our plans to you. We were wrong. But we will learn. We will be more subtle in the future.”
Morgan was brilliant, charismatic, still young. They had charmed me. Blinded me. Used me. They would learn how to exert their powerful influence on others and use them as well. They would find the right circles, the right contacts, to carry out their plans. I could not let them succeed.
The rocks were very sharp beneath us. They would break bones like the shells of mussels.
“I will stop you,” I said.
Morgan looked honestly regretful. “We know.”
How quickly they moved, with such grace and strength. I had not realized how close I was to the edge until I felt myself falling. Above me the gulls watched my descent.
* * *
There is some distance in every relationship, no matter how close. Whether it be the commitment of love or the bond of common interest, there is always the possibility of a wedge driven between, of some circumstance that forces the two individuals apart.
But Morgan walked in absolute unity.
[return to Short Stories]