Bewildering Stories

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Encounter in the Sands

by Byron Bailey

The sun scabs merely peppered her skin instead of burying it under a cratering of scars. She even had all of her fingers and most of her teeth. It had to be a trap. No beautiful female ever simply crawled up out of the sand.

“Are you a bonobo or a chimpanzee?” she asked.

Since I did not know the gangs of this region, I kept quiet. The grip on my hunting club tightened. I stared at the dune and waited for the charge. If there were three or less attackers, maybe I stood a chance.

“I messed up a little on the chimpanzee,” she said. “Should have given them a better ways of coping with stress than beating up on each other.”

Nothing stirred from behind the dune.

“But I learned. Instead of fighting, I made the bonobo have sex,” she said.

They probably expected me to do something wind-swept like charging the dune. No point in handing my liver to them on an oiled spit, though. I started backing away. With enough of a lead, I could probably get away.

“Wouldn't it be interesting to have an ape that did both well?” Suddenly, her skin paled, making her sun scabs seem like droplets of blood. “No. Very bad idea.” She shook her head until I thought her neck would break and then turned to me. “Hi. I’m Gaia.”

The club dropped from my hands. No ambush would come. Any name with less than twenty syllables invited visitation and insanity from the dead whose name had been stolen. Didn't the bone fields attest to the legions of the dead? A name of a mere two syllables could only be extensively haunted. No gang would ever allow one such as her into its midst. She was alone.

“So, are you a chimpanzee or a bonobo?”

I didn't want her to bite me so I punched her until she ceased to move. Then I raped her.

As I picked up my club and turned to leave, she stirred. “I remember now. You’re a man,” she sobbed.

Copyright © 2004 by Byron Bailey

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