Like a Veil: Erotic Tales of the Arabian Nights, which features my story “Catch and Release”, is now officially out in a variety of formats from a variety of places. It’s an awesome little collection.
My story is a science fiction retelling of the 1001 Nights story “The Fisherman and the Jinni”. It’s a very rough retelling, adopting more the spirit of the story than sticking close to the original plot, and at first I wasn’t entirely sure how to approach it. But I drew some parallels in my mind between djinn imprisoned in lamps and strange, powerful alien entities imprisoned in drifting capsules, and taking the story and giving it a scifi bent seemed like an interesting way of going after it. The story itself turned into something of a fable regarding wanting to belong while at the same time rebelling against the things that threaten to tie you down to the merely conventional. The setting of a rebuilt, futuristic Baghdad, constantly in the background, served as a nice focal point for these two warring strands of past and future, the impossibly ancient and the profoundly new.
I also love the idea of Suleiman drifting in the solar winds, picking up all the trash that our space-faring descendants would doubtlessly generate. It’s an image that’s stuck with me long after the story was done.
NSFW excerpt under the cut.
He manages to get them out of the cylinder and then they sink to the floor, her levitating body coming to rest on it at last, and he has time to wish that he kept this deck cleaner before she closes a burning kiss over his lips and he thinks of only her, her breasts curving into his palms as if they ache to be there, nipples so hard they no longer feel like flesh. When he pulls back to look at her beneath him, he can see light moving beneath that glass-like skin, not veins or organs but electrical impulses, tiny surges of power. He lowers his mouth to her, takes her nipple between his teeth and bites down and he could swear he sees sparks.
She moans and clutches at him, and it doesn’t take very much to make himself forget how different this is, how strange this is, how remarkable that he remembers how to do everything and that what he does can give her pleasure. He’s stripping off his rumpled clothes and she’s helping him with her icy fingers; he’s looking up for permission as he slides between her thighs and she’s already shoving his head down, gone from so calm to so frantic in a matter of minutes. She tastes like lightly sugared milk and the succulent juices of a broiled hen. She tastes like he somehow knew she would taste. She comes explosively and this time he knows he sees sparks under her skin, lines of chain lightning shooting up into what would be her spine.
She doesn’t give him time to rest and she does not take it for herself. She’s pulling at him again, dragging him up against her, gone from frantic to ravenous, and part of him is beginning to be a little bit afraid. She reaches between them and grasps at his cock and he cries out, because it hurts, it hurts almost as much as it did when he woke in his bunk with dreams of her and of Baghdad still echoing behind his eyes. She strokes him and the pain is bowled over and forgotten. She is opening her legs for him, rolling up with her hips, her whole body like a hungry mouth. He falls into her and she hooks her legs over his hips and takes him, her long arms curled around his neck and the whisper of a hundred half incomprehensible demands and entreaties between his ears.
She is Baghdad, he thinks fitfully. They are one and the same, new, ancient, enticing, hungry. Baghdad rebuilt, center of the new world, rich with the wealth of the global economy, swelling with all the nations, reaching out to take him in. Trying to hold on. Which is why he had run, and now he is caught again. She is Baghdad, gleaming and seductive; she is the stars over him and the hot roof beneath, she is the lights and the noise and she is touching him, and this time he doesn’t pull away.
Later, when they lie together in the tangle of his clothing and he notes that her skin shines without a drop of sweat, she tells him that she will give him a gift. She will let him choose how he dies.