She had to give him that: the salesman was good … damned good.
Always reserved – if not eyes-lowered shyness, meaning she was the one who never, ever got into trouble; a good, well-maintained mind; a near-pathological level of responsibility, dependability, and similar ‘bilities – always the friend called when others were in trouble; a smoldering undercurrent of sensuality that (so far) only appeared in the deliberate, luxurious savoring of whatever it was she ate, and a secret love of the sliding sensuality of new sheets on her small bed – was why Pakuna was there, that day, being convinced by the very good salesman.
“With this–” he said, running his dark hands over the even-darker … no, not quite even-darker: it was black as a sky without stars, a spilled liquid pool of fabric. “–you have to empty your closets. Throw it all away … every little bit of it: no dresses, blouses, tights or even bras. Give them away to friends, throw them into the street – oh, sure, you might want to keep (a theatrical throat-clearing) your ‘unmentionables’ but, to be honest, you won’t even be needing those.”
Pakuna nodded, the same way she’d been nodding since walking in. Even though the street beyond was more than bustling that morning she was the only person – aside from the salesman – there. Reserved, responsible, secretly sensual … that was a lot people could, and did, say about Pakuna, but being an early adopter wasn’t one of them. That she was there would have raised more than a new eyebrows for those curious enough to notice.
“I love this part (a theatrical whisper),” the salesman said, waving his hand over the even-darker-than-himself material. As he waved, the fabric changed: dark becoming a vibratingly bright spectrum of colors; painfully violet (touching perhaps on the ultra), then indigo, blue, green, yellow, orange, and more-brilliant than any sunset, red. But color wasn’t the only change. As he waved his magician’s hand, the fabric changed texture as well: shimmering silk to satin; thick black leather to gleaming latex; comfortable cotton to taffeta … and everything beyond and between them all.
“Of course this a demo sheet … hooked up to a viral memory stack under the table here so it can run through its tricks. The final is mated to a standard cortical interface with a non-mnemonic wireless connection. In fact it uses the wearer’s normal wetware as a supplantive memory store, in addition to accessing the occipital cortex it has an advanced interface with the amygdalae, anterior thalamic nuclei, and limbic cortex–” he seemed to lose focus for a moment, absent for a brief second in the wonder of the product he was selling. “We like to say it’ll not just become whatever you want … but know what you want, before you know it yourself.”
Being connected wasn’t a problem, for Pakuna it was as familiar as her having a big toe – she couldn’t imagine … well, like a lot of people her age, she simply couldn’t imagine what it would be like to be disconnected from knowing whatever she wanted to know, when she needed to know it. It was just … what life was: to have it there, within mental reach to find out her salesman’s name, his public persona, any and all information about the development history, critiques and praises, fans and nose-upturners.
In the scant moments she was able to mentally peer beyond the salesman’s seductive patter, she saw confusion as to what had allured her through he front doors. Dependable, reliable … whimsy and impulse were alien to her. But she’d been drawn in nonetheless: pulled in by a glimpse inside.
He was saying something – but Pakuna wasn’t listening. Before she was even consciously aware of it her hand went to the table, steadily hovering a few centimeters above the smartcloth as it performed its colorful and textural tricks.
Then, a dark – but not even-darker – part of the rolling sea of brilliant spectrums and cascading surfaces rose slowly up to meet her, matching perfectly the length and thickness of her fingers, the width and contours of her hand. The touch was so light, so furtive that a part of her doubted that it had even occurred.
The salesman was still talking – but Pakuna wasn’t listening.
“I’ll take it,” she said.
* * * *
She could have worn it out of the store, of course, but she had to admit to the lepidoptera dancing the very bottom of her digestive tract: was it beautiful? Yes. Was it elegant? Yes. Was it … sensual to a degree that Pakuna had never experienced before? Yes. But despite her excitement, the butterflies in her stomach, she didn’t want to risk any more embarrassment in a life that, so far, had been far too full of embarrassments. Lessons learned. So, instead, she allowed the salesman to box – though it wasn’t a box but, instead, a portable biostatic container – it up.
Back in her little, mass-produced, single room apartment, she still didn’t let it out of its matte-black tube. Instead she busied herself with things that, she had to be honest with herself, she didn’t need to busy herself with: dishes that could have waited another day – at least – to be dumped into the recycler, a bed that could have waited another day to be made, a bundle of clothes that would never need to be washed but that could have waited another day to be folded and put away.
But then her little, mass-produced, single room home was as clean as she could, ever possibly, make it: leaving her alone with her smartfabric.
The container opened with a gentle, though sterile and reassuring hiss. Inside was the same even-darker pool of plastic she’d seen in the store. Without a pause to give her bravery yet another opportunity to escape, she blinked reflexively as her cortical interface shook software hands with the material.
Greetings, chimed a refined and polite voice behind her eyes, deep inside her mind, thank you for your purchase of smartfabric™. The salesman had said that the material used … well, her – as both memory as well as instruction and even though like most people her age, she’d grown up with immersive reality games, the intimacy of the material’s connection made her hold her breath for a second.
It flowed, surged, bubbled out of its container: a gentle even-darker tide of warm plastic that was out of its temporary confinement and on her naked body before she could exhale her second reflexively held breath.
It was … warm, like a another person’s skin. She knew it would be, but the comfort of it was still calming – making the release of that second breath slow and easy. It moving up her body like a splash from a shallow pool, the warmness of it making her relax even more.
As it flowed, it stayed black – but just as she noticed that, it changed: rolling through a rainbow of hues, shades, and saturations. As it flowed, it stayed glistening like colorful latex – but as she noticed that, as well, it changed: tumbling through an array of textures, contours, weaves, and shapes.
She couldn’t help it: she laughed. It was like a puppy, fresh out of the box and eager to play. It didn’t take her mind long to imagine the artificial, intelligent, endlessly chameleonic material as wagging a form of artificial, intelligent, endlessly chameleonic, tail.
Like anyone her age there were phrases that would appear, popping up from old books, movies, games, or just ghosts manifesting in conversation that no one really knew where they’d come from – or far too often what they meant. But that evening, playing with her new toy, Pakuna, discovered not just the playful happiness in her smartfabric but that, yes, you really could lose track of time.
Later, she yawned for the second time she knew that a third – and longer – one was coming. Staying awake, for as long as she wanted, was an option but she also knew that the new day would bring more than just another sunrise: she’d exhausted her imagination played with her new purchase: running it through color after color, texture after texture, clothing style after clothing style, to the point where she was beginning to repeat herself. A new day would mean being, naturally, fresh and awake…
…and maybe ready to step outside. She’d be the same reserved, possibly even shy, Pakuna on the inside, but more importantly, she’d be wrapped with brilliant imagination of form and color and texture … so much more.
* * * *
“Haven’t seen you here before,” he said, coming up to her. She’d sat down at the small table towards the edge of the club only a few minutes before.
Safari was its name as well as its theme: one of those spontaneous eruptions of entertainment she’d heard so much about but hadn’t had the courage to try. Tomorrow it would be a retro-future entertainment center, all rings and silver spheres; drinks and drugs delivered by endearingly sputtering robots instead of by cloned and chipped wild animals.
The concoction she’d been brought by an elegantly dressed baboon was called a Sweet Whisper, picked pretty much at random when the menu was politely fed into her consciousness as she parted the tall, yellow grasses that formed the door into the place. Sipping it, noticing that it was aptly both sweet and with a delicacy that was definitely closer to a whisper than a loud voice, she felt the butterflies again, but still managed to tell him, “I haven’t been here before.”
“You should have seen it last week,” he said with a gentle bow of introduction. “All ruins and wreckage, melted walls and fake nuclear mutants serving glowing drinks.” He shook his head at the thought, the smile – both sweet as well as delicate as a whisper – never leaving his face.
She laughed, though she didn’t really have a reason to. In answer, the smartfabric formed into – what she hoped – was a playfully erotic mock safari suit that rippled gently against her skin: the Safari was the third club she’d gone into, but the first where anyone had actually approached her. “I’m glad I missed it,” she told him, sipping at her drink again.
“Some hits … some misses,” he said. His eyes were narrow, his skin closely shaded to her own, his hair dark and his eyes feral-cat yellow. He could have been younger that Pakuna’s twenty-five or twice her age but she didn’t care: he was talking to her.
“To hits and misses,” she toasted his sweet whisper of a smile. “Though I think this might be a miss: too sweet, too whispering.”
For a moment, his face changed and within that space of time she felt a drop of concern: had she said the wrong thing? Had she lost before she’d even begun?
Her safari suit was latex-gleaming white, with black piping. Short enough to be, she hoped, playfully alluring but not so short as to appear desperate. Her décolletage, for instance, has been carefully planned to be eye-catching but sweet and whispering, more than loud and needy.
That was what she’d created in her mind, assisted and manifest by the smartfabric, when she heard of the Safari – just as she had played with similar designs with similar sweetness and whispering for the other clubs she’d visited.
But this time, as she felt that deep bass thump of worry, she also felt a squeeze she hadn’t felt before: like the smart material was wrapping polymnemonic material around herself … but that was only the beginning. With the construction came a lift of her breasts, a tickling ripple across her nipples that immediately made them pleasantly, but obviously, hard.
“Are you okay?” he said, the stranger who still stood – but had yet to sit down to join her – nearby. Pakuna hadn’t realized she’d made a sound, but his so-handsome face showed a cloud of concern.
“I-I’m okay,” she said, hiding her embarrassment behind another sip of her drink. From behind the plastic of the glass, the sweet whispering of the cocktail, she was more than aware of the changes that were sliding and slipping over her body: she was still alluring in her mock-safari suit but the smartfabric was shifting, moving not just itself but lifting her breasts and teasing her nipples but also shortening her skirt … and the more she was aware of it the more it seemed to shift, move, lift, separate, tease, and rise.
But that wasn’t all: as she sat there, drink empty and so no longer camouflage for her expression, the fabric glistened and gleamed – going from her carefully planned sedate allure to pure latex fetish fashion.
“Well,” he said, the warmth of his face retreating as he stepped back from her table, “nice meeting you.”
Before she could say anything, he was gone: moving off until he’d vanished between a pair of tux-wearing giraffes, into the artificial veldt of Safari.
* * * *
Hell appeared two days later … more than enough time for the next team of designers to transform the wilds of the savannah into one of Dante’s fantasies.
And, she hoped, more than enough time for her to delve into the oddity of the smartfabric: ever since its … playfulness of when Hell had been the grasslands she’d run diagnostic after diagnostic, running the material through a cascade of designs and couture trying to reproduce its … oddity. But no matter what she made it into, it continued to remain as fashionable as ordered.
For Hell, she decided to be slightly more outré yet hopefully remaining fairly chaste in her selection. Unfamiliar with the theme of the club, she did some research and finally came up with the idea of a latex-gleaming, form-fitting (but not too form-fitting) horned and spiked-tailed ‘devil girl.’ Before she left her apartment, she spent quite a few hours tweaking and forming the smartfabric into the image she’d formed from various old illustrations of the infernal afterlife.
The fabric, instead of misbehaving, seemed actually to be almost … frisky in its pliability: as each concept and design flicked through her mind, the material flowed, shifted, changed to match it, sometimes even before the image itself was fully formed in her imagination.
Before she stepped out, made the short commute to the temporary club, she scanned an image of herself from one of her home’s cameras. And there she stood: glistening red, like a woman dipped in crimson confection. Her breasts were full and lifted but not as aggressively as they’d been teased during that too-wild encounter at Safari. Behind her, moving in tune with her feelings, a not-too-sharp tail wove back and forth – highlighting the curvature of her posterior.
Looking at the projection, she felt a tickle of anxiety – along with a ghostly warmth of arousal. She’d chosen, she thought, to fit with the theme of the club, but looking at herself she felt a fetishistic arousal she hadn’t thought she’d put into her selection.
But, she had to admit, she had. The club wasn’t that far away – just a few minutes by public transport – so she didn’t have that much time to change her mind, which, she decided, might actually be a good thing.
Riding the electric train, she worked, slowly and surely, to dispel any lingering nervousness. Yes, the smartfabric had done something … odd. Yes, it had shaken her more than a little. But, she reminded herself, she’d bought the smartfabric to…
She paused in her thoughts, holding her breath for the briefest of seconds. She felt it, it was there: somewhere down deep in herself, appearing in her savoring of flavors, of textures, of tunes … everywhere when she actually took the time to think about it.
The smartfabric was not just whatever she wanted it to be: it was what she wanted herself to be.
Hell was the next stop. Next to her, also waiting for the doors to open, was a crimson-faced and horned man in an elegant suit. Accompanying him was a young-appearing woman in a gleaming latex, black and white, hyper-sexualized nun’s habit.
It was only after seeing them, and exchanging smiles with both, that Pakuna realized with a remote, but chilled, thought that even though she could have changed her smartfabric at any time and so become just another average woman riding the little electric train, she’d never thought to.
Pakuna, as a gleaming, shinning, skin-tight, devil, had come all the way from her little, mass-produced, single room home – and the doing of it, the exposure, the way her body felt, the way her body looked, had felt too good not change.
* * * *
It was too late, though – there was no backing down – she was in Hell.
The drink was called a Risen Sinner and, compared to the Sweet Whisper she’d had when chipped lions and generically manipulated elephants had wandered the same space only a few days before, it was almost savory and more than a bit loud. But, she had to admit as she sipped gently at the bubbling concoction of carefully manipulated molecules that, odd as it was, the new drink felt a bit more real and honest than the too-sweet and too-whispering beverage she’d had before.
Pakuna also had to admit that, despite the eccentrics of the smartfabric, she felt more … comfortable with her almost-skin-tight mock latex, demonic costume than she had as a false safari guide. Why she did, she didn’t know, but as she stool at the edge of one of the innumerable smoking pits that dotted the burnt and blasted Dante-eque landscape of the infernal club she found herself twirling her tail and giving the fellow clubbers a devilish grin.
“Now you,” said a fellow in a costume that appeared to represent a fallen angel – crisp and singed feathers, crumbled and sooty gown – and all, “look like someone worth selling their soul for.” Then, after a playfully dramatic slap to his forehead, causing his hologramatic halo to wobble ever-so, added, “Was that an infernal come on?”
Pakuna grinned at him, sipping her drink with one hand while continuing to play with her spike-tipped tail, and said, “I don’t know … sounded rather heavenly to me.”
He bowed, the gesture more-than-a-little comedic (by accident or intent she didn’t know) and introduced himself as Tang. In town, he explained a moment later, as part of a trade delegation from Free China.
She returned the bow, feeling far less comedic and – she had to admit – with a heat that seemed to travel from the soles of her falsely-cloven feet to the tips of her curved horns, and gave him her own name … leaving out her occupation, as data miner seemed far too down-to-devilish-earth for Mr. Tang.
They chatted – about this, and that, and other things, laugher coming when it should, smiles and heat when it was needed. For the first time, Pakuna felt safe and secure behind the mnemonic armor of her smartfabric costume: the persona that had formed around her, or that she had formed around herself.
Then, when she couldn’t exactly say, the conversation turned left when it should have turned right and the security that had been there only a moment before left her in a blush of self-doubt and insecurity.
“Are you,” Mr. Tang said, “all right?” The way he said it added much more weight than the simple words he’d spoken. The fallen angel sounded as if he was looking down at a devil girl who had, only a second before, been ready to haul his sinning ass down to a steaming ring of hell but who had suddenly become simply a shy girl in need of rescuing.
With her words came another change – so quick and so natural that Pakuna didn’t know exactly what was happening. The redness of her cheeks, she felt; the lowering of her eyes, she was aware of; the stammering of her words, she noticed; but there was more to it than that.
She was a fetish diva, an infernal latex and hellish PVC sprite but with her blush, the dip of her eyes, the stammering speech she also sensed … something else. It didn’t really have words, a form of language, but it was still a communication she recognized … from when the club was a veldt and the theme was hunters and hunted.
She was transforming. Or rather, she was being transformed. Subtly at first, a pinch there, a pull here, a contour smoothed, a PVC texture altered – but as she’d stumbled in self-doubt the pinch became more than that, the contour became more and more sensual and even sexual, the PVC textures transformed into far less sweet and whispering and much, much more like a Risen Sinner.
She tried to slow it, to stop it, to halt the change from playful latex devil girl into a louder, more extreme version … but as she did she felt the presence as a warm embrace of security: as if it stood next to her, hand in hers, telling her through the sexualizing modifications of the smartfabric that it was okay.
That it all, really, was going to be okay.
Mr. Tang had left – when she didn’t know. But it didn’t matter. Part of her wanted to run out of Hell and rush back home: to hide herself, as she’d always hidden herself, in her dowdy work and predictable routines of invisibility. But a large part, and getting larger, held that imaginary hand in hers and wanted to let it do what it wanted with her: to change the cocoon she’d woven around herself into free and sensual butterfly wings.
No wings, not yet, but as she stood on the edge of the decorative abyss she felt the smartfabric trickle and flow around herself: doing with her costume, and the girl inside of it, what it wanted … what she wanted.
Distantly, in a far corner of her mind, she heard the echo of the far-too-good salesman: We like to say it’ll not just become whatever you want … but know what you want before you know it yourself.
It changed, it moved, slid, slipped, altered, transformed. She was still Pakuna, she was still herself, but the smartfabric was making her more slick, more gleaming, glistening: it was bravery and hope and the pleasure she wanted but never could allow herself to see in herself. She expanded and grew, breasts swelling under the changes, but also from being freed of doubt and shame; her ass equally transformed (in its own way) and she found herself posing and preening, to suddenly staring eyes in Hell.
Pakuna was still there, still devilish, but for the first time she wasn’t just taking up space but was really, honestly, the Pakuna she knew she was deep down: the playful, sensual girl; the passionate woman who’d purchased the fabric, who’d seen a door closed and with a low-low-low down payment had purchased the ticket to where she’d wanted to go.
Someone in Hell whistled, and at the tone she smiled, playing with the smartfabric to carry on, to become a reflection of what she knew she always was … and with the whistle came the feeling, again, of a hand in hers, a mind in hers, a part of herself given form and even a kind of communication:
You truly are beautiful, you are sensual, you are sexy, she sensed it saying, and always will be … and when you wear me, as close as your skin, as close as your dreams, we will be together to find the pleasure you’ve always wanted.
As it didn’t have words, a vocabulary, for the space it used in her mind, she answered as she thought she could, while winking at the smiling crowd of admirers, thank you … thank you so much.
The pleasure, came the answer, not in words but in the intimate embrace of skin to material, almost as tight as two of her thoughts, will be ours.
This story is available on HARD DRIVE: Best Sci-Fi Erotica of M.Christian book.
You can hear M.Christian reading the story here: https://drloribethbisbeyeroticlibrary.libsyn.com/website/preta-porter-by-m-christian
Or listen to it on Audible here: https://www.audible.com/pd/Hard-Drive-Audiobook/B07XTR7WW4
M.Christian has had stories in Best American Erotica, Best Gay Erotica, Best Fetish Erotica … and many magazines and websites too numerous to name. His erotic short fiction has been collected into books such as Dirty Words, Filthy Boys, Bodywork, Rude Mechanicals, The Bachelor Machine, Skin Effect, Hard Drive, and many others. But M.Christian has other tricks up his literary sleeve: in addition to writing, he is a prolific and respected anthologist, having edited 25 anthologies. Additionally, his novels include the erotic romance Brushes; the science fiction erotic novel Painted Doll and the gay horror thrillers Fingers Breadth and Me2. Currently, M.Christian is a Senior Columnist for Future Of Sex, which provides “insights into the fascinating topic of the future of human sex and sexuality.”