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Horse

Fiction
Raw Egg Nationalist

Horse

A hand emerged from among the tangled mass of quilt and reached towards the bedside table. At last it found what it was searching for – her IPhone, which was blindly drilling its way across the wooden surface towards the edge.

Silence.

She lay under the covers for a few minutes longer, resisting the urge to return to sleep. Normally, she never set an alarm unless she had specific content to create or somewhere she had to be. Today was a day she had somewhere to be.

She headed towards the bathroom first. Most days, she’d just brush her teeth and then have breakfast, but this morning she had to have a shower too. Technically, she shouldn’t have been doing this, because today was actually the seventh day since she’d had a shower, and she only showered once every ten days, but the last time she’d seen a client, he had let his displeasure at her newly acquired odour – he was a fairly regular client – be known. So she turned on the faucet and waited for it to run hot – scaldingly hot, she liked to say – and then got in. She’d use a little soap this time too. Just a little.

A couple of months earlier, when she’d first stopped taking showers, she’d tried to explain it to some of her friends at this tech-influencer-dinner-thing in the Valley. It had been a disaster. At that stage, all she’d really known about not-showering had come from a Twitter thread she’d seen, and the champagne and cocktails and probably her new medication (interactions: unclear at this point) hadn’t helped either. They all just looked at her like they thought she was weird, which she knew they kind of did anyway. Still, after some research including a wellness podcast or three, she now knew exactly what to say about the skin having its own microbiome and how certain bacteria are actually the skin’s best friend and outcompete bad bacteria and man had spent hundreds of thousands of years without soap so why would he need it now etc. She was going to try not washing her hair too, since she’d seen another Twitter thread saying that was the secret to why French women had such beautiful hair and of course she wanted to have beautiful hair. Truth was, she hated her hair, even though she got regular compliments about it. The last time a man complimented her on it in person, she’d wanted to get it cut straight away.

Eczema’s a terrible thing – she’d suffered with it since she was a child – but thank God for Photoshop. And the not-showering seemed to be working; although now, almost immediately after the water had stopped, she felt like scratching the crooks of her elbows and that spot behind her right knee. Habit, she supposed. She liked to let her body dry off as naturally as possible, so she stood there in the cubicle as the fog cleared. With her little finger she drew a cock and balls in the condensation, adding hair to the balls and then a great stream of piss or jizz – she didn’t know which – that arced across the glass towards some unknown target, before she obliterated the whole thing with a quick wave of her hand. That had become a habit too.

Maybe ten minutes passed as she moisturised her body with an expensive lotion one of her girlfriends had recommended. It had no phthalates in it and seemed to do the trick for her sensitive skin. She’d lost count of the number of different brands she’d tried and discarded. She looked at her breasts for a while in the bathroom mirror, appraising them with her head cocked to one side then the other. She squinted at them. She could never work out if one was larger than the other, but she was sure that the nipples didn’t quite match. While the areola of the left breast was a perfect circle, the right breast’s was shaped more like… well, an egg. A kind of squashed egg, but an egg nonetheless. She let out a little sigh.

She moved on to the rest of her body. Despite the endless attention she got as one of the top 0.001% of all content creators on the platform, the reality was that she had never been more insecure about her body than she was now. The initial sense of liberation and power had soon passed, replaced by a gnawing feeling that every inch of her body, including parts she had never considered worthy of attention at all, were now subject to unforgiving, unrelenting scrutiny. Her feet were one such body part. The daily downpour of requests for custom pictures of them – always at an extra cost, of course, sometimes a substantial extra cost – had made her aware of them as something much more than just feet – things that she walked on (not as much as she should have!), things that hurt when she wore high heels and things that itched when she had fungus, which seemed to be quite a lot these days. Although she couldn’t see her feet now in the large mirror above the sink, that didn’t mean she hadn’t spent plenty of time, hours actually, in deep contemplation of their every aspect. Probably the only part of her body she hadn’t gazed into or at for any length of time was in fact her navel. She liked her little innie.

Apart from her breasts it was her stomach that was really bugging her at the moment. Standing side on and pushing it out hardly made her feel better, but still she did it today, as yesterday, and the day before… and, come to think of it, the day before that. Finally, she completed the effect of a swollen drum by playing a scatty little fill on it with both hands, before releasing the tension and exhaling.

After brushing her teeth and applying a little makeup, she went back to the bedroom via the open-plan living room, picking up a jumper she had discarded a few days earlier on one of the chairs. The condo was modest, certainly for someone who was now making as much money as she was, but she liked it – especially the views and the fact it was in a very private area – and anyway there was plenty of time for her to think about upsizing.

Choosing the right outfit wouldn’t take her long. She changed into a comfortable set of grey track pants, put on a slightly crumpled white t-shirt and then a grey hoodie over the top. No bra or panties. Then she finished the look with a pair of tennis socks and her favourite white sneakers, which had certainly seen better days. She always preferred to travel this way and would usually stop somewhere else and get changed “properly” for the encounter, even if it was just the airport toilets. She’d managed to get pretty good at making herself irresistible in the shittiest places.

This time, though, there’d be none of that. The client had asked her for a “GF experience”, something she’d never done, so that was what he was going to get, or at least her interpretation of it anyway. She was going to turn up at his place in normal clothes, looking a bit tired and worse for wear (the flight would see to that, especially if she had to pop a few pills to get through it) and then they were going to sit on the sofa watching crap TV and eating pizza. Because that was the reality of having her as a girlfriend – not that she’d been anybody’s girlfriend for a long time.

Sometimes, she thought she wasn’t really a sexual person at all. She’d read an interview with a big female pornstar who’d just retired, aged 24, to have a kid and this former pornstar had said that she didn’t know why she ever became a pornstar since she actually hated sex. Not indifference to it, not fatigue from having so much all the time, but hate! Needless to say, people had been pretty incredulous about this, especially since she’d also called for all forms of porn to be banned – how convenient, they said, for a woman looking to escape her past – but the first part, the not-being-sexual bit, made perfect sense. It was real – at least sometimes. Call it cognitive dissonance, call it whatever you want, that was the truth. Getting people to believe it, however, was a totally separate matter. Sex and sexuality are just these all-encompassing things, things that are supposed to engross and define us, and Aristotle really hadn’t helped things with his principle of non-contradiction. Basically, the way we think about sex is just a big mess. A big hypocritical mess made worse by the dead old white men of Western philosophy.

Couldn’t she be a sex-worker and not sexual, at least not all the time? Couldn’t she say she was just exploring sexuality, like it was a foreign tribe and she a kind of anthropologist collecting data in their village? She liked that image, her with a little clipboard and helmet, out in the wilds of human desire and emotion, but somehow desireless and emotionless herself.

And yet there was something about this new client that disconcerted her. Sex hadn’t actually come up once in her conversation with Chris – might as well say his name – and he wasn’t the alpha-male type, the usual type who arranged to meet her; that much was clear. They always opened with a proposition, not a request, and promised what a good time they’d show her. Most of them were tech bros and most of them turned out to be a real disappointment; although one or two knew what they were doing. At the end of the day, with them, it was money. A lot of money. Money that made it worth getting on a plane for. Enough that she only did this a few times – okay, 20 times – a year.

With Chris it seemed to be something different. Of course he was going to pay her – as much, actually, as all the others – but it wasn’t money she needed. Maybe it was just the novelty of his request that had made her say yes, or maybe it was the tenderness, or the suggestion of tenderness – of real intimacy – that had done it. She had a strange feeling that sat somewhere around her stomach and definitely wasn’t anything to do with what she’d eaten. She could deal with a man who just wanted her for her body, but this… She was trying not to think about it too hard.

As far as luggage was concerned, she barely had anything to bring with her, beyond her tallow lipbalm (very good for sensitive lips, which hers were) and the current book she was reading. No sex toys or other paraphernalia, no costumes. Just lipbalm, maybe some pajamas, and of course her book. Last week she’d finished My Body by Emily Rajtakowski (you know, the girl from the Blurred Lines video (although she really didn’t want to be known just for that performance, which in any case wasn’t fully consensual)), and now she was doing her best to read the first of the two latest Cormac McCarthy novels, The Passenger. The premise of this one, on the surface at least, was a bit like No Country for Old Men (man in the wrong place at the wrong time), but what made it more interesting was that it was also sort of like McCarthy’s last will and testament – in literary terms – because he’d been working on it for sixteen years and was going to die soon. There was simply no way he’d ever write another novel: this was it. He’d spent the last fifteen or something years as a fellow at the Santa Fe Institute, this mecca for scientific and mathematical geniuses, and so there were all sorts of advanced mathematical and physics-based themes running through the book. She loved novels with subtext. She couldn’t pretend that she was going to understand all of it, though, but that never stopped her. She’d ticked Infinite Jest off the list a few months ago – finally! – and felt pretty damn proud. Maybe one day she’d write a novel herself. Maybe it would be about a woman just like her.

There was one final thing she had to do before she left, something which required a little more focus. She woke her Mac and opened the browser on Twitter. 500 new followers. If she’d had more time she’d have checked her notifications and maybe, if she was feeling brave, her direct messages, but she didn’t have time to do that. She pressed the button to start a poll and began to type:

A man rapes a chi

No. Not good. “Rape” was too emotive a word. She deleted it and started again.

A male pedophile sexually assaults a child.

Hmm. “Pedophile” wasn’t a good word either. It suggested that was the man’s identity, that it couldn’t be changed. She didn’t want that, not entirely.

A man experiencing pedophilic urges sexually assaults a child.

Yes. Better. Contingency – that was what she wanted to convey. She continued.

Later it’s discovered that a brain tumour was causing him to have uncontrollable urges to assault children. He has surgery to remove the tumour and is cured. He now has no such urges at all.

Should he be put in prison for the assault on the child?

There: there it was. She waited for a moment and re-read the thought experiment a few times, carefully. She hated having to delete a tweet and re-write it because of some minor grammatical error, especially when it was a tweet on an important topic like this. None such. She held her breath, then pressed “tweet”.

She always felt a rush when she pressed “tweet”, whether it was to release an innocuous observation about which foods caused her IBS to flare up or a poll like this one, which she expected to excite her followers much more; although it still surprised her how much her IBS could excite them too. If anything, the rush had only grown in the four or so years she’d been on the platform. She supposed that meant its creators had done their job well.

For this particular poll, she’d gotten the idea from a post in one of the subreddits she visited regularly (probably r/fuckthatsinteresting, not that it was important). A 40-year-old schoolteacher had been convicted of molesting a number of young children, before it was discovered that he had a brain tumour that was apparently causing his behaviour. It was removed, and for a while he was fine, but the urges came back and doctors discovered, after a second MRI, that the tumour had regrown. When they removed it, he was fine again. She loved cases like that because they illustrated the contingency of morality (that word again!), the fact that ultimately we’re all just pieces of meat governed by our biological coding and not a will that’s free from the material constraints everything else is subject to. It just takes a little tumour, or maybe a catastrophic brain injury, repeated blows to the head from performing diving headbutts and taking chairshots to the temple, to make us see it.

There’d be pushback, she knew of course. There always was, even if you tried to make the language as neutral, as value-free and scientific, as she had. People are governed by their emotions, especially when children are involved. Especially when children are involved. But the presence or absence of children in her thought-experiments meant nothing. It was just a test to see if people could think clearly, if they could allow themselves to be rational animals. Eventually, she hoped, people would surrender these outdated ideas like “free will”, “choice” and “responsibility” and then nobody would suffer for things that were out of their control. Nobody should be punished for behaviour they couldn’t do anything to change, right? No reasonable person could argue otherwise: she kept telling herself that.

The pushback was part of the fun too; although she was careful to block the ones who pushed back too hard. Any mention of the way she looked, her profession – which in any case didn’t define who she was – or her life-history, especially her relationship with her father, was an instant block. No exceptions.

There’d be plenty of simps too, who’d try to smuggle personal compliments into their outwardly sincere responses. This is such an interesting philosophical issue that poses so many questions about our identity and morality. You’re really beautiful, by the way. Will you sleep with me? Bald head. Glasses. Mid-to-late 30s. She knew the type. What she didn’t know, but wanted to know, was how many of them subscribed to her content. Lots, probably. But then again men could be pretty cheap, and there were plenty of ways to find her pictures for free.

She had some females among these admirers too, which she certainly didn’t mind. In fact, there was this one woman, a journal editor from Australia, who really advertised her loose sexuality on Twitter. It was obvious that this woman’s engagement with her tweets was about more than just the exchange of ideas, and she’d casually mentioned a number of times that she’d be on the West Coast later this year. Now there was an idea…

An idea that was interrupted by the familiar pinging of her phone: the Uber had arrived.

She was already on the Twitter app, watching the likes, comments and retweets begin to pile up, as the car pulled away towards the airport. She smiled and, as she looked up from her phone, caught the driver’s eye in the rearview. She felt herself blush; she didn’t know why.

A little later, as the car merged into traffic on the freeway, she remembered that she’d forgotten to leave the flap open for Malcolm Gladwell. Thankfully, she had an app for that too.

Technology, she thought to herself. Where would we be without it?

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