Tristan & Aria
Aria pressed her face to the glass, preferring to watch the rain drip down the exterior panes than to mix with this lot. She only got dragged to these horrible awards programs because her dad had been someone to the opera company; she was just a person. Just a girl with an opera-themed name. But oh how they insisted on her presence!
These events were stifling; while she liked the way she looked in a black dress, she sure did not relish the actual wearing of one. She could feel her individual organs crying out in pain at being squished up under her ribs. Aria thought of her small flat and longed for a cup of green tea and a soft blanket by the fire, which she would certainly be doing the moment she returned home.
But now is not later, and thus Aria was forced to mingle amongst these self-aggrandizing, overgrown blowhards. She loved La Oracle Teatro enormously and saw every show each season. She was on a first-name basis with most of the recurring cast. However, she did not love the sustaining benefactors to the opera company.
One particular patron of the arts especially gave her the willies. Colonel Beoufbroign, or Colonel Beefbrain, as she referred to him in her head, was looking lecherously her way.
»Oh god in heaven. I made eye contact,» she said quietly to herself.
Seeing that he was coming straight toward her, she ducked behind a particularly corpulent patron and snuck to a sidewell. This angle gave her the perfect vantagepoint. No one could see her, but she could keep an eye on the events unfolding in the room.
She watched Colonel Beoufbroign knock over a woman’s punch on his search for the evasive girl, but then gave up and started devouring canapes four at a time.
She sighed audibly and leaned her head back against the wall.
»I think if I wait any longer to announce my presence, it’s going to be creepy,» said an unknown male voice, further down into the sidewell.
Aria jumped into the air.
»Sorry I startled you; I needed a break from all the superficial interaction as well,» he said.
»I’m just glad I didn’t shriek,» she admitted. »Colonel Beefbrain would have known for sure I was on the lam.»
Stepping forward into the light, he asked: »Now who pray tell is Colonel Beefbrain?»
»Oh! Um, nevermind.» She unroped her arm out from under the sweater she was carrying and thrust it out toward him. »Hi, I’m Aria, by the way.»
He shook her hand and said it was nice to meet her.
»Aria, huh. Your parents must have loved the opera as much as mine did.»
Aria looked confused so he said: »My name is Tristan, you see.» Her eyes flashed in understanding.
»Now that we’ve been properly acquainted, do you want to get the hell out of here?» he asked.
»I really, really do.»
Aria took the news pretty well. She had most of it puzzled together when Tristan declined to go swimming with her at the waterfall alcove near her favorite park. Only someone who wasn’t entirely human could resist swimming in that spectacular pool of deliciousness in the muggy, July heat.
While human-cyborg relationships were not yet commonplace, they were certainly more accepted than a generation prior. Today’s cyborgs were real people who had lived scores of years ago and had their intelligence, personality and emotional landscape digitized. Because the memories weren’t also recorded, Tristan had no idea who he had been previously. Nor did he want to.
Tristan thought, felt, and acted like a human. But he wasn’t really human, not really. His flesh was soft and pliant like a human’s, but his temperature was much warmer. Aria found the extra ten degrees very helpful on cold winter nights in the City.
Despite all obstacles, their coupling was smooth. Aria, coming off a bad breakup with a nova-banker, had not expected to enter into a relationship again so soon, but it just felt right. Plus, Tristan could poach an egg perfectly. How could she say no to that?
A few years passed, and Aria was offered a job with the opera company as Marketing Director. This position allowed her to stay behind the scenes at events, but long hours took a toll on her body. She fought insomnia in many ways, tossing and turning in her canopy bed. Tristan held her as she chased slumber.
Tristan was working as a graphic designer and computer programmer. The hours were also long for him, but he required much less sleep than the fully human Aria. In his spare time, he’d make her little treats that she’d find throughout the flat.
One morning, after a particularly terrible night’s sleep, Tristan found Aria sitting on the kitchen counter, her legs pulled up under her.
»I really need some caffeine,» she smiled at him, bleary eyed.
Tristan had an idea. Many others like himself had the spare box in their chest taken out and replaced with a gadget of some sort. He knew of Oliver, who had a small garden planted under clear plexiglass in his chest. Oliver’s partner suffered from pernicious scurvy, and this ensured vitamin C was always at hand.
He also knew of Nigel, partner to a seamstress, who had his chest cavity converted into a makeshift sewing basket. When not in use, their gadgets rotated around and the fleshy exteriors remained visible.
How could he forget Mara, whose own chest cavity bore the makings of a small alchemist’s lab? Her alcove included rows upon rows of small vials and tinctures to assist her partner in his trials and experiments.
Getting an implant was not easy, but he could figure it out. He had heard of Cavity Capacity, which operated under a shell corporation. He got the number from Mara, who said he could use her as a reference.
He entered the building through the side entrance of a Greek restaurant, and climbed the hidden stairs to the office.
The receptionist ushered him into an office. Behind a cherry oak desk, a porcine-faced man puffed on a cigar. Tristan was hard to shock, but this sight did surprise him since nicotine products had been banned for the greater part of 40 years.
Puff puff. »What would you like to have, sonny?» Puff puff. The timbre of his voice had a distinct bullfrog quality to it. Puff puff.
»I’d like to have you insert a top-of-the-line cappuccino machine into my cavity,» Tristan told the bullfrog.
Puff puff. »A coffeemaker, eh? Now that’s a first.» Puff puff. »Well that is certainly a hell of a curiosity, lad, but we take privacy here seriously and we won’t press you about your inclinations or motivations.» Puff puff.
Tristan raced home to show Aria the contraption. He wasn’t sure how she would feel about it. He called her into the kitchen, and showed her how he could rotate his chest compartment around to reveal the new cappuccino maker. Aria wept. Not at sadness, but that she could be loved so much. Tristan spent the next three years making her a daily cappuccino.
And so their romance flourished.
He felt it in his circuitry before he diagnostician told him what he already knew.
»You’re circuitry is fried, friend. The steam from the cappucino maker has caused your main circuit board to corrode.»
»So how do I go about getting it repaired?» Tristan asked.
»Well, you see. You don’t. This is irreversible, and for that I am sorry.» The diagnostician looked down sadly at his papers.
»You mean I’m going to die, don’t you! But, I’m supposed to be immortal. How can I die?» Tristan demanded.
»Accidents happen that fault up the best equipment, and that’s what has happened to you,» he explained.
»Just tell me how long I have,» Tristan said.
Aria did not take the news well.
»All I ever wanted was for someone to love me until my bones turned to dust. But now, somehow, you’re the one that’s dying!»
»I do not regret any of my choices,» he said. »I chose to be with you, and I chose to my alter myself in this capacity.»
»I’ve taken your immortality.» She cupped her hands over her mouth, closed her eyes, and breathed deep, innately trying to fight over the building panic.
»Perhaps fate would have our brief existences linked together. Perhaps we were supposed to live in tandem, you and I,» he told her.
Aria blinked back tears. She knew that once she started, she would never stop. The resulting flood would last for days. Weeks.
»This can’t be the end! I’m not ready! I’m not ready to say goodbye to you yet. I thought it would be 60 years from now, when I’m an old lady. Not during my prime!»
He paused a moment before speaking. »I’m not ready to say goodbye to you either,» Tristan said.
»We have such a beautiful love story. It feels terribly unfinished. I don’t think I can live on if you aren’t alive too.» Aria’s attempts failed and droplets slid down her face.
»Those we love never really die as long as the survivors keep on living, breathing, doing. The way the first few flakes of snow feel on the tip of your nose. If you feel that, so will I. The taste of the first bite of a ginger peach pie in the summer. Anything that you taste -- I will as well. The way the opening bars of La Traviata overture sound when ringing out through the halls of The Mystic. When those precious bones of your inner ear vibrate allowing you to hear that glorious sound -- I will hear it. So you see, Aria. You have to go on living so that I will as well.»
Aria did not hesitate before throwing herself into his arms. She put her hands on either side of his face and said: »This is my solemn vow to you. And it’s much more earnest than a simple marriage vow or an allegiance pledge. I don’t just deliver this oath with my head. Or my heart. But from the very core of my soul - from the sheer essence that makes me what I am, I vow to you that I will find a way out of this.I will fix you. Even if it’s just sheer will alone, I will make sure you do not die.»
The two kissed, but with Aria carefully wiping away her tears first as to not further corrode Tristan.
Aria sat in the doctor’s office, flipping through an outdated Modern Abode magazine. She did not read any of the articles or look at any of the photos, but the »fwish» »fwish» sound the flicking of the pages made gave her some small comfort.
She closed her eyes and pictured the vast blackness of space. Slowly, she allowed distant pricks of light to appear in the periphery. Gradually, stars blanketed the entire canvas. She began moving through time and space, looking at the various celestial bodies as she passed. Coming up on a ringed planet, she reached out and touched the outer part of the ring. A few rock fragments left their planetary orbit and and drifted out into the cosmos. Aria watched them float away.
And then someone familiar whispered in her ear. »We are all made of stars.»
Aria jumped out of her meditative state as the door clicked and the physician walked in. The kindly man looked up and peered at her over his chartreuse bifocals. Aria stared at him; she hadn’t seen someone wear actual physical spectacles in years.
»Oh these?» He took them off and scrutinized them.
Great, he had caught her staring.
»They are a bit arcane, granted. But I’m a bit of a relic.» He winked at her. »I guess I could never do without the weight of them on my face.»
»They sound very comforting when you put it that way,» Aria replied, hiding her acute mortification at her faux pas.
»Indeed.» He swiped through his tablet. »Your vitals are looking good, and your cholesterol is even a bit lower than last time. Your iron is on the low side of normal, so just watch that. Make sure you are getting in your daily dark, leafy greens and you should be fine.»
»But my kidneys? Are they both hunky dory?»
He swiped his finger a different way and all her organs appeared on the screen. They were represented by various neon and vivid colors. He tapped an organ in the lower half of her body and the screen zoomed in on it.
»Your kidneys are fine. You must have good genetics or you keep them flushed with water-nova...or both.»
Aria rubbed her temple with her middle fingers. »But what’s my capacity like if on just one?»
»Well, I never advise an elective procedure, but sometimes in life we have to do what we have to do. You are a good a candidate as any to live with one kidney. A loved one needs it, I presume?»
Aria cocked her head to the side, smiling her sideways smile. »Something like that.»
A month later, Aria had her left kidney removed. It was transported by helicar to the nearest surgical laboratory at once for synthesization. Inside the lab, scientists took her kidney and injected it with software chips. These began immediately to bind to the organic matter. Over the next 48 hours, the new hybrid organ doubled in size.
The organ was then fitted for Tristan’s dimensions and placed inside his lower back. The cyber-organ would override the corroded data and allow Tristan to live another 75 or 80 years. Not immortality, but a long life, and one that was more human, at that.
After the Neo-Marseilles Protocol was passed seven years later, undoing the outdated anti-miscegenation laws of the past, Tristan and Aria were married in a quiet ceremony in the park beside The Oracle Teatro.
He built her the loft bedroom she always wanted as well as a window nook. On rainy days, she’d crawl up in it and read for hours while the sound of enchanting melodies filled the house from the turntable in the parlor.
And in this way the years passed on by, and Aria became wrinkled and gray. But happy.
On the day Aria finally died, Tristan considered decommissioning himself, but did not. He still had work to do.
He campaigned avidly for the rights of hybrid beings such as himself. The tide was changing. His activism kept him busy, and truly it was the only way he could have survived the wake of devastation he was in after Aria’s death.
But he knew all of those extra years they had together was a blessing, so he when he did mourn, there was a spirit of thankfulness behind it.
20 years to the date after Aria’s death, he could feel his circuitry failing. His organ was no longer efficiently working as a patch on his failed circuitboard, and he could feel his life draining away.
He brought a score to the favorite opera to the place where she was buried. Her body had already returned to the earth; its carbon components creating new life. He laid on top of her grave, his hands fingering the pages. Tristan looked around at the splendor of the world one more time before he decommission himself.
His organ, that was once her organ, had been fused with his essence. It now returned to the earth in the same manner that hers had years ago.
And there is a certain amount of serendipity to these matters, but a certain bird, who was start;ed by a circling hawk, dropped her magnolia seedling right over the place where Aria’s (and then Tristan’s as well) grave had been. The seedling, against all odds, was nurtured by a very fortuitous rainstorm that happened the very next day. Its roots took hold in the soil that held the leftover organic data from the desiccation of their bodies and souls. This tree that held both of their essences grew strong and it grew tall.
Twenty-five years later, Clemency prepared for her wedding. Her beautiful auburn hair was swept up into a loose chignon, and her makeup brought out her sparkly green eyes. As lovely a girl as her name suggested, Clemency was to be married to the love of her life that very morning, but she was incredibly nervous.
Her mother patted her shoulder and brought her a veil, a family heirloom. Buoyed by the love around her, Clemency strode confidently out to a certain beloved magnolia tree in a corner of her spacious back yard. The minister waited with her beloved in front of the tree.
We are all made of stars.