“You’re a shiftless girl Collie, and make no mistake!” Casanova smiled while delivering the barb.

Collie stormed around throwing things this way and that, shaking her blonde curls indignantly. Her white cotton skirt flounced, she wore silk white stockings underneath, and white lace garters sporting tiny white bows. She had a white ribbon snaking through her hair, always glossy, and always shining like a halo. Her eyes sharp and vigilant and her mind very active.

She had not wanted to marry Pierrot, it had been a marriage of necessity and convenience. He had told her shamelessly when the ceremony was to take place, “I don’t love you in spite of your shortcomings, but I love you because of them.”

He had thought to ease her heartache at leaving the only world she’d ever known. But everyone knew there was no place for non-humans in the Union anymore. Non-humans being just another term for humans in this post-human world. Despite their seeming freedom in their banding together, she felt she was nothing more than a marionette, and often saw the thin strings shimmering in the dying light of the sun. Nearly invisible like a gossamer spider’s web. Their pull was harrowing, her arms would jerk up into unnatural positions, holding her there until a man would come to her rescue. A Man.

Yet Quinn would have it other ways. He wanted her. She would deny him of course. She would deny him anything. This thought made her chuckle to herself, a sick imitation of a puppet laughing. She danced down the hallway of their safe house, regretting her bare feet in an instant. She should be properly booted for any midnight gambolings away from the vampiric state.

They sought to suck them dry. To recreate them into something they were not. As though they could play at God! Angel’s wings often touched her at night, brushing her face gently and wiping away those hard earned tears that came trembling out from her too bright eyes. Then the soft wet streaks would dry as the downy feathers caressed her. She’d see the outline of a demon’s shape on the wall, only a shadow, only a breath. Never the real thing. A talon would grip her spine at times, but she shoved it off. She after all, had some strength in her. She was human. Or non-human if you like.

The complexities of society would rage at her like so many spinning daggers from Harlequin’s magic hands. Yet even his daggers could miss. Even his aim was not always true. He could whisper to the metal and string his arm back like a bow, but yet humanity could not attain perfection. Although Pierre’s voice rose above the rest in some mystical melody, still his songs could lead good astray. And she herself was incapable of acting with alacrity, and oftentimes missed her opponent entirely. Casanova was a different breed altogether, combining modernity and technology with old-fashioned weaponry and martial arts. Casanova was their leader of course. The Doc was what people in centuries old time would love to have called an alchemist, for seemingly all he created turned to gold. But this was only figurative. For figures did still exist. They danced in her head, like gliding swans, like ballerinas from the Royal Ballet, back when royalty meant something altogether different.

Cars were dead on the road like so many carcasses. People didn’t drive anymore. Because there weren’t people anymore. Post-humans could do anything. Long injections that slowly modified DNA into something heretofore unknown. Unknowable. Or perhaps known, in a far past. But this was the far future, and decisions had to be made.

President Voltaire could propose whatever new menaces he liked. They called him president, but he had no title. There was no democracy. There was a gathering of the most vile that called themselves the Union, but there were no official positions. Rousseau was a vampire. He despised human flesh. Of course he was not a real vampire, it was only figurative. Yet, corpses had been found maimed by teeth marks, the only visible distress on the body, ashen and gray and white and still. And dead. For humans could die. Post-humans could not die. The skelehumans were bots, they weren’t post-humans. Post-humans were human once. But bots were created by humans and post-humans alike. At one point people feared the takeover that such technology could foresee. But in time, it became the natural order of things. Like slavery so very long ago. Now races were equal, colors held no value. Gender roles had not changed, worsened was the case. Collie was a lower-class status. Modifications to females were lesser than those given to men. For Women were created out of Man. So the Bible was still taken incorrectly, by scientists claiming to be God. It made her laugh in a grotesque way. Like a mockery of self. Like a gargoyle. She posed and thought of it, holding her hands out in a self-deprecating manner, hoping to look foul. She supposed everyone did.

She peered squintingly at her image in the mirror outlined in the dark, horrified at what she might find, but found it empty. Empty and void. She wondered if perhaps some day they would all be sliced open and find similar shells where their hearts were meant to be. For she was only a puppet, and her husband only a musician, and her lover only a jester. Such things were the elements of all life of all times. No era had been without its clown.

Disgust flamed in her heart until her thoughts landed on Casanova. One person in whom all their hopes reposed and languished. One person who had the guts, the fire, the brains, and the intensity to mean what they said, and do what they mean. A rarity, a gem, a diamond in the rough. Perhaps Casanova yet would lead them through. The name was a joke, Casanova was celibate and did not philander like the ancient name-bearer. But they all thought it jolly good fun and bandied the name about lovingly until none now remembered the true birth name of their hero.

The back-up generator hummed noisily in the background. A terrible storm was blowing through and had knocked the power out hours ago. She felt like something was crawling through her hair. No lights. She sighed, she’d light a candle. She couldn’t find her lighter. She felt her way into the hall and down the carpeted stairs, banging her head into the upstairs landing. “Bother and curses,” she said aloud.

“Watch your step love,” said Quinn noticing her from his perch on the couch downstairs. He had a book open in his lap, she couldn’t read the title, his large hands splayed to cover it.

“Mad you can’t turn the television on?” she asked rudely.

“Indeed, I’d like to hear what the Sympathizers have to broadcast today.” He arched a brow at her and ran a hand through his dark hair. He’d taken his mask off, his face was rather pale.

“You’re a porcelain puppet. Come sit,” he said while patting the sofa cushion.

“I’m going to work on my needlepoint.”

“What a thing to say!” he shouted and roared with laughter. He looked at her with some mixed mockery and longing and touched his forehead as though soothing a headache. “I’m rather under the weather.”

“It is quite a storm.”

Collie sauntered through the room, touching things. The flickering kerosene lamp that Quinn sat to read by oozed a bit of warmth and Collie sidled near it. “I’m chilled to the bone.”

“Careful, you might shatter my lamp.”

Collie grimaced and moved away, her eyes roving round the safe house. She had not bothered to explore it. She frankly, did not care about such things. My dear. Thank you.

“Gone With the Wind?” she asked, finally seeing the title of Quinn’s book. “How did you ever get a copy of that?”

“I am a master at many things my dear, and a master never reveals his greatest tricks!”

“Indeed!” Collie said mocking the Doc.

“Shh! He’s just in the kitchen, drinking himself sober!” he chuckled and resumed his book.

Collie sighed, bored suddenly and left him there, stretched out like a cat licking its fur. She felt bitterness creep into the back of her throat and sit there. It was stifling being so good all the time. So pure.

“I want you to have sex with me,” she had said so honestly to Pierrot on their wedding night after he had laid down and made no moves towards her prone and naked body. Her breasts curved with creamy smoothness, and her hips promised a pleasurable awakening beneath, but he made no move towards her. His shocked silence at her boldness, her unwomanliness had shattered their affection forthright.

Quinn asked her to be his lover. She denied him everything. Yet she denied herself in the process.

A hushed murmuring arose from inside the kitchen. Collie entered and smiled wearily at those sitting round the table drinking brandy, no, whiskey.

“Would you like a shot?” Casanova asked her as she took a stool next to the Doc.

“Yes, gladly. Vodka, straight please. Don’t bother with ice or garnishes,” she said sourly.

It was handed to her and she downed it quickly. A warm fuzziness blurred the sharp outlines of her anger. She felt like her normal self again, the normal self she presented to the world of course, not who she really was or how she really felt. That would be impossible, right?

The beast’s flesh rolled as it moved. Collie watched out the window fascinated. “Do you suppose it’s really there?”

“It may be, or it may be a trick,” Casanova said, studying the Hybrid as its haunches shivered, pacing menacingly back and forth.

“I think it’s a trick,” she decided. “It seems to shudder as though it were a projection.”

“That’s just the wind blowing, and the rain.”

“Oh well.”

The chimera looked about it mournfully, not quite seeing, but searching. As we all do I suppose. A yearning sound emanated from it as it leaped upon a boulder and stood there, almost wishing to howl at the moon. But it wasn’t a wolf.

“You know, sometimes I go outside just to get cold,” Collie said, her eyes still following the beast’s movements.

“Whatever for?”

“So I can come in and get warm.”

Pierrot looked at his wife strangely, the Doc looked at Pierrot the same way.

“Whatever for?” the question was repeated.

“Well really, what a question to ask. How can one appreciate being warm unless one is first cold?”

Casanova patted her kindly on the back while she downed another shot of vodka. The beast let out a bone-chilling howl. It turned its head and yellow pupils could be seen. They were rimmed with red and shot through with purple veins. The hideous claws and paws and wings and fur and snout and tail all formed a depiction of a Greek’s worst nightmare. This was Rousseau’s summer dream. His vacation fantasy. His mountain chateau. This cream of the crop would rip your flesh from your bones so quickly, one would still be blinking in confused ecstacy while it happened.

Creatures worse still roamed about carrying snakes wrapped round their limbs, bent in some offering of friendship, some testimony to manhood. As though it still existed. Collie glanced wearily at Pierrot. No coquetry existed between them. There was nothing left. The chimera paced and paced, the ground soft mud beneath its claws and paws. The rain lashed it, soaking it, but it didn’t seem to feel it.

“Yes, I am decided it is only a lure. He wouldn’t send them out in such weather. He’s trying to flush us out,” Casanova said.

The rain cut like scissors through the air, destroying the sky, making it a blackish red. The sun had fled, had left the world to its dark and dreamy fate. Collie remembered a time when rain meant snuggling up with a book in an overstuffed chair and begging daddy to light a fire. In a world a lifetime ago when humanity was still legal.