Pysbie and Thiramus
Aloneness and alcohol would provide comfort. Pysbie sat in the corner, as detached as he could be sharing a small room with a woman. A plain brown shroud encircled his body and tail; an orange cap covered his head, leaving only his face exposed. Tension gripped his forehead–just a habit, he surmised, sensing no threat. He held a bottle in his hand. It was okay, he’d drink just one.
It had been a year or more since he’d last procreated. It was nothing more than a biological urge–an obligation to the species–meaningless, devoid of passion. As it was for everyone, he’d heard. An anonymous, voiceless joining of tails end to end, the passing of eggs from female to male, without so much as a “Thank you, ma’am.” In this process, emotional connection was a non sequitur.
The urge was striking hard. Not a big deal. He worried, though, about whether she would notice his deformity, what she would think of it.
The woman appeared to be about his age, as had most of the patrons of the student union bar that night. Many of them wore their tails completely exposed, golden and perfectly coiled. To them, the bar was a place to hook up. To Pysbie, it was an ocean of loneliness.
The tails were about twenty feet long–on average one foot for every year of life. Growth slowed with time, the early years, of course, being the most important ones.
When it came time for pairing, the golden tails chose their own kind. This woman, though, her tail was covered like Pysbie’s.
Pysbie took a swig of beer. “I suppose we should start.” He stood and reached for the dimmer switch.
“No, don’t,” she said. “I want to see.”
Pysbie froze. He’d planned to make the room as dark as possible. The alcohol spoke. “Suit yourself.” He walked to the bed in the center of the room and started to climb under the sheets.
“No,” she said. “Show me your tail first.”
This was too much. “Why?” He tried to scowl with overwhelming discouragement.
“Because I want to know who I’m mating with. Maybe not everyone cares about who they give their eggs to, but I do.”
The urge and the alcohol undercut his usual reticence. “Okay, but you’re not going to like it,” he said, slowly peeling the shroud from his tail.
The woman gasped, then choked it off. Pysbie’s tail was dark and mottled, its surface jagged like a rough-cut saw. “You’ve lived a difficult life,” she said, coming over to him. She lifted and caressed the end of his tail. “Tell me–why is the tip black?”
Pysbie turned away and huddled under the covers, feeling a greater depth of sadness than he’d felt for many years. “I got off to a rough start,” he said. “My mother was addicted to Fentanyl. I wasn’t breathing when I was born. The doctors managed to save my life by putting me on a ventilator. Then I went through opiate withdrawal. I was in the hospital for six months. When I was well enough I got fostered out.”
The woman traced the tail to where the black faded to purple. “And here?” she asked.
“Let’s just say that some of my foster families had unusual ways of showing me their love. Enemas, handcuffs, beatings. I didn’t know any better–I thought I deserved it.” Pysbie shuddered. “When I got older I had a vision that I was meant for something better, something meaningful.” He snorted softly. “I managed to escape briefly–that’s the thin yellow ring,” he said, pointing. “I went to the river. It was the happiest three days of my life. But the police brought me back.”
Her hand gently stroked further up the tail. It felt pleasurable–in a nonsexual way, like a healing salve on an open blister. Whether it was the alcohol that eased his tongue, or the urge, or the woman touching him as he’d never been touched, he told her more of his story, shards of memories he’d sealed away. He told her about being bullied in school, about the priest who’d once grabbed Pysbie’s tail and forced it end-to-end against his own; and yes, those gash marks in the brown area just a few feet from the base, they were self inflicted.
“I met a therapist. He saved me. Freed me from drugs and alcohol. Even put a little color in my tail.” He nodded toward some faint yellow and orange splotches. “But nothing can make the black go away.” The solid black area was limited to the first foot or two, but a web of black coursed along the entire length of his tail.
“My turn,” the woman said. She lay down on the bed next to Pysbie. “My name is Thiramus.” She unwrapped the shroud from her tail. It appeared to be indistinguishable from Pysbie’s, but at the same time it was exactly the opposite.
“My life has been much like yours,” she said. “Except I grew up with my birth family. My parents and my brother couldn’t cope with life. I was submerged in their pain every day. For me, it was school that allowed me to escape.”
Their tails touched, and instead of the tip of her tail seeking the tip of Pysbie’s, it wound itself around his tail to form a double helix. The jagged ridges of her tail filled the spaces between the jagged ridges of his. And the colors complemented each other rather than deepening each other; the two melted and fused into one large smooth golden tail.
Pysbie felt elation, and belonging, and hope. A jubilance pulsed through every cell, transforming him for eternity. And so Pysbie became a river, and Thiramus a stream, and they flowed together through all of time.