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Sexually Transmitted Desire

By Alana Church

Artwork by Moira Nelligar

Copyright 2018 Alana Church

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~~ All characters in this book are over 18. ~~

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Mine, Albert Sackett thought, as the moving truck pulled out of his driveway, slowly rattling down the narrow, curved street in a haze of diesel exhaust. All mine.

To be honest, his new home wasn’t all that impressive when compared to other houses in the area. DuPage County, west of Chicago, held some of the richest suburbs in America. In towns like Lemont, Darien, and Elmhurst, even relatively modest homes could go for upwards of half a million dollars.

Woodridge, by comparison, was a bargain. It was solidly middle-class, with good schools and parks, and a library he knew he would be spending a lot of time in, but it wasn’t filled with huge homes the way some nearby towns were. And the tidy two-story house, tucked into the middle of a short street in a small, tidy subdivision, had caught his imagination as soon as he saw it. After getting a heads-up from his realtor, he had driven by on Monday, toured it with the agent on Tuesday night, and had made an offer that was accepted with almost indecent haste on Wednesday morning. By that evening, he was writing out a check for earnest money to hold the house. A month later, he had closed, and a few weeks after that, he was moving in.

He walked back inside, savoring the feeling of ownership. The front door opened directly onto the living room, the ceiling rising dramatically to match the roofline, giving it an airy, spacious feel. From there, there was a short hall that led into a small half-bathroom on the right, and then opened out to the kitchen on the right and the dining room on the left. At the rear of the two rooms, a patio door led out onto a wooden deck and a back yard that was quite large by the standards of the neighborhood.

Upstairs, reached by a staircase that led up from the living room, were the bedrooms and the master bath. Not too big, but it was more than enough for a single man with no kids. He was already making plans to convert the smallest of the three bedrooms into a library of sorts. It couldn’t be too hard to buy some lumber from the one of the local home-improvement stores, stain it, and mount it on racks around the sides of the room. Or maybe he should get something custom-made? Cherrywood, maybe? The color would match the paint wonderfully, and would glow in the sunshine that filled the south-facing room in the afternoon.

He shook his head with a chuckle. Already remodeling, Albert? But the house could use a few changes. He had painted over the hideous pastel lilac in the master bedroom before he moved in, opting for a soothing oak-green. The guest bedroom was now an eggshell blue, while the library was cream. All of the rooms, excepting the living room and the bathrooms, had hardwood floors, a fact that had made his mother bite her tongue with envy.

He stopped, frowning at the wallpaper that covered the walls of the dining room to waist height. The previous owners had apparently had a black Labrador retriever, who had enjoyed scratching his itches on the walls, because caught in the fibers was a wealth of black dog-hair, visible to anyone who looked.

That has to go. It wouldn’t be difficult to get some wainscoting and new baseboards and chair-rail. He could cover up that mess in just a couple of days. And light wood would match the soft yellow paint.

Enough. He could plan to his heart’s content, but all that was window dressing. He had a house, a home. Not some crappy apartment in Westmont, the walls so thin he could hear his neighbor’s alarm clock every morning. That single fact made the previous ten years worth it. The three years spent working 30-hour weeks at a fast-food job, saving money for college. The four years as an undergrad at Western Illinois, putting himself through school while working nights and weekends delivering pizza. And the three years of work at Great Western Financial, a brokerage firm in downtown Chicago, as an IT consultant, at a salary he would have considered obscene back when he was in high school flipping burgers for eight dollars an hour. He didn’t need anyone to tell him how lucky he was. Not many men his age were able to buy a house at the ripe old age of twenty-five.

He grinned, taking in the stacks of boxes strewn across the ground floor. He had labelled each one carefully as he packed up his things, but it was going to take days to put everything away.

No time like the present, he thought, and pulled a pocketknife out of his shorts, flipping it open to cut through the duct tape sealing the first box.

Four hours later, his stomach rumbled. Albert blinked, coming out of a haze. The work of unpacking was strangely hypnotic. Open a box, decide where the contents should go. Carefully place them in their new surroundings. Break down the box and toss it in the growing pile in the garage, then do it all again.

And again.

And again.

He sighed, getting to his feet, stretching out the kinks in his back. He had been carefully placing his DVDs in a new cabinet he had bought at one of the home-furnishing stores, repressing the desire to shove them in the shelves in handfuls. Somehow, the piles of boxes didn’t seem to have gotten any smaller. If anything, they seemed grow whenever he turned his back. He had tried to clear out things he didn’t need while he was packing, and he distinctly recalled taking several garbage bags full of unwanted items to the dumpster behind his old apartment. But there was still so much left to do.

Relax, he thought, chewing on a grilled-cheese sandwich as he sat on the stairs that led to the second floor. He leaned back, resting his head on the wall, easing his aching spine. You’ve got a long weekend. It’s only Saturday. You have three more days to get this place in order. It’s not like the neighbors are going to swing by and do an inspection, and then send you off to New Homeowner Jail if you’re not upholding the lofty standards of Cumberland Circle.

A sweet scent caught his nostrils, and he inhaled deeply, then sneezed. Wandering out into the living room, he looked out the front window. A miniature lilac bush, no more than waist high, sat in the curve of his front walk. Tiny purple flowers were blooming, filling their air with their scent. A warm May breeze rippled the curtains, and he could hear the sounds of grass being mowed somewhere further down the block.

Suburbia. He had sneered at some of his classmates at Western, who were predominantly from the Chicago suburbs, from places with interchangeable names like Forest Park and Park Forest, Oak Park and Park Ridge and Woodridge, Long Grove and Morton Grove and River Grove. All that was necessary to name a suburb in Chicago, he had once claimed, was to make some combination of a body of water, a tree, or a park.

Albert, on the other hand, had grown up in a farm town, and was proud of it. But he had rapidly realized that there was no future for him in Greenfield. The town was holding on by its teeth, losing more and more young people every year to towns like Springfield and Decatur, or to the growing areas near St. Louis. As farms grew in size, giving in to the inevitable tide of consolidation, there were fewer and fewer jobs.

Albert had seen which way the wind was blowing, and had decided to change his major from Agricultural Science to Computer Science halfway through his freshman year. His parents, having seen the town shrink over the last twenty years, had enthusiastically endorsed his move. With an older brother set to inherit their land, there was little need for a second son on the farm.

And now, he thought, he was in the one place he had once swore he would never be. A homeowner in the suburbs.

He sipped his milk, and idly watched the mail truck drive past. He rolled his shoulders, stretching out the aches and pains, making a note to start exercising more. Then, grabbing his keys off an end table, let himself out of the house to go fetch the mail.

He was only a few yards down the sidewalk when an arresting sight caught his eye. An attractive woman was kneeling on the ground in front of his neighbor’s house, busily transferring plants from a plat filled with flowers to a plot of freshly-tilled earth. He paused for a moment, admiring the smooth, muscled legs, and the shapely curves of her rear.

Get moving, you perv. He kicked himself into motion, walking past her. The last thing he wanted to do was to get caught staring at her and pick up a reputation as the neighborhood creep.

He unlocked his mailbox, which was about fifty yards down the street, in a large metal box which served the entire block. There was nothing inside but junk mail, circulars and coupons. The bills, he thought with a wry smile as he walked back to his house, would start to arrive later.

On the way back to his house, the woman looked up and smiled at him. “Hi,” she said, getting to her feet. She pulled off a pair of gardening gloves and offered him her hand. “You must be the new neighbor.”

“Guilty,” he admitted. “I’m Albert. Albert Sackett.”

“Stacey Banks,” she replied.

He cocked his head. “So do you live here?” He thought that the couple next door lived alone. He had met Rich and Sally a few days after he closed on the place, when he had brought home a load of purchases from the hardware store. An older couple on their fifties, they had welcomed him to the neighborhood, and had given him some helpful advice about trash pickup and recycling.

“No,” she laughed. She looked to be near his own age, and he felt his interest increase as he took in her open, cheerful face, as well as her slim, athletic body. Her shirt was loose, but he could just make out the swells of her breasts. “I have a place of my own over in Naperville,” she said, naming a suburb to the west. “I come over once or twice a week to help them out with the yardwork. Dad’s getting up there, and his back isn’t as good as it used to be. And Mom never liked grubbing around in the dirt.”

“What are you planting?”

“Impatiens.” She pointed to the small flowers, in hues of red, white, and pink. “They grow in the shade, though you have to keep them watered. But if they get too much sun, they’ll fry in no time. Here’s a good spot. They’ll get some sun in the morning, but this big old ash tree,” she said, “will make sure there’s plenty of shade in the afternoon.”

Behind her, the front door of her house opened, and a pair of young girls came out. “Hey, kids,” she said. “Come and meet Grandma and Grandpa’s new neighbor!”

The girls came up. The older, around seven years old, stared at him with interest. The younger hid behind her mother’s legs, looking up at him shyly.

“Hi there,” he said, crouching down to put his head at eye level. He took a quick look at Stacey’s left hand. No wedding ring graced her fingers. So was she divorced? Or had she simply taken it off to make sure she didn’t lose it? “What’s your names?”

“I’m Lauren,” the first girl said. Her hair was a glossy black, like her mother’s. She pointed at the smaller girl, who had her thumb firmly corked in her mouth. “That’s my sister. Her name is Katherine, but everyone calls her Kitty.”

“Well, I’m very happy to meet you,” he said. “My name’s Albert.”

“Do you have a puppy?” Lauren asked. “Bill and Maria had a puppy. His name was Ernie. He was nice. I got to pet him and play fetch. But then they moved away.” She squinted at him suspiciously, as if he had been responsible.

“That wasn’t a puppy,” Stacey said to him in an aside. “That dog was a damn monster.” She paused. “Friendly, though. And great with the kids.”

“Sorry, no,” he said to Lauren’s crestfallen expression. “No puppy. But I’ve been thinking about getting one. Do you think I should?”

She nodded eagerly. “Yeah! And we can come over and climb in your trees and play on your swingset!”

“That would be nice,” he replied neutrally. He didn’t have the heart to tell the girl that the rusty old swingset in the side yard was exhibit A on his ‘has to go’ list.

“So did Grandma kick you out?” Stacey asked.

“Yeah.” Little Katherine nodded agreement. “Grandma Sally said that it was a nice day outside and if we sat around all day our butts would get big and fat, and we should come out here and help you plant the flowers instead.”

Albert choked on a laugh as Stacey turned red. He was suddenly reminded of his Grandmother Harding, a woman who loved nothing more than to catch fish, drink beer, and smoke a cigarette, and had a tongue sharp enough to strip paint off a Buick. “I didn’t know your mother talked like that,” he said to Stacey.

“She’s a bad influence,” the younger woman sighed. She looked at him curiously. “What do you do?”

He nodded towards the east. “I work in the city. IT for a financial firm down there. Great Western.”

“IT? Computers? You must be really smart.”

He shrugged uncomfortably. “I wouldn’t put it that way. I’m just good with the way machines think. How about you?”

“I was in the navy for a while. But after these two came along, I decided to move back home. I work at a nursing home in Naperville, and I do freelance artwork.”

“Really?” His ears perked up. “Let me know if you’re interested in a graphic design job. I heard one of the suits talking about how GW wants to redo the corporate logo.” He paused, then asked as delicately as he could. “And their father?” He nodded at Lauren and Kitty, who were examining the square of turned earth, Lauren pointing out various bugs and worms to her younger sister, who didn’t seem to be very squeamish about it.

Stacey’s smile became brittle. “Not with us,” she said, her voice losing much of its warmth.

“Oh.” Albert felt as if he had walked into a spotless house with his shoes coated with cow manure. “I’m sorry.” He shook his head. “I’m sorry,” he repeated. “It’s none of my business.”

“No, it’s okay.” Stacey put a hand on his arm. “I’m still a little sensitive about it. It’s not easy when you realize you wasted a good chunk of your life.” She jerked her head at the house. “Especially when some people can’t wait to tell you ‘I told you so.’”

“Yeah. I know that feeling.” Still feeling awkward, he looked at his feet. “Well, I better get going. I still have a lot of unpacking to do.” He waved at the girls, who ignored him, intent on the flowers, then smiled at Stacey, trying to recover the feeling of easy camaraderie they had shared only a few moments ago. “Hope to see you around.”

“I’m sure we will. We’re over here all the time. Kids! Say goodbye to Albert!”

“Bye, Albert,” said Lauren, not turning around. “Look, Mom! A worm! Eww! It’s huge!

Well, he thought, as the front door closed behind him. I’ve got a cute next-door neighbor. Things are finally looking up.


Thirteen years later.

What’s the best way to commit suicide?

Albert pondered the question as he grabbed another beer out of the fridge and stumbled out the patio door onto his deck. The October air bit through his rumpled flannel shirt, worn over a t-shirt and a worn-out, faded pair of blue jeans. The clothes did little to disguise the swell of his belly, pushing out over his belt like a bloated sack of pudding.

What do you do when life itself is boring?

He had hundreds of songs on his computer; he didn’t feel like listening to a single one. Through his online accounts, thousands of movies and TV shows were at his fingertips; none of them interested him. On his bookshelves and his iPad, he had access to a library which would have made medieval monks weep with envy; he couldn’t be bothered to open one of them.

I eat, though I do not hunger. I drink, though I do not thirst. I sleep, even though I dread the beginning of each new day. He grimaced as the melodramatic cadences rolled through his head. And, apparently, I have my lines written for me by a second-rate soap-opera hack.

He sat on a plastic chair, one of four which surrounded a wrought-iron patio table, and leaned back, putting his feet up as he took a swallow of his beer. Above, gray clouds, dimly lit by a gibbous moon, scudded through a dark sky, dimly speckled with the few stars whose light could struggle through Chicago’s pollution.

It was funny, in a not-really-funny-at-all sort of way. Buying the house had, at the time, seemed like the beginning of a new chapter in his life. But in reality, it had been the end. Albert had settled into middle-class suburbia, and before he knew it, the rut had closed in around him.

I’m drowning.

He had thought his degree and his job had freed him from the life of his parents, and his grandparents. But in reality, it had been a trap. He got up every day at seven in the morning and made his way to the train station. Took the express from the Belmont station in Downers Grove to Union Station downtown, walked to work, and every evening he repeated the entire dreary exercise in reverse. His days were filled with tedious, mind-numbing repetition – of software updates, of resetting passwords, of explaining, for the thousandth time, why it was a terrible idea to open an e-mail attachment that came from someone you did not know.

What would be the best way? Guns sickened him. And he could not think of forcing his family to deal with the gruesome results of a suicide with a handgun. Oh, yes. The mortician did a fantastic job. You can barely tell that he blew the back of his head clean off.

Stepping in front of a train was even worse. Could he really shut down the entire Burlington Northern line because he couldn’t deal with another day of working for the jackals at Great Western Financial? He had looked into other jobs, had even interviewed, but nothing offered him a reprieve from the soul-sucking tedium which had become the weave of his waking life.

He ticked down the list. Pills. Slit wrists. Carbon monoxide poisoning. Jumping off the roof of his house, if he ever got up the courage to climb so high. All had their individual flaws.

Why can’t I just go to sleep one night and never wake up? Is a convenient little brain aneurysm in the middle of the night too much to ask?

If I just had someone. Anyone.

He pinched his belly. Hah. Who’s going to look at you twice? Or even once? You have no self-control. You’re a pig.

But if I had someone, I would take better care of myself, he promised.

And if you took better care of yourself, you might have someone. But you don’t. And you don’t.

He wiped his cheeks, unsurprised to find that he was weeping. Hot tears trickled down, signs of his inward despair.

The wind rose, biting at his face. A cold front had passed through during the day, and the weather forecasters had predicted that the temperature would drop close to freezing over the night. Maybe even lower. He knew that he should go inside, but he couldn’t muster up the energy. Blinking, he looked to the west. The sun had long since set, but over the arched limbs of the silver maple he had planted, he could see a strange, pale glow. It darted back and forth, too big to be a star, too quick to be an airplane, too irregular to be one of the fireworks that were illegally brought into Illinois from Indiana.

Maybe a drone, he thought disinterestedly, watching as it rose above the trees on the other side of the street. It seemed to be about the size of his head, bobbing erratically back and forth. Damn kids will buy anything these-

With a sudden rush, the ball of glowing, pearlescent light bore down on him. Albert flinched violently, his chair overbalancing. His hands waved helplessly in the air as the glowing object struck his forehead, then he toppled over on his back, the back of his head hitting the wooden boards with a sickening thud.

Albert Sackett knew no more.


~Albert? Albert, wake up.~

“Go away.”

~I can’t go away.~ There was a sense of deep aggravation. ~I wish I could. Come on, soldier. On your feet.~

Albert blinked awake through crusted, bleary eyes. He was hunched on his side, shivering, on the back deck of his house. The grass in front of him was rimed with frost, and the bright morning sunshine held little warmth.

“What the hell?” The words, spoken through numb lips, were little more than a mumble. He lurched awkwardly to his knees, then fell back to his side, his shoulder hitting the hard, cold wood painfully.

~Get up, Albert.~ The voice in his head was impatient. It sounded uncomfortably like his high school Spanish teacher. Miss Denny had been sweet and lovely and incredibly patient, but had not accepted any excuses from her students, especially skinny Albert Sackett, who would much rather have been reading Game of Thrones than conjugating irregular verbs.

“Great,” he mumbled. “Not only am I not dead, but now I’m hallucinating. Voices in my head. Fantastic.” He managed to get back to his knees, then to his feet, shuffling across the cold, slick deck to the door. His fingers felt like sticks of wood, but he managed to push down on the latch and half-stepped, half-fell into the dining room. He kicked the door closed with one foot and curled up on the rug in front of it. letting the warmth of the house seep into his body. Violent shivers racked him, and he wrapped his arms around his chest.

~You should take a shower.~ He could almost hear a sniff of distaste. ~Then we can talk.~

“I’m not talking to you,” he muttered. “Because you’re not real. “You’re…you’re a result of hypothermia. Yeah. That’s it. My subconscious mind put a woman’s voice in my head so I wouldn’t freeze to death. Bet it’ll go away as soon as I warm up.”

He staggered back to his feet and walked upstairs, pausing only to turn the thermostat up a few degrees. Looking out the window, it promised to be a gorgeous Saturday morning in October, perfect for watching college football on TV, taking long drives in the forest preserve to look at the fall colors in the trees, or simply snuggling up with a girlfriend for a long afternoon of lovemaking.

Hah. Albert snorted. Like that’s going to happen.

He peeled off his clothes and tossed them in the hamper, and went into the bathroom, studiously avoiding looking at his reflection in the mirror. It wasn’t just his flabby, out-of-shape body. His eyes were red-rimmed from lack of sleep, his face unshaven, and his dark brown hair was a tangled, matted mop. All in all, he looked like a person at a homeless shelter after a three-day bender on cheap booze.

Stepping into the shower, he breathed with relief as the hot water soaked into his skin, driving away the chill. Even over the sound of the water, he thought he heard an equally satisfied sigh. Ignoring it, he lathered up his body, then took the opportunity to wash his hair, his fingers digging deep into his scalp.

After twenty minutes, he was feeling vaguely human again, though he still did not feel well. There were muted rumblings going on in his stomach. Not the pangs of hunger, but something deeper, as if his intestines were rebelling against him.

~Much better,~ the voice said as he stepped out of the shower. Albert flinched, having thought it had gone away. He stepped to the mirror, staring, wondering if he could see some sign of his inner madness in his face. ~And stop being silly. You’re not going insane.~

“I’m hearing voices in my head,” he growled, trying to keep a firm grip on reality. “If that isn’t a sign that I’m ready for the nuthouse, I don’t know what is.”

~Do you think you’re the first person this has happened to? Quit being so dramatic, and listen to me!~

“No!” he shouted, losing his temper for good and all. His stomach twitched with a harsh cramp, and he doubled over in pain, his hands splayed flat on the countertop. “I’m not going to listen to any fucking voices in my head! I’m going to drive to the hospital and check myself in, because I can’t stand this shit anymore! Unless,” he continued, fumbling open the medicine cabinet and eying the rack of pills, arrayed like soldiers on a discipline parade, “I finally get up the guts to end it.”

Why not? What do you have that’s worth living for anyway?

He reached for a bottle, but found his hand suddenly withdrawn, his body not obeying his will.

~I don’t want to do this,~ the woman’s voice said. It was calm, but he could hear an undertone of steely rage. ~But I will not allow you to destroy yourself. Life is a gift. To spurn that gift is the ultimate act of selfishness.

~Now, get ready. This won’t be pleasant.~

“Ready?” he whispered. His body was shaking like a man in a fever, and sweat was running down his face. “For what?”

~While you were asleep, I made some changes in your body’s internal chemistry. When you’re done, I think we’ll have settled any niggling issues about whether or not I’m real.

~The toilet, child. Now. Or you’re going to have one hell of an unpleasant mess on your hands.~

A cramp, the worst yet, tore through his body, and he almost doubled up from the pain. One arm clamped around his middle, he shuffled to the toilet, and sat down, his legs no longer able to bear his weight.

“Oh, gross!

Albert cleaned himself, then stood, looking into the bowl. “That’s impossible.”

~No. That’s about sixty pounds of liquified human fat. And it wasn’t easy, either,~ the voice said tartly.

“So what am I supposed to do with it?” The pile reached nearly to the rim, and the smell was nearly enough to knock him over. He covered his mouth with one hand, and flicked on the ceiling fan.

~Do? That’s your problem. I got it out of you. What happens to it after that is your concern.~

“Lovely,” he said. It seemed he had gone beyond the capacity for shock. He reached for the toilet plunger.


“So, who are you. What are you? And what are you doing in my head?”

It was about thirty minutes later. Luckily, the pile of fatty goo had responded to the plunger, and he had been able to force it down the pipes. Let the DuPage County Sewer District deal with it, he thought, as he pulled on a pair of jeans and a clean t-shirt. To his combined surprise and dismay, he found that he had to take his belt in a good four notches before it would hold up his jeans. And the t-shirt, bought a year ago, billowed around his suddenly-flat stomach like a sail bereft of a breeze, flapping uselessly.

~My name…~ There was a hint of a sigh. ~There are no sounds in your language to say it properly. But for purposes of communication, call me…Ariel.~

“Ariel. Fine.” He sat down on his couch. “And what are you doing in my head?”

~Enjoying all the empty space.~

“Abuse. Nice. This is going to be so much fun.”

There was ripple of laughter. ~Relax, young one. I do not think you will find the experience of being my…companion…unpleasant. Once you get used to it.~

“If you don’t start giving me some answers,” he said, his voice level and quiet. “I am going to drive to the train station and stick my head in front of a moving locomotive. I don’t give a shit anymore.”

There was a long silence, as if Ariel was assessing just how close to the edge he truly was. ~Very well.

~My people are called the Faelhanu. We are a silicon-based form of life, and are natural empaths. We also,~ she commented, as if it was merely an interesting factoid, ~have the ability to transplant our consciousness into other sentient beings.

~We are…think of us as celestial gardeners. We may not be the oldest sentient species in this galaxy. But we have met none older than ourselves. We travel from planet to planet, watching for signs of intelligent life.~

“And when you find them, you invite them to join the Federation of Planets?” he asked sarcastically.

~Don’t be childish. No. We don’t. We assess those lifeforms, and see if they are a threat to ourselves and our allies. If they are a threat, we take…steps.~

Albert found himself roused to sluggish dismay. “Steps? What kind of steps? Do you…do you vaporize the planet, or something?”

~Oh, there’s rarely a need for anything so crude.

~The problem, usually, is assholes.~

“Huh?” He frowned suspiciously. “Is this where I get hauled up to your ship for an anal probe?”

~Not those kind of assholes. Pricks. Bitches. Trolls. Douchebags.~

“Oh.” The light dawned. “Those assholes.”

~Exactly. And your planet has far too many of them. Natural selection may be a great way to determine which species claws its way to the top of the evolutionary ladder. At least in the short term. But it is absolute ass at preparing a species to meet alien civilizations, most of which could scrub you off this little mudball as easily as you book a prostitute.~

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