tagGay MaleOnus 06

Onus 06

byCruel2BKind©

*Surprise, Bitch.

All characters are 18+*


*****

"What would you like?"

He was standing in the center of his spacious kitchen, with its slick granite counters and shiny chrome finishing. The sleeves of his green sweater were rolled up halfway to his elbows, showing toned forearms and lines of scars as neat as cross-ties on a railroad track.

His hands were open, palms tilted towards me in a universal gesture of plenty and benevolence.

What would I like? I mouthed it, changing the 'you' to an 'I', tasting the words and contemplating just how completely foreign they felt in my mouth. How strange my own sense of autonomy felt, resting on my shoulders like a weight.

I shrugged. Trying to shrug this strange new feeling off my shoulders.

He shrugged right back at me, his palms tilted towards me as if his hands were boats, and the palms were tilted towards heaven.

"I don't buy things that I don't like to eat. You can pick something, and you wont have to worry about it being something gross. I like to cook, so it wont be any trouble." He laughed, a little self-consciously. His arms, tired, dropped to his sides. "Remember the omelets?"

I nodded, and I felt a faint smile on my face.

"I cooked them all in about twenty minutes, but that was after at least an hour of prepping everything, so it would be perfect. Whatever you want, it wont be as long or messy as those omelets were."

He started looking in a pantry and pulling some things out. "Just spitballing here..." He murmured, his head buried in the cupboard. His voice was so much quicker, easier. He was almost hyper. It was a change.

I stood back a little, watching as he pulled out a few things. Pasta, cans of soup, pancake mix. He moved to the fridge and pulled out a package of hamburger, some asparagus, a frozen pizza.

I poked my head in the refrigerator when he backed away a little, and looked around. I started pulling a few things out, putting them together in one spot on the counter. A little hesitantly, looking at him for confirmation.

Orange juice. A red string bag of clementines. A shiny yellow pepper. A jar of salty green olives. A bag of shredded cheese.

I edged around the kitchen, glancing at him. I went to the basket on the counter, and I took out a tomato, an onion, and pried a clove of garlic from the half-bulb in the basket. I put that in the pile.

Last I checked the cupboard hoping against hope. It was a little dizzying to see so much food at once, and so much of it was fresh. I found an open bag of rice, the torn end twisted and clamped shut with a red pin. I brought it out and put it in the pile.

I moved the things around. I put the pepper, tomato, garlic, rice, and shredded cheese in one pile, and everything else in another pile. Then I wiped my hands together and looked nervously at him from under the fringe of my hair. It seemed like too much. I felt foolish, and a little embarrassed. I should have shrugged harder, gotten him to make a choice.

"Stuffed peppers?" I nodded, and reached out to tap the tomato. "Stuffed peppers and tomatoes... Do you want to try stuffing them with beef and rice? Or just rice?" As he spoke, he was putting away the other options. He went to the sink and started washing his hands.

I moved the three pound package of hamburger decisively into the pile, and he grinned, shaking off his hands.

"Let's get started, then."

--

I wanted to stay in the kitchen, and I also wanted to help make the food. It was fun, and I was hungry and I wanted to help.

But I was also pretty timid about handling the food.

Lots of people thought that Onus were dirty because of the sensory patches. That we had sensory organs that were always exposed, and often damp because of natural secretions that cleaned them, like tears. And every Onus had small patches on their fingertips, and on the upper part of the palm.

I washed my hands over and over. So many times that the skin on my knuckles became flaky. I tried not to touch any food that wasn't covered or in a package or covered by a skin, like the fruit and peppers.

I tried not to touch the inside of the peppers or chopped onion for a simpler reason.

The radio was on. I saw Sam's foot tapping. The way we were moving, it was like a very careful dance. Or like two magnets. We were near each other, but whenever he moved a little closer to me, I would take a step back. Whenever he crossed the kitchen away from me, I would follow a little ways behind. I couldn't seem to stop.

Before we got the two stuffed peppers and two stuffed tomatoes in the oven, my feet were starting to ache, and Sam reminded me that I had just had surgery yesterday, so I took some pain pills and rested on the couch while Sam cleaned some dishes and countertops and prepared the non-entree elements of the meal.

"Catch." He threw a clementine orange at me. I missed, and the small fruit bounced off my forearm, and onto the couch. I felt my face flushing a little, but I picked up the orange and started to peel.

Oranges were something I hadn't tasted in a very long time. Apparently, they used to be really cheap. But after the Onus, there was no such thing as cheap labor. Population had decreased too rapidly.

I wondered if they were cheaper now because the Onus in California were old enough to pick fruit.

Orange peels were an exercise in frustration. I had to peel it with my fingers, and the peel pelted my fingertips with bitter zest as I bruised it. I made a face from the bitter taste on my fingertips as I tried to use my nails.

When I finally got the peel off, I nibbled at a slice until the membrane was gone from one side of the wedge. I touched the peeled juicy flesh with my fingers, soaking away the memory of bitterness with the sweet.

"Does it taste different? With your fingers, I mean?"

I quickly put my sticky fingers in my mouth, eating the ragged slice as well. It was sweet, popping on my long grey tongue. I looked up at Sam, feeling guilty, like a dog.

He bit his lip. "You don't have to stop. I was just wondering."

He went back to rinsing the cutting board.

"St-Stronger." I whispered. He looked up quickly.

Suddenly he was the one looking at me with guilty puppy-eyes. "Sorry, didn't catch that?"

"T-Tastes..." I had a problem with the pause. My voice felt like it was trying to die in my throat while I tried to force the second word out. "... Stronger."

He nodded, thoughtful. "It's okay to touch the food. You don't have to hide it around me, or be embarrassed when I see it. If it tastes better, then go for it."

I nodded cautiously, but I still put the next slice of my clementine directly into my mouth.

--

He was easing the steaming stuffed peppers and tomatoes onto two plates. The smell was heavenly. The melted cheese near the top oozed.

I had a yellow bell pepper, a tomato, ten green olives, half of my clementine, and a tall glass of orange juice.

I worried about the table. The chairs were too close together, but the table was too wide. I didn't want to sit far away. But I didn't want to sit next to him. Across was too far.

He solved the problem by sitting at the corner of the table. I sat at the end, so we were kitty-corner to each other.

Sam spoke a little during the meal, but we spent most of it in content silence.

After, he helped me to move my things into the snake room. It was warmer in there. He said he could work on getting me a cot, or I could sleep on the couch if I preferred. I nodded and touched the couch.

"It's getting late, so I'm going down to my room. It's the middle one, in case you need anything. Don't worry about waking me, okay?"

I nodded solemnly. I was so full it made me drowsy. I started digging through a box of his old clothes, keeping one eye on him, and the other eye for some comfortable sleeping clothes. He awkwardly backed out of the room and left the door open a crack, before padding down the hall.

I waited until I could hear his footsteps down the stairs, before padding to the door to open it. I left it all the way open. The light from downstairs made the doorway into a rectangle of yellow light.

I changed into a shirt that must have been huge even on him. On me, it went to the top of my walking boots and I had to keep pulling it up over one shoulder or the other. It had a faint picture on the front and was soft-worn and holey around the seams. It had a good smell. Fabric softener and linens. A dry smell. A quiet smell.

I had lights to both sides. The faint yellow light of the doorway, and the hot yellow light from Pocky's lamp. She was slowly moving. Her coils gleamed. I could see a fat lump in her body, about a foot behind her head. Sam had thawed a frozen rabbit for her.

I pulled the soft knit blanket up and closed my eyes. I could still see the light beyond my lids, but that was good.

For so long, things had been dark.

--

The note was on the side of Hippocrates's cage.

"I left some quiche in the fridge, if you'd like to heat it up. I have some pain pills down in the kitchen if you need them. Go to my room, and turn the TV to C-SPAN at 2PM. If you want to get a glimpse of yours truly."

He signed it with an S. When I pulled the note from Pocky's cage she looked at me with flat reptile eyes.

I didn't know what time it was. My bladder felt painful and I felt relaxed and awake. My ankles were singing painfully.

I clunked and clumped down the stairs and to the kitchen. The big clock on the wall said it was fifteen to one.

Taking a piss felt almost as good as when the pain pills started kicking in. The quiche was full of sausage and spinach.

I clumped into his room and sat down on his bed. The bedsprings squawked at me. I turned on the TV, wondering which channel C-SPAN was on. I wasn't even quite sure what C-SPAN was.

It was a news station. I sat on top of Sam's bed and I hugged one of his pillows to my chest while the clock ticked closer to two. I liked how the pillow smelled. It made me feel safe. The coverage was panning over a large semi-circular room, with a couple hundred people sitting at the benches. The chairs all faced a large american flag hanging on the wall.

I checked the clock on the wall. The minute hand was hovering slightly to the left of twelve.

"Recess is over at the House of Representatives, and now it is time to hear a speaker on behalf of the Onus Recognition Act, or as many are calling it, The Bill of Nonhuman Rights."

The footage changed. More focused. "This is day fifteen of the case, and today we will hear the much-anticipated live testimony by Dr. Samuel Desta, a major voice for Onus rights and a leader on the team that developed the Kinicke treatments in 2027."

My heart was pounding in my chest. I felt like I had to shout, or do something. I didn't know what to do with the new information. The intense rush of joy and relief.

The Kinicke treatments came out when I was twelve years old. A regimen of medications and vitamins that had extended the lives of Onus mothers, on average, by seven years. By the time it came out, a two thirds of the mothers had already been dead. I remembered helping my mother to inject when her hands were shaky, or when she had to inject into her dominant arm.

He wouldn't hurt me. Not if he had researched the Kinicke regimen. Not if he was 'a major voice'. No wonder he had wanted me to watch this. I didn't know how to express the sheer relief, so I just kept quiet and hugged the pillow very tight, watching Sam on the television, walking up to the podium and shuffling his notes.

The bright lights in the semi-circular room shone brightly off of his black silk patch. He was wearing a white doctor's coat over a black sweater. He set down his notes and cleared his throat. Two women were struggling with a projector stand, and he took a moment to help them hold it up while they locked the legs in place. The room was silent, except for shuffling, and the clicks of the unruly projector stand. When it was set up, two long awkward minutes later, he ran a hand through his short hair and stepped up to the podium to speak.

"I find it funny, that I hear people on the street talking about the 'nonhuman bill of rights,' or the 'Onus bill of rights.' I think people only call it that because it inflames both sides."

He spoke rigidly, slowly. I could hear his speech impediment now more than usual. The microphone seemed to amplify it, make it sound much worse. He spoke slowly, so he could sound almost normal.

"To my side. The side that wants to give Onus the same rights as us, as all of us, it makes it sound so much grander." A murmur of dissent washed up at his words. He waited for the room to quiet.

"To those who have only ever seen the Onus as a threat, a burden, a pestilence, even, the nonhuman bill of rights is a mockery. A cruel dig. I have heard some of our 'news' anchors referring to it as surrender to terrorism. And many people seem to agree with them."

He flipped a notecard to the back of his pile.

"The majority of this debate has been focusing on clause 1 of the Onus Recognition Act." He spoke the name of the bill deliberately as if to draw attention to the wording. "Which makes it illegal to own or run human-exclusive facilities. Makes all streets, hospitals, colleges, and businesses open places for Onus men and women to frequent, work, or study. All of the attention has been on Clause 1. The last three have been afterthoughts, if mentioned at all."

He clicked his notecards down on the podium. "As a co-writer of the bill, I want to set the record straight. And in layman's terms. So we can see what is at stake here.

He was suddenly holding a clicker, and as he pressed a button, the screen behind him lit up with an image. It was a long white table down the middle. On the left, Onus, on the right, humans. The humans were mostly young, volunteer workers. They were giving bundles of clothes, canned goods, sandwiches in baggies, paper cups of coffee.

"This is an image from one of my Onii clinics." Sam murmured. "Right now, my ten clinics make up more than half of the Onus-directed charity in the city. We are funded by myself and private donations. Clause 2 of the Onus Recognition Act is to de-stigmatize and protect organizations and individuals who give medicine, food, or shelter to Onus."

He clicked to the next picture. A building in flames. "This is one of my clinics two months ago. Burned to the ground. Along with tens of thousands in damages and destroying a field hospital I had been using to treat injured Onus. The only surgical center within four hundred miles open to them. The police were no help. Thankfully, no one was hurt."

"Right now, it is not mandatory for police to write incident reports where the victim is an Onus or an Onus-run facility. This Clause would change that."

He pressed the clicker again and this time, my hands closed into tight little fists. I bit down on the pillow and hot tears gathered in my eyes. Of embarrassment. Of shame.

It was me. The picture was me. My face was blurred. It was the picture that he had taken of me. I was in that little pleated skirt. The bruises on my body stood out in raw dark splotches. The ring in my navel, the rings in my nipples, they were swollen, and dried blood trickled down from each piece of metal. Everyone could see that I was behind bars. See the bloodstained mattress behind me.

"I found these pictures on craigslist." Sam said softly, bitterly. The camera panned to the rest of the faces in the room, I saw disgust, shock, intense interest. Sam's speech was probably the most heated and interesting debate that they had seen all day.

"This young man was detained in an underground cell, six feet by eleven feet, for four years. When I called the authorities on the man who imprisoned him, the worst they were able to charge him with was the unlicensed sale of exotic animals." Sam rubbed his temple. His brow was furrowed. His jaw set. "He was sentenced with two months in jail, as well as a fine of fifteen thousand dollars. For the capture, rape, imprisonment, and battery of a nineteen-year-old boy."

It was so quiet, that the cameras caught the ticking of a clock on the wall. "Clause 3 is about trying to get Onus back into the eyes of law enforcement. For too long, the EO's have had sole responsibility. The EO's are strictly for regulation of the Onus themselves. They are corrupt, unregulated, and abusive. All of those have been documented." He pressed his clicker several times. Pictures of Onus getting beaten in the streets. "And they do nothing to protect their charges. Full humans have been able to assault, kidnap, and even murder Onus without getting charged at all, much less charged on an equivalent basis to crimes of the same nature against full humans."

"Clause 3 is about integrating the EO's into the regular police, stricter sentencing for crimes against Onus, allowing Onus to have jury duty, and to be taken as credible witnesses in a court of law. To give them a voice. To recognize them."

He clicked to the next image. It was a three-story building, run-down, with several broken windows, scrawled with graffiti. Surrounded by a tall chain-link fence crowned with razor wire, with several familiar signs on the outside. Blank white faces, with dead black eyes.

"This is a picture of the North Central Onii. It has cold running water and the heat is kept running to a maximum of fifty degrees. It has sixty rooms, that hold about eight people on average. It has indoor plumbing, eight rooms to every bathroom stall." He pressed the clicker a few more times. A picture of ten Onus women, huddled in a single room together. Four squeezed on the bed, more on the floor, all staring at the cameraman. A line for the bathroom, many of them holding plastic bottles or empty milk jugs. Two Onus men trying to put up a blanket over a broken window.

"This is currently the largest and best-run Onus facility. Every night, there is a massive line of Onus trying to get in. Most facilities are more like this." More pictures. Empty lots with trashfires, piles of filthy bedding, an Onus woman cringing from a snarling dog at the end of an EO's leash.

"Clause four of the Onus Recognition Act is to create a census of all Onus individuals in the United States. And to divert funds to rebuilding and maintaining the Onii."

"Back to how I started. This is not a bill of rights. It is nothing as advanced. The Onus Recognition act is a long-overdue first measure. Basic rights. Rights to shelter, charity, and help from authorities. Recognition by the law. For too long, we have treated the Onus like an infestation."

He was becoming emotional. It made his speech impediment worse. I leaned forward, my eyes burning. I felt like every eye in that room was on me, as well as him.

"They are half human. They had no say in their birth. And it is time for us to recognize our children."

He stepped down. To scattered applause, and a lot of whispering.

I buried my face in the pillow for a long minute, and I couldn't hear what any of them were saying.

When I looked back up, a woman was speaking, but I didn't care about her. I wanted to check the other news stations. I wanted to see more of him. More of Sam.

I flipped past a sport channel, a cooking show, and then a news show. I was excited when I saw a still from Sam's speech in the upper right hand corner, but after a few seconds, my excitement withered up, and the joy in my chest went sour.

"Who the hell does this freak think he's fooling?" I didn't recognize the man. He had a flushed red complextion and thinning grey hair. His face was heavy and pallid. His eyes beady and dark. "Yeah, I call him a freak. It's what we call the Onus, and he wants to be like them so much it's painful to watch."

"He wants to give to the world's largest population of murderers and thieves. The US has been the kindest country to Onus. We have the largest population of them. Precisely because we were giving them charity. We let them live and grow up in our cities. We gave them food and homes, even after murdering half of the world's fertile women. How did they repay us?

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