“It Started on My Hands,” by Sona Lea Dombourian

Aug 20th, 2022 | By | Category: Fiction, Prose

It started on my hands, but I gave it no mind since I’d always had sensitivities. Food, dander, dust—people. They gave me the hives. Especially women. You could ignore men. Even act like they didn’t exist. Females were a different species, though. If you didn’t breathe, think, feel women, you had a condition.

The neighbor lady I barely tolerated—and only because I feigned being deaf—started yapping again as I finished my yardwork that morning. I’d woken up extra early to chop down the line of bushes that separated our driveways to improve reception, and immediately regretted it once she opened her front door, hollering at me about needing to get the rash checked out. As I gathered branches and leaves, I made sure to have my back to her to get her to leave—and not try to ply food on me like on the Fourth of July. Just as I headed back into the house to make my get-away, she was at my door with another plate of cookies wrapped in cellophane.

She stood so close, yattering, it was impossible to act like I couldn’t see her anymore. To get her to shut up, I shoved a cookie into my mouth and held it there for about a minute, hoping there were peanuts in them. If I entered full anaphylactic shock, she’d be too scared to ever come back. I waited for the wheezing, the swollen tongue, but nothing happened.

She stared, like I needed to say something nice.

“These are real good,” I lied, choking the brick down whole. I hoped it would to lodge in my trachea and guilt her for killing me. Or maybe it could spontaneously eject, hit her in the face and prevent her from trying to play Better Crocker ever again, but she still stood there, like she needed petting. And I’d be damned if she wasn’t wearing her tightest summer dress. Now she’d be expecting me to compliment both her outfit and her recipe.

Her brow crinkled as she stared at my hand. I instinctively held it between us, to keep her from trying to nudge her way in. I counted beats, praying my airways would constrict and that my face would start turning blue, but I had no symptoms—even though I could smell the nuts and grease, could feel the moisture seep out onto the paper plate. And she kept watching with her big cow eyes mooing at me for more attention.

“Oooh,” she said, bending forward so low, it was impossible not to watch the inside of her top spill out. “That doesn’t look so good.” I was thankful for the display since it gave me something to focus on, keep me from having to communicate. But then she stood back up and made eye-contact.

I felt my heart beat faster, faster, wished I would keel over, but I was uncomfortably conscious. I clutched my throat with both hands. Something clearly was wrong. I couldn’t possibly have overcome my fatal allergies.

“I better get this checked out,” I said, slamming the door with a foot in her face. The female was definitely the more dangerous of the species.

I padded back to the coffee table and snatched the tablecloth. I confirmed that everything was still in place: the wires, alarm clock, the reams of reports delivered under the crates of cloudy liquid they call milk. Even though I’d settled in pretty quickly after relocating, I didn’t have time to put up a full show of normalcy. Modern American men were expected to go into the office or onto a construction site every day, all automatons in One Nation under God, save the assigned days for rest.

Even if I could carry out my mission easily from home, I had to adapt to my circumstances. I needed a better cover to keep pesky folk from showing too much of an interest. With an entire house to myself, I would eventually raise suspicions.

I rearranged the antennae to both the television and the radio to enhance reception for the update. But I couldn’t make out the code dictated over the doorbell. I ignored the first spate of frantic dings, then the second. By the third round of hysterics, I’d had enough. I had to think of a human response to the intruder selling a Hoover I didn’t need, a subscription to a propaganda-laden magazine I wouldn’t read, or membership at a local church spewing mind think that challenged truth and logic alike.

I stomped to the door and flung it open. It was the neighbor lady again, with another plate of damned cookies.

She moved in closer past the doorway, then into the living room, and before I knew it, she was on my sofa, with her legs tugged underneath her, staring at me like a cat expecting snacks. Or to attack, I really couldn’t tell. If I hadn’t flicked my head to the far-corner to distract her, I wouldn’t have been able to cloak the coffee table in time.

After we sat in silence for several minutes, it dawned on me that she demanded audience, conversation. But this woman hadn’t uttered a single sane sentence since I’d moved in—not that I can remember when that was. Being around people got me so angry, so unnerved that I had to pick up from Denver and Phoenix both, away from all those nosy neighbors, those do-gooders who were always up in your business. I’d hoped my rash would start oozing pus to put some distance between us.

“Are your ears clogged too?” she asked, standing all of a sudden. From how she stood, with the slight turn in her shoulders, her curves were emphasized. She was as ample on top as on the bottom, with a narrow waist. This must have been what men found so intriguing, not just the hourglass figure, but the contrasting traits between the opposite sex’s soft, pliable suppleness and our own hard, linear bodies.

And it occurred to me: The female of their kind actually served a purpose.

Suddenly, I hoped she would come even closer, let me see what was under all those clothes—confirm if the mannequins at Sears Roebucks really did have such pointy nipples. Or determine if it was an illusion created by the ingenuity of the modern Playtex bra. My heart palpitated with the same vigor evidenced among children as they anticipated Christmas, notably as they waited to open gifts under the tree. I would conquer this woman, claim this woman, and—what did the jangle say?—I didn’t even have to write to Santa Claus.

“It’s clear you’re running a fever. I’m making you some tea.”

She turned, with extra hrumph to her cheeks, and I realized with horror that she was invading even more deeply into my workspace—that she might uncover the reason I was sent here. She opened and closed drawers, the Frigidaire door (bare, even after I encoded a reminder to fill it with mustard, ketchup and mayo jars should a member of the community show neighborly concern). I expected a tongue-lashing, a criticism of my foreign habits, but nothing came. She flitted about, grabbing the empty kettle and filling it with water—humming no less.

The commercials were right: Women were most natural in their habitat of the kitchen.

I thought back to commercials featuring the happy home: The man sitting proudly at the head of the table; his wife bustling to and fro seeing to everyone’s needs—his needs in particular. After he returns from work, she brings him his slippers and a martini. They toast to his success, his ability to ensure financial stability.

I could adapt. I could fit in and report success on the mission with this woman.

She put the kettle on the stove, then checked for the flame. I measured the length of her cycle (based on the space between her breasts, and their fullness), then average gestation. I estimated that in two years’ time we would be halfway to the ideal American household. And since the female is always amenable, she will raise the children to carry out their responsibilities to the Fatherland.

All in due time.

But first, I would need to seduce her.

I hoped she wouldn’t open the cupboard above and see the wiring to the master-computer in the bedroom upstairs. I couldn’t risk being found out—not after what happened in Rachel, Nevada—and start from scratch again. And she needed to be trained, to understand her higher purpose.

When she bent over to open the door to the empty oven, I sighed with relief. I leaned back into the sofa, the first time since I’d purchased it a month ago at a 20% markdown. It was rather . . . comfortable. I wished I had a box of Marlboroughs so I could light one up, exhale, and after a long hard day’s work, say “refreshing” just as the advertisements in LIFE magazine inform men is custom. Then I would commence the tribal mating call. I trained my gaze on her as she continued rummaging. This view wasn’t bad.

As if she knew I was appreciating her efforts to please me, she looked back towards me and smiled.

There was definite promise in this prospect.

I ignored the itch in my hand it as she approached the coffee table. She maneuvered with admirable dexterity, one cup in each hand. Not a single drop of tea spilled, even as everything on her quivered rather pleasantly. She scanned the coffee table, strewn with newspapers. “McCarthy Stomps the Snake!”, “Down with Tyranny in Korea!”, “God Bless America!” blared in the headlines.

“I forgot the sugar,” she said, then returned with a bowl. She plopped two sugar cubes into her tea.

I sipped carefully, taking care not to spew any tea onto the new carpet (purchased on clearance) and burn my tastebuds off from the repulsive sweetness. I couldn’t why Americans needed to put so much sugar in everything. Every beverage and dish here was enhanced with such intensity that my molars cracked as I sampled anything. And now, I was expected to drink liquefied sugar, risking another reaction—halting my progress. But if I refused the drink, I would raise another red flag, alerting the authorities of my different habits.

I decided to verbally eschew the sugar on the grounds that it was superfluous to the actual drink. Thus, I would affirm my strength to this specimen and enhance the role I needed to play as a modern man: cosmopolitan, courteous, yet aggressive enough so she could be assured of my virility—and her own long line of successors. “Ah. Satisfying,” is what I will say once I sip the noxious brew and she will become putty in my hands.

She leaned into the sofa, glancing at the newspapers. “Isn’t it just awful how foreigners are infiltrating the country, feigning normalcy—like they belong!” Her voice quavered along with her bosom, which I knew to be my cue to listen closely.

My hand itched fiercely, but there was too much to concentrate on right now.

“You don’t take milk with your tea, do you? Nasty habit with the Brits, if you asked me.”

I did not respond.

She sipped, understanding I took my concoction straight. I sipped. We were mirroring each other’s actions. This was good.

She plopped in another sugar cube. “Although I admit that I prefer coffee.”

I suddenly panicked about the direction the conversation would take. Which coffee did I prefer? Yuban or Folger’s? Which was bolder? Which did most Americans prefer? I shall choose Folger’s since the model chosen in the commercials (selected by The Cause and to be aired shortly on the idiot box) most resembled the favored race. Then I pondered the most important question of all: Which coffee was most patriotic? If I was unable to retrieve data in time, I could revert to the habit most natural to the male whenever pressed for information.

I grunted.

“You know I worked with plenty of Brits during the war efforts as a nurse overseas.” She stirred, then sipped again. “Poor souls could never get their hands on a real drink during the war, what with the constant bombing.”

This was dangerously close to home. She would soon ply me with questions to determine my whereabouts during the last global conflict, and I risked saying something that didn’t fit with The Plan.

She abruptly faced me. “What brand of coffee do you prefer?”

I panicked, then remembered to grunt.

She plopped more cubes into her cup, clearly pleased with my response. She glanced at the crumbs on the dish and smirked. “So which part of the country are you from?”

A sound filled the room, albeit faint, but it could not escape my ears: A slow release of air, as from fleeting souvenirs parents purchased at carnivals after children turned purple with apoplexy when refused more sustainable gifts. I tried not to focus on her breasts as they shrank or the bulbous cushion referred to as a “rear-end” as it slowly disappeared. This must have been an optical illusion, to compel me to closely approach the test subject and confirm that her secondary sexual traits were still in good form.

I accessed my memory bank to confirm that females’ bodies were known to warp due to use and the progression of time. It seemed too early in her life cycle for this to occur, but Ladies’ Digest had informed women to be on the look-out for changes so they could mitigate problems that ensured. I would need to advise her especially in steps she would need to undertake in order to continue to be found desirable. I scanned more records and determined that many a serious journal also affirmed that curiosity was known to be a quality that creeped on the female sex from time to time. I probed the data even more, to confirm that this trait preceded bouts of disobedience.

This would not be tolerated.

I struck the pose fashioned by a live specimen on Dragnet in imitation of Rodin’s The Thinking Man and realized with distaste that this female’s questions were too pointed, too purposeful. That the look in her eyes betold an intelligence I knew to be impossible at her time of the month.

I contemplated ways to expel her. I would tell her I was struck with the measles, or an especially pernicious variant of polio that struck particularly virile males of her kind. I could easily raise lesions on all visible parts of my body to ward her off, and frighten her out of consummating our relationship.

“Poor dear,” she said, inching closer. “You mustn’t have heard me. I said, Where are you from?”

From the corner of my eyes, I could tell her knees had spread apart—and wide enough to make sure I’d look.

My rash flared. I tried hard not to rub furiously and tear the skin open as she waited for a response. Then her eyes fixed on me with a boldness that the more delicate of the species was incapable of producing. There ought to be a long, prolonged courtship, drawn-out conversations where the man withheld his sexual interest in the female until there were no more diversions, no more ways to occupy the time in special observance of what was called “female modesty,” until she duly submitted.

Bile rose inside my gullet as I contemplated the scene. Her position could in no way be considered demure. In fact, it was grotesquely similar to videos we were shown during training—of women submitting to their gynecologists to ensure their overall cleanliness and fitness to bear children. This woman bore into me and held me with an audacity I found alien.

I suddenly had the vague impression that I’d gotten everything wrong. I wasn’t observing her. She was studying me, me—that I was a specimen she was researching. I was the experiment.

She flicked her eyelids, then again, insect-like, then again. But when I squinted, I realized she didn’t have eyelids. She must have created the illusion with the body armor humans call make-up of which the female seems particularly fond of using in luring prey. This would mean that she could not blink, she had never blinked, but we’d never been close enough for me to notice.

Then it happened again, a quick flutter of the lids.

All the manuals said women did this to solicit interest from the opposite sex, believing the male found it alluring. I would have to make note of this discovery, share it with headquarters so other operatives could know. The Fatherland could not risk mistaking this gesture. There was too much at stake—too many pods to implant, colonies to form to gain dominion over these puny humans, with their soft bodies and minds, so pliable they could be shaped at will.

“Oh! Roger!—”

—My name was not Roger, but there was no point in correcting a creature of sub-par intelligence, no time to get her to understand since I had to achieve my ambition—my mission—and prevent myself from spending the rest of my life in a cell. I had to overlook these breaks in protocol, shed my skin to grow a new layer, and again adapt to circumstances. I had to claim this woman.

But as I sipped the now-lukewarm tea, I determined that my ambition was greater than simply asserting control over a single member of the species. I would achieve dominion over all that roams the earth, every creeping and flying animal—I would found an empire over all beings, sentient and non-sentient. But I would first subdue her, my own Eve, spawned by my desire for her. And like all women created from the rib of their husbands, she too would need to be disciplined. As every pastor across the country exhorted, woman was in need of a yoke. For her fruit to be harnessed and put to use. She would need to be tamed. She wanted to be tamed.

She climbed across the sofa. “You truly are out of this world!”

Before I knew it, she was upon me, pushing against me obscenely. She clutched and prodded fiercely, yet effortlessly, so much so that I feared I would need a new body, an entire replacement for my man suit.

She was . . . using me, forcing me to do her bidding. Colonizing me. And I could do nothing to prevent it.

Not once did she speak. She didn’t need to.

“Look towards the heaven and count the stars . . .” I understood “. . . if you are able to count them . . . So shall your descendants be . . . I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if one can count the dust . . . , your offspring can also be counted.”

Resistance was futile, inappropriate.

With this unspoken agreement, I would conquer all. I would inveigle foreign influences, spread freedom, ensure the sacred dominion of The Elect.

But all at her bidding.

And I would happily accept my yoke.


Sona Lea Dombourian teaches Ancient and Modern World Literature and Bibles as Literature at Moorpark College.

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