Size / / /

I am the prologue, a symptom. See:
aliens turn sympathetic when moonstruck;
the villain is redeemed via softened heart
or a flashback to before loss broke it;
grouches get coaxed into caring then dating;
brutal monsters are people too, if they love
properly, since friendship is just a stopgap;
the frigid bitch, proven flawed, is thawed;
and of course even robots inevitably learn
what is this thing as they are humanised.

I thought my prologue was the confused teen,
the years wasted waiting to catch up, pretending,
wondering if she could ever become human,
her heart a stone unfeeling uncaring unflinching
despite her love for family, friends and life,
just because she could not feel attraction.
Thinking it past, now a numbered chapter,
confident and comfortable, I introduced myself.

No, not aromatic. No, just single, not single-cell.

They asked me what planet was I from
because all strangenesses are the same:
The one where they have neither women nor men
but aliens who are both and neither?
Because romance's opposite is sociopathy:
When will the police catch you?
Because I guess they never saw that interview:
But you don't have a brilliant scientific mind?

Because I was an inner conflict to resolve they
hit me with well-meaning, well-aimed insults,
got under my skin with tropes and diagnoses,
opened me up to see what scenes I was missing,
what had gone wrong in mother's womb.
I wasn't human, I wasn't human yet,
but they could fix me, they'd conclude
the prologue I didn't know I still was.

Even robots learn to be human.
That's the story they like best.

So they put metal in my head,
filling all the holes they said
they saw with wires clipped
to neurons receiving their scripts
and programs from transmitting
terminals permitting
manual override lest
malfunction means I regress
to that repressed, truncated state
and choose to leave my soul mate.

I was the prologue, a plight. See:
the circuitry installed to allow humanity;
requited love the reward for surviving my story;
and their happily-ever-after overwriting me.

Penny Stirling edits and embroiders in Western Australia. Their speculative fiction and poetry can be found in Lackington's, Interfictions, Heiresses of Russ, and other venues. For more of Penny's aromantic nonfiction visit their website or follow them on Twitter.
Current Issue
17 Jan 2022

The land burns so hot and high tonight that Let can see its orange glow even from the heart of The City of Birds. It burns so thick she can taste the whole year’s growth of leaves and branches on her lips. It burns so fast she can almost hear the deer and cottontails scream as flames outrun them and devour them whole.
I writhe in bed with fever, chills, chatters and shivers. The near becomes far as the far comes close.
No one gets married before going to space.
Wednesday: Unity by Elly Bangs 
Friday: The Cabinet by Un-Su Kim, translated by Sean Lin Halbert 
Issue 10 Jan 2022
Issue 3 Jan 2022
Strange Horizons
By: Antonio Funches
By: Lev Mirov
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 20 Dec 2021
By: Merie Kirby
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 13 Dec 2021
By: Freydís Moon
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 6 Dec 2021
By: C. S. E. Cooney
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Podcast read by: C. S. E. Cooney
Issue 29 Nov 2021
Issue 22 Nov 2021
Issue 15 Nov 2021
By: Madeline Grigg
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 8 Nov 2021
By: Allison Parrish
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 1 Nov 2021
By: Liam Corley
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Podcast read by: Liam Corley
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