by Timons Esaias
The invitation carried the charming message:
You are requested to celebrate
“I’m not surprised that they’re doing this. They’re so much in love,” crooned Aunt Mabel, getting out of the autolimo. The honeysuckle filled the air with the odor of languid romance. “It’s for the best.”
The Formal Gardens Sextet, tucked behind a winterberry screen, played Mozart with decided verve. Cherryl’s sisters, dressed in enchanting Grecian gowns, greeted the guests, and gave each a single forget-me-not in a Waterford mini-vase. Fred’s grandfather, the sweetest of old gentlemen, had charge of the children’s tent, and squeals of delight already rang from it.
Reporters gathered respectfully at the feet of Great-Aunt Tighani-Anisette, who remembered the Days Before.
“Did people, back then, really not know about pheromonenvironism? I keep running across expressions like ‘the smell of fear filled the room’ and ‘her perfume drove him mad with desire’ in the old books.”
Great-Aunt Tighani-Anisette smiled pleasantly at the young man, but shook her head. “We knew about scents that indicated sexual arousal or availability. Perfumes were advertised as doing that, but people didn’t believe advertising. We thought of pheromones as something to do with insects, and not much else.”
She paused to sip tea from the beautifully gilded bone china cup. “What we really didn’t understand was the persistence of it all. In that example, the scent of fear would only have filled the room while the person was in there. You would never read about that scent touching people years later. Not even an hour later. We had no idea.”
On the parterre, couples exchanged greetings and the details of the anticipated ceremony. “I hear that they’ve chosen their favorite vintage port for the solvent, because they have so enjoyed watching the sunset over a glass of it each holiday.”
“Fred said they were going to have the marriage dispersed as an aerosol in Eastern France.”
“I thought Cherryl’s mother said it would be Ireland?”
“It’s both, I think. They wanted their happiness to help offset the hatred and pain which is so deeply soaked into the soil of their ancestral lands.”
“What a nice idea! So thoughtful of others, and so like them.”
“Yes. I hear that it may take centuries before the anguiamones and conflictyzymes can be brought below toxic levels in some places. Imagine living with all that built-up inhumaneness everywhere. In the air, in the food. It has to be in the water, even if they boil it ever so much!”
Some of the more sedate guests had gathered in the shade on the porch, where they admired the Victorian gingerbread carpentry of the mansion. Some of them, being cautious by nature, were worried about the happy couple.
“What if they break up over this? They have three young kids.”
“It’ll be all right. They’ve dissolved the marriage twice already, and they just fall right back in love again the minute they look in each other’s eyes.”
“I suppose so.”
“After all, the government wouldn’t have given them the license if they hadn’t passed the test. Their contentment and their love have both been accurately measured and verified. It’s the law!”
“And such a very good law, too. Don’t you think?”
“Darn right it is. Wouldn’t want to go back to the old days, eh?”
An exquisitely graceful Parks Department triplane buzzed along overhead, spreading a fine mist of angstiaphages. The newly designed chemicals would slowly work their way through the food chain, neutralizing the chemicals of pain by which Man had so thoughtlessly poisoned the planet.
The youngest reporter gave Tighani-Anisette a supporting arm as she rose from her chair. The gong had just rung, a deep and pleasant sound, signaling the approaching start of the ceremony.
“So people back then really didn’t understand the lasting consequences of their emotional states?” he asked in polite incredulity.
“Now that science has shown how the chemicals work, it seems an ignorant age, doesn’t it? And such a willful one. But who knew?”
She stopped for a moment on the mossy path to pull her lace gloves up over the elbow. A pair of butterflies gamboled briefly in front of them, and then flew on. In the distance lay the lovely town, teeming with the sounds and, most importantly, the smells of cheerful industry.
Timons Esaias is a writer and poet living in Pittsburgh. His short stories have been translated into thirteen languages (the most recent being Finnish and Lithuanian) and his story credits include Strange Horizons and several Interzone appearances. His poems, including Spanish and Chinese translations, have appeared in markets ranging from 5AM to Asimov's Science Fiction. A five-time nominee for the Rhysling Award, he was also a finalist for the British Science Fiction Award (Best Short Fiction, 1998). He has had numerous Honorable Mentions in Gardner Dozois's annual Year's Best Science Fiction anthologies.
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"Who Knew?" © Timons Esaias. Used by permission of
Raven Electrick © Karen A. Romanko.