Vesper moved around the room enjoying the new muscles and movements of her sister’s avatar, Lady Cintron. She stretched and strutted. Lady Cintron was tall, lithe, controlled — nothing like the short, heavy, clumsiness of the twins’ natural physiques. Lady Cintron’s steps were light, but Vesper could feel the idle, waiting power, the dormant strength in each miniscule movement. It was singular and wonderful.
Vesper laughed as Lady Cintron. She danced and dodged an imagined foe.
Sadie stomped around the still empty arena, adjusting to the body of her newest creation. She felt the bull’s muscles ripple and stretch. A small part of her missed the lean grace of Lady Cintron, but there was a joy in maneuvering a new set of limbs, a new center of gravity. With an extra thousand pounds to move, Sadie’s control was awkward. She would be much slower than her Lady Cintron’s usual opponents, but the pre-installed instincts she added would help. And her sister had never played the game before. That would help too.
Sadie bellowed as the bull. She stomped and shook her heavy horned head.
The first two acts of the fight went quickly, far quicker than Vesper expected. The picadores on horseback brought down the bull’s neck. The banderilleros stuck the bull with sticks, taunting and chasing to weary it.
Vesper, certain that she was to star in act three, but uncertain of exactly what to do, accessed Lady Cintron’s memory. Gathering her red cape in one hand and a heavy sword in the other, she sauntered out to the bull. Anticipation and elation flooded through her consciousness. If the feelings were Vesper’s own, or somehow part of Lady Cintron’s programming, she couldn’t differentiate them. She felt confident. Powerful.
The first two acts of the fight took much longer than Sadie expected. The computer-generated picadores had played with her, getting her to chase them before stabbing her in the neck. She couldn’t see well after that, barely able to lift her head. After the picadores on their horses came the banderilleros on foot. They hounded and mocked her, tormenting her with their quick movements and their endless pokes and jabs. She snorted and chased them to get them away from her, but she was weak. Weary.
Sadie was relieved to see her Vesper stepping forward as Lady Cintron. It had been excruciating to know her sister watched her suffer, but now the game was almost over. A few more charges and Vesper would throw down the cape and sword, take Sadie’s massive horns in her hands and win.
The violence and pain were at an end.
Vesper hadn’t expected such a lack of effort from the bull. With each half-hearted attempt at charging, she was able to dodge and slash. The bull’s red blood stained the dirt and splattered her traje de luces, but Vesper continued on. She would cause Sadie as much pain as she was physically able. If at all possible, Vesper would kill the bull. But Sadie’s pain would prove Vesper’s point — even in a virtual, false reality, what Sadie spent so many of her after-school hours on was awful. It may have made Sadie more confident than she had been, but at what cost? Vesper knew that each new “win” was a small death of a small part of her sister’s soul.
Through pain, Vesper would show Sadie the light. Lady Cintron’s heart beat fast, blood pulsing through her ears and hands and feet. Vesper had never felt so alive.
Sadie hadn’t expected Vesper to actually stab her with Lady Cintron’s sword, but she had thrust deep, hitting Sadie’s heart. Sadie collapsed in the dirt of the area. It was muddy with the bull’s, her own, blood. Part of her was relieved to be dying as the bull. It had been a long, hard game and she was glad to be done with it.
When the bull breathed its last, Sadie drifted out of the game and back into her self. She wrapped her human arms around her whole, human body. Shaken, she waited to for her sister to leave the game as well. Knowing that Vesper’s goal had been to get Sadie to quit playing Lady Cintron, Sadie still never expected Vesper to take it so far. Sadie had never actually killed the bulls in the arena. Why would Vesper?
Now every time Sadie played her, the memory of this kill, Sadie’s own death, would be there. Sadie didn’t want that memory. She was repulsed by the memory. And so Vesper had achieved her goal. Sadie would never play Lady Cintron again.
Vesper dressed Lady Cintron in the new traje de luces, discarding the old embroidered tight pants and short jacket on the floor. Their gorgeousness had been dulled by the dying bull’s blood, and a traje de luces, a suit of light, must shine. Sadie had been right when she said this body, this character, and this game made her feel powerful. Now Vesper was powerful. It was heady. It was lovely. It felt right.
Vesper restarted the game.
Jessi Cole Jackson lives and works in the pretty part of New Jersey (but she’s not from there).