Aurora takes inventory of the world, each thing one by one. Everything she catalogs, from silk scarves to rocket launchers, from heat-seeking missiles to wooden porch swings, holds an invisible tag she places there — Aurora’s thumbprint, scannable only by unscanned technology long outdated.
It began with the animals. Pigs, horses, cows and sheep. Birds and fish, flies and swallows and sharks, wolves and dragons and kind little microbes, the infinitesimally small to the uncategorical, the common to the fantastical, the meek and kind to the ferocious and cruel. She touched each of them, one by one, and they spoke. Touched them again and they were simply dumb beasts, roaming the wilds in search of food and other bodies that looked like them.
When Aurora places her thumb against her mark she smiles, beautiful but forgettable. If you are lucky enough to see her you know that no one’s face will ever match hers, but you will fail to remember any specific features — were her eyes sepia or turquoise, her hair gold or ebony? She smiles only to shield you from what she knows and you never will. She is the dream you have every night but don’t know it, a Venetian mask burned in a forest fire. She is the image in the quiet water that disappears when touched, a shimmering hologram that tells you a riddle you will never solve.
It’s been years since Aurora tagged the species, or fruits or flowers or the blue waters flowing above the cliffs. She tags only cold things now. Microchip processors and portable fans, mass manufactured glassware and artificial granite stones you can plop into the bottom of your glass to keep your drink cool. Lampshades made of polyethylene, women’s boyfriends — streamlined and angular and cool to the touch, kept the perfect height and weight as they cycle on steel equipment until they’re acceptable. Then Aurora tags them and sends them on their way. They don’t see her, they don’t say thank you. They are simply dumb beasts, roaming the streets in search of food and other bodies that look like them.
She tags them night and day now, wearing a staunch blue apron, and barely has time to sleep.
At home she pulls out her records of all the things she’s catalogued, and after such long-hour days, finds they all look the same.
Aurora takes her thumbprint against an uneven stone and scrubs it till it’s raw and bleeding. She slips into bed and touches the sleeping figure lying beside her, running her thumb along his spine.
At last, it leaves a mark.
CORIN REYBURN lives in the unincorporated forest lands of Topanga, California, mere miles from Los Angeles, where sunsets take place indoors on 4.4 trillion-color screens, and works as a freelance web designer in order to earn a little bacon. She enjoys single malt scotch and the use of unconventional instruments in rock n’ roll music, and is working on a speculative fiction novel about passive warfare by means of digital commerce infiltration. Corin’s work has appeared in The Subtopian, MBRANE-SF, and The Molotov Cocktail. Check out more of her work at infrastratos.com.