(This story is based off of the characters from the 2013 film The Congress, written by Stanislaw Lem and directed by Ari Folman.)
Dylan had known she loved women since kindergarten. That was when she’d met; or rather bore witness to the force that was Alejandra Martinez. Alejandra, and her black hair, that fell like night made liquid in a cascade down her back. She always came to the schoolyard as though dressed for church, white stockings and patent leather mary janes in candy pastels that invariably matched her dresses. She must have had a hundred pairs. She looked like an angel; her behaviour however had been anything but.
That’s what Dylan loved about Alejandra, her wickedness. It was evidenced in the way she’d swing her jump rope over her head like a lasso, snapping it at boys who dared to venture too close. Dylan thrilled to watch her tackle children in the sandbox, savaging them for offenses only Alejandra understood. By the end of each day, her stockings were run, her skirts torn, and she was all the more beautiful for it.
Here was no porcelain doll, meant to line shelves and collect dust with a demure, unquestioning smile. Alejandra was a wild, unbridled chaos that wore beauty as a guise, tempting her prey into a dance with madness. Dylan wanted desperately to join the dance.
She herself had only spoken to this exquisite loralei once, or rather been spoken to. Adorn in pale sea foam blue, Alejandra stormed over with all the tumult of an ocean tempest, spat in Dylan’s face and said with a delicious smirk “Dylan is a boys name.”
Dylan, physically incapable of containing her exhilaration, promptly pissed her pants. She went home that day, her nose bloodied, head swimming with emotions she would only later understand.
Of course, it was in the rabid assault of understanding delivered via a Google search. Her query seemed innocent enough: girls who like girls. Confronted with salacious pornography and a strange orbs of motionless silicone bolted on to women’s chests, she wanted to weep. These were mere pantomimes of romance, vulgar and meaningless.
There were no shortage of YouTube rants and Vlogs that called her kind abominations and unnatural. She learned the words “Bull-dyke” and “Rug-Muncher” that day. It was on this same web venture that she received her introduction to the archetype of those strange creatures society had dubbed ”lesbians”. These women wore their sexuality like a uniform, short hair, men’s shirts, barefaced and brazen. Where were the femme fatales, the tough but beautiful girls from the wrong side of the tracks? Apparently, they all liked boys.
She’d decided to supress her “unnatural” desires. Still, she never truly fell out of love with the allure of ruthless beauties and wicked princesses.
She’d tried her hand at relationships with men throughout high school, going through the motions in a robotic, impassive fashion. In fact, it was her commitment to concealing the truth that made her an exceptional girl friend; everything was done for the benefit of her partners. She came to resent the obvious fact that they expected as much.
She’d stumbled across enough porn to know the right things to say, the sultry coos and groans that were expected from her. It was easy enough to take on the silly postures demanded during intercourse, and easier still to just lay there, as she did most times, and endure what she could only describe as being plunged… like a toilet.
The men never minded though. They always rolled over, drowsy but mollified; she was just a hole in the mattress. How she envied that luxury, to be so easily sated. Anatomy it seemed had played a cruel trick upon her.
When she’d come out to her mother at 16, she’d endured mocking laughter and what –though never intended to be- amounted to derision.
“Oh Dylan, don’t be ridiculous! You’re not a lesbian! Lesbians are big, fat ugly women who can’t get men! You could never be a lesbian, you’re too pretty!”
To her displeasure she’d found her mother, though brash, had not been entirely wrong in her judgement. Women like Alejandra, those tarnished angels with a cigarette perched between crimson lips, didn’t frequent lesbian bars.
She sometimes found them in dives; cheap, tawdry excuses to get drunk, where the management supplied little more than liquor and a few barstools. There, she’d met a handful of beautiful, young vixens all to happy to grind their bodies lasciviously against hers on the dance floor. They’d smother out her breath with booze-laden kisses, tongues clumsy yet curious.
They weren’t interested in Dylan though. Inevitably, they’d look over their shoulder to a gallery of hollering man-children. It was again that same vulgar pantomime, a lure to trap their real prey. It was no more curious really than any other sexual display in the natural world Dylan rationalized to herself. An exhibition of “hot girl on girl action” promised any prospective suitor that the lady provocateurs were devastating and adventurous. It was an advertisement screaming, “Take me to bed with you big boy! I’m a real wild cat!” And it worked. Dylan was just collateral.
She understood why the women at the gay bars looked upon her with disdain. To their eyes, with her long ponytail and glossed lips, she was no more than another one of these impostors. A college girl, looking to prove to herself that she was something more, something kinky.
More disappointing to her was the fact that at long last, when she had finally managed to bed girls, she found the sex just as unfulfilling as she had with men. The movements were just as forced, the touch just as shallow and empty. She’d lay awake beside her sleeping lovers, staring at shapes that floated to the surface of her apartment’s popcorn ceiling, and wondering just what the hell was wrong with her.
She’d come to accept that she was happier with her fantasies than she ever would be with another human being. It was as liberating as it was devastating, but the women she could concoct in her mind were unrivalled by any to be found in the real world.
Always handy with a pencil, she’d filled up sketchbook after sketchbook with her roguishly insatiable gamine. Sometimes they wore leather, or articulated retro-futuristic armour, swinging whips and brandishing swords. These women would never disappoint her, never leave her confused and unfulfilled. It was a beautiful sort of celibacy.
It startled her to realize that in her fantasies with these women, she always envisioned herself as the man. Perhaps it was a remnant from her early sexual experiences. A scar from the jealousy she’d fumed with at how effortlessly climax came to her male partners. Freud called it penis envy, and so be it, in her head, she could do as she pleased.
She started taking notice of men all around her, not as prospective lovers, but rather a gallery of body-parts from which she might rebuild herself upon the page. She had always admired her first boyfriend’s slim legs, and the broad shoulders of the boy she suffered through senior prom. As it turned out, those shoulders had been his only good feature. She rather liked a waiter at the French bistro where she took her morning coffee. Peter was his name. He was too old to be waiting tables, maybe 40, and he knew it. His sad blue eyes seemed to beg for life to grant him something more. She could relate. She wouldn’t have worn her hair quite so long in the back as Peter did, but she fancied the pencil thin moustache he wore upon his upper lip. It was sexy, but in a sleazy sort of way. This was just the kind of man who would get himself caught up with one of her paper temptresses.
Slowly, she was rebirthed through ink upon the page. No one would have recognized her there, so much the better. This was her world and she guarded it jealously.
It was only on an off chance that a man from Miramount studios looked over her shoulder one morning and handed her his card.
“We’re looking to build up our animation team.” He’d said with a broad, smarmy grin, “Got any experience?”
She shook her head, eager to return to her sketches.
“Perfect!” He cawed, “You’re a blank slate, no bad habits to unlearn, no artistic ego, we can teach you everything you need to know!”
And they did. She barely had a foot into her twenties before Miramount had assigned her as the lead animator for a scanned actress by the name of Robin Wright.
“Well, who is she?” Dylan inquired, shuffling through a stack of photographs featuring an elegant blonde with chiselled cheekbones.
“Some actress from the goddamned stone-age. Does it matter?” Her supervisor had replied, “They have themselves scanned, and we do what we like with them. That’s all.”
Dylan gave a cocked smile, and returned to her desk to study this woman, Robin Wright. It mattered very much who she was, how could he not know that? This woman had been an actress, every emotion she wore, ever gesture had been coloured by a life that she lead once upon a time. In that life, something had compelled her to give it all up, let herself be digitally scanned into a computer, and apparently vanish from the world at large.
Now, Dylan was being asked to take this woman’s likeness and give her new life as an avatar on screen. She needed to unlock the riddle of who this Robin Wright was to do the woman justice.
She began to ravenously consume any information she could find, Googling her name, downloading her movies. Robin became her obsession.
Robin Wright hailed from Dallas, Texas; a fact the studio seemed to make much of. Using that titbit of information, and lifting an image of Alejandra and her jump-rope lasso from her own childhood memories, Dylan created her first animation of Robin for a science fiction feature. She was to play a renegade robot, and Dylan’s pencil practically bled out the image of Robin swinging her monomolecular lariat. The studio ate it up.
Dylan fell in love with all of Robin’s characters, digging furiously into the past to unearth them. She adored the proudly defiant Buttercup from Princess Bride, longed to piece together the shattered soul of Jenny from Forrest Gump. She venerated the gorgeous austerity of Claire Underwood from House of Cards, and all the venom that churned beneath her seemingly delicate skin.
In Robin, Dylan had found the wilful seductress she had dreamt of all these years, the cunning dominatrix, the vengeful Goddess who could serve both her Delilah and her Lady Macbeth. Still, being versed in her characters wasn’t enough, these were mere shadows of the woman who puppetted these creations. If Dylan was to become her body’s new maestro, she had to know Robin inside and out, till their breath and flesh became as one and they were amalgamate of one another.
It seemed deviant at first, like stalking someone. Dylan justified her actions as less reprehensible than creating a false version of Robin on the screen. A time or two, she’d driven to the sandy hilltops surrounding the renovated airplane hangar in which Robin had lived with her two children. The steel shell looked like some monstrous discarded soup can, lying just outside a functioning airport. The scream of the jet engines as planes took to the air, the glare of the lights as those great metal birds swooped down once again for a landing, how fantastic it all must have been!
Her love deepened for Robin upon learning that she’d shied away from the screen upon the birth of her children. Fame had lost its sheen when held up alongside motherhood. How tender this Goddess could be, how merciful.
In fact, she’d refused the offer to be digitally scanned more than once, only relenting upon the discovery that her son, Aaron was his name, was slowly succumbing to Usher’s syndrome. The disease was a horrifically cruel one, robbing the afflicted of both sight and sound, thrusting them into a world of bleak solitude within their own bodies.
It was unclear how far Aaron had deteriorated as his mother did her level best to spare him from the famished wraiths who dwelled in the limelight. What Dylan did learn, however, was that after being scanned, Robin had devoted her every waking hour to caring for the boy, or rather man, he must have been near 30 years old by now.
For twenty years Dylan lived in constant devotion to her Robin.
“Twenty years, Hell most marriages don’t last that long these days.” Dylan would ruminate to herself.
She was in her forties now, and knew Robin would turn 64 this year on April 8th. She went out to dinner alone on this date every year, ordering a white wine for Robin and a beer for herself. She always left the wine untouched, an offering to the woman she worshipped from afar. She’d never been able to find any information on Robin’s favourite drink, but the wine seemed a good fit.
It was on one fateful morning a scant few days before this date arrived that Dylan and all the animators were called in for a staff meeting. It was there they learned about a veritable paradise they had unknowingly been creating called Abrahama City.
“This is the culmination of your work!” A studio executive announced, throwing his arms wide like a saviour from some old religious epic.
He hadn’t given his full name, instead insisting that everyone in attendance call him “Jeff” in a play for casual cool.
“Abrahama City is a fully animated zone, where the average Joe doesn’t just sit back and watch. NO! He can actually enter into this world and experience all it has to offer!”
Confused muttering bubbled up from all in attendance, the word “How?” triumphing over all others.
Jeff pulled a glass vile from his coat pocket and held it dramatically above his head so that it glistened enticingly under the fluorescent office lights.
“With this! This little ampule contains a psychotropic drug that allows everyone under it’s influence to join into a collective…” He struggled to find the words, finally chuckling to himself and braying out “A communal dream-world!”
“You mean a hallucination.” Ryan, one of the younger animators protested, “You’re drugging people?”
“No! This world, Abrahama City, it has structure, rules, finite boundaries but infinite possibilities.”
Before anyone assembled could protest the contradiction of such a claim, he pointed a meaty finger dead at Dylan’s face.
“You animators have set the foundation, you’ve spent years behind a desk, creating this retreat from the ground up. Every sketch, every doodle, Miramount has cobbled them together to create, well HEAVEN! But from here on in, our chemists will be the ink and paint department!” Jeff lauded, “You kids can just sit back on your laurels and relax! No more deadlines, no more late nights and Chinese delivery…”
“So, you’re firing us?” Dylan found herself blurting out the words as she pushed his intrusive digit aside.
Jeff strode behind her, placing his broad hands squarely upon her shoulders as if claiming dominance.
“Not firing, not at all! I’m inviting you to play inside your own creation!” He spoke in a nauseatingly saccharine tone.
“I do, it’s called having an imagination.” Dylan grumbled, trying to shrug his hands away.
Jeff leant down so that his breath was hot upon her ear and whispered in an ominous growl, “Trust me, you’ll be more than compensated.”
He raised his head and revisiting his more placating tone, announced, “You’ll ALL be compensated! How about you misses, uh, misses?”
Dylan realized he was speaking to her, “Miss, thank you. Dylan Truliner.”
Jeff nodded, forcing what Dylan imagined he must have conceived to be a thoughtful face as he strode back into view of the assembly as a whole.
“So, Miss Truliner, may I call you Dylan?”
She nodded brusquely.
“What if I told you I could make you young again? Hmm? Get you a pair of rock hard tits and legs that go on for days? Make any man go weak in the knees for you! I can remake you into anything you like. Come on, that’s got to be just a little bit tempting.”
It was in fact, though Dylan had no interest in upgrading her breasts for a new pair. She had something quite different in mind.
“And what if I don’t like it there, in Abrahama? What if I want out?” Dylan demanded.
“Done!” Jeff said, slamming his fists on the table, “We’ll give you an antidote, a fail safe to get you back to reality. But trust me once you see this place, oh ho Dylan, you’re not going to want it!” He said in a singsong tone.
“Fine.” Dylan spoke curtly, “And you mean it when you say you can make me into anything?”
“Dylan, I can give you knockers out to here!” Jeff mimed a pair of cumbersomely large bosoms.
“No,” Dylan said with a vindicated smile, “That won’t be necessary. I’ll show you some sketches.”
Jeff shrugged and prattled on while Dylan mouthed the words over and over to herself like a lullaby “Mister Dylan Truliner.”