by Maura Yzmore
Mray woke up in great spirits. The golden-skinned guy he’d picked up at the club last night liked it rough, but Mray wasn’t sore. He wasn’t even hungover, which he thought was strange, given how much he and his last night’s squeeze had drunk. Then he remembered he’d snorted all that sand, Dhahab’s hottest new powder, which Golden Pecs had brought with him. Mray hadn’t bothered asking his name and the guy thankfully hadn’t seemed to care. They’d imbibed so much that Mray had worried he wouldn’t be able to get it up, but he had, oh he had, and in fact he couldn’t remember the last time he’d fucked or been fucked with such technicolor abandon. That was some good sand.
It was early but the guest had already left, much to Mray’s relief. He hated the clinginess of the mornings after, especially on this godforsaken desert planet that seemed to make everyone mopey.
Mray threw off the cover, sat up on the bed, and put his feet on the floor. He glanced over his shoulder and fully expected smudges of golden body paint on the sheets, already cursing because it would be such a goddamn pain to wash off. But there was nothing there, not a trace. Mray had fucked far and wide, enough to know that such amazing full-body makeup, completely unsmudgeable after hours of sex, wasn’t impossible, but that it was far more likely that Golden Pecs simply wasn’t human. Probably a decommissioned android or one of the new bionic vessels that the rich and bored liked to charter; either would explain the perfect body and ghosting before dawn. Otherwise, the guy could’ve been an alien, but there weren’t many of those around here. Even aliens knew Dhahab was a dump.
Mray got up and went into the bathroom to take a leak. He grabbed his dick and could feel it in his hand…but the dick itself was numb.
What the fuck?
He looked down and saw it — limp, glistening in his hand. Coated in gold.
Mray tried to lick his lips: both his tongue and his lips were numb.
He looked in the mirror. There was a golden patch with irregular edges around his mouth, extending midway up his cheeks, down below the jawline, and crawling up his nose.
Mray’s heart pounded.
Without taking his eyes off the mirror, Mray gently placed his fingers between his ass cheeks. The area was numb. He didn’t need to see it to know it was golden.
Mray got in to see a doctor midday. By then, the golden patch on his face had reached his cheekbones and earlobes, and started slithering down his neck. The patch on his dick had expanded outward, across his upper legs and abdomen, numbing everything in its path. He pissed himself twice.
The doctor raised an eyebrow when she saw Mray, but maintained composure. She touched his face, inspected his neck, chest and arms, then abdomen, crotch, legs, and buttocks.
“I take it you had sex last night.”
Mray nodded. He could no longer speak, but his eyes pleaded for help.
“You have contracted Dhahabian trichinosis or trich. It’s a simple organism that resides in the bodies of native Dhahabians.”
Mray’s eyes widened.
“I also take it you’ve never met a native Dhahabian,” smiled the doctor. “There aren’t many left in the cities. After humans had colonized Dhahab, the natives were pushed into rural areas. Dhahabians are shape shifters; they can mold their skeleton and musculature to resemble many vertebrate species. But, even as they shift, they retain their beautiful golden skin.”
“The parasite is sexually transmitted and consumes your neural tissue, your nerves. It slowly moves from the point of entry — or, in your case, multiple points — toward the brain. But at least the parasite has the courtesy of numbing the nerves with a toxin it secretes, so you’re not in pain. That’s also what gives you the golden tint.”
“Eventually, the parasite will get to your brain and then it’s game over. Which, for you, is in a few hours. I’m afraid you won’t last the night.”
“Did you do sand last night?”
Mray nodded. His eyes were swelling with tears.
“Sand has many fun effects on human physiology, but if you take large amounts, it suppresses your immune response. If you hadn’t taken it, your body would’ve reacted strongly and likely even gotten rid of the trich.”
“Did the person you had sex with bring sand?”
“Then it looks like you were infected on purpose.”
Mray put his head into his hands and sobbed. He had nearly no feeling left in his face, but the sensation of wet, warm tears on his fingers almost brought relief.
“I suggest you go home and enjoy the time you have left. I will alert the authorities to come clean up tomorrow morning. I am very sorry.”
As the doctor got up to leave, Mray grabbed her by the wrist. His eyes pleaded, This can’t be the end…surely there must be something you can do?
Her face turned stony as she pulled her hand out of Mray’s grip. A streak of flesh-colored paint remained on his palm.
“You filthy humans should’ve never come to Dhahab,” she said through her teeth, her hand gleaming gold.
About the Author
Maura Yzmore is a Midwest-based writer of short fiction and a university professor in a field with a lot of math. Her stories have recently appeared in The Molotov Cocktail, The Arcanist: Ghost Stories, Asymmetry, Coffin Bell, and elsewhere. Find out more at
https://maurayzmore.com or @MauraYzmore on Twitter.