THE CUP’S STORY, PART III: THE LAYLA YEARS
Two days out of Atlantis, Layla and The Chest moved into the captain’s cabin. So other than watching her pop in a couple of times a day to freshen her makeup or change into a clean gown, The Cup spent the rest of the voyage alone in a tiny sea cabin.
Until one day the servant girls came in and packed everything up. The Cup, still right where Razuni had set her down just before he got hauled off to face his fate, ended up packed with Layla’s engraved ivory-handled brush, burnished silver mirror, and vials of favorite perfumes .
That night, as Layla supervised the setting up of her new quarters, she was surprised to see me among her things and picked me up. I was immediately engulfed with a wild, random flight of thoughts, along with an opulence of feelings and emotions, all rich in texture and color and complexity. I had no idea what I was experiencing, but for a little while I was content to just bask in the luxurious excess of what turned out to be nothing more—but nothing less—than the mental processes of a human female.
Meanwhile, Layla was recalling how often Razuni had held me during their time together. Her eyes narrowed like a cat’s as she wondered if there was more here than mere coincidence. But then she dismissed the idea, since Razuni was a buffoon incapable of such chicanery. I was shocked at how different her mental picture of their relationship was from his. But it was apparent she had regarded him as an object to be used for sexual service and material gain and ultimately to escape her lowly position as lesser wife and had never intended to stay with him once she’d separated him from a significant portion of his fortune.
Then ho hum, I was just a cheap trinket and she might as well give me to one of the servants. But wait. What delicious irony to keep me as a memento of her unwitting benefactor who, after all, had given his life for her. Not to mention enough riches to make her a wealthy, independent woman with both the freedom and the means to pursue her somewhat narrow ambitions. But really, I was a little plain for her tastes. So what should she do with me? In another moment, she added me to The Chest.
The Cup’s description of the decades that followed was fascinating, particularly if one happens to be a student of human sex habits and practices (I have enough material from that session to write a series of authoritative if unpublishable papers). They had docked at Tyre, where Layla purchased a breezy villa in the fancy part of the city. Over time The Cup went from trinket to treasured possession, used to hold the wine in which Layla mixed aphrodisiacs and other drugs to share with her parade of lovers: princes and sultans, athletes, poets and musicians, carpenters and cobblers, bricklayers and bakers, and even an exiled magician from Atlantis.
Layla used my psionics to enhance hers all of the time, without ever realizing it. She would add a measure of ground powder from the tail of the lightning bug to a cup of wine, mix in a dram of Spanish fly, only in those days it was known as Fly of Solomon, stir it with her long fingernail—she always used her finger to stir, never a spoon—and reverently offer it to her lover. “Drink this nectar of the goddess Franca,” she would intone, “and you shall become the raging bull, tall and hard as the Pillars of Hercules until the sun rises.” Her lover would drink, and sure enough he would rage tall and hard until dawn. She spent a great deal of Razuni’s money on those arcane ingredients, although between my powers of persuasion and her sexual allure, she could have used powdered camel dung and done just as well.
Layla matured well, and long after other women her age had become wrinkled crones she continued to entertain the men of the city. Although her tastes began to run noticeably toward younger and younger paramours, she was never truly guilty of discrimination. However, as is inevitable—with humans if not cups—there finally came the time when Layla bedded her last lover. She went out in perfectly appropriate fashion, in the throes of passion between a pair of young studs who earned the distinction of being the first men who truly outlasted her. Discovering that she was dead, the two each helped themselves to a handful of whatever goodies they saw lying around and slipped out, leaving her body to be found later by a granddaughter of one of the servants who had originally come with her from Atlantis.
In a lifetime of unswerving pursuit of sexual bliss, never had the inconvenience of pregnancy constrained Layla’s diversions, and thus she had no heir to the remnants of Razuni’s fortune. So her old servant women and their children and grandchildren divvied up her possessions, said their goodbyes, and made their way out of the city.
The Cup ended up as part of the booty of one of the middle-aged children. In addition to an astonishing homeliness, this woman possessed a more serious shortcoming, as least as far as the continuity of our story is concerned: she didn’t drink. The Cup ended up stuck in a dusty alcove surrounded by various knickknacks in a modest apartment in what she believed to be Capernaum, becoming drowsier month by month. Frightened by what was happening, but powerless to do anything, she finally lost consciousness completely.
THE CUP’S STORY, PART III: OUTTAKES
I was immediately engulfed with a wild, random flight of thoughts, along with an opulence of feelings and emotions, all rich in texture and color and complexity. I had no idea what I was experiencing, but for a little while I was content to just bask in the luxurious excess . . .
“So quit waxing eloquent and tell me what the hell this miracle was.”
Miracle. An interesting choice of words, dear. As it turns out, it was nothing more—but nothing less—than the mental process of a typical human female.
“Wait. Are you trying to tell me that there’s that much difference in the way men and women think?”
Bradley, you have no idea.
I tried to squelch my hurt feelings before they could get out, but was obviously not successful. I could sense The Cup smiling in that infuriating way Judy Blue Eyes did. Oh, dear, I’m afraid I’ve offended the lad. Certainly that was not my intent, dear boy. But I’ve been intimately privy to the thoughts of quite a few members of both sexes in a way no human has ever done, so you’re just going to have to trust me on this.
“Just give me a bit to get used to the idea of being an inferior species.”
Oh, posh. You men have your strong points. You’re much better when it comes to immediate, direct, decisive action, like when lots of other men need to be killed. And of course, when there’s heavy furniture . . . and there are those maddening stuck jar lids.
I formed a mental image of myself sticking my tongue out at her, and was rewarded with a chuckle.
* * *
Meanwhile, Layla was thinking her way through the problem at hand.
“If the term ‘thinking’ can be properly applied to what women do with their superior if confused and somewhat dysfunctional brainpower.”
She granted me the jibe without comment.
* * *
While the parade of lovers drank from me, I freely rummaged around in their minds. That’s how I leaned where we were, as well as other lesser things such as what the governmental and social structures of Tyre were . . . and how to fix a broken chair. Men make much better sources of knowledge. Not only are their views and perspectives simpler, their minds are also much better organized.
“Glad we’re good for something besides opening stuck jars.”
Don’t be bitchy, dear. Most of the accomplishments of the world have been made by men. Sort of.
I bit off my retort, for whatever good that might do.
* * *
Layla used my psionics to enhance hers all of the time, without ever realizing it. She would add a measure of ground powder from the tail of the lightning bug to a cup of wine, mix in a dram of Spanish fly, only in those days it was known as Fly of Solomon . . .
“Probably so named because the fly of Solomon was unzipped so frequently by all those wives and concubines,” I interrupted and got an appreciative snigger for my efforts.
* * *
In retrospect, when Layla held me that first time was when I first realized that I too was a female, whatever that means for an inanimate object.
“Oh, really? I just figured it was because you more closely identified with your bowl, which is clearly yonic, than your phallic stem.
Philistine. Take me back to Erma’s this instant!
“Now that you’ve met me, you’d be frighteningly bored anywhere else. Best just stay.”
I didn’t hear her response clearly through the grumbling, but it sounded suspiciously like, Can’t live with them, can’t live without them.