the pearl


It takes him a week afterwards before he can masturbate.

He's certain that, if he ever told someone, they would laugh and reply sarcastically, "A week?", but they don't remember what it's like at his age, with the sticky sheets and the morning-noon-night hard-ons and the feeling that everything around him is entirely about SEX.

But each time he reaches for his cock and closes his eyes, it's not the usual parade of tits and pussies. It's liquid silver sliding against his legs, it's blunt steel working its way in, it's the gaze and the melting around his cock...

He pulls his hands away and shuts his eyes tightly, wishing it would all go away.


He finds a mercury thermometer in an old first aid kit. He watches the silver liquid slide up as he holds it in his hand, then, in the still half-light of the abandoned bunker, he snaps it in two.

The mercury slips through his fingers, dripping onto a tattered bomb shelter poster, trailing and sliding over words and creases, leaving nothing in its wake.

He's hard, instantly, and, as he watches it, he unzips his camos and pulls out his cock. It only takes a few minutes, his foot touching the poster to make the mercury dance, and, quickly, his come splashes against it, the mercury jumping away from something so organic, so wet...

So human.


His mother finds the broken thermometer while clearing out the guns and shakes her head. "I've survived a hell of a lot just for you to go and die of mercury poisoning," she says as she carefully picks it up and throws it away.


"If there's no chip, then there's no Skynet. If there's no Skynet, then there's no nuclear blast. If there's no nuclear blast, then Skynet doesn't start killing humans. If Skynet doesn't start killing humans, then there's no resistance force. If there's no resistance force, then I'm not in charge. If I'm not in charge, then the original Terminator doesn't go back to 1984 to kill Mom. If the Terminator doesn't go back, I don't send Reese back. If Reese doesn't go back, he doesn't get Mom pregnant. If Mom doesn't get pregnant, I'll never be born. If I'm never born..."

It repeats in his head over and over. It's the rhythm of the car tires against the highway, the rhythm of the jet engine at night, the rhythm of his own feet on sidewalk. Click click click, paradox moving on.


The only supercomputer he comes in contact with is a beat-up Macintosh his mother finds for him before he goes to college. Despite his record and spotty education, he aces the tests with barely a sweat, and before too long, he's packing up and moving on.

As he moves into his dorm, she gives him one small box — a few photos, some tips, and a gun. "I know that things aren't..." She pauses. "'There is no fate but what we make for ourselves'," she repeats. "But I still want you to be careful."

He nods.

The next day, he checks out all the books on robotics, and begins filling his side of his dorm room with machinery.


He closes his eyes, and reaches for his cock, and imagines thick metal fingers on one hand and soft human fingers on the other gently pushing his legs apart. He imagines the bristly gelled hair tickling his thighs, the sunglasses pressing against his stomach as the cool lips take his cock into its mouth.

He imagines that the flesh only goes so far. That, past the tongue, as T-800 deep throats him, there's simply cool steel. He feels the lathe-smooth ridges of the spinal column and shoots, covering his hands with stickiness, but imagining it mingling with silicone lubricant, oiling machinery for faster, better, more efficient running.


He begins to build. The automatons sit in his room (his roommate having long left after being confronted not only by obsession, but by psychosis as well), jerkily moving forwards and backwards as he attempts to get it right.

He is given a laboratory of his own, and his work continues.

He dates a girl, and engages in the proper actions for a man his age, but she leaves him, unexpectedly, when she walks in on him straddling one of his robots. The blunt steel phallus deep inside, he didn't notice until he heard her heels clicking down the hallway.


After he receives a stipend, he meets a young physics student called Kyle Reese. He has theories on time travel, and, over a long lunch, they discuss a variety of options — all theoretical, of course.

The next time, he invites his mother along. She takes one look at this fresh young student, and suddenly begins to cry. John is outwardly distressed — having only seen his mother cry when stabbed through the shoulder or when she was extremely drunk — but inwardly, he smiles.


The first time he mentions the idea, Kyle walks out and refuses to speak to him for a week.


The second time he speaks of it, Kyle sits in his bed, nude, frowning at the possibilities and impossibilities. "It couldn't work," he said. "You can't build the exoskin well enough yet. And there's no proof that the machine works the way that your mother remembers it."

John shifts in bed next to him, tracing a finger along the man who would be (was) his father's thigh. "But the beauty of the paradox is that it has already happened — so we know it'll work. I need to finish my exoskin work, and you know that the machine works adequately in tests, but..." He shrugs, fluidly, shifting to slip his fingers over more intimate parts. "We already know that it works, because I've seen it."

Kyle continues to frown, but, shortly, all thoughts of theorems and logic are wiped from his mind.


It's on the right day when it happens. John plugs in the last operatives into his creature — a mass of steel and flesh as Kyle watches, pensive.

A flash, a crackle of lightning, and it's gone. They look at each other — the son and the father, the professor and his student, the engineer and the physicist, the lovers — and, just as quickly, Kyle is gone too.

John leans against the smooth steel of the console, feeling its cold inorganic weight against his skin, and, slowly, begins to laugh.

This The Terminator story was written by Kate Bolin. If you liked it, there's plenty more at And you can feedback her at