The Village beneath the Flower

Beneath the sky flower where posthumans lived free of constraint of form or life was a village as old as the flower itself, though Laura, as she would have preferred to be known, thought that the village looked a bit dingy and run down. She wasn't sure that it had an age of former glory, but that age wasn't now.

She inhaled deeply, feeling her all too wrong rib cage expand. She looked at the shrine again,

But the posthumans loved freedom, and their own numbers, and so they ensured that it was the right of every person to ascend to the flower and wherever else their journey took them from there. She waved to two people from the village, carrying a container of water between the two of them, suspended from a board between them. She only got a response from one of them, the other was distracted with some screen he was using.

Over time the village grew into its own culture, and the terminal that the post humans had set up ages ago had become a shrine to them, it wasn't forgotten that they had dealt with the second moon and made the great sacrifices it took to defeat it. It was adorned with little icons and candles lit by people who had come and gone. There was a 'monk' here. Of course, it was a very small village with a rather collectivist bent, everyone sometimes stepped outsides their usual work, but he was most often here.

The terminal glowed with its own energy. It was a large cube of not quite identifiable material(you could find other materials that were really close in some ways, but you could never put them together like this was). On one side it had a plinth with a hand on it. Supposedly this was how you interfaced with it.

It wasn't like you were forbidden.

It just wasn't done.

Just like what she was wasn't quite a type of person accounted for. Not that anyone knew.

She stepped up to the plinth, considering it for a moment. The monk, an old man, an elder, wrapped in a compromise between a suit and a scapular. She remembers of being a child include the texture of that garment; it's itchy. He clears his throat uneasily, "I wouldn't recommend that if I were you"

"Why not?" she was beginning to think about it, she didn't even have to leave.

"When I was a young man I knew someone who used that and destroyed himself."

She speaks quietly, her voice grating against the filter blurting out that this will make her life harder, "But isn't that what life does to you when you live against your needs? It destroys you."

"I don't know what kind of need you have. I can keep secrets if you would like." He locks the doors into the shrine, granting them some privacy, this wasn't unusual, but most of the time the doors were locked . "Come on Mike," She winces "You know I won't judge you for a need."

"Tell me the story of your friend"

"He wanted power above all else and in the end, pulled between the effects of posthumans ensuring our freedoms and the rest of him, destroyed him. Left him a different person, he ended up leaving, happy, but different. Still a very painful process"

She thinks for a second, considering the common ground between becoming something powerful because you want power and becoming something different because you don't like what you have, it's just that it's seeking to change things, isn't it? "I don't have much in common with your friend"

"No, most people don't."

"Why did he choose to do that?"

"He felt like things could be better. And he was right of course, but you know, you can't force people to do things. Well, in general, you shouldn't at least. That's the trust I believe we preserve by remaining human when we could be otherwise." he sighs, "It's that if you're even just a bit faster than other people can be then you can start to manipulate them if you're not mindful of how you are behaving towards others. He was not much of a mindful person. But that denies his agency, and he made the choices that got him there." He regards her grimly, "Are you sure that you're immune to those things?"

"Probably not. But I suppose that's less important if I leave then."

"But are you done here?"

"I feel like I might be done in general if I stay like I am."

"I can't help if I don't understand."

"Back when I was a kid I was never like the other boys. I was quiet, I was strange, I was never really at ease with the things they did, but was expected to go along with it, like it was normal." She grabs the plinth, running her fingers over the surface of the palm, it was smooth and comfortably warm, like an embrace rather than the blistering heat of some of the computer hardware used in the village, lines of purple light followed the points her hands touched, tracing the history of motion, "And for a long time I thought it was normal to be alienated from yourself, to hate your body, to not just resent the parts that are wrong, but to hate the whole thing because it's entirely wrong. And then you realize that there was a plan for if you were born the right way, the one where I would've been happy, and had a simple life"

"There is no such thing as a simple life." He said, clearly thinking over what Laura had said, "We all must manage the complexity that we find in life, because we can't live life any other way than we have, but the way we live will always be changing... What do you think you'll find on the other end of the terminal?"

"A better body, one that I can choose how I look and how I am."

"What's wrong with how you look?"

"Fine, I'm not a woman."

He rubs his face and shakes his head, "Do you really think we're living in the proper influence of that damned culture war they had a thousand years ago? We have estrogen in the pharmacopoeia, you know that Miss Butcher is an excellent surgeon, and we have transport to places where you could have had this all done outside the village. So why didn't you?" She looks at him blankly, "What? I have a few queer friends abroad, I know how this all works. I guess you aren't much for the internet then?"

"No?"

"Ah, alright." He thinks for a moment, recalling a time when she had been fascinated with foxes, "Is this also about being human for you?"

"Yes"

"Then it really is the only way. Don't forget that you can visit."

After he unlocked the door she activated the terminal, emerging changed before dissolving into a cloud of dust and floating away determined in a particular direction.