I think I read this in the early 1990s. Possibly in Asimov's or Analog, but more likely in an anthology.

The viewpoint character is a man who has been increasingly insomniac. Restless, he has taken to walking through city streets late at night.

He sees a woman get out of a cab, walk to a club perhaps? She drops her shawl, as she goes in. He goes over, finds it dissolving in the gutter.

At some point he sees her again, and feels compelled to follow her. He stalks her home; when he enters a short time later, he discovers her and some others sitting, all frozen like mannequins. He flees.

At some point he realises that he is becoming like them; he is one. He is in a bar, having grown a jacket; he reaches into his "jacket" and a slit opens and extrudes some money (bills). I recall him noting as he touches them they are still faintly damp, but they dry quickly as he passes them to the bartender.

In the final lines he and the woman sit together on adjacent stools, and have sex with organs in the side of their hips.

1 Answer 1


The Belonging Kind by William Gibson and John Shirley. There's a brief summary on Wikipedia. I read it in the anthology Shadows 4 edited by Charles L. Grant. It's also in Gibson's seminal collection Burning Chrome.

It was the damp bills I remembered:

In the dim glow of the cab's dome light he watched closely as the man reached into his coat for the fare. Coretti could see the coat's lining clearly and it was one piece with the angora sweater. No wallet bulged there, and no pocket. But a kind of slit widened. It opened as the man's fingers poised over it, and it disgorged money. Three bills, folded, were extruded smoothly from the slit. The money was slightly damp. It dried, as the man unfolded it, like the wings of a moth just emerging from the chrysalis.

The story ends:

After the third margarita their hips were touching, and something was spreading through him in slow orgasmic waves. It was sticky where they were touching; an area the size of the heel of his thumb where the cloth had parted. He was two men: the one inside fusing with her in total cellular communion, and the shell who sat casually on a stool at the bar, elbows on either side of his drink, fingers toying with a swizzle stick. Smiling benignly into space. Calm in the cool dimness.

And once, but only once, some distant worrisome part of him made Coretti glance down to where soft-ruby tubes pulsed, tendrils tipped with sharp lips worked in the shadows between them. Like the joining tentacles of two strange anemones.

They were mating, and no one knew.

And the bartender, when he brought the next drink, offered his tired smile and said, "Rainin' out now, innit? Just won't let up."

"Been like that all goddamn week," Coretti answered. "Rainin' to beat the band."

And he said it right. Like a real human being.


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