Hundred Over One



For any number, divided by a solitary one, remains itself.


Nemuro, eschewing sleep, wandered the countless hallways of the building, hands clasped behind his back, pondering humanity with unaccustomed awkwardness. Past offices and lecture halls, laboratories and unopened doors and empty carts racked up in closets. Past fifty identical doors, each home to one of the hundred and his lithe dark roommate. In the building, at night, he, waking, was outnumbered a hundred to one by the uncanniness of them, sleeping. Consider, he thought, the boys. Analyze. But they were, in the end, still human; it was those problems that kept him awake at night.

Every time he spoke to any of the hundred alone, he found nothing remarkable in him. Alone, they were identically dutiful, friendly, accomplished, but each only to a degree, to a small enough degree that it was unavoidable average. Alone, no boy was unusually talented, no boy had strange hobbies or ways, no boy had noticeable ambition. Alone, none of them would even consider revolution.

Together, collectively, they were terrifying, a swarm of dark ambition, a self-organizing army of desire, fiercely intelligent and scornful, subtly lascivious, divinely perverse. Together they were magnificent, brilliant, responsive. They used him, derided him; yet they followed him and gave control of their two hundred hands and single mind to the very man they scorned as a living computer. At the helm of their intellectual beast, he almost grew intoxicated; from the way their hands moved over his work, carelessly confident and sensually articulated, and a flash of a ring on every other one, he almost grew afraid.

He dreamed of them during those nights, their desks ten by ten square and bolted to the lecture hall floor, their hands twenty by twenty and shackled to the desks, each with their wedding finger running sensually along the chains, circled by soullessly fertile bloom. Their dark eyes twenty by twenty and watching him, watching his every move, a gaze wanton and acidic, that could melt away the ugly clothes with which he hid his body so he didn't have to think on it, that could shatter the glasses behind which he sheltered his uncanny eyes from the world. Professor, they would say. Professor, professor, professor.

They taught him to duel under tall windows, ringed around him three deep with identical sly curls of the lips, fenced him in with springing foils. Even awake he imagined, with distant calculation, that they would touch each other's skin, take each other in the night, the hundred unremarkable units finding completion with their own kind. Asleep and dreaming he was drawn in with them, he became entirely theirs, tool and pet, computer and sensualist. Two hundred hands could touch every inch of his body, rings silver-cold against his skin. Two hundred hands could lift him easily so the ground no longer anchored him, could cover his eyes, stopper his mouth, bear him out of reality. Two hundred hands could overwhelm his two, no matter that he was special, no matter that he was different--for it was that which brought those two hundred eyes in terrible focus upon him. Two hundred hands could strip away the humanity he cared nothing for.

He always awoke red with desire and sweating with fear, the night a cold and terrible blur to his bare eyes.

Tokiko, at least, was interesting alone.

Nemuro stood in his lecture hall at night, the blackboards washed clean and the hundred desks empty, and slid off his glasses, and cradled tinted lenses in his palm, and almost saw a hundred matching shadows crumpled ashen to the floor--ambition fallen, swarm preserved, contract fulfilled.


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