Published Monthly

By Ed McRae

I saw my first Pheromale on a Friday night. Of course, I didn’t realise it at the time.

It was at Euphoria, one of my regular haunts. Haunt: a particularly apt word in my instance. Except that ghosts tend to get more attention.

“You’re just too nice, Kyle. Like a favourite brother,” one of my female friends once told me. One of the many girls that treated me as their confidant and tortured me with their tales of failed romance and the endless question, ‘why are men such bastards?’

I had no idea and never had the chance to find out. Some men attract copulation. Others attract confession.

I tried. My pick-up lines stumbled like drunken circus clowns. I danced like a spastic stick insect. I tried harder, but I may as well have had ‘shy loser’ stenciled on my forehead in florescent tangerine. Women can scent insecurity at a hundred paces.

It all changed on that fateful Friday - when I saw the Pheromale.

Normal is about all I could say of him aesthetically: medium height, a little shorter than myself, medium build, a little more weight around the middle. His skin had the pallid, office-grown soapiness of most inner city Wellingtonians and his dark hair was beginning its leave of absence in a flat line retreat rather than a fashionable widow’s peak. In that department I reckoned myself better off, my hair still blonde and thick, if a tad unruly.

He did carry an air of confidence with him, but it was one of wealth rather than grace. His washed-out blues roamed the undulating dance floor, watching through plain metal and glass spectacles devoid of flair or finesse. All in all, an average inner city, nine to five, cappuccino swilling, two-bedroom flat dwelling, Lexus driving, foreign beer drinking bloke.

But as from a rock dropped in a pool of water, the invisible ripples of his presence flowed outwards through the pulsing masses. Perhaps one in three glanced around, nostrils flared, eyes widened, hair flicking. The pink tips of tongues painted saliva over glossy lips. At first they simply watched, engaging partners and would-be suitors with distracted interest, laughing a touch too late, glancing away a little too often, dancing a fraction too sensually. The more sensitive of these partners grew confused, troubled. Most, upon locating the source of the distraction, frowned at their pre-mates, mystified. A few, less sure of themselves, scowled, nodded a curt but polite farewell to their Aphrodite, and retreated to their Dutch lagers.

I was one these. The plump legal aid whose dancing territory I had invaded barely noticed my retreat. At least my beer welcomed me with open, frothy arms as I leaned against the bar and forlornly watched the proceedings.

I did not have to watch long, for in moments, before my unbelieving eyes, the first butterfly was making her strafing run. She was pleasant on the eye: slim yet non-athletic, approaching breasts first, shoulders back. Her affected smile was broad and engaging, a suitable accompaniment to her features which portrayed a skillful blend of cosmetics and nature. To my mind, a fine catch.

He swatted her like a fly against a window. He was gracious, I’ll give him that, but in her retreat I could imagine the sticky, yellow gel of her ruptured self-esteem trailing across the floor behind her. My astonishment was profound. What was wrong with her? What was wrong with him?

Nothing apparently, for what developed next was an act stranger than brass bells, safety pins and his testicles in any imaginable combination.

One by one a tide of confident, dynamic, gorgeous women flowed against this man’s shores. When finally he pulled in his line, a rainbow trout of remarkable colour and form danced on the other end. My first thought was that she had stepped off the front of a fashion magazine, complete with airbrushing and filters. A pitch-black waterfall of lustrous hair cascaded onto creamy, coffee-brown shoulders. Her flawless skin twinkled with artfully placed glitter, like stars around the radiant green moons that were her eyes. Full lips, high cheekbones and a body that achieved an almost Zen balance of thin line and inviting curve.

Sadly, my window of admiration was short as Mr. ‘Normal’ disappeared from the club with his flapping, gulping conquest in tow. In his absence I felt the entire place sigh – the male portion with relief, the female portion with the deepest exhalation of regret and loss.

In that moment I decided to take my fate in my own hands. I followed him.

As I broke out into the cool night air, I spotted them turn a corner at the end of the street. I took a deep breath, fortified my resolve and took my first step in pursuit. A strong hand dropped onto my shoulder.

“Lovely night isn’t it, mate?”

I turned and looked into a face that was as clean and chiseled as an executive’s marble bathroom. The wide, pearly smile screamed ‘trust me’ at the top of its subliminal lungs. His eyes twinkled – ‘Santa Claus’ blue.

“Yes, I suppose.” I glanced down the street. My quarry had vanished.

The stranger followed my gaze and nodded. “If only you could pull that quality of woman, eh? You’d be a king.”

“What?” He had my whole attention now.

“A king of love.” His smile widened. He took my arm and guided me over to a shadowed doorway. “Allow me to introduce myself.” He produced a card from the recesses of his immaculate Armani suit and offered it to me. I took it and almost dropped it. It was warm, sensuously so, like the skin of a smooth, inner thigh. The warmth radiated through my fingertips, swept up my arm, permeated my belly and brain. Despite the strangeness of it all, I smiled.

“John Thomason Findley,” it announced in supple black letters that danced across its surface like naked ballerinas. “Pherocorp.”


“That’s right.” He tilted his head in the direction of the now departed Mr. ‘Normal’. “Perhaps you too would like to become a Pheromale, Mr…?”

While my super-ego fought a rear-guard action against confusion, my id pulled the strings and nodded my head.


“Excellent, Kyle!” He slapped me on the back like a long lost friend. “You won’t regret it. The phero-modification is a simple, one-off treatment that will secure you a season ticket to the tunnel of love! Your very own love potion, number nine!”
The warmth from the card had reached my extremities by now. Even the hair follicles in my scalp felt cosy and loved.

“How does it work?” I managed to murmur.

“Simple. Your body produces little hormone secretions, part of your in-built system for attracting a mate. They are the true heart of attraction. Now sometimes,” he gave me a conspiratorial nudge, ‘these pheromone secretions need some help. That’s where the phero-mod comes in. Our little nano-bots can enhance the potency of your secretions a thousand-fold and even herd your love-scent through the thick atmosphere of an inner city club to a designated location. Your very own seek and destroy team. Believe me, no woman can resist.” His wink had more history than Don Juan. “The full cost is $10000 made in five easy payments, worth every cent I assure you. Right now, all I need from you is a $2000 credit card deposit and for you to eat that card. ”

I blinked. “Eat the card?”

“It contains the nano-bots that will, within 18 hours, have you up and running as a fully fledged Pheromale. It’s completely non-toxic.” From another recess he produced a cellular credit machine the size of a cigarette case. “Shall we?”
Before I knew it, with my being cocooned in sensual warmth, and my id in full control of my actions, the transaction was over. I was left with the faintest after-taste of strawberry.

“Superb!” He tucked a sheet of paper into my shirt pocket. “There are the terms of sale and the instructions. The phero-mod has nine sub-vocally activated levels of effect, as detailed on the paper. They range from ‘Hey, you’re cute!’ to ‘Oh my god! Take me now!!’ But beware.” His eyes narrowed, his perfect face colouring with ominous drama. “Level nine is for one-on-one interactions only. Never use it in a public place!” The smile returned for an encore. “The next payment will be withdrawn from your credit card in the next quarter. Satisfaction is guaranteed. Any problems, just call the number at the top of the sheet.”

And with that said, he took my hand, shook it firmly, and disappeared into the closing-time crowd that was just now streaming out of Euphoria. In a daze, I stumbled into that stream and floated my way home.

* * * *

Saturday night and Euphoria was pumping and humping. I muttered, “Hey, you’re cute!” under my breath and strolled into the club.

The result was pleasing; a little eye contact here and there on the way to the bar, smiles from a brace of bottle-blondes awaiting their vodka, lime, lemonades. I grinned at the cute barmaid as she handed me my Dutch lager and was rewarded with a smile and a subtle flick of her long brown hair. This was dynamite! For the first time in my life, I was being noticed.
I leaned, sipped and upped myself to, “Damn you’re fine, how about a dance?” Within three minutes I had my first approach, a redhead, sharply dressed, gorgeous private school accent and a light smattering of little-girl freckles across her petite nose.
“No, thanks. I’m waiting for someone,” I said with a feigned confidence as shallow as suntan lotion. She nodded, shrugged, and turned away, her pretty eyes misted with rejection. “Wait-“ She was gone and the music swamped my voice. I felt terrible. As guilty as if I had slapped her. I know what it feels like at the other end, all too well.

I passed the next four minutes in agony. Had I made a mistake? Was the phero-mod working or had the redhead been an honest-to-god approach? Had I turned down my only chance tonight? Bloody fool…

My thoughts stopped to gape at the Polynesian voodoo priestess as she walked up to me with the smiling grace of a stalking panther. I stammered. She laughed and leaned a little closer, blessing me with a sultry wave of Chanel No.5.

I gulped and then I declined. Her dark eyes flashed and somewhere along my spine a vertebra quivered. An image flashed across my mind; a piglet twitching in the claws of a jungle cat. Moisture drained from my mouth and somehow ended up in my palms. But she smiled, said her polite good byes and returned to the floor. I took a heavy swig of Dutch courage but had little time to ponder voodoo vengeance as I found myself on the point of a Viking long-sword, stunningly attired in high-heels and slinky blue. She smiled. I grinned. We chatted.

It was because of this Nordic princess that I failed to notice Mr. ‘Normal’ walk in the door. It was only when my valkyrie glanced to her right in the middle of one of my better jokes that I became aware of his presence. There he was, leaning against the other end of the bar, Grolsch in hand, casually eyeing the midnight market.

I decided right there and then that I was not about to go back to sobbing phone calls from friend-girls and Sky Movies on lonely Saturday nights. This guy had had his day in the sun. It was my turn now. I set my jaw, took another swig, and muttered, “Where have you been all my life?”

My Nordic princess snapped back to attention and drew a fraction closer. The height of her heels brought the nape of her neck level with my chin. I caught my opponent’s eye and delivered him a smug grin.

He didn’t scowl. He didn’t retreat. He smiled, cold as liquid nitrogen, and saluted me with his bottle. To my abject horror, my valkyrie murmured something about finding friends and shimmered away in my opponent’s direction.

Anger has never been my closest ally. Usually, with my conscience fully operational, I’d hold anger at arm’s length like a week old pork chop and buy someone a no-hard-feelings-eh drink. But tonight, my conscience couldn’t get a word in edgewise. The nano-mod did all the talking. I delivered my adversary a paint-stripping glare and upped the juice.

At “Let’s skip the formalities and go straight to bed!” the blonde shuddered to a halt. Indecision twisted her lovely features like modeling clay. Inner forces fought. Haltingly, like a puppet, she made a clumsy about turn and fixed me with a splayed smile.

My opponent responded in turn and caused my princess to twist her head about like a giraffe sighting a stalking cheetah. I downed my beer, gritted my teeth and wound myself up to, “Oh my God! Take me now!”

A less angry man might have noticed a significant proportion of the club’s complement of eyes look in his direction. A less angry man might have noticed the crowd of glowing, panting, club-glam femmes closing in on his position.

But like an idiot I only noticed this when the object of my desire, the Nordic princess, let out a scream of pure, frustrated passion and snapped both high-heels as she lunged. She didn’t make it past her second step. She was trampled to the floor by the hooves of my previously charming, private school redhead who in turn launched her own lust-fueled assault. A black bird of prey cut her down in mid-flight. My saviour, the voodoo priestess, growled deep in her throat, bared a mouthful of strong, gleaming teeth, and took a step in my direction.

I had the barest moment to lock eyes with Mr. ‘Normal’. His eyes were wide and his face as white as a snowstorm. One message flashed between us.

“Oh fuck!”

* * * *

I have but a scattering of memories of the aftermath. Scraping nails and tearing cloth. Bared teeth and pressing flesh. I remember sitting on the sidewalk, bloody, bruised, staring at the thickest patch of bandaging, around my groin, as the night sky flashed from red to blue, red to blue. The reconstruction went well. 100% recovery. I usually try to think of something else…before I start screaming again.

The police medics deactivated the phero-mod: one man, one woman with a gas mask. Both had needles. They said they contained nano-bot antibodies – phero-bot hunter killers. They lied about it not hurting.

The judge, a woman, fined me $10,000 and sentenced me to three hundred hours of community service. I’ve tried suing for damages. Apparently there’s no such company as Pherocorp. As for the community service…

Hour fifty-eight. The phones ring. I stare across the desk at Mr. ‘Normal’; he stares back. His name is Smith. I lose the contest. I make a wish, for a teenage boy depressed over his girlfriend leaving, for a man desperate because he’s lost his wife and his job. I pick up the phone.

“Hello, Lifeline.”

Sniffing and sobbing. A trembling female voice. Oh no, another one.

“He’s gone,” says the voice. I wait. More sobbing followed by a sharp intake of breath. “Why are men such bastards?”
I draw a deep breath and, like the training said, sigh on the inside.

“Tell me about it.”

Ed is a Science Fiction scribbler from the semi-civilised southern outpost of the Western World, New Zealand. He has written a cyberpunk novel, 'Black Rabbit' which is currently under consideration in Canada and a near future musical due to be performed in Nelson, June 2005. His short stories have been published in Alien Skin (US), Shining Waters Fantasy Literature (Canada), Rogue Worlds (US), A Tangible Script Of Intangible Scroll Engravings (US), Peridot Books (US) and Fiction Inferno (US). When not writing, he teaches Performing Arts, goes hiking in the mountains and sings in a rock band.


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