He lies on the rough wool carpet and tries to remember where he is. The world spins around him, veiled in flashes of lightning. His skin crackles with electricity, but he is not afraid. Its touch comforts him. He closes his eyes.
For a moment he is back in the workroom at Edison Machine Works. The crisp white jacket feels pleasantly snug. Tesla, Tesla, Tesla, whatever will we do with you? It’s Edison’s mocking voice buzzing in his ear. He never understood the times when Nikola drifted away, his body gone still and silent, his mind whirring along inside the clouds, letting static charge his thoughts. Lightning. Always lightning.
He blinks, and for a moment is back on the floor, his tongue hot and dry. He is thirsty, but he doubts his legs will lift him, let alone take him across the room to the pitcher of water on the table. He wishes his nephew would come to visit and carry the water to him. He licks his lips. The tender skin sparks. He pictures his tongue as a copper coil and forgets everything but the electricity.
The sparks flicker along seams of his lips, playing over the line between pink lip and pale face. They brush like butterflies, like the delicate flick of a paintbrush. His breath quickens. The sparks brighten, their blue flashes filling his field of vision.
Where is he? Is he alone? He remembers the woman who followed him into a hotel room, can smell her perfume. She steps forward, her fingers twisting open another button on her shirtdress. The eggplant-colored material slides down her shoulders. Her skin is paler than the ivory of the dress’s buttons, pale and smooth. The material strains across her bosom and her fingers take their time on the next button, struggling against the wool’s tension.
A thread pops. Her breasts spring free of the dress, the nipples stiff pink steeples. His penis surges to attention.
She cups her breasts, squeezing them into a valley of creamy cleavage. “They want you to touch them, Mr. Tesla. Go ahead.”
The purple dress falls down onto the floor in a whisper of wool and suiting.
He remembers. He is not that young man anymore, girls stealing into his home and begging for his touch. He is in his room at the New Yorker. He is resting on the wool carpet and there is lightning dancing across his jaw. It flickers down the side of his throat, leaving goose bumps in its tracks. His penis is still hard.
The sparks crackle under his collar, playing over his nipples in fine bursts that makes his skin prickle, his nipples crinkle. It almost hurts. Almost. He can hear the sizzles of the electricity moving from hair to hair down his belly.
His penis is so hard now he has to loosen his pants, can’t stand the constriction of material any longer. Lightning. Oh, god, lightning. It plays up and down his thighs in wondrous pricklings and cracklings. His hips rise. He’s gripping himself and his pulse pounds against his palms.
He is in the clouds. He is naked and the clouds are cool and they are stroking his back, pressing against his skin, gliding into the space between his buttocks. The crackling intensifies, the tiny blue flashes moving into waves that overtake each other, rising up his engorged cock. So many people who’ve been badly shocked on electrical equipment maintain that it can grip skin, hold body parts too tightly to move. He knew a man who had been pinned to a socket while the current burned hotter, hotter. Tesla has never been shocked, but his penis feels like it might catch fire.
The clouds stroke faster against his back, his thighs, pressing against the root of him, all cool dampness pushing harder against his anus. Then the clouds are in him. The lightning tightens its hold on his cock. He cries out at the pleasure of it. The lightning is so, so bright as it bursts, white flashes of pure light.
He closes his eyes. Behind his eyelids, he sees the perfect rendering of a new device, a coil broadcasting energy from the pulsing power of the sea. He gasps at its beauty. He can make this. He has to make this.
He is lying on the wool carpet of his room in the New Yorker Hotel. There is no storm. His penis has softened in his slick hand. It is a rare thing for him to give in to these urges, and he is glad the vision came despite his bodily weakness. Glad the vision remains, full of promise.
On the other side of the room, his favorite pigeon stirs in her cardboard box. She ruffles her feathers, her eyes blinking gently at him, as if to remind him he ought to be getting back to work. She is right, of course. Tesla wipes his hand on the carpet and then pulls himself to his feet. His legs feel more steady than they have in weeks.
He adjusts his belt and sits down at his desk, pleased to see the glass of water beside his black notebook. He lets himself have a sip, as cool as clouds, as welcome as a vision. Then he closes his eyes and draws what the lightning gave him.
© Wendy N. Wagner, 2013. Originally appeared in Geek Love, edited by Shanna Germain & Janine Ashbless.