The man belonged to an ancient family, composed of excellent blood. He lived on a vast estate, together with his wife and five legal sons. The latter were excellent boys and resembled the man in most respects: tall and dark, with high cheekbones. Their eyes, like his, contained a characteristic glitter, half smug and half playful.
His wife, who was short and light, frequently joked about this resemblance. "I was just the receptacle," she would quip. There was, however, a bitter note to this joke, reflecting the fact that her husband actually regarded her this way.
In the center of the estate lay the family mansion. It was a chimeric project, the work of many centuries, and consisted of multiple extension projects. Ancestral artifacts lined the hallways. There were coats of mail, emblazoned with the family crest; there were framed manuscripts, brushed with ancient signatures.
The man knew the mansion well. He knew the dates of addition of each section, and the names of the ancestors that had initiated them. He knew their structural secrets: false doors and uncompleted arches, converted to appear to be something else.
The man's familiarity extended also to the servants' quarters. He spent many hours here, assessing and improving them. To the servants themselves, he directed additional kindnesses. A few he wooed in a more directed way, exercising the whole of his smoldering charisma. "You are lovely," he said. And: "May I love you?"
As a result of this intimacy, the servants' children also resembled him. Their hair was dark, and their eyes contained the same unsettling glitter. The man acknowledged these children, quietly. At the same time, however, he also wished to remove them from the estate. As soon as they had learned to walk, he dispatched them to distant - though excellent - boarding schools. As they grew, he organized a series of off-site opportunities, so that they never returned.
His wife was dimly aware of these excesses, but she attempted to ignore them. She suppressed her suspicions, extenuated the evidence, and drank when other distractions were inadequate. In time, it became a vague and general unhappiness, which she ceased to acknowledge as having any particular cause.
Just outside the mansion was a small farm, which consisted of a stable and three plots of earth. Generations ago, the farm had been far larger. In intervening years, however, the family's investments had shifted, and much of its wealth had instead been derived from off-site factories. The family's connection to the earth, however, was a sacred theme, and these remaining plots were carefully maintained. Tending them was an important tradition, performed to honor the ancestors.
It was in the farm's stable, in fact, and not in the mansion, that the ancestral portraits were mounted. They hung together on the same wall, facing east. They depicted a series of gentlemen farmers, nobly descended, with mud-streaked hands. Together, they composed a proud race: real men - not effeminate aristocrats - who had distinguished themselves through careful labor, intimate with the soil.
There were scores of portraits. A prominent one, left of center, depicted great-great-grandfather. He was pictured on a horse, mid-trot, bearing a hay bale on a pitchfork. In the backdrop, visible but not emphasized, was a phalanx of toddlers, outfitted as stableboys. Each of their faces, down to the tilt of the jaw, was a tiny version of great-great-grandfather's own. ("An army of bastards," great-great-grandmother had written repeatedly, in her surviving papers). Another striking portrait contained the man's grandfather. He was surrounded by a team of milking assistants - all of them moderately pregnant - whom he clutched in a vast, lascivious hug. His left eye was compressed into an iconically virile wink.
The man himself spent most mornings on the farm, perpetuating the traditions of his noble blood. He tended to the cows and broken fences; he tilled the rows and weeded the crops. Most springtimes, new cows were born, which also resembled him. They had warped foreheads, half human and half cow, and soft hooves, from which vestigial digits protruded, forefinger, middle finger, thumb. Their eyes sparkled with a weird intelligence, and their coats were dark.
During the summers, the calves remained on the estate, rambling awkwardly through the mud and hay. They experimented with new vocalizations, part moo, part wail. The man observed them occasionally, paternal though not quite affectionate. In the winters, immediately after they had been weaned, he organized their export to the family factories. Here, they would be comfortably employed, either on the assembly line, performing repetitive tasks, or in the administrative offices.
The tilled rows in addition yielded products of the man's seed. Each harvest season, a variety of hybrids emerged, part crop and part human. Their shoots were composed of minute torsos, containing sternums and navels. Their flesh was tinted green. Their upper leaves framed tiny faces, twisted into unhappy expressions, similar to an infant's whine. The man extracted them carefully. As he repotted them, his mind flickered with the memory of the muddy, pre-dawn liaisons that had generated them. At times, the thread of this memory led to far sicker ideas, but he carefully suppressed them. When he had completed the transplantations, he entrusted the pots to servants, who transported them to novelty gardens, based deep in the countryside. Here, far from the estate, the children would pass quiet lives, nurtured by a team of conscientious gardeners.
Past the farm, on an outer ring of the estate, was a set of dun-colored warehouses. They contained electric and automotive equipment, whose function, much like the farm supplies, was mainly historical. Here, the man stored curiosity pieces, culled through the decades from the family factories. There were cars with blocky frames and fin-like protrusions, fashionable in a bygone era. There were electronic switchboards, lighted with wires and awkward buttons. There was, finally, a series of audio technologies, ranging from primitive to sleek, each tastefully embossed with the family emblem.
It was here that the man spent his nights. He was intimate with stereos and old windshields. He whispered thickly, intent upon the seduction of keyboards and insulation tape.
His adventures were prolonged and satisfying and yielded numerous illegitimates. These children had synthetic faces, composed of unnatural geometries. Their exteriors glittered, a mottling of flesh and inorganic solids. Soon after their births, the man exported them to the research departments of the family's off-site factories, in the care of scientists who were working to integrate hardware with biological tissues. As the children matured, they asked poignant questions about their origins - Daddy? Daddy? - which their adopted caretakers embarrassedly deflected, never quite answering. Their voices quivered, half glass, half plastic, or half electronic.