From the author: Most art is meant to be looked at. But now that you can plug a simulation of sensation directly into your brain, some art is meant to be felt.
Her opening at the MoMa was exquisite. I plugged the offered feeds into my brainjack and felt phantom textures: feathers, silk, wind, fur, oddly tactile sparkles.
I saw her in a corner, worked up some nerve, and approached her. I offered compliments. "I want my art to make people feel something," she explained. "And in our increasingly immaterial, abstract world, we've forgotten the kind of pleasure tactile stimulation can bring."
"Some of us haven't forgotten." I hesitated. "...Would you like to get coffee sometime?"
A flutter of surprise vanished beneath her smile. She said, very gently, "I'm straight."
My smile matched hers. "That's a shame." Even in defeat--especially in defeat--you must be charming, and you must ignore whatever heat creeps into your ears.
She pointed to a feed in the corner. "Have you tried that one?" My hot ears and I took the hint. I said no, thanked her again, and left to go plug it in.
Phantom hands stroked my skin, half massage, half intimate invitation.
"The artist used her own hands as the model," said the explanatory plaque.
I had to admit: this was one of the nicest defeats I'd ever experienced.
Sometimes our abstract world isn't so bad.
This story originally appeared in Pen-Ultimate II: A Speculative Fiction Anthology.