Star Ptarmic


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Kathia Anirin sent us many remarkable reports during her anthro-erotic study of the people who inhabit the Far Reach Blue Worlds of the Cygnus Arm; but probably the most influential was her account of the female sneezing ritual practised on Scathos.

This seminal work is now so familiar that it is difficult for a temporally restricted being such as myself to describe just how extraordinary it once seemed. Indeed, I suspect this same familiarity has led many of you to study the numerous commentaries generated without thoroughly examining the source material itself. So let us start with the original report.

Perhaps we will all find it helpful if I add a few words about the Kathia of those remote times. When the black maw of the thundergate spewed out her explorafish near Scathos’ sun she was twenty-five consensus years old. A product of the Benign Genetic Recombination Programme instituted in 1734 PC by the Unified Human Dignity Parliament, she was perfectly suited to her task, physically and intellectually, and was at the height of her powers.

She arrived on Scathos with – Did you say something? Speak up! You request a detailed physical description of Kathia…Well, that is your right.

The delicate bones of her long face and slender body gave her a gazelle-like quality (you are familiar with the Earth genus Gazella, I presume). And she possessed a peaceful doe-like face: pale brown eyes, a wide supple mouth, and a slim graceful nose. However, when she was amused or tackling a fascinating problem her features could assume an elfin intensity that revealed her penetrating intellect. Her hair, once remarked upon by the poet Julius Servain, was the colour of copper, and it hung, thick and shining, to the middle of her elegant back.

Ah, we at the Universarium were all a little in love with Kathia – at least, those of us who had not selected the Daedalus Treatment, which, as I am sure you are aware, shrivels the genitals but enhances mental abilities.

I clearly remember that Kathia’s cool exterior concealed an almost childish enthusiasm she would not hesitate to show if she liked you. There was one time, as we walked together in the Nascent Fields, that she grasped my – Sorry? You will have to speak louder…Yes, forgive me. Forgive an old fool’s self-indulgence. It was always my vice. If only I could warn the naïve young man I was then about the monstrous crimes that his youthful self-indulgence would lead him to commit…But I am digressing again.

Kathia arrived on Scathos with the intentions that must be cherished by all good genetically engineered anthropologists: to become like the people of the planet; to experience what they experience. They were Homo syntheticus, of Earth-standard appearance, though internal modifications allowed them to cope with the atmospheric conditions of their homeworld. Kathia’s congenital skills enabled her to adapt temporarily without much effort.

Her guide was a woman called Mara. Mara was a tharium den owner in early middle-age whose sturdy but not unattractive figure was typical of the physique created by Scathos’ gravity, which was slightly higher than the 9.78 Newton human optimum. Her broad cheekbones, pale skin and flared nostrils were also typical, and adhered to the conventional standard of female beauty portrayed by Scathos’ artists. Mara had agreed to cooperate fully with Kathia’s project, and on a prearranged occasion the young anthropologist, now wearing the traditional Scathian wraparound, was escorted into the tharium den.

In a private room, dimly lit and hung with heavy red curtains, the two women sat facing each other on sumptuous cushions – and Mara explained the customs associated with the drug derived from the Tharium ptarmica plant.

“The seeds are ground into a fine powder which, when inhaled, is a powerful female sexual stimulant. For some reason not fully understood men are unaffected. According to ancient Earth tradition, men are often the initiators of sexual contact. On Scathos, we women, owing to the use of this efficient aphrodisiac, are the prime movers.”

“Intriguing.” Kathia smiled as she sipped a cool fruity drink. She was making a sensographic recording of the interview, using her multifunction neck chain. “Please continue.”

Mara settled back. “Tharium powder not only stimulates a woman’s libido. It also irritates the lining of the nose and induces sneezing. Over the centuries, we of Scathos have come to associate sneezing with the female orgasm. There are similarities: the gasping, the build-up and the climax.”

“I see,” said Kathia. “On Banatura Prime, in the Tartessos System, sex and defecation are closely linked.”

Mara frowned. She obviously found the comparison distasteful. “Men and women do not usually sneeze in public,” she went on. “If a woman sneezes in front of a man, it is a direct invitation. It says that she desires him and wants sexual congress.”

“Are men considered homosexual if they sneeze publicly?”

“They are thought feminine.”

“That’s not the same at all.” Kathia wondered if Mara was homophobic. She tried not to prejudge her guide. “I understood that a recent research project – ”

“Correct.” Mara nodded. “Research is being conducted on those rare and fortunate individuals able to change sex at will. The scientists involved hope to isolate the active ingredients of tharium and produce the drug in a form effective for men. If they are successful…”

Kathia inclined her head. “Intriguing social implications.”

“You are better able to speculate than I.”

“I promise to investigate further. But you were saying – no sneezing in public.”

“We are an intensely sexual people. But we are also a private people.”

“How do you stop a sneeze, though? If you have to sneeze, you have to. It’s an autonomic reaction.”

Mara shrugged. “We have better self-control than people from other worlds, I suppose. Putting the finger so – ” she pressed her index finger to her top lip “ – works admirably for me. Of course, during intercourse and other sexual interplay, the woman is expected to induce sneezing. Our nostrils become hardened to Tharium ptarmica, but several deep inhalations are usually sufficient.”

Kathia pursed her lips. She had sometimes experienced a sensation of enjoyable relief when sneezing, though she would have to do a lot of adapting to regard it as an integral part of sex. But this was her calling; she was good at her job; and she knew her duty. “May I try some tharium?”

Mara frowned again. “Now?”

“Yes.” Kathia nodded slowly. “Now would seem appropriate.”

Mara raised her already-arched eyebrows. “To sneeze before another woman is regarded as lesbianism.”

Kathia considered this. “On Tadril Haminis, in the Yellow Quadrant, lesbianism is the norm. All children are born by artificial insemination; most boys are castrated at birth, with only a few being kept un-neutered so their sperm can be harvested when they reach adulthood. However, if – ”

“Wait!” Mara held up a hand commandingly. “I run a tharium den. I am used to many different sexual practices, and lesbianism is not offensive to me. I will be your partner, if it furthers the cause of anthro-erotic study.”

Kathia drank the last of her fruit juice. “I am not naturally inclined to lesbianism.” She smiled at Mara; her elfin smile. “For my purposes, it would be better if a man could be brought in. Then you could guide me through the sexual ritual.”

Mara seemed satisfied. “Very well.” She pressed her senso-broach and spoke to one of her many minions. “Gadril.”

Gadril’s voice came from the broach. “Yes, Mara?”

“Please send in Daros with a bowl of tharium.”

“Certainly, Mara.”

Seconds later a dark-haired youth, taller and less stocky than most Scathians, entered carrying a small golden bowl. He was well muscled, his hair had been combed back from his forehead and greased, and his body was oiled. His eyes were like black jewels, hard and bright, and his mouth was long and thin-lipped. He wore a tunic: the clothing of a prostitute.

Kathia smiled up at him as he placed the bowl on the rug between her and Mara. Then he sat next to Kathia, leaning back insouciantly on one elbow.

Kathia peered at the contents of the bowl: a fine white powder. “Tharium?” She looked at Mara.

“Tharium,” said Mara. She produced two large blue silk handkerchiefs from beneath her cushion and spread them on the rug, one on either side of the bowl. “You may use these if you must. But usually the woman is expected to sneeze without restraint.”

Mara reached over and put her thumb into the powder. A small amount of tharium adhered to her thumbnail. “Place the thumb under your nose thus and inhale sharply.” Mara snorted. Her eyes watered slightly, but she did not sneeze. “You try.”

“What if I don’t sneeze?”

Mara gave a short laugh and Daros smiled. “You are not used to tharium,” said Mara. “You will sneeze.”

Kathia copied Mara, sniffing the powder vigorously; perhaps too vigorously – she spluttered, aware of a strong, spicy scent, and her eyes filled with tears: it was rather like swallowing the hot earthwarts of Nova Arcadia, or drinking fine bubblewine; there was that tingling at the top of the nose. She blinked at Mara; and already the tingling was increasing, filling her head. She knew she was going to sneeze. She felt air rush into her lungs. And her whole body was consumed by the sensation. A delicious anticipation. A balloon of energy waiting to burst.

Her elegant nostrils flared; her huge eyes closed – and she sneezed.

In her report she made a detailed reference to the noise of the sneeze. The significance of this escaped us initially, blind fools that we were – What! No no no, we weren’t literally blind. I know, I know. I may be slightly deaf. But I am not blind. Not yet anyway.

To continue. The sneeze was her normal sneeze, sounding something like: “Ahyeshha!”

As she looked up blearily, she realised Mara was shaking her head sternly.

Involuntarily, Kathia had covered her nose and mouth with her cupped right hand; and she had turned away from Daros.

“No hand!” Mara said urgently.

But Kathia sneezed into her hand again. “Ahyeshhha!”

Daros said to her: “Caress you!”

Mara moved towards Kathia and took her hand away from her face. “Do not cover yourself, and when you sneeze, sneeze over Daros.” She examined Kathia’s palm. “Are you going to sneeze again?”

“I don’t think so. I’m not sure.” Kathia sniffed. She suddenly realised that the sneezing had been extraordinarily pleasurable; a deep sexual pleasure that had stimulated every nerve with its fuzzy, tingling rush.

Mara wiped Kathia’s damp palm on Daros’ naked thigh. He closed his eyes and moaned softly. Kathia could see his erection pressing against the folds of his tunic.

She was aware of a third sneeze welling quickly inside her – a warm tide that receded, then came with renewed force.


This time she sneezed in Daros’ direction, and he sighed and said again: “Caress you!”

She wondered if there had been much spray. There was usually only a little mucus and saliva from her sneezes, but the last had been especially powerful.

Mara was still frowning. “You are a beautiful woman, so your sneezing arouses Daros. But you do not obey the Thatra – the rules of sexual congress. Your sneezes should be given freely and you should make them sound in one of four permitted ways.”

Kathia shook her head in bewilderment. She reached for one of the handkerchiefs and pressed it to her nose. “Sorry. I have to do this.” She blew her nose. Mara tutted.

“Watch.” Mara sniffed another thumbnail of tharium. Then another. “Luckily I have very sensitive nasal passages.”

She knelt above Daros, moving her hands in front of her full breasts like a musical conductor. Her mouth was open; her eyes were half closed; she looked as if she was about to scream in unbearable ecstasy…

She sneezed dramatically: “Hatchow!”

The sneeze was almost a shout. Mara looked at Kathia, holding her finger to her top lip to restrain an incipient sneeze that made her eyelids flicker and her breath come in short gasps. Apparently there was a writhing creature inside her, trying to escape.

“That was the Chow,” she said; then sneezed again. “Huh-chai!”

This was too much for Daros. He tore open his tunic and moaned. “Caress you, Mara!”

“The Chai,” said Mara. She went back to the bowl, sniffed tharium. She straddled Daros and sneezed full into his face. “Ishi!”

Another sneeze came so quickly she was unable to talk to Kathia. “Eshooo!”

More sneezes followed: “Ishi! Ishi! Hah-eshoo!”

Sniffing, she wiped her nose with the back of her hand and grinned at Kathia triumphantly. Her cheeks were flushed with pleasure. “There you heard the Ishi and the Eshoo. The Ishi and the Chai are the most difficult sounds to make unless you are inclined to sneeze that way naturally. The Ishi is the most highly regarded. The Chow and the Eshoo are roughly of equal difficulty, with perhaps the Chow being slightly more problematic.”

“Incredible,” said Kathia. “On Vantil Four, there are forty sounds to make during orgasm, but this sneezing ritual is very…different.”

“Sneezing during orgasm is one of the most basic techniques,” Mara explained. “It brings man, and especially woman, great pleasure.”

“May I try?” Kathia felt very aroused. The drug was pulsing through her.

“Of course.” Mara rose and moved to one side. She gestured at the young man, who appeared semi-conscious and was moaning feebly. “Be my guest. I will hold the tharium bowl for you.”

Kathia removed her wraparound, revealing her sleek body with its firm high breasts. She knelt over Daros, inserting his penis inside her and rocking slowly; riding him.

Mara held out the bowl and Kathia sniffed tharium. The beginnings of the sneeze were exquisite. She had never experienced such an urgent thrill, and she abandoned herself to the sensation.


“No!” scolded Mara. “Remember the Thatra.”

Kathia gasped. “On…Trimaxim…Se…Seven…”

“Just SNEEZE!” bellowed Mara.

Kathia gasped again and tried to imitate Mara’s formal sneezing. “Yeshh-ooo!”

“Good,” said Mara. “Nearly the Eshoo.”

Kathia’s breasts were moist with sweat, saliva and watery mucus. She thought her nose was running, but she didn’t care.


“Caress you!” cried Daros.

“Good.” Mara grinned. “A good attempt at the Ishi.”

Kathia took more tharium, her mind swirling, and began a succession of convulsive sneezes: “Ah-yessh! Yessha! Essha! Eh-yessha!”

“TRY!” Mara screamed.


“Well done."


“Caress you!”

“Hushai! Oh infinity! I’m going to…” She couldn’t control her next sneeze because it came at the start of the most delicious, intense, vigorous orgasm. “Ahyeesshhaaa!”#

Her orgasm thundered on; and she felt she was being transported to a new sate of awareness, more acute and more pleasurable than anything she had known before…