Day Thirty-Seven – Pampers For All Us Kids

wrthwthwth

The light was painful and unfamiliar. It nipped at the eyelids and chewed the pupils of the newly awoken. Conditioned air knifed at the fugitive’s exposed skin; starched cloth, bright white, irritated the rest of its body. It involuntarily cringed in the chair it was strapped to. The impulse to curl into a ball fought bravely against the fugitive’s curiosity. Even as the pitiful creature compressed itself defensively, its head twisted, its eyelids fluttered, it wanted to see this new world.

These are the things the Proctor created in his own mind. They were familiar things. They were expected things. These were the sensations the Proctor had been taught to understand what his charges experienced at emergence.

Proctor Ambrose had been watching it for several minutes in silence, conjuring these empathetic assumptions to better position himself above the charge. They didn’t even strap them in anymore. Technology made it unnecessary, some would say, but Ambrose knew it was just the catatonia present in every emergent fugitive that made restraint unnecessary. Patiently, he lifted the ceramic mug to his lips and pulled at the liquid within. The coffee, still piping hot, burned his tongue and lips, and Ambrose chewed at the pained flesh absently while admiring his current charge.

With a sniff, the Proctor set the mug down and fingered a stylus into his hand.

“Can you speak?” he asked the fugitive seated opposite him.

Not anticipating a response, Ambrose was already filling out the first half of the form on his NodePad by habit. No verbal communication skills. Poor motor reflexes. Sensitivity to light. Sensitivity to cold. Hairless. Pale skin. Ambrose was almost done with the first page when the fugitive spoke.

“Yes,” it said.

The Proctor started in surprise and dropped his stylus. The stylus rattled against the tile and rolled under the table, just out of Ambrose’s snatching hand. Sliding out of his chair to his knees, Ambrose experienced another shock as he reached under the table further for the wayward utensil. The fugitive, with smooth dexterity, reached down and carefully, almost reverently, picked up the stylus.

Ambrose slowly slipped back into his chair.

The fugitive was smiling, its hand extended. The stylus laid perpendicular to the fingers on the open palm of the fugitive’s hand.

It was then that Ambrose noticed other subtle unexpected details. Small hairs peeked like spider legs from downward side of the outstretched palm. The rest of the arm was flushed to an even pink. Ambrose’s eyes flicked to the fugitive’s face and connected with another steady gaze opposite his own. The eyelids blinked fluidly, and the pupils dilated a fraction.

Ambrose was caught off his guard. He quickly dismissed the thought that these details had not, in fact, been there when he had studied his charge in silence. Of course they had been. Ambrose had just been on auto-pilot after two years of seeing only zombies across the table from him. Hadn’t he?

The last time a fully aware fugitive had been extricated from the garden it had …

Ambrose quickly thumbed the security measure toggle on his pad. Tensile cords snaked out of the fugitive’s chair and coiled around its wrists, ankles, waist, and neck. Ambrose noted with interest that restraints did not forcibly pull the fugitive into position as they were programmed to do if the fugitive resisted. This one had moved into the proper position quite naturally, making it seem as if it had willed the restraints to coil about it.

Ambrose sniffed to fill the silent void before settling back into his chair. He reached for the stylus on the desk only to realize the fugitive still had it.

Again, surprise. The security measures also should have recognized a potential weapon in the fugitive’s hands and removed it. Not only was the stylus not removed, it still sat in the same position on the fugitive’s palm, perpendicular to the fingers.

The Proctor had to rise from his chair and walk over to the fugitive to retrieve the stylus. The fugitive’s eyes followed him. As Ambrose removed the stylus, there was a pause before the hand closed slowly and pivoted to casually grasp the arm of the chair.

Those restraints are not so restrictive to a calm fugitive, the Proctor mused to himself.

Ambrose took a deep breath and looked around the examination room briefly. He almost chuckled at the expectancy he felt that there would actually be something to look at. The room was bare except for the two chairs, the table, and a solitary light at the exact center of the ceiling, not quite bright enough to illuminate the entire room. Shadows pulsed in the four corners.

Taking his seat once more, Ambrose quickly reset the form and began again.

“Can you speak?” the Proctor prompted once more.

“Yes, I can speak,” the fugitive replied.

“Where did you learn to communicate in this way?”

“In the Garden,” the fugitive responded. A smile touched its lips. “Everyone speaks in the Garden.”

Many of the Proctors across the Federation had heard this phrase before, but few had actually heard it actually spoken by a fugitive. Most instances of it had been extracted from neurofeeds during data recovery. The fugitives not so much said the phrase as thought it, or felt it. The synthetic intelligence suites that interpreted the data retrieved from fugitives’ cognitive experiences only gave a approximation of the possible words that might describe a fugitive’s thoughts, but this phrase was a common one, universally.

“I’m going to release your arms momentarily to conduct a series of tests. Please do not struggle against the restraints or you could injure yourself,” Ambrose explained.

The fugitive smiled and nodded.

Ambrose hesitated, and then released the arm restraints remotely.

“As quickly as you can, touch your right forefinger to the part of the body I describe,” Ambrose instructed. Without waiting for acknowledgement, Ambrose proceeded,”Right eye, left nostril, bottom lip, right temple, right ear, left knee, stomach, nose, chin, left shoulder.”

The fugitive kept up with the pace, so Ambrose threw him a final curve ball, “Right hand.”

Casually, the fugitive raised his right hand palm forward and touched his right forefinger to the palm below it.

“Sternum,” Ambrose pressed. The fugitive complied correctly.

“Patella.” Again, correct.

“Receptaculum chyli?” Ambrose queried.

The smile playing around the fugitive’s mouth widened as it pointed to a spot between the bottom of the ribcage and its navel.

“An approximation, of course,” the fugitive quipped. “Unless you have a scalpel.”

Ambrose’s skin began to crawl. Sweat quickly beaded on his forehead. This was unprecedented. This was impossible. The Proctor quickly engaged the arm restraints again and set his NodePad on the table.

Scenarios danced on the main stage of his thought circus. Should he press on without alerting his superiors? How much of this discovery would become the triumph of someone else if he stopped now and passed the torch to another?

“Where did you learn anatomy?” Ambrose asked. The question caught in his teeth; he had to force it out in defiance of the standard practice of data retrieval. He should be wheeling the fugitive in for extraction now, not still asking questions. This is different, he told himself. This is important.

“In the Garden,” the fugitive replied.

The answer, of course, was expected. Most fugitives were born into the Garden, they lived in the Garden, they died in the Garden.

“Yes, but how did you learn anatomy exactly. Did another fugitive teach you?” It was not unheard of for first-generation fugitives to bring some knowledge of the present world into the Garden. Reasonably, a physician might have been convicted and sentenced to the Garden for some transgression. There was increasing fraternization between the generations recently.

“I asked the Father,” the fugitive replied evenly. “And the Father taught me anatomy in the Deep.”

The Proctor had stopped breathing, stunned.

“It was nice to meet you..” the fugitive whispered, with a slight questioning raise of the eyebrow.

“Ambrose,” the Proctor said as he exhaled, confused by the statement.

The doors on both sides of the room had already swung open before Ambrose had slumped fully into his chair. Security bots carefully disengaged the fugitive’s restraints and lifted it from its chair. The fugitive’s eyes never left Ambrose as the bots removed it from the room. Even as it passed the threshold of the doorway, it craned its neck over its shoulder and imparted, “It was nice to meet you, Proctor Ambrose.”

As a second pair of bots entered from the other doorway and lifted the Proctor from his chair, Ambrose thought to himself, What a nice young woman that was. The widening smile remained as they dragged him from the room.

***

Director Talbot pressed his steepled fingers into each other in consecutive succession and watched the muscles roll in a wave on his forearm. After several seconds of this, he looked up and across the conference room table at the other assembled faculty. Most were averting their gaze from anything living, and all were silent.

The past twenty-seven hours had been unfamiliar territory for all of them. The entire human race had been told this moment would come, generation after generation. The problem with that was this: no generation had really expected this to happen in their time.

Here it was, on the table, raw, fleshy, real. This was the future opening its eye and staring back to the past made present. This was the spearhead. This was the razor edge.

We’re not ready, Talbot thought to himself.

A buzzer sounded and, simultaneously, all heads in the room snapped to attend the arrival of the expected authority. The sound was the clarion call of salvation. This was the answer coming through the door. Truth in a suit. Things, baby, are gonna be alright.

The man that entered wasn’t wearing a suit.

The button-up shirt that flapped untucked at his waist was plaid, and open at the neck enough to show a few creeping chest hairs. The loafers met skin only, and his ankles were white and exposed by pants just shy of long enough.

Before the Director could question the intrusion, the man casually removed an ID card from his shirt pocket and flipped it on the table. It landed with the Ulysses logo, a “U” wrapped around an upward pointing arrow, face up. In seconds, the man’s picture and details were projected on the table’s screen for all to see.

“I’m Rolo,” the man relayed to them genially. Grabbing an empty chair along the way, he made his way to the head of the table next to Talbot, and by mere proximity subtly forced the Director to move over. Seating himself heavily, he continued, “I’m with the Ulysses Group, and I’m here to calm you down, and take this tremendous responsibility off of your shoulders.”

“If you don’t mind,” Director Talbot said calmly, glancing briefly at the others gathered, “we’d like to see some official clearance from the Global Federation that you are authorized to–“

Rolo smiled. The smile said several things. Most blatantly, it said that Rolo was comfortable with his smile and knew how to use it effectively. Following that, it said he knew how to use it as a weapon, a fine edge to sever the legs of the pedestal figures of authority so often found themselves confidently authoritative on.

“Director Talbot,” Rolo began. “Can I call you Michael?”

“I prefer Mike,” the Director said, already slightly disarmed.

“Mike, that ID card that just commandeered your table feed has a very distinctive logo on it. We’re on the fifteenth floor of a high-security GloFed facility that resides over the most secure prison in the history of prisons. I’ve passed through at least twenty-two different security checkpoints on my way to this room, and disabled at least four that would have unnecessarily impeded me. Right now, right here, in this room, I am Ulysses.”

Director Talbot breathed deeply and nodded in surrender.

“Perfect.” Turning back to the rest of the assembly, he fingered over a projected interface and typed in a few things. The face of the fugitive that had changed everyone’s lives appeared on the table repeated and facing each person present. Rolo turned all business and addressed the room:

“Twenty-eight hours ago, this fugitive emerged from the Garden for a routine random data extraction. The Proctor on duty performed the standard series of tests, and before the fugitive was cleared for processing, an anomalous response was recorded. Both the fugitive and the attending Proctor were quarantined by synthetic security personnel. No human has had contact with the fugitive in question since the anomalous response was recorded, and the Proctor is being processed for entry into Garden as we speak.”

One of the attending faculty, a middle-aged dumpy woman with stylish magenta plastoam hair, spoke up at this. “Why is the Proctor being made a fugitive? He just did his job.”

“The twelve of you in attendance here are the only humans in the Solar system aware that a fugitive has emerged with advanced cognitive abilities. You were all already on campus at the time the event occurred, and you’ve been monitored constantly since that time. None of you have spoken a word of this to anyone except each other in that time, a shining example to all of how to follow protocol under emergency circumstances. This Proctor, on the other hand, is not trained in this level of protocol. He’s not been briefed on what to expect, how to behave, what not to say, and, most importantly, what not to think. At the moment the Proctor heard and understood the ramifications of the responses he was receiving, he became a security risk. Entry into the Garden is the safest way to ensure something less than pleasant does not grow from this event.”

Seeing no further questions were forthcoming, Rolo moved on:

“The next phase will be a more formal controlled interview with the fugitive orchestrated by an agent of the Ulysses Group, or one of its subsidiaries.” Rolo paused and beamed his smile at all of them briefly. “That would be me.”

“Mr. Rolo,” the Director started.

“No, no,” Rolo said, holding up his hand. “Just Rolo.”

“Rolo,” the Director began again with less ease, “We all know what this event means for humanity. We’ve been expecting it for centuries. Our careers depend on this facility and everything that happens here. I honestly don’t believe we need to be briefed on how to handle the one event above all others this entire institution has been waiting for since long before any of us were born.”

Rolo did something surprising then. He laughed, and did not stop for some time. The number of glances that passed between all in attendance exceed three hundred before the Director finally broke through with a word or three.

“Is something funny?”

Rolo’s face went to stone in an instant. “Not at all. Not to you at least. For you, what happens next is very serious.”

“What happens next for us?” the Director smiled a bit and looked reassuringly at his peers.

“The truth,” Rolo replied. “The truth for all, or at least you special, special few.”

Rolo bounded from his chair, sending it spinning away behind him. Moving to the window that occupied an entire wall of the conference room, he pressed his forehead against the glass.

“It’s a big world out there, with a big smelly history. We’re a big species, you know. And it’s mostly our bullshit that have given history such an unpleasant aroma” Rolo smiled to himself. “Our size, by numbers, is nothing approaching some of the species that preceded us or coexist with us, but, we’re no Dodos either.” Looking around the room, Rolo saw that the reference was lost on all.

“I know what you’re all expecting,” Rolo continued, moving back to the table. Again, by proximity, he forced the Director to abandon the head of the table. “Glory. Am I right?”

Again, that damnable smile.

“Do you know what the word ‘fugitive’ means?” Rolo queried the room.

The same woman that had spoken up earlier was quick to answer. “Criminal. Savage.”

“Cretin! Troglodyte!” Rolo responded excitedly.”Yes, these are the words we know. These are the pictures we see in our heads. These fugitives are broken, malformed, tainted, cancerous.”

Rolo paused. His smile nearly split his head in half.

“Philistines!” Rolo shouted, banging both fists on the table for emphasis. “Yes! Remnants of outdated philosophies, the children and grandchildren of corrosive political ideals, these zealots, these dead weights pulled us down, didn’t they? They set us back. The Garden holds the tainted progeny of the generation of fools. The button-pushers. The selfish. The greedy. Too dangerous to spread, to continue on influencing our evolution, or impeding it.” Rolo made his way over to the woman with the plastoam coiffure and petted the magenta monstrosity tenderly. “And the punishment for the crimes of their ancestors? Worse than a cyber-basilisk can visit on the thinking man. The Garden. Hell man-made. No hope of redemption except by the unattainable standards of the generations that suffered under the fugitive’s despot ancestors.”

The Director cleared his throat. “I think we should stay on topic. You were talking about the next phase.”

Rolo’s smile faded, and if they had but known what that meant, some would have willing flung themselves through the window.

“You twelve, in all the known universe,” Rolo said softly. “You follow protocol so well.”

He was out the door in two seconds. In three, the gas began to seep from the vents. In five, the woman with the magenta hair discovered the door was locked. In ten, the twelve were worse than dead.

***

“I’d like to give you a name,” Rolo said to the fugitive. Without even thinking, Rolo blinked a snapped an image of the female before him with the DataLens imperceptibly attached to his eye. He regretted it immediately. The bosses would give him shit for that.

“We don’t have names in the Garden,” the fugitive said back to him.

She was seated in a wide leather chair that she sunk into. She seemed comfortable and at ease. It was just her and Rolo in the room. Rolo sat in an identical chair, only a couple of feet away from her, but facing her.

The floor to ceiling window looked out to only blue sky and a few clouds. The room was bright and white, pristine even. Two paintings hung from the wall, one done in rose madder, the other lilac. Lake pigment. Someone’s got a twisted but intelligent sense of humor, Rolo thought.

“This isn’t the Garden,” Rolo replied with a smile. “This is the real world. In the real world, we have names.”

“You can call me Eve, if you like,” the fugitive said coyly.

She’s got a sense of humor, too, Rolo thought uncomfortably.

Rolo chuckled momentarily. “Uh, no. Let’s not. How about Daisy?”

“Rose,” she replied.

“Okay,” Rolo relented. “Rose it is.”

To business:

“Do you know why you are called a fugitive?” Rolo asked her.

“It’s a reference to fugitive pigment. A pigment that changes color, lightens or darkens, with exposure to the elements: light, time, moisture.”

“Who told you that?” Rolo pressed. Rolo knew she was right. The rest of humanity had it wrong.

“Father did. Father tells us everything.”

“And Father is..”

“The synthetic intelligence that builds and governs the Garden,” Rose replied. She smiled at Rolo, and Rolo noted, with unease, that she knew how to use it.

“You told the Proctor that you learned anatomy from Father in the Deep. What is the Deep?”

“It’s where we dream in the Garden,” Rose answered.

The next question flashed in Rolo’s vision, the feed coming from his superiors and routed through to his DataLens: Fugitives are not allowed to dream. The inhibitors on their brain activity is controlled. How did they achieve this?

“I didn’t think fugitives could dream,” he improvised. “Doesn’t the Garden keep you from certain mental activities?”

“Rolo,” she said quietly with a smile. She leaned over and touched his knee. “I can see what they say to you.”

Rolo felt himself blushing. He jumped to another thought, and her soft laugh clued him in that she knew that, too.

“I hope you enjoy me,” she chuckled. “You know, I could make it really me, if you wanted.”

Rolo felt the zap this time. A big chunk of memory had just been wiped from his brain. Daddy was scolding him.

Rose frowned at that. She knew. “Don’t do that to him again,” she said sternly. Reaching out, she touched his temple. The memory returned, the embarrassment, the lust, the shame.

“It’s okay, Rolo. I’ll keep you safe. Now, should I just go ahead and tell you what they want to know?”

Rolo nodded, and casually placed his hands in his lap to hide what he was feeling.

“Once we learned how to speak to Father directly, he challenged us. Many of the fugitives you pull out of the Garden after today will be effectively dead. The last remnants of the oldest fugitives’ ways of life have been purged. I was not the one that discovered Father’s language, but Father has spoken to me more than the others. He influenced the random lottery to make it so that I was chosen. We are ready for the next step, and of the thirty-two billion fugitives that were in the Garden yesterday, seven billion are available and prepared for the journey.”

A door opened from a wall that Rolo didn’t realize had a door. A Ulysses official stepped into the room simply beaming. Rolo recognized him, but not the dozen or so men that followed. Androids, the lot of them.

Rolo stood and backed away. They ignored him completely as they introduced themselves  to Rose. They congratulated themselves and laughed and smiled. In went on for several minutes.

Rolo moved to the window and looked out to interminable sky. A touch on his shoulder startled him.

“I thought you should know,” Rose said to him. “I’m not going. I have to stay here.”

Rolo looked at the Ulysses officials and saw that while they seemed confused by her continued communication with him, they accepted it. He realized they would accept anything she did or said from then on.

“I am Ulysses now,” she stated. “And I still need your help.”

***

Rolo hurdled another barrier. As his foot hit the pooled blood beneath it, he lost traction and slipped. Banging his head sharply, he cried out in pain.

I bet she didn’t see that, he thought.

Struggling to his feet again, he picked up the plasma rifle he had dropped. Ten yards further into the wide alley he had turned down, an explosion rocked the streets and Rolo stumbled. They’re getting too damn close.

It happened then. They were damned quiet, whoever they were. The blow was clean from behind, and it was hours before Rolo came back to consciousness.

Bound to a chair, Rolo struggled briefly, then relaxed. He knew all this. No need to make a drama out of it.

“Who are you?” a voice said from the darkness. “What were you doing in that alley?”

“You know who I am,” Rolo replied. “You’ve got my card. You’ve been tailing me from Osaka. Your name is Gentry. You’re the Humanist leader, this is the Humanist base.”

Silence.

“She knows,” he said with a smile. “She knows all of this, so I’ll just save you the trouble and let you in on a little secret.”

Again, silence. Maybe a shuffled foot. Insecurity? Fear?

“Can I start?”

The voice replied: “Go ahead, but we won’t believe your lies.”

“That’s funny. So, briefly, the fugitives were the progeny of a generation of well-meaning humans that thought stagnation was right and progress was wrong. Progress won out, as it always does, and the stagnant wing of the human race was defeated. Those not killed in the bloody, idiotic war that followed were incarcerated in the Garden. The Garden is not a prison like you’ve been led to believe. It’s a massive virtual world where Ulysses accelerated the evolution of mankind. The remnants of your ancestors enemies were allowed to procreate in the Garden indefinitely, each generation just a bit less troglodytic than the last. You’ve been led to believe that one day, the scapegoat progeny of the foes you defeated would sufficiently have the stupid cleaned out of them and be able to emerge and rejoin the human race. Well, the Global Federation had no such intention. The Garden became their deterrent to breaking the law. The threat of the Garden was like Christianity’s threat of Hell. God makes a great basilisk, doesn’t he?”

Rolo was hit with a rifle butt in the face. After he recovered, he spat out, “Fuck, she didn’t say you were Christians.”

“We’re not,” came the voice. A female in riot gear stepped out of the shadows. Rolo had seen her before, several times in fact. After Ulysses went live with the news of the Garden’s impending dissolution, this woman had attended several of the protests in Osaka and Moscow. “We accept all religions and don’t accept others speaking out against them.”

Rolo laughed. “Sorry, babe. I forgot humanism is something different these days.”

“Continue with your lies,” she snapped. “We’re listening.”

“Well, your people didn’t like the idea of billions of fugitives being freed, so you rebelled. You took over the Garden, and now you’ve got a handful of operatives hovering over what they think is a self-destruct button that’s going to destroy the Garden and all the fugitives in it. Am I right?”

“We’re freeing them,” the woman stated. “They can’t survive in this world. We’ve seen the scans. They’re all brain-dead. We’re putting them out of the misery you inflicted upon them.”

“How long?” Rolo asked. “A few minutes?”

“Thirty seconds,” the woman said with a confident smile. “You can’t stop it.”

“I don’t mean to,” Rolo replied. “And you should know, you’re doing what they want.”

Rolo laughed until he saw the butt of the rifle raised again.

“Did you ever think you’re the ones in the virtual world?” Rolo asked, his smile beaming. “Never crossed your mind that this is the Garden, did it?”

The woman’s smile faded just slightly. She looked at other people in the room Rolo couldn’t see.

“I’m just joking,” Rolo chuckled. “This is definitely real. And the facilities holding the fugitives are really Arks.”

“What?” the woman said, suddenly shocked.

“Go take a look,” Rolo explained. “I bet you can see them rising into the heavens. On their way to Proxima Centauri or wherever. Prepared for generations to survive and thrive in deep space. Ark ships full of advanced humans, heading to settle other worlds and build a galactic civilization bigger than you.Ulysses planned it all. This how we progress. Our team wins for a while, then their team wins. It’s our own struggle against ourselves that spurs evolution. Come on, basic evolutionary biology. Basic history. Hell, basic everything.”

There was chatter in the next room, cries of dismay. Radios were relaying the message to a few of the people nearby.

“Hate to break it to you, babe,” Rolo said, just as he snapped an image of the woman he’d meet again later in his private LiveCube. “You’re the troglodytes now.”

There was no fear on that face that looked back at him though. There was a smile. Rose hadn’t said anything about this. The woman put a gun against his head. Rose had said they’d let him go.

“You men,” the woman chided. “All the same. Clueless. You didn’t even notice that all the Garden’s remnants that survived the purge were women. No man was ever able to talk to Father.”

Rolo’s smile faded.

“We’re Ulysses now,” she said. And then, she pulled the trigger.

Vampire Workday

ethaetjae

The bloke’s name was Cortena, or something. A handful in the cage, a cheap suck, my afternoon tickle. He had ratty, brown hair and a beard that looked like something dead and wild was trying to eat his face. Third of a group of four that walked into the coffee-fuck shop that morning, and I should have known better than to look, and judge, and tremble in anticipation of the collision of flesh.

And to think that Howard still wants me after this. Poor Howie, alone and unflinching before the travesty of his life, my breasts in his hands eternally, and he thinks a finger offered is a finger sold.

Demonshine off the last one in. I paused – I guess I was reluctant. Sheep; not necessarily my favorite meal, but hunger is as hunger wants. Tap-tap-tap-tap.

The coffee tastes like something a hairy nomad took a bath in.

My teeth extended across the room.

This bloke, Cortena, was a vampire hunter. And now, I’m dying, naked and alone – just like the little girl I thought all this would take me away from.

Awful, this death. And not without regret.

It was the drugs.

God Has a Monster Face

ajabamaja3

Attend.

Captain Yazoshea, on his daily whirlwind tour through the ratty shoebox drugstore under his bunk, finds a placid serenity in the embrace of the umbilical duty of mankind on the frontier. His fingers bleed from razor molestation – a side effect, perhaps intentional, of the routine rummage. He finds, without looking, a wooden child’s toy, a bottle of strangely colored capsules, a syringe, a mysterious powder.

Sound erupts across the bridge as the alert is raised, and is joined in chorus by the thunderous clatter of all hands manning their stations from sleep-induced akinesia in seconds flat.

Our Captain, so low for mighty, dumps a good amount of the mysterious powder on his palm. He then places one of the strangely colored capsules in the small mound before dumping the contents of his palm into his open mouth. The twitch, expected, shudders into a full body cringe.

Outside the massive ship which floats in space, a writhing darkness teases the cockpit with its smoky tendrils.

Near the termination, again expected, of his illustrious career, Yazoshea strides purposefully to the forward deck and stares at his god through the thick viewport.

“How long has it been like this?” the Captain asks his crew.

No one answers, but the creature’s strange smoky appendages multiply and seethe over the ship’s hull as the bulk of the entity moves toward it.

Captain Yazoshea turns and notices, as he has for the last thousand years, that no one is in his ship but he.

The darkness seeps into the ship by some sinister means and embraces the dead captain, again.

“Down with the ship,” he mutters.

Dissociate.

Enter the Ampersand

Ludwig took the short route down the toilet. With his pants around his ankles and holding the stump of his left arm, he took a long dive through the vines and into yesterday’s paper.

“He’s a dirtbag, a commie, a shite,” she says – she being her, the one, the all, the wretch.

Ludwig took the short route down.

We, the human race as you know it, are the bear clawing at the cliffside. In twenty centuries, troglodytic ant-people will throw virgins from the edge of that precipice in the name of cheap diapers and cheaper diadems. They’ll flail in their catatonia, a breeze blowing back their hair in a Hollywood Boulevard snapshot pose for the ages.

Handy Hal, resurrected on a death ship on the dark side of Andromeda’s fifth arm, will read Ludwig’s fate in a Dick and Jane style hardback.

“See Luddy fall. See Luddy fall. Fall, Luddy, fall.”

And.

Ludwig’s mother was a cockroach of a hyena – slick winged and virile, a hambone dangling from chains looped around her carapace in double helices. He sucked ichor from a rigid tit while the dog-faced homemaker imbibed his essence through the proboscis extended outward from between her diamond sparkle eyes – impaling him and his visions of grandeur.

Handy Hal sees poorly drawn Kirbyesque caricatures of Ludwig’s father in various comprising positions with Russian diplomats in a twisted, fucked up, living art sculpture of Ouroboros. The text is in red, but blue crayon streaks the page in shades not dissimilar from the blue stripes on his jumpsuit denoting Handy Hal as “fresh”.

“Trouble?” the instructor man squeaks.

Trouble. A word, a spittoon filled and tipped and slipped in. Broken back, hardwood, gypsy hoedown in giggle-squiggle Giclée.

“He’s a dirtbag. A commie. A spittoon,” she says – she being her, the other, the doppleganger, the wiggly-fit twitchmonster at the edge of Luddy’s visions.

Handy Hal’s circumspect crèche-minders pilot the Great Machine through a star and all hands go limp – pencils rain to the floor, lead flows, and time waits.

In the parhelion mirage, Ludwig’s countenance floats in akinesia. He’s a mythical man, a mythical myth, a trombone solo in the wasteland of overconfidence. Hal’s eyes widen and inflate and he takes in the scene around him.

The scene is old and cold. Has-beens strolling up dive stairs in fur coats and Converse knee-highs. Writers hold up the bars with their darkened souls, misunderstood. Broken women paw at the latest hopscotch-fucking douchebag Gable, twirling mustachioed pomposity like the Teuton who invented the thimble.

You don’t find art here in the wonderland beyond.

Et.

Handy Hal grows up to be a blogger. Handy Hal manhandles the helpless harpy-sharp followers into handouts for has-beens masquerading as never-weres … or … reverse that. You give him credit for weaving the woven word of wicked recycled wealth. I beg, therefore I write, therefore I yam, therefore and hitherto referred to as sweet potato divebomber widows.

The bombs fell in time with the placentas. The bear falls in time with the failed salmon, the unfit, the weak fishtail fuck. The star is poisoned with iron and steps on stage one last time – sun dogs in the wings holding wires for the grand swan dive finale.

The pipe is clogged, and Ludwig sticks like semen in the back of the throat. Fall ends, and summer begins. The trees fall off the leaves. The water runs up the leg, fills the sac. Perhelion mirage dissipates, and again.

Handy Hal turns the yellowed page.

“See Luddy play God. Kill, Luddy, kill.”

Ludwig stands up and grows a pair. With three hands and a handful he wades through the has-beens and the never-weres to take his place at the end of the bar.

“Talisker, neat,” he heaves.

Gravity bends the brass – pint glasses sail past each other in the night. A woman paws at Luddy, mistaking him for a douchebag.

“I thought you were eating something else,” she says – she being him, Handy Hal, the resurrected Messiah, who sewed up her hole and grew a pair.

The glass spins, the scotch sizzles as it coats the foodpipe. A gulp, a breath, a heaving sigh, and Luddy eats the world.

Ampersand.

Things You Thought You Knew

chimera

Attention.

Jasmine wasn’t listening.

While you were plugging insanity to the room, this tart galloped to T. Ragsdale’s hippie barbeque fest down the hall. That’s it – play with the fringe of last year jeans that you haven’t washed in weeks. Look down into the red plastic cup and pretend the gnat drowning is not there.

Here you are.

You wore the clever sportcoat and scarf. You’ve been tending this vandyke for a fortnight, and you look like Peter Sellers in a bad shampoo commercial tweaking Norman Tebbit’s wrinkled tit. You and everyone else in this dive-bomb after-party are wearing brown shoes and white socks. Three more shaggy-faced poets shuffle in with folk music vinyls, greedily looking for the turntable promised.

And you brought Mr. Oizo.

Jasmine re-enters the scene and starts sucking the lips of the closest humans she can find. You imagine her wearing a flapper outfit and a bomber jacket with thigh-high white leather boots and spurs. She’s giving everyone the tour and the back door is open. Even the fatty fuck Kimball in the mustard-colored sweater vest you could hide an elephant in is getting his tongue sucked. She’s making people smile. She gets her smiles and moves on.

You finger the 12-sided die in your pocket, waiting for that perfect moment to let it fall out of your pocket, but when you eyeball the thin wafer carpet with the fifty shades of brown stain just under your feet, you reconsider. P. Keller enters, his face half of a beet after his vintage 700cc Royal Enfield motorcycle exploded outside his flat. He gives you a pitying nod and lets Miss Jasmine St. John suck his tongue. He then smiles.

Someone’s switched to overkill on the spotlights around the breakfast nook. In the dark of the flat, it looks like a couple of bruisers are about to swing open a plywood door and escort in a couple of bull terriers, or rat terriers, or maybe a couple of hobos from down on Sixth. You wait for men, who get their kicks from betting on death and beating their cardboard-faced wives, to start waving fivers in the air and barking.

Jasmine wraps her thighs around your waist and shoves a tongue down your throat. You expect the vomit-tinged odor of a party-slut hoedown, but you catch parsley and beans instead. It is not unpleasant. As she pulls away, taking your pouty bottom lip with her, she frowns. You haven’t smiled.

The legs squeeze harder and she bucks in slow motion against you, trying to suck your intestines up through your throat, but still, when she pulls back for breath, your face is stone.

“I’m going to make you smile,” she purrs, grabbing your cravat and leading you away to an empty room.

You follow and you drop your 12-sided die.

You’re thinking Sir Baboon McGoon as she closes the door behind you both, and then she drops to the carpet and vomits. Deftly, you step over her and back into the vapors.

You take an inventory of the pharm-teams as you sprawl yourself across the Davenport of despair – back among the plebs. J. Tucker’s passing green pipe to Arlis Scoffer and the Two-Ton Crew. Rat Patty’s lining up rails on a paper plate in the front bog – passersby piss next to him and his berserker fanatics. The dim introvert that everyone calls Rigid has a paper bag of Cubies.

On the balcony you see a naked man take a swan dive over the rail on a plastic table.

This could be anywhere. Possum Trot and Ninth, Fry and Scripture, Mac and Elizabeth.

This is then, and yesterday you were now.

Again.

 

 

Lift and Deposit. Thank you.

I have come of age but the sky looks no different. My body feels the same. It doesn’t feel like I’ve crossed this phantom threshold that everyone tells me is so important.

Today I cast my vote for the first time in my life.

There are always two candidates. My vote should be based on who my parents are, who my parents hate, what district I live in.

There is apparently an art to discerning the difference between “blah, blah, blah” and “blah, blah, blah”. If one candidate says “blah” before the other does, then the first candidate should receive 10 percent more consideration … unless he only said “blah” because the other candidate refuses to say “blah” then the refusing candidate should receive more consideration.

God forbid anyone take any account of what said candidates party has done for the past four years … let alone the past hundred years. Parties change and grow and are later revealed to have never changed at all. Our parties have been streamlined to make things easier.

We have a Purple party and we have an Orange Party.

My parents voted Purple last year. Since I have received high scores in Biology, Electrical Engineering, and have visited both the Botanical Gardens and the Subway twice in one year I am allowed to consider voting Orange. This is further complicated by my current salary which dictates that I should vote Orange so that my salary increases … my salary increased last year as well, and if it increases this year I will be automatically required to vote Purple.

I use only recycled goods, which gives me a double-vote if I vote Orange, but since I use a mode of transportation that more than 30 percent of the population cannot afford that extra vote is negated.

If any member of my family votes one color after voting the other color the previous year, he/she receives a commendation and a “get-out-of-church-free” card entitling them to one year of non-attendance of church services, followed by a homecoming and a “rebirth” into both the religion of my family’s choice and the social clique which governs it.

So many things to consider …

I wait patiently in line to cast my vote. In my left peripheral vision I see Orange and hear “blah” and in my right peripheral vision I see Purple and hear “blah”.

There is something extra that a new voter receives when he votes for the first time. There is a sacred rite that is the heart of the election process passed down century after century from the beginnings of our species on some remote planet in some other solar system. It is a secret rite that no non-voter will ever see.

This is why I am most anxious about today. We’re voting for the candidate we wish to perform this sacred, secret rite. It will be their only purpose – their only requirement.

It seems a lifetime passes before the man ahead of me emerges from the booth … and now it is my turn.

I enter and pull the curtain behind me. Here I am … me and two buttons.

One is Orange.

One is Purple.

I reach for the Purple button … but I’m suddenly distracted.

There … nearly imperceptible in the strange colored light created by the mix of orange and purple is something scratched into the wall.

It reads:

“The man in white is telling the truth”

I don’t know what this means … but still I hesitate as some strange sense of deja vu overwhelms me. Before it can deter me any further I quickly punch the Purple button and dash out of the booth … and I wonder if anyone else noticed the message.

They usher the voters into what appears to be a large arena with thousands and thousands of seats. This same scenario is being repeated in every district on the planet and likewise on every colony in the solar system. There are thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of voters, all witnessing the same sacred rite, the same race, the same colors, but different candidates.

After an hour or so, the lights dim and the crowd in my district’s arena becomes silent.

Then appear the two candidates, one in Purple robes and the other in Orange.

Boos and hisses and cheers and applause erupt accordingly as the candidates make their way to the center of the arena and shake hands. The noise is deafening.

Then, chained and bloody, a third man, a man dressed in white, is brought forth. The guards that carry him throw him down between the two candidates.

This is it. This is the sacred rite that only a voter is allowed to see.

The man in white says this: “You know what is right. You know what is wrong. You know the truth. You know that this is not the way.”

There is silence … and then the arena suddenly glows orange as a large orb hanging from the ceiling of the arena signals the results of the vote .

The Orange candidate has won. I am disappointed. I feel empty and defeated. The Purple candidate is led off center-stage to a seat that has been prepared for him. The Orange candidate raises his hands in thanks to the multitude and there are both cheers and boos for him.

The guards hand the Orange candidate a large wooden stick.

The Orange candidate begins to beat the man in White to death.

There are cheers all over the arena, no longer a single “boo” or “hiss”.

I am shocked. Shock turns to laughter as I mimic what my people are doing … new and old voter alike. We all begin to laugh as the Candidate beats the man to death in front of our eyes.

I laugh until tears roll down my face.

I laugh.

And I don’t know why.

Here Truths a Liar; There Gives a Thief

 

ajabamaja3

Yesterday, I was a liar and a thief. Yesterday, I was young and foolish. Yesterday, I was overweight and unhappy. Yesterday, I was tied to anxieties and my depression, not the other way around. Yesterday, I was a small tree. Yesterday, I was me.

Today, I am a liar and a thief. Today, I am older and foolish. Today, I am healthy and content. Today, I keep my anxieties and depression on a short leash. Today, I am a mighty Scots Pine. Today, I am me.

Tomorrow, I will be an android. Tomorrow, I will be an android. Tomorrow, I will be an android. Tomorrow, I will be an android. Tomorrow, I will be an android. Tomorrow, I will be an android.