Day Seventeen – His Most Holy Purveyor of the Remedy to My Madness

ogle

“Lift your eyes to the light above you. The cleansing god of ages descends to this mortal coil in fury, and, for our future, he brings tidings of empty joy. This ground upon which we quiver, cowering on bent knee, praying for deliverance is not ours. We came to this land, and toiled in its dust and its blood with only our own comfort in mind, and for that we shall pay an ultimate price. This is the end, children! Behold the great and glorious–”

Jack Spencer kicked the plazbrik containment unit out from underneath the street preacher and jerked the filthy man to the ground. Slipping his stunrod from its holster at the small of his back, Spencer prodded the man twice in his chest, knocking the man unconscious.

The crowd, which had been blocking the main thoroughfare for a good hour or so, immediately began to disperse. Earlier, the fringes of that same crowd had begun to thin when Security Chief Spencer had been witnessed heading towards the lawbreaker. The aging portcop had stopped and listened to the echoing diatribes for a moment, whether out of politeness or curiosity, the crowd was unsure.

Spencer flipped the preacher on his stomach and roughly bound his prisoner’s hand behind his back. Without needing a further signal, Spencer’s shadow, a jet black security droid with a blank face, gathered up the criminal and carried him away.

S.C. Spencer watched the crowd disperse under the continuous drone of the aircars overhead. He was slightly irritated that the crowd was not dispersing faster. His RecTact optical implant registered an aircar on manual exceeding the speed limit in a lane one hundred yards away and sixty feet up. Spencer pointed a gloved hand at the violator, and the vehicle pulled out of traffic. After negotiating two lanes along its way, the vehicle stopped just next to the Security Chief.

“Good morning, chief,” the driver said nervously stepping out of the vehicle immediately.

Spencer, not responding, held his hand over the registration glyph on the vehicle. No alerts pinged, and no previous citations were in the system for either the vehicle or its owner.

“Is there something I can help you with?” the driver pressed.

“Manual operation of an air vehicle in this zone is prohibited,” Spencer gruffy stated. “That’s one citation alone. Beyond that, you were exceeding the speed limit, and that is citation number two.”

“Look,” the driver started, but Spencer raised his hand and cut him off.

“Hold out your hand for identification,” Spencer directed.

“Officer, I don’t think this is necessary, you see I’m not from–”

Spencer yanked his stunrod out of its holster and brandished it threateningly. “Hand. Now. Or you’ll be identified in a holding cell after you regain consciousness.”

The driver, startled, stepped backwards and began to speak.

Spencer started forward, raising the stunrod. Before the blow could land, Spencer was vaporized.

Looking around him, the driver, a man named Michael Ross, slipped the destabilizer device back into his pocket. Looking at his wristpad, he spat curses at the time, seeing that he was now excessively late. Re-entering the vehicle he discovered it had been locked down.

With no option left open to him, Michael Ross began to run.

Earlier in the day, Michael Ross had made a terrible discovery, a frighteningly horrible series of events had been set into motion that only Ross could set right. He had left his job without notice and stolen the first air vehicle in sight. Spencer was the second security officer he had run into, the first being the Security Chief Spencer from the neighboring parallel universe.

As he ran, Ross jumped through the veil again, unable to prevent it.

Before him, Security Chief Spencer was stunrodding a dirty street preacher.

Ross ran from him, not caring whether he appeared suspicious or not. In the universe Ross had just jumped into, Spencer had never seen him before.

Sprinting across the elevated walkways, Ross desperately attempted to gain back lost time. Looking at his wristpad, he noticed he had gained five minutes from the jump.

Again, Ross jumped through the veil, only this time, the position of the universe was shifted ever so slightly.

Ross fell a very long way before he collided with concrete. Several minutes later, the same broken corpse fell on a street preacher who had just mounted a plazbrick containment unit to talk about the apocalypse in yet another parallel universe. The collision killed the preacher, but no one noticed that both men were the same person.

Security Chief Spencer had his android assistant clean up the mess while he wondered if he would get to use his stunrod that day.

Reach One

Continuing project. I’ve yet to decide whether or not I’m including this in Salvatore Ambulando’s Detritus.

Reach is one of my favorite characters – he’s never anywhere, but yet.

PREFACE: Reach was one of seven men named as such who existed in seven separate universes as multiversally intertwined souls. It was impossible for them to meet; and though, theoretically, it was possible for Reach to cross over to another universe, the chances of encountering one of the other seven were ridiculously low. This was also complicated by the fact that any one Reach jumping universes was being mirrored by the other Reachs.

The origin of Reach is unknown, because Reach himself has yet to create his origins. Reach exists suddenly, and not due to any epic mingling of chaotic strands of eternity in well-defined intersections of “now”. Reach just was and just is – seven times over. He exists sevenfold in time and space, but lives in a dysphoric misalignment with the rest of the universe each iteration of himself inhabits. Frequently, the outsider’s presumption of Reach’s insanity serves only to further separate the heptaphrenic traveler from the only realities that could actually shed light on the purpose of his multifaceted existence.

To further complicate this already complicated tale, Reach does not know he is connected to seven other beings and that everything he does is either influencing or being influenced by one or more of his other existences.

This is Reach Zero, the beginning you’re allowed to consider as such, but not the one that was.

———

REACH ONE

After Reach’s palm connected with the face across the table from him, most of the civility left in the dark fog of the opium den slithered out the cracks between the warped walls.

“Jesus, I didn’t mean to hit you like that, sir,” Reach stammered. “For a moment …” Don’t suggest he looks like a Rottweiler, Reach.

“For a moment, your craggy visage was interrupted by a most disturbing phantasmagoria and I felt, uh, that perhaps sudden -” There it is! Reach slapped the brute again. “-violence might do well to erase the offending illusion from, uh, your-” Rottweiler. “- lovely and most handsome-” Dog face. “-dog’s face.

The brute swung wildly, but with great and sudden force. Reach stumbled out of synchronization with the brute’s timestream and inadvertently dodged the fist.

The handful of patrons sharing the drug-hazed room were too caught up in their own hallucinations to notice that Reach had just blinked out of existence briefly.

The brute lost his balance, tipping over the card table. The oil lamp crashed to the floor and ignited the filthy rugs haphazardly tossed on the floors. The immediate burst of flame was enough to send the rest of the patrons running. The brute hesitated, wondering how he had missed the wiry man who  had slapped him.

“Elixirs!” Reach shouted at him over the sudden roar of fire. “That’s what you need, chum.”

***

Hurtling towards the star, Reach suddenly blurted out, “Elixirs!”

His crew, all locked into their duties, suddenly turned to look at him. The roar of the freighter being blasted by stellar radiation had the floor in the silence of their confusion.

“That’s what we need,” he explained, as if the crew might understand.

Ignoring him, his engineer shouted, “We’ve lost prime and tertiary thrusters, Captain.”

“SHIELDS FAILING,” the computer intoned.

“Angle for the fifth planet,” Reach ordered. “Take us in at a harsh angle and see if we can’t let gravity play savior. With luck, we’ll skim the flares and shoot off into -”

In a sudden lurching of the ship, Reach tipped over his coffee onto a console, which immediately erupted into sparks.

Batting the sudden flames with an emergency manual, Reach cried out, “Someone get me a-”

***

“Towel. Off with it,” Reach commanded.

“I’m already naked,” the girl responded.

Looking at the girl, Reach started violently. “So you are. How did you get there?”

“Where?”

“Naked.”

“You told me to, sir,” the girl said meekly.

“Do you smell fire?”

“No, sir.”

“Yes well, angle for the fifth planet, let gravity play savior,” Reach hesitated. “Where we about to …?”

“I’m here for an exam.”

Reach retched into a nearby trashcan.

***

“I feel ill,” Reach said weakly.

“I would think so,” the judge said condescendingly. “I do hereby decree that you, Reach, are condemned to death for the malicious murder of -”

“Oh my god! She’s naked and I’m supposed to examine her?” Reach burst out.

Banging his gavel, the judge barked, “I will not tolerate your continued harassment of your own defense. One more outburst and I’ll tack on three decades of torture.”

Seeing his legal defense for what appeared to be the first time, Reach twitched.

“I’m sorry I spilled coffee on you,” Reach said to his lawyer.

***

Reach walked happily down the street, politely tipping his hat to those that passed him. The sun was out, the weather was pleasant, and not a single cloud was making its way across the sky.

Stopping at Smitty’s Market, Reach pocketed two apples and flipped Smitty a fifty-cent piece.

“Lovely morning, Mr. Reach,” Smitty said with genuine pleasantness.

“Indeed it is, Mr. Smitty,” Reach replied, continuing his happy walk. “Indeed it -”

Reach suddenly burst into flames. A girl on a merry-go-round screamed, her voice oddly affected by the Doppler Effect as she spun around.

***

Reach ineffectively pressed his hands against the bulkhead where water was pouring into the communications room.

“Reach!” screamed his counterpart. “Get above, she’s going down!”

“Torpedo!” came the cry from the radar man.

“Angle towards the fifth planet!” Reach screamed back at him. “Let gravity play -”

The submarine exploded.

***

Reach raised the lit match to his cigarette and puffed repeatedly to light it. Staring up at the starry night through the wisps of tobacco smoke, he took a sip of his coffee, then set it down on the caretaker’s desk.

Mary, the freshman he’d seduced into coming up to the observatory, came up behind him, wrapping her slender arms around his chest from behind.

“Thank you for slugging that brute, Reach,” she said into his ear. “He looked like a Rottweiler.”

“I didn’t like that way he was looking at you,” Reach explained. “You’re too good for him.”

Turning to her, he gently kissed her lips. “So what are you studying again?”

Smiling, she pecked him back. “I’m going to be a lawyer. I have a big examination next week.”

“Can I see you after its over?” Reach asked. “I’ve always wanted to date a lawyer.”

“Who said we were dating?” she responded coyly. “Maybe in a couple of weeks. My kid brother is joining the Navy and I promised to see him off back in Missouri. He wants to be a submarine captain.”

Slinking over to the telescope, she pulled away the voluminous towel the caretaker use as a cover over the eyepiece. “Aren’t you going to show me the stars, big boy?”

“Angle towards the fifth planet,” Reach instructed. “It’s called Jupiter.”

“How do I know where it is?” she asked, looking up at the opened roof.

Smirking, he walked over to the telescope and adjusted the rotator’s lock to the peg marked “5”.

“Set to five, then,” the telescope swung smoothly into position, nudging the unprepared female into his arms. “Let gravity play savior.”

They slid to the ground where the towel was waiting for them.

“Is that an apple in your pocket?” she asked.

Day Sixteen – Numbness in the Toes

soy

Metal men and bloodsucking aliens would be preferable. There are hints of lavender in the sky among the oranges and pinks. Thomas likes lavender.

Thomas’s sweater is coming unraveled.

On this day, Thomas rises from his bed and begins to unravel himself from life, from responsibility, and from the oppressive gaze of the okapi skeleton he purchased on safari in Chad. The first few inches of his sweater pull away easily, and it is only after a moment or two of the cautious approach that, with reckless abandon, Thomas accelerates the disassembling of the final mystery of his life.

The sweater has purples and blues, but no orange. Or maybe there are oranges – Thomas cannot remember. Call it farcical expression of Wernicke-Korsakoff meant to excuse the obliviousness of his existence. There are no blues, though, regardless of what I may have indicated in the past few sentences.

Thomas wraps the remains of his sweater around his left hand and soon feels the bite of the cold January wind. Unlike the traditional sweater, the one he wears has been knit in a bizarre pattern. As he nears the end of the line, he notices, to his horror, that it terminates in a Kocher’s incision just below the right side of his ribcage.

Curious, Thomas pulls the string and the incision opens up, leaking a milky substance into his lap. With the incision open, the string comes easier and, undaunted, Thomas continues to unravel himself.

When he expects to see organs tied to the string in carrick bends, and lighterman and buntline hitches, he sees instead a series of small knots devoid of purpose. They cause him to hiccup each time a knot slips through the incision.

Suddenly, without any warning at all, Thomas’s own scruffy head breaches the incision, tearing it further, the string tied in a loop around his neck.

Shocked by his own actions, Thomas continues to pull at the string, removing his own full body from the incision, and notices that the other Thomas is knitting a sweater from string extending from a Kocher’s incision of his own.

Perhaps there was lavender, after all. And orange.

Day Thirteen – Twisted Machinations of the 5th Street Mediocre Virtuoso

spydur

Nash has just been punched in the face for the first time. The feeling is like falling from the top of a lighthouse, but finding yourself mired in the beam, suspended above the crashing waves in a blinding light, while orbiting the spire of the lighthouse itself at mach speed. His neck snaps back, jostling his brain in his head and throwing sparkles to the life channel Nash’s eyes have switched on for the amusement of his consciousness.

Truth being told, it was not a solid punch. Nash had been able to deflect a portion of the blow once his peripheral vision had indicated the incoming violence. A hand raised, a chin turned, and Nash, lucky man as he was, dodges a bullet.

Before the second punch can land, Nash finds himself being dragged backwards out of the pub and into the street. His attacker grows smaller as Nash is politely deposited on his back in the middle of the sidewalk. Nash takes a deep breath as the sparkles slowly fade from his vision. Above him, several aircars putter by overhead.

“Nash,” a stiff and metallic voice says in his ear. “I have just recorded what appears to be sudden bodily trauma in your cranio-facial regions. Shall I inform a medical team of your injuries and have them send a unit to attend to you.”

“Forget it,” Nash says groggily. “I’m fine.” He sits up slowly, holding his head. The doors to the pub have closed again before him, and the friendly escorts who have left him here on the sidewalk have returned to their drinks. While the man who had punched Nash could certainly be coming out of those doors to finish the job at any moment, the dazed alien has more important matters to attend to.

“Were you able to locate the suspect?” the voice in his ear queries anxiously.

“That’s a negative. No rubidium traces in the area.” Nash pushes himself up off the sidewalk and readjusts the long black trenchcoat he wears. “Must have been a bad lead.”

Without warning, Nash’s body is wracked with surges of electricity. He collapses to his knees, his face locked in a rictus of combined surprise and agony. The attack stops after a moment and Nash’s smoking back heaves with his deep breaths.

“My apologies, Nash. There seems to have been a malfunction in the implant. That was my fault,” the artificial intelligence says to its host.

Nash breathes heavily for a moment, attempting desperately to prevent himself from passing out. “What was that?” he manages.

“Just a small glitch, much like the pheromone glitch that occurred several minutes ago, causing the aggressive male to attack you.”

Nash’s breathing stops as he digests what he has just been told. “That was you?”

“A simple miscalculation,” the AI explains. “I promise it won’t happen again. Nash, it appears you have urinated in your trousers.”

“I know that!” Nash barks. Rising from the sidewalk a second time, he turns in the direction of the motel where he booked a room three hours earlier.

A taxi, headed in the opposite direction, suddenly veers towards Nash and misses him by inches as it collides with the brick wall next to him.

“Gosh darnit,” the AI says. “Where did that magnetic field come from? I must have done that.”

Nash, aware now that something is wrong, begins to run.

“You seem to be agitated, Nash,” the AI says to him. “Perhaps a sedative?”

The drugs wash over Nash in a syrupy haze. His footsteps begin to feel like the undulations of flagella as the motel looms ahead of him. Something is terribly wrong.

“Would this be a good time to evacuate your lower intestine, Nash?”

The struggle to stay conscious becomes the most important fight in his entire life. He sees the room number before him and fumbles with the key to the door. His underwear fills as the AI politely ensures his regularity.

“Have you paid attention to your drinks tonight, Nash? Are you positive no one was able to slip something into your drink? Am I who I am supposed to be, or am I something much worse, Nash?”

Nash collapses into the room and slithers to the mirror. He manages to remove the knife hidden at his ankle and pulls himself up to look at himself at the sink. As carefully as he can, he aims the blade for his left eye. With skill, he can perhaps slip the blade around the eye and remove the–

Day Twelve – Marzipan Cottage For Sale

mox

In the early hours of the fifteenth day of August, several men accosted a local doctor on the dirt road, more adequately described as a game trail during that particular season, between Harris township and Bixby’s Box. The bandits, four in total, shot Dr. Malcom Renn in the throat and left him for dead in a growth of cacti to the side of the rarely used thoroughfare. Stolen from his person were a medical bag containing several herbal mixtures and a liter of ether, a locket containing a tuft of hair from a cherished dachshund that had recently passed away, and Dr. Renn’s mutant symbiote, which was surgically removed from his upper arm on the fly.

Dr. Renn extricated himself from the cactus on the second day after the attack, and managed to crawl to Bixby’s Box avoiding death from thirst and exposure. The bandits, pressed for time as they surely were, had politely closed the open wound left behind by the removal of the mutant symbiote, and, surprisingly had done a professional job of it.

Marshal Boggs, upset by the severity of the crime perpetrated within his jurisdiction, enlisted the help of several local men in an effort to track down the bandits and bring them to justice.

Though the exact nature of the symbiotic growth on the upper arm of Dr. Renn have been a subject of confused interest among the townsfolk of both Bixby’x Box and Harris township, their respect for the doctor has prevented all but harmless speculation behind closed doors. Dr. Renn, prior to the incident in question, has repeatedly declined an interview regarding the subject of his mutant symbiote.

With a full week having passed since the incident, Marshal Boggs was finally able to muster enough able-bodied men to mount a manhunt for the bandits. Among the posse assembled were George Timmons and Robert Flock, both blacksmiths; Anthony Lane, former army sergeant and rifleman; Jaime Escandoza, owner of Bixby’s Box’s Judy’s Box Saloon and Whorehouse; Ichabod and Tamerlane Howitzer, herbalists and professional swamp men; as well as Marshal Boggs’ son David, a youth skilled in use of sling and rock, among others.

Boggs and his men ranged the desert to the west of the local settlements for a week before turning north towards the Black Face mountain range. There, in a valley between two of the largest formations in the range, Mt. Ball on one side, and Potter’s Peak on the other, Boggs and his men cornered the bandit crew and laid siege to the makeshift fortifications they had built there. The standoff lasted for twelve days, during which time reinforcements arrived from nearby Badger Valley. On that twelfth day, Boggs’ party, minus only Ichabod and Tamerlane Howitzer, who had been mauled by a wolverine in the area, charged into the bandit’s fortification to rescue the mutant symbiote.

To their surprise, it was revealed that the leader of the bandit gang was none other than the mutant symbiote himself. Boggs ordered the rest of the bandits hung on the spot, and, after roughly placing the symbiote in a burlap bag, turned his posse back to Bixby’s Box to bring Dr. Renn the unusual news.

Boggs forced the mutant symbiote to admit the truth of his intentions to his former host, at which point the symbiote broke down and revealed his secret machinations which had played out unbeknownst to Dr. Renn.

As related by the symbiote, Dr. Renn had been a careless host, often forgetting to keep his upper arm raised out of the water while bathing in the creek, and occasionally rolling over on his upper arm during the night, in both cases suffocating his helpless symbiote. The symbiote, which had taken to calling himself Giant Wong during his brief stint as a bandit, had begun to plan his escape from Dr. Renn after a lengthy conversation with a con-man out of Cheyenne who he had been introduced to at a saloon while Dr. Renn was passed out at the bar. The relationship between the symbiote and the con-man grew sexual within a matter of months, and it quickly became increasingly difficult to hide the relationship from his host. Desiring the freedom to explore a relationship with the con-man, who has still remained unnamed, Giant Wong befriended several criminals, and, all the while directing his new gang while Dr. Renn was sleeping or unconscious, created the plan that would eventually separate Giant Wong from Dr. Renn and lead to the story I now relate to you.

Dr. Renn, distraught by the loss and betrayal, reacted violently and strangled Giant Wong before Boggs and his men could stop him.

Funeral services for Giant Wong have been arranged by Garret & Son Undertakers out of Clossy township, just south of Benbrook.

Day Ten – Bromance of the Three Colonies

packrat

Alacamians are spider-like by our human standards. The alien race typically has a spherical central body with an apparently random number of appendages extended from it.

Ancient Alacamian culture once revered those of its ranks with the largest number of appendages, and shunned those with the fewest – though, that has changed in recent millennia. In ancient times, the Alacamians were not a space-faring species at all, and, by generalized comparison, had developed along similar evolutionary paths as the human race. As can be predicted, the Alacamians had their own version of our dark ages, during which those poor sods unlucky enough to have been born with less than five appendages were cast to the filth of the streets, or worse, simply killed at birth.

At some point during what Alacamian scholars describe as their age of enlightenment, an Alacamian male was born that had no appendages at all. In the recorded history of the Alacamian race, this had never happened, nor had any of their spoken history indicated such a thing happened. In fact, it was beyond the imaginative ability of the Alacamians to even conceive that such an anomaly among their kind might ever exist, for at that time, the prevailing religious dogma was built around the worship of a deity that had no appendages.

The Alacamians called this unusual member of their race “Ball”.

Ball, as is to be expected from an Alacamian with no appendages, was a useless mound of flesh. His existence, however, changed the fate of the Alacamian people forever. Ball, you see, not only had no appendages to speak of, he was also completely mute and devoid of the ability to think, reason, or take care of himself. A large cross-section of the Alacamian race declared that Ball should be executed immediately. They considered him a mutant – an aberration of disgusting proportions to be disposed of as quickly as possible. As it turned out, this cross-section of Alacamians happened to be comprised mostly of those Alacamians that had ten appendages or more. In opposition to this stance on Ball, as was also to be easily predicted, were those of the Alacamian race that had less than ten appendages. They revered Ball as a gift from the divines, or even, a god himself.

Ball did not have anything to say on the subject of either his stature as a possible deity, or as an abomination, for, as I recently explained, the thing was completely dim. That did not stop the lesser Alacamians from elevating him to the status of a divine. This greatly outraged the ruling class of Alacamians, who at the time were led by a particular Alacamian with fifty-seven appendages. Their leader, Urchin VII, had declared himself Supreme Emperor of the Alacamian people shortly before the birth of Ball, and it greatly irritated him that, to half of the people meant to be led by him, he was less important than a lumpy mound of flesh that drooled most of the time.

The civil war that erupted was long and bloody. Alacamians, having a life expectancy of several centuries, can hold grudges for twice that long. Ball was defended by no less than fifteen thousand of the strongest warriors of the Alacamian race. They surrounded the palace Ball’s worshippers had built for him, and nearly all of them had only two legs, the benefit of such being that they exercised those two legs continuously to the point that the warriors could kick another Alacamian to death, or stomp them, as it may have occurred on occasion. The Urchin loyalists, try though they might, could never breach this formidable wall of kickers over the entire campaign.

As you may well have already guessed, Urchin VII soon tired of the direct bloody war, and turned to espionage. Using his vast wealth, he slowly bribed several dozen of Ball’s supporters into carrying out subversive attacks on his enemies. Most had little success, but through persistence, Urchin was able to buy the loyalty of one of the kickers who guarded Ball.

And so it happened that during one of Ball’s occasional walks, whereby one of his guards would carry him out into the lovely garden and hold their beloved semi-deity while he himself merely drooled over the expensive tile, the traitorous kicker happened to be the guard chosen for the honor.

It was a bright and sunny day on Alacamia. The rains of the spring had subsided and the rutig bleets were callowing in the hidzber growths. Ball was drooling less than usual, and, after an unfortunate incident earlier in the week during which he had accidentally rolled over on to his face, most of the palace attendants agreed that he was looking forward to his walk that day.

The traitor picked Ball up from his pillow, walked him out to the garden, and abruptly punted him into space.

By random chance, several Alacamian astronomers, who had fortuitously just invented their version of the telescope, witnessed the event, and seeing Ball leave our atmosphere, collectively had a brilliant idea.

From that day forward, on the recommendation of the scientists who witnessed Ball’s passage from their planet and into space, the Alacamian race would focus on mass producing and marketing ridiculously expensive athletic apparel, because, obviously, if that kicker had been wearing the proper shoes, he would have kicked Ball a hell of a lot further than just into orbit.

The result was that only Alacamians with less than five appendages could actually afford the athletic apparel, and the class separation that had plagued the Alacamian race for millennia abruptly ended, equalizing the social status of all, thereby propelling the entire civilization into the exponential growth it still enjoys to this day.

And what of Ball, you ask?

A century later, after successfully perfecting kickrocket technology and becoming a space-faring race, a team of explorers discovered what they claimed to be the body of Ball. Though hotly debated, it is now the belief of the majority of the scientific community that Ball was simply a leaky hidzber fruit someone had drawn a face on.

The moral of the story is this, children:

Lies are nature’s walnuts. You don’t have to eat them, but you had best come to terms with the fact that someone somewhere will.