Another loaded as soon as the previous one began to fade. Mika had discovered a cloud, if he wanted to watch anything before the acrid milk ate through his algae cereal he had to hope it was a brief one. This ad featured a well-scrubbed female he recognized as associated with local Christian broadcasting feed. How anyone could believe in a wise and omniscient God in a world where the firmament was so riddled with humanity’s wild technologies and reality was in constant flux, or maybe it was just this reason the appeal became that much stronger. The voice was without a doubt not that of the well-scrubbed female. It was warbled male croak that told of sphincters emitting bouquets of ripe fumes. More byzantine descriptions of farts followed.
Clouds forming wisps of nudity creased the imagery. Grasping hands and breathy gasps of desire. This was the worst, he had entered a cloud of pornbots. Before his good cup of ersatz. Pornbots. All Mika wanted to do was watch his favorite cartoon while choking down his algae bits. Maybe he had some credit to put up some new blocks. Everything that existed eventually floods with porn. That is the lesson he learned long ago. Something worked, probably an overdraft, but everything was smooth sailing for his destination. The destination is finally finding The Carrions. Mika’s favorite inexplicably disgusting children’s show. Ralphed-up Rat, Gob of Garter (a sexy looking snakelike object), and Clobbered Canary having endless adventures. The Buzzard (the main villain of course) and the Shovel have teamed up to do an all-out onslaught on our heroes. The Shovel has stolen Canary’s brains and the Buzzard is using a weapon mounted on his plane to make Rat’s skin rot.
A call was coming through and he snapped out of the cartoon coma. The salty tang of the algae bits and the fowl skim of the milk were in his throat. He must have fallen asleep with the television cloud on. He hit the wrong button and the channels started flipping like quickly released blinds, coursing blip by blip into the forbidden regions of the upper dials. It was too late and the system seemed to be jammed.
Erotic moans and howls seethed in the air like a descending fog. Smells rolled out of every corner of the enclosed, encapsulated zone around the television and the couch. Static electricity buzzed. A crinkling of vinyl and a hand formed from the dull but luminous surface of the screen cloud and began to blindly grope towards me. Some gliche in the machine. Haunting the world giving out painful, un-erotic, and frankly disquieting hand jobs. One of his friends received one and has trouble sleeping to this day. Not to mention the onslaught of haunted sounded voices demanding money. It had become alive and started switching channels one by one. The captured moments of time appearing and disappearing into the electronic flutters of momentarily captured and then lost existences. Mika pulled back before remembering the snare of wires trapping him on the couch. Mika was wired into the coach to clean it and was still gripped in the spider web tangle. This was causing the disconnected sensations. The crumbs in the cracks, loose bits of metal fallen from pockets, an old urine stain from the neighbor cat that kept trying to adopt Mika. His ability to plug into each of his meager pieces of furniture and share in their physicality gave Mika brief bursts of antic solipsism. Did he dream each of these objects into being? But, what bland and poorly matched detritus for a dream creation. Then again that might be exactly what one might dream.
Bearing drool of blood each wire tip pulls free of my skin. The smart plastic of the couch is holding back the groping hand but it is losing as he breaks of his connection. Looking at the streaks of blood across the floor he begins to seriously question the wisdom of buying that retrorig. Wires connecting everything look cool in the catalogs but wrenching them free from your skin with real blood is a different story. The smart plastic shriveled into sullen bags. He pulls himself clear and rolls behind the screen cloud. The arm is snaking all over the couch want to deliver its payload of unwanted sexual attention. One more wire unscrewed and vacancy, emptiness forms in the room, to be filled in by crushing waves of silence.
Mika considered the silence. He considered the blood on his floor. If he could get the systems running again it would be cleaned up in no time. The stains and coppery smell would have to linger until then. The punctures had already stopped bleeding and begun to heal. His personal systems seemed up to date, he wouldn’t need to resubscribe for a month. He didn’t know where that money would come from, but that wasn’t a concern yet.
Ersatz maker was down with the house’s systems. Mika was convinced cold was seeping through the thin walls. Was that the wind coming through the walls? The walls were cardboard, barely paper-thin. He had an hour before Rafe’s Everloving and Forgiving bus service rolled through the area. This gave him time to run to his friend Barrel’s to fuel up the bike. Mika had figured out a route that avoided the bike and auto fanatics still on the road, both which viewed his motorized bike with disdain.
Exsena was probably calling to confirm their afternoon date; he would try to call her on Barrel’s mobile.
Healed and in the wind riding. The fuel seemed to be in a precarious state. The dusty monitors were barely lighted and uglier smoke than usual was pouring from the exhaust. He hoped Barrel had a fresh batch of fuel ready. A wind nearly knocked him off the bike. A balloon flies over head. It bears four rusty arms with helicopter blades. An enormous concrete block hangs from the bottom. The shadow catches him and then moves on, decorating trees, fences, and valleys on its way.
A few minutes later he is paused to watch a scene of great energy. The lifter heliblimp that had soared over him had delivered its payload to a machine that was dragging it to a construction site. Its chugging engine rattled his teeth. A series of cranes where moving the slabs into what might eventually be a bridge. A stone bed with pillars set evenly on it. The machines were all remotes drenched with sensors that caught darts of sunlight from between the clouds. Who had money or energy to build such things anymore? An order issued that had never been cancelled, the company responsible maybe already long gone.
There was no one in Barrel’s yard. Pumps worked their operations with patience unseen but heard in the field. One did so erratically, stopping as if catching its breath after a brief set of revolutions. The tin trailer house and yard showed no movement except for the insectoid twitch of the security cameras. It was a photograph of an artificial landscape with the hint that life had recently passed, moving on to more hospitable climes.
Blue flashes in the grass showed the presence of Barrell’s pigs. They observed but didn’t approach. They were shy which was alright as they could be quite aggressive despite or because of their intelligence. Barrell only let the most intelligent roam free. They provided a kind of additional help or security.
The door opens and he stared into a set of eyes, objects mocking their organic representatives with plastic lined glass and a deep metal tube. Barrell brings his shotgun to rest and greets Mika with a beckoning gesture. His bold, scarred face gives no sign of his mood. His dreadlocks have been clipped into a sort of mullet. Mika examined the shotgun in Barrell’s hands. An auto with smart shells hooked to the surveillance systems. Beyond overkill. The weapon indicated some new level of paranoia in his friend. Barrell had observed Mika on the surveillance systems and his pigs had allowed a familiar sent to enter the area but he still brought the weapon. They leave the day behind as the door seals shut.
Odor leaked in before the door sealed. The smell was omnipresent at Barrel’s. Mika wondered about ditching his sense of smell. He heard that taste went with smell. Then remembering the awful tang of his breakfast and he wondered whether or not he would miss either sense.
After an incoherent batch of speed chess with a free jazz musical accompaniment and most of the pieces scattering on the floor, Barrell says he has some fuel in the works. But, first he needed to attend to something. Something worth watching, so Mika should come with him.
Behind Barrell’s farm was a bubbling pool of feculence caught in a sunken rubber bladder. This pool was the congealment of all his farm’s efforts. The waste essence of the blue cast pigs that filled his pens was propelled here by a series of high pressure pumps. A huge blister had formed on the surface. A scarred over hardened expanse rising out of the pool. It looked as solid as a boulder.
Over them it towered, surpassing them several times and demanding appraisal with necks wrenched back, a shaking solidity. Was it humming? The sound seemed higher pitched than a hum, a subterranean leaking or whistle. Mika felt an eerie awe and humbling in its deep physical presence. Barrell broke him from his reverie.
Not receiving any backup. I send orders to the mayor’s office, but nothing. I had several pigs ignite in their stalls.
My own systems are down. Got pornstormed while trying to watch cartoons.
I think we are getting cut off. All my meters are approaching red, I need to cut this buildup or my farm is going to be a torch.
Cut off, what good would it do to ditch a neighborhood of working people?
There are construction drones everywhere, plus there aren’t that many people living out here. Suburbia is for scroungers like us, not the rich anymore. I think the Mayor sold us out.
He throws a wadded up suit at Mika’s feet as he continues.
Either we are getting left to those creeps in the hills or he sold us to the military to set up a camp. I think he wants all those refugees moved out of downtown.
Mika thought of the stinking camps, the tent clogged streets and wondered about the shiny markets and restaurants a mile away. The mayor cleaning up the downtown seemed believable. But leaving the north of town in the cold or worse seemed unbelievable.
I mean why is your network so porn stormed after all? You are going to want that on by the way.
Barrel was already tugging his suit on. Mika followed and when he was done asked Barrell through the suit’s speaker.
Is this for the fumes leaking off that thing?
No it’s for this.
Barrell picks up his shotgun and aims it at the protuberance. He fires and instantly they are encased in a black cloud filled with screaming and grasping wind.
Mika wrapped the cord of the cheap mobile around his wrist so that he could call while he rode. Barrel had given him the device to use until he could get his systems up again. He placed a return call to Exscena. Barell implied that he should start using this gift to report sightings that could support Barrell’s new pet theory. This didn’t strike Mika as a great idea but he nodded in vague agreement to score the gift. Ex_ answered and for a second he thought it was her before realizing that calling from the unrecognized unit had got him received by her avatar instead.
So you want to talk to Ex_ but why how do you rate such a privilege?
This is her friend Mika we’re supposed to meet this afternoon and I am calling her back.
This isn’t Mika’s system so I don’t think so…
It’s a borrowed rig, at least give her a message to call me back.
This system is riddled with cross feeds and ghosts I am not sure it is safe to recommend calling back, but I will tell her that m…
The image froze, Ex_’s face formed into that of Mika’s mother’s.
I’m glad you are wearing the scarf that Nomi knitted you. I’m sure the weather is cold there. I think Nomi went to boil water or switch the laundry; I am trying to call her. You look dehydrated, do you have diarrhea. Are you calling while driving, haven’t we talked about that?
Nomi had been his mother and this was her avatar. His parents had disappeared in one of the vague but vast Midwestern catastrophes, but their avatars hadn’t been erased yet. Mika called them once a week to receive their inane concern and flustered attempts to bring his parents online.
Is that Mika? I think Maury is out mowing I will try to get him if you want. Weather is hot here, kudzu is eating more of the yard every day you should see it. Maybe Maury is enjoying a beer on the patio, I’ll yell out to him.
Sorry I got you guys I was trying to reach Ex_
Oh that girl. Been seeing her for a while, settling down we can hope.
Don’t worry about that, you not even my mother and father.
Not his mother, years of wiping turds off his shriveled little penis and I don’t have the right to call myself his mother.
I think I see him pruning that old ratty hedge, I can shout to him and maybe he will hear.
Never mind, those aren’t your memories, Mika said as he ended the call. Their faces looked disappointed as they faded away.
Someday, probably soon they would vanish when someone relocated the information that kept them going to some other purpose. Their ghosts would disappear and the bright room they were always in and he would exist in a world without their voice, without that bright room.
The window was twenty times the height of Windy. A drift of snow like a slow motion wave fell over the world. The light of the summerland vanished. It could be gone for a several clicks.
Windy put her hands on the rattling wall of glass. The captain’s voice had sounded through all the tubes and ratty radios of the transport and told them of the arrival of winterlands in four hundred clicks. This was the first his slow groan of a voice had been heard in more than six hundred clicks.
Windy thought of the batteries. The supply in the cabin she shared with her brother Collin was fully charged. Their garden and heat would last until they hit summer again. Visions of toothless families in dark rooms or frozen solid in their beds were well ingrained in Windy now. Don’t overspend in the summer, save for the winter.
A troop of the patrol marched down the corridor, identical in their white uniforms and goggles. The last one on in the column made an almost imperceptible move towards her. She flinched expecting a gun butt in the face but instead felt a piece of fabric in her hand.
Waiting until the troop’s boots stopped echoing, Windy unfolded the fabric. Information gathered in her mind erasing it and then rebuilding it. Her eyes rolled back in her head and drool lashed out of the corner of her open mouth. The fabric dropped to the floor sparked and then melted leaving a stain.
Entering the cabin she saw Collin seated in his roller, reading a book by the lights of the garden. She walked to him and put his face in her hands.
Collin I need you to listen to me. Do not talk unless you need to. I am not Windy anymore. You never had a sister. My control wanted me here and this was my cover. The reasons for all of that aren’t necessary right now. This is what you need to know. They will come for you soon and they will not be nice. They will punish you for my crimes. I am sorry for that and I am sorry that Windy doesn’t exist. Windy loved you as no one else ever did. Stare at your garden now and know that you were loved and hope they kill you quick. You know that no one returns from the captain’s mercy. I am sorry that you were a pawn in this.
She released his face and needing nothing from the room anymore exits without a glance or a pause. The sun is pouring back over the snow drift to catch her mortal scrambling down the corridor in its endless light.
She struck a Rabbit in the throat to clear her path. The captain’s secret militias donned odd rabbit masks when performing their duties, and were called such as they never offered a word to anyone to indicate any other name. They were on her quick; she had also bought Collin a little bit of time, but probably no mercy. He needed the mercy more, but she couldn’t worry for him now, his life and memories were collateral and that decision was not hers.
Through the shaking bowels of the great conveyance she tracked and back-tracked avoiding patrols of Rabbits and troops, until she found her place. A wall plate like any other wall plate, but one she was drawn to. A small charge was set and the plate blew out into the glare like a scrap of paper. The sun and snow glare bathed the stuffy corridor. Rabid cold and wind followed the light. Grabbing the sides of the opening with absolute faith she pulled herself through and into the air and light, falling free.
A black finger of smoke was knitted into pastoral green of the field. The source was some ruined apparatus connected to a deflating, fluttering balloon. Whether a failed attempted immigration or an eccentric local commute attempt was unclear? No one seemed present, unless unconscious in the grass or already lost in the flames. Mika thought of approaching like the mythic Samaritan but such notions were for an idealized past. Now you never knew what attention this would soon bring and what collateral damage could occur from their arrival. As if it to annunciate this thought he heard a fluttering spacy music coming from the grass. The grass was shaking and two black umbrellas were winding through its green waves.
Two people tottered out of the tall grass which continued waving with idiot inattention to their movements. Mika felt paralyzed by their approach and didn’t run back to his bike as his instincts screamed for him to do. It was a male and female their left hands knotted together and their right hands clutching upright black umbrellas. Retro synth music burbled from an unseen source. He recognized the female as his neighbor Ariadne. She looked unwell. The man seemed to be talking without producing sound.
Ariadne, what are you doing here?
She looked up, her face caught in the shadow of the overhanging umbrella. She tried to talk and clear goop poured out of her mouth. She made a couple of watery attempts to speak and finally croaked a yes.
What’s happening to you, couldn’t you afford healthcare anymore?
No I can afford it for myself, but I couldn’t spare it for my clone.
So this is your clone?
Mika, I haven’t left my house in over a year. I am supposed to be on a date here. I think he sent a clone also, which is almost funny. Something happened to him. He began babbling one of the Mayor’s canned speeches’, you know from the book, and then he stopped speaking and our hands are stuck together.
My systems got wiped out by a porn storm this morning. I have something to talk to you about, can we trust him.
Probably not but I am getting sick of holding his hand anyways.
She tried to pull her hand free from the man wrenching his arm back and forth. A single stream of blood trickled from his nose.
I can’t believe I have been talking to a clone all this time.
With a strong pulled she rips his hand free from the socket. It was still stuck in her grip. The man shuddered and leaned over. His legs locked and he toppled half way as if in slow mo. A stream of clear liquid began to pour out of his mouth gradually forming a puddle. The black umbrella covered up his head from Mika’s point of view. The whole scene looked to him like a bat winged rain cloud deposited to low orbit. The synth music began to warble and stutter and then start to fade away. Ariadne began to walk away toward the ruined balloon and Mika followed.
She turned to talk to him and coughed, with no hands to staunch the flow she sprayed him with the clear goop that was leaking from her face at a constant rate.
Can I get sick off this?
He said as he wiped his face.
I think whatever is going down is affecting only clone bodies. But I could be wrong.
She tried to shake the hand free that was clutched in her own to no avail.
Barrell has a little pet theory. He thinks we are being let adrift. The whole neighborhood up for sale, everything being allowed to break that can break.
Does you cereal talk to you in the morning?
My TV has different voices.
My cereal has a different message on the box every morning. Furniture I don’t own is in my house every morning. I get the feeling that someone is moving in, someone is making my house more comfortable for themselves.
So you think Barrell is on to something?
Who knows, can you help me dig a hole down by the river. I know this body is going to melt to sludge in a couple hours, but I feel I owe it a grave.
I squeezed out of “dog town” through narrow passage of concrete slabs. I find the grove of trees hidden here and barely touched by what little sunlight the world has to share. I like to hide my bike here.
(next walk through strange apartments remembering seeing the thing. Chicken bone on sidewalk. The patch I like to call the “haunted mansions”. Statues, fountains, and crusted gardens, strains of lost music, and glimpses of pale elegant faces at windows, Less odd in the light of day.
It was here that I saw the “pet”. It was an early morning without a hint of sun. In a courtyard containing only a dry fountain and cobblestones splattered with dead leaves. A sound of a chain and it arrived. Riding on stilt legs maybe four. Somewhere between a cat and dog with a face I couldn’t concentrate on. Utterly silent except for its chain. It appeared and disappeared in what felt like the same moment. I remembered looking for it one day a cold snap had rolled up, I was surrounded by snowflakes flitting around me like epileptic butterflies, some pitch black. I thought I heard its chain, glimpsed the monument it seemed guardian of. But this may have been tricks and I fled the cold.
The alarm dopplered us to a duplicate inverse world, a world where we where mere background images for its noise. A wayward hand straying too far into a security system. It bored a deep note into the day cut through the color and leaving a whiteness and blackness. People running holding their heads.
The glittering black van rolled forward. On autopilot, Rafe performed stunts on the outboard platform with holograph mustache, and inviting in those who paid. A tired old prostitute with both parts is on duty, immersion tanks, drugs, escape chairs and other
options are available for the trip. You usually had to buy something every trip or so, but it beat walking, risking security systems, or hitching a ride on a junkman’s cart.
Sliding into seat barely before the vehicle began to move. The engine of the bike burned in my bag. I hid it in my usual spot. Behind a concrete embankment studded with metal profusions. The bus left the area of the haunted apartments behind. Then it was the cornfields. The bioengineered crop had spread more and more into the city. You could almost see daily progress, rotting glass, stone, and metal in its path, reducing all to slag and fat stalks of corn. This road was being reduced to the only entrance to the city. The only one with a minimal of trouble with the security systems. Drones and helicopters filled the air and submersibles the waterways. The sky and water and glowed like they were filled with fireflies. An insect you didn’t have on the west coast. Or maybe anywhere anymore.
The last couple of blocks of my way to work where walked. First through the remains of a high class shopping neighborhood. Some of that glamour still showed through the stuttering holo-adds, the security goons, and the buzzing motorcades of the shoppers. Walk a straight line and you won’t accidentally agree to a contract or get beaten senseless for entering a secure area.
She opened her eyes. She remembered nothing. She was seated against a withered stalk of a tree on a bump of a hill in an immense lack, a nothing, a plain devoid of feature for the most part except a sparse offering of what may have once been towers for high tension wires, now skeletal metal brush. Whipping dust and the dimness of the dawn light obscured anything else. She pulled a scarf up to protect her face from the severity of the wind and dust. She had been placed here by angels and had little memory of her journey. Bits came back, a cold so harsh it could flay flesh from bones and the womb of the ship and now here. A plain, a tree, and some rations, and a land so absent of water that you could die in hours of thirst. She was sure she felt nothing for these events and moments.
She pulled down the scarf and took a sip of water. A great stuttering engine sound began to reverberate in the hollow places in the sky. Peripherally she saw a growing tendril of smoke creasing the blue. An airship bearing a comet’s tail of oily smoke and flickering with inner flames. It was some refugee craft ravaged by internal or external conflict that was now desperately looking for purchase in a callous landscape.
The morning lengthened and revealed more of the nothingness of the landscape. She had grown used to presence of the airship that was gradually lowering in its decaying orbit. She had seen small black dots of people leaping free. Some had remembered parachutes. People caused complications. She knew this. She may have to find those survivors and slit theirs throats and let them drown in the blood. She may have to do that to every last one of them. She knew not yet what the angels had brought her here wanted, and who they wanted her to be.
She emptied her small pack. The canteen, a medical kit, a small sinister piece of plastic that looked it would turn into a wrist mounted gun, a knife that mirrored the broadening day, a tent kit, and two small bottles. The bottles were the key. She would drink those and then be who they wanted, and she would perform what they wanted. She would disappear on the completion of that action. This was the choice. Sit here until she died in landscape that she had no map for, or disappear into the necessity of those who let her fall here. Would she resurrect somewhere worse? Probably, so this choice was no choice.
She quickly drank the bottles. Then she gathered her things in the small pack. She knew the beacon she needed was an hour away. The airship had finally ground into the plain between her and the beacon. Leaving the meager shelter of the tree, she started across the plain towards the pillar of smoke. Each step revealing new person and a new day.
The shifting waves of dust obscured the hill, the tree, and the two empty bottles. They vanish like memory and she places foot after foot on the passage towards the beacon. New landscapes formed. Canyons gouged in the earth by the scattered ruins of the refugee ship, rivers of oil and ballast water, and dispersed remains of its occupants, some still alive with fire. A cylindrical hill or tower surfaces from the dust. One of the ship’s fallen engines. The air is rife with its bleeding heat. She saw a form wallowing in its shadow.
A man in a crew uniform, body half burnt his one remaining eye enlarged and staring at the sky, his tongue lashing in his mouth for moisture. She had a momentary dream of killing him where he lay, but it seemed like a dream of someone else. Her name was Exscena, she was on her way to a job with the newly formed camp 10; she had a steady boyfriend, a modest apartment and had never killed anyone in her life. There was little she could do for this man and the other refugees. But she could do a little.
Keep your hands back I am going to give you a little something for the pain.
Bilge I know it was Bilge. I knew he was extorting the passengers. I knew what he was up to. And sure enough it led to a revolt, sure enough.
Don’t move, this will help a little.
Look at my hands, small hands; I have never once been proud of these hands.
Leaving him lying there in the shadow made her sick with guilt, but he was already dying and quite delirious. She could not carry him herself and she knew not the intentions of those figures gathering on the edge of vision. Guiding them to the beacon was the only possible help to them all. She began firing flares from her wrist gun and took off to give herself room from the survivors. They would be hungry, wounded, some dying, thirsty beyond sanity and all desperate. They might kill her for the tiny bit of food and water she carried and then die footsteps from help. The flares could be the daytime beckoning stars in the sky, spelling out a corridor of safety through the wilds.
Bilge hands she heard spoken behind her. The man had righted himself and was walking out of the shadow towards her. His enlarged eye red with dust. The air was heavy with the fumes and heat of the dead engine. The man would not last long in its influence. There is little she could do, so she grabbed a hold of his unburnt hand and led them forward. The survivors, some alone, and some in small groups converged towards them. Their advantage was dwindling and they had some land to go. She gripped the hand firmly and they moved fully from the shadow of the engine and towards the beacon. Towards the city. Towards survival.
Ariadne’s clone had broken its arms to pieces digging its grave. Shattered parts of the umbrella and bits of what were hands and arms lay around the hole. The body itself had begun to melt and vent. Mika had succeeded in pushing it into the burial spot but realized he had no tools to move the soil back into its place. To alleviate some guilt he kicked some dirt on the body. He never got it looking more than dusty and as his time was short he felt he should move on. A robot ship throbbed out in the river, its hold fat with products for the city and surely another desperate starved group of refugees hidden among the shiny baubles.
Mika waited in the border regions for the daily arrival of Rafe’s Everlasting and Everloving Circus. It was a tiresome and sometimes repugnant form of transport, but Bruno had given him a pass and parking his bike downtown put him in danger of dealing with the parking enforcement. Crossing them was unwise, it was rumored that their authority was beyond even the Mayor’s. The border regions were an expanse of abandoned houses bordered by the areas he called, though only to himself as “dogtown” and the haunted apartments. The baleful effect of these areas had caused the inhabitants to flee this region to either pricey apartment’s downtown or into the tents of the refugee camps. “Dogtown” was a cluster of housing perched like a barnacle under a broken off bridge. Filled with shoddy houses and closed doors. Mika had heard voices within but had never witnessed any of its inhabitants in person. The haunted apartments were a clutch of beautiful buildings wreathed in a permanent mini weather system of snow. Spectral music, the occasional moving of curtains at the corner of the eye, and dreamlike pets with stiltlike legs trailed by gold chains was the only disturbers of the region’s pearl like beauty. The apartments were hard to remove from the mind and in many ways thoughts of them always lingered in the minds of those who witnessed them.
He heard the whispers and soft patter of feet. The outliers were here. Bruno had gifted Mika a pass for the circus, a pass he had never shown anyone so there must be sensors that detected it. If he ever forgot it, he wonders what the figures slipping between the shadows of border region would do to him.
With pulsating cocaine disco beat it turned the corner. A halo of lights lit the dingy street and the fragile hollow houses and overgrown yards. Rafe’s Everlasting and Everloving Circus rising like the sun.
It was an ugly off-white bus speckled with rust and encased in a web of effects. Transparent male and female dancers danced precariously on the edge of the moving vehicle sometimes dancing in midair and then vanishing all together. The music shook the air the pig diesel engine puttered.
The bus shuddered to a stop in the middle of the street with a groan of the brakes and a gasp of the engine. A platform extended from the lights and standing on it is what Mika understood was Rafe or at least his avatar, a man in a dark suit whose face was obscured by a swirling mask of lights.
Welcome friend to zone of influence of Rafe’s Everlasting and Everloving Circus. A world of desires and pleasures await you. We are out of coffee. Proceed through portal and never forgot to kiss the ground three times a day and praise the existence of Rafe.
Mika passes through the wall of light and music to see the dingy bus up close with its paint peeling, rust patches everywhere and its slightly stuck sliding door that he had to squeeze through lugging his bike. Where Bruno had found this ride, Mika always wondered, acknowledging that it beat hitching a ride with a junk cart or walking.
Mika parked his bike behind the closed off cockpit of the bus and looked for his friend Hildo.
In the dingy confines of Rafe’s Everlasting and Everloving Circus was a bouquet of desires and temptations but you could sit uncomfortably and endure the ride. Everything there was available on credit to Rafe. This was an arrangement it was unenjoyable to be part of. Screens, wire hookups, an ominous looking immersion tank, and the chattering babbling snack cart were among the offerings. Plantlife had encrusted the entirety of the cabin since the last time he had rode and through the branches and leaves he saw Hildo.
Hildo was the one other person Mika knew who used the circus to commute, he was firmly in debt to Rafe, but was company.
Good morning Mika though I am not feeling it.
Yeah Hildo I’ve had a bit going on myself. Heard they are out of coffee.
Yesterday they stole my lunch. Some new gang has the neighborhood and they ravaged my store for tribute, but my shelves and storeroom are empty. So they took my lunch. Didn’t even eat it, I found it on the sidewalk after closing up.
If you have no costumers and no products why do you even go into work?
Don’t know, like a trance every morning I get up get dressed, prepare lunch, and then go in to watch dust move around a bare empty room. It is like a stupor like a dream.
Their conversation was interrupted by the dance of Davi. Appearing out its secret chambers located in the back of the bus. Davi was an engine of desire. Exscena’s features flick across Mika’s face, he doesn’t even let his graze linger on Davi and concentrates on Hildo. Hildo occasionally lets Davi pull him by his tie to the secret chambers. What desire is unfolded there for Hildo is an unshared secret. More than the debt to Mika fears opening that horrible chasm of vanity. To witness his desires and to have it available at a however unreasonable price could enthrall him entirely in the animal side of himself.
The parking paint would end up being Mika’s responsibility he knew it. This sunk whatever hopes Mika had for the day, for any hint of hope for carrying on. It was all he could do to drag myself inside. He knew we would have to rise above the idea that life is a conspiracy but when every day features scenes such as this it is a hard conviction to shake.
Inside he looked over the transformations his workplace had endured. The waiting area was now filled with rubber mats and dog toys. Scents lingered under the bleach smell. The workers were people from the camps who had come through the door seeking services. Some had received jobs in this recent repurposing of materials. These people with scant possessions except a load of trauma and regret had either risked life or limb to sneak into the city fleeing boiling heat, crop failures, nanoplagues that reordered reality, no rain or too much rain, and the age old traditions of political instability and income disparity or had free fallen through the tattered webs of the city’s social net to arrive here to entertain and clean the victims of the enlightening, an entire generation of mutated dogs.
A three headed dog chasing a ball with two of heads trying to catch the ball and the third chewing on a bleeding leg. Two helpers are assisted a dog with legs that look like balloons out of a cage. A woman with a sour expression carved onto her face sponge bathed a quivering pile of sores vaguely in the shape of Labrador. These are the dogs that the enlightening failed, some ascended to godlike intelligence and others like these were left to wallow in ruined bodies and unchanged minds. These are snapshots he would send back to his ancestors to help curb their hubris and sociopathic behavior. Like Cassandra or desperate character from an incredibly old T.V. show he would be ignored. Mika’s only consolation is this is how it would end up despite all his efforts. But that is negative thinking again?
Bruno is one of those who ascended. He is the only one lingers here amongst us. Bruno is the king around here. He is an example of what was once called a Newfoundland. A semiotic examination of this one time labeling is a common conversation piece with him. But the physical appearance and association remains. A huge mop of hair atop a pair of gorilla eyes. But these eyes glitter with supernatural intensity and deep-seated insanity and brilliance instead of dumb animal love. When we lost the dog it was a chilling blow to human chauvinism and a revelation of our loneliness in the universe.
Most of the local dog colony lived in the hills west of town. They had elaborate complexes designed by them and built by refugee labor. Each built to house the individual collections of neurosis and intellect. Bruno was a rare commodity, for he lived among humans and the undeveloped and mutated members of his species. In theory his position was one of philanthropy, but one began to wonder if he just wished to create his cage or web of personal obsessions out of people’s live rather than merely building materials.
At first glance Bruno wasn’t in a position of authority. A human manager handed down all commands and retained the illusion of control. Mika would see Bruno around the building, a dog resting his sleeping body on a dog bed. Eventually his presence as the center of all operations became apparent with the slow logic of half remembered dream. Around the time his authority became recognized the other dogs appeared. The mutated dogs had suddenly moved in and become the focus of the workplace’s efforts. The lines of people seeking services never seemed to diminish but more and more space and resources became focused on the unfortunate canines.
Here Bruno was, sitting in the hallway on the way to Mika’s office. Not an office that actual resembled that concept, the one with files and a computer, but the bug infested break room that Mika used while handling his food distribution run. Here Bruno was set in a distortion of the Buddha pose, the air scented with the odd medical aroma that his body constantly exuded. Mika waited in patience as he pieced together the words being spoken.
“Malishka may be dead by morning.”
Bruno had a garbled way of speaking due to the limitations of the dog physiognomy; he could grasp and communicate in a multitude of languages, but could barely be understandable in any. But listening closely and interpreting to his words was a main concern around the compound. This statement referred to the current manager. This statement was potentially dangerous in both concept and interpretation.
“Is she ill?”
“Then what leads you to that thought.”
“A premonition of sorts.”
“A creature long removed from the wildness of raw aggression. The rending of flesh and the spreading of gore a distant primal memory, has found this side awakened. This side needs to be expressed to complete this creature or he is like a cripple who sits on a leg so long that it withers and dies. This fulfilled and complete creature may cross Malishka’s path tonight.
Speaking of her I have some complaints about her. The meal schedule seems inconsistent.”
“I’ll put in complaint to her see if we can get some consistency.”
“I think you can do more. You deal with the food a little bit right?”
“You want me to help with the meal schedule?”
“Someone needs to help Malishka. The schedule feedings need to be just that, scheduled.”
The meal schedule was never more than a minute off. Mika felt a suffocating feeling in my chest. There may be nothing to do for Malishka. There were rumors, unpleasant rumors of what happened to fired employees. The man who did the driving position before him died in bed. If it wasn’t for the large amount of blood it would seem as peaceful as the extinguishing of consciousness can ever be interpreted.
That is what made their days so terrifying. The threat was clearly from Bruno. But in what form and how much of it was accidental or happenstance was unknown. How carefully did they have to step? Was this just a wild and violent world or did Bruno manipulate it to his own ends? Did he control our every breath and step? This was a hopeless well of paranoia to slip down and ever hope to negotiate out of in any reasonable time. But, a perfectly reasonable thought is that we do exist in debit to Bruno, to come and go at his childish whim. So Malishka would have to be warned to step lightly.
Bruno’s silence for a couple of minutes seemed to be an indication that he could go on. Mika slipped around him to his office as he had an appointment with a client to prepare for. Then almost turned around, for Mika realized he forgotten to mention the parking ticket. But, maybe that was the wrong court to plead his case in. Mika would mention it to the manager when he warned her later. Mika spent the next fifteen minutes scratching an itchy spot that seem to have moved in on his inner thigh. Was it worth going to the clinic for? Worse things could happen there. Worse than what though? He decided to go and let them determine. Then Mika remembered to call his manager about the ticket. A sinister mumble was all I could get on her line. Since Mika had to add some words of caution about his encounter with Bruno he decided to see her in person.
The blue tiger will smash the world
Another land, without evil, without death, will be borne from the destruction of this one. This land wants it. It asks to die, asks to be born, this old and offended land. It is weary and blind from so much weeping behind closed eyelids. On the point of death it strides the days, garbage heap of time, and at night it inspires pity from the stars. Soon the First Father will hear the world’s supplications, land wanting to be another, and then the blue tiger who sleeps beneath the hammock will jump.
Ariadne the threadbearer awoke alone in her house. She is American. America had become geology not reality. She thought of America and dreams as her oatmeal grew cold. America had beached itself on the chaos of the wild dreams it birthed. It was proposed long ago that market forces produced happier lives then state centered societies. That American life let everyone freely traffic in dreams. Everyone’s dreams got shared and advertised and became museum pieces, got squirrelled away by rich collectors, disappeared in dust, watered down and sold in mass, or were met with a hail of bullets. The voodoo dances of Congo Square dreamed up jazz, electrocuted elephants helped dream endless loops of men and women frozen in immortal youth and love staring at the light, people dreaming on rafts crossing shark drunk seas warm as wine, churches dreamed up apocalypses of storms of light and souls plucked into the sky, people crossing deserts singing and dreaming not fearing rape, pre-dug graves, and secret prison to slice tomatoes, take out garbage and stick together plastic junk for the dreamers, some dreamed of dignity and freedom from rat infested apartments, open air drug markets, feudal systems that said you could not drink water from this faucet, others dream of communities were they never saw a face different from their own, the sidewalks never cracked and the storefronts were always full, men with guns dreamed of false flags, black helicopters and fertilizer bombs, Sikhs, Hindus, Muslims, and Jews dreamed of their own gods in this nation under god as others dreamed up religions and gods new to this world, some dreamed only of money, art, or that they could capture it all in a book, reach the stars, or of men with tights that could perform miracles, or of cities placed on floodplains, rifts in the tectonics, or in a desert, of computers reordering nature, some dreamed that we had lost Eden right here on these shores, dreamed that America would give back the land it stole and removed the strip malls from the mass graves, but all these dreams meant nothing to the dominant dream. The dominant dream was one that sold, one that moved units. All the nations of the earth began to dream this dream. This dream created a library of wonders where each of us could create their own dream. With so many dreams about, no bothered much with the dreams of others anymore. The earth moved, melted, warped and groaned under the weight of the dream. Nations and memories faded, technology followed its own logic, the weather got weird, the seas angry, so now Ariadne the threadbearer thought, now here we are, forever in these moments. Moments were you awake to house stuffed with clothing and furniture of someone else, where the box you get your cereal from is not even yours. Moments where work calls wondering where you are, but your clone has died and the idea of leaving the haunt of your home is beyond thought. Moments where the cereal curdles in your gut and it is impossible to breath
Mika grew very tired of the twinge. The constant pressure to check and recheck his mobile. His small circle of contacts were mostly silent, either no one truly contacting or they got lost due to the dodgy connection of the temporary device. Barrell’s reports of life around his farm, Hildo’s junkmail trailing lonely emissions from his abandoned storefront (his debt to Rafe meant every element of his life was a little bit compromised), work reminders from Malishka, and the daily contact with Excena, all of this was missing. Most of the time he turned it on and nothing. Muscle twitch and then empty. Or junk. The taco copter had somehow started sending him advertisements, someone telling to eat a dick, and something from the mayor’s office about new connectivity. He felt no joy every time he answered, his reserve of strength for the day fading with each empty or worthless communication. Paused halfway down the hallway to Malishka’s office he almost ignored the incoming call. He had become slightly hypnotized by water falling down through the roof of hallway, pooling and then streaking out under the shelves of backup food. It must have started raining, he thinks and then answered the mobile almost by accident.
It was Exsena. She was in the desert holding the hands of half burnt man in a uniform. It felt too strange to be jealous of.
Mika, I’m on my way to the city. I should arrive before dusk tomorrow.
Aren’t we having a picnic today? I was trying to call you about that.
Well, we were but that really isn’t me. That is a clone from the dating service. This is me. I am real and I may need your help. Will you be there tomorrow?
Who is this guy?
A survivor of a crash, I couldn’t leave him out here.
How did you end up out there?
Don’t know, just was.
This is very strange. I will be there though. What else could I do?
Behind her eyes he saw someone else. Not the eyes of the Exsena he knew or this new one that he just met with yearning and desperation in her eyes, something else, something that gave no more thought to him than the universe does to the cosmic dust and dead stars cluttering its veins. Something that did not love or hate, that didn’t even consider him worth such conceits. Then it was gone and he found himself agreeing and nodding along to what this new Exsena asked of him.
What about the picnic? Should he get his money back from the dating service? He kind of wanted to go on that picnic. Sitting in a park eating food with his beautiful girlfriend was what his day needed. Sure she might be a clone, but she was who he knew. Who was this new Exsena? What would she bring to his life, and what with her?
Mika was beckoned into Mal’s office (Mal is what she insisted on being called) which per the usual ritual had the door open. This would be inviting except physical presence was a low priority in the court of Mal. She sat in buzzing web of communication devices. Constantly continuing another line of communication in mid-thought you never quite knew if she was ever really listening to you.
Mika noticed her coffee maker had been pushed into her printer and was slowly being repurposed. It made a distracting gurgling sound. Mika would never give up his coffeemaker. Off course Malishka could always just print a new one. Hers was turning into forks and plates that were slowly dumping onto the floor as the printer’s tiny perch got filled.
She waved him to a seat as she stared off into space, occasionally replying to someone with affirmatives.
Sit down just push that off. One minute.
She held her finger in the air as if feeling for the direction of the wind.
Mal I have something …
No, sorry another minute. No you continue, thank you
Mika sat and thought of how to deliver his message in this heavily bugged office.
Okay now what.
It took Mika a minute to realize her eyes were on him.
I have two matters. First the van got splashed with a parking enforcement spray.
We don’t pay parking tickets.
It was just a splash we could try to negotiate our way out of it.
We have no sway with them. It’s just better to pay.
Really that’s what I get…
He almost wanted to forget the other manner
Here is a deal. I will deal with them and you can pay me. They can be excessive when collecting so this good for you.
But, try to explain that it was an accident.
Let’s not complicate things with blame, or who is at fault. There is no arguing with the parking patrols.
More thugs to deal with…
Well we’ll deal with it. I sent you an estimate of today’s road blocks. Good luck, I have a conference call in 20 that...
Wait; there has been a complaint about the meal schedule.
That is impossible we have those things coordinated to an exact. Wait, oh you’re ready. Continue.
She began to shoo me out of the office with hands.
Mika noticed it out of the corner of his eye as he left Malishka’s office. A pyramid of dog turds was piled next to the door.
Two men entered the office with an air of unconditional right. Their jumpsuits were quite tight but the way they fit made their forms seem almost sexless to Mika. They rolled in a metal cart with a screen and looped wires on it. One man began to use a variety of tools to attach the screen to Mika’s office wall. The other pulled out his mobile and began to type in it. When he was finished he showed the screen to Mika.
Written on it was.
I can speak for my partner. Do not interfere with his performance. Any problems or concerns I can provide you with the proper forms and the proper address which at your own expense you can send them.
What exactly is the screen? I don’t want the screen?
Who decided this? I don’t even need half this crap that I have in here already. Why not take some of it out instead installing that?
Do you want the forms? Do you wish for them?
Said the offered screen.
Mika mumbled no.
The men finished their work as Mika waited for a single document to load on his computer and checked his mobile for messages. Nothing at all.
The communicative man walked up to Mika’s desk after his partner was finished. He held his mobile and it squeezed out a couple scraps of paper that fell onto the desk.
The finally offered screen said receipt and after its showing the men excited.
The pieces of paper sat for a while on the desk. Mika no longer possessed a wastepaper basket so their disposal would be difficult. They sat there like a forgotten crop that had been improperly harvested. Mika left them lying on his desk for a time then silently, finally, and guiltily tucked them into the printer and watched them get absorbed by the input.
The screen sat on the wall. Mika kept thinking that he heard it warming up. But it was silent and off every time he looked up.
The buzzing poles that marked the perimeter of the safety corridor seemed to be only holding back floundered farmhouses, parched fields, and tree stubbled hills. Excena scanned the landscape and saw nothing that betrayed movement. The corridor only had certain entrances that you had to negotiate with a definite pattern or be turned to dust. It must be protecting them from something. The vibrations leaking through the air from the poles had been causing disruption to her insides. She had been passing black water perched over sparse streams throughout the day.
The wounded crew member she had brought with her had begun to admit a low moan much of the time. He just mouthed the provisions she had proffered him, dropping most of the pieces out of his trembling lips. The smell of his ravaged skin and soiling occupied the air between them. He did not have long.
She heard voices behind them, loud and uncaring. Some survivors had made it into the safety corridor.
They came out of the scrub. A man and a woman, their clothes rags, their movements stilted like a predator approaching prey. The crewman lay still in the middle of the campsite. The man wore a sparse beard. The woman had bruises on her face; her lip was cut and trickled out blood. The man glanced over the crewman briefly then began to sort through the bag tossing bits of medical supplies and food around.
These people don’t have shit. Search his pockets.
I don’t want to touch him. He looks like he messed himself.
Don’t make me ask you twice. Don’t think he is going to wake up.
She cautiously crept closer to the prone crewmember.
Excena grew tired of the pageant and slipped out from behind the tree she had used to hide herself. The man looked up as her shadow crossed him.
He took in the wrist gun and complied.
The woman froze over the crewman.
Did you just punch your wife, or whatever she is?
The man didn’t speak.
I am going to need to know.
Yes, we got in an argument.
Please don’t hurt him, he is all I got.
All you have is me.
Wait said the man.
Excena turned the wrist gun to his knee which vaporized into red mist, the remainder of the leg landing a couple feet away. The hollow pop of the report echoed back over the proceedings.
The woman ran to the howling man her face wet with tears.
Why did you do that? You need to help him.
Gather up those things he threw around. Both these men will be dead soon.
Excena kicked a knife out of the man’s trembling hand. He was gasping and straining for breath. Blood pooled into a puddle downhill of his efforts.
Cry over him for a minute if you want. But, if you want to live follow me, I’m going to the city.
The screen was on. Mika was not imagining it. There was an office on it. It was the office of the Mayor.
The Mayor himself emerged from a door and walked to his desk. Sitting down with a cup of coffee in his hand he began talking.
Good morning. There have been some clever adjustments of mobiles out there so that some of you have tuned out my messages. So I have gifted you, and this is a gift, with screens. All over town you will find them. They are part of the new connectivity. My every day will be available to you, everything except what I do in that room back there. That might sound sinister, but is not. I sleep in there. A place removed from view. The only place I go that no one records me. Sleep is mine. Sleep is death. I don’t share death. I share life. Every sneeze, snot, scratch, bloody nose and other excretions is given a view. These are life. Closed eyelids are death and not shown.
I sit in my office already fully wrapped in a suit, drinking coffee and writing. It isn’t coffee it is something that barely resembles the idea of coffee. I like the idea of coffee. I do not like drinking this. Visually this may evoke the idea of coffee. I like the idea of coffee. It’s one of those things we need back. I talk and I write about the promised return of coffee, People invented the whole world over coffee. In days when alcohol was safer to drink then water, coffee appeared to preserve ideas, sober thoughts which formed our present ideas of society and life itself. We are in another era where alcohol is safer than water and we need coffee back. We probably won’t get coffee but we can talk about it and how we yearn for the idea of it.
Throb of the rotors vibrated the world like he was enclosed in a metal box, painting the whole landscape mechanical. Three of the gunships hovered without movement. Sad sweeps of light tenderly poked through the trees. The girl next to him still had dirt behind her ears. Puss leaked from her nose where the tubes had been removed. Others of the God’s Children were scattered around the trees. Any movement they made and they would be revealed. To be revealed is to be obliterated. A blood mist mixed with tree chips. Slurry to pollute the streams. He had seen it many times before.
A babble of voices streamed through the trees. Strung up loud speakers were giving lectures from the mayor. His ever-changing book in newer and newer editions. All God’s Children were taught to hate the book. Now you could really tell what it was saying. He liked some of the sentences. It was always broadcast in pleasing male and female but sometimes it didn’t seem that different from Papa’s speech. Lots anger and confusion mixed with simplistic life lessons. Then the baby screaming and crying could be heard. The sound trucks were cruising up the road blaring that blather. You could not think for the sound, the sound. Fingers itched at triggers. One bullet or rocket would place them. To be place was to be gone. Urine. The girl next to him had soiled herself. Tinny shrieking, rotor throb, pleasant babble, urine.
The screen announces with a mild orchestral crescendo, that it had a broadcast. Mika turned off the cartoon rerun that he was watching instead of working since it couldn’t compete with the noise of the new screen.
The screen showed a man running down the street. He is running with abandon, hurtling himself on despite his limbs that kept threatening to tangle. His hair was shabbily trimmed, his clothes trash. Epic music swelled as he ran, he tripped once and then pulled himself back up. Swelling strings, guitars and pounding drums made his actions seem worthy of a champion. He couldn’t be the protagonist thought Mika. The street in the video was the one right out front, Mika began to realize. Was he being asked to identify with the commonplace events of the street? It was a neglected street. A couple of city offices that the mayor had defunded but left staffed, mainly so people could wander in and shout their complaints. This was mixed with a couple of private shelters and kitchens/social welfare offices like the one he worked for that people tolerated, and then black market stalls, kitchens, and junkies. The screen showed a series of clips of junkies doing junkie things which even the hardest core of drug enthusiast would have found depressing. Ripping apart radios and bicycles and then leaving the parts scattered in ritualistic displays. Puking into gutters. Scouring the same patch of dirty sidewalks for hours saying I know I left it here, it was right here. Crouching in dark spots administering drugs. This hirsute, sweaty man that was being shown to him was definitely of the junkie tribe.
The man turned and shouted (silently for he wasn’t sound tracked) and ran towards the plastic door of one of the neighboring agencies. He slammed into it full force, bouncing back onto the sidewalk, leaving a spot of blood on the doorway.
The music rose in intensity and an operatic female voice joined the proceedings. Black armored van dripping with sound equipment appeared. It stopped and out poured figures in full body suits. They surrounded the man who was now struggling to rise and laid into him with black sticks that telescoped from their gauntleted hands. More blood hits the door, and the sidewalk, and the mirrored goggles of the attackers. Then they haul him into the van as the music reaches a climactic pitch.
A montage is shown next. More of the black vans, vomiting out parties of truncheon happy squads taking down sweaty junkies, little kitchens cooking suspicious looking meat, and street preachers. Some of the attacked clothing disintegrates in the assault and the indignity of being hauled off mostly nude is added on. The soundtracks is quieting and the sound pouring off the vans takes over, a combination of babies crying and laughing mixed into a rude car horn symphony cut through with white noise bursts and ancient death metal. A whole montage of eyes popping open in shabby tents and sleeping bags trying to understand that sound, the sound that now envelopes them.
Then a vision of the street filled with shops, restaurants, happy children stuffing multicolored “food’ in their mouths. Jubilant clean skinned people in well matched outfits relishing a day.
Waterfront market coming soon from the Business Coalition and the Mayor’s office in bold print moved across the bottom of the screen.
Why did you do that to them? You didn’t have to.
No one has to do anything, but we do. We do.
I’m going to report what you did when get to this city. That is the only reason I’m sticking with you.
You’re sticking with me as you will probably die otherwise.
I am going to let them know that you murdered without even pausing. That is what you do.
Those in the city care little for what people do out here. What they do to make it to the city. They care for you little, even when you get there. This, this is not a threat that I am going to say, but a truth. I have documents. You do not. So you even being received in the city is up to me. I will do this for you no matter what. So accuse me of murder if you want, just know it might be a waste of your efforts.
So I’m supposed to cling to you, one who could and probably will kill me at any moment for safety. But, aren’t we safe in this corridor.
You are safe from dumb starving animals and God’s Childrens, but you are not safe from cleverer predators.
Turning a corner and there they are. Pushing a wheelbarrow with a squeaking wheel. It seems impossible to have not heard them, but there they were. A small man or child with floppy arms and a hunched over man with a swollen odd pate and cheap looking cloak. A brown blanket covered the contents of the wheelbarrow. Something squirmed under the covers.
See I told you. The smarter ones sneak in.
Excena told the woman who observed the duo with some concern.
The big one spoke
Here is a sneaky one.
Traipsing through the pines acting like she can hear. But not us. She hears what we want and we wants quiet.
A dry pop. A wet explosion. The big head dropped off. The little one flailed around with its floppy arms trying to catch it and accidently kicks the head down the hill. The little one makes a wet gasping noise running after it.
Excena rips the cover off the wheelbarrow. A squirming mass of connected limbs, heads, and other body parts covered in dirt lay within. Blind eyes stared; mouths gasped and dropped snakelets of drool. The man child ran back up holding the head. The head spoke
Don’t ruin it.
The body of the larger one still stood next to the wheelbarrow.
The body’s neck veins throbbed dryly.
The man child brought it back its head, which it gripped in its hands.
We dug it up. We get to keep them. We like to dig them up early. Early is good for us. Don’t touch please. We will pick your bones if you take it. We get to keep it. You don’t need to run off we will walk together.
She set what was left in the wheelbarrow on fire with her wrist gun. She then grabbed the hand of the woman and pulled her along with as she walked away. The big man continued to rasp at her following alongher holding his head. The floppy arm little one tried to throw dirt on the burning wheelbarrow.
Come on don’t stare at them let’s move.
Excena turned around and spoke to the big man who was stumbling after them holding his head.
Quit following us. Go dig something else up
Melancholy scene in the park today. The singed hull of a boat hit by rocket in the night was bumping against the river wall. It emitted burnt smells and scraping noises in equally odious concert. A runner had begun to make a circuit of the park. The runner himself had succumbed to a stroke or heart attack while running, but the frame kept ambulating the body back and forth. The corpse was already decaying. Ones in the past had become skeletons before the frames broke down or were removed. This and a light drizzle.
There had been two checkpoints on the way from the office, only one had taken credit from him. Mika wasn’t sure if it was the local security force, drug gangs, or the army that had ran the check point, the equipment and uniforms were the same. He could check his mobile to see which of the three decided to scam him but he felt bored by the idea before he did it.
One of the local dogs had moved into the central area of the park and sat still, the army had set a security perimeter around it, so no one approached the dog. Its presence was a mysterious feature and constant buzz on the area’s newsfeeds.
Mika looked for Excena. Or maybe it was Excena’s clone. Or one of many clones. His head hurt a little thinking about it. Hopefully she was in a spot with a little shelter. He spotted her under a tree. He looked at the river past the burnt boat; a massive fallen bridge dominated the landscape, low flung clouds scudding through its girders.
Excena was dressed in a somber suit. There didn’t appear to be any cooler or basket for the picnic. Mika’s stomach growled, he only had a packet of awful crackers that he taken from work. Her face looked serious when she saw him approach. This was going to be a fun picnic he thought. He felt guilty having talked to the other Excena. Did this version somehow know?
Hi Mika. We usually do this by mobile, but you have been a steady client…
Where is the picnic? I can’t really afford to eat lunch. Wait what are you talking about?
We are reporting a negative balance in your account, so this contract will have to be cancelled until you can make further arrangements.
Mika paused, confused, and the again caught sight of the park’s dog, stock still and unmoving in its mystery.
I’m confused. First there is no picnic. Next we are treating this like a business arrangement, which in the back of my head I realize it is, and now you are saying that I have no credit even though I was just paid.
See I knew you were a reasonable man that would get all of this, thank you for your understanding.
Wait, I’m not being understanding at all, this is all nonsense.
I assure you this is correct. We at the House of Dreams cloning service would welcome you back when you are not at a negative balance. We provided your last request as per your order, but cannot proceed with the usual contract until you can make the proper arrangements.
Okay that has to be wrong. What request? Okay checking my mobile.
I paid you guys how much and for what?
A son, you bought yourself a son Mika.
I did what? I don’t even have money for food or to get back through the checkpoints. This day is not working as I imagined it.
Good luck Mika. Your son awaits you at home. Any complaints contact us as usual. Hopefully we will see each other again. If not, maybe some other model. Goodbye.
Mika sat down under the tree and tried to finished his crackers. They were stale and hard to swallow. He watched Excena walk away without another word. As he ate he listened to the boat thump against the shore and watched the low gusty clouds continue to filter through the bridge’s broken girders. He had a son and no money for food or maybe to even get back to work. The crackers tasted so awful and were so unsatisfying that Mika pushed them back into his pocket, breathed in , and then stood up to make the walk back from the park.
Why would you leave the house without money? Why even bother?
Mika didn’t appreciate the scolding tone that the blonde woman with dreadlocks and an ornate machine gun swung over her shoulders was taking with him, but there was little he could do but nod.
Do you want to end up like them?
She was pointing to a group of people sitting in a shelter just past the tank they had used to block the road. The tank was blurry and hard to focus on; there was some kind of visual distortion being employed. The checkpoint itself had seemed to emerge fully out of the drizzling rain, unseen before he stepped into it. The people in the shelter looked bored at worst; they were drinking hot liquid out of cups and eating pastries. Mika kind of wanted to join them, but something in the blonde’s tone told him no.
I tell you what. You do a little favor for us and we will let this slide. How does that sound?
Good I guess.
Mika felt okay agreeing. He felt the need to be pleasing in this situation.
Take this and our man will grab it from you on the other side. You will even get a little credit for it.
In her hand was a neatly wrapped package.
He nodded and took it. Depending on the next checkpoint this could mean death. But, he decided to be pleasing so he agreed to it.
The next checkpoint had two helicopters propped on the side of the road. Glaring blue lights shined from the bank of lights they had strung up over the road. Pilots encrusted in helmets and hoses sat still in each cockpit. Mika stood in the light and the drizzle and waited. He willed his body to not sweat, but it refused.
A child ran out from behind the helicopters and ran a scanner wand over him. The child paused after doing this, looked up at one of the helicopters, and then waved him through.
A man walked out of the shadows on the other side of the bank of lights and put his arm around Mika’s. The man’s face was blurred in similar fashion to the tank.
Just hand me the package and I will credit your mobile.
Mika complied. The man nodded his blurred head.
Okay walk away and don’t watch where I am going.
The third checkpoint cleaned out his mobile, but gifted him with a lumpy can of food cubes and a map to the nearest camp. They laughed when he asked if could sell the can for money but didn’t when he made a joke about their halftrack covered in pornographic graffiti. They just waved their guns and pointed in the direction of the camp in response to that.