For this week and the next two Flash Fiction Friday will exhibit excerpts of The New Bizarro Author Series for 2015.
The doors exploded open, neon pinks, purples and blues bursting onto the streets and the skin of those waiting. The others cheered, but Tilli remained quietly determined. A rainbow glided into the doorway.
“Friends, neighbours, welcome to Sensus Invictus. Step in and feel your boundaries shatter…” he stepped aside and everyone scurried in, taking seats on either side of a clean, white runway. Tilli elbowed her way to the front of the left side, if she could just remain in view of the rainbows swirling about the ceiling and walls, occasionally disappearing backstage…
A vortex appeared at the end of the runway, swirling furiously. The audience gasped in shocked delight. “Ladies and gentlemen,” boomed a voice neither male nor female, “welcome to the first ever Live Art Extravaganza!” The people cheered and so did Tilli, the excitement spreading like an infectious disease. The first Art, a man with a golden quiff stretching almost to the ceiling, stepped out from behind the screens. The onlookers oohed as he strode to the end of the runway, narrowly missing the vortex which waited hungrily for him. His hair shot out and grabbed a woman’s handbag and she squealed in mock protest. His mane rolled it about for a few seconds before spitting it back into her arms, now covered in attractive sequins. He stomped back to a loud applause.
A girl now appeared, her dark skin almost like velour. In fact, when Tilli squinted, she saw it was velour. It seemed at first as if her coat jiggled as she walked, but Tilli it was writhing independently. A few faces peered out and stretched the fabric before sinking away into dark blue nothingness, whereupon more faces took their place. “Oh darling,” said a woman to a man sitting next to her, “that’s the coat of souls I read about in Tittles. Isn’t it divine?”
“Simply divine,” was the response. Tilli glanced about, sweat prickling her temples. Time was moving on, why hadn’t they noticed her? Maybe she could approach them at the end…
Another Art stepped onto the runway, making his way to the vortex and summoning The Dark One before turning to head back. The next Art appeared from behind the screen. The first, on shoes taller than a young man, wobbled and the crowd uniformly breathed in. The second Art began stomping towards him so as not to lose time, but the first was falling slowly, gracefully, into maw of the whirlpool. All eyes were on him, nobody saw the second Art desperately twirling and cartwheeling to get their attention. The first was sucked down into oblivion and, before anybody had a chance to scream, the second exploded in a shower of glitter and rainbows which stained the white runway. Both men and women screamed as loudly as they could and several fur covered watchers fell dramatically to the floor, though of course one eye flickered to their companions to make sure they were watching.
We were Towers and we shattered the sky.
We were three hundred meters tall, anchored to the bedrock on mammoth monopile roots. We were carbide skeletons on which steel and lead and graphene plastic matrices were layered to form oblique, unbreakable skin. But most of all, we were the Gods of Fire and War and Thermonuclear Destruction. When we unleashed Atomic Hounds upon the night’s void, every kingdom shuddered and every mortal knew why we were built.
We were Towers.
But we had one weakness: those that lived inside us.
They thought I couldn’t feel them walking in the corridors of my marrow and the ventricles of my heart. The human germs crawling and feeding and fucking—sometimes fixing and reloading—but always, always scratching. They caused me to look inward. They did nothing but distract me from the fight.
I was human once, and I remember that it was miserable. Prejudice, anxiety, want—the hallmarks of my short existence. I lived without certainty. But there was certainty in steel. There was certainty in the exhaust of a newly launched missile and the white, celestial explosion that its terminus brought. There was certainty in Quatra.
The time I spent being human was good for only one purpose—to meet Quatra, the singular cog that would mesh with my own.
Alone, we were overwhelmed by the lizard gestalt of our brains. Brought together, we made of ourselves a functional mechanism. We had a use for all our meltwater emotions. Death, however, reminded us that love did not exist in its stygian paradise. Death could walk, and it arose from the ocean to make war upon the last human cities. In those dying days of civilization, the Towers were built to defend what remained.
So long ago.
Requisition called for people to operate the Towers and we volunteered. Shed the flesh, fight for a thousand years, and in return, be admitted unto the Afterlife. What was a millennium compared to an eternity with Quatra? To be without separation, without sorrow or fear, I would pay any price.
I counted down the days.
A thousand years gone.
But these humans. These viral dwellers. I could feel them inside me, as they were in every Tower, and the sensation repelled certainty. What were they doing to me? I fought with everything I had. What more could they want?
It was my rest period of Day 365,241, my last day of service. I dreamt that Quatra and I were parasites in our own skin, and we were ravenous. We cannibalized muscles of polymer and concrete and went deep into the organ meat of our power plants. We were vermin crawling in cavernous spaces that were wet with blood, yet smelled of dust. Our real bodies, the spires, were dead. The planet was a necropolis and our enemies loomed overhead, breathing hellfire and pulsing clouds of devastation. We could do nothing but weep at the basework of our titanic hearts. We couldn’t even hold each other because we didn’t know how.
Then I woke up screaming.
The captain’s office was small. A desk fan buzzed in one corner, with ticker-tape streaming in its breeze. The morning sun crashed through the window in an orange torrent and struck the poster of the kitten hanging from a branch. “Hang In There, Baby”. The captain slammed the door closed behind Detective Vincent Van Gogh.
“Sit down,” he commanded.
Captain Horrald Smalling was a short, squat man, covered in thick brown hair and the labels of beer bottles he’d drunk in the past week. His jacket was off the peg, off his shoulders and slung unheroically over the back of his walrus leather chair. The sleeves of his shirt, which depicted nudes from around the world, were rolled up. Two dark sweat patches had formed under his arms, even though it was only nine in the morning.
“Captain,” questioned Van Gogh, “didn’t you used to have two ears?”
The Captain, self consciously lifted a hand to the side of his face. Where his left ear should have been was a bare patch of skin, no scar, no blood, no hole, just barren skin.
“You’re right, Van Gogh. I woke this morning to find that gone. And worse, there were signs of a break in. Some bastard forced his way into my apartment and stole my ear.”
“That’s….that’s weird,” said Van Gogh, lamely.
“Enough about that, I got a case for you, Van Gogh,” he spat from around the blunt stogie in the corner of his mouth, “a big one. Mayor’s son was found turned into a sofa this morning.”
Van Gogh ran his fingers through his hair and down to his beard. His ear had been right, it was trouble.
“Another **** head?” he questioned.
“Yeah, some new drug cartel has moved in, ****’s been hitting the streets. So, you’re up, Van Gogh. Investigate. Find the bastards that are dealing it, and bring ’em in,” snarled the captain.
Van Gogh scoffed. “Captain, no one has a greater opinion of my abilities than I do, but even I don’t think I can take on a whole cartel.”
The captain’s eyes sparkled with mischief.
“Well, that’s lucky. ‘Cause you won’t be doing it alone. You’ll be doing it with a partner. Ganesha! Get in here!” he bellowed.
The door opened and Detective Ganesha came in, in a cloud of musk and flies. Dressed in an Armani cream suit, Ganesha stood seven feet tall from his dapper white brogues to the top of his massive elephant head. His trunk curled around the door handle and swung it shut behind him. He held, in one of his four hands, a pen knife, which he flicked open and closed as if it were a nervous habit.
“Namaste, detective,” said Ganesha, putting two of his hands together and giving a slight incline of his huge head. “I am most looking forward to working with you.”
“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me,” said Vincent Van Gogh, eyeing the Hindu deity up and down. Deep and dark, like an abyssal trench, Van Gogh felt the ground beneath him slip away. “Captain, no. You know me. I work alone. I do not work with people, let alone elephants.”
A frown crept across Ganesha’s face.