Fiction

Promotion

The room was warm and breezy, salted air blowing through the huge balconies which looked out onto the paradise island. In the later years of his administration, the Leader had chosen to spend more and more of the year at this residence, built to his own specifications in the warmer southern climates.

The young captain looked out from one of the balconies, eyes narrow in the growing twilight. Without turning, he dismissed the other officers who had come to pay tribute to the elderly Leader, architect of the Empire and all-father, who now lay in repose before them all as his life ebbed away. The officers offered no argument, and politely departed through the grand doorway. Many of these men and women outranked the young captain but tipped their caps regardless. As the last of them departed the young captain turned and eyed the Imperial Guardsmen who stood beside the door and dismissed them with the slightest gesture. They returned an eager salute before turning to depart as well. They offered the Leader no gesture of fealty.

Now it was just the young captain, the Leader and the captain’s bodyguard. The bodyguard made a series of facial gestures which suggested a great deal of information to the captain, related to events in the senate and assurances of support from the right Houses. A final twist of the brow asked a final, potent question regarding the man who lay before them, answered swiftly by a confident nod of the head. Satisfied, the bodyguard departed as well, stopping in the doorway to turn and dramatically pull the doors closed behind him.

Now it was just the two of them, the Leader who had risen up amidst the chaos which had once engulfed their nation and forged a regime which had spread across the entire globe, and the young captain who remembered the day, some years previous, when the dear Leader had congratulated him on his promotion. He had shook his hand then with the warmth of a proud father, and assured the young captain that his loyalty and the determination with which he had helped purge the senate of dissenting factions would be greatly rewarded in the years to come. The young captain had felt tremendous pride, tempered by the hunger which had haunted him his entire life. Nothing seemed to satisfy it, yet as he climbed the ranks of the administration he sensed that he was closing in on that mysterious flavour he had craved his whole life.

After years of work, everything was now in place. He had had to sacrifice much in this pursuit, and betray a great many who were loyal to him. He had secretly arranged for the failings and hardships which beset his peers and competitors for rank, had bought votes and favours with kindness, generosity and brutal intimidation. He had murdered for this. By the time the sun had set, the announcements would begin. The sun now cast a deep, warm light across the room as it began to sink beneath the cyan sea.

Dissenters and guardsmen with misguided loyalties would be shot in the streets, hanged from the bellowers. Banners bearing his likeness would stream down from the highest structures of the capital. The captain had even composed a new anthem, drawing upon artistic stylings of the Empire’s founding nation, to play from every accessible speaker in the world upon his coronation.

There was just one last loose end. The approached the Leader’s bedside and looked down at his aged face. Lines and scars which told epic stories. Of a young man, brutalised in a lost war but capable and willing to stand up and unite his people, to spread the their culture across the globe and finally establish lasting peace. Who knew which were true stories and which were propaganda? He wondered for a moment how much of history he would revise when his rule began; how charitable should he be to his predecessor? The old man, withered before his time, had began to suspect the slow poison near the end; there was no good explanation for why his health was deteriorating so rapidly. He was suddenly unable to perform duties which had until recently been casual, but luckily he had always had officers and retainers nearby to help him and lead him to rest. All of them loyal to the young captain.

The captain leaned across the Leader for a moment and took a pillow. He gave it a single fluff, and pushed it down onto the Leader’s face. He didn’t give much resistance; by the time he realised what was happening and began to claw at the captain’s face he was too weak to even visibly scratch him. After a minute of silence the young Leader drew back the pillow. Already dark bruises were appearing on the dead man’s eyelids, but the morticians would fix that. Or maybe he’d just burn the damn thing and put a waxwork in a case of formaldehyde for people to see. He smiled at all the new freedoms which unfurled before him like the petals of a magnificent flower, and turned to leave the room, now unlit and still in the embryonic night. The Leader is dead; long live the Leader.

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Fiction

Gratitude

The War was a distant memory, but it’s fires still smouldered. The world that once was had passed away in a blinding flash that had burned impressions of those who came before against whatever walls still stood. Recovered texts speak of cities that stretched for miles, across and above, places that never slept, a global community in constant communication. This had passed on.

We were indentured labourers in Warlord Mafu’s army, adopted by the conquerers who had razed and absorbed the tribes we each belonged to. Mafu was fond of great projects and rallies, and at such a rally had tasked us, his Not-Quite-Slaves, with clearing the debris from one of the forsaken ranges. These places had once been the mythical cities spoken of in old texts, and were nearly impassable. The rubble that took up all the space had been there since the Great Fire, and was strewn about maddeningly, making it impossible for any kind of large formation to pass through it efficiently. Mafu coveted the farms and fertile women of the western tribes, so tasked us with clearing the way for his armies.

For this, he announced from his platform magnanimously, we would know his Gratitude.

The work was punishing; every day workers fell, malnourished and broken. Most of the lifting and dragging had to be done by hand, as the soldiers refused to lend their vehicles to the cause and reduce the number of patrols. Brick, stone, granite, steel, glass; sophisticated materials whose intricacies had been mostly forgotten, now just sad broken toys. Workers would be crushed by falling masonry, cut themselves on rust and succumb to infection, starve to death where they stood. Disease ran through the ranks of those who worked the forsaken range; people grew ragged and thin, their hair fell out in clumps.

Eventually the field was cleared enough that Mafu announced the project a triumph, and we used the last of our strength to cheer his chariots as they tore off down the fresh pathway to pillage and reave.

We were ferried, exhausted and famished, to a clearing we had not been tasked with. Before us lay a huge pit in the earth, which was already half-full of the bruised, skeletal corpses of our brothers and sisters. On the other side of the pit stood a large white banner, with a single word etched across it in black:

GRATITUDE

We turned just in time to see the rifles of the soldiers behind us roar.

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Fiction

The Best New Year’s Ever

We had arrived about two hours before midnight, and the party was in full swing. Our friends had procured among each of themselves a ration of fairly decent coke. The two of us had missed the boat on that front and were generally “eh” about coke, besides. Of course when the classified substances are on the table one hates to feel left out and, not being much for drinking, the two of us had raided the pantry for some kind of thrill to take with us.

What we remembered we had, nestled cryogenically in the icebox, were two fruit pastels, each individually wrapped in foil and secured in a small baggie, with both of them contained in a takeaway box. Each pastel had been injected with LSD.

We had had these for some time, and for all we knew they might have degraded somewhat and might only deliver a substandard trip. I was nevertheless apprehensive; I was a methodical psychonaut, and took my communion after days of prep, in a safe and controlled environment, with a free schedule and no potential for invasion. The reason acid goes wrong for some people, I would often say with an obnoxious arrogance, was because they were treating a therapeutic tool like a party drug.

So here I was, at a party, about to go against all my own sagely shamanic wisdom. I didn’t hesitate much, and once we’d both placed one in each of our mouths, the Fear seemed to hit her.
“Was this a good idea?” She asked me around her pastel with a nervous smile.
“Well we’ve done it now, so let’s ride it out.” I replied. It sounded warmer and more encouraging when I said it. It dawned on me at this point that the pastels were ‘double-doses.’ I didn’t relay this information.

We sat on the kitchen floor as the first waves began to settle in about 45 minutes later. A slight shift in equilibrium, like suddenly developing sealegs that are attuned to the psychic waves shifting forcefully in a crowded party. Keeping with the slightly nautical theme, the blue lino floor pattern began to swirl and breathe beneath us. We giggled down at it, occasionally noticing that people were looking down at us and talking among themselves, but already at that point of not caring.

The LSD experience is always poorly conveyed, visually. I can’t and won’t be so vulgar as to speak for anyone else’s experiences, but I don’t see anything resembling a Beatles movie when I trip (Alhamdulillah). The visuals, in the beginning, are all about fluctuations in light-sensitivity. “Flutter-vision”, I’ve always called it. Like a border of golden feathers batting around the edges of objects and people. Around the time you begin to notice visual effects, like “breathing” surfaces, shifting patterns, even geometric projections, you’ll also undergo a change in personality. I find that I become calmer, more full of wonder and giddiness. I’m confident speaking with people who are sober or otherwise not-tripping, sometimes moreso than I would be sober.

But a notable mental effect I’ve undergone, when tripping, is a ‘stepping-back’ of sorts. A tendency to observe your physical, mental and emotional movements and get some sense of how they’re all working in conjunction with each other. So when I’m staring at the beautiful floor, which now conveys all the movement and thrust of Hokusai’s Great Wave, any scoffing I hear directed at my behaviour is now analysed, determined to be based in the scoffer’s own insecurity, and gracefully discarded. In a sober mindset my natural tendency would have been to internalise the mockery and alter my behaviours to as to avoid further negative judgement. So you can appreciate how liberating such an experience is.

Meanwhile, our friends were into the coke now, and the two of us were dimly starting to become aware of the fact that no one else was on drugs at this party. How presumptuous of us, to bring a shitload of Class A’s to your doorstep. Oh Christ there’s a fucking BUFFET! Guys we really called it wrong.

But no one seemed to mind our hijinks, and by now the two of us were fascinatedly staring at our friends, who over the course of the evening would undergo a transformation, but more on that later.

Midnight was difficult. We were all situated on the first landing when the chant began.

“TEN”

A violent swell of energy from downstairs; I know my companion saw the red and purple flare of dark smoke rising from below before vanishing as well.

“New Years! The countdown! Come ON!” They yelled as they pulled at us while we desperately clung to the bannisters, not knowing what doom they were pulling us down to. We relented, and stalked down into red light and a booming chorus of time.

“SIX”

“FIVE”

It was very doomsday. Into the room we stepped, to be confronted with some kind of cruel visual trick. They had all crossed arms and were singing, their swaying, interlocked and inscrutable forms belching forth torn, unsynchronised and misremembered renditions of a song their grandfathers knew. We departed back the stairs and waited for our friends to return. In time they did, and they were not overly annoyed at us.

It was after this point that the transformation began. For whereas at the beginning of the night the bags had been full-to-brim with illicit powders, now things were running low. At the beginning of the evening the talk had been fast, complimentary, glamorous, confident and egotistical. People had flicked their hair, tittered, and bumped another key. This was youth. This was life.

But now eyes flicked about. Jaws worked invisible meals and sweat began to bead as knuckles flexed and teeth were ground. Inevitable talk of procuring more was soon quashed; not now, not ON New Years. They weren’t nearly in good enough stead with any of their People as to entertain illusions of priority on what must be the coke dealer’s best night of the year.

As we sat and stared on the stairs, nestled comfortably to the bosom of our own drug’s 12-hour duration period, we watched as our friends became beasts before us. Clicking their jaws, tearing at the grubby bags and tonguing out the very last few fragments. The impatience, the frustration, the angry grasp at the jouissance that had previously seemed so enduring.

Things fell apart gently after that. After a relocation to what turned out to be a much messier party, the two of us made our excuses and departed come about 5 or 6am, and cheerfully strolled home in the chill of a New Year’s dawn, our own intoxicant still at play and soon set to begin gradually diminishing, right around in time for a nap.

It was the best New Years ever.

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Fiction

Rich Foreign Soil

The soil in Kerchetti Province is prized beyond imagining. Unparalleled in it’s fertility, it also gives off a marvellous fragrance when mixed with incense, and can also serve as a powerful disinfectant for poison, gangrene, burns and other flesh wounds. But there are rules to it’s importation and use: one must never ingest the soil, and under no circumstances must a notable amount of the soil be stored collectively outside the borders of Kerchetti.

Kerchetti Province has had many tenants who thought themselves masters. The land is harsh and unforgiving; trees bear little fruit and the spring winds often bring pestilence. Kerchetti has always been seen as a no-man’s land amidst nations that coveted the wealth and territory of their neighbours. The existence of Kerchetti forced an uneasy peace in the region; in order to invade a nation with anything worth taking, your armies had to cross the sands of Kerchetti. The very country itself seemed to resist the otherwise unstoppable momentum of the war machine. Your men would starve and wither. The locusts and gnats would keep them awake all night and bring the madness of sleep deprivation. The constant dust storms would rust the weapons and blind the cavalry. If your army was successful in passing into the nation they wished to seize, they would be in no state to conquer anything.

These historical examples couldn’t prevent various distant empires from attempting occupation, many of whom wished for a central foothold in the region. These imperial legions fared much worse; at least the locals knew of Kerchetti and it’s malevolence. They knew the old sayings which warned them from bringing war to Kerchetti: ‘Those who spill blood upon this earth shall remain to defend it even in death.

It had been some time since the last attempt at occupation. The memory of what awaits any army which marches on Kerchetti would fade in time for another tyrant to futilely attempt to lay siege to that immovable stretch of sand, soil, mountain and blood. The relative peace of the era permitted tentative trade with Kerchetti, and the rich earth of the land was valued tremendously highly.

But many chose to ignore the warnings of swarthy, inscrutable vendors. They purchased vast amounts of the soil, moving it from the small, ornate glass bottle it was sold in and decanting it in large containers and silos. In but a few days they would learn too late the cost of their arrogance.

It is said that Kerchetti province has seen blood run through it’s valleys to an apple’s depth. Locals, foreign invaders; they all bleed the same, and the thirst of Kerchetti’s wrathful soil is never slaked.

The homes and manors of many noblemen and ladies across the moneyed nations were subject to bizarre and total destruction. Explorers and collectors of rare curios, those who operated salons, spas and parlours frequented by women of high society were found torn to shreds, bled totally dry amid their smouldering, shattered homes and places of business.

Witnesses of these reavings eventually began to relay similar testimony: that the victim’s supply of Kerchetti soil had stirred and become animated. The soil had seemed to disobey natural laws, ascending into the air and whirling about at increasing speed, the arid grit sanding and scratching at surfaces, knocking things to the ground. Those who attempted to somehow accost the elemental force before them were enveloped in it, and were seen thrashing painfully amidst the storm before falling dead, covered in lacerations and with blood coming from their torn, dried lungs.

The soil storms would then seem to consolidate into humanoid forms, solid golems of soil, welding equally solid blades which seemed forged in the Kerchetti style. These homunculi of sand, soil and scorn would tear apart the homes, possessions and families of those who had, like vultures, picked and fed at the tatters of their homeland.

These occurrences would not be warning enough to dissuade the generals of future empires from marching on Kerchetti, and the blood of their sons would feed the next generation of bitterness, wrath and vendetta.

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Fiction

Fragments

The plane is spiralling. You try to grasp at the controls, but they’re slick with the pilot’s blood, alternating black and orange in the frenzied cockpit. You can’t see the pilot’s face, none of us can, but we assume they meant well when they brought us all up here. This must have been part of the plan. Was crashing part of the plan as well, or were we supposed to prove our worthiness of flight by taking the reigns of the journey they set us on?

*drift*

The sky is portentous; huge rolling white mountains of cloud, low and fast, moving across an otherwise unblemished amber twilight. ‘Revelations’ weather, everything drenched in eschatological anxiety. Stood facing the ocean, you look out to the fence about eight miles at sea. Sixteen white pylons stand rigid and foreboding. Occasionally a tongue of static discharge licks out across several of the towers.
We don’t know what the pylons are. Some have swum or sailed out to them, but none of them came back. The clouds continue to morph and stream above them, like a second angry shore. What are they protecting us from?

*drift*

The city pulses and you feel the electrified veins creep in through your nose, your mouth, in the spaces next to your eyes and everything below. Hard crystals of sugar-bright coloured sound cascade in fractals, immediately shattering and reforging into new hues and different shapes, an eternal and shrieking phoenix of burnout, reanimation and galvanisation ad nauseam.

Somewhere an engine bristles between your legs. Somewhere your lenses catch the glare of aggressive marketing. Somewhere you pass by heartbreak and providence. Somewhere the gutter flows up over your eyes. Somewhere the gate vibrates off it’s hinges. Somewhere the broken vagrants howl in wounded songs of enlightened defeat. Somewhere you see it all from above. Somewhere you feel it all crash down from above. It is all pervasive and ephemeral. It is the flicker of sunlight reflected in a blinking eyelash. It is the burning titan above.

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Fiction

Detective Cordite’s Personal Notes – Neo-Luddite Violence

Sadly predictable violence at the Technofetishist Rally earlier on today. Six dead, dozens injured. All accessible drone feeds and witnesses show a crowd of Neo-Luddites protesting the rally, though miraculously for our era we haven’t yet managed to piece together who threw the first blow. The Technofetishists are howling for blood; they want these cavemen found, beaten and tossed into space. Though for the most part in breach of no laws on the books, the Technofetishists are forever seeking some kind of validation from the larger population. No one really cares about them; you’re free to seek spiritual and personal satisfaction however you choose, provided you don’t hurt any non-consenting parties. But the Technofetishist death-rate is noteworthy, with dozens of citizens getting themselves caught in complex-yet-evidentially-alluring machinery every year. On top of this, the average citizen is unable to afford the kind of clinic who stand a chance of achieving their trans-humanist ideals in a capable, sterile environment. I’ve seen enough hookers with badly-calibrated pneumatics whining from their exposed, scratched chrome hips as they lean down into a John’s window to last a lifetime.

The Neo-Luddites are always spoiling for a fight, and the Technofetishists give them all the justification their backward code of ethics requires to okay beating the decadence out of a few kids going through some complex identity issues. Their mission statement is as predictable as their methods: Fallen is Babylon, humanity is unanchored, we’ve lost sight of what makes us blah blah. Their solution to the existential crisis arising from universal technological permeation and acceleration? Smash the looms, back to the caves, etc.

The State’s been attempting to plant agents in the Neo-Luddites for a few years, but they’re a difficult group to spy on; very insular, hard to approach. You need to show real dedication to the ideal of a tech-free landscape, shunning all possible technology with vigor and instead attending to the practice of… I don’t know, lifting things up and rubbing sticks together? It isn’t difficult to have an agent pretend they hate technology. The difficulty stems from preventing them from buying into it. Once you’ve managed to get into the trials of admittance, you’re cut off. They last for weeks, and you’re to live with other prospective Luddites. Everyone is watching everyone; there’s no chance to smuggle technology in or communicate with your controllers. It’s the perfect environment for weeding out plants. And once you’ve got your mole identified you get to choose; neutralise, or convert?

Of the eight attempts I know of to plant a G-Man in the Neo-Luddites, three are presumed dead and four are true believers now. The only escapee still gets jumpy around Old World tools, like hammers and saws.

The only sense of advantage we have over the Neo-Luddites is from what we perceive to be their hypocrisy; there’s no way that a group like that could be so well-maintained, organised and inscrutable without some kind of technological intelligence infrastructure. At times in the past when we’ve attended to the scene of a street brawl between the Luddites and some other gang or ‘movement’, it’s been standard procedure to let off an EMP charge or two upon arrival. Scrambles the weapons of whoever’s fighting, gives us an immediate advantage in a combative situation. Doesn’t really bother the Luddites though, as they’re fighting with bats, knives and other lethal implements that don’t require circuitry. We do, however, often find downed surveillance drones in the aftermath. All serials removed and memory flashed upon signal disruption.

I reckon the Neo-Luddites aren’t who they think they are. No one’s got any idea about the leadership structure of the group, save a few surprising influential citizens who’ve left a financing paper trail back to them. It wouldn’t be difficult to set up a kind of militia like this while remaining in the shadows above, no one but the highest echelons of command aware of your existence and leadership. Wouldn’t even need to believe in the ethos; that’s just a useful tool to galvanise the troops and ensure there’s no incriminating hard-drives, because they aren’t allowed to use them.

But then they say I’m paranoid.

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Fiction

Daily Post – Pungent

Though destined to be a grand and celebrated creative, he instead strayed down the meandering, dark path of writing for “chucks”. Trained to craft sonnets, Petrarchan and Shakespearean, he instead devoted his time to the dirty limerick. Though instructed and mentored in the delicate balance of the sublime and the sombre, he spent endless nights devising complex, polysyllabic nicknames for his peers.

He refused to correct his spoonerisms, and saw brilliance only in the subversion of audience expectation.

Though his character became wretched, bilious and putrid, he began to carry himself in higher esteem than ever before. In giving up in his crusade to brew an alembic full of new, alchemically-pure literature he had found a great release. One can grow quite fat on low hanging fruit, and he found it difficult to slake his thirst once he had first tasted the syrup-sweet nectar of the easily won chuckle. Who wants to spend a life breaking the back of their brain in the pursuit of a ‘new’ convention, fully aware that credit will likely not be delivered in this life? Better to rule on the funny pages than to serve in the academy.

His peers sneered; who was he to think so highly of himself? They continued to fight the good fight, to try and prove Eliot wrong and discover new land amidst a well-sailed sea. But our artist cared nothing for their blessing, which only served to increase their disdain.

He would become the black sheep on campus, a carnivalesque jester amidst the prim court of ‘the artists’. He would show them for the pretentious louts they really were. He would become a pen of dull literary vengeance, shattering their swords of reason, introspection and idealism. He would sink further and further into the filth of the triple-entendre, the spoonerism, the mispronounced and the willfully-dense. He would reek of self-conscious mockery and spoil the pomp banquets of Tomorrow’s Writers. He would deliver their punishment; a whole punnetfull. He would hold his head high, the stink of simplicity emanating from his very pores, a gentlemen of unflinching, well-spoken and confident satire.

He would become the Pun-Gent.

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