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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Fiction

Collections

My name is Luke. I’m 240 years old, same as America. My work keeps me young. I’m a procurement agent for certain forces and parties who find it difficult to operate openly.

What my bosses want are souls, or at least the nourishing parts of them. Being so involved with their bartering, extraction and transportation puts me in the position of receiving a ‘contact high’, as it were, and this marginal osmosis effect is what has kept me so vital all these years.

My line of work has me rubbing shoulders with some real pieces of shit. I’ve met mass murdering Satanist warlords who trembled when they saw me, afraid they’d accidentally summoned me for an exchange. Soul trafficking is a racket for only the least scrupulous out there. The majority of my mortal clients are psychopaths with ESP who fancy pulling a Faust one. And like the eponymous soul-trader of that fable, they all think they’ll somehow outsmart me in the end.

Take right now, for instance. I am stood outside the estate of an up until now cooperative trader. Sold his soul 10 years back for 3 years of unbridled (if trite and unimaginative) excess, and has been delaying final payment with the souls of others, mostly teenage runaways. But as we keep reminding him, the Pact was for his soul and it’s ours by right. He hasn’t provided us with any alternative payments this year, so his account has moved into ‘collections.’

It’s 2am in Hollywood and it’s raining. I expected to manifest in his bedroom but I’m on the street, which means he’s laid down some protective glyphs inside. Irritating. I’m still mortal, I simply work in a field which allows me certain supernatural benefits. When you cut me, I bleed. And when I get rained on, I’m wet, so I’m already in a bad mood tonight. I press on his buzzer (no need to leap straight into the mysticism) and see, in the corner of my mind, a trembling hand pushing a plant pot off a balcony and into the wet night. I watch it fall towards me and step aside, seeing terracotta shatter into a hundred earthen, soaked fragments. I feel a gaze from the camera above me and stare blankly into it.

Just once, I’d like someone to conduct themselves with a little dignity during a collection. It’s always a snivelling, pleading farce and always leaves me with a sour taste.

I feel the space, invisible sensory tendrils creeping up to the house. I can’t sense beyond the glyphs on the threshold, but I can feel them out like brail markings.

Hm… camphor and silver… plush… ah, should have guessed: Thelema, the Taekwondo of esoteric systems. I close my eyes and make a quick trip to the Abyss. Well, one of them. Moments after ‘arriving’ I feel Choronzon bristle in the darkness. I sense acquiescence at once and depart. Me and It have something of an understanding; the Powers I represent are worth more bother than the Lurker in the Abyss can really handle, so he grants me immunity as and when I need it.

I’m back in my body and I feel something give behind the door. I glance at the lock and it clicks open. I phase forward-

-and I’m in the house, glyphs and sigils just smouldering scorch marks on the hardwood floor now. I can feel the whole building now.

Fear. Fear hangs in these halls like the reek of cheap incense. I can work with fear. I consider just appearing next to him in his wardrobe but I’m still wet and feeling pretty raw about it, so I walk, slow and heavy, and with every step the stench of panic rises and almost chokes me. Panic smells like wet aluminium on a hot day, if you’re interested.

——

As I walk up the stairs to the first landing, I can see him through the walls. I am able to perceive several spectrums unavailable to the unaltered human eye. UVA, UVB, thermal, auras, even a bit of past and future, though that’s mostly a composite of everything available and a bit of guesstimation. He’s still in his walk-in wardrobe, trembling behind several fur coats. Urine is hot on his legs. How to explain… the way it looks to me is as if this entire house and everything in it suddenly became made of purple glass. He’s bright as day, a white human shape with a pink outline, flaring dirty yellow sometimes when his fear rises. It looks as though I could walk straight to him, but I can just about make out the surfaces around me. Walls and doors stand in my way, though at this point the sigils laid down are entirely useless for preventing my approach. If Choronzon obeyed any kind of ethical structure it’d most certainly have breached it here; no doubt this poor bastard paid dearly for those ‘protections’. If he was given protection on the weight of his word alone, I’ll probably drop him off in the Abyss when I leave. I don’t owe Choronzon anything, but I feel a bit bad about just swooping in on it’s action and leaving it high and dry. Even soulless husks can provide the Lurker with a little entertainment, and he’s never been one to forget a courtesy.

I’m on the landing, and a dog is staring at me from the other end of the hallway. Doberman; lean, aggressive, ears clipped. That really annoys me, when people mess with their pets to make them look better. The dog is staring me down, and though his stance, stare, teeth and tail are all blaring “DANGER, DANGER, BACK OFF” signals at me, there’s an unmistakable lilac mist coming off the animal. The dog can smell that I’m not… right. I phase forward and am suddenly in front of the dog. It darts it’s head up to look at me, but doesn’t react with surprise. She sussed I wasn’t human soon as she saw me.

I look deep into this dog and I see abuse, I see fear and hunger. I see loud noises, attack training in backyards with car parts strewn about. I see a dog who has never known the love of her owner, and as such cannot conceive of it. I lend a hand; I gently blow a small parcel of light towards the dog’s face. It snuffs the air above it, trying to figure out if it’s some kind of treat, when the light suddenly darts into the dog’s forehead. There’s a moment of confusion, and then the parcel splits open inside and the emotional understanding of affection and loyalty are suddenly clear as day to the animal. Without another thought, it pads past me, down the stairs and out the door. It knows now; there’s nothing for it here.

I’m outside the bedroom now, and I can see that our man must have not had total faith in his glyphs; there’s an elaborate system of pulleys and ropes, all of which in the service of ensuring that an old double-barrelled shotgun on the dresser will fire if the door opens. I’m bored now. In an instant I’m in the room, and it’s nice. Not as tacky as I was expecting, though there is a… Hellenic vibe, which I always find unsettling. Maybe one day it won’t mean what I’ve come to expect, but I’m still waiting.

I sit on the bed and think about how I should proceed. In a moment it comes to me; I close my eyes and concentrate. Inside the wardrobe the trader has stilled. He hasn’t heard anything in a while, but isn’t feeling brave enough to venture out. Suddenly, he hears a violent growl, two barks, the sound of claws skittering across hardwood and a harsh scream, muffled out by the growling and sound of tearing. There’s a sudden burst of footsteps towards the bedroom, claws clacking behind it, and then the trap gun bursts into brief, volatile life, both barrels. Then nothing, not a sound. After five whole minutes, the trader stands up, shoes wet with urine, and pokes his head around the doorway.

The guy from outside is dead, a steaming chest cavity black with gunpowder and ruin. Behind him the mutt, head entirely pulverised by the other barrel. Oh well.

For a brief, blissful moment relief floods him. He’s still free as a bird baby.

He smirks as he walks towards the corpse, then freezes. The corpse is gone. It didn’t fade away or disintegrate; it just isn’t there anymore. What’s more, there’s no dog, the door’s closed and it doesn’t smell of gunpowder anymore. He turns in confusion and sees me on the bed.

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Fiction

Exile Hearing. Accused: Zephir, Brother Mechanist

-We are here today to bring sentence upon the accused. Zephir, step forth.
*Zephir approaches elders*
-You stand accused of gross obscenity, clear violation of our codes and bringing dishonour upon this Order of Mechanists. In light of the evidence and witness testimony, we have no choice but to find you guilty. Do you have any defense?
“My only crime is one of vision. The vision to see the gossamer ethics of this order for what they are. The vision to have so arrogantly become the most skilled mechanist in these halls, and I dare any to say otherwise. The vision-”
-Enough of this!
“THE VISION, I say, to recognise that the future is as much steel and glass as it is flesh and spirit. My only regret is that I did not begin this Great Work sooner.”
-Have you NO shame? The monstrosities uncovered in your private lab… the Orc!
“I felt Zhugarm held tremendous promise. Orc healing is astonishingly swift. I felt that if I could have his flesh heal OVER steel plate-”
-And the Elf, Elohzhar was it?
“Elves have naturally brilliant sight. I thought it could only be improved with surgical, suborbital installation of telescopic lenses-”
-And this is to say nothing of Garet, our watchman!
“Garet complained often of his bodily functions impeding his duties. A likeminded soul. I simply attempted to streamline-”
-You connected his rear end to his mouth!
“The valve leads to greater efficiency-”
-All of the aformentioned are DEAD!
“And in death they have bequeathed us with the greatest gifts of all: knowledge and experience. When subdermal armours are commonplace, all shall remember and give thanks to Zhugarm for his sacrifice.”
-We have heard enough. In light of these crimes, and your total lack of remorse, we are left with no choice but to exile you from this order.
“Fine. I’ve learned everything I can here anyway.”
-We cannot, of course, inflict your sickness upon the world. Yet we are also unable to take back that which you have learned.
“Actually, I’m working on a project by which the brain-”
-ENOUGH. Instead, we shall remove the means by which you would maim the world. Guards, remove his hands.
*Zephir shows no reaction as two guards seize his arms and move to pull his hands into view*
-What’s…what
*Zephir thrusts forth two brass, clockwork fists where once his hands had been skin and bone*
“Behold the new flesh!”
-Zephir… what have you done to yourself?
*Zephir opens one hand and a small ball falls to the ground, shattering and filling the room with blinding light. When the light fades, Zephir is gone*

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Fiction

Lenny’s Perfect Hit

Lenny worked the dropping bay, and his reputation was one of a conquerer.

A J.E.C artillery platform is something you never want to wake up to see suspended above your colony. Thoughts rush through your head as a cold sweat breaks out; did we not pay our taxes this month? Are we harbouring fugitives? Have they simply decided to ‘redevelop’ this planet?

Whatever the reasons, you’re powerless. All you can do is hope to Christ that the regional government manages to square things with the J.E.C in time. There are stories that the platform has a big red LED clock, counting down to doomsday, which starts the moment it becomes stationary above your world.

These stories, though thoroughly denied by the J.E.C joint chiefs, are in fact true. There are two Doom Clocks. One in the bridge of the platform, and one in Lenny’s dropping bay.

The J.E.C is a scary organisation, and they cultivate such an image intentionally. The J.E.C, or Joint Earth Coalition, is the face of humanity in the galaxy. There’s something very sad about the name, really. Devised to present an image of unity and strength to any alien civilisations we encountered once space exploration got off the ground, we sadly never came across any. Instead, the J.E.C imposes its iron will on its own people; namely the colonists who settle other worlds, asteroids and space stations. The technology required to produce oxygen, water and consumable food on worlds which aren’t suited to human habitation is expensive, the J.E.C owning all the patents and ensuring that the levies are hefty enough to keep those who strike out away from Earth on a pretty short leash.

Should a colony fail to pay their taxes many times, or be suspected of providing shelter to ‘subversive’ elements, or in the event that said colony is simply on top of a rather valuable mineral deposit that the J.E.C desires, the bombing process begins, which starts with the clock. Generally those on the ground are not informed of how long they have; bombings happen unexpectedly and often without announcement. The only warning you receive, really, is that the platform is above your world one morning. From that moment on everyone holds their breath until it begins to slowly creep away again, or doomsday comes.

In the bridge, everything gets very heavy. The acting commander declares “Start the clock,” and a pre-decided time appears, usually twenty-four Earth hours. Everyone starts walking around a lot more stridently, backs straighten, pupils dilate and a few of the more careerist-types get a bit of a hard-on. In this time, messages are passed down the ladder to begin optical analysis of the colony surface, determine the blast zone which will ensure maximum overkill while protecting any valued assets (read: minerals). There are drills and testing runs. Constant communication with the very top brass back on Earth is kept open to ensure continued permission for bombardment. There are a lot of salutes. Supply units will begin moving the ordinance itself through the various channels of classification and testing, until it gets the green-light and is moved to the loading bay.

The bombing material itself is a highly dense radioactive element packed in a massive payload of explosive material, all encased in an armoured chassis. The effect of orbital entry removes the need for thrusting proponents. All you need to do is aim, and drop.

Eventually, it all trickles down to Lenny. Lenny works the dropping bay, the last resting place of the ordinance before it leaves the platform. There is a hole above where Lenny sits, and a hole beneath. Though the chiefs don’t approve, Lenny refers to his work station as ‘The Colon.’ The ordinance is pushed through the ‘sphincter’ above him, and Lenny aims and releases the bombardment from the platform’s ‘anus.’ Lenny’s irreverence has not made him popular with the commander. His accuracy has made him extremely popular with the J.E.C chiefs.

To some on the station, he’s an embarrassing necessity. To others he’s a legend. Whichever, both sides admit that however efficient and orderly the overall process, it all rests on Lenny. Lanky Lenny, they used to call him in the academy. Lanky, spacey, strung-out Lenny.

Eight years ago, Lenny lived a pretty different life. He sold enough smack to support his own habit until a stool pigeon shopped him and he was given a choice: twenty-five years in prison or join a high risk work crew on a five year asteroid mining operation for the J.E.C. Lenny was never really built for prison, so he took the fairly suicidal option and shipped out within a week of his arrest.

Mining asteroids is brutal work for great pay, but as a convict Lenny wasn’t getting paid, so as far as gigs went it was pretty shit. Still, the sights through the barracks viewing port were often breathtaking; nebulas, twin-suns, even the occasional black hole. It beat prison bars, Lenny often thought to himself.

One time, while mining out a rather volatile fuel-source from an asteroid belt, something went very wrong. A drill-beam hit a thick vein, and in seconds hundreds of miners were vaporised by the superheated explosion. Worse, the blast was setting off other asteroids. In deep-space mining this is known as the Worst Case Scenario, a chain event that 96% of the time ends in the total destruction of the asteroid belt and the guaranteed deaths of everyone working the site. When this happens, the chief mining ship (ie: the one holding all the valuable fuel that’s been harvested) hits emergency thrusters to get the fuck out of dodge while firing off coolant pods towards the maelstrom, in the hopes of holding back the blast long enough for the stored fuel to get to a safe distance. It doesn’t tend to work, but there’s got to be a contingency, right?

This time, Lenny was heading back from the mess-hall when the blasts started. He was thrown against the wall by the explosions, and ran to the nearest port to see what was happening. He took in the terrific destruction of the belt, millions of years old, when he noticed that while the thrusters were vainly pushing them slowly away from the blast, too slowly, the coolant pods weren’t firing. Running into the launch bay, he found it empty. The accident had taken everyone by surprise, and no one was manning the launcher. Lenny didn’t think; he just leapt into the rig and grappled with the controls he’d never used before.

From the bridge, the captain watched in horror as the blasts got closer and closer. The escape attempt was unlikely to be successful, and only now were coolant pods being fired towards the blasts. He was thinking about his wife and children when the first pod collided with an asteroid that was showing dark red cracks around its mantle, covering it in cyan coolant, thousands of degrees below freezing. The red cracks, to his shock, began to fade. He then noticed that several other pods had been fired in the space of seconds, each of them striking asteroids far outside the range of the current explosions. While against standard protocol, it seemed to be working. Whoever was manning the launcher was effectively ‘kettling’ the blast, surrounding it in a frozen cage which appeared unlikely to yield to the magnificent heat of the exploding fuel.

In the space of twelve minutes, the blast was over. Thousands of miners had died, but the chief ship and it’s bountiful payload was untouched. The crew universally began to shake with relief, some bursting into tears of fatigue. It was at this moment that the gunner stepped into the bridge; Lenny was pouring with sweat, supporting himself against the bulkhead, and his eyes were distant.

That night the captain wrote a very long report back to headquarters, which was forwarded to J.E.C Command. The next day Lenny was on a shuttle back to Earth, a soldier on either side, his criminal record having mysteriously vanished and with a spot on a massively sought-after military bombardment training course with his name on it.

In his first dropping bay post he bucked heads with the commander almost immediately. Lenny didn’t much care for his uniform, opting instead for a vest or the branded t-shirt the mining company had given him previously. He didn’t stand up straight, he was often tardy, and he was rumoured to smoke in the bay, stood before a bomb which if prematurely triggered would reduce the platform to white-hot smithereens. But his hit rate was unheard of, evidence of a rare ability for gravity-drops which no J.E.C analyst had witnessed yet. This kept him safe for a time, but the commander had Lanky Lenny on his shitlist and didn’t rest until he’d had him temporarily suspended for shabbiness.

The commander’s smugness lasted until their next drop, when Lenny’s replacement eyeballed it wrong and accidentally reduced one of the largest mineral deposits ever discovered by prospectors to useless slag, fucking up so bad that several of the prospectors survived and were able to escape, spreading word of the J.E.C’s skullduggery and tarnishing their reputation irreparably. This led to a massive swell of support for anti-Coalition guerrilla groups.

The commander was never heard from again following a visit from J.E.C Command representatives, and Lenny was quietly reinstated.

When the clock hits zero in the dropping bay, the port above Lenny slides open and a very loud alarm sounds. Slowly, achingly slowly, the ordinance lowers into Lenny’s view. Sometimes some of the younger grunts above have written messages on the bombs; DEATH FROM ABOVE / DON’T FUCK WITH THE J.E.C / A KISS FROM MASSACHUSETTS / etc. Lenny doesn’t really notice the messages, he just leans forward and places his hands against the two release switches on the port below him, which also slides open, revealing the distant surface below. Sensors track Lenny’s eyes and make minute adjustments to the angle of the bomb as he takes in the full view of what lies below.

When the bomb is in the dropping bay, everyone’s thinking about Lenny. Some people say he recites the Lord’s Prayer in its entirety. Some say he sees the face of the universe in that moment when he holds in his hands the most feared weapon in human history. Still others say he masturbates, hitting the release switches at climax. No one knows what Lenny does down there while the bomb hangs, pregnant with possibilities and sublime destructive power. But when the final alarm sounds and the ordinance drops out of the platform, everyone knows; it’s going to be a perfect hit.

Lenny sits back in his chair, the ordinance falling now, plummeting down terminally. It hasn’t even struck yet, and Lenny won’t even know when it has, but he doesn’t care; Lenny bathes in the most euphoric experience imaginable. He has finally found the perfect drug.

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Fiction

The White City

My dreams all take place in the same location now, if the mental spaces in which we wander nocturnally can be said to have a ‘location’ as such. It is a city, grand in scale but utterly ruined. White stone bricks make up towers, dwellings, sepulchres and vast stretching bridges which end abruptly in mid-air. Water surrounds the city, lays through it, though the canals do not flow and the shores do not ebb or rush. They are achingly placid, like an infinite mirror stretching past the horizon. The sky is eternally locked into a state of either dawn or twilight; it is impossible to tell which. There is no sun or moon suspended above. The city lays almost entirely empty of life.

There is a sense that this is an old place, eldritch and forbidden. It feels older than… anything else there is, to be honest. It started here, whatever it is. Did the spires once tower even higher, each window lit by fantastical lights in colours we have never seen? Did the grand beings who constructed this place once stride proudly across its many huge white plazas, resplendent in finery now forever lost to time? Did the stars ever drape across a night’s sky, the whorls and jewels of Nuit moving through constellations which are not our own?

I cannot say.

Perhaps it was always like this. Perhaps this is the first place, the first eruption of matter in a universe born anew. Perhaps it is the last, the final resting place of that shared hallucination we called “civilisation.” Perhaps it is the ruin of Heaven.

In my dreams I wander across the streets, alleys and walkways of this forsaken place. Occasionally there are others, though none I would consider denizens. I feel that the others I sometimes glance are fellow visitors, projecting to this city from their resting places, same as I. None speak, and I do not attempt to myself.

Many parts of the city appear as through they should be inaccessible, built by either maddened architectural minds or simply constructed for the convenience of a race which does not abide by the same physical laws as my own. However I do not encounter difficulty in scaling the impossibly steep white pathways. I simply will myself there, and I am transported. I have not taken the time yet to look at my own body while I explore this place. I am quietly afraid to do so.

Sometimes, but not every time, there is a strong sense of another presence in this city. While it may sound wildly out of character with everything else I have described, I am occasionally made aware of a dragon which resides here. I have never seen the dragon, not heard its roar or witnessed its flight. Indeed, I cannot in all sureness say that it embodies any of the various images we conjure in our collective human consciousness when we think of a ‘dragon.’ When I become aware of it, it is as though a deep tectonic shift has occurred in the very foundations of the place. Some kind of consciousness stirs deep beneath the city, within the very white stones upon which I stand, and it is wholly omniscient of those who wander it’s lair. Or perhaps it would be better to say those who ‘trespass’. When I become aware of the dragon, I wake shortly after. Perhaps I flee it’s ethereal gaze, perhaps it ejects me, unworthy to stand within this holy land.

I recall a single time that I became conscious of the dragon in the presence of another wanderer. A young woman, clothed in a vest with brown hair pulled back tightly. The moment I became aware of the dragon I could be sure she had as well; her face suddenly creased into a look of fear, panic and horror. Perhaps mine had as well. Perhaps it does every time.

I want to learn how to lucid dream, because I want to grapple with this city more consciously. There is some reason for my constant return there. Am I supposed to find something? Am I experiencing the memories of another? Perhaps I have been called there to rebuild it. Perhaps I have been sent there to destroy what remains.

In a way, it doesn’t seem to matter. Many of the metaphysical things we take for granted in our World and Aeon do not belong there. I do not entertain thoughts of good or evil while there, or even life vs. death. This place resides either long before or after those separations existed.

I want to go back. I want to know whether the tides destroyed this place, or if they simply pushed the great white stones together themselves. I want to know what sights lay at the tops of the highest cracked towers. I want to know if subterranean tunnels lead under the city, beneath the level of the still sea, and what magnificent force might rest there.

Part of me worries, in my waking hours, that this city might drive me mad if I spend too much time there. It is so very alien, so unlike anything I have seen in life or fantasy. Perhaps if I were to spend too much time exploring I might become lost, or lose some connection to the slumbering body which projects my consciousness into that lost place. I remind myself that I have seen no evidence to suggest that any others have become ‘stuck’ in such a way. But still I worry.

In cynical moments, to which I am prone, I wonder if maybe this is all simply an amalgamation of other mythical lost cities: Atlantis, Carcosa, R’Lyeh. But the thought occurs; I am not the only one who has visited this place. Would it not make sense that others, more gifted in poetry and prose than myself might have taken inspiration from their own journeys there and attempted to scribe the things they had seen, to try and convey to others the idea of a city lost amid time, utterly separate from our own assumptions of space, physics, time and law?

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Fiction

Waiting Area

A man sits behind the wheel of a car at night, rain beating against the windshield. On the seat behind him, a massive, overspilling bag of dirty laundry. He passes by several launderettes who are closing for the night, brow furrowed, until his face is illuminated.

The car comes to a stop in front of a small, green but well-lit launderette. The neon sign in the window says “24/7”

The man enters the launderette, lugging his huge messy bag along with him. Despite the apparent lateness, the waiting area is full. Those waiting appear sullen, worn-out, aged. On reaching the counter, a man appears suddenly to greet him.

LAUNDERETTE: Good Evening Sir.

MAN WITH LAUNDRY: Hi, I’m glad your open. I know it’s late, and it looks as though you’re busy, but what kind of time estimate can you give me on…

The man swing his huge bag onto the counter with a straining sound.

MAN WITH LAUNDRY: THESE? *pant pant*

The man behind the counter takes the slightest glance over the amassed washing, and limply lifts a sock with his fingertip.

L: Oh I’m sure we can have your laundry finished in 40 minutes.

The Man With Laundry looks stunned

MWL: Sorry? Can’t of… I thought I heard you say 40 minutes?

L: That’s right, Sir. Feel free to wait here or pop out; we’ll have your laundry washed, dried and ready for you.

The Man With Laundry smiles widely, and reaches for his wallet.

MWL: That’s fantastic, really great. How much do I owe you for that? Do you need to weigh it, or…?

The Launderette smiles his enigmatic smile.

L: Sir, your first laundry session here is of course complimentary.

The Man With Laundry’s smile falters a bit.

MWL: Complimentary? As in… for free?

L: That’s absolutely right, sir.

MWL: Well… what’s the game, then?

L: As a new business in the area, we want to build a… report with our clients, and as such we are offering complimentary cleaning services to any locals on their first visit.

The Launderette suddenly leans forward jerkingly, eyes intense and piercing those of the Man With Laundry.

L: We understand that many are hesitant to leave their laundry with us, after hearing such wild promises. We encourage you to stay in our waiting area; we promise your laundry will be with you presently.

The Man With Laundry is a bit taken aback by the Launderette’s tonal shift, and decides to go ahead with it. He pushes the laundry gently to the Launderette with a slight smile and the Launderette takes his cue to grab the bag and take it to the back.

The Man With Laundry walks to the chairs of the waiting area and takes a seat. He can’t wait to see this; how the hell are they going to wash and dry all that in 40 minutes?

Looking about him, he takes in the others who are waiting in greater detail. They are a pitiable bunch; signs of poverty and hard living etched into their faces, necks and hands. They scratch at themselves absentmindedly or just stare at the floor, some of them mumbling to themselves and drawing their collars up over their withered necks.

Before he knows it, the Launderette is back at the counter, which is topped by a much-better-folded bag of laundry.

L: Sir, your laundry is ready.

Startled, the man checks the clock: 37 minutes since he sat down. Walking up to the counter, he peers into the bag. Yep, these are his bedsheets, it’s definitely his laundry.

MWL: Wow! I can’t believe how quick you were.

L: Do not worry sir, we are very thorough. I hope you enjoy your complimentary cleaning service, and that we see you and your laundry again soon.

MWL: I’m sure you will!

The Man With Laundry walks out, feeling great. As he sets the bag in the back and sits down, the smell of fresh-washed-sheets wafts over to him, and he groans with pleasure.

That night, he and his family sleep the best night’s sleep of their lives. They are warm, snug, undisturbed and visited by colourful, joyous dreams. They awake the next day feeling better than they ever have before. The Man With Laundry tell his wife all about the weird launderette he found, and ruffles his kid’s hair as they play.

The next night, the man and his wife climb into bed, excited at the prospect of a night like last, but instead are plagued by restless sleep, pinwheeling arms, sweats and disturbing dreams. Their boy wakes up three separate times with nightmares.

The next night is similarly unpleasant, worse in fact. The man and his wife’s sheets are drenched with sweat, and their child wets himself. The next day, the Man With Laundry goes back to the Launderette.

MWL: Hello! I was hoping I could get these washed again today.

L: Of course, sir. It’s a pleasure to see you again.

MWL: Do you use a particular softener? Because that first night’s sleep we had…

The Launderette smiles

L: Magical, wasn’t it?

MWL: It really was! The last couple nights, though…

L: Many find ordinary sleep difficult after enjoying a night with a fresh wash from us. We appreciate the compliment.

MWL: No problem! Well, how much is this load going to cost this time?

L: This time it will cost £20

MWL: That’s still quite reasonable, considering the amount.

L: We’re glad you think so, sir.

MWL: Right, I’ll just wait then.

L: Sir, this time your laundry will take 90 minutes.

The Man With Laundry is momentarily annoyed, but then remembers that they probably fast-tracked his last time

MWL: That’s fine! I’ll come back in a bit.

The Man With Laundry goes driving, intending to get a bite to eat, but can think of nothing but his laundry. He checks his watch every few minutes, and when 90 minutes have passed he realises he’s never left sight of the launderette.

Returning, he sees his laundry waiting for him and smiles widely, collecting it.

L: Thank you for your repeat patronage, we hope to see you again soon.

MWL: I’m sure you will!

That night; Heaven. Another incredible night’s sleep, capped with a refreshed and rested morning. The man finds however that he begins to feel fatigued and nauseous at noon, and excuses himself home.

He comes home to find his wife and son there as well, both feeling extreme unwell.

That night no-one sleeps; there is only pain. The man can hear his wife sobbing and his child wailing, and bunches the sheets around his wrists, trying to distract himself with the tension.

The family stays home that day, too sick to go anywhere. The man tries to stay in bed but it’s torture, and has to climb out. Reeking of illness, the man decides the sheets need a wash and heads for the launderette.

Limping in, he carries his bag up to the counter, rough-looking clientele watching him from the waiting area.

L: Good evening sir. Looks like these need cleaning.

The man responds by mumbling weakly.

MWL: Yeah… need these washed. How much?

The man can’t even focus very well, and simply hands his wallet over and takes it back when offered, not having listened. He walks over the the chairs and sits, pulling his coat around himself and scratching at an itch on his neck.

Checking the clock, he notices the time stretching on and on. 40 mintes, an hour. After close to 2 hours he painfully walks up to the counter.

MWL: How much longer do you think it will be?

L: Your laundry will be with you presently, sir.

Dejected, the man goes back to his chair. After two-and-a-half-hours, he notices his laundry waiting for him and goes to collect it, never saying a word.

L: See you again soon, sir.

Sleep that night is better, but not a scratch on what they’ve come to expect from the launderette. The dreams are gone, as is the optimism, but the pain at least goes away while they sleep. By 10am the next day however, it’s back.

Everyone stoops off to bed early that night, hoping to wake well again, but at 2AM the man sits upright and starts tearing the sheets off the bed. His wife tumbles out, screaming.

MWL: LOOK IF I JUST GET THE FUCKING SHEETS CLEANED WE’LL BE ABLE TO SLEEP JUST FUCKING SHUT IT, RIGHT?

Getting to the launderette is hard work, as he keeps skidding and sliding all over the road, arms and legs trembling. He manages to pathetically slouch into the launderette, where the Landerette man still waits, unaging, unsleeping.

It is only with Herculean effort that the man can get the bag on top of the counter, this time.

MWL: Need…. to wash…. these…. family… sick.

L: Of course, sir. Laundry services will cost you £160 tonight.

The Man With Laundry’s eyes go huge.

MWF: £160?! £160?!? That’s insane! That’s ludicrous! You can forget that!

L: Not a worry, sir. I’m sure you’ll find sleep and comfort eventually.

The Man With Laundry sags. Numbly, he pulls out his wallet and hands several notes to the Launderette.

L: Very good sir. Your washing will be ready in 5 hours.

The Man With Laundry doesn’t even complain, just goes to sit. Around him, haggard, gnarled people hug themselves and wretch dryly. Their skin looks like dried paper, their eyes are dull. Catching himself in the reflection of the window, the Man With Laundry is unable to recognize himself for a moment, or tell the difference between him and the tramp beside him.

He comes out of a daze and immediately checks the clock: 3 hours 17 minutes to go. A clean cut man has just come in with a bag of laundry, and seems pleasantly surprised by the complimentary session he’s just been offered.

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