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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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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