Thursday, March 31, 2011

MARCH ISSUE

~ PROUDLY PRESENTS ~


CYRANO AND THE TWO PLUMES
by John Shirley

© by john shirley
+ Click Images Below To Begin Reading +






YOU GOT OLD, TOO BAD
by Sean Manseau
© by sean manseau





I CAN'T GET YOU OUT OF MY MIND
by Gil James Bavel
© by gil james bavel





CITIwakes
by Shaun Lawton
© by shaun lawton





LEVEL 5
by Vincent Daemon
© by vincent daemon





The nanofleet have reported back recently that their phase transition is in "a temporary state of plasmatic balance." When pressed to explain this further, the only message received was "the quantum harmonic oscillator must reach its equilibrium point"—a missive I can only interpret as suggesting that the FREEZINE is in a state of "quantum flux" and must be stabilized during its phase transition. The nearest I can paraphrase is that these cryptic messages are intended to imply that our webzine here remains in utero, but I have yet to determine how long the gestation period will last, or if, indeed, our "unborn child" here will safely break through into the blinding light of a new dawn. In the words of the microhorde: "Countering the cosmological constant is possible and may be triggered in a zero-point field. In building a literary analog to the spectral field itself, a temporary counterweight to quantum chaos may be achieved, which in turn could level the electromagnetic playing field for just enough time that a supersymmetrical cornerstone necessary to stabilize the entire operating system might be forged out of dark matter itself." I have been dwelling on the meaning behind these nano-missives for some time now, and can only conclude, for now, that the original mission embarked upon by our mysterious nanohost is progressing as intended.



The MARCH, 2011 iSsuE of the FREEZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION would not have been possible without the daring contributions of its various midwives:

An immeasurable dose of thanks goes out to the inimitable John Shirley, whose vast experience in the realm of prose is rivaled by no other writers I have known. His excursion into "the history fantastic" titled CYRANO AND THE TWO PLUMES was originally printed in an obscure French publication, over two decades ago. The FREEZINE is grateful for this particular contribution, because it sets the stage well for the 8-part serialization to follow—Adam Bolivar's second Weird Jack tale, THE WHITE CUP—and because it comfortably straddles the divide between the various subgenres our webzine has already cemented into place.

Seven-hundred-and-seventy-seven "Thank Yous" go out to Adam Bolivar, who continues the trilogy begun last August with THE FOX IN THE THORN. The FREEZINE is pleased to have published, for the very first time anywhere and anywhen, THE WHITE CUP, serialized in 8 daily installments, now archived forevermore in the Random-Access Realm of the electrified world wide web, in a subdirectory of the blogger domain. Devoted readers take note: Mr. Bolivar returns again for the next (MAY, 2011) iSsuE of the FREEZINE, to bring us the third entry of his Weird Jack Tale saga, THE DREAM KEY. It will be serialized in 8 daily installments, analogous to its predecessor in this very issue.

Next up, our gratitude is directed towards Sean Manseau, yet another of the Freezine's frontline warriors. Mr. Manseau contributes his third story to our fleeting webzine, a charming little urban horror tale called YOU GOT OLD, TOO BAD. Sean's storytelling ability shines through in this alleghorical update of an age-old ritual—with a twist. Thanks for helping keep our cybernetic anthology here above the waterline, Sean.

Speaking of returning Freezine warriors, I would like to take this opportunity to welcome Gil James Bavel into the exclusive "3 Stories +" club, whose "third stripe" has been earned with the creepy and anxious tale I CAN'T GET YOU OUT OF MY MIND. In case you haven't noticed, the more stories that FREEZINE authors get under their belts—the higher up the ARCHIVES OF STORIES AND BIOS totem-pole they will rise (found in the right margin of the Freezine). Readers and writers take note: the nanofleet have devised a complex formula by which the Author Ranking is derived. I can only say that it involves more than just a straightforward "Story Count" factor: at least two other variables that affect one's placement on the Bio Totem Pole are a) seniority within the Freezine itself and b)seniority outside the Freezine itself. For this reason it will be challenging, to say the least, to rise up above John Shirley (for instance)—whose standing amid the ranks of Freezine contributors remains unassailable thus far. Thank you Gil for a suspenseful contribution that I find difficult to get out of my own mind.

As for my own story CITIwakes, the microhorde compelled me to provide my second story for the FREEZINE, in order that I maintain a certain level of equilibrium with the growing ranks of Freezine warriors. As Captain of this cybervessel, it is the least I can do to try and keep up with my motley crew. Incidentally, the story CITIwakes came into being from my decision to craft another example of "flash fiction". My short story here is the cornerstone of what I hope to build up into a longer narrative, eventually.

Which brings us to this issue's closing story, LEVEL 5, by Vincent Daemon. Vince vaults onto the "3 Stories +" stage of returning veterans with a tale that could easily be viewed as being part of his dystopian future universe we first visited in his post-apocalyptic splatterpunk novella WAITING FOR THE END—serialized in the FREEZINE last March, incidentally. It is important for readers to know the proper pronounciation of this latest story's title. Simultaneously alluding to the next stage of our Freezine's advancement, the dear reader is encouraged to say it out loud, like Max von Sydow does in the movie Flash Gordon, with exclamatory and emphatic gruffness—"LEVEL FIVE"!

Thus we delve ever deeper into the subrealm of our microhorde's grand design...


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Much gratefulness goes out to this issue's returning artists, Shasta (and Shaun) Lawton and Jesse Stevens. Without your technicolor sails, this cybership would be dead in the water. Readers: be sure to check out our sister-site, the FREE ZINE ZONE—detailing The Art Of The Freezine. Until the next MAY issue, fare well and stay hungry.





LEVEL 5

by Vincent Daemon






The stinking masses gathered around the manic individual who was shouting—not at them—but to them. He shouted strange words and ideas, things that seemed foreign and archaic but had indeed been an actual part of human existence, at one point, not that long ago. His mind was not the same mind as one of the cathode-force-fed “povers” (politically-correct slang for the jobless, homeless, starving and far beyond poverty-level citizens that seemed to overcrowd the cities more each passing day). These povers were not just starved of food and the chance at a decent life—they had been long starved of access to real knowledge. Accounts of history had been altered, major news and most media coverage had been a lie. The tube and tabloids ran nothing but the slimiest pop-culture drivel in constant, over-saturated doses. Books? They had long ago been phased out, and eventually outlawed as well—along with actual learning. Possession of a book meant possession of a mind. And that could not be tolerated.

The government wanted the povers' minds to resemble a thoroughly distracted and near-atrophied gray matter mush, and their blank eyes to bear a cataract-like sheen of surgically removed free will. They wanted zombies without the voodoo-hoodoo—their particular puffer-fish venom being of an ill-defined, electronic origin.

But this was not so of the shouting man, in his own tattered and filthy rags, in his own malnourished state and over-crowded panic, wearing his skin against his bones like tight and poorly tattooed leather. There was nary a trace of that old cathode-controlled zombification in his eyes. Quite conversely, they were full of life so that a maniacal, driven wisdom and pain-born intelligence glowed through his deep blue irises, and burned out from his opiate-shrunken pupils like rays of orange wormhole-light from the soul.

His words of peace, sense and love pulled the povers out of their stupor, momentarily dragging their attentions away from the hundred-foot tele-monstrosities that hung on every building side. The hundred-inch monitors that filled every storefront window beamed senseless ads about useless merchandise and pop-culture paraphernalia that the pover minds craved but could never afford. A perfect set-up to naturally incite violent and overcrowded riots, and an excuse for the black-suited, gas-masked police units to explode into their own frenzy of unchecked psycho-violence. This man's raving, its heart and intelligence and sheer power, combined with this most flagrant of public outbursts, of such a genuine intensity that even the “hiders”—those who could somehow afford (by whatever vile means necessary: from all manner of strange, designer toilet-tank narcotic sales and horrific sex-rings to the “baby mills”: right from the womb to the roasting pan)—were appearing at the windows of their squalid and critter-infested dwellings, opening them if they weren’t already busted out, themselves pulled away even from their flickering master-screens to the shouter in the street.

All attentions, it seemed, had been brought toward this individual and his raggedy clothes falling off his gaunt frame of bone-revealing skin. His voice was hoarse with emotion and love. His mind obviously keen with intellect, insight and willpower. His blue eyes were crying for humanity, and his charisma seared as if through the atmosphere of Hell’s final war.

The spectacle had indeed drawn all attentions, even those of the already fight-feinting, roving and well-armed foot patrols. These guards were used to loonies and random outbursts from this mess of human filth—as they perceived the situation. In fact, the Screamers On The Street had exploded into being diagnosed as a new kind of psychological phenomenon, being deemed a natural effect of the current age, much like Attention Deficit Disorder had been thought of in the late twentieth century. This condition had been politely termed the God Complex Syndrom (GCS) by the most up-to-date medical standards (themselves even more of a nightmare of doubletalk and psychological catch-twenty-twos than ever before), and it was thought to be caused by the combination of severe poverty, malnutrition, and overcrowding.

It was commonplace for the sufferers of this condition to suddenly pop off on a crowd, jump atop a car roof or tabloid news box, and go on loud, sometimes violent rants, usually pertaining to twisted and misinformed ideas of good and evil, gods and devils, rape, torture, suffering, etc...but never of love.

This man, this sensible shouter, spoke of love and knowledge. He spoke of true beauty in the absence of sin, and he intoned that sin never existed until greed and unnecessary hatred brought it about. His tearing eyes—those crystal blue catacombs of suffering and solitude—began to run from clear to watery red. Yet he had committed no act of violence, no act of self-harm.

The armored police guards did not cotton to this, any of it. Not the silence of the crowd, nor this man's bellowing above the booming babble of the multiple, multi-channeled monitors’ vacant echoing. The man and the monitors seemed to be in competition with each other for the attentions of all within earshot—and the man was winning.

The constant distractions for the detriment of the povers and hiders—and nearly everyone else—seemed, at least temporarily, to be in serious jeopardy. It only took a seven second disruption, apparently, and then...dead air. The spell would be broken and the pumpkins would come a-rolling.

A virtual horde of the quasi-gestapo police shoved their way through the crowd, causing as much damage to the onlookers and intent listeners as possible. The finely polished butt-ends of the police force's rifles cracked pelvises and jaws alike, bringing a sick sort of glee to the storm troopers as teeth flew, pregnant mothers miscarried, and government-issued weapons were awash in innocent blood.

Upon seeing this, the shouting man pleaded with the guards to stop this violence, that they were victims too, that everyone, the police included, had been hurt enough. Tears of blood now streamed from his eyes and he pulled frantically at his hair, his cries for peace mere gibberish amid the destruction all around him.

A black, shiny and armored police meat-wagon drove forcefully through the crowd, toward the man. Amplifiers on top of the van roared out “THIS MAN IS POSSESSED, CLEAR AWAY AT ONCE” while a seizure-inducing array of red, white and blue lights rotated idiotically. The announcement was repeated over and over, accompanied by a subsonic sound that caused a one-hundred-and-eighty degree turn of behavior in the crowd, and served to clasp their barely opened minds back shut as suddenly as a bear trap.

All the man could see now were the gnarled faces and hateful intentions of the filthy hands of the once again subliminally-swayed povers coming at him. Spiteful and spit-laced words and accusations of “devil” and “demon” and “Satanist” swirled chaotically in his ears as the crowd’s venom intermingled with the renewed, cyclopean chatter from the public TV monitors. They tore at his rags, the rotten fabric pulling away easily, leaving him fully exposed and helpless as they grabbed and groped and taunted with their grimy hands at his face, torso, genitals. This was a furious outbreak of “Satanic panic”, just another symptom of the death of knowledge. It was frightening and painful—thousands of fingers attached to hundreds of hands—with just as many mouths accusing him of being the Devil.

An attack of self-doubt overcame him, as did the crowd and the police, all at once. He questioned his sanity—questioned if he was really “possessed.” He wasn’t hearing or seeing anything that wasn’t there. These words that he spoke were the thoughts that had always been inside of him, and had always seemed like intuitive, common-sense knowledge, coming from within...but...from without as well?

A sound echoed loudly in his skull, a white-hot pain coming with it—coming from the back of his cranium. His vision flittered into sparkly, dotted colors of the entire prismatic spectrum, and he no longer felt the incessant clawing of the turncoat hands at his naked and scrawny body. Consciousness, then, slipped away from him.



The man awoke in a small room that vaguely smelled of stale urine, old vomit, and death. The chamber was mostly dark but for one small fluorescent light that flickered dimly overhead. The walls were of the darkest gray, and ever so slightly padded, replete with old stains of various long-dried bodily fluids.

Faint cries of anguish were echoing from somewhere outside of the seemingly doorless and windowless room. It dawned on him then that he was no longer naked. He was trussed up in some filthy and oddly fitting one-piece suit that was itself as gray as the padded walls surrounding him.

The man’s right wrist throbbed with a burning pain. Squinting hard through his crimson, coagulated eye snot, he could see that he had been freshly tattooed with black, stencilled numbers: 2021.

A portion of padded wall slid open unexpectedly. “2021, come with us,” barked one of the five men who suddenly stood before him. Four of them were well-muscled and wore hybrid garb that looked like a cross between armored police uniforms and some kind of medical facility attire. They all stood before him in shocking white, standing out clearly against the blackened gray grime of the tunneling corridor behind them.

Two of the brutes grabbed him hastily, and while lifting him up proceeded to power walk at a good clip, the man’s feet dragging clumsily behind. “Walk!” commanded one of them. It took a few missteps and some scrambling, but 2021 eventually caught up with the pace—as much as it pained his cramping legs.

The fifth member of this odd entourage was a short fellow who walked before them, carrying a chart. He wore a stern expression and had the posture of importance. His voice was clinical and serious, automaton-like, and virtually inhuman in tone. “You are patient 2021, and it seems apparent, on the surface at least, that you are suffering from the ‘God Complex Syndrome’ that seems so popular among your types these days.”

The short man came to a halt, the rest following suit immediately. The man with the chart, the Good Doctor presumably, turned and looked dead into 2021's eyes. The deathlike silence of this place was occasionally broken by a distant wailing of some kind. They were the sounds only sheer terror could create.

Standing eye to eye, with the dimmest of lighting in that hazy gray tunnel, the Doctor’s words took on a tone of sinister bedevilment, and cut through to the core of 2021's deepest fears. “ Yet this is not the case with you, 2021.” The Doctor pulled on the numbered man’s crusty eyelids with his cold, latex-covered hand. “Those silly povers with that meaningless GCS do not bleed from the eyes. But you did.”

2021 felt his stomach churn with disgusted fury. It was so empty, he could scarcely dry heave, and it produced a painful feeling like his stomach-lining was trying to pull away from itself and slither up his esophagus and out his mouth. Every part of his being wanted its own escape.

“We have been waiting for you, 2021. What I mean to say is someone with your symptoms in particular. You did not just lash out like the other dimwits. No, you are a knowledge seeker, and your progression, as it were, well, we have never seen anything like it. Not in our lifetime, or anywhere even remotely close. Perhaps under the weight of your own quest for this knowledge—much like Frederick Nietzsche or Wilhelm Reich—you, 2021, are a modern age, living specimen of this peculiarity of the mind. You said some interesting things indeed, while under sedation. Also, we flushed all of those rotten opiates out of your system. We don’t need you foggy now, do we?”

The Doctor’s chiseled old face broke into a forced, unnatural smile that was utterly vile in its almost reptilian, passive-aggressive confrontation. Just as quickly it fixed back into its usual, ancient grimace of superiority. The group of men turned, collectively power-walking down through the padded maze of endless dark corridor haze and the screams of the insane.

“We have a treatment. It is experimental, of course, and it is unique to your, uh, situation. We are taking you to Level 5.”

They entered an elevator that was a jarring neon-orange inside, and the Doctor secretively punched in a code. The elevator moved downward quickly. Upon stopping, 2021 noticed how cold the stagnant air had just become. The doors then scraped open.

The lot of them entered a strange, septagonal room. The walls were an impenetrable black, and not padded like all the walls 2021 had seen previously. Every sound and breath seemed to echo into infinity, and it was very cold.

Looking up, one could see the walls of the room rise into a septagonal silo, with a mirrored ceiling that tilted upwards at a forty-five degree angle toward the roof.

“2021, this is your new room.” The Doctor’s words reverberated back and forth in the seven-walled chamber and through the electro-maelstrom of adrenaline and other chemicals, both natural and injected into him, of 2021's mind.

“The orderlies will set you on your post, 2021, and I will now be leaving you. Good luck.” The Doctor entered the elevator, and just before punching in the code, looked up at 2021 with that sardonic, forced smile once again. “Too bad knowledge can be a dangerous thing. It can invoke things, you know, ideas...individual thoughts...real demons that can make everyone’s short time on this planet more difficult than need be. You are too smart for your own good, 2021. Too bad; you should have let yourself be one of those wretched povers and joined the, uh, hive...so to speak.” The Doctor's face cut flawlessly back to its stern grimace. “You have been possessed, 2021, and now you must be exorcized.”

The Doctor punched the code in quickly, and as the rickety doors began sliding shut, the clinical bastard made one last comment: “Ignorance is bliss, kid. Now, you’re fucked.” With that, the doors closed.

2021 was turned forcefully toward the center of the room, and it suddenly occurred to him just what exactly “set you on your post” meant. In the dead center of the room towered a fifteen-foot tall crucifix, crusted in layers of old, dried blood and constructed of the most rough and splintery wood imaginable.

The stinking, tight-fitting jumpsuit was cut violently from his body. Two of the orderlies held him by either side then, and the other two approached out of the darkness, carrying a strange wire-wreath contraption that had long, sharp needles of stainless steel protruding from all directions. This device was then placed atop 2021's head, with the various needles forcefully jammed into sensitive spots all over his skull, the majority of the steel thorns puncturing deep into his ears, through his temples, and into the base of his skull. He could feel the icy metal slide seamlessly into his brain.

Two of these needles were inserted ocularly—through the eyelid, but just above the eyeball itself. He tried to howl out in his agony, but nothing more than a thick gurgling sound could emanate from his throat. This is when he realized that his larynx had been cut—most likely while under sedation.

There was nothing he could do but let this charade of madness play itself out. One of the orderlies chuckled at 2021's predicament.

A step-ladder leaned against the crucifix, and two of the orderlies dragged his body up along the jagged and splintery wood. He could feel every last sliver of this corroded trunk penetrate his sinewy flesh.

His arms were forced out until fully extended, then held down while they were bound tightly to the wood—the same treatment was applied to his feet. 2021 could only bleed in torrents down this torture tree, along the chaotically etched gouges in the wood sticking into his back, and every time he involuntarily squinted from the pain, the needles above his eyeballs would stab further down.

This sensory nightmare had kept 2021 mostly distracted from the fact that he was now tightly bound at the wrists and ankles to this primitive, monstrous crucifix. Now he supposed they were going to nail his hands and feet to this goddamned thing.

His flesh ripped, and the bones in both his hands and feet splintered with every pound of the mallet, each and every sound reverberating amidst his agonized attempts to cry, yell, scream...to do anything to escape, in some way, this silo of agony. The enormous nails being used weren’t even sharpened to anything resembling a point, so they just tore through muscle-tissue and shattered bone, all at once, in his hands and feet.

His appendages had somehow been nailed in all at the same time.

Soon enough, it was done. Without a peep, the orderlies vanished into the elevator.

2021 hung alone in the septagonal room, nailed to the archaic torture device, caught up apparently in a literal witch hunt for knowledge. Tortured and left to die for the new pantheon of demons and devils bred to terrify the ignorant and feed the rich in this rotten modern age he'd been born into.

The wire-crown monitoring device burned every part of his skull and his brain.

2021's only crime had been that of intelligence, that of the search for knowledge, and the acts of empathy and love. He was guilty of having a keen mind and sharp wit and large heart. His crime was refusing to become an automaton to the subliminal pull of the cyclopean monstrosities that chattered endless nonsense twenty-four hours a day, zoning off and frying the minds and wills of all those caught within the radius of their poisoned flickering.

2021's mind had never taken to that particular habit. But he sure could have used a little commercial break about then. Or a straight shot of morphine.

As he hung there in a mockery of things he didn’t even believe in, he wondered again if perhaps he was possessed. As the minutes blurred into hours, the days seemed to dissipate as he bled in isolation amidst the darkness of the seven walls. He could feel the blackness. Time and space no longer applied in his world.

He could do nothing but reflect, and his strange life seemed at first like a time-wasted blackout, and all that had ever existed was this moment. There was nothing beyond the blood and exposure and confusing agony of just this one moment in time. Was this his purpose?

It hit him then, that in his unremarkable life, filled with little more than heartbreak and the comforting womb of a chronic, opiate-addled haze—so aimless—he had always been “protected”—had always felt different—like he was indeed there to serve some kind of purpose.

Yet even now, it eluded him. Perhaps it had already been served...or ignorance would have truly been bliss, and something quite easy to attain.

He wondered where this protection was now, and raised his bloody, fevered skull up, and caught a glimpse of himself in those mocking mirrors above.

2021 closed his eyes, lowered his head, and with that felt a sort of acceptance...or something...begin to cradle him softly, as he wept that stinging blood again. Then a blissful feeling overtook him, his naked and blood-sticky body felt warm, safe...and he opened his eyes to find himself being cradled gently by the most beautiful female creature he had ever bore witness to. She wrapped his body in her loving arms, this Mother Of Mercy, and licked his gaping wounds until they no longer hurt. She rubbed his plasma-slicked and dying shell with nurturing gentility, and placed his head to her bosom as he wept the scarlet tears of a million ages. The pain had now become exquisite, and the hate, here, in this place, had just turned into the most beautiful soul love.



The stone faced Doctor watched the wire crown head monitor, awestruck. His colleagues all wore the same panicked sort of expression. The monitor claimed there to be someone, something in the room with him. Frantically they zoomed in with the hidden cameras, and ran to the mirrored windows to look down upon the poor suffering number below them.

2021 was all alone, nailed to two pieces of wood like it was the middle ages, wearing a wire-crown of hypodermic needles on his head. The head which smiled now to every camera, his gore-soaked face grinning through layers upon layers of coagulated blood so thick as to render him unrecognizable, his appearance as monstrous as their actions.

There had been a mistake, that much was certain.

The colleagues, each with his own curious look of distilled terror etched onto his ugly mug (though all still managing to look alike) eyed the Good Doctor himself, waiting for his “respected” two cents worth of horse-pucky.

The Good Doctor spoke. “Gentlemen, this is something we have never factored into the equation. We've worked too long and too hard to let ‘natural occurrence’, um, occur.”

They looked about at each other like wayward pigeons.

“We must never, ever speak a word of this.” The Good Doctor’s calm sterility seemed to be giving way to the oh-shits. “NO—we can not let this happen. I do believe 2021 to be unique...in all the ways we had feared. After this, uh, ordeal, the orderlies will be executed, as will any one of you who dare breathe a word of this. As always, you will be watched and listened to, under the highest degree of scrutiny, at that. We have worked too hard on our own, uh, ‘Red Heifer’...that the real thing is just unacceptable at this time.”

Once more the doctors peered down through the one-way glass to see 2021's face awash in ecstasy, his blue eyes on fire, the only recognizable feature on his inhuman face other than a sickly, ear-to-ear grin. He had become a most beautiful thing in heavenly hell.

They turned away, the doctors, most ungraciously, the same chill curdling their dead souls, and none said a word about it.

“We need to go, gentlemen, we all have families to attend to. After all, it is Sunday and we do need to go to Church, to go and worship. We need to receive our communion. Show’s over.” The Good Doctor bent to an intercom and spoke into it, “Burn him up, now. Destroy the ash, everything. Make sure it is gone, all of it. Then the four of you go to Winslow—he will direct you from there. That is all.”

“Winslow” was code for execution—known only at the highest levels of security. All the rest thought he was a real person—the “Job Well Done” guy.

The doctors filed silently out of the room, the wire-crown monitor unplugged, disconnected, but still running, now catching fire. They ignored it and shut the lights out as they left the observatory.

The Good Doctor himself was the last one out. He shut the door behind him. He then mumbled to his colleagues solemnly, somewhat shaken, and almost sickened, “No one can ever know that he was really here.”





Friday, March 25, 2011

CITIwakes

by Shaun Lawton





The meshPasser undergoes an a priori examination of its insular membrane and various obverse mechanisms, momentarily recharging in the twi-dulled murk of the Arcasm Ritual Building, sarcastically referred to as the A.R.B. by weary tenants. Heliocentric memory eraser plasma-pulse frequencies sporadically annihilate thirty percent of the sprawling community's immediate recollections. The rest soak in the ultraviolet neon sponsorship of causal determinism, relishing in the uplift throughout the megalopolis, introduced by the incessantly gnawing away thrash dancebeats subliminalized by endorphin-spiked electromagnetic rhythms incorporated into the Systemic Periodic Elemental Reactionist Multiplex sound system—injected citywide by the Corporate Inquisition Terminal Interface.

The Heberin Collective are wired for a night out on the town. Their Moderator has cc'd them clownWhite, a neopurgative pulse enhancer designed to work out the stress from the hardbeats of the daily grind. Heberin moves through the CITIscape with the ease of an octopus in stealth locomotion, under cover of the hyper-neon polylit continuum scarved about them in perpetuity. Embedded headphones, most designed after compound insect eyes, fit snug like iridescent bottlecaps over the eartunnels. The earlobe itself had long dropped away from an overripened humanity in its latter-era stages of evolution amidst the frequency lanes.

Aesthetic tribal bodily piercing gradually mutated to a far more utilitarian scope. Die hard implants sunken into key skullpoints have the firmly rooted tenacity of mountain climbing spikes left driven into cliff fissures. Whether for the commuter Ziplines, or for more extreme recreational sports, is left to the individual CITIzen to convey. Ever since the dawning of this new age of neoExpressionism, the will of the populace is no longer such a concern to government, as is the controlling of the overwhelming urge to self-express or otherwise create in a manner suitable for the background and influential exploits of the middle class—a middle class driven to a frenzy of consumption, perpetuated by a similar motivation from an industry that caters to personal excess.

Through various means of interface and a veritable wide-angled spectrum of choices by which to administer a myriad of perception-enhancing and/or -distorting drugs to an all-too compliant citizenship, the CITI itself has been quite successful in organizing a sort of nocturnal emission exorcism ritual, effectively banishing the shed demons every night in an orgy of nightclub catharsis, highlit by strobing lights synchronized to an unfathomably monstrous beat keeping the ongoing crowd moving and shaking out on the viewscreen dance floors.

Wired for more than just sound and purple-laced visions, the Heberin Collective voluntarily assign themselves the bearers of an ultimately unregistered, and therefore potentially dangerous, form of psyche-enhancement known as Lady Salvation, an often copied (yet never replicated) chemical Psionic Communion Wafer. One taste of its mnemonic circuitry triggers a placebo domino effect. Illegally peddled and inferior substitutes have been known to induce lurid visions of a Salivating Lady perpetually coming at the user with hooked fingers under a drooling rictus, as if caught in an infinite loop of nightmarish attack. Such slogans or half-believed stories as the "Lady in Waiting", which are passed among schoolchildren to this day, are generated by these replicating motifs as expressed through constant generations of aloof and disenfranchised collegiates in the throes of shedding their own personal angst. Visualized and embodied under the boosted effects of synthesized cultigens combined with MemErase (necessarily every Rager's beverage of choice), these cautionary myths eventually took root.

Under the auspices of a normal Heberin outing, there cannot be an individual's comprehension of one's own role in the undertaking, for the nature of the Collective is to forego individuality itself in favor of the enhancement of a groupsoma experience—something that only the groupMind can know and even begin to understand. Which is precisely the reason many CITIzens volunteer for such an enterprise in the first place. Human consciousness has explored the lonely peripheries of isolation to its ultimate limits, again and again and again. Such deadening of that nerve seemed bound for no good reason or destiny, and although it took humanity many failed generations of missing the mark of opportunity, eventually the time arrived when its constituents began ceasing to think so much of themselves, and turn to wondering, what's out there, so immense and hollow and sprawling and vibrant?

So has ritual continued to form the behaviors of young persons. Riticen, a bisexed Caucasian from a gender-specific, postSchool colony in the American Pacific Northwest, reflects on his most recent, nocturnal sojourn away from Dutyfree. Such a widespread feeling—that is, tingling from all the nerve centers clustered from head to toe—of exultant liberation shoots through Riticen, that he shakes his hair free rapidly of the steamshower droplets, and steps out of the hydroslot, to stand dripping before the two-way mirror. He reaches over and nudges the door open a few inches, letting the circulation from the rest of the apartment enter the washroom. Wiping the steamed looking glass clear with a towel, Riticen waits for his image to gain focus in the heated conditions before him. Gradually, his haggard features reveal themselves through the clearing mist. Reflected in the humid mirror Riticen sees the meshPasser mask, hanging limp from a peg behind him. He reaches back for it without turning his head, and grabs its familiar, comforting form in his right hand. For a moment, the neural connectivity breaches the impasse he'd left off with, sending dim sparks of reassurance up through the nerves of his arm.

Riticen slips the meshPasser mask on over his head, and grins as it reinforces his facial physique. Its perfectly balanced endorphin enhancers motivate Riticen with the exact amount of chemical inspiration needed to face the Collective's quest for the evening. Wide-eyed and staring at himself in the mirror, a complete stranger reflects back behind a flesh-toned, featureless mask with all the blank expression of a department store mannequin. Search as he might for any memory of Heberin's past nocturnal activities that may lie concealed behind the reflections of his darkened eyes, Riticen emerges empty-headed from the washroom, having entirely forgotten, or perhaps merely not ever having been in a position to know first-hand anyhow, the oblique details of completed excursions. Whatever cloaked activities the group of mysterious co-benefactors had committed itself to, it was impossible for each individual to consciously recall them. Riticen turns and slips out of his CITIcube, then just as quickly, out of the tenement complex and into the night.

The Merging is a process that takes anywhere from mere moments, to hours, or even, on rare occasions (such as attempted mergers with new or distant Collectives), days. Riticen cannot imagine waiting any longer than the few minutes it usually takes him to begin Merging. Most of the volunteers in his Collective, he imagines, must dwell somewhere within or near the sprawling perimeters of his own CITIcube. Otherwise, the etherConduits' electroconnectivity surpassed his capacity to imagine. Normally, after turning the second or third CITIblock, the merger begins to take effect.

As Riticen steps toward an intersection of busily bypassing electromagnet Cushion Cars, the prerecorded digital soundbytes of lions roaring fades away to be replaced by the insistent chirruping of tropical birds—an indication that intersection crosswalks are primed for safe pedestrian crossing. An electronic amalgamation of coyote yips morphing into wolf howls segue the moments before the crosswalks' pedestrian safety is heralded as coming to an imminent end. The lion roars are reserved for the actual passing of lethal traffic, itself synchronized so that no intersecting spokes of the roadways' oncoming traffic must wait their turn. Instead, mass multi-directional pedestrian crossings take turns consistently with multiple and simultaneous vehicular crossings—the various, advancing minicars themselves interpenetrating with exact timing and zero collisions—just one example of the many flowered patterns in the pulse and flow of CITIlife.

As Riticen steps back up to a CITIblock curb, his viewpoint of the funneling crowd forges against him and in a dizzying, panoramic moment, blends along with him into the slipstream, suddenly giving way to an unfamiliar pressure of heavy gloaming, as if the velvet underside of the city's streaming haze had become an oppressive inversion, and he staggers beneath its weight as if he'd donned a lead apron, and then a whistling overture of white noise reductionism formulated a wind snapping latticework, as of a tightly woven superfabric buffeted by an overpowering gale from behind. A blinding sensation of whiteout spread over the meshPasser's tinted lenses, dialed to protect the retina and subsequent ganglion cells which serve as an inlet to the superimpositioning of the holographic laser light injection.

Vague, distant impressions of slapped, woven metal cordons against outstretched palms rushed in on eddies of reviving consciousness, each subsequent wave of which poured down in a funneling stained glass tunnel over the mendicant's hoods...surfers of oblivion blinded by the white gales of blasted time...lapping distant waves of licked drops of laughter flung off the tips of tongues...dissolving in a hushed babelogue of interpenetrative chanting accorded from the arabesques of yesterday's desires, and dusted off the forgotten relics of all antecedent dreams.

Winnowing in winterlight, through minnowguts, translucent and underlined with waterproof mascara, blinking false displays of chameleonic spots for eyes, thorned with disarrays and first-night-out-ever thighs, slumped to glittering scales both wide-angled and magnified, the compound vision in mimicked reflection of tiny repeated forms stretched out to radialize a centrifugal stage upon which ardent hopes yet promised to materialize. A beckoning, much like a mating ritual dance, performed by plumed lizards or feathered raptors in a trance. An unvisualized soaring...the letting go of a ship from its sails... perfunctorily grinding to a halt against the backwashed turbulence of the roiling waves...temporarily cast off against a stomach churning impasse. As if to say, or at least suggest, that there is no way one could pass this test.


Images strip from the silver screen of his mind's eye in such quick succession, that only a blur of associations is left in Riticen's fading recollection. And these, in and of themselves, are each captured by surging wavecrests from out of the depths, snatched from quiescence by a vulgar demand they be eaten by the collective unconscious wallowing beneath like a great, undulating blister of foul, decompressed air just wafting upwards for its inevitable venting toward an unsuspecting yet all-too-deserving surface.

Riticen's eyes snap open in an underground oxygen bar. A patron dipped in synthetic, glow-in-the-dark latex brandishes a knowing look in his direction, before disappearing into the depths amid strobes of pulsing black light. Refreshed to a point distinguished by every pixel in his eyes, Riticen sips generously from his ninety-ounce staff drink, held firmly as a cane in his stable right hand. The drink holder rather resembles a faintly glowing, fungus-patched oaken branch, sanded down and varnished to a well-protected finish. From a sheared-off bole emerges a microcircuit drinking straw—or so the imagistic software suggests, through manipulated photoreceptors.

As the cool, lime-green and slightly radioactive flavor of the Benzylamine-laced drink passes through his taste buds and down his throat and into his stomach, Riticen slowly realizes the latest Collective mergerQuest has come to another, rather abrupt, end. Leaving him exactly where within the sprawling confines of the CITIplex, he can only guess. None of the establishment's artistry or neon sloganeering provokes any stirring of memory from him in the least. A hazy recollection of being in the A.R.B. surfaces momentarily. There is a sense of anesthetic cushioning to his memory; a gauzy sort of tunnel vision, limned with a dusty, brightening light, like that which precedes the onset of a migraine headache, when all attention is brought to a central spot of glaring incandescence which otherwise obscures what might be glimpsed directly ahead. When this ravaged hole of radiance begins to expand and eat up the entire range of Riticen's field of vision, that is when the blinding pain of a migraine splits through, and the world reels about spasmodically as his locomotive escape from the O2Club is engendered, and a section of the CITIcurb rises from the fog and acclimates itself resolutely against his fallen body.










RETURN THURSDAY, MARCH 31
FOR VINCENT DAEMON'S
LEVEL 5






ONLY ON THE FREEZINE
OF FANTASY AND
SCIENCE FICTION





Friday, March 18, 2011

I CAN'T GET YOU OUT OF MY MIND

by Gil James Bavel






The gizerat crawled out from beneath the convolutions of my brain, a tiny, hideous insectoid, scuttering up the crevices seeking a better fit, latching on and digging in, nestling into the position from which it could exert control. I don't know how long it must have been there, suckling on my id—nursing, growing. By the time I felt it, it was too late. The gizerat was in control.

Every man has the potential for a gizerat—I know that now. I must have fed mine unknowingly. It fed off of every horror movie I'd watched, every woman I saw on the BART I wanted to screw; it fed from the parts of my psyche that wanted to turn to see the carnage of a disfiguring accident. It ate the dark secrets that my own brain kept from me. It wasn't my fault. It told me so.

The first time the gizerat spoke, it asked me in plain in English, Are you happy?

It didn't phase me at all. As a matter of fact, it seemed quite natural. I suspected it was because I was tired that I heard the voice. I responded, "Yes, I'm quite happy," and kept walking downtown. When it asked the second question, I realized that I was not just talking to myself.

Then why don't you beat in that policeman's brain who's talking to that pretty girl over there like you want to? This time, the voice was louder, more persistent. I was shocked; I looked around to see if anyone else could hear the high, scratchy voice. The girl and the policeman were still talking, the barber shaking out his rug nearby didn't seem to notice, and the people on the sidewalk went merrily on their respective ways. Their only concern was to avoid the confused pedestrian that had stopped dead in the middle of the sidewalk.

Stunned, I sat down on a bench by a bus stop. My mind reeled. I tried to grasp what was happening: I was hearing voices. I wasn't crazy—I'd had some kinky tastes in my life—but I wasn't any kind of psycho. Now I was hearing voices. Not good mojo. I tried to think of what could have been the cause. Had somebody slipped me a mickey? Was I the butt of somebody's psychedelic practical joke? I looked around again and saw that everything seemed to be normal. Everything, but me.

I looked again at the policeman, who had ended his conversation and resumed his beat. I had no antagonism toward him—some garden-variety sexual jealousy, okay, maybe...but no outright hatred. I mean, hell, I didn't know him from Adam. I leaned back on the wooden bench and listened to see if the disembodied voice would return.

Instead, I heard the diesel engine of a truck going by and the clatter of boots, purses, jackets, car keys. The odd horn in the distance. Voices, yes, but just the chatter of a couple of bluehaired ladies from the cafe a few storefronts down, delicately sipping their decaf. As the wind blew through the flowers in the planter, suddenly I felt scared, confused and alone.

After I collected myself, I tried to establish contact with whatever it was that spoke to me. Of course, back then, I didn't know it was the gizerat. I'd heard about early CIA mind-control experiments, like MK-Ultra, where they'd used primitive microwave devices to beam signals into people's brains. The kind of stuff you read about on the Internet, like on Alt.Paranoid.Government.Conspiracy. I knew about alien abductions, in which aliens allegedly communicate with people through implants, and all that.

But the gizerat had fallen silent.

I went straight home to my basement apartment. It was on the waterfront; a small, cheap place that used to be a real wing-dinger in the Seventies. Now it was just another shabby, run-down bachelor pad in the warehouse district. It was home to me, though, and my dingy bed had never been more inviting than it was right then. Well, not since the thing with Suzanne, anyway.

I fell into a long sleep, untroubled by dreams. I slept for hours. I floated in an eternal indigo void. When I finally woke, it was because my brain itched something fierce. I sat up and screamed, working my fingers feverishly into my ears. It felt as if somewhere between my Eustachian tubes and my sinuses, raging herds of cattle-driving microorganisms were dancing to a furious hoedown.

"Stop it!" I screamed, clawing at my eyes and my nose. "Stop!" The itch grew until it became nearly unbearable. It was a slow itch with localized intensity that I could feel as it moved. It was the gizerat. My peripheral vision suddenly became awash in a brilliant display of colors. I flung the covers off onto the floor and sat on the edge of the bed in stark terror. I think it was the first time I fully realized I was not alone in my head.

In time, the itch subsided somewhat, and the Aurora Borealis on acid slowly faded from my mind. I gasped and tried to shake the feeling that I had to sneeze—but couldn’t—magnified several times. It was then that the gizerat spoke again.

Hang on, I'll be done in a minute. The unearthly voice now sounded like a cross between Peter Lorre and metal bending under extreme pressure. There was more movement and itching in my brain, then a POP and suddenly everything felt fine. The itching stopped. I could detect a sort of burnt-rubber smell, but I knew I wasn't smelling it through my nostrils. It was a smell I would become very familiar with. It was an oddly pleasant odor.

There, finished. Sorry about that, said the voice. Then there was a short silence. Well, don't you want to say something, get to know me?

I was no longer scared. Confused, like I'd missed something, but in fact I felt kind of good. A sort of drunken contentedness. I was curious, though.

“What the fuck are you doing in my head?” I asked. “What was all that itching? What are you?”

Oh, that. That was me. I had to move, you see. The place where I was became too small for me, so I had to relocate. I grew too big for your britches, you might say.

“So where did you come from?” I asked. “How did you get in there in the first place?”

The voice came again, directly to my mind. Details, details. All will be explained in due time. I'm sitting in between two layers of your brain. Specifically the cerebrum and the cerebellum. Just down from where I was hatched. I'm here to help you.

I got up and went to the bathroom, turned on the light. “What do you mean, help me? With what?” I unzipped and took a leak, the urine looking like it was tainted a little bit with blood. The flickering fluorescent light made the flaking pastel wallpaper look unnatural.

I'm here to help you get what you really want.

That struck me as odd, but as I shook off the last few drops and zipped up, it seemed like a good thing. A right thing.



When I next went outside, the day seemed brighter, the brine smelled saltier, and I had an insatiable appetite for fish. I made my way to the Wharfhouse, a waterfront restaurant that I'd always hated because it was largely populated by sailors and tourists, and because I detested seafood. Today, seafood seemed like the only thing to eat. I walked in and was irritated when I had to stand in line. I waited for about thirty seconds, looking at the restaurant's maritime scenery, when a young blonde waitress walked a couple and their rugrat from the front of the line to a table in nonsmoking.

I could smell the fish from the kitchen; batter-dipped fish, whitefish, shrimp. I could smell each individual fishplate at patrons' tables. I think I could smell each individual fish on their plates. I needed fish and I needed it yesterday.

Why don't you just take a table? The voice from inside startled me, scared me, until that calming burnt-rubber smell returned. I then felt a sense of superiority gradually pervade my body.

“Yeah, why not?” I thought, moving to the front of the line. A few tourists complained, and a heavyset Navy man at the front of the line pushed me in the shoulder.

“Hey, pal, what's the idea?” he said. “I'm first one in line here.”

I turned around, full of myself. “You're going to be the first one eating off the floor, too, if you fuck with me,” I snapped back, and got up in his face. It looked like we were about to get into it when a tall, pleasant-looking man in a neat orange-and-brown uniform hurried up to us and raised his hands.

“I'm sure we can find you both tables, sirs,” he said, smiling and squeezing in between us. He led me away from Navy Boy toward the lobby. “Now, will it be smoking, or nonsmoking?”

“Smoking,” I answered, even though I'd quit smoking years ago. The manager nodded and led me to a booth. As I sat down, I wondered about the changes coming over me. I was acting oddly. I was normally a nonviolent, non-confrontational person. Easygoing, mellow. Why should I be acting this way?

“What's going on? Why did I do that?”

Waves of satisfaction flowed through my head as the Gizerat spoke. You have to assert yourself. Don't be a wimp. Tell people what you really want. Isn't that what you wanted, to get a table and get some fish?

I nodded, getting out my wallet. “Yes, but why the smoking section? I don't smoke. And I hate fish.” Communicating with the voice was strange but effortless.

The voice resounded smoothly through my head. You used to smoke. You like smoking. And you must always have fire, to make fire. You must always smoke. The fans above the smoking section circulated the aroma of fish down to my table. I grew hungry.

That sounded right. The voice made sense. I got out of my booth and walked over to the register. The man that had seated me now looked at me with raised eyebrows and said, “Jennifer should be right with you, sir. I hope there isn’t a problem.”

“No problem. I just need some change for cigarettes,” I said and tossed four singles across the counter at him.

The pleasant-looking man fished sixteen quarters out of the register and deposited them into my hand. “Yes sir, it takes three-seventy-five, and there you go.” He smiled, but I could tell he was worried that I'd make trouble. I liked that. It didn't seem right somehow, but I liked it.

The cigarette machine was hidden over in a corner of the entryway as if you weren't supposed to notice it. The crosshatch carpet underneath the machine was brighter than the rest. I inserted my money and noticed as I pulled the lever under Camel Filters that the burnt-rubber smell was fading.

A hard box and a pack of matches slid into the receptacle, and I grabbed them. I walked back to my booth and slid in. Jennifer was already there. She'd brought ice water and a menu, and stood by the table with a coffeepot and a cup on a tray.

“Coffee?”

“Yes, thanks,” I responded, packing my cigarettes on the table. I looked her over. She was about five-six, dull black hair to her shoulders, and wore an inoffensive polyester uniform that was half dress, half apron. Her nametag read “Jennifer” in green strip tape. She smelled like fish.

She poured steaming hot coffee into the cup and set it on the table, and followed it with the pot. I unwrapped my cigarettes and withdrew one from the pack.

“What can I get for you today?” she asked, retrieving an order book from her apron pocket and unfolding the top. She gave me a perfunctory I-work-here smile and waited for my response. Her skin was white like faded plaster and the curves of her body sang to me from beneath her uniform. She was the cutest thing I'd ever seen.

“Fish,” I said, “Bring me fish.” I lit a cigarette and inhaled. It felt good to smoke, the voice was right.

She smiled and held her tray against one hip. “That won't be too hard. Did you have a particular kind of fish in mind?”

“No,” I answered, taking another satisfying hit off my cigarette. “Just bring me lots of it. I must have fish.”

She smiled some more and wrote something down on a ticket. “I'll bring you the First Mate's Special. It's the biggest dinner we've got. Lots of fish.” She finished writing and put the book back in her apron. “Anything else?”

“How about an ashtray?”

She looked at me blankly, then said, “Oh, yeah, sure.” She reached over to a nearby table and borrowed its ashtray for me. “Here ya go.”

“Thanks.” I nodded, and she smiled again, turned, and walked to the kitchen. I followed her with my eyes until she disappeared around the corner by the salad bar. Nice swing on that back porch.

I took another hit off of my cigarette and rolled the ash into the ashtray. The nicotine helped stave off my hunger, I had become ravenous while I was talking to Jennifer. I noticed I had developed a hunger for her as well, one that might not be so easy to sate. Fish.

Just before my meal came, I caught a glance from Navy Boy, who was seated at a table across the room. He was looking at me through the space between the fake wood divider of the nonsmoking section and the translucent glass above it. I turned to the window and looked out into the bay instead. He was really asking for it, looking at me like that.

Several minutes passed before Jennifer called “Out,” from the kitchen and I turned back to see her sashay out onto the floor with a large tray. She served a table in nonsmoking, brought Navy Boy a Coke, and strode toward me. I detected her breasts swaying to the polyrhythm of her walk from across the restaurant. Jennifer was a hot little property.

“Here you go,” she announced, putting a huge platter piled high with fish in front of me, “The First Mate's Special, along with tartar sauce.” She looked pleased and hugged the tray to her body. “What else for you?” Her smile was the kicker.

I pulled my fork out from underneath the napkin and laid the napkin across my lap. My peripheral vision narrowed somewhat, and the increasingly familiar burnt-rubber odor wafted through my brain. I looked up at Jennifer through a dull haze.

“You. I want you. What are you doing after work?”

Jennifer stood there speechless for a moment, a blank expression on her face. Then a smile slowly crossed her lips and she flushed. “Okay,” she said, backing up a little as she tried to hide her grin. “I get off at eight.”

I stabbed into a golden-brown piece of batter-fried fish. “Great,” I said, turning back to my meal. “I'll be here to pick you up.” I launched into the meal as if it might be taken away any second. The fish was juicy and delicious; it was the best fish I'd ever had, which wasn't saying a lot.

Jennifer backed up more and smiled big. “Okay, great,” she said, as she backed up into another table. She apologized, turned around, and headed into the kitchen again.

“Man, that was easy,” I thought to myself. I extinguished the cigarette in the monkey bowl of tartar sauce, and moved it to the other side of the table.

Of course it was, said the gizerat. I told you I'm here to help you get what you really want. All you have to do is assert yourself. You'll be king of the heap in no time.

I couldn't help wondering what the voice wanted as I wolfed down the fish dinner. It was already proving itself correct though; I was more able to get what I really wanted, it seemed. But why?

“What do you mean, king of the heap? When are you going to let me in on this? I mean, you're in my brain; the least you can do is explain some things here.”

All right, all right, just keep eating. Oh, and stay away from the shrimp, disgusting little bottom-feeders. Well, let's see. First things first. I'm a gizerat.

I kept eating. “Uh-huh, what's a geezeraht?”

We are a part of you that has been here since the beginning. We're the ones that insured that you survived the basic evolutionary process. The human mind has more parts than just the conscious and the subconscious, more than ego and id—it also contains a gizerat. That's me.

“But you're not part of the brain. You're a separate creature from me altogether, right?” I drank some coffee.

Well, yes and no. Let's put it this way. We evolved out of necessity from your own bodies. Our larvae hatch in your brains. We grow as quickly as you do, and guide you, and help you get the things you want. Humans survived because we made everything necessary for survival pleasant. Eating, hunting, territorial disputes, things like that. Drive. Mating. Sexual pleasures become magnified.

“Does everyone have a gizerat?” I asked.

Certainly not, it replied.

“How do your larvae get inside our brains?”

Never mind that right now, there’s more.

It was weird communicating with a gizerat that rode my brain and spoke in a screechy voice. But I liked it. It was helpful. It was a good thing. I ate some more fish, being careful to stay away from the shrimp. "Yeah,” I said, “okay."

The gizerat explained some more. Take Jennifer for example. You're gonna nail her, and probably wouldn't have had a chance if it weren't for me.

I put down my fork. “Hang on. She doesn't know about you. How would you being in me affect her?”

Keep eating, it commanded. Having a gizerat makes you more attractive. She can sense that you're an Alpha Male. You are the perfect choice to father her children. It was all beginning to make some deranged kind of sense now. The gizerat had a point.

“Why the fish?” I asked, picking up another piece from the rapidly clearing plate.

Brain food, of course, it answered. I've gotta eat, too.

That worried me. “You're eating my brain? I'm not sure I li—”

Don't worry, I only eat some of the nutrients that come into your brain. And my waste gets reabsorbed into your bloodstream. It's worked for a hundred thousand years.

I mulled this over, toying with the little bits of fish left on the plate. I was pretty full, really. I put the fork back down and grabbed another cigarette. This was definitely bizarre. I was enjoying the idea of being an Alpha Male.

Superior. Two heads were, after all, better than one.

Something occurred to me then that I couldn't figure out. If the gizerat was needed to spur mankind on to evolve and survive, why were they still around? Where did they come from? Who still had a gizerat? Why haven't any been found in postmortems? There were too many questions.

Jennifer came back with the check and a piece of pie, on the house. I thanked her, finished the pie and then paid the check. We reaffirmed our date and I left.

After walking home, I hopped into the car and cruised down to Carton of Eden, a health-food store by the expressway. I parked, went in, and did some shopping. I threw a little of everything into the cart: bread, milk, tofu, meat, produce, marinara sauce, some sweets.

As I pulled into the driveway I looked at my watch—quarter 'til seven. After working all day at the Wharfhouse, Jennifer would probably be hungry, for anything but fish. A good pasta dinner—linguine with pesto—that's what she'd want. I unlocked the door and schlepped my groceries into the kitchen.

I set upon the task of making dinner. As I readied onions, garlic and red peppers, the gizerat spoke to me.

Don't you think she'd prefer a piece of smoked meat? Maybe a nice brisket? The now-all-too-familiar odor wafted through my brain. I lit up a cigarette off of the gas range.

“Now hang on a second,” I said. I looked around, trying to clear my head of the dullness I felt. “Surely it can't matter what we have for dinner tonight?” I scratched the back of my neck and leaned against the kitchen wall.

The gizerat said, What could be more important? You want to make a good impression, don't you? My God, this could be one of the most significant decisions in your life, what you feed her. What if she's a tiger, her taste for food mirroring her sexual appetite?

“What if she's a vegetarian?” I responded, pulling foodstuffs out of the grocery sacks and onto the counter.

I hope for your sake she's not.

I harrumphed and put the groceries away. I was going to make linguini pesto for Jen and that was final.



By the time I had to leave to pick Jennifer up, the roast was almost ready. Another half an hour in the oven and it would be at its succulent best. I stepped out the door, checking the pockets of my jacket to make sure I hadn’t forgotten anything. Evening was settling onto the bay, and the lights on the water were coming up, reflecting like torches poised to set oil alight. I felt good.

I hopped into the car and drove the few blocks to the Wharfhouse. When I walked in, I was almost disappointed that Navy Boy had left. His clones were there, in all their jarheaded glory, but he was gone. I lit a cigarette and waited in the foyer, shaking my head when the hostess on shift asked if I'd like to sit down. She was cute, too, with her faux-blonde Doris Day hair and too much tan; but I was here for Jennifer.

The clock over the entryway to the bathrooms said eight o'clock straight up when she walked out, dressed in jeans, a smart red blouse, and wearing a backpack. Her long, raven-black hair rained down on her shoulders as if from a shampoo commercial. Nice to see her out of her uniform.

“How are you doing?” I asked, extending an arm.

“Never better,” she said, taking it, and waving goodbye to her co-workers.

We stepped out onto the wharf and I made for the car.

“I'd like to walk a bit,” she said. “I've been inside all day, and I need a little air.”

“Yeah, sure, okay.” I had another thirty minutes to burn before the roast did. “My place is this way.” We walked away from the waterfront and toward my apartment.

“You know,” Jennifer started, “I didn't get your name back at the restaurant.”

“Yeah, I know.” I looked back down at the ground as I dropped her hand for another cigarette, and lit it. She shrank back initially, but then came close again, and took my arm in hers.

“You’re really good-looking, but why so mysterious?” Jennifer asked. “You don’t have to be the Man With No Name to get a date with me, you know.”

No, but it doesn’t hurt, I thought, as we walked toward my place. “I guess I’m just the mysterious type,” I said. I stopped, and pulled Jennifer close. The sounds of the ocean and the birds that made their living off of it punctuated the evening. We shared a long kiss that stimulated at least two brains. It was a long, passionate kiss, with the novelty of the first time. After a moment, we broke. She blushed again, smiled and we walked in silence together until we turned the corner onto my street.



We stepped through the door of my apartment, and I no sooner had it closed than Jennifer started sniffing about the kitchen.

“Beef, huh?” She wiggled her backpack off and set it on the table.

I nodded. “A roast. It should be done by now.” I started toward the oven to check on it.

Jennifer adjusted the sleeves of her blouse and walked over to the couch. She looked around, sat down, and said nonchalantly, “I ate at work. I'm not hungry.” She began absently looking through my coffee table copy of Popular Science. “Not for that.”

I turned off the oven and opened it to cool off the roast. We made eye contact and that was it. I walked into the living room and sat on the couch. We had a brief discussion about protection—I think it lasted four seconds—and we were on each other like vultures on carrion.

Her hot kisses were suction cups on my neck. The girl had sex on the brain, but good. In no time, we had shed our clothes. I grabbed a condom from my wallet, fumbled with it out of its package, and handed it to her. She rolled it on and we got back to business. She mounted me and we were soon lost in passion.

Her pale breasts had a life of their own as she rode me into a frenzy. Jennifer bit her bottom lip, and then, later, licked the top one in her ecstasy. Our coupling grew to a fever pitch until finally I flipped her onto her back and drove the rest of the way home. She moaned hard and pulled me into her. I could think of nothing but her scent, her endless pool of femininity. Lust quickly turned into a long session of pure instinct. Over and over again, I pounded into her. I could faintly feel the couch burns on my knees.

More mindless screwing: just hot, animal sex. It seemed like it lasted for hours. But it could only have been minutes when suddenly I couldn't tell if the burning rubber I smelled was from the inside or the outside. I became lost in my thrusts into her, her French silk; it was hot, very hot. She was screaming, crying, begging. Before I came off into her, she was pushing against me, trying to get me out, but I held fast. Our genitals were a pool of magma inexorably mixed together, hot molten rock.

Afterward, we separated and she pulled into herself on the couch. She was crying, streaming tears. I looked down at myself and noticed the condom we'd used had broken. There were only tattered remnants of a latex ring remaining on my throbbing member.

“You bastard,” she cried. “You total fucking bastard.” She simply wept after that for ten minutes or so and I didn't know what it was I'd done. I mean, I knew she was angry that the condom had broken, but surely that was partly her fault, too. I felt like I was waking up from a nightmare, groggily returning to a normal state. The smell of burning rubber faded and the soreness crept in like the crash of pain pills wearing off.

I moved over to her, handing her my shirt. She grabbed it and cleaned herself up. Her demeanor went from victim to avenger in a heartbeat.

“What kind of a brute are you? What is your deal, man?” she asked, standing up to put on her clothes. She threw my shirt on the couch. Where was the gizerat now, when I needed it? I tried to console her, apologizing. She pulled on her jeans, fastened her bra and strapped it on in a single motion.

“You are one twisted fuck, man. You should get some help.” Jennifer was clearly angry. She jerked on her blouse and sat back down on the couch. She rolled her socks on, squeezed into her shoes, and grabbed her backpack.

I tried to reach for her, but she pulled away and headed for the door. She grabbed the doorknob, opened the door, and said, “Even in San Francisco, you’re a total freak. You’ve got big problems—and a tiny cock.” She left and slammed the door behind her.

Burnt-rubber smell.

That went well. Go after her. You can’t just let her walk away. The gizerat was right, of course. I put on my clothes hurriedly and grabbed my jacket. I made for the door when the gizerat stopped me.

No, you fool, you’ll need something to convince her with. Take a weapon. I turned to the kitchen and saw the carving knife I’d left out for the roast. I grabbed it, stashed it inside my jacket and took off after Jennifer.

She was walking fast, and had a good lead on me. I had a longer stride, though, so I didn’t have to run. I was gaining on her when she turned the corner toward the wharf. I slowed my walk enough so that it didn’t look like I was stalking her. As I turned onto the wharf, I saw that she was entering the Wharfhouse rather than going for her car. Seeking protection. As if she needed it from me.

The parking lot was filled with cars. Evidently the evening bar business was booming. I opened the door to the Wharfhouse and saw that the place was filled with sailors and tourists. As I walked back into the place, I felt the heft of the knife’s handle inside the pocket of my jacket. Navy Boy was back with some of his friends. Jennifer was up by the door to the back talking to a bartender.

“Randy, Randy, that’s him! The guy’s a psycho!” Jennifer yelled and pointed at me. But she had me all wrong. If I could just convince her it was all a mistake—but before I could, the bartender was already yelling at me.

“All right, buddy, you’re outta here. Over and done. Consider yourself banned from the premises.” I didn’t like that. I was considering whether to leave when Navy Boy got up from the bar and started walking toward me purposefully. I gripped the knife inside my jacket.

“You heard the man. Take a hike, scumbag,” Navy Boy said, pushing me toward the door.

Burnt rubber was all I could smell now. “Maybe you’d like to come out with me?” I asked him.

“I was hoping you would say something like that. Let’s go.” Navy Boy gestured for the door.

I opened the door with one hand, and pulled the carving knife out with the other, hiding it with my body as I walked out into the parking lot. The cars’ headlights looked on with mechanical disinterest.

I strode quickly out onto the asphalt to make him have to come after me. I was in a trance now, following the gizerat’s lead. When I turned to face him, Navy Boy was inches away, about to put me in a headlock. I withdrew the carving knife and in one fluid motion, inserted it underneath his ribs. The moves came slick and easy, as if I were the one that had been trained for combat.

A look of shock came over his face, and he stood there for a long second. Blood gouted out of him like the stuck pig that he was. I twisted the blade as I removed it from him, and then stabbed him multiple times. Navy boy groaned and fell to his knees. I gave it to him again and again in a gizerat-fueled haze. It was right; this was what I wanted. Survival of the fittest.

I was just slicing the skin off of Navy Boy’s face when I heard the cop yell, “Freeze! Police! Drop the knife and put your hands on your head!”

Jennifer was at the front of the crowd that had gathered at the door to the Wharfhouse. I could see her trembling, her hand over her mouth. Now she could see that I was the Alpha Male. I had a gizerat. She’d know that I was prime to father her children.

The thoughts had barely crossed my mind when I heard the gizerat again. Go get him. He’s the only thing that stands between you and what you want.

The scent of flaming tires filled my head as I got up and turned to face the cop. He was behind the door of a brand-new 1991 Crown Victoria squad car, gun in hand. I strode toward him, blood dripping from my knife. A voice from the radio inside the squad car squawked something unintelligible.

“Don’t take another step!” screamed the cop, aiming at me. “I’ll shoot! Drop the knife! Now!” I was within ten paces of the cop now. I would be on him in a second.

I saw the flash of his gun and then heard the loud BANG just as the bullet ripped through me. Massive stopping power. I dropped the knife as the force of the bullet knocked me over, spinning me backward. As I hit the pavement, the clear salt air filled my nostrils. It was the last thing I felt before I passed out from the pain.



I came to in a white room that looked like a hospital. Clean, clinical. I remembered what happened and was horrified at the thought. I had killed Navy Boy. What had I done? The gizerat had made me kill. Where was it? I struggled against the straightjacket and my shoulder cried out in pain.

Smooth move, boyo, said the gizerat. Really screwed the pooch this time, it said.

“Oh, now you’re here. This isn’t what I wanted! What did you make me do? How does this advance my evolution?”

I never said I was here to advance your evolution, only to help you get what you really want. Turns out what you really want is some pretty twisted stuff. This is a fine pickle you’ve gotten yourself into. I don’t know how you’ll ever get out of this! The gizerat laughed, a mocking laugh that reverberated through my head.

I couldn’t get it out. I strained again and again at my bindings but they were on tight. And the hole through my shoulder, even patched up, really hurt. If I could only get at my head—with a knitting needle or something.

I heard voices from across the room. I looked over, and they were on the other side of the bars.

“Second-shift black and white brought him in. First degree homicide and sexual assault. Real piece of work. Cut up a naval officer. The DA will have him locked up for life.” One of the psych ward nurses was talking to another, two stocky men in white outfits. I could only imagine where I was.

“I wonder what these guys are thinking? I mean, what drives them?” the other one asked.

“Dunno. Apparently he didn’t know either of them personally. Guy’s a serious whack job. You hear him talking to himself in there?”

“Yeah. And if he keeps fighting the straightjacket, he’s going to hurt himself. We’d better sedate him, I don’t want to have to take it off to change his dressing,” the taller one said.

“Or fill out the paperwork.”

“I’ll do it,” said the taller of the two. He moved out of my line of sight and came back with a syringe with a long needle, and a little glass bottle.

“Get out of my head!” I screamed at the gizerat. “I’ll kill you!”

You can try, was its reply, if they let you out of the straightjacket, but I’ll move every time. You’ll have so many holes in your head, you really will be insane.

The nurse unlocked the door to my cell and advanced on me with the syringe. “This will help calm you down,” he said.

I wanted to appeal to his sense of decency. “No, please, you have to understand,” I said from the bunk I’d awoken on. “There’s something in my head, making me do things. It’s called a gizerat. If I could just get it out—”

The nurse squirted a little sedative out of the needle to remove the air. “Oh, working on your insanity defense?”

He held my head still with one strong hand and inserted the long needle into a vein. It hurt initially, but when once the needle was removed, a warm, pleasant sensation began to trickle through my bloodstream.

Don’t worry, I’ll be here when you wake up, said the gizerat. We can talk about how to get you out of here then. The gizerat laughed again, this time a wicked, taunting laugh that could have come from the Archduke of Hell himself. Then sleep took me, and I faded into unconsciousness.



The two male psychiatric nurses were back, but they looked different, somehow. I had to try to convince them that I wasn’t crazy, that it was the gizerat that controlled my actions.

“Okay,” I started, “I know you think I’m insane—but I have this little creature in my brain that makes me do things. It’s called a gizerat—haven’t you ever run across one before? They grow inside some people. Women can sense a superior male, right?”

The shorter of the two came close to the bars. “Sure, buddy, sure, we’ve heard of it. Get ‘em all the time.”

“You have to give me something to get it out. And take this straightjacket off. Then I’ll be able to kill it and I’ll be the normal me again,” I explained.

As they began walking away, one of them raised his hand in a blowoff gesture. I had to make them understand. I yelled after them, “Do an MRI! You’ll see! It’s in there. There’s no sign of them after death, they’re absorbed into the body. You won’t find it in an autopsy. In fact, a gizerat’s death always precedes its host’s. They’re so tiny, they’d get lost, anyway. You won’t find any evidence—”

As they continued walking away, one of them said in a softer tone to the other, “I guess as madness goes, a gizerat isn’t too bad.”

The taller of the two turned to the shorter and said, “He’s been spooling that line about the gizerat for twenty years now. The guy probably doesn’t even know what year it is.”

The shorter one stopped, and turned to the taller, with a raised eyebrow. “Think we ought to recommend a gizeratectomy?” They shared a chuckle, and continued down the hall.

Then they were gone, and I was alone again.

“Why are they laughing?” I thought to myself. “A gizeratectomy! That’s exactly what I need!”

I thrust my face up against the bars to my cell. “Nurse! Nurse! Come back! Come back!” I yelled after them.

And nobody came.

“You mean you can cut it out?” I yelled. “How can I get that operation? I want it cut out!”

And nobody came.

I struggled against the straightjacket, desperate. “Even if you have to take a piece of my brain with it, I still want it out!”

And nobody came.

And nobody came.

Fish.







Click Here
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Only On The FREEZINE
of Fantasy and
Science Fiction



Friday, March 11, 2011

YOU GOT OLD, TOO BAD

by Sean Manseau





Todd had only been planning to kill some time between meetings. He dropped his laptop bag next to the armchair at the back of the Starbucks, bent to retrieve his copy of Memories of My Melancholy Whores, and only then noticed the girl curled up on the couch across from him. A swan-necked blonde with glasses and a Slavic pout, she was reading the same book, but in Spanish. In her pea coat, black tights and furry boots, she couldn't have been more than twenty-five.

He said, “I've heard Uncle Gabby prefers his novels in English.”

When she didn’t answer he wondered if she was ignoring him or just hadn't heard. He was about to give up when her eyes cut to him. “Excuse me?”

He cleared his throat. “Garcia Marquez. He’d rather read Gregory Rabassa’s translations.”

“That’s interesting.”

She turned back to her page. Then looked up again, her brows knit. “Do I know you?”

“I don't think so.” Almost twenty years before, Todd had been cast on one of the first MTV reality shows. That had turned into a starring role on a very brief-lived series on FOX. “I used to act a little bit.”

“Oh my God. You're Todd Nies!”

“Yeah.” He grinned, suddenly remembering what being Todd Nies used to feel like. When all he had to do was smile to watch the object of his attention try to remember what underwear she had on, a new thong from Victoria's Secret or the granny panties she saved for laundry day. “Used to be, anyway.”

Her name was Noe. “Route 666 was my favorite show when I was a kid. I had such a crush on you! Are you still acting?”

He admitted he wasn’t, but didn’t think she’d want to talk to an investment analyst, so he steered the conversation back to books. One cup of coffee turned to two, and the second was finished as they strolled up Nob Hill and down into the bistros and strip clubs of North Beach. He got on his Blackberry and canceled his afternoon meeting.

“Hungry?” he said.

“Starving.”

Just dinner with a new friend. Nothing wrong with that. They ate at Francino’s. He ordered a Pinot from the Willamette Valley. Grateful for the wine tasting classes his wife made him attend. Noe thought it was delicious and he told her, “Well, it’s fruit forward, nice finish, but definitely not as complex as some of the California cabernets.”

She said, “You know a lot about wine?”

“It’s a hobby,” he said, and started telling her about the wine cellar in the Sausalito house. The house belonged to his brother Ronald, who was spending the winter in Park City. Todd stayed there when business brought him to the Bay Area. He talked and talked, hardly aware of what he was saying. It was the way Noe was looking at him. When he was young he’d never imagined there’d come a time when women would stop giving him that look.

Out on the sidewalk, the sky overhead purple rolling into gold toward the western horizon, they stood in silence. Then he said, “What’s the rest of your night looking like?”

“I have to meet a friend.”

His stomach dropped.

“A girlfriend.” She raised a hand. A cab pulled up next to her. “You want to come with?”

They ended up south of Market Street, a small nightclub filled with shirtless, muscular gay men grinding to Lady Gaga. It stank of sweat and amyl nitrate. Noe’s friend Agave was a tough Latina in motorcycle boots and an antique Joan Jett T-shirt, sleeves cut to reveal a battle-axe tattoo. She was lovely, but the signs spelled dyke, which meant that Noe was probably…oh well. Noe disappeared for a bit, leaving them to make small talk, only to return with three tablets of MDMA. Todd washed his down with beer, just going with it.

After a couple hours of dancing he found himself slumped at the bar. Agave put her lips to his ear and shouted, “Noe says you’ve got a nice wine cellar. Where is it?”

“My house.” An easy lie. “In Sausalito.”

Agave pressed her leg between his thighs. “Is it big?” A little smile. “Your house, I mean?”

Todd swigged from his bottle to cover his surprise. Maybe not as dykey as he thought. “It’s a renovated church. The foyer used to be the choir loft. The living room down below, where the pews were, is almost two thousand square feet. And the rear wall is floor-to-ceiling windows. Looks out over the Bay.” The waves of Ecstasy were rolling in like a slow tide. For the first time in he didn’t know how long, he felt like himself. His real self, the one he’d seemingly forgotten. He let slide his old, underwear-dampening grin. “Want to see it?”

“Yeah.” Agave drained her glass and let it drop to the floor. “Let’s go drink some wine.”

At Ronald’s place he swept the front door open with an appropriate flourish, modestly accepting their ooh’s and ahh’s as they headed down the spiral staircase to the living room. Through the glass wall at the back of the house, San Francisco sparkled, an earthbound firmament. Todd leaned on the loft’s rail to direct them to the wine cellar. “Grab anything you want,” he told them, and hoped to God Ronald didn’t stock anything that would cost more than a few hundred dollars to replace.

His phone dinged. A text message from Tricia: Please call ASAP. His stomach lurched and Todd stepped back outside, closing the doors behind him. The January mist was thickening into rain. He spoke his wife’s name and his phone dialed.

“Tricia?” he said when she answered. “What’s up, babe? Everything okay?”

“Cassidy had that dream again. I’m worried, Todd, six year-olds shouldn’t have recurring nightmares, they should be—”

“Is she awake?” Trying very hard to sound sober. “Let me talk to her.”

As he waited his gaze strayed down the hill. Figures under umbrellas were approaching, stiletto-heeled, every step a delicate report. Now two more young women stood looking him up and down with kohl-darkened eyes. One had a swimmer’s set to her bare shoulders, the other a shaved blue bob that matched her Prada heels and handbag. They were so perfect in feature and proportion that Todd almost quailed, as if confronted by monsters.

“Are you Todd?” the swimmer asked. “We’re friends of Noe’s. She said you’re having a party?”

“Daddy!” Cassidy on the phone now. “The trolls were under my bed again!”

“Just a second, honey,” he said, and hit the phone’s mute button. To the young women he said, “It’s certainly starting to look that way.” He ushered them inside and though he’d meant to soothe his daughter, he put his phone in his pocket and followed.

After that it was a swirl. Every few minutes more guests arrived. All young women, and if they weren’t models, certainly they could’ve walked into any agency on Maiden Lane and been signed on the spot. In the basement Noe and Agave had found cases of votive candles, and a hundred flickering lights were the backdrop for a dance party of thirty or more young women in various states of undress. Todd walked among his guests, marveling at how these gorgeous creatures all knew his name, stroked his arm as they answered his polite questions, exploded with laughter at his jokes.

“Todd!” Noe was suddenly beside him, naked but for her glasses. “Todd, we’re hungry and you’ve got nothing to eat!”

They wanted pizza. A dozen large plain. Thirty minutes or less, the guy on the phone promised, and Todd forgot all about it as Noe and Agave dragged him among the dancing bodies.

They relieved him of his Oxford shirt, his strap-shouldered undershirt, his pants. It had been his abs as much as his cheekbones that had gotten him cast on The Real World, all those years ago, and he liked to think he maintained them, despite a weakness for Thai food and Mexican beer. Certainly the appreciative glances being thrown his way testified to that.

His brain, throbbing with the Ecstasy he’d taken, was an antenna broadcasting joy at every wavelength. Apparently he was about to participate in a full-blown orgy. The kind of adventure that might’ve—that had—happened to him in the glory of youth, but seemed forever lost. These girls wanted him. Hands found him, gave a brisk, playful shake, or a slow, promising series of strokes, only to release and slap him on the ass to send him on his way. Every woman had a bottle in her hand, and dark wine was sloshing everywhere, over their breasts, into his mouth, puddling on the floor. He wondered, in an abstracted, hallucinogenic way, at what was happening. This night was a gift from God. A gift from God! God was in the groping hands and willing mouths and open haunches.

That was all he knew until the music stopped and the lights went on. Todd’s first thought was, Oh shit, the cops, but it wasn’t the cops. Agave and Noe stood with the pizza delivery guy at the choir loft railing. He seemed very young, balancing his stack of a dozen white boxes in one hand, and quite agog at the writhing fleshpot below.

Silence. Every woman in the room was staring up at the boy.

“This is Luke,” Noe called. “Ladies? A dark horse candidate?”

Smiles spread across lovely faces. Todd grimaced. This was his party, wasn’t it?
“I like this one better!” someone called.

“He’s so pretty!”

“Adonis!”

“Take your shirt off!” another woman shouted. Without hesitation, Noe and Agave grabbed the boy’s uniform polo and pulled it off over his head. He didn’t protest, but merely stood blinking, stunned by the turn of events. He was slim but very broad through the shoulders, the veins snaking along his biceps so pronounced they cast shadow on his skin. Noe and Agave led the boy down the spiral staircase, to a chorus of cat-calls and wolf-whistles. They passed Todd without a glance. The crowd parted, then closed around them. Todd found himself standing alone.

Luke squinted as if to see into the room’s dark corners. “Uh,” he ventured at last.

“Is there a Todd here?”

Noe took his face in her hands and kissed him. Agave pushed her aside, pulled off his cap to reveal a cherub’s curly golden locks, and licked at his ear. Soon she was joined by several other women entwining their limbs with his, while the rest knelt and looked on.

Exiled from Paradise. That’s how it felt. Seething, erection wilting, Todd watched the girls he’d planned on ravishing pleasure themselves with the boy. His first impulse was to simply leave; it was humiliating, being replaced so easily. But dammit, it was his house. Or his brother’s—close enough. Should he throw them all out? But what if there was a chance Luke was just the appetizer, and Todd still the main course? Though at this point that didn’t seem likely, it would be stupid to lose his temper and blow that chance, wouldn’t it? Maybe he should just slide back into the crowd...

Something held him back, and it was a few more excruciating minutes before he knew what it was. At first the women had moved in silence; Todd heard only the smacking of lips and the soft rustle of skin on skin. Now there was something almost inaudible, but enough to make his arms prickle: growling.

Nothing playful about it, nothing even human. The growl was picked up by the other women. Soon the air vibrated with it.

Luke struggled his head free. Pale and frightened, the boy cast about until he locked eyes with Todd.

“Hey,” he called, “are you—?” and then they charged him, howling.

The music went on again at jet engine volume, Keith Richard’s guitar crashing like windows shed by skyscrapers. The first wave of women swarmed the boy, climbing over each other until he was lost below flailing limbs and whipping hair. Another half dozen girls piled on before he collapsed.

Unable to look away, Todd took a step back. And another. When his ankle hit iron he collapsed on the bottom step of the spiral staircase. He pulled his knees up to his chest, covered his head with his hands, and watched through splayed fingers.

When Todd saw the boy again they had heaved him above their heads. Most of his clothing was gone, and part of his scalp was hanging in a flap, and he was bleeding everywhere from scratches and bites. The perimeter of the group began to rotate, the women dancing in a sort of twirling stagger, and at the center of the storm, Luke was spinning as well, frantically seeking out Todd as he came around, his screaming mouth empty—had someone bitten out his tongue? Faster and faster they turned, eyes bulging, their grins ecstatic, until the boy abruptly plunged from view. Over the music he could hear the boy’s screams for help and the girls’ shrieks of laughter. As blood began to fountain joyful faces turned up to receive the drops like a baptism.

One by one, women slathered in blood peeled off from the pile of bodies, pieces of the boy gathered in their arms. They went to the pizza boxes neatly lined up along the wall to add the rarest of toppings to the plain cheese pies. Slices were passed hand to hand, each taking a small bite, and they ate until it was all gone. Then they drowsed in each other’s arms. Todd cradled himself on the stairs, rocking back and forth, unable to think, unable to move.

Some time later, Noe roused them. “Ladies,” she called softly. “It’s time to go. Your rides are waiting outside.”

Yawns. Naked backs flexing and extending, stretching like cats. Shy smiles on their faces as they first noticed each other, then themselves. They gathered their clothes into piles and began picking their way through the wreckage toward the spiral staircase. Soon the room was empty, except for the remains of the boy strewn across the floor.

Todd quailed as Noe and Agave sat down beside him.

“You weren’t kidding about the wine cellar,” Noe said, patting his knee. “That was some fine grape. Best we’ve had in ages.”

“What have you done?” Todd asked. The drug seemed to have worn off, though the wine still thickened his tongue.

“We saw God,” Agave said dreamily. “We ate him. Now he’s in us.”

“It was supposed to be you,” Noe told him. She stood to glance through the floor-to-ceiling windows. Far below, flashing red and blue lights were threading their way up the hill. “The biggest crush ever, I swear.” She kissed him chastely on the lips, ruffled his hair, began climbing the spiral stairs. “Too bad you got old.”

“Too bad,” Todd repeated to no one.













Click Here For Part V

of Adam Bolivar's
weird Jack tale
THE WHITE CUP


Archive of Stories
and Authors

Adam Bolivar's
SERVITORS OF THE
OUTER DARKNESS


Adam Bolivar's
THE DEVIL & SIR
FRANCIS DRAKE



Adam Bolivar's
THE TIME-EATER


Adam Bolivar is an expatriate Bostonian
who has lived in New Orleans and Berkeley,
and currently resides in Portland, Oregon
with his beloved wife and fluffy gray cat
Dahlia. Adam wears round, antique glasses
and has a fondness for hats. His greatest
inspirations include H.P. Lovecraft,
Jack tales and coffee.


Keith Graham's
MIZUKI


Keith Graham's
EVERYTHING BUT
THE OINK



Keith Graham's
FAREWELL TOUR


Keith Graham is a computer programmer,
blues harp player, fellow beekeeper, and
speculative fiction writer. He currently
maintains 45 active websites. He has
published more than 50 stories over
the last six years in venues such as
others. Underground rock music
played an integral part in the early
days of cyberpunk, and The Freezine
of Fantasy and Science Fiction is
excited to have Keith onboard, and
grateful to showcase the premiere
of his passionate story of rock'n'roll
redemption.


John Claude Smith's
BLOOD ECHO SYMPHONIES


John Claude Smith's
NOT BREATHING



John Claude Smith writes weird fiction,
something between Horror and Magic
Realism, most of it psychologically driven.
He's had over 40 tales and over 1100 music
reviews, interviews, and profiles published.
He is currently shopping two novels and
a collection to agents and publishers, all
while starting the third novel. Gotta keep
on keepin' on! Looking forward to Rome
in the not too distant future, but for now,
just looking for the next short story to
be written.


David Agranoff's
A PLANET OF YOUR OWN


David Agranoff's
THE FALLEN GUARDIAN'S MANDATE


David Agranoff is the author of the
short story collection Screams From
A Dying World, just published by
Afterbirth Books. David is a hardcore
vegan and tireless environmentalist.
His contributions to the punk horror
scene and the planet in general have
already established him as a bright
new writer and activist to watch out
for. The Freezine of Fantasy and
Science Fiction welcomes him and
his defiant vision open-heartedly.

David is a busy man, usually at work
on several different novels or projects
at once. He is sure to leave his mark on
a world teetering over the edge of
ecological imbalance. David's latest
books include the Wuxia -Pan
(martial arts fantasy) horror
novel called Hunting The Moon Tribe,
already out from Afterbirth Books.;
The Vegan Revolution...with Zombies,
[Deadite Press, 2010]; and
[Deadite Press, 2014]

Daniel José Older's
GRAVEYARD WALTZ


Daniel José Older's
THE COLLECTOR


Daniel José Older's spiritually driven,
urban storytelling takes root at the
crossroads of myth and history.
With sardonic, uplifting and often
hilarious prose, Older draws from
his work as an overnight 911 paramedic,
a teaching artist & an antiracist/antisexist
organizer to weave fast-moving, emotionally
engaging plots that speak whispers and
shouts about power and privilege in
modern day New York City. His work
has appeared in the Freezine of Fantasy
and Science Fiction, The ShadowCast
the collection Sunshine/Noir, and is
featured in Sheree Renee Thomas'
Black Pot Mojo Reading Series in Harlem.

When he's not writing, teaching or
riding around in an ambulance,
Daniel can be found performing with
his Brooklyn-based soul quartet
Ghost Star. His blog about the
ridiculous and disturbing world
of EMS can be found HERE.