Lover’s Rock and Other Tales of Happy Demise
Words by Eric Stine Illustration by Eric Stine
the voices always seem to get louder as the day creeps toward night
calling them voices may be the wrong way to describe it… more like a continuous series of piercing tones of chattered consciousness at their loudest and most inaudible level. inaudible but so fucking clear.
most people have thoughts and inner conversations. this was nothing of the sort; but then, using the term ‘person’ to describe her was already playing it pretty loose.
* * *
she scoops the dangling strands of hair out of her eyes and turns into the sun to glance both ways before crossing the speckled, trash-strewn concrete. it’s windy. about three hours till dusk. she gracefully side-steps a fast food burger wrapper blowing like a tumbleweed straight out of that old High Noon movie she saw at the old archival film theater. she loves those old westerns. back when exploiting and killing everyone around you could at least be morally justified in some twisted way.
“honey, always look both ways before crossing the street”, a soft and muffled motherly voice registers in her memory awareness, the rhythm chiming like the tune of a long-forgotten cartoon theme song. it’s a voice she doesn’t know but knows so well.
it’s friday. the first day of her work week. at least she thinks that it’s friday. she has to stop for a minute to make sure a day didn’t forgivingly pass her by. since the Imperial Queen instituted the two-day national sabbath, it’s easy to lose track sometimes. the law passed a year ago was supposed to help ease the tensions of an over-worked, over-burdened society – the common man works four days a week with three days of rest and leisure. however the Queen intended that two of these days be set aside as holy days requiring attendance to the government-sponsored mass. yeah right. two holy days? that was their first mistake.
well, more like the 9,876,321st mistake, but who’s really counting?
a siren wails longingly in the near distance. a series of honking horns indicate that people are either too slow or just don’t give a shit to get out of the way of the oncoming death bus. she checks her watch. already ahead of schedule, though there’s no real schedule to keep. like most weekends, fate will decide where she ends up. she picks at the leftover scab of a cut on the back of her right hand.
fate. what an annoyingly human concept.
walking briskly past the tattered storefronts and dusty neon signs silently screaming for indulgence in whatever pleasure they might have on hand to subdue the mindless heaps of flesh who might wander close enough to be caught in their glowing trap, her gaze rarely raises from the pavement. only sixteen human cycles young, but she knows their ploy and every angle they can throw at her. shit, she could walk into that corner bodega right now and sweet talk the shop owner outta a weeks worth of pay without even flashing a lick of skin. and credits no less, not that soon-to-be-useless paper money the old hags are still clutching on to like it’s some sort of prized justification of their very existence on this damn rock.
they say the androids have a much faster mental development than genetically-pure humans. the brain-wigs and proud supporters of technological advancement point to this evolutionary moment as a crowning achievement in the progress of human conquest. while the doom-sayers stand at their pulpits and news desks sweatily heralding in the demise of the human empire with each new organically grown circuit that receives it’s first electrical charge.
she just wants to fill her stomach and not have the next string of weekend tricks bruise up her face to an unrecognizable pulp.
the thing those preachers and politicians and pussy-shits don’t seem to understand is that she bleeds just as they do. more in fact, due in part to the lack of developed android healthcare and the niggerish way they look at her when she attempts to get medical assistance from a human clinic. and sometimes just because slicing some flesh and feeling alive can be a sultry one-in-the-same experience for a throwaway who needs something – anything – to cling on to.
passing through the alley on 27th between the old boarded up sporting goods store and peterson’s meat market, a purple blur of a young boy who looks to be no more than seven darts blindly, arms flailing, from the brick passageway. the force of their collision drops them both to the pavement.
for a short second she considers to simply lie there. life is more soluble when lying on the dirty ground – no further to go, nowhere else to sink to.
picking herself up and glancing over at the young out of control thing, she sees why he was in such a fever. a pair of larger kids were lurking in their direction. one like a shirtless fire hydrant, with dark crimson lacerations marked across his upper body and sullen eyes two sizes too big for his head. the second, almost as tall but half as wide, dirty dark leather tightly clutching his entire body. she sees something shiny and sharp with a hint of splotchy red hanging loosely from his left hand. her nose practically burns with the stench of violence dripping from them half a block away.
“get the fuck back here, ya limey runt!”, seethed out the fire hydrant. they’re inching closer, but seem to be taking their time, almost as though thoroughly savoring the slow methodical build-up to catching their prey. glancing from the distant end of the alley back down to the crumpled pile of torn clothes and hair lying there on top of her shoes, she feels a hot surge of energy, snapping her awake from the foggy pace of the previous three hours.
“c’mon, get up!” she grabbed the arm closest to her and lifted the boy up so hard and fast that it was kind of a wonder the limb didn’t break right off.
without another word, they both quickly spun in the opposite direction and sped off so quickly – the concrete metaphorically bending and twisting beneath their feet. the pair in hunt only took this as a welcome challenge – in true form, the chase seemed more enjoyable than the catch.
twisting and dodging between cars and auto-pods parked haphazardly along 27th, they sprint, her mind racing to quickly evaluate the situation and analyze their most likely option for probable escape. the whirring blur of surrounding brick and glass seems to close in on them the further they run. ahead, an automated garbage collector slowly snakes it’s way down toward the intersection. she can feel the tailing threat closing in.
peering up across the intersection in mid-stride, she spies the rusty ladder of an old fire escape drooping lazily within reach. if they could just make it there, hop the dumpster, climb up and maybe pull the ladder up behind them, this whole thing would be over. the damn kids would lose interest and this little shit would be safe. and if they continue to pursue, at least she’d have the upper ground.
at least in theory.
clutching the tiny paw of the boy even tighter, feeling her chewed-up nails dig into his sweaty palm, she tugs him toward the intersection.
for what seems like an eternity they continue to sprint, her bag rhythmically jostling against her hip. the garbage collector clanks and buzzes with the satisfactory sound of emptying the final disposal can of the block. despite the muffle of the wind rushing around her, the sounds feel so alive.
just a few more seconds now…
Illustrations by Eric Stine