Lover’s Rock and Other Tales of Happy Demise, pt 2
Words by Eric Stine Illustration by Eric Stine
the door of the rental closes shut with an automated and irritated “thwauclck.”
he adjusts the tie hanging loosely around his neck, fidgeting the knot up, then down, then back up again. the way these newer auto-pods do practically everything for you, it’s impossible to even get in a strong, angry door slam any more.
fuckin’ liberals and their robots.
it’s one of those dreary days where the heavens and their angels piss down on you from absolutely every angle. no worth even trying to avoid it. let it soak in deep.
it was fitting, he thought. they met in the rain. she died in the rain. he might as well bury her in the rain – and the rest of them can blame this on him too – if any of them had even bothered to show their ugly, speckled faces. always there to criticize. always there to intrude. always there to be ‘concerned’. but in the end, she wasn’t worth the price of a plane ticket. in the end they really were all about themselves – something the two of them had argued over numerous times on those train rides back from the outer region of the Hemlock district. in the end all that arguing was for naught. in the end… shit. in the end it’s just the end.
he stops lumbering forward to rifle through his left pant pocket. the ground mushes beneath as his weight shifts. grasping the lighter between middle and ring fingers, he reaches up and inside his jacket to cuff a mashed-up pack of cigarettes. the wind was really howling now. squatting down to rest on the corner of a crumbling, barely legible tombstone surrounded by a dozen other crumbling barely legible tombstones, he clunkily huddles over to light the smoke amidst the barrage of oddly thick drops of rain.
on the carefully measured fifth try, the spark takes.
since the Imperial Monarchy outlawed the importing of any cigarette or tobacco product seven years ago, the government-produced products being made and distributed locally are severely inferior to say the least. either the tobacco is too heavy and the damn things wont stay lit, or they spray on too much chemical conditioner and the smokes burn down like wildfire. and since the ‘67 Imperial takeover of most of the farm land in order to provide housing and secure storage of the booming (some would say out-of-control) android population, they say the tobacco isnt even grown anymore. the dark rumor is that today’s tobacco is more or less a synthetic product – if that’s the friendliest way to look at it – the reconstituted by-waste of the android population, collected and exhausted out of the prison reservations and piped into an underground greenhouse that mixes those molecules with other molecules, and the resulting chemical seedlings are planted, fertilized and grown into a smokeable tobacco-like product.
that’s the rumor, anyway.
fuckin’ conservatives and their robots.
he raises his head slowly, the taste of gravel and mushy flesh thick along his tongue. there is no sound. no sight but bright, excruciating white. he knows he isn’t moving, but can’t feel anything. a deep piercing buzz is alive within him, though he feels the sensation in a way not registered by any of the normal senses he’s familiar with.
slowly, after what seems like a agonizingly slow crawl of time, cloudy shapes begin to form in his vision. then, a feeling. he feels wet. an unexpected damp sogginess. still not registering the extent of what has actually occurred, he realizes – deeply more than consciously – that it’s raining. slowly he can feel the thick liquid drops burst and sizzle emphatically on his cheek.
but that’s all he feels. the mud, the rain and the buzz.
they can’t make her swallow this pill. life or death, heaven or hell on earth, there’s nothing they have to threaten her with. nothing. nothing to raise a fear deeper than she already knows. anything they spit in her face would be an escape – and she firmly believes they know that.
why they thought her to be special, she has no idea. why are none of the others going thru this same horrific torture? or maybe they are. it has to be because of her ‘ability’. behind closed doors they proclaim it as a gift to the family – a chosen existence. she’s heard the greed in their excited voices. the greed that’s left her a life of muffled sounds and painfully unending dreams.
the dreams… oh, the fucking voices and the dreams.
the family she knows is not hers. the ‘family’ she knows would be the first to taste the end of her cold, serrated blade. this hell she was sold into is no more closer to a family than rats and birds.
there is a word for what she is. a name they call her when talking to each other with those big words.
and the flower. what is this flower she keeps hearing in whispers from the other young ones? something about a sickness and a flower.
damn this place. the world she knows is a barbwired island of stone walls, electric shackles and seven years of mysterious, agonizing nothing.
“we’re getting a clean reading on the brain scan, doctor.”
“thanks suzie.” the large man reaches up to flip a switch in the glowing console hanging directly in front of him. it makes a mild ‘thunk’.
“proceeding with neural upgrade implant on subject ninety-seven. this will be version five.”
“do you think it will take, david?”