March 25, 2014

Blacksmith Blues

I'm getting forge coal on my lamb leg when she walks in. The entire blacksmith's workshop pretends to be busy while sneaking glances at her.
She walks around. She finds my corner, stops, smiles. But her eyes are all for her darling. I've been at the hammer from midday to midnight getting her darling ready to wield.
There's a gnome on her shoulder. It jumps off, hurries for a close-up of the steel.
She places her helmet right on top of my workbench, lets a bundle of hair fall behind her shoulders. “How does she look?”
Flawless, I mean to say, but she didn't ask that. “I thinned the edges, hollowed the fuller, sharpened the point and recallibrated the pommel. Also, I had to replace the handle entirely, but you already know that.”
“Yes, you did tell me.” I thought her eyes were green. They're brown. In my dreams, they're green. My eyes? I suppose they're imagining the most loutish acts, but they snap back to attention when she speaks.
“Am I primed?” she says.
I shake my head. I nod. “The dark gems are all fitted. But I have to warn you, these modifications are dangerous.”
She flashes an unladylike grin. “I may have to trap someone's soul this time.”
I don't ask. I never do, under normal circumstances. In any case, she wouldn't answer.
She leans against me, reeks of dry sand, perspiration. But to me, her scent is like roses. When she pulls away, her helmet is off the workbench, in its place a pile of gold coins. Each of them rusted in some way. Even stained, bloody. Still good. Don't need to count the coins to know she's left more than invoiced for.
“Thanks,” she says. She arms the sword, grins, cuts air. The blade's glimmer blinds me. When I see again, she's walked away. She's at the door, nothing but a silhouette. Her gnome sticks its tongue out at me and jumps back on her shoulder.
The Gaia takes to the desert winds again, and I'm just standing here holding my hammer.

February 1, 2014

What Could've Been

“Can't you sleep?” August asked his little brother from the open balcony where they would normally play and watch the streets of the grey ghetto.
Ludwik was standing inside, by the doorway of the room they shared, stretching. “I couldn't sleep at all,” he replied. “Are you spitting again?”
“No,” said August, who then sighed instead of laughing.
“Where's your arm band?” asked Ludwik.
“I was getting tired of it.” August added, “Because the night felt like forever.”
Ludwik nodded in understanding. “Where's mama, papa?”
By their parents' bedroom, the door was shut. “Still sleeping, probably.”
“Let's go wake them.”
“You know we're not allowed to go in there,” recommended August.
“Close the balcony door, then,” said Ludwik, shivering. “It's getting cold.”
“First come see here,” said August.
“What's going on?”
“Remember what mama and papa said, the rumours?”
Ludwik leaned on the railings with his brother. The lamp posts were still lit below. “Hm?”
“The ghetto's been talking about a purge lately.”
“A purge? What did mama and papa say?”
“I think the rumours are true, Ludwik. They're coming to take us to the camps after all. I knew it.”
“Who?” Ludwik's voice trembled a bit, his teeth chattering.
August pointed to the leftward horizon, where the sun was only beginning to rise. It was there, up the street, from which a rumbling noise, commands, could be heard. The smoke of transport trucks parked there made it seem as though there was a new mist. Shadows emerged, becoming figures. Rows of infantry could then be seen, urgent in their march, intent on occupying the street. The soldiers gathered neatly on the pavements both sides of the street and readied their rifles, taking orders from a pair of frothing commandants. All of them wore the swastika on their uniforms, and the two boys knew this symbol well, too well.
“The monsters,” said August. “The monsters have come.”
Ludwik looked up at his brother, distraught. “Are they going to kill us, August? Tell me they're not, brother.”
“Don't panic,” said August, holding Ludwik's hand. “They can come and try, but we'll fight back.”
“Are you sure we can take them?”
“I promise you, we'll be fine.”
“I can't fight, August. We should really wake up mama and papa.”
“Don't be silly. Leave them.”
“But this is important, August. This is our lives.” Ludwik's heart was beating out his chest. He couldn't bear August's composed demeanour. He didn't understand it. He wormed out of his brother's grasp and stormed back inside.
“It's no use,” said August, solemnly.
“They can't be asleep,” protested Ludwik. “Not at this hour, surely?” Half sobbing, Ludwik turned the handle of their parents' bedroom door several times, then gave up.
“Do you see?” said August.
Ludwik, slumped, returned to his brother's embrace. “What do we do?”
“We hope.” August pointed to the building opposite theirs, the one the soldiers were instructed to first enter. “Look.” Lights were turning on in some of the apartments.
“What are the monsters up to? They better not come here.” Ludwik was trying to sound menacing. But when that bloodcurdling scream came from their neighbours, Ludwik couldn't help but sob more violently.
The soldiers came back out of that building, this time escorting fifteen of the ghetto's tenants, who had their hands touching the backs of their heads. They were shoved, mocked, and then told to get on the ground, on their stomachs, on the gravel of the street, where old death lingered. An elderly man was shot first, and then a child, who couldn't have been older than Ludwik. And then a pregnant woman.
Ludwik was on his knees, clutching his ears against the gunfire, so stunned he didn't notice the dribble hanging from his mouth, the tears pooling on the balcony floor, the wetness in his pants. August forced his brother to his feet and hugged him, and wouldn't let go. There was a river of blood in the street, a strange quietude that even the commandants were inclined on assuming for a forever-minute. The bodies went into the trucks.
“The monsters won't touch us,” said August. But this time August wasn't so sure; he was trying to convince himself. As he held Ludwik's head, he saw that his own hands were shaking involuntarily. “They'll go away. They'll leave us alone.”
“Breach the fifth,” they could hear a commandant say. Unit five—that was their building.
There were sounds of footsteps on the stairs, in the passage. Then hammering. At the front door. Once, twice, and there wasn't time for the boys to think, and the door came unhinged, and the monsters were inside their home, stalking their prey with their big guns.
“Hide,” August told his brother. Ludwik did what August was doing, hiding by the walls of the balcony beside the door, where they couldn't be seen from the inside. They didn't dare breathe. They didn't dare spy, although they could hear the destruction the soldiers were wreaking on their possessions. With every crack and shattering, the boys were jolted, and as they could hear the soldiers nearing, their knees grew weaker.
Ludwik wanted to hold his brother's hand, so he reached out, despite August shaking his head, telling him not to. Then they were found. They were staring right into the cold, blue eyes of one of those monsters, one who had come to the balcony for a brief smoke. It happened so fast.
He had them in his sights.
And he was doing nothing, but they swore the monster could see them. Yet the soldier turned away, flicking his cigarette into the air before going back inside, having had his name called. August and Ludwik looked at each other, in awe, wondering if they had been made invisible by prayer.
“They must be in here,” said a voice inside; another monster.
August and Ludwik could tell where the ensuing bang had come from: the door to their parents' bedroom. They winced with the noise.
“Bastards,” said the same voice with a chuckle. “They've already done themselves in. All four of them.”
“9mm Luger,” said another voice, scoffing. “Where could they have gotten this?”
“Never mind. Get to the next door. On the double.”
“Yes, sir.”
There was complete silence in the home when the monsters left. The brothers stood in the doorway of the balcony, peering in. The dining table was split in two, the cupboards undone. What remained of the family cutlery, shards. Their photographs on the wall, on the ground.
“Do you think we can go see mama and papa now?” said Ludwik, wiping away his last tears.
“No, Ludwik,” replied August. “Let them sleep.”
“What about us? Where do we go? What do we do?”
“We imagine.”
“Imagine?”
“Imagining things will help us through the rest of our journey.”
“You mean like when we play?”
“Yes. We can imagine fun things, what can be.”
“What could've been,” said Ludwik.
“That's right, brother. We can imagine what could've been.”

January 31, 2014

Leave Kyle Palombi Alone!

At nine in the morning, the most beautiful man in Beverly Hills went outside, and was startled. A large crowd was pressed up against his driveway gate, chanting and calling his name, reaching for him through the bars, flashing cameras, proposing, singing – doing all sorts of desperate, shameless things. They were persistent, like rabid dogs, with mad expressions on their faces. He hadn't felt such fear before.
Snatching his newspaper off the mat, he dashed inside and dialed the police. A few minutes later, sirens whooped. But then the arriving officers didn't seem interested in moving the crowd. Instead, realising they were at the mansion of the now-incredibly-famous Kyle Palombi, they joined in the idolatry. They stood with the civilians at the gate and snapped pictures of their own.
Kyle dropped his newspaper. It was the shock. The headline stated, in bold:
World's First Zombie: Teen Idol Kyle Palombi Rises From The Dead...And Lives!”
Feeling like he was about to faint, he phoned his agent. He didn't get an answer. He paced back and forth. He kept looking out the window, unsure of what to do. At half-past-nine, the crowd was so big, the road was blocked. The crowd was growing madder, rattling his gate, removing the barbed-wire lining his walls.
He tried his agent again. This time, he connected.
“Kyle, please don't be mad at me,” said his agent immediately. Judging by the sounds in the background, he was in a public place.
“Tony–”
“Kyle, Kyle, Kyle, buddy, please. I know what you're feeling right now, but be cool. I know about the nutters outside your house. But, my man, I'm handling it.”
“How do you know about the–”
“The news,” replied his agent. “And I'm with them. I'm in front of your house. Can you see me?”
“Huh?”
“Kyle, listen,” Tony shouted. “Right now, I'm trying to end the situation.”
“What about last night?”
“Wasn't me who gossiped, man. You have to believe.”
“Who got my address, then?”
“I don't know, paparazzi? I'd never give away your address, man.”
“Could only have been you. You snooped on me. You hurt me. How much did you get paid?”
“Dude, come on. I've been with you for ten years. Who's been more loyal in your down years? Just listen already. The paparazzi had the hospital covered, bro. They knew you were in a car accident last night. They bugged your room, they stole documents, they found out everything. Swear, that's the truth.”
“I wish I could, like, punch your face. Or something.”
“And I'd let you do what you want to me. But damn it, Kyle, how many times have I got to tell you, it wasn't me?”
“So you're saying the paparazzi heard when the doc said I was going to turn into a zombie? They heard all that?”
“I guess so. Yes. Uh-huh.”
“What am I going to do now? I'm too scared to leave my house.”
“It'll blow off.”
“Will it?”
“But look at the bright side. At least you're more famous than you ever were.”
Kyle went red in the face.
“Know what I'm saying? The whole world is at your doorstep, not just teenage chicks now. Which is a good thing.”
“I hate you.”
“Any press is good press, right? Kyle, I'm just kidding. I'll get you out of this, I promise.”
Kyle peeked through the curtain. He panicked. “Oh, heck, no.”
“What is it? Talk to me.”
“Some moron just jumped the wall.”
“Don't do anything rash–”
Kyle disengaged. He stomped outside, clenched his fists. He blocked off the young trespasser's path and puffed out his chest. In response, the young man gasped and waved around a pen and notepad. But Kyle wasn't interested in signing his autograph. Rather, Kyle wanted to hurt him. So, he grabbed the young man by the shirt and shook him around and shoved him to the ground and threw a sandal he was wearing.

The young man didn't seem irked by the bout of physicality, however. As he raised the sandal in the air like it was a trophy, he declared to the sky that he could finally go to his grave a happy man. Then the young man boasted to the rabid crowd at the gate, “I'm going to be famous.” He waved to cameras. “Hi, Ma.”
The crowd applauded and requested manhandling from the teenage zombie.
Kyle stood over the young man, and said, “Who do you think you are, stepping onto private property? This is my”–Kyle's tongue came loose. Before it could slip out his mouth, he twisted it back inside–“my house?”
Swooned the young man, “But I'm your biggest fan–”
Kyle smashed his phone over the young man's head, and didn't stop smashing, not until the young man's skull was caved in, until the young man was quiet. Quiet and dead. When he was done, he glared and growled at the crowd at the gate, who had gone silent. He told them, “Boo.”
They reacted with confused stares.
“See what I did there?” Kyle said. He wasn't sure if his knees were weakening due to the trauma of killing someone, or the rot. “Now get away from me and my house, or the same will happen to you. I'm not afraid to, like, bust in people's heads, as you can see.”
They said nothing. Their mouths were wide open.
“Hear me? Do you people understand English or what?”
Their mouths slowly turned into smiles. A clap of hands started. Everyone resumed cheering and howling and whooing. Right then, the gate toppled inward from the crowd's collective weight.
Kyle ran.
He locked the front door, eloped upstairs, hid in his bedroom, curled up in a corner, wet himself and prayed. He heard the destruction of the front door and windows, the sound of their footsteps on the stairs. Soon, they came banging at the bedroom door. Then there was no door. Then they were in.
Kyle yelled, “Stop this. You're savages.”
The room went quiet.
“Don't you know I'm just a human being? I need my privacy, too.”
Someone said, “You're Kyle Palombi, Teen Idol, World's First Zombie. You're not human.”
Others agreed.
“Well, yes. But am I not like you? Am I not able to walk and talk? Do I not feel feelings? Do you see these clothes, these eyes and ears, this heart?”
“Buh?” said someone in the back. They lurched in his direction, stretching out their long, bony fingers. They trapped him up against the wall then had him where they wanted him.

Completely surrounded, Kyle bit his nails nervously. “Guys? It's me. I gave the world Heartbreak. Remember? That number one hit?”

They swarmed in like wolves.
They shook his hand, rubbed his arms, pinched his cheeks, poked snot in his nostrils, wet his ears, punched his stomach, made him clap his hands together, rhythmically patted his hips, tore his hair, did frog leaps over him, suplexed him, soothed him, insisted that he smoke marijuana, cupped his groin. And that was only half of what they did to Kyle Palombi.
“I just touched a zombie. OMG.”
“I love you, Kyle. You're my hero.”
“I hate you and hope you die a miserable death.”
“Hey, sexy.”
“He's real. Really real.”
“Your grandfather thinks you're a disgrace, boy.”
“When are you doing a follow-up to the First Kiss album?”
Kyle didn't know what was happening anymore. He let go and decided to answer their questions.
After a while, he noticed his arms were missing, and so was his right leg; and just as he realised that, his remaining leg was stolen as well; and he fell on stumps before those were taken, too; and almost every other part of his body, stolen by those greedy hands. Finally, the crowd, bored, began leaving. Afterwards, all that remained of him was his head.

And he felt no pain, only a deep sadness.

But then he felt nothing at all, as someone else came into the room to dig for his brain. His agent wrapped it in foil and departed for the nearest museum.

January 26, 2014

The Culling

In the dark, John sat numb on the bed's edge, paying little attention to the television that was a few inches from his face. Each time he raised his unlit cigarette from his ashtray on the carpet, his fingers would forget where his lips were.
The newsman looked on the verge of a breakdown.
...remember these days...tapping into the source of mass consciousness...third eye imaging...what has long been deemed the other side...mystery no more...”
Sarah, his wife, was curled up. She was restless in sleep.
...we will continue to broadcast these images for the next three hours. As for me...I would like to say...”
The newsman was cut off, replaced by a transitional black background.
Text scrolled across the screen and advised sensitive viewers to switch off. That familiar semi-fuzz followed, showing faces of people who used to be. Every night they would appear on the television. There were always many of them, just standing there in distorted nothingness, whispering.
Die, die, die,” they would always say.
John would keep searching for the face he wanted.
Groans. Sarah was up. She turned off the television for John, told him to quit his habit, said he was scaring her. And he said nothing. He returned to bed and stared at the roof with her. The alarm clock spelled out 1:02AM when the television turned on by itself. They both heard the voice. Together, holding hands, they leaned forward.
There was one face on the screen.
I'm stuck, Daddy, Mommy. Get me out. Destroy what you know.”
John sobbed violently.

Sarah dropped a pan in the morning, messing eggs on the kitchen tiles. She shambled to the living room, short of breath, and downed an anxiety pill. She spotted John hiding behind a curtain.
“What are you doing?”
He pointed to the window. “They're making the sacrifice. They've started.”
She looked. The neighbours opposite them were kneeling on their front lawn, cutting their flesh, bleeding themselves to death.
Sarah turned away and retched.
“But it's what we have to do,” reasoned John. “It's what they want.”
Sarah closed herself off in the bedroom.
John pressed his ear against the door. She was on the phone.
“Can't I come pack in by you, just for a time?” she was saying.
Pause.
“What do you mean? Aunt Jane's dead. Mother?”
Then a long silence. Sarah came out wiping her nose with a tissue, her eyes red.
“I don't want to talk about this,” she blubbered to John, trying to get past him.
He showed her their son's photograph. “Everything is falling apart, Sarah.” And he showed her the pistol in his other hand. “We have to do this. There's no choice.”
Sarah pushed him and ran. John grabbed her before she could reach the kitchen. She screamed and screamed as he pulled her by her hair and forced her into the bedroom. He threw her onto the bed and switched on the television. And then he made her watch.
“I need you to understand,” he said.
Their boy appeared on the screen.
John said, “Tell Mommy what you want. Make her understand.”
I will always love you, Mommy, Daddy, but I want you to die,” said their son. “When you die, I can be freed, and the universe can start anew. Help us.”
“Do you see?” said John.
She kept shaking her head.
Mommy, don't you like me anymore?”
John made her look at the photograph again. “It's him, Sarah.”
Do you remember, Mommy? Twinkle, twinkle, little star, how I wonder what you are...”
Sarah buried her face in her hands.

“...we'll burn our house then all the houses left. Afterwards, we'll take turns with the gun. Okay?”
She nodded. She was crying onto the photograph.
John lifted her chin, smiled at her and cupped her hands. “We'll be with him again.”
She nodded. They went outside. Half the neighbourhood was already burnt down.

January 23, 2014

I Did It For The Lolz

And then the airport terminal was a slaughterhouse.
But, that high. A million pussies couldn't compare to that high. Just for a few moments, I was traveling the stars, tasting the milk of the universe's teat. In my state of bliss, everything was perfectly splendiferous. Splendiferous – I mean, what the fuck is that?
Alas, good times never last. What my dealer didn't tell me is I would shit my pants on the come-down.
People were screaming on the ground. I told them to shut up and stop complaining because I had a headache and smelly pants, and at least they could still get disability in this country. I headed for the bathroom, stepping over their bodies. I cleaned my machete, neatened my tie and entered a post-high seizure. I hated those. Aaack – that's what I sounded like, convulsing up against a wall.
But I knew what my body needed right then. More mother fucking Krokodil. I had two doses left, not enough. Quickly, I phoned my dealer and stuttered my way through a conversation, barely able to grip the phone. I told him to go fuck himself then politely asked if he could come visit. Said he knew where I was – apparently, I was on the television – and he was already waiting.
I didn't bother with an elastic band. Just stuck the needles in there. In my ass. I floated like a butterfly for a while, dancing across the terminal. Rubbing my crotch against dead people's hands, punching my balls, biting my lip off – everything felt so good. The pain was tremendous, the blood pouring aplenty, but I was happy!
I was going to start decorating my fingernails on the windows, too, but then the pigs were in town. Blue-red flashed outside. Some dude was yelling through a loudspeaker and was with a bunch of other dudes, dudes with guns, dudes with cameras. I shaped my fingers into a pistol and told them to make my day. Odds favoured me, anyway. The universe was on my side.
My man with his ridiculous dreadlocks was over there with an audience, waving. I went towards the window to see what the hell he was mouthing. I asked him where my drugs were before my nose fell off. Then he was laughing at me. Idiot. I suppose it was funny, but the least he could've done was come over and give me my damn tits. Starting to get annoyed, I went outside.
All the police dudes crouched behind their cars, readying their weapons, shouting.
“Stay where you are,” the loudspeaker announced. “Put your hands behind your back and get on the ground, else we'll turn you into mince meat, mother fucker.” He didn't really swear, but it would've been cool if he had.
I told him, “I'm the messiah. There's no reason to be afraid,” but I don't think it came out right. More likely, they heard, “I-nd-ah-tere-no-ron-t-be-arm.” See, the tip of my tongue had just gone.
And he said, “We're giving you ten seconds.”
And I said I had rights. I accused him of being a nazi. I hoped he heard.
They had me. From behind, pigs snagged my arms, hooking cuffs on my wrists. But the joke was on them. I was like – what's his name? – Mister Fantastic, and I pulled away. I was free. Missing hands, but free. I arrowed for my man, grabbed my drugs, gave his green, scrammed.
Damn, I was fast.
And sure, I was losing more and more of myself in the process of trying to escape, but at least I got another hit. I stuck five more needles in my ass and kept running, taking the police in circles.
Oh, man. So good.
My arms and legs were bothering me, stifling progress, so I ripped them off in freedom's name and threw them in the sky. Finally I was there. At the pinnacle of everything. My universe, my way.

January 22, 2014

Midnight In The Garden Of Evil

Grandpa would place a lantern in their sleeping area every night, and it was no normal lantern, since it could never be extinguished. Instead of a flame, tiny living creatures sustained the lantern's glow. Grandpa called these beings wonder-flies. They were like fireflies, but magical. Often Grandpa would say to the boy, “When I am not here anymore, they will still protect you in the darkness. But never play with them. Always keep them near. They are all we have here.”
One particular night, the wind and trees were restless.
Taku had just gone to sleep when the front door slid open, and with that, the lantern's light went. The boy sat up, only to find that the mattress where Grandpa lay was vacant. He searched the house, but there was no trace of Grandpa.

He went outside into the moonlight, because being all alone in that dark house was beginning to scare him. And that's when he spotted a brilliance emanating from the woodland sprawl, a bouncing light in the trees. He ran into the forest, certain Grandpa was there with his special lantern.
But, as he set chase, the faraway light became duller, out of reach. Soon there was no light at all. Nor moonlight. When it was too late, the realisation struck him: he had gone too far into the forest, too far into the night. The darkness was so enveloping he could barely see his hands in front of him, and he felt as if he were blind.

Short, frightened breaths escaped his throat. Around he spun, searching for the path from where he had come. But then he couldn't move around anymore. Somehow, he couldn't get his feet to walk. He was stuck. He looked down, and, to his horror, the mud beneath was beginning to swallow him. The dirt began rising fast, eating him.
“Grandpa,” he shouted for help.

Soil entered his throat. Then he was inside. Inside the deepest darkness of all. The darkness did the unexpected: it kept him alive; it filled his veins, feeding his brain with new ideas; it only wanted to show him things, show him where he was meant to be. But then, the darkness dispersed, cut through by a great burst of sudden light. Two hands reached for the boy, raising him upwards. Warm light touched his skin, and when he felt that familiar light, he knew Grandpa was near, with the wonder-flies. And he could breathe again.
Taku noticed something strange about his surroundings. They weren't in the forest anymore but in a different part of the island. Taku hadn't seen the edge of the world before, though Grandpa had told him what existed beyond the forest. However, Grandpa never revealed that there were clouds beneath them too, just like there were clouds in the sky above.

Grandpa didn't want to let Taku go. “You're alright now,” Grandpa whispered
“Why did you leave me alone?”
“I made a mistake. I had to run after them, the wonder-flies – they escaped. I couldn't wake you up because that's when the darkness gets you. When you're awake, afraid, the darkness knows. It smells your fear. I just thought at the time you'd sleep on and not notice. I wish you hadn't woken up. No, it's my fault. I was stupid to think that. I'm sorry.”
“I didn't get hurt. I'm still here, Grandpa.”
“I'm glad, so glad,” Grandpa said. He asked afterwards, softly, “You were in there, weren't you? What did you see?”
Taku paused. “Nothing,” he said. "Just nothing."
“Well, you're a warrior, just like your father was. I'm proud of your resilience.”
Grandpa stroked Taku's soft, white hair. Taku sat very still, staring into space.
“You know, I should've told you everything. Why we're here and what this place is. See, we're the only two on this island. This is not any normal island either. This cursed island floats in the sky, not in the sea.”

The wonder-flies bumped against the sides of the lantern. Taku watched them intently.

“A long time ago your parents and I, as well as our entire clan, were brought here by the wonder-flies on the command of an evil sorceror. He not only wanted me banished but everyone related to me. This man wanted this island to be an eternal prison for myself and the clan, a way of slowly torturing us. This man was the darkest magician in Edo.”
Taku nodded, half listening.
“I was on a mission to slay that evil man for his crimes and deliver his head to the emperor. But he got the best of me with his magic. He trapped me and took my blood, and thus cursed the entire clan. The wonder-flies, given the blood, were assigned to find each of our family members, and so brought us here, to this island created by the magician. When we came here we found out how to survive though: avoid the darkness at all costs, stay in the light. That was always the most important thing. But, even with that in mind...death after death. First my brother died of natural causes. Then my sister went missing. Then my own mother, missing. Right after your parents gave birth, they, too, fell. Your mother was out during the night and...I couldn't save her. The last to die was your father, who wanted revenge against the darkness. We always tried our best to survive. I'm so sorry, Taku. I'm sorry I have to tell you like this. I'm sorry for not being able to give you a better life. I don't know what else to say.”
Taku did not return any tears. He was more enamoured by the lantern, and the wonder-flies. He asked his grandfather, pointing to the lantern, “And them, Grandpa? How'd you get them to stay so long?”
“We fooled them. Your father was a magician himself. He used his magic to summon them in the first days, before they could return to the surface world. Ever since then, we've had them trapped here. But now, after this incident, we are left with few. I'm still in disbelief myself that this happened. How they could have fought against the lantern holding them, perhaps this shows they are getting stronger. The darkness of the night seems to be growing more powerful, making the wonder-flies more hysterical each day. No normal flame can counter the evil on this island anymore. Something is happening, something beyond the extent of my knowledge.”

They both kept quiet for a while.
“If we lose the wonder-flies, we will be lost to the darkness,” said Taku, and Grandpa nodded in affirmation, adding in a long sigh.

Grandpa stood Taku on his feet. "You've learned much today."

“Can we go to bed now?”
Grandpa offered a big smile.

They walked back through the forest, keeping the lantern close. Taku noticed Grandpa had fastened the opening of the lantern with bamboo this time. Before, he had used thin reeds. On the way, Taku said, “Maybe the darkness isn't what you think, Grandpa.”

Taku made sure to say that in a low pitch, knowing Grandpa had bad hearing.
When they were home, they went straight to bed. Grandpa curled up on his mattress, making sure the lantern was in his sights. Taku did the same, keeping watch. But he for a different reason, waiting for his grandfather to fall asleep.

The remaining wonder-flies continued to whirl around madly in their prison, trying to find a way out. Even knowing the bamboo was too strong for them, they kept ramming at the door with their tiny glowing bodies, and crashing backwards in failure, and again. Taku was fascinated by their fighting spirit, but mostly sad. He felt them speaking to him.

Throughout the night, he would repeat to himself, "Maybe the darkness is freedom."

January 19, 2014

The F'N Man

Class A citizens make the decisions. Class B citizens do the paperwork. Then there's the rest of us who fight to the death. That's how you get your licence to earn big dough in this world. Nobody's forced to, but for Class C, that option is there. Seven fights, seven kills – got to earn capitalism. I get it, though. They want the bloodsuckers.
I'll make them see.
The waiting room is empty. Manilow is singing. Mum's telling me about heaven. Dad's saying how strong my opponent is. And I'm saying fuck it. I don't need anyone telling me any bullshit. I'm made of iron. This is my house.
“Death's the road to immortality,” says Mum, applying spit to my face.
I snarl and pound my chest. “Who's 6-0? I'm still standing. I'm the best. I'm the boss.”
“But your opponent is also 6-0,” chips in Dad, that frail piece of shit.
I tell them both to fuck off.
Then the secretary says something. She stops filing her nails, and says, “Well, they call that mo'fucker Knuckles. Know why? On account of his big, ol' razor fists. That mo'fucker done caused beheadings, I'm telling yo ass.”
I want to go punch a wall, but then, right on time, the intercom wants me.
The office is open. Examiner's behind a desk looking like he misses the fight game. Poor, sad fucker tells me to sign on the dotted line. I take my time. I give Knuckles the evil eye. I let him know this is my moment. Then I sign like I'm painting a goddamn masterpiece.
I hope you're ready, capitalism.
“Remove your shirts,” Examiner says.
Already off. Primed. Pumped. Fists up. The fight's on. Before I realise it I'm on the floor. Shit. Knuckles has me in a chokehold. Fuck. He's hitting me in the gut. Goddamn. He won't stop. On and on. And then–
There's no pain, but there is a funny splat sound afterwards. The fight is stopped. But I don't understand – I'm not dead. What the fuck?
Knuckles pukes in a bin, runs off calling for his mother. I tell Examiner to raise my arm in victory – rule a forfeit – but the dick's just standing there, staring. That's when I realise.Turns out I'm split in half. My entrails are hanging out, too.
But there's nothing Muscles can't handle!
“Don't move,” Examiner tells me. He takes out a cellphone and records. “This is the most fascinating thing I've ever seen in my life. What do you feel?”
“I feel like finishing this fight, that's what,” I say.
Mum and Dad come in, and I hear gasps.
“What did I tell you?” says Dad, the bitchass.
“Do you want to go to the hospital, son?” asks Mum.
“Fuck you,” I reply. “I don't need any help.” I use my arms as legs, and stand. More of my innards splosh on the ground. Briefly, I can manage walking. Two steps, I'm on my back again. “Oh, shit,” I begin whimpering helplessly. “I don't feel good, Mum.”
My face is full of snot and tears. What a pussy!
“It's alright, son,” she says. “Death is okay. It's not something to be embarrassed about.”
Uh-oh. I've lost feeling.
“I can see,” I whisper, “the other side.”
“What's it like?” Examiner asks.
I ignore him. “Mum, I just want to say sorry for the terrible things I've done.”
“It's okay, dear,” says Mum. “You're still special to me.” She kicks my intestines closer to my body.
“What about me?” asks Dad.
“Go fuck yourself, Dad.”
Dad cries on Mum's chest.
Examiner again. “What do you see? You must tell me.”
I keep quiet for a few seconds, then raise my middle finger. “You'll never know, ass-wipe.”
Going.
Going up. Or is it down?
Either way, they'll know I'm the man.