June 26, 2014

Good Business (draft)

There was no more peace.

A plume of smoke materialised from a grassy hill among many in the sweeping highlands, rising until it almost seemed to adjoin with the clouds in the sky. It had taken a single second for the smoke to appear, another twenty minutes for it to disperse, as the grey, clumpy mass then became part of the air it had polluted before. The flatlands were then visible again, every forseeable inch of its once-green shade now coloured coal black, all life that lived there eliminated. Even the mighty Groms, the giant praying mantis-like beings who had been peacefully grazing there not twenty minutes before, had become simple dust.

Lieutenant Briggs smiled. Watching from the edge of a table-shaped mountain, far from where the explosion had happened, he lowered his binoculars then turned around. Judging by the enthusiastic gibberish-like chittering going on, his clients were thoroughly impressed.

Before, all this seemed an absurd idea, that his clients would want their own kind blown up right in front of their ugly maws. That his clients would include the likes of stinky Groms in the first place. But he guessed they were that stupid. Hell, they were dumber than apes. Even though they were able to grip rifles with their little hairy arms, they were dumb as shit -- and that was a good thing. Having been granted police status, these Groms looking at him with their multitudes of eyes probably thought they were going to be finding heaven in a heartbeat.
Beside him, Private Carl was looking nervous, too nervous. But that's why he was in charge and not Carl. Cold, ruthless aggression.
“As you can see," Briggs said to the Groms, "timber mines are highly effective in combat scenarios, especially against soft targets. What do you think, you in or out?”
The Groms communicated amongst each other. Some fired bullets into the sky. Then one of the Groms stepped forward. To Briggs they all looked the same but when that Grom opened its beak, speaking human language, he recognised that one as the leader they had assigned. The Grom leader of New Earth.
The Grom replied, in its barely audible rasp, “<We'll take them.>”
“So," Briggs concluded, checklisting, "15 automatic rifles, 10 rounds of ammunition, 20 grenades–”
“<And don't forget the mines.>
“– and the mines,” Briggs said.

The Groms formed a tight circle, leaving Briggs out. That was indication that they were done, over. So he left the things alone, spitting at the floor. Heading down the other side of the mountain, he went through the list as soon as he got to the temporary area where they had set up. Barking orders at his soldiers in supply trucks, he finished, “Start unloading the goods. Pronto.” 
Carl took Briggs to the side just then. “Are you sure?” he asked Briggs, and that was a weird question.
“Sure about what?”
“Handing all these guns to them like this.”
Briggs paused. “They give me the willies, too, but it's company policy and we follow orders through no matter what.”

Briggs didn't respond at first. He watched the dozens of tiny Groms -- the tiny ones were the slaves to the big ones -- come out of random holes in the ground, holes that on Old Earth would look like mere molehills. But as they did so, he felt like retching. They went for the supply trucks to take what was theirs, coming in at every inconceivable direction. Soldiers handing over the crates warned for patience, but the Groms kept grabbing at anything they could, as fast as they could. Briggs smirked at the mess of a scene -- none of his men were mentally ready for something like this.

He offered Carl a reply in the form of a gentle nod, then he signaled for silence with a finger on the lips. Then he slung his right arm around Carl's shoulders and led the way. They walked over to the gunner they were riding in. Once they were out of sight, Briggs explained further, in a hushed tone, “This way, not only have we secured prime real estate for ourselves, but we've set it up so the current residents kill each other off – and at no extra cost.”

Briggs lit a match for his cigarette.
Carl found a Grom stalking the tyres of the gunner. He crouched then whispered, “What are you doing, little fucker?” In response to Carl, it poked its head up, staring at him with its many bulging, beady eyes, doing so for a long time, like it was analysing Carl. Carl kicked it away. It made an angry hiss before scuttling off.

Briggs grinned, tapping Carl on the back.
“I don't know,” Carl sighed. 
"Don't know what?" Briggs said. "What's there to know, my man?"
“Just seems like a hell of a way to settle a world.”
“Carl, you don't get it. We're at war with them already.” 
"That so?"

"Just get in."
They climbed into the gunner. Briggs took the driver's this time, Carl assumed the passenger side. They waited until the supply trucks were done emptying. Soon, one of the men whistled, meaning it was time to go.

“See, we're at war," Briggs said, keying the ignition, "but these sand fuckers just don't know it yet.”
The gunner started up with a loud sputter, drowning out the low hum coming from the underside of the vehicle, where an electronic mine was planted, ready to go off.

June 20, 2014

My_Journal.txt (draft)

I was staring inside the trash can, having one last gander at what was left of the neighbour's dead cat, that silly, bothersome animal which by now was a bloody, crumpled heap, when good, ol' father pulled up in the driveway, returning home from his trip. At quite an unexpected time too, as he had told me he'd be home much, much later.

But how happy I was to see him!
The first thing he did when he got home, without even returning my warm welcome, was sink into his favourite leather recliner, then once he had his pipe and pint and had unwound those tense muscles of his, he finally gave me some attention: he bid me to sit on the floor in front of him, as he wanted to pique my curiosity with tales from faraway Cairo.

How fascinating a story he told!

To my delight, afterwards he showed me a treasure he'd bought. To be truthful, I wasn't sure what it was at first and to this minute cannot provide an accurate description what I was shown, but if you can imagine a rusty-golden, one-fingered, glovelike apparatus, that's sort of what it looked like. Except, a bit more mangled, unshapely, ugly.

Mysteriously deemed the Anut, this was a thing apparently as ancient as the night sky - though Father had bought it for five dollars at a peddler's. I was to never touch the Anut, because, horror of horrors, it was cursed.


Never mind the fact that Father never let me touch anything of his, not even the plates he ate from, but I believed what he said, because Father was always right. The discovery that this wretched thing was cursed sent a great, cold shiver up my spine immediately when I heard it, and my body began visibly, violently shaking in fear, causing Father to have to slap my cheek so I could snap to my senses.

I listened.
Then he moved on to the next portion of the conversation. Which I had seen coming. So, wearing his serious face, he determined on his watch how long the conversation had lasted, concluded that he still had ten minutes before that part of the schedule when he was to rest in his bed, and then asked me some important questions.
Had I found a job yet? No. Had I taken my pills? No. What had I been doing all week? Nothing. Was I spending too much time in my journal again? Yes.

Sadly, I'd upset Father.

Thus, as he was to do when I misbehaved, he gave me a right whipping. But I didn't mind the pain, since taking the sting of the belt was my way of apologising to the poor man who had created and moulded me with his seed, who always worked so hard.

Again and again, I took it. Twenty times over. Whip, whip.
Father was right about me needing humbling.
Father was always right.

The following morning, I found Father lying dead; his pants had been pulled down and his bum was bare, and in the deep, deep, deep blackness situated in between his bloody thighs, something was noticeably poking out. Something else besides a portion of his intestines.

As I peered into the gape, I discerned the object to be the tip of the Anut. Indeed, it was now situated inside the confines of his rectum, obviously forced inside, to torture him, to rip him apart, to maul him, to eviscerate him, to --

What a strange find. What a mystery.

I stood still for a moment, looking at the ceiling, stroking my chin, pretending to think.

Then it came to me: someone had murdered Father!

I had to find out who had done this. I had to take revenge, seize back my father's dignity.

Argh! I couldn't believe Father was dead!

The body was gone, just like that. I looked all over the house. I couldn't find my father's body anywhere. I went outside, and – aha – there was that dastardly neighbour, removing the lid from the trash can, trying to get a glimpse of what was inside. And that wasn't very polite.
I knew he could smell what was in there, too, because why else would he have looked? Did he think I was that stupid?

When he saw me, I saw him, so I did what Father would've wanted me to do. Because Father was always right, especially about that nosy fiend of a man who happened to be our neighbour, that fool who had never returned our lawnmower.

The neighbour was off the to-visit list before I had even scribbled down the names of people Father disliked.

Quite right, my father bore many enemies, a great majority of them family, strangers more like, they who had wanted in on Father's riches a long time ago and didn't get in. Second on my list was Mother, long divorced from Father. She acted completely surprised, oblivious, moronic when I confronted her with my bevvy of questions.

But -- even though she kept denying them -- I knew better.
With Mother, you never know when she is acting or not – Father always told me that, and Father was always right.

And the list grew smaller. Smaller and smaller. From thirty-two people to zero. Still, none of them were willing to answer my damned questions!

All the uncles, aunts, cousins and common descendants pretended like they knew nothing. But I knew they knew something, I knew it because Father was always right, and eventually I began to realise they were all in on it, every single one of them. The fucking bastards.
On the seventh day, the list came to an end –

– then one day the mirror in the bathroom read, in red lipstick, “Murderer.”
How could this be? Who had done this? How had the killer evaded me so successfully?
Certain that someone was messing with my mind, and also because some police officers had come knocking on the door, I quickly left my father's house via a secret entrance, escaping via the highway by foot and booking into the first motel room, then closing all curtains, checking all wardrobes, making certain no one had followed me.

It didn't take long.

On the first night, I was struck by an epiphany so monstrous in scale, so blinding in effect, that I felt my skin turn inside out from the glow of my laptop on which I write my journal. And it was this: the perpetrator had been nearer than I thought. I smiled, laughed, cried, while a liquid warmth coursed down my upper thighs.

So many emotions.

But one emotion stood above all: Pride. And the pride I felt for finally fingering my father's killer was dampened only by the fact that I swore to murder my father's killer. I fingered myself to death.

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.”
“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 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.
“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 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 up. Or is it down?
Either way, they'll know I'm the man.

January 15, 2014

Today In The United States of Avatars

A muscular man found an appropriate moment to sneak up on two women at a restaurant table. “Feel my biceps, sis,” he told them, performing suggestive poses.
They swatted the air like he was a fly but he kept posing for them.
An officer patrolling the street saw what was happening and poked his tablet to start up iWhistle. He triggered a high-pitched noise only the troublemaker could hear, and it was so debilitating the fellow shambled over like he had been hypnotised to walk in that direction, towards his judgment.
“Why the ears?” the muscle man sulked.
“What were you doing disturbing those ladies there?” the officer demanded to know. “Putting to test your perverted pickup lines, I reckon.”
“I was trying to be friends?”
“Hold on a minute,” the officer said, scrutinising the troublemaker's appearance like he had discovered a new area of interest. “Is there something you'd like to tell me?”
The muscle man went quiet.
“You won't mind if I open up my iIllusionDestroy program here and–”
“Okay, okay,” sighed the muscle man, and when he tapped his shirt pocket, no more was he an adult with a heavy build. Now he was his true self: a young boy.
“I knew it. An avatar,” the officer remarked.
“So what?” said the boy. “It makes me cooler.”
“Don't you know using iPersonify outdoors is illegal?”
“Since when? Who says?”
“The law.”
“It's not bollocks, and don't use such foul language. It's the law. I say you're breaking it.”
“In that case, I don't care, because you can't do anything to me. I'm only nine.”
“Well, you sure will get a good wallop when I tell your mum.”
“No, no, please don't.”
“Where's your iPersonify? Where are you hiding it?”
The boy reached into his pocket. He hesitated then handed the pebble-sized device to the officer. “Everyone's doing the avatar thing,” he tried to explain, pointing at the ladies. “They're not real. Why do you have to take mine away? Why not them?”
“Friends of yours?”
“Part of a local network. I knew they were in the area. Saw on my program. Was trolling them, that's all. Wanted to have some fun. I'd never use iPersonify to fool real grown-ups, I'm telling you.”
“What version are you using?”
“1.0. I wish I had the latest, because you can do so much more, like interact with other people who have lower versions and whatever. But this is all my mum could afford to buy. And–”
“Spare me the details. What about those ladies there? What version?”
“I think they're on 1.61, because–”
“Quiet. I bet you go buy alcohol under that guise, don't you?”
“No,” replied the boy, looking down at his feet guiltily.
The ladies had just finished sharing a milkshake when the officer grabbed their shoulders. “Save me some time, won't you?” he said, softly. “Hand over iPersonify and I'll save you a trip to the slammer too.”
“But we're just a pair of attractive, grown up women having a fancy brunch and a scandalous chat, because that's what women do.”
“Right, you asked for this. I'll let iIllusionDestroy do the unveiling.”
“No, wait, fine, you've got us.”
The ladies transformed. Their heads levelled with the table's height and then they were little girls. Not without snivels and shakes, they did as told, as the officer had reached out his hand and insisted again. They mourned their loss.
“Now you've learned your lesson,” said the officer, pocketing their devices.
“But this is so, so, so unfair.”
“It's the law.”
“But everyone does it,” they said, and the boy, hiding behind the officer, nodded in agreement. “Everyone in this restaurant is using iPersonify. How can we be doing wrong? I mean, our mums just bought us ours yesterday at the mall. I don't understand. I hate you.”
“The fact is, this is illegal junk, and that means you're not allowed to own these things. Do you understand? And – wait – what do you mean by everyone?”
The girls showed him to the indoor section of the restaurant. A man in a corner was smoking a cigar, peeping over a newspaper every now and then to watch three chatting women nearby at a different table. Elsewhere, there was a couple holding hands and a tall chap having a dance to no music. And in the middle of it all, a grey alien humanoid, waving for someone, anyone to notice it.
The mad officer stormed in and shouted for their attention. “You lot of Otakus are sad, pathetic, depressed, lonely losers who need to learn how to live life like normal people do,” he ranted. “My word. No wonder this country is going downhill. Don't you read the news? Don't you know what you're doing is illegal?”
None of them said anything. They seemed unsure of what to say.
“You will all hand over your iPersonify gadgets this instant.”
“I don't know what you're talking about,” said the newspaper man.
“What he said,” said the alien.
“Or will I have to use my iIllusionDestroy and find out the hard way and maybe give you lot a taste of prison life? Do you know what they do to tech-fraudsters? Your choice, guys.”
Silence. And then they cooperated. Altogether, they changed into teens. The officer went around and, to groans and sighs, confiscated their devices. Then he had ten quantities of iPersonify.
“Excuse me,” someone with a high voice interrupted. The officer hadn't noticed the spectacled man who was in some dark, hidden corner, playing with an assortment of various devices. The well-equipped fellow had his hand raised in the air like he was in a classroom. He was enthusiastic about being picked.
The officer turned to him and sneered. “Are you also hiding something from me, nerd?”
“Actually, no. But I happened to hear you mention iIllusionDestroy. The thing is, no such program exists.”
“Nope, nope, nope, you're wrong. It's a police–”
Someone turned the entertainment monitor loud just then. A newscaster was describing the appearance of a man who was going around with a hacked avatar stealing iPersonify devices from unsuspecting children. Everyone in the room stared the officer down while the newscaster continued.
...wears a police uniform; has a moustache; shaved chin; a very red face; big booty...”
The officer began walking backwards, giggling nervously. Everyone got up from their chairs and activated laser knives.
“There's no need for violence, friends,” urged the officer.
“I agree,” said the spectacled man.
“Listen to the nerd boy, guys,” agreed the officer.
“Yes, please. Everyone take a seat.”
And everyone did.
“Because we all know how to handle real losers.” The spectacled man whipped out a gun and fired a beam. It was an instant hit. The officer watched his body fade into blackness, and as his clothes disappeared, all the iPersonify gadgets fell on the floor.
And as a result of the shot, the officer became who he really was: a fat thirty-year-old.
“I was just trying to have a bit of fun, mates,” the fat man explained, scratching warts. He looked around, saw the dirty looks he was getting and then ran away from the restaurant, frightened for his life. He ran so fast he tripped in the street, and then he got up and ran again. Until a drone came to pick him up into the air and take him away. And then his attempt at an escape was useless.
Everyone in the restaurant got their devices and turned their avatars back on again.