In the Boneyard, second rate skeletons worried at the ruptured ground with pick-axes and shovels as a hairy man prowled along the ranks with loud exhortations in the form of blatant threats. The skeletons pulled the coffins one by one from the ground and salvaged the bones of occupants inside. They drew the flesh, if there were any left, upon their faces as caricatures of their lost humanity. It was in this way they were able to build a war machine constructed entirely of human bones. At the end of the week, the Boneyard had no more dead buried, and the hairy man, now containing his unpedigreed locks within a frayed stove-pipe hat, commandeered the army of bone men pulling the bone wagon. His first act of war was to torch the dredged coffins, and it was a frightening spectacle to behold the procession of skeletons pulling a creaking, hulking structure capable of crushing any man or beast in its path, this illuminated from behind by the paroxysm of fire.
When the blood ran off his hands the war was over, and he turned his eyes to the vast, burning wasteland that marked his wake. He sighed and wiped the dead from his face, the gristle and blood falling inconsequentially onto the crimson soaked earth.
It was time to go home.
He stared at the horizon, a statue slowly sending shadow spreading with the sun’s descent. Then he ran, pounding steadfast past corpses, leaping nimbly across the eviscerated, hurtling on the tips of his toes as an avalanche of putrefying meat and rusting paraphernalia of war filled his field of vision, sending nanotech bullets into the hordes of over-ambitious scavengers tearing at the decay, reeling himself up a sheer cliff face as highly militarised alien technology silvered through the effluvia below, loping through the healing country past the bursts of wildflower and dancing insects that push from the vibrant grass, falling in a dream that shakes him awake on a cold cave floor, brushing his fingers ecstatically on the rippling wheat rolling on to the horizon that flashes as the sun sinks from view.
The thatched cottage, luminous in constellation light, sent out waves of warm heat and scent. He sank to his knees, the long strobe of days heavy on his flesh and soul. His eyes filled with the light. His voice was hoarse as he yelled at the golden vision that seemed magically there, his leaden legs finally propelling him forward to embrace her in a whirling hug sparkling with tears and litanies of love.
“A-at least I made a difference…” The effort sends blood flecking the boy’s lips. His lungs are slowly filling with blood spilling into Sarge’s lap with every cough. No, you fucking didn’t, Sarge screams, you’re just another useless fucking casualty. But the boy doesn’t hear. His eyes have gone out like the night’s last embers.
Sarge gets to his feet, the sack of meat slumping face down into the dust. He walks to the Command tent, passing rows of moaning men with filthy needles hanging from their arms. Brushing aside the tent flap, he takes out his pistol and sends a bullet into the General’s skull. A captain and lieutenant have their guns instantly trained on him. The lieutenant moves his gun hand away and shoots the captain in the stomach, his electric blue eyes inexpressive. Sarge’s moss green gaze flickers to the lieutenant’s bruised cephalic vein. “I shoot up with a saline solution,” the lieutenant says, going outside to see if anyone has heard the shots. He returns shaking his head. “We better get out of here. They won’t be too happy once they find out.”
“There’s something I want to do first,” Sarge says. He sweeps the ringstained maps from a trunk and takes from it a chunk of plasticine. The lieutenant looks at him for a moment before nodding. They arrange to meet at the outskirts of camp in fifteen minutes, and Sarge leaves for the doctor’s to cancel his prescription.
It was a maze of barbed wire and trenches stretching to the east and to the west. It smelled like a latrine. Sentries were fast asleep at their posts, guns pointed at the ground. A dog has died days ago, its bone etched flank squirming with maggots. When Sarge arrives, he finds the lieutenant with some guns, two packs of rations, and what little fresh water he could find. They look at the world their grandfathers left for them. Sarge spat on the ground.
“Let’s go north. I hear elk hunting is good at this time of the year,” says Sarge, pressing the detonator. At the center of camp the dwindling supply of heroin goes up in a pillar of fire, and the traitorous pair can hear the keening moan of the vast junkie army left without a fix. “The fresh air’ll be good for us,” the lieutenant says, smiling for the first time in years.
The arm handling the steering wheel of the Phantom VI streaking through the desert is covered with tattoos, serpentine and starred with blooms of color. The other arm, which terminates with a Ruger clenched in a tanned hand, is bare and catches the shafts of light thrown by the sunset. A cigarette dangles from a lip, blue smoke streaming past the war paint. A feather flickers from a single dread, tickling a cheek. The old, dusty engine roars as she twists the wheel around, bringing it on a hard curve, scattering the horsemen in mad pursuit. She fires the Ruger through the passenger window and a rider falls under his horse.
She floors the accelerator, the engine howling.
It sputters, shudders. To a stop in a nimbus of dust which the horsemen circle warily.
Fuck! Her emerald eyes flickers to the gas gauge. She takes a last drag from her cigarette and flings it away, pushing the door open. She fires the Ruger at the rider hurtling at her, throwing him backwards. As his horse gallops past, she grabs the reins, swinging easily onto the saddle and rides like hell, her chestnut hair snapping in the wind.
Eventually the pursuers pull in their horses and turn back home, spitting curses.
She watches them go, then rolls herself a cigarette under the stars.
As he watched the neon exhaust of the ruined jetbike recede into the darkness, dragging its mutilated, half-deceased occupant, Grendel knew the halcyon days were over. He turned and walked into his cave. He entered the river that burbled near its mouth, evaded the defense system of electronic moray eels and fire barracudas—he was never sure if it was to defend against intruders or to keep him contained—before emerging onto the pebbled shore of a looming cavern kilometres away. Dripping, he approached Mother’s monstrous bulk. Her resinous hide crawled with cables and boulder sized transistors. She was all he knew, her organic contours a constant in his half-remembered memories. The cooling system hummed in the chill darkness, efficiently venting the waste heat into the desert bordering the foothills. It wasn’t always desert there. He shivered, stroking her gently throbbing surface. He had suckled at her breast for so long, wires running from his mouth, his twitching eyes vacant with tears of luminous quantum foam. She was warm to the touch. Grendel took his hand away. It was time to go out into the world once more.
They came, a single police unit at first. He disposed of them easily, and enjoyed the sight of their burning cruiser trace the dawn before its miniature nuclear reactor disintegrated in a flash of white heat.
They sent more, this time a special weapons and tactics unit. Nobody survived and their armored hovercraft, being more resilient than the average vehicle, simply smoldered at the end of long furrows of raped earth.
The military deployed next, in tanks and Human Enhancement suits. The tanks lumbered up to the mouth of Grendel’s cave and sent salvo after salvo of armor piercing rounds. The HE-men leaped ahead and tunneled into the rock with their magnificent transmorgifying suits. Some affected drills, others made great spades of their hands and dug through the granite. Grendel grinned at the challenge, but was sorely disappointed. He appreciated the exercise, anyways; his long dormant muscles needed stretching, limbering. He danced amid the bullets, an acrobat, ballerina, and contortist. Saliva ran in gobs from his adrenaline laced laugh. A tank erupted, punctured by one of the suits. He crashed two HE-men together and watched their ruptured nanotechnology consume each other. He tossed a suit easily into a neighboring mountain, watching in pleasure the ensuing landslide. Grendel surveyed the ruins and wondered how far it would go.
Jets. Scores of them erupting from the sky like a mad horde of hornets. The space around them crackled with pinpricks of light that elongated into long trailers of blistered atmosphere. Slipstream missiles. Grendel felt wounded. They were using outdated technology on him. He shrugged, waiting for imminent impact before launching into the air. He skipped and hopped on the slender bodies of the missiles, flinging himself to the next just before they burst into scorched sky. He zig-zagged his way onto the jet of the nearest convenience, hurtling for hundreds of meters in freefall before sinking his hands into its titanium armor. The canopy, torn from its place, shot past, the pilot’s insect-like helmet reflecting his outstretched hands and Grendel’s laughing visage.
As the skies rained with ruin, Grendel’s jet hit mach 5 and entered the European Commonwealth. The jet was outfitted with the latest nuclear fuel cell and ammo teleportation technology, giving him virtually unlimited mobility and firepower. He was still laughing when he left Europe burning and set his sights on China. He was having too much fun. Grendel’s self-imposed exile was over and the world would weep for it.
When the bombs fell and the people were driven from their homes, the first indignity they suffered was the lack of personal amenities. Sure, their store lasted for a while, longer for the more prudent, prepared ones, but in a year or two, it all ran out. The shelves of fallen grocery stores lay bare with rat droppings amid the clutching vines that spread across the shattered plate glass windows. Tenements filled with corpses of addicts instinctively holing up when the drugs dried up. The giant holding gas tanks under the abandoned filling stations became enclaves of insects and small mammals. Canned food. Medicine. Toothpaste. Toilet paper. It all ran out.They bent against walls, their assholes spluttering from the rank meat they found for their starving bellies, meat sometimes half rotting crawling with lugubrious maggots. They wailed, looking about for something to wipe their arse with, sometimes settling for taking their shirt off and discarding it on the ground where wild dogs would later drag off to gnaw in the shade. Others would brave it with bare hands, holding them at arm’s length until a brook was found. Never was the simpler luxuries more appreciated.
They chose him at random.
They snap a picture of the boy crossing the street with his mother who have ice cream at the streetcorner where the Jew sells cool treats from his truck. Cuts out his profile and presses it onto celluloid. Feeds it into the machine.
“Oh, man! Look at that future!” cries the rapidly paling editor. “Fuckin’ roll of the dice.” The screen wavers with incendiary heat and in the background shadowed figures with outlines of rifles march rhythmically past the flames through corpse piled streets…their uniforms are green camouflage and a tricolored flag emblazons their helmets with stars and stripes… cruel sneer of a soldier even crueler…
The boy and his mother are plowed down by a truck as a horrified ice cream vendor looks on. The boy is in a coma, and the mother has died instantly. They snap a picture of him trussed up with tubes and needles in the hospital. His eyes are closed and blood rims his nostril. Bandages cover almost every inch of his flesh. His spinal cord is severed. He heals, but remains a paraplegic. His face is scarred, a large knot of flesh running across his nose. They press his profile into the celluloid and feed it into the machine.
“Christ… It’s like a bad movie,” the editor says, his eyeglasses reflecting the scene. They have great faceted eyes and golden carapaces. Silvery antennae boil the air above their head and blue lights lance towards the city. It crumples as if its walls were cardboard and tinfoil. Tanks discharge ineffectually against their quick insect movements. Glints of light. A skewered woman twists on a mandible and is sawed apart, dangling intestines. At the rear trundles a metallic green dung beetle attending to a giant sphere of knitted corpses. Perched on its head is a small figure. The camera zooms in on to the humanoid form and finds its body bristling with silver gadgetry. Its fists are powerful pincers. Orangegold compound eyes glitter above redglistening mandibles. A whirring of gears noises the air. It reaches and taps its temple. Its face unsheathes, sliding upwards, and it is the boy, all grown up, looking directly at them above his knot of nose.
“We’ve never had one like him before.”
The director paces in the claustrophobic room. “Gotta fix it. Can’t stop now, no, can’t stop. The show must go on! Can’t stop, no, can’t…”
The editor returns to his desk.
A litter of celluloid on the floor framing the editor’s balding scalp as he rolls film. The boy looks at them through the flickering screen. He is in a tattered hall with peeling green wallpaper, and his eyes are cold with hate above his scarred nose. He lopes down the hall towards them. He has broken the fourth wall.
“Cut! Cut, cut! For the love of God, cut!”
In his urgency to reach the projector, the editor spills boiling coffee in his lap.
“Oh!” the editor cries, clutching his crotch. “We’ve made a botch of it!”
The director jumps for the flash gun.
A ripping sound like canvas tearing.
A smell of carbine and the vinegar of hate.
A head bursts out of the screen.
The projector light shatters into frozen alien constellations.
The boy hits the floor rolling and the light splinters.
Flash! The director misses his shot.
The boy levels his gun at the director’s mouth then at the editor’s eye. He surveys the small room without a door, the camera, the ruined screen, the editor slumped over the editing table, the director’s limbs bent in symmetrical angles on a background of pale negatives, consumed by slowly pooling blood. The boy picks up a piece of celluloid and understands. His is a patchwork life. It would be remedied. He sat down and brought a loupe to his eye, wiped a speck of blood off, and set to work.
I am convinced that 1941 will be the crucial year of a great New Order in Europe. The world shall open up for everyone. Privileges for individuals, the tyranny of certain nations and their financial rulers shall fall. And last of all this year will help to provide the foundations of a real understanding among peoples, and with it the certainty of conciliation among nations. . . . Those nations who are still opposed to us will some day recognize the greater enemy within. Then they will join us in a combined front, a front against Jewish exploitation and racial degeneration.
-Adolf Hitler, Speech at Berlin Sportspalast January 1941