“There we are – demented children mincing about in clothes that no one ever wore, speaking as no man ever spoke, swearing love in wigs and rhymed couplets, killing each other with wooden swords, hollow…
Source: Jordan Peele’s Us: Untethered
“There we are – demented children mincing about in clothes that no one ever wore, speaking as no man ever spoke, swearing love in wigs and rhymed couplets, killing each other with wooden swords, hollow…
Source: Jordan Peele’s Us: Untethered
“Physician, heal thyself.”
— Luke 4:23
It’s a caution: of the boogey.
“Beware the Nats.” The old tales say. “They carry the Novax.”
Back cycles ago, no other chill was strongest than a call, or word of Novax. Fore the Disunity, and the Interregnum, and the supposed “Great Reunity,” a people went their own way. They believed the Land — all of it — healthy, holy, sacred. That all that grows from the ground is good. And all that came from making and artifice was sick, unclean … cursed. They espec feared the start of aughts, or a state of oughts: running from them, making themselves Sep from techne, from gleaning, that everything of the Land would save them, that all other things were poison.
They looked to find Dise, and discovered Doom instead.
They made themselves no defense … agon the old horrors. They were not immune. Droves of them, the old tales said, from Mas and Fem to their childer, dropped. They were all over every Land, as well as our own: not just in the South but the North too. And that was the most abominate of all.
Where they sat, ate, drank, shat, coupled, or stilled they brought it with them — the Novax — sickened and killing all people with them. And it spread during the Interregnum, just like they did, into the Repo Fiefdoms and the Demos Brigaders and away from them. When the Disunity happened, they fled. They left — becoming Resists — even during the Unquiet in the most distant parts of our Land: trying to get back to the Land, the old tales say, to the soil, to everything that grows.
That’s one way why, after a while, even though they once proudly — vainly — named themselves Novax, they became called the Nats.
They should have died. All of them. Espec during the Dark Times when medicine was low, for everyone, on both sides of the Wall.
Many found were purged, the ones that didn’t fall on their own. We had our own Reunity, made our medicines and techne for our defense. So many sick, then, and dying, we drove the plague-bares fore they could spread into our Prides, our Spectra, from the Borders into the deepest Badlands. Many went on their own, for new Land: to be isolate. Pure. They never came back. We thought it was over.
We still use the Interface. We glean there are still pockets of their spots in the North, even in our Lands now. Some even try to adopt into our Prides. We deal with them. But the plague-bares, the Great Infests, are mostly old tales now. Old fear fire stories to scare childer.
We were born of theory-head, of Sacred Thot, when they made Mas bleed.
We tell the other Spectra what they need to glean. It was why we were born. Agents of the Heterodox are still in us, and sometimes the Joys and Llangs still listen, even now when they are playing HetSoc. Utter abominate what they will do. We do not need mech-wooms. Our surrogates, our Vessel of Trade, between the loyal Prides do us just fine. We’ve not the numbers to deal with that infection in the Spectra, just enough brethren and sestra left behind to fight the Traitors, to deal with the soul — the purity — disease.
We were the scourge. We burst their pockets among others. Stamped out their spots, and drowned their flesh-fires. Sent a few back to the Heterodoxy and their Dark Age. Sent more to die in the Badlands. Long, the Heterodox claimed we were sick, but they made us sick, made us swallow the sickness they didn’t want, made it internal in us. But this — we would not countenance this. We …
Those calling themselves Novax were purged by our own fire. Our Prides buried their fallen. The Nats were exterminate. We spread only word, and sight: our historia made safe again.
Yet now, brethren and sestra, is the truth. We were born to tell and fight. To purge. We were gleaned that Silence is the Foe of All Spectra. Of the HetSoc and their Heterodoxy. But here, now, we take the tool — the other armament of the Oppressor. We use it to prevent the spread of the Willing Sickness.
Again, the Nats — their infest — lives. It has become adapt. They are still adapts, even in the middle of the Badlands that kill us when we go in too far. Maybe they were left in the ruined Domes, deep in the Badlands. Maybe Domes are caerns. Toom-woom incubae, spreading infests of the plague-bares. Somehow, even now, they grow. They rise in isolate, and move out. Just coming into their Resists enough to catch the dread Novax. They do not fight. They never have. They are have strong Resist. Their bodies keep the horrors in them and fight for them, agon us. They are even dangers when they are dead. Espec dead. In numbers.
And we were made, from blood, to fight all Sickness. Our fore goal.
We are still Mas and Fem, Monog and Nonmonog strong. We try. We must be main the scourge and the flame, the word and the silence. The infests, the Resists, go deeper than we glean. We keep this from the Joys and the Llangs and their toys, the Binary and Trans Gen Traitors: Heterodox agents and infests of Poison Mas that will one day be Sepped permanate. Most of us stay here, near the Badlands — deeper — our lives sacrifice. Many have joined the Nats, the Novax taking the body but not our purity. Our hearts stay with the earth. We must memor our oath agon the dangers, and the tribuls. We must bring it all to bare.
We are the fire that Climbed the Walls of Sickness. We will keep the Prides Liberate, and destruct those that turn on us. We will keep back the Sickness made by the Heterodoxy. We do what we must to guard the Spectra, and keep it all clean.
We are Meides, and we have Hearts of Stone.
(c) Matthew Kirshenblatt, 2019.
An old attempt at mythological revisionism, and an alternate history: depending on how you want to view this. It was a gift to my father, and myself. Somehow, I think it appropriate: at least, to my own experience.
“And every spring,” the old kohen told them, “we celebrate the days of Passover.”
“Isn’t Passover based off of the ancient pagan fertility rituals of spring?”
The old man beamed at the young woman. “I’m glad you asked that. The answer is yes. Spring itself is a renewal of the world’s life cycle. The Elohim created us all: making the times of our lives mirror the seasons of the Earth. We are born in spring, young in summer, in our middle years in autumn, and we pass away in our winter. Many of the ancient pagans saw this truth as well, but they viewed each season and element within it as a god in itself. However, we see it as part of the cycle of all things that the Elohim set in motion.”
“So, kohen, spring isn’t just a time of birth, but rebirth as well?”
“Yes.” The old priest said, reclining back into his pillows. “All life is created and destroyed conversely to allow for life to flourish again.”
“But kohen, we are born, we grow old, and we die … yet we do not come back.”
“That is correct. We live a linear existence. Like you say, we are born, we live, and we die. Yet our world and the generations of us live in a cycle of life, death, and rebirth. We live on through our descendants, our plenitude, and through the dust in which we return we even live through the ecosystems of our world. We now know that in this way we are all eternal.
“When Pharaoh held us — our ancestors — as slaves in Egypt we were stuck in winter: in an endless cycle of toil and suffering that only ended in Death.”
“But kohen, Passover took place in the Desert.”
The priest laughed. “Yes, my child. But the deepest Desert can be as stark as the coldest winter night of all: a place of extremity where life barely survives and that which does is all the sturdier — all the hardier — for it. Yet no thing could live there without the blessing of the Elohim. And we would never have lived at all as we are now without Moses: the King of the Hebrews.
“He was the descendant of Joseph — beloved advisor to Old Pharaoh — descendant of Jacob who took his brother’s birthright, descendant of Isaac who was spared by the Elohim, and descendant of Abram who turned away from the gods of Ur to begin the Elohim’s legacy.
“Though the Patriarchs were great, they had only succeeded in taking Canaan: the Land of Milk and Honey. They made no cities nor did they cultivate the land that was given to us. Eventually, it became fallow and Joseph–who was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers — allowed us to live among those that ruled the Egyptians as friends and advisors. Yet the former rulers of the Nile — the Hyksos — were driven away after Joseph’s lifetime and we were made into slaves by the new Egyptian dynasty.
“Moses’ story, you already know. The Pharaoh harboured great fear that a male child of the Hebrew people would overthrow him. Yet while the other baby boys were slaughtered his mother sent him in a basket down the Nile. To this day, the Egyptians believe the Nile to be sacred and that it–and their gods–blessed Moses while others considered him a new incarnation of their hero or their own god. We believe, however, that the Elohim blessed him to begin his work: our work.
“He was found and adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter: raised and schooled amongst the elite of Egypt while we toiled. Yet blood told and he knew us as his own. After he killed a cruel overseer, Moses fled: fled into the Desert of Egypt’s Lower Kingdom. It was there that the Desert became the crucible that changed him and the Elohim spoke to him through the vessel of the burning bush. From that point on, Moses was transformed. He was not a god, of course, but neither was he completely mortal. Instead, he became a white-haired messenger of the Elohim.
“And so he came back to Egypt and fought its sorcerers with his superior magic. He brought plagues upon the Egyptians when they refused to let his people go. The heir of the Pharaoh–the Prince–attempted to kill Moses and only the tribesmen of his first wife’s people saved him: may their descendants be honoured forever.
“Yet when the final plague killed all the first-born of Egypt — young and old and including the wicked Prince — the Pharaoh realized his mistake. He and his own priests believed that Moses was not only the incarnation of their Horus, or a demigod (of which we do not believe), he also proved himself by the divinity surrounding him and his cause to be the rightful heir of Egypt.
“Thus Pharaoh released the Hebrews from bondage and gave Moses the Blue Crown. They executed the most wicked of the slavers, overseers, and those who defied Moses as Pharaoh. Yet the Egyptians were allowed to keep their ways — their own understanding of the Elohim — while they were also allowed to adopt ours as well. Men and women were honoured — as they are today — as vital aspects of the Elohim. Yet this in itself was not good enough for Moses: our King.
“And hence the true story of the Exodus. Moses remembered his promise to the Elohim and his people. He decided to reclaim the land of Canaan — the Land of Milk and Honey — that we abandoned centuries ago. He took an entire Egyptian host and all those among us that he raised and trained. It was during this long time that he created the Sacred Code of Conduct that we live by — the Twenty Commandments — to make us stronger and more disciplined.
“Yet even the might of all Egypt and Hebrew combined could not withstand the intense heat of the Desert for long. Even when Moses parted the Dead Sea with his power, there was still much distance to travel even by Chariot. Our crude travel flatbread ran out almost as soon as our drinking water. Many soldiers and people died. Weapons cannot be held under the intense heat of the sun. Shields cannot protect burning skin. Riches cannot in themselves slate parched throats.
“It was only when Moses, his brother Aaron and his disciples — when we all of us prayed for deliverance — that the Elohim answered our prayer. Remember, children, he or she that does not recite the Story of Manna has not fulfilled the essential requirement of the Passover ceremony.
“One night, it fell from the heavens. Some say it rained down. Others say that small red birds from paradise itself brought them to us. But whatever the case, our ancestors woke up to find great white flakes coating the ground. Moses ordered us to gather and make from them cakes and breads. And he said that each night as we approached the Land of Milk and Honey, it would rain food, mennu …or as we know it manna. Manna,” the old kohen paused, “was like celestial hoarfrost, snow, or,” his eyes twinkled at the youngest smiling children, “frosting. It is said that it tasted like cookies or wafers of honey; that could be melted and condensed into the sweetest of juices; and that no matter of the form it could also fill a human being’s appetite. Some in the world call manna ambrosia: the nectar of the gods. But we see it as the salvation of our ancestors by the Elohim.
Photo Credit: The Gathering of the Manna by James Tissot
“Afterwards, there were enough stores of manna to revitalize us, the Egyptians, and their vassals. And we took Canaan and we created a new nation and way of life for the entire world. Yet the story of Passover — the true story — is not how the Shadow of Death passed over the sons of Israel by tyrants or the slaying of the Egyptian first-born and Death sparing our own.
“Rather, the story of Passover is the Story of Manna. And to complete our ritual tonight, look at the feast of Manna bread in front of you and all the food and wine that our ancestors began to run out of in the Desert. Look upon the food of our Judean Empire, eat, drink, be merry, and celebrate life.”
And so the kohen and his disciples looked down at their frosted breads and cakes — at their feast — and they began to eat.
This is a graphic Get Out and Us crossover fanfic containing racism, graphic violence, and revenge. This is set in the sandbox of Jordan Peele. Reader’s discretion is advised.
Philomena King hides in the parlour with a flashlight.
The lights have gone out in their home. Everything has shut down. First, they were watching the news about that dreadful business. Rioting on the streets, looting, murder, rape. Perhaps it is the Race War that the Order had been concerned about in the 1970s. Heavens only knew, Roman Armitage had actually told them to expect this before his … transmutation. Philomena has never really paid attention to the particulars of this conflict, certainly not in the sense that Roman, or his son Dean, or even Logan would have understood: just that it was all the more reason to behold the Coagula, and become the next generation … the winning side.
But then the power went out. And she can’t find her husband anywhere. The police, whose commissioner is a personal friend of her husband’s … even he wasn’t answering their phone calls before the line gave out entirely.
And then, the noises began. They had both heard movement outside. Logan had gone to check, with his old shotgun. She told him to be careful. It has been two years, but even with his young, strong, chocolate body she can still taste her husband on her lips. She still sees him, in the twinkle of his eye, as he reassures her. It is just deer, he tells her, or animals. Heaven forfend that it is the beasts of this strange, millennial “flash mob” assault on their society: the one that the Order had been in the process of saving by preserving the minds and souls of titans of industry and science, of wealth and power, like Logan. This is what marijuana will get you, she thinks to herself, and a culture embracing fornication without the sanctity of marriage, and the order of more enlightened brains.
Perhaps … perhaps these ruffians, these hooligans in the red uniforms — those Antifa hoodlums and the Klan from Charlottesville — are the ones behind all of this: spreading their conflict throughout the whole nation.
Philomena, Mrs. Logan King, also admits to herself that for all of her husband’s power, and that of their friends, she is scared. The poor Armitages were gone, tragically killed in a fire. Poor Missy, and the brilliant Dean, their son Jeremy, and that sweet girl Rose. And Marianne and Roman, after their transmutation had succeeded. All gone. She knows how upset Logan is. Roman had been Logan’s friend for ages, and with the deaths of Dean and Missy, the Order of the Coagula’s greatest achievement had been lost.
She knows how keen Logan had been to secure her a new body, a new young host so that they could continue life together in the new world order. He never says anything, but she knows how devastated he was. He and the other Families, they all hoped to salvage what they could: to continue the transmutations, and give them a way … She has full confidence in her husband. They have been together, married, for decades. They will have more years, more centuries together. Some of the others of the Order still remain in all other places. They will regroup, and gather. They have the resources. And there is still time.
A sudden crackling sound breaks the tense silence. Philomena shrieks, putting the flashlight in front of her, quailing backwards near the sofa.
“Run, rabbit run, rabbit, run, run, run …”
A faded, melodious voice echoes through the room. Philomena gasps, her heart pounding in her chest as she sees a familiar figure, a silhouette, in front of the recorder player.
“… Logan?” She breathes. “Logan …” She gets to her feet. “You scared me half to death.” Relief fills her, followed by a spike of anger. “What is the meaning of …”
He turns around. Philomena opens her mouth, and then leaves her jaw hanging slack … as he walks forward, the object in his hands a golden, swift, moving blur in the glancing afterimage of the falling flashlight. Backing away, her chest filled with icy terror, Mrs. Logan King, Philomena, barely even has time to scream.
“Get back here!” Logan King hollers, chasing after the fleeing shape with his shot gun.
He saw him. He knows he saw him. The boy. The one from Lake Pontaco. He’d been told that Chris Washington was going to become the new host for that sarcastic, cynical blowhard Hudson. But then the Armitage residence burned down, killing everyone inside … destroying everything. All those years of good work, and achievement. Gone. He hadn’t told Philomena the extent of it. He hadn’t the heart.
He and the rest of the Order had agents in the police force and forensics, even if by necessity they didn’t know the extent of their masters’ work. Everything in the building had been unrecognizable, except dental records. But Marianne had died in a car crash. And Rose … the girl had been shot in the stomach, seemingly from his old friend’s — Roman’s — shotgun, while Roman himself had inflicted on himself a fatal head injury.
But Logan remembers. Andrew hasn’t been a bother to him in a long time. It had been two years, but the young man he once was had finally accepted his fate. Dark, youthful energy combined with old money and wisdom. He understood, now, what the two of them — what Logan King — can provide them. His guidance will continue to shepherd him, as will those that had also won transmutation and coagulation. But the experts had only found the Armitages, and the hosts of Roman and Marianne. Even the remnants of Hudson.
Yet they found no one else.
Chris hadn’t been in the wreckage. Logan hadn’t forgotten him. He remembers the boy and, in particular, his camera. He may have taken a great deal of photographs that day. He certainly did of him.
And now, here he is. He’s here.
“Get back here, Christopher!” He shouts, firing a shot into the distance, but losing him, him moving so fast into the trees. “You won’t get me! You will pay for what you did to the Order! To us!”
They offered the young photographer a chance of a lifetime. To be a host. To be accepted into the family. Into the Order. And he knows. He knows that Roman didn’t kill his own granddaughter. He knows the Armitages didn’t die from negligence or ill-maintenance of their home, despite what he and the others had the police report. They couldn’t pursue Chris officially. That was too risky. And even if he had photographs, it didn’t mean anything. They had done nothing wrong, nothing he could have documented. Even if he had worn the body of a friend of his, he could easily tell them that Andrew had found new love and that love itself had no boundaries. Didn’t the Order already prove that!? And Chris took that away from them!
He is a plant! He has to be! He sees the other’s uniform! Just like the rioters on the television! It is the Race War! The one that Roman warned them could happen. They hadn’t been foolish. Even Dean Armitage had been extremely concerned with the Elections, wishing for the millionth time that Obama could have had another term. If Logan hadn’t know any better, the forty-fourth President could have easily been one of them.
Someone had been hunting them. For two years, the other families had been growing … quiet. The Greenes. The Wincotts. The Jeffries. The Waldens. Even Tanaka hadn’t been returning his calls for a while, before he realized what had happened. Officially, everyone — even Philomena — believed they had died of old age, heart-attack, stroke, cancer, or just retired to Florida, the Bahamas, or the Cayman Islands.
Those were just cover stories. They had been murdered. All of them. In gruesome ways. Even the transmuted members, especially them. Some of them remained alive, of course, or in hiding, but it didn’t make sense. The Order had always been discreet, aside from that one unfortunate incident in 1963, when Roman and a much younger Dean had attempted to transplant the brain of a dying popular politician into a colored … a Black man, hoping they could get him to work with them, but whose memory lapses made him all but useless. And he had actually been a volunteer … But someone knew who they were, where they were, what they were capable of … and enough about their security to deal with them: to send a message.
That they were coming for them all.
Andrew’s youth feeds him with adrenaline, but Logan’s rage is his own as he thinks of what this boy has cost them all: he and the people he’s been working with. He must have been an agent of theirs. And now, he thinks he can come here and take what’s theirs away! It’s bad enough he destroyed the process that could save his beloved wife, that he had to hide all of this from her so as not to terrify her out of her wits, but now he and his friends have the temerity to come onto his property, and into his home to take what belongs to them!
There is no way that Logan King will let that happen.
He follows him deeper into the wood. He doesn’t know where his security team is, or the staff. Everything has gone mad now that this group has gone public. But their home still has defenses. He told Philomena to wait for him. He knows the rest of the Order, the ones no one could track or kill, and his agents in the police will be here soon. But he will be damned if some black pup, who wasted his potential, will terrify him.
And then … there is a flash.
It hits Logan. A spike right in his brain. He blinks. He shoots in the direction of the flash, the camera flash. There is another bright, poignant moment of light. He feels something trickle down his nose. No. He knows what this is. He tries to shoot again, but he … can’t aim. His arms are not steady. They are shaking. Just like they did before his rebirth. No. Now he knows what this is. He knows what the other is trying to do …
Logan drops the gun. The round goes off. He screams, the shot deafening him. There is a red shape. A blur. It hits him. He falls down, rolling through the leaves and the grass. His favourite strawhat … he feels it caught off his head in the wind. There are footsteps. And then … nothing.
He sways to his feet. Something is clamoring in him, but he … he ignores it. He looks around, splaying his fingers through the grass … But he can’t find it.
His gun is gone.
His heart beats fast. His anger is slowly eroding into what has been lying underneath it, in its own sunken place. Terror.
He hears footsteps. Not just one set. But a few.
“Run rabbit, run rabbit, run, run, run …”
That music. Logan furrows his pounding forehead. He remembers this song. It’s loud. It’s coming from his house. Through loudspeakers. He looks around, lost in the dark, trying to find a way out of this.
“Bang, bang, bang, bang goes the farmer’s gun …”
He recalls Dean’s griping about deer. He even told Philomena that the noises outside their home were just animals on their land.
“Run rabbit, run rabbit, run, run, run …”
Logan King begins to run.
The music, that song. He and Roman used to listen to it, back in the Dirty Thirties. He played it for his grandchildren. But it feels different now. It has another connotation. He thinks he hears something … shriek. Something holler. An animalistic cry, followed by another inhuman sound. What is going on? Logan doesn’t understand. He is afraid. And his fear is matched and multiplied by …
“Don’t give the farmer his fun, fun, fun ….”
A bright light burns through his retinas. Logan clutches his head. He hears something shout. There is a clang of metal. A scraping. A … sniping sound coming closer. Red blurs coming in and out of the forest. It’s harder to move his legs. It’s like he is fighting against molasses. Lactic acid burning through his lungs. His breath wheezes, rattling through his lungs — youthful lungs won with his wonderful, strong, lithe dark body — a sound he never thought he would hear again after his rebirth and combination with the young man that had so graciously been volunteered to extend his life.
He rolls down the hill. The calls are coming closer. Logan tries to get up. He’s hit his head or the flash has burned through his brain. His body … it’s fighting him.
“We-we will die …” Logan rasps out, coughing, talking to himself, talking to him. “P-please. Andrew we need …”
Then, Logan sees someone standing over them … over him. He is dressed in a red jumpsuit. And out of the bushes, and trees, several more figures come out. Something hard smashes him in the face. And he sees no more lights. Only darkness.
“He’ll get by without his rabbit pie …”
Logan King wakes up. He’s in his parlour. He can hear his own record player playing … playing that song … that infernal song.
He is sitting in his easy chair, but he feels the cold bite of circular metal around his wrists and ankles. He looks down. It’s still dark, even with the dim illumination nearby. Someone has lit the fireplace. He sees that he has been handcuffed.
And … there are several figures around him.
Something jars in his head, fighting to get out. He sees one of the figures. They are holding something.
He winces. It can make it out. It’s a can. A plain metal can. And the other, they have a fork.
The dull metallic sound is arrhythmic to the song from the record player. It is making Logan’s head hurt. He sees another form, kneeling in front of another shape prone on the floor.
“Who …” Logan starts. “Who are you … people. Where … where is my wife? Where is …” He groans, wriggling around. “W-where is Mena …”
There is no answer. The figure with the can continues to tap it with the fork. Logan smells something odd, almost a memory … except there is no antiseptic with it. No conversation from a video lens and a hospital bed, or an operating table.
“W-what is going on!” Logan roars, wincing at the pain, but trying to turn his fear back into anger. “What are …”
And then, the power comes back on. Or perhaps, it is turned back on. Logan looks at each of the figures. His eyes widen. No. This … this isn’t possible, he thinks to himself. He read the reports. He saw them. There is no way …
“Missy?” He says to the red garbed figure, with her tin can and fork. “Jeremy … Rose …” He looks at the others. “Marianne … Roman? Roman, is that you? No … you were dead. I … I saw the photographs. I … I was there!”
The Armitage Family, the Order of the Coagula, stand before Logan. They are dressed in red jump suits. He blinks, and sees that they are … paler. There are more shadows under their eyes. Somehow, they even seem more gaunt. Even Marianne and Roman, for their new dark skin, are more sallow. And he can … he can see … Their scars? There is nothing expert, or smooth about them. They have not been made by a professional surgeon, never mind a butcher. And why … why does Rose have a bandage wrapped around her stomach. And … Jeremy? The young man’s face … it is all bloated and distorted. Like it had been broken and badly reset. It’s disgusting. Marianne is moving awkwardly, like she had with her old body, but she looked hurt. He can see more scars on her body. And Roman … half of his face … The injuries are all crude imitations of what he saw in the photographs.
And all of them are carrying golden scissors.
“My god …” Logan feels his gorge rising. “What … what is happening? Is this … did you purge us? But … why? This wasn’t part of the plan? You organized this entire uprising? But … our plan … we were going go to gradually take over … to continue in the new generation. Roman … what are you … W-where …” He shakes his head at the screaming inside of it. ‘Where is Mena! What did you …”
And then, he sees the other figure get up. It’s Dean. His neck is scarred and at an awkward angle. There is no intelligence in his eyes, only a vacant malice. Yet his hands are the same. Steady, clever, patient. He sees the blade. And finally, he sees him lift an object towards them. His wife, Missy, makes a guttural sound which he returns. Logan can see a wound on her face. He understands these injuries and scars are all self-inflicted. But that thought is drowned out by what Dean is carrying. He walks across the room, towards another figure. Chris … he is with them. He’s holding his camera. A malicious smile is on his face, his white teeth a barring contrast with his dark skin, and cotton … cotton stuffed in his ears.
But Logan sees the object. He can’t turn away. It’s a head with half of its skull removed expertly. Its brain is exposed. Philomena’s face stares out at all of them, blankly, in frozen terror.
“M-Mena!” Something inside of Logan shatters forever. “Mena!”
He goes slack. It’s like he’s dying all over again. He sees Dean awkwardly pat Chris on the shoulder, who comes closer to him … with the camera. But he keeps moving as the others watch him, as Missy keeps clanging her fork against the tin. Over and over and over again.
“Run rabbit. Run rabbit, run, run, run …”
“Stop …” Logan wheezes, tears flooding in his eyes. “St-stop it …”
But through all of it, he sees Dean approach another figure. He sees him. He tall, and dark. Slender. His hair is thick. There is a scar around his forehead. It looks eerily familiar. He takes the head … his dear wife’s head. He looks at Logan. Then back at the head. Logan sees the man has a beard. And then … he remembers. He knows why this man is so familiar.
The impossibility of all of this floods Logan with numbness as he sees the other take Philomena’s head … and throw it into the fireplace.
“No …” Logan sobs. “No …”
Then, the man with his face … the face he chose, comes towards him. He sees a pair of golden scissors with blood and hair and gore on their tips. As for the other figures … The flashing lights begin again, accompanied by the clanging, ripping something out from deep inside of him.
And Logan King begins to scream.
“So ev’ry Friday that ever comes along
I get up early and sing this little song …”
U-Lee watches it happen.
He watches as Sate continues flashing his camera into … into his original’s body’s eyes. He hears the clang of Misses’ fork on her tin, driving them on, marking their new time against the old. Atlanta, with her deep frown, and William, with his hulking, restless body stand by along with John. Thorn, for her part, gravitates towards Sate as Deacon goes back to throw the woman’s body into the fire.
U-Lee comes closer. He sees the man, wearing his face, writhing in agony. Blood is pouring out of his nose and eyes. Sate grins as his camera, without a memory card, or image keeps bathing his victim in unforgiving light. Blank, waxy paper keeps falling to the ground from the old, vintage, 1980s camera. Their captive is howling, begging for mercy, convulsing with each flash of light, receiving no reply other than Misses banging on her tin next to his ear: her eyes intent and cold.
Then, the light in the man’s eyes seem to die. His face shifts. U-Lee watches it happen. He is glad he turned the power back on, after getting everyone through the security of this place, and dealing with the guards and defenses. He scratches at his beard. There is something he wants to see. Something he can’t name yet.
The other’s face changes. He sees the man … his expression looking more … familiar …
U-Lee holds up a hand and both Sate, and Misses stop. There is only silence, aside from a quiet weeping. U-Lee kneels down at the young man’s side. His face is twitching, hard and fast. Blood is pouring out of his nostrils into his mouth. But there is something else looking at him, at U-Lee. It looks closer to a mirror now. A distorted mirror.
A small, tentative smile forms on Dre’s broken face from the chair: an expression U-Lee barely recognizes as … relief. He speaks. His voice a whisper reminiscent of their Messiah.
“T-thank you …”
Then, his eyes roll back into his head, replaced by the terror of the other … thing inside of him. U-Lee takes his scissors, golden and perfect: baptized already in an original’s blood. He notices the man looking at his gloved hand as he raises them up … plunging them down into his skull.
Over and again …
U-Lee feels the splattered warmth on his face by the time he is done. There is still enough of his original’s face left to see his staring eyes. He looks down on him, as he reaches out his hand, not his gloved one … he bare one. And shuts them.
Thorn comes over to him, with Sate having one arm around her. They bump into each other. Their arms flail a little, but find purchase against one another. John and W take the body off of the chair, bringing it to Deacon. They place it on the floor as they had the other. They are going to leave soon. U-Lee feels the call, the plan, the impulse setting in, for all to be united. For no one to be left alone. No one to be left behind in the maze … lost …
They were Tethered to these creatures that hurt each other for gain. Now, they are only Tethered to each other. As U-Lee and the others wait for Deacon to be finished, to discard the bad parts into the fire, he hums along, along against the tune of the record player, discordant, uncaring.
“Don’t give the farmer his fun, fun, fun
He’ll get by without his rabbit pie
So run rabbit, run rabbit, run, run, run.”
Recently, I read an article by Noah Charney about Davie Bowie and William Boyd’s connection to an obscure American abstract expressionist artist Nat Tate, operating in the mid-twentieth century, who destroyed most of his paintings,…
Gabe Wilson sits wearily in the ambulance with his daughter. He’s worn and tired. Zora huddles with him. He’s exhausted, and hurt but he holds the bat against him like a talisman against the absolute fuckery of this entire situation. He slumps his shoulders, letting Zora lean into him. He looks at her, and realizes just how strong she’s been: strong a way that she should never have been strong …
He sees her driving the Tylers’ car into the girl that looks exactly like her, the mirror version of his baby girl’s eyes vague and almost uneven, and filled with a vacant hatred.
He looks down at his hands. He should have been strong for her. For his family.
Gabe feels the man wearing his face, a snarling brute son of a bitch, easily dragging him away through the shards of glass, putting him onto that damned boat he’d been so proud of, pushing him in, the other trying to drown him, that piece of shit motor finally dragging the other off him instead to drown like a mad dog …
It’s all catching up with him, now that the adrenaline is wearing off. In some ways, it’s worse than actually being hunted by these … things. Because now, he has to remember it. He has to recall just how useless he was, how all his swagger, and ignorance of his wife Adelaide’s fears, his cockiness in thinking he could get crazy with those … bugmotherfuckers at his wife’s parents’ cottage, and how it was Adelaide that always picked up the pace, who did the work, who put him in his place when he couldn’t even protect her, or their children, couldn’t even get to …
He sees Jason’s double, the growling child with the mask, his face all burned underneath, as Jason walks backwards and his twin walks into the fire, burning … watching the other wearing his son’s body die while he did nothing …
“Jason …” He groans. “Adelaide …”
She’d run off, after him. The other … the other woman wearing his wife’s face must have snatched him. It was Adelaide’s worst fear. Her youngest, young like she had been, like she had tried to tell him back at the cottage, was gone. But he hadn’t wandered off like he had at the beach. He was taken. He …
He feels his daughter clutch his hand. He exchanges a look with her, seeing her eyes wide. He looks up, from the ambulance. As he does so, Gabe remembers something else. Maybe it’s the blood on the stretcher. It might be the beautiful Santa Cruz summer sunlight that heralded the start of their vacation away from the cottage, shining on them, still warm even now. They’d come in and saw a man, an older man with long, messy, greying hair on a stretcher. They tried to make sure that Jason and Zora didn’t see, he and Adelaide, but they saw it. The man with the tattoo on his forehead.
And now, standing in front of them is the silhouette of another man, dressed in red, in another damned red jumpsuit, with long grey hair going down his back. His hands, Gabe can see them, are caked with drying blood. He recalls the picture Jason drew from the beach, the one Adelaide told him about, and he laughed off.
“Zora …” Gabe says, getting in front of her, as he would be damned if one of these fuckers came for his child, he would not face Adelaide with another failure when she came back with Jason. “Get behind me …”
And then, as the man began to turn around, the twin of the man whose dead body may have been in this very ambulance, other figures began to come towards them from either side.
Gabe watches them come. He isn’t feeling anything anymore. He’s numb. Zora doesn’t hide behind him. She comes to his side. He is about to tell her, again, to get back, but he sees a look in her eyes. The same as Adelaide’s. He sees them come towards them.
Gabe Wilson hefts the bat in front of him as best he can. There is only one real thing he can say now, at this point.
With a wordless cry, a husky, rasping Adelaide Wilson wraps the chains of the handcuffs around Red’s throat. She sees the tear continue to trail down the other woman’s face. A part of her, some distant, lost, rational part of her knows that the woman is probably already dead. As resilient as the Tyler girl had been, she knows intellectually, that getting impaled with that one, instinctual, back-stab is a mortal wound.
Red’s eyes, almost dumb, so bovine, and deceptively docile now the hate animating them is draining away — seem to plead with some old sadness, some lost realization, but Adelaide is having none of it. She feels her mouth turn into a rictus of animal rage at this … thing that cut her, taking pieces off of her with each song movement, each dance. This shadow that hurt her family. That haunted her entire life. This is going to end. Adelaide can’t feel sympathy for her shadow.
There is a terrible, lingering, hiss and it takes Adelaide a moment to realize that it is coming from her vocal cords, and not her enemy. Red’s eyes stare into a distance only she can see now, her whispering voice terminated into a fading death rattle. Adelaide did it. At last, she killed her nightmare: her shadow.
At last, she’s free.
But then Adelaide recalls the beach, and the Tyler twins, and Zora, and Jason not being anywhere nearby. He’d wandered off. He did what she didn’t want him to do. Near the beach. Near the boardwalk. 1986. 2019. Her baby is gone. Jason. Jason …
“Jason!” She calls out, finding her voice again, stumbling around her chain and tattered clothing. “Jason!”
And then she remembers. The cottage. Her parents’ cottage. Jason and his pranks. The tiny car wedged into the crack between the wall and the small storage door. Jason going off with … Pluto to “play” by Red’s order. She scrambles through the bunk area, sliding on the old sterile floor tiles in pain and exhaustion. Adelaide looks around, frantically, until … she finds it. She stumbles forward to the metal cabinet.
Somehow, she knows. She knew. Her heart is pounding. Somehow, there is still more terror left in her. She retraced her steps down the funhouse, to the Hall of Mirrors, to the mirror where … she had been. The escalator … a large escalator moving down into the earth with bright lights like Mall Christmas decorations … and an underground bunker, no a facility … with rabbits like the one from Alice and Wonderland …
How did she know? Was Red right? Did they … really have a connection, that day, when they faced each other in the Hall of Mirrors … knowing, somehow, mimicking her actions, coming to that confluence … that revelation …
No. It’s a mother’s intuition. She never wanted her child to travel through here. To be down here, in a place like this. A mother knows … she knows …
There is a smell. It had been faint in the old antiseptic and the scent of sweat and blood. She swings open the door.
“Jason!” Adelaide reaches forward, seeing him curled up, into himself, his mask … that silly mask over his face. She reaches out …
She crouches there … as Jason slumps out of the cabinet.
Everything seems to slow down. To be frozen in time. As still as this mausoleum to stale suffering, and stunted lives.
“No …” She reaches forward, her vision blurring, watery, taking him up … taking off his mask … “No …”
It’s like burned meat. Adelaide gags. She chokes. She hears someone screaming. The mask drops out of her hand. The rabbits, she thinks to herself, backing away from … it, from her … to the exit of the room …
The doubles, her father punching the wall. Her mother wandering away from her. All those people … those doubles … them …
A keening wail rips through Adelaide’s ears. Her chained hands roam, desperately, through her hair, clutching at her ears.
She walked backward, backward … up the glittering stairs … she never thought to use the stairs …
Red’s memories. Adelaide falls to her knees. She crawls towards, and away, from the shape she left. That she abandoned. Soulless. She said they were soulless. She was her shadow. They shared the same body … the same soul …
She comes to the mirrors. She is looking at a little girl. Just like her. Later, she asks her why she left her … why she didn’t take her with her …
Adelaide feels hot bile, or a sob rising in her throat, lowering her head onto the cold floor.
She sees the fear in the little girl’s eyes. Her. Her whole life. This girl had tormented her. Tormented her by her very existence. She … she got to see things while … she was down here, with these hollow, stupid, empty shells … No one would miss her … no one …
It takes some time, but Adelaide realizes she’s the one who’s screaming. She stares up … not at the bundle near the cabinet … the locker … but Red. Red near her bunk.
She handcuffs her to the bunk as she wakes up, taking her Thriller T-Shirt. She is still smiling at her. No one will miss her. No one …
Adelaide’s trembling as she sees Red, lying there: her neck covered in the indentations of the chains of her own handcuffs. She looks down at the cuffs around her wrists. She takes the other end, the one not on her wrist, and chain: turning it around her neck, looking at Red, kneeling across from her …
She had felt her at her back through the mirror. She now knows who she is. She now knows what she’s going to do. Awareness rises blooms her brain as she turns around, a wide smile on her face, thinking of other thoughts, of the Red Queen. Off with her head … off with her …
Adelaide draws the chain around her neck, twisting it. She begins to squeeze. Her mouth twitches. Her lips quiver again. Blood is pounding. Pounding. A distorted echo of the footsteps as she walked away, leaving … leaving the girl at the bunk … after she had wrapped her hands around her neck and squeezed … squeezed … carrying her down … leaving her here … Going up into the warm night air for the first time, not seeing it or feeling it through another’s eyes, and two people … not hitting a wall, not ignoring her … Taking her away, away to draw … like Jason from the beach … Jason … Jason … and to dance … to dance away from all of it …
She squeezes tighter. She can’t breathe. She feels her eyes bulging … bugging out like hers did …
Pluto burned alive as she cried out for him to stop. Abraham dragged and lost in the water. Umbrae’s broken body in the trees, soothing her as she flailed, suffering, silent, as her baby girl died …
Her arms suddenly lose their power. She drops to the floor on all fours. She looks up. She looks at her, her eyes gleaming with knowing in death that they did not know in life .. She left her here, she knows that now. She is breathing hard, tasting blood in her mouth. She can’t speak. She crawls forward. She is looking around, looking … And then, she finds them. They are right by her, where she left them.
Shaking, she looks at her double … a thought coming from the darkness of her mind.
“S-sister …” She croaks, finally. “Sisster … ssssissster … ssisstssers … scizz … zzz …” Her hand closes over the pair of handles on the floor. She picks them up. And then, she brings them up, towards herself.
And she uses them.
There was a White Rabbit.
An ambulance burns, in the distance. A man’s shoe is seen, tattered and torn, soaked in blood. There is a phone, lying on the ground. Its screen grows feebly in the waning sunlight, jagged broken in half by a crack on its surface.
Red walks past the ruins. She doesn’t see them. She doesn’t feel it. She doesn’t really feel anything. Still, from the corner of her eye, she sees the time flickering on the device. She inclines her head, freshly shorn. Her red suit is worse for wear. There’s a hole in it, but she has everything else. The glove. The suit. The golden scissors in her hands. She walks, the chain from her handcuff swings listlessly from her wrist against her thigh. Her face twitches from time to time, reacting to something unseen by anything around her, or herself.
Then, she stops. She inclines her head, blinking a few times. She sees the burning ambulance on the other side of the road now. She sees two sprawled forms.
“Abraham …” She hisses, the tone distant. “… Umbrae …”
Something trickles down her left eye. Then, she sees the battered phone near her feet. She thinks it belonged to someone she can almost vaguely recall. There is something painted on it, sprayed on, in large lurid red. They are numbers.
Two sets of numbers, separated by a crack in the screen, severed uncleanly …
Red recalls the White Rabbit. He had a time piece, a stop watch, that never worked. He was always late, never on time.
He was always too late.
She turns away from the fallen object, and a world of originals destroyed by the Tethered. She has to go now. A part of her mind realizes that. She can see them, in the distance, a crimson line throughout the land, also dividing space and time. She has to join them. Red has to join her siblings, until the end of time. It is where she belongs, she thinks to herself as an open, empty smile flickers on her lips, her eyes wide and unseeing …
Red goes back to where she’s always belonged.
“The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”
— William Shakespeare, Hamlet, 3.2.
Bowing the knee. Showing the Old Ways. That’s what you want to we to see.
I glean better.
Welcome to the Free Sancts of Amarak. That’s we. Not the Repolitik. Not the Tripartite. Not the Demos. Not the Grass. We. Amaraki.
From Freed Dome? I glean it. Your bow was too rated, too much for show. Like a glad-fighter from the Repo Arenas of old. Like anything from the Cap. But it got our Eye. And I glean that you come for the Childer of the Secret Motive.
We glean why you’re here, I see. The mask of a Loyalty Test, of the Pledge. There are no antiq-IDs here. No ethnoi outside of MePo. We haven’t gleaned a Dead Skin here in cycles. We, all of us, are just “One-Backs.” Ha. That’s what they called us, once … and even now, in the Borderlands.
Ha. We’re North, but we still glean the South, the Borderlanders and the Badlands. Our Interface’s just fine, thank you. We mind our Border here, too: between the State and Nomens. That’s part of the Test, right?
We know our historia. Don’t mind talking it to you, while you’re here. After the Forty-Fourth Precedent, everything went to fuck. No other way to talk it. Many of we, memor our history all the way from the First Disunity. We had Motives then, too. From Underground. For the ethnoi. Ones not taken by Repo Gilder-Booms for shot-pract, or slaves by the Baggers.
The Demos Brigaders kept moving to Freed Dome, then. Left we, and the rest in other places to take care of the ethnoi that couldn’t pass, the Rainbows and Prides that couldn’t run, or hide. A few lived with we. Most we passed: to Nomens.
I glean your face. We memor the Beast of Burden. We are it. The Cap, Freed Dome, takes on the Five-Point Arms of the Gram. Others think themselves the Sunbird. Cocks. But we’ve always gleaned what we are. No shame in that.
We were the Demos, the first patch of Grass when the Arm of the Demos laid itself down. Some called us Arns, working with Nomens, with the Razor Leafs. Poisoners from the South, those not our sibs: Repos and Cons, all of them.
Damned Red Caps.
But the only way we were Vivalists, like the ones in Nomens, is that we wanted to live, and no one to die cause of skin, or the stuff tween legs and chests and necks, and minds. Mostly, we’re just hardworkers. Blues. The first meaning of the word.
Even then, we gleaned what’s what. Blue always needs be on top, keeping the Red down. Red needs to stay inside, not out. Might bleed all over the place, otherwise. Might burn everything. Like it did. Has a belt of stars too. You’ve seen it. Binds the Red under the Blue in good govern.
When we first fought the Repo Fiefs — the Great Fief of Hate — cycles ago, past the Second Disunity, into the Interregnum, a Predict came up with some lines. Went something like this:
When Turtle Isle is broke,
and from its shattered shells, the blood is woke,
the Red will Spread a drumming,
be wary: the Red Caps are coming.
Has a ring, right? Only thing worse are the plague-bares … The Nats. Not many these days, here, after the Purges. Still … During the Interregnum, when all the Weather Domes were down, the Repo Fiefs’d attack us. Again and again. Damn right we cleaved to the Vivalists from Nomens. Sanest there were when the Brigaders left us to ourselves, when they weren’t in divise against each other.
Nomens used to be named something else, called after the lines of a Predict of She. When the Repolitik broke, and Turtle Isle turned underside down with the Weather Domes all burst and broken like childer all shelled out on its belly, Nomens was the only one left. We memor. Sunder left the Pasiph League cycles fore, cross the Ocean. One thing the Red Caps hated more than Nomens were the Pasiphs.
But when Sunder broke away from the League, they left a whole: one that Nomens joined. Nomens had us. Like I said, we are all Vivalists. Nomens helped us, the first Grass, and the Demos. Took some time: not just Underground this cycle, but also from the Water and Air, these Motive Paths we show you. And Nomens had its own Fjord, with its flight of Razor Leafs — red through the snow — to cross. But we did it. We brought Amarak back. We do not forget who helped us.
Just like we took ethnoi cross to Nomens, even when the Cap of Freed Dome was made, and spent more time coming up with MePo — with melting we together — and their Hate Speech Accords to actually feed we all. So don’t eye us down. We memor the way the House came silent — came the Still House — even when the Demos spread through it like the Grass it said it still was, with its ties to the Land.
We also memor the Childer’s Contracts, and the many Scapes from Turtle Isle we aided. What would the Burning Library of the Grass have gleaned, when she spread through the Little House like wildfire, or the Graceful Voice, the Defenser Who Halts All Walls?
All Predicts of She, those who would have gleaned what it is to bow the knee.
Don’t talk to we about loyalty. We glean our place, even with your Cis-Trans War and the Repo hate cults at the borders. The Cap gleans our place in historia too. To do what we must. They can pay to be beyond Gen, and play their Opposing games. If you’re truly jects of Freed Dome, perhaps you laugh at we. Some think our Beast — the one that carries we, all of we and our burdens — is made of gold. A fine ass.
But there’s a reason why breeding our Beast with other, faster, gilder beasts makes mules. Smarter, perhaps. Or so it gleans. Longer-lived. But … truly sterile. Jects, not of populii.
And now … you come to we, bowing like we did to show our member in the ancient Motive, to make us see your gleaning, do you know the mean?
There are many reasons to bow the knee. You say it is to learn, from us, but in this cycle, in these times — in all times — there are other Motives where that is a part:
To obey, to respect, to perform … or to defy.
So where, on what Path, in what Motive, do your loyalties lie?
(c) Matthew Kirshenblatt, 2019.