Short Story: Dangerous Feeling

We are a generation of fatherless children. A generation so far lost in our own sadness and feelings of abandonment, we look only to each other.
This is the best possible outcome for the situation.
Because we. are. not. alone.

The Nuclear Family has erupted. Dad’s stopped coming home from work. Instead he visits the bars. Mom cries a lot. The other kids in the family cry, too. So we cry: we cry harder and louder than any of the others, unaware of why or how, but knowing we’re justified in it.
Then, Dad does come home, stinking. Too late after dinner– which we eat in front of the TV now. TV’s kind’a like Mom and Dad, ‘cause Dad’s always home late and mom’s always staring: out the window. Smoking. Folding Laundry.
Did she always smoke?

Dad finally detonates, taking the Nuclear Family with him.

He comes home later than usual one night. He stinks. It’s a bitter kind of stink. Like the stink after pulling a prank crossing from harmless to malicious, humorous to depraved.
Mom and Dad are screaming. We’re pulled out of the room, away from the loud noises. Sounds nearer-by try to drown them out. Deliberate sounds. Sonic equivalents of rocking back and forth hugging our head. There’s a lot of tension in our muscles and guts, and our bum doesn’t feel right– like we ate bad meat. Or suddenly developed stomach flu.
Twitches are present from then on. Subtle, yet obvious signs something’s not right.
The noises last a while, sort’a freezing us in time. We cry. The other kids don’t. The eldest runs off, able to. We envy but miss them, yet desire to remain. The other remains with us, choice-less, but too old and numb to cry. At least in front of us. Sometimes.
We cry a while instead, losing sense of time in the chaos outside that eventually dies down– enough for the arms to come away from the ears, if yet the rocking continues.

I am dangerous: I feel.

The other keeps us occupied. Somewhere inside, we know it’s a distraction: an attempt to help process. Conscious or not, even if we do not understand the terms, the knowledge is there. The underlying concepts, undeniable, immutable.

These are not things to understand, the other teaches.

I am dangerous: I feel.

Dad goes away. He’s gone a long time. He doesn’t ever come back to stay. We have to go see him somewhere else. A place that isn’t home. There are strange people there. Ones that seem to know us, greet us, like family.
I have never met them.
We start learning a lot in a short time. Big words we’re not supposed to hear or understand. Words we’re not allowed. Why?

I am dangerous: I feel.

Strange people come and go: New ones. Old ones. Elderly ones. Young ones like us. Those we like best. They, too, seem to be confused on things. We don’t speak to them much, but we like them. We make fools and fiends of ourselves. We don’t know why.
There are new places too. Places that seem strange, even for irregular people like we’ve become. Places with men in robes. Rows of chairs. Men with badges and guns. The kind that guard. All of them look unhappy to be there, so we play along. Mostly, we’re glad Mom and Dad are in the same room.
But then, later, the fighting again. Walking away alone this time.

These are not things to understand, the other echoes.

I am dangerous: I feel.

There are only a few more new people now. Some like us: younger. The others seem to have settled in their places for now. Dad is with them. We still do not know them. We know she is not Mom, yet acts as her– as if to usurp.
Snake.
We don’t like the other young one. Dad pays it our attention. We begin to cry again, more often. What is happening here?

I am dangerous: I feel.

Dad does not try to sugar coat it. Anything. He never again candy-coats a single word or behavior. This, we understand, is growing up. This is the realm of the Adult. Of the sweary-mouthed sailor-comic and the naked-chested cable lady.
It is a brave new world, someone says.
Mom says otherwise. In fact, she screams it. Everything. If she is not screaming, she is crying. Often, she is doing both together. Sometimes, we do too. Sometimes the other leads us away. Still other sometimes we wander off alone.

Until we begin to break the golden rule:

These are not things to understand, the other echoes.

But we do. We are not sure how, but we do. We are also certain on how to fix these things, but no-one wants to listen. Or is willing to stop scream/crying or stink-snaking long enough to listen.
Mom is not happy. Dad is not happy. We are not happy. Nor are the other or eldest, whom we see less and less. These are not good things. These are the baddest of bad. So why can’t we come together and prevent it? Why can’t we listen?

I am dangerous, I feel.

Slow and subtle, we feel the creep of something. An anonymity. A dreadful yearning for attention. Not ours. Elsewhere. Distractions. We wish for the night and darkness. To command fear and dread so we no longer live with tension in our muscles and tendons and bones and bum and guts.
It comes from the loins. Sometimes, late at night. We think of the naked-chested cable lady, and those things the sailor-comic swore about her. It warms us. We like it. We make it warmer. It feels good. Like awakening.
We mention it to others like us. We know that’s how it works. Somehow. Instinct, someone says. An old person word. Something to do with the warmth, awakening.
The one not like us feels good, but so does the one like us. We like warmth. We later hear words that harden but do not frighten about this. Our feelings remain unchanged, though we become more excluding, excluded.

I am dangerous, I feel.

We learn things as unusual. We believe otherwise. Feel otherwise. We exclude more. Seek only others that find night and darkness, full warmth, and sailor-comics and naked cable-ladies exciting. We join groups, bands, form tight cliques that last us decades yet form or crumble in moments.
We go through so much so quickly, and with everything else, it is impossible to know if we’ll ever come to see it all. We are not meant for this speed. And we are far beyond our realms of understanding, still hung up on…

These are not things to understand, the other echoes.

I am dangerous, I feel.

The night is sanctuary. It hides all depravity. No-one around means no-one to watch. They would not anyhow. Mom is rarely home. The other keeps us in line, fed. They are mom-sis. It is difficult. The shift is natural enough with the chaos around.
Mom works now too. It is hard. She’s not paid well. Mom-sis cannot work. She helps how she can, mostly with us. Eldest does too.
Family must support each other: this is said often. Loudly. And proudly.
Mostly it is said with a kind of wanting sorrow. A feeling we know all too well. The feeling of stink-snaking and scream/cries beneath mad-eyed smiles.

But the darkness absolves us of all. We don’t fear the others there. We feel only the warmth we surround ourselves with. We meet new people that like the warmth too. And we join the warmth however we can. We seek happiness in them because we know we won’t find it at home.
We ride forever and ever. One day is the same as the next. Night is the goal, always. Riding and running for days so nights can be warm and colorful. The days are colored no less for it. Somewhere is still an uneasiness. Tenuous for now, but at-peace.
We know it will come back again. When, we can’t say. Gut feeling says so. The one time teaches. That says the sun rises and sets. That we can trust in that, if nothing else.
The others like us, feel the same.

I am dangerous: I feel.

We become attached to a specific few. Time is spent mostly with them, or alone. They are all like us, forced into place without regard. We bond. This begins a cycle best summarized thus:

Here we go again!! what’s the point again?

Inside we are day. Outside we are night. Neither bothers us, or is any less us than the other. We ride two-ality like radical waves cause our futures so bright we gotta wear shades.
Something like that.
Knowledge comes quicker and quicker. Easier. Reading is fun. Taking time between two other things: writing, games– all stories.
Stories never wither.
Mom still cries and screams. Dad is meaner now. He says things he shouldn’t. He makes mom-sis cry. He makes Mom cry. He makes us cry. We dislike Dad. But we love him. He is Dad.
This two-ality can’t coast, bro…
We cry more. Again. Start to understand. What was hidden. Uneasiness. Out of placeness. Missing confidence. Something we never felt before.

I am dangerous. I feel.

We become excluding again, but do not stop. Ever. It is now a trait to seek almost solely the night. Warmth. Color. Exuberance. It is color that we see mom-sis embrace. It is not ours, but her own. It suits her.
We like our colors anyway. Some don’t. We understand this is why we must be excluding. Stink-snaking is a bloodsport with innocent bystanders. Like war. Which we love to understand. It is depraved. Like us. A thing of night and hot blood and passion. Corrupted innocence incarnate, which we now know ourselves to be.

It’s never to hurt. No. But like the joker whom pranks with the squirt of a flower, meant to be innocent, amusing. Showing of a sort of twisted affection only those that understand us can understand. Most do. Eventually. Even the ones that pretend they don’t, do too.
We’re not their type, but a prototype. Above they and the rest. Something tells us this. We don’t believe it. Though it is true, we don’t learn it for some time. How. Why. For now, we remain prototypical and in demand, yet plagued with failure.
Mom and Dad notice. They have no room to judge. Mom-sis notices too. Eldest is absent. All are upset.

Here we go again!! What was the point again?

I am dangerous: I feel.

And so it goes for longer than we can comprehend. Time is flashes. Television Mom and Dad. Mom-sis on the cello-lin. Lots of scream/crying. Stink-snaking. Bloodsports.

Here we go again: What was the point again?

Reading. Writing. Learning. Discussing. Seeking warmth. Often not finding it. Having it teased just out of reach. Prototype or not, frustration builds. We isolate and exclude further, never minding.
We begin to hide things. Make secrets. Lay plans. We break rules and push limits and test boundaries like never before. Night always comes and with it hides our indiscretions. Then, after the coming of day, the here-we-go-again-go-round absolves us. Day is white. Night is black. Color is everything around.
We fight. We love. We hate. We swear and smoke and drink and spit and swallow and fuck and forget and forgo and hope and dream and scream and cry and laugh and kiss and tell lies and make stories, and all to fill the void between the two-ality of things, the duality of things.
We are the all singing, all dancing crap of the universe.
Until darkness comes, and sadness falls, and betrayal abounds. We partake in it all, because we know we can and we’re allowed. Until we’re accused of excess for wanting to suckle the teats of knowledge so forcefully fed to us, and appreciated.

Something happens. More new people. Others leaving. Some gone, come back again. Others remain unchanged. Still more hurt, and hollow, desecrate and deconsecrate. Dad stays. Mom and mom-sis go away. No-one is the same again.
We are something different now. Swaddled in hate. Something changed and rabid. Weaponized. Something turned from pure, innocent, into corrupt and vile. Made vicious by pain, fetid wounds. Battered and broken. Manipulated and hurt. We are all these things.
But perhaps now…

These are not things to understand, the other echoes.

I am dangerous, I feel.

Depravity drives us. We know it well. It is simple. Animal. It is the chaos of the universe at its core. Always decaying, always eroding. Chasing the dragons of a million uninterrupted myths and legends. Then, questions. More questions. Always questions. Why so many questions?
We don’t know why we’re forced apart, the night and day. The day and night. As if the two were inseparable. Like Gemini: twins, kindred spirits. Redeemers and destroyers. Bitch and bastard. We only know that there’s ridicule, that the prototype is malfunctioned.
It is not, but we do not know that. In all the here-we-go-again-go-rounding and excess of intake, experiment, and evaluate, we lose something. A focus. A clarity.

I’m told it’s the drugs. I don’t believe that. I know the truth…

I am dangerous: I feel.

We go back and forth, round again. Wounds. Weeping. Love, swooning. Mom and mom-sis bleed. Eldest screams. We cannot look back: the trail of failed prototype parts is too hard to bear for the loss incurred.

Anything can be rationalized by a mad enough man.
I know. I did it.

We are dangerous: We feel.

We cannot go back to what we were. So we move forward. How? Inclusion. One specific. To replace one lost, and with hope, build toward what we hope to be the crowning future. That which sees day turned to night and night, day, and color and warmth and vibration all as one.
For a prototype is, if nothing else, a showpiece for some avid collector. Finding one is a surprise. Finding a good one is a miracle. She’s the latter. He would be too. Time and distance are dictators and love is what makes the world go ’round.

The danger is not that we feel. The danger is that others do, too. That vastly complicates the web of possible interaction, and no doubt befuddles the mind. Especially for mass-production models.
Prototypes though, have features not included in mass-market versions. Simply, they’re too unstable. Mostly, in the Human sense, they’re difficult to come by as a result of genetic mutation.
But every once in a while, you get one. A whole line of ’em, even. And the best thing you can do, is run ‘em dead. Not just for their sake, but everyone’s. It’s an unfortunate fact of a prototype’s existence, that it is not for itself that it exists. Rather, it is for the masses that will soon come under its designs– the ones that appeal broadly.
The great tragedy of life is that this reality of possible-pains exists. The great comedy is that tragedy’s spawning of something far greater and grander than itself.
Duality at its purest.
Where that may lead us, no-one yet knows, but we can say for certain two things….

We are dangerous: we feel.

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Poetry-Thing Thursday: You ask, Yet I Answer

You ask me what love is,
yet I do not know.

I know that I have loved and lost:
the feelings of life and entertainment,
all at mercy of soul’s cost.

You ask me what love is,
but I do not know.

I know only warmth and vibration:
delivered through aetheric space-time,
from the source of cosmic machination.

In the end,
what do my meanings matter?
Do you not,
know them yourself?
Then look toward the lingering,
of the inner soul-health.

It is what’s needed
‘tween the dwindlings of time,
and if gone unheeded,
the Mariner’s last rime.

You ask me what love is,
yet I haven’t a clue.

But I have a deep-down feeling,
that you know,
really,
you do,
yet still,
you go on reeling.

You ask me what love is,
I haven’t the faintest,
for all I know,
is when it is true.

Short Story: The Nature of Love

Madness. Chaos. Disorder. All in flashes that burn retinal nightmares into the mind. Blood and screams. Far off smoke, nearing. Smells of sulfur, gunpowder, death. Once-tall buildings lay in ruins, any former majesty that kissed or embraced the sky with its dark beauty of Human progress now regressed and weeping; mounds of rubble that burn, scream, and bleed.

He was torn from sleep beside her, sensing her nightmares. He hadn’t seen the images, but knew she was living them. Nightly. Cost of a rising action in Human Evolution forcing him to coddle her to sleep every night, but also hold her tight anytime she tossed and turned, wept or screamed.

He wrapped his arms tight around her. Amber flax, frayed at their ends and needling his skin at breath. She needed a mother. Someone to care for her properly. Someone whom knew what they were doing. A woman– Christ, anyone– he needed them himself.

But all this madness, this chaos… It was too dangerous to go out into. To seek one. Especially for her. Whomever she was.

He’d never gotten her name, but she had one. Who didn’t? Worse, she couldn’t have been ten years old, yet was fully-aware as any adult. More-so, even. Most of them couldn’t recognize the futility in clinging to something that no longer meant anything to anyone but her– and thus, no-one at all.

It broke his heart just once but was all he needed.

She stilled in her sleep. No longer twitching. He’d have another two or three hours before they’d be apart long enough for the twitching night-terrors to restart. He held her anyway. Tight against him for warmth, emitting what little remained in him.

He wasn’t doing a good enough job. He knew that much.

He rested his head on the straw-stuffed sacks they’d collected to call a bed. The distant drip drip, DROP of leaky infrastructure echoed from somewhere too far off to care, but not enough to ignore. Often enough he welcomed the tempo it gave to his thoughts.

Not tonight though. Tonight was just dripping randomosity, chaos incarnate to mirror the rest of the world. Or maybe, simply, to act as an extension of it.

In the mornings he’d often wake to find her sitting, staring into the distance. No doubtthe tragedies she’d seen replayed in her mind. For as many times as he’d seen her bony spine through her ratty clothing, he’d seen memory torture her face.

He tried to comfort her once, but she shied just enough. This, and daytime, weren’t what he was needed for. Only night. And only so she might sleep peacefully.

It stung, but he obliged without hesitation.

She’d spoken a little that first night he found her on the rooftop, ready to jump. He wasn’t sure she’d been all that lucid. She was wounded, mortally. At least for the skills of a child. He put a tourniquet above her wounded leg, tied it off, set the bone and stitched the skin. Skills he’d learned somewhere through life but couldn’t place.

It was poorly done, but it kept her alive.

She’d cried wet rivers of tears, and not oneaudibly. She made no sound, sob, or screamof pain, however much he’d promised she could Whatever she’d been through was worse. He couldn’t begrudge her the strength she’d gained, but he could hate that she’d been forced to gain it.

What little he’d gotten out of her was like pulling teeth. He’d let her rest for a few days before trying again. He’d only bothered the first time ‘round to keep her mind off her bone pain. Over a few nights, he got the general gist of things. Most of which centered around the chaotic global war and rebellion.

Everybody knew the madness was under a smokescreen. The media corporations and companies had aggressively taken-over or quashed any attempts at remaining “free-press”. Freedom of information no longer existed beyond a theoretical (and outlawed) concept. Information was now being held hostage, even by the so-called “good guys.”

Fact was, they both knew, no-one was good anymore. There was “bad,” and “less bad.” He wasn’t sure which he was, but hoped the latter, for her sake. She felt the same, though never admitted it.

No-one knew the true causes of the battles, the wars, the attacks. Just that they were happening. Orwell didn’t want his name anywhere near this clusterfuck. Who could blame him? Evidently, she felt the same, if only because she might now believe such parts of her, name included, were dead.

Probably because they were. Along with her parents. Her friends. Any hopes or dreams she had of ever living a normal existence.

It was another normal morning when she spoke again. Normal of course, being relative. By now, everyone living knew that much. The point remained valid in his mind.

“We need to leave this place.”

He wasn’t sure he’d heard her right– or at all.Rather, it felt as if he’d thought her words in his own mind. But how? It was impossible.

Nonetheless, the severity of her statement was witnessed in the few, meager packs at her feet.

“We can’t go anywhere. They’re looking everywhere for anyone able to fight or–”

Don’t finish the thought.”

It definitely came from his own mind. Her mouth hadn’t moved. Had he lost it somewhere in the process? No. It had to be her. Somehow. He didn’t know how, but he knew.

She gripped his hand, forced a pack into it. He moved to protest, but her eyes met his.

One echo in his mind ordered and pled at-once, “please.”

His eye twitched disbelief, allowing her to usher him along with what remained of their valuables– bare necessities of few toiletries, a half-molded scrap of bread, and a pack of canned non-perishables. She’d already layered her few clothing articles collected for colder nights, presumably having packed his away.

Before he’d regained his wits, they were far beyond the drainage outlet they’d take refuge in. Its massive, grated gate, easily picked and re-locked, had been left askew. They wouldn’t be coming back. Not surprising, but how had her voice done that? Was it him? Was it her? Was she really there at all?

Such questions need answers,” her voice echoed within him. “But now’s not the time. We must get as far away as possible. Now.”

He shook off the last of his confusion and stopped, hand held in hers as she’d led him forward. “No.” She didn’t hesitate, just simply tugged him onward until he went no further. Then, she released him and turned to look upward, “There. Wait.”

He whirled ‘round, “I don’t–”

You will.”

He waited, staring at the empty blue sky, wishing its weren’t just more of the smokescreen.

Then, he saw it: like a dart thrown from Olympus, streaking white smoke and rocketing toward their newly-vacated hideaway.

His eyes lit up, body lurched to shield her. It was pointless.

The missile struck the former hideout. Rubble gravitated inward then back out with a shockwave of heat and G-forces that rag-dolled them across the dusty ground. He landed winded and coughing, scrambling to find her another in the sudden cloud. She found him first, doubled over a rock, wracked with dry breaths that didn’t wish to come. He’d broken half his ribs, knew the feeling too well. It would kill him if he weren’t careful.

She forced him flat, then knelt beside him, hands over his battered abdomen. A minor flicker of light, like heat, emanated from her hands and into him.

“They’re hunting us now. All of us. You’ve helped me and they know. The things I’ve seen, what I can do, have me marked for a fate worse than death. You’ve been kind to me, so I will tell you there is much you do not know, but if your virtue is as it seems, you’ll learn the rest in time.”

She removed her hands and the pain was gone. He breathed normally: broken ribs, mended.

“Wh– how’d–”

“Once,” she said gravely. “They called us Seers. Now, we are the Hunted. And they, the Hunters.”

Something mechanical screamed past overhead, beyond the dust cloud still descending.

“Come, they’ll check for bodies soon. If we’re caught, they’ll spare us no horror.”

He pushed himself up, determined to follow, but confused. “How d’you–”

“It’s why the want me. I do not know anymore than you, save that we must counter them. Be the reaction to their action. That means leaving. Now.”

She led him forward at a brisk walk, but he’d already left his body, was following on instinct. He wondered what the hell he’d gotten himself into, if the girl could ever be safe. Or now, him with her.

He shouldered his pack, damned determined to ensure she was. Even if to his last dying breath. Such was the nature of love.

Poetry-Thing Thursday: Beauty-Suicide

In the West,
with the rest,
should’ve guessed,
but was blessed,
on the edge,
of time’s ledge.

So indeed,
we concede,
that belief,
is a leaf,
on a wind,
in a bend.

What a task,
could the mask,
upon such a face,
of such a race,
contrive to hide,
beauty-suicide?

Perhaps when,
“we were then,”
is a thing,
to seldom sing,
and recompense
becomes suspense.

We must wonder if she’ll ever come back.

Short Story: AuralAgent

AuralAgent: Rdy?

FitWix: Yes

That was all they’d ever needed. The moment the response went through, the op had begun.

In the frenzy that followed, neither was sure what was happening. Only once it was over could they have known what they were doing. It was simply too automatic: combined muscle-memory and focus.

In the moment, Aural knew only the swift motion of her body as it vaulted a concrete barrier. Her sneakers slapped asphalt, then sprinted for the doorway ahead. The building stood as any uncaring stone formation but with an undeniably sinister lean. It seemed the core of the place was so corrupt, even the very architects had found pleasure in malicious, contrarian angles, utilitarian minimalism, and drab monochromes.

Aural was different.

Like so many others in the world, AuralAgent and FitWix were fighting for their freedom. True, neither were physically chained nor bound, their lives were no less constrained. Information, like water, needed to flow cleanly and liberally. Above all, it needed to flow freely and for all.

It didn’t.

Aural flitted through the door. Wix guided her via a comm-implant. “Seven doors to the left, there’ll be a break in the hall. Take a left.”

She did. Careful of the darkness that had stirred no-one thus far. It would soon enough. An entire building rose overhead with innumerable bodies ready to rectify any perceived problem. She rounded the corner.

“Hallway juts right.” She followed it. He continued, “At the end of the hall, take the stairwell to the fourth floor.”

She was through the stairwell door when the first signs of commotion rose behind her. Night workers were shambling from their stupor, groping, grunting their way forward: Zombies drawn to the source of their work’s interruption rather than brains.

“Thirty seconds,” Wix said.

Aural passed the third floor, doubled her speed. The hack wouldn’t last that long. She knew it. Wix knew it. Thirty-seconds was their best estimate, but too many people were onto it now. So long as she made the fourth floor though, it didn’t matter.

Her legs went double time. Suppressed mania from ten years of track and field unleashed itself. Equally as long outrunning service agents, dodging COINTEL, Mercs, Hunters, and beat-cops funneled the mania through the adrenal regulators she’d developed. The end-result was extreme capacity for focus, no matter the circumstances.

Kind of had to be, when the penance for failure was something worse than death.

Aural burst through the fourth floor just as lights flickered on overhead. Even before “Time” came through the comm, the fluorescent fixtures had regrown their strength quickly. She passed along narrow corridors broken by closed-door offices around two large, central rooms.

“You only have access to the North server-room,” Wix reminded. “Once you’re in, pull what you need, then switch the privileges to South server-access.”

By the time he’d finished, she was in. The door shut behind her on a large room cluttered with data racks and terminals. Pristine draperies of bundled cabling poured from the ceilings, tell-tales of such unholy rooms that existed as fashion statements, rather than as altars to that most holy: information.

Such power, squandered and neglected. Aural hated it. Machine-space no corp deserved.

She streaked along an outer row, down abreast lines of server racks to one in particular. A terminal flicked out and her fingers went to work. All the fury of a postdigital child at war fueled her. The stab of keys was her battle-drum, their beating savage. The terminal screen flashed white-on-black text. Commands flowered into processes and calculations. Rocket-fueled bars flashed beneath skipping text-dumps.

All at once, it stopped.

She was reading something. 4-1-8 repeating in her head. Then, movement began again: Slower. Punctuating silences with mechanical frenzy. She checked her watch, set it to twenty seconds, hit “Enter”.

The system was cycling, the authorization switching over. The system itself reset instantly, but it took time for all the checks to go through the thousands of drives, leaving a golden window of thirty-or-so seconds where her stolen ID had both Server rooms’ privileges. If the system had worked otherwise, Aural would’ve had no chance. Not even with Wix on remote.

But fools came in all shapes and sizes, con-men too. One had sold the other a security system without telling them how to run it, its pros and cons. It was equivalent to building a chain-link fence and expecting privacy and enclosure. Never gonna’ happen.

“One for the Angels,” Serling would’ve said. “Just another mark,” the con-man said.

Aural knew the type, couldn’t begrudge ‘em. “Even Hawking fucked around on his wives.” Thing was, someone like her would’ve just used that as an in to fuck Hawking’s wife. So, usually, the message of “don’t be a cock,” was lost regardless of its destination.

Someone like her. But not her.

It could never have been her way. She accepted that. She lived with that. Her way was confined to duality, the day and night. Shadow and not. Like a hag living as a maiden beneath a glamour. It mattered not why, when the time came to burn her alive. Just that she burn. Gods forbid if that formerly-fair-maiden, now burned-alive-hag, had been what kept the pox away.

What’d it matter? They cursed themselves no less when it came, were no less dead, no more deserving of spite for having learned of their mistakes in it.

But Aural was the Hag beneath the glamour. Deceptive, and dangerously so. Truth was, Aural was plain, but good enough looking to disguise the rot in her soul. That was what made her truly monstrous. She knew it, accepted it. Why not? Not like it was going to change. Didn’t matter all the rot came from the gangrene of guardianship. She was the product of an upbringing that fought for what felt right and it had tainted her.

Forever.

She double checked her watch’s timer, grabbed a drive from bay 418 on her way out, then strolled to the next server room.

“Making good time,” Wix acknowledged.

She’d chosen him to plan the op because he’d do it right. Shift changes, lunch-breaks. That was how he thought: like a wage-slave. Former one, anyhow. He knew the ins of a corp-system, especially if that corp happened to be waging a shadow war against… well, everyone– and he knew how best to exploit those ins. Aural was simply skilled enough to risk her throat doing it.

She was under no delusions. Death would be the least of offenses against her if she were caught by anyone. A specific few would seize any opportunity to turn the public on her. Whomever was unleashed directly would be maneuvered into parading her withering bones about until growing bored and throwing her to what few wolves yet remained.

No amount of connections would change that, political or otherwise.

She found the last terminal, hacked it to locate the data-bay she sought. Moments later, she was out of the server room, door hissing shut in a huff of conditioned air. The lights were back on in the building’s corridors, along with their security cameras. Her face tilted downward, obscuring her features: her clothing the only thing out of place on security cams. Didn’t matter. By the time anyone could move against her she was out of the building, skirting darkness for the getaway.

The box-truck was running down the alleyway, steam pouring from its tail-pipe into the cold air. The door was visibly unlatched, a single strand of light glowing from a dim source within.

Aural was in, pulled up by two pairs of hands: Wix’s half-mutilated face taught with effort, the other Zu’s tight with fury. The kid looked scrawny, barely looked able to withstand a stiff wind, but was rooted when he pulled.

Deception. Good.

Such details were necessary in a good crew. You couldn’t plan ops without knowing how every operative would react. That’s why breaking up a winning team was suicide, and adding to it, worse. Principles of American Life disseminated worldwide along the worldly-pipes: what Aural’s ilk called the Net. Mostly too, disseminated by Aural’s ilk.

The truck was rolling when the doors shut again. Aural handed the drives off to Wit. His one, wrinkled eye drew up with a half-smile like Two-Face at a bank vault. A hiss of “Shit!” emanated from the truck’s cock-pit, CanUHLynn was reporting in on time.

Something was different. Spitzu’s voice was rumbling quietly. He called her forward, “Aural, man, get up here.”

She was there in an instant, reflexes and guts ready. All the same, nothing could’ve prepared her: A small tablet computer, acting as entertainment, was propped up and velcroed to a console in the dash. On it, a video replaying at the press of Zu’s finger.

A news-vid cut in, an image of a man Aural knew entirely too well. The rest of, too, through her. It would’ve been hard not to, given his associations.

The vid played again, Anchor to one side. “– to Former President Hubert Langley, whom sources say, “passed away in his sleep” last night according to his wife and former First Lady, Barbara. A press-release says–”

Mom? Dad? Her first two thoughts.

The third was the plummeting in her stomach. Weights on her shoulders and the vertiginous feeling of reality collapsing in 3D tunnel-vision accompanied it. Wix and Zu steadied her. Lynn’s hand grounded her, its grip strained on Aural’s as the other wrenched the wheel back and forth to disappear them.

“Laura?” Lynn echoed quietly.

The use of her name ripped her back. Laura Langley was AuralAgent again– at least, in part. The other part was moving slowly toward the rear of the truck.

“I have to call my mom, my dad just died.”

It was a dumb thing to say, she knew. They’d all just learned it together. Still, it seemed integral to accepting things. They let her go without word or ridicule, but each one feeling weight in their chests.

Not exactly the victory party she was hoping for.

Poetry-Thing Thursday: Bloodied Hands

Mama,
There’s blood on my hands.
The sky is gray,
and static fills my ears.

Machine-gun fire,
chatters in the distance,
and I feel as if floating,
in dark,
cold seas.

Air between fires is,
tainted by putrid stink:
Bowels, entrails,
and fresh blood.

Reality,
begins to fade around me.
Blackness,
edges its way over my eyes.
Red crosses and faces,
scream silence,
taking residence,
in my mangled mind.
And when I look down,
I see only red through black.

Tunneled suns are useless,
but so too are soldiers,
whom caught off-guard,
die to stray bullets,
no-one is sure to have fired.

No purpose,
no restitution,
flits by with solace,
for there is only silence.
And blackness.
For me.
For Mama.
And my bloody,
dead hands.

Poetry-Thing Thursday: Death Genus

Lie to me,
about the future’s culmination.
Speak the words,
of endless exultation.
Then inject me,
with Death’s overt-stimulation.

‘Cause I am,
running out of words.
And you have,
betrayed all the herds,
of woman and man,
and set fire to the birds.

There will be,
forever no more singing.
Sounds of fire,
forever to be ringing,
’cause our fate,
time is ever-bringing.

If I had,
perhaps one more life,
to get along with,
all of this strife,
Perhaps I’d learn,
to take away your knife.

But you have,
buried it within me.
And the blood,
is pooling I can see.
My life will fade,
soon just like we.

Collapsed to my knees
I beg your forgiveness,
for having failed,
to show you more than this,
but I understand,
more than am remiss.

So much has,
come and gone between us,
that any distance,
feels like Earth to Venus.
So inject me,
with a dose of Death-Genus