Showing posts with label fiction. Show all posts
Showing posts with label fiction. Show all posts


i wrote you a story but i ate it

interesting fact: the protagonist, like my dog, is short, chubby and called Frankie.

Lepht Anonym 06.09.10

Frankie sits outside, for once, smoking her fifth cigarette. She didn't mind the dolls, she thinks bitterly, not as much. Oh, she knew about them - she knew, and she burned them all, the bastard things, the last time. He had three. What the fuck did he need three of them for? She doesn't want to answer that. They were already bad enough: thinner, smaller, able to be picked up and put down wherever he wanted them, not like her stocky middle-aged ass. More beautiful, with their perfect faces. More obedient, with their AI personalities tuned into geometric stereotypes - the blonde was the slut, the brunette was the librarian and the redhead was the domme vixen, obviously. Was being the past tense. The past tense - Frankie flicks ash onto Markus' rosebush - being appropriate because now they are bubbly twisted scraps of charred plastic and melted steel, buried at the bottom of the garden. Because Frankie is a psychopath. Because she finally got sick of pretending she didn't know about them. Because Markus, who said that he would always love her - she grits her teeth - Markus loved those fucking dolls more. She's not as crazy as he thinks. He never once stroked her hair the way he did theirs.

So she got rid of them. Was that so crazy?

Of course, she knows that this is crazy for real. This really warrants being called a psychopath. It doesn't mean she won't get away with it; she hasn't even thought about that yet, but she knows Markus' heart condition will probably mean no autopsy. Frankie isn't quite as doolally as he likes to think she is. She takes a drag, and admits privately that sure - she's unhinged. A normal wife would have left. A normal wife would never have put up with it for a year and a half after she first found out, would have thrown him out of the house, would have cried to some best friend for hours. Frankie doesn't have any friends. She played nice. She waited. Then she stopped taking the medication, and she built his secret lovers a little funeral pyre. When he came back, she was roasting a skewerful of pink marshmallows amidst the wreckage of their stinking latex skin and their once-tumbling tresses, smiling softly. She had thought the ultimatum she gave him then (and it was simple enough: no more fuckdolls, or no more love and no more house) would be enough.

Silly, isn't it, that a psychopath like Frankie would have been so naive about her lover. Crazy people are supposed to be bitter and untrusting. Aren't they? She stubs out the end of her smoke and lights up automatically again.

Fucking literalism. She didn't mean that this would be fine. Frankie wonders how long it took him to find this woman, this... mistress, from his office. It doesn't matter now, anyway; he's asleep, and he'll stay asleep for long enough. She had considered just butchering the woman, but she let them fuck, let this Marlena go home, content that the aftermath and the possible investigation - silly bitch, leaving your long black hairs in the shower - will fuck her up enough that Frankie won't have to do anything. She runs her hand through her own cropped brown bob. Neither one of them think about anything. He didn't even notice the smell in his coffee when Frankie disappeared silently from the window vantage point, made her way back to her car in the street and drove it into the driveway, playing happy return. Would he like a coffee? She was dead tired from work, she could do with one. Of course he would love a coffee. Sleeping tablets, she muses, are good things to keep around. He's got an overdose that might just finish him off, but he was still breathing when she left him.

Frankie is not quite as incapable as he thinks. Distilling the nicotine wasn't hard; she pulled a sick day, as much to give him a last chance to redeem himself as to prepare, and like a snake he told her he had to work. Does he think she wouldn't go through his planner? He's a fool. He left for his mistress' house, and Frankie had enough time not only to boil out the poison, but to store it safely away in the pantry. She tested it out on a cat or two. It's a good thing she never actually cooks with liquid glycerine.

She has the syringe ready, filled in the kitchen with the care only true hatred produces. All it will take is one little shot right into his pupil. She isn't as dumb as he thinks. Markus, who vowed to love her and her alone, who put the ring on her finger and pretended he'd try to mend her scarred-up, fucked-up heart - he ought to have kept those vows.

She stubs out her cigarette, and stands up resolutely, dusting off her jeans. Frankie is a psychopath. She accepts that.

She smiles softly as she lifts his eyelid.



come on in, the Baudelaire's fine

De profundis clamavi

J'implore ta pitié, Toi, l'unique que j'aime,
Du fond du gouffre obscur où mon coeur est tombé.
C'est un univers morne à l'horizon plombé,
Où nagent dans la nuit l'horreur et le blasphème;

Un soleil sans chaleur plane au-dessus six mois,
Et les six autres mois la nuit couvre la terre;
C'est un pays plus nu que la terre polaire
— Ni bêtes, ni ruisseaux, ni verdure, ni bois!

Or il n'est pas d'horreur au monde qui surpasse
La froide cruauté de ce soleil de glace
Et cette immense nuit semblable au vieux Chaos;

Je jalouse le sort des plus vils animaux
Qui peuvent se plonger dans un sommeil stupide,
Tant l'écheveau du temps lentement se dévide!

— Charles Baudelaire
go see the translation if you don't read French, but it's worth reading even if you don't completely understand, just to see the fucking unsurpassable way the man had with words.

real post soon, i swear.



literary feeding time, round 3

Lepht Anonym

I did it. I burned it all. I know, Dr. Hawkins, that when you read this mail you will scream and cry and bemoan the loss of the world's only specimens of that vile perversion of Nature; I know what you will tell everyone left in the lab - everyone who survived the fire, everyone who didn't get the fuck out when I told them to or who tried to get past me to where you, Dr. Hawkins, were growing that stuff - you'll tell them it was a cure for something or other, won't you, you'll say it was penicillin all over again, a biological panacaea, you'll tell them what you told me, you bastard, won't you. You'll try and save your fucking skin.

They won't believe you this time, Doc. Not when those recordings get out. You see, Dr. Hawkins, I am not as stupid as you thought I was when you hired me; rejected from every PhD programme I've applied for? 2:2 mycobiology MSc? Oh, that boy's not too bright. Certainly. It doesn't mean I can't apply myself in times of crisis.

I think, perhaps, I will have a better shot at that doctorate now that Reuters has the videos. Wikileaks got a package, too, so don't think you can go pulling that grant money of yours to get out of this.

Don't mistake this for self-servience either, Doc. I didn't destroy your lab because I'm jealous, or so that I could be a hero and show the whole fucking world what you were doing - even though I did, you sick motherfucker, I already have - I did it because, plain and simple, I hate you. I hate you not just for the way you treated me and Allie. Not just for your daily putdowns, your ridiculous petty tasks just to keep us out of the way, your refusal to grant us credit on the papers or pay us more than a tenth of what was budgeted for our living expenses, none of that irrelevant shit is why I ruined your life and your career. I hate you on behalf of one hundred and thirty two others. That's right; I kept count, even if you never did, I kept the count of every single one of them and I sobbed myself to sleep every night I knew keeping it. Every fucking penny I make off this little sabotage is going to a trust fund for their families. The Alastair Lloyd Morton Fund.

So, you're asking yourself, if the little fucker finally got a shot of conscience, why's he using it now? Why after three and a half runs of testing, countless lies and atrocities later?

Truth is, Doc, I've been waiting. Not right from the beginning; all I knew right at the start, and for a good six months after - while you had me re-pot the fucking plants and help Allie cart bags of compost around and bring in boxes and boxes of shit you wouldn't even tell us about - was that your office smelled of shit, your greenhouse smelled even more fucked up, you hated the two of us, and it was the only job in mycology either of us were ever likely to see. We couldn't complain, and you knew it. Who else was gonna take on a pair of almost-dropouts from third-rate universities who couldn't even study fucking mushrooms properly?

So he and I trudged around your facility for months, doing things the cleaners couldn't be bribed to, slowly starting to wonder why you had all the resources you did. Do you remember making us polish every surface in the "sanitation room"? Didn't you think we'd question why there was a bed in there, Doc? A plastic one, like they put patients on in hospital? You'd have been better off covering it with a blanket and telling us it was for you. But you always did underestimate us, you elitist cunt. You were wise not to let us into the annexe of that room.

You'd have been wiser to keep us away from your testing lab, as well. Of course we saw the records. Of course we got bored, and went through them. Why were you testing anything on muscle fibre, let alone nutritional slurries? What the fuck did that have to do with mycology? I wish to God we'd never found out. I wish so hard, so passionately that you'd never even be capable of understanding it, that we'd just stuck to making out in there.

About a year in, I found your password left on a post-it under your keyboard. You stupid old man; that's the oldest trick in the book. You didn't keep much on your local machine - like any good paranoiac, you moved all the juicy stuff to the encrypted central servers - but I went through your temp files, and I found part of an email. I've sent that to Wikileaks as well. I found you acknowledging receipt of subjects. Three. Thank whatever fucked-up Gods exist that you compose your emails in a word processor; that's the only reason there was anything to find at all. Your technological ineptitude might just be what sees you go down in court.

So I gave you the benefit of the doubt. Your colleagues had nominated you for a fucking Nobel; who was I to assume you were talking about human subjects and not just rare - and really, really fucking expensive - mushrooms from Japan or something? I gave you my trust for far too long, Dr. Hawkins. Long after the greenhouse had become rank and the sanitation room positively foetid with that fucking smell, even though we bleached the floors every day and even though all you were growing in the hydroponic planters was standard garden fare. Long after Allie went on holiday and didn't come back.

You told me he quit, left you a very rude letter, you said, and like a fool I believed it. I couldn't even be happy for him; I was alternately pissed off that he hadn't told me so we could stick it to you together, and heartbroken. You see, I loved that man, Dr. Hawkins, and I believe he meant it when he said he loved me back. You didn't count on that, did you? I loved him so strongly it felt like my heart might stop. I took a week off and I cried in my quarters. I knew I'd never see him again.

You have no idea, Dr. Hawkins, no idea how much I want to kill you for making that not be the case. Some things are not meant to be; some things, the human mind is just not built to handle.

When I came back, you were nicer to me, now that I was the only one. You told me I was part of a team of two now, and that together, we would make great strides in the names of both biology and medical science. You'd discovered a mycoid organism, a new one. You'd found that it inhibited the growth of cancer cells. You'd been granted permission for a Phase Three clinical trial - I was so caught up in my hero's delusions of grandeur that I didn't even ask you where the animal studies were performed, or what the mechanisms were, did I? And all the better. In all my snooping afterward I never found any evidence that you'd thought about it. You told me we would be laureates. You told me that to prevent this information from falling into the wrong hands, neither of us would be allowed to speak of these experiments until the results were published. Like the little boy I was, I agreed.

I'm breaking your little agreement now, though, aren't I? I know that pisses you off just as much as the fallout will. I know, too, that you'll only be angry. You won't feel remorse. You won't feel shame. You'll see a world of pigs who don't understand science.

I understand science, Dr. Hawkins. It is a beautiful thing. You and what you did in that annexe have fouled it, maybe forever. I'm trying at least to rectify what I did to help you.

Can you believe that I even sterilised needles for you? I never questioned what you were doing to those people. I thought they were the standard Phase Three subjects; poor terminal bastards, either desperate for a cure at any cost or aware of their vital role in preventing the same thing happening to others, witting, willing. You fucking bastard.

So when you said there were problems, I didn't think. It was attacking their tendons as well as the cancerous cells, you said; I pitied them instead of helping. You hooked them to IV nutrients. The mycoid gave them headaches that made them scream, for a month or two, and you doped them up with the kind of barbiturates they usually use in anaesthesia. I didn't even know you had a medical degree. I bet the GMC will love to hear from you now. But they could still feel pain, couldn't they, Doc? They still screamed up until the third phase kicked in.

They were docile, after that, and silent, but you wouldn't let me in the annexe anymore. I told you if any of them attacked you again that I would help you. I don't even know what would have happened if they had. Would you have rotted there, on the sparkling floor, barely adding to the stench? Would that shit have breached contamination protocol and escaped into the rest of the facility?

It won't now. Your secretiveness made me suspicious all over again, and this time I decided to go one better than I had before; I keylogged your computer, with this little black gizmo I bought off eBay. You were barely ever in the old labs anymore, except to type up your reports. I daresay you didn't even type up the majority of it; you were too scared I'd find it, and you were right.

What you'd found ought to have been annihilated as soon as you found it. "Freya", as you called it - God knows why you chose a woman's name for it, you perverted motherfucker - seemed as if it'd been designed by some cosmic psychopath. Your first discovery of it had been in other fungi - colonising their cells, altering their growth patterns, their spore cycles, all kinds of strange systemic changes. You thought it was fascinating. I thought it was, too, until I read what you did with Freya next.

You decided to see whether it would grow on muscle fibre. You developed a fucked-up habit of referring to it as "she", too. So you tested it - Petri dishes of HeLa cells, stem cells, vat-grown tendons and muscles. It colonised them all. It did even stranger things with the stem cells. You kept going.

Rabbits, next, and after that, deer. We all know what happened after that. Allie didn't have a family back in Singapore like I do, did he? Nobody to write to. No father to update on his shit, no girlfriend to leave him over how much time he spent abroad trying not to be a fuck-up. You left a contaminated syringe in the sink, and you made him do the washing-up.

I didn't keep reading after that, Doc. No, no, I have a scientist's curiosity, even if I don't have a scientist's IQ; you didn't put your first subjects in the annexe. You kept the deer and rabbits in the spill-secured chemical sheds, so that your precious Freya would have room to be free without escaping your control. I went to see, to give you one last chance to just be a demented old man making stuff up and not a threat to humanity. I stole the key from your safe - 1-2-1-2? You foolish, foolish bastard - and I got a hazmat suit out of the stores, late at night, with the key you ought never to have given me.

He was huddled in a corner on his side, as if in horrible pain, although by this time I thought he must be dead. His skin was carpeted with masses of Freya's hairlike growths. I didn't even cry, not for hours afterward, but I felt the blood drain out of my face as I approached his body in the clouds of spores, and I thanked God I couldn't smell it. He'd put his hands up over his head trying to shut out the pain. Freya had frozen them there when she calcified his tendons. I knew she started out on the CNS - knew it took months before she got to the outside, so I knew for sure when I saw him covered in that vile down of little white strands that he'd never taken that holiday. He really did book one, too. You couldn't even give him that.

It took me longer than I like to remember to notice it, while I crouched there for an eternity too afraid to go any closer and too soul-shatteringly horrified to look away from his putrefying eyes, the strands that had emerged from within holding them open in rictus. I had kissed those eyelids. I had seen those eyes glitter with delight planning our petty pranks on you that we'd pull one day, later, when we had an apartment and somehow a job away from you. I was too busy looking at them to notice the rest.

You didn't tell me about the fourth phase, you bastard. I daresay by that point you were in too deep to think it was anything other than beautiful. I looked down for his name-tag in one last pathetic hope that maybe somehow it wasn't Allie, and I noticed the swelling. He had never been fat even before you started starving him, only an IV line connected to an empty drip bag feeding him and Freya both. I couldn't bring myself to pull back his coat with those fucking white threads all over it, even through the suit, so I looked around and found what you must have used - one of those remote grippers for hot glassware. I pulled back the fabric and lifted his sweater.

Everything. I saw everything. Oh, you were right about this one, weren't you, Doc? Your Freya was really something clever. I've never seen a parasitic organism that repurposes its host to quite that extent before. She was using his own nervous system, just like you'd suspected, as her surrogate soil; she colonised his spine and his eyes for food, she used his skin as shelter for her trunk-threads. She opened his torso into a thousand little cysts that winked at me like a lotus pod's myriad eyes, flowerpots for her spores, swollen with the gas they produced.

His gut was so distended, Dr. Hawkins, that I could see his heartbeat pulsing in the repurposed blood vessels. It was then that I ran. I didn't even have the courage to kill him. I spent longer in the decontamination showers than I have ever spent at once in your entire lab, took eight Valiums in my quarters, and sat down at my terminal to call a taxi, the decom team, and the police. After that, I did what you saw on the tapes; I got the fuel from the tractor, suited up, got as many people out as would believe me, and set your life's work ablaze. I purged Freya from this earth. I wish I'd gotten you too.

I've often wanted to kill myself. Lord knows I do now, after what I've helped you with, after what I've done. But I ran straight into the arms of the coppers instead of those of death, and I talked. To so many. I wanted to make sure. I took every bit of data you've ever typed, Doc, and I made sure it got to everyone I wanted it to. I used that to get your real data - the videos, all those people. Your clinical eyes. I swear to God I will avenge every one of them.

We'll have our day in court, Doc. But I swear on Allie's memory that you won't serve a day of that sentence. These blood-covered hands have one final task to do.

You and I are facing our Nuremberg, Dr. Hawkins. Just as justice demands, neither of us will come out of it alive.



literary feeding time

okay, so i read too much H.P. Lovecraft/August Derleth/Clark Ashton Smith as well. i had a week off, and this is the kind of thing i end up doing at five in the fucking morning with my free time... it's a good fucking thing i have a job coming up.

Lepht Anonym

There's four of them, this time. Last night there were seven, the night before, a horde of the bastards; Jacques wonders numbly if that's an improvement or not, given the fact that they're closer than ever to the foot of his blanket-strewn sofa bed. The air is utterly dead, of course - no CPU hum, no thermostat whirr. The rustle of the duvets registers briefly in the silence, then dies; they make no sign of hearing anything, as ever.

Jacques pushes his foot further, cautiously, down the bed. The four don't move. You're afraid of trips, he tells himself balefully, memories of the Nineties flooding in on all that acid he used to drop and all that Lovecraft he used to read. Bad trips. Tactile trips. But they don't move. He finds himself pushing back into the vaults of his head for the time he saw Tsathoggua, the black toad-god dripping with vile ichor and filthy, sentient intent, perched on his pillow with its tongue lolling out, after nights of reading weird fiction whilst filled up to the gills with LSD - is this like then? Will he look back on this ten, twenty years down the line and see so obviously what set it off?

He flinches as the closest one edges in, soft footfalls padding towards his head as quietly as if they're all barefoot. Good God, should it still be this detailed? This long after taking the stuff? It's been three days now, long enough for most anything to clear out of his system. They shouldn't be real enough to smell, that night-air vapour tainted with mould and sulphur and ancient dust. They're not there, not really - that he can convince himself of at least superficially - but God, that foul air invading his house and perverting his dreams, that wakes him nauseated long before they ever show up! He backs up the bed, experimentation over. The encroacher reaches out one white and withered hand to touch his cheek.

Jacques screams, and this time they don't dissipate as they did when he yelled last night; a brief flash of ordinary worry about Mr. Khera downstairs and what he must think of all this noise crosses his mind before he clamps the pillow to his face, hissing breaths into the stifling fibres, oh God why did he think he could handle that black shit? Why wrap it in a Rizla and throw it down your throat with a shot of sinthe like you're the fucking King of Dares, why not just throw it in the woodstove with the rest of the crap nobody wanted? The vision-figures coalesce now like the halves of blurred, unfocused vision to form one. One gaunt and frail thing that holds more awful bane in its caress of his cheekbone, trailing its damp fingers down his trembling throat, than all the devils and demons he's ever imagined. Please Catholic God, you can torment my soul all you want afterwards but take it away, for the love of sanity take this hellborn abomination back to where it came from, he pleads wordlessly.

No response comes save the soft cooing that issues malignantly from under the lowered hood, soft like bats' fur or moleskin, that hides the eyes of his captor. Carla's silky voice insinuates itself into his head as he sits, rigid, shaking with the effort not to move or scream. "Bomb-it! Bomb-it! Bomb-it!" chanting in the background like war drums and her, all "Nobody's ever taken that much, never mind with alcohol," and "We make wishes on shots around here..." Oh God he just wanted to do whatever they all would have done, just be cool and not an old loser hanging out with a bunch of kids half his age... The thing presses its unseen lips to his hand and he recoils with a thin screech, the sensation of a cluster of holes beneath the pursed mouth rankling on his skin as if contagious. Its breath is on him.

It'll go away. Harmless wish, bad trips, something to tell those kids about for once... doesn't everyone wish for someone to love them? It'll go away...


so i heard you guys like fiction

okay, i am not dead yet. soon i'll be writing either an article for h+, if i'm lucky, or a post here, if i'm not, about the ethics, legality and processes of self-surgery. in the meantime here's a piece of fiction called "tea". i wrote it a while back, but maybe some of y'all would like it.

Lepht Anonym

Cherry stares at his earlier text-file notes through a haze of purloined codeine, the pills themselves long gone and the holder of the rest of the stash out of reach for good. "How the fuck you s'posed to grind stuff without a mortar'n'pestle?" he asks the half-deduced recipe, regretting again that he threw the pestle at a yowling cat outside his kitchen window three weeks ago and gave the mortar to the thing that lives upstairs the month before, when said bizarre neighbour inexplicably appeared at seventeen minutes past four outside his bedroom, requesting in his well-spoken way that Cherry lend him a non-metallic bowl.

He's way too nice for his own good sometimes. He's gotta stop being so nice.

Google reveals nothing, except sites where you can buy brand-new shiny mortars and pestles, none of which Cherry can afford. Hell, he can't afford to reconnect his own broadband line; he's stuck hijacking half the pathetic bandwidth of downstairs' ancient WEP setup, much to his annoyance and the bewildered chagrin of the lower floor. He's gonna be so screwed when they finally figure out what's going on. Cherry sighs, and goes back to the kitchen cupboards; retrieving the best alternative to the mortar and pestle a life in the City's patchwork slums can come up with (the mixing-bowl and shot glass) he empties a bag full of khaki dust that he's been trying to grind up with a rolling pin out over the bowl, and sets to mashing it against the pale china with the side of the glass, muscles complaining as the pliant fragments refuse to comply with his efforts.

"Hello?" he calls as he hears the door creak, expecting some drinking buddy, maybe Tommie with sake, and recoils. "Gah, fuck!"

His upstairs neighbour has drifted quietly into the kitchen, proffering a handful of thick stoneware fragments that once were Cherry's ex-wife's Italian mortar. "I'm afraid I broke your bowl," he apologises in his half-whispered, drug-addled monotone, and deposits them reverently on the introductory electronics textbook that sits open on the counter. "It was less... sturdy than I assumed it to be. Sorry." He sinks, cross-legged, to the grimy tiles and stares up at Cherry with hollow, dulled green eyes, snuffling the dust in the air and adding, "If you're trying to make a Papaverum somniferum infusion, by the way, you're doing it badly. You can't grind it like that, for a start."

Cherry glares at the interloper, annoyed but not surprised after so many years of living here. The block is essentially communal and such intrusions are common, if not this late. "Who are you again?"

"They call me the Saint."

"And Saint, what the fuck are you doing sitting on my kitchen floor?"

"I'm instructing you on how to better brew morphine tea... assuming that's what you're trying to do," Saint's eyes focus upwards on the cupboard door behind Cherry's head, "and not making oregano pasta sauce or some such idiocy. In addition," and he leans forward on his elbows with a slightly unstable air, gaze scanning over the detritus that clusters on every surface in here, "I'm refraining from asking you impolite questions about where you got the somniferum straw, or what's causing you enough pain to risk synthesising Class A drugs when you've left your front door open."

"You're some kind of crazy. I knew it." Cherry narrows his eyes and mentally prepares for another nonsensical fight with another of the block's cadre of meth-addled nutjobs. "Always with the crazies in my block. Go on home, Saint."

"Quite," nods the Saint in agreement with the insult, ignoring the order to leave. "The mental health profession do disagree on exactly what's wrong with me, though. When they can be bothered to see someone with as much negative finance as myself," he smiles, parenthetically. "And they ignore that anything's wrong at all when it comes to getting their fix." His half-focused eyes travel distractedly to the empty bookshelf, the dangling unfixed locks on the window, the dirt-soaked mat in front of the sink, and his expression takes on a tinge of mirth.

He doesn't leave. Cherry goes back to brutalising the poppy straw, and eventually the bedraggled little figure rises and wanders away.

When he wakes up with his cheek smushed against the keys of his laptop and a strange, not unpleasant scent invading his nostrils, the room looks... cleaner. It is cleaner. Beyond the cleared, wiped surface of the table, he can see his recipe books and reference texts have all been put neatly back on their shelf, ordered by subject. Did he do that? The one spare blanket he owns is now covering the ripped back padding of his sofa, joined by four puffy, comfortable-looking cushions from fuck knows where, all lit by a thin shaft of orange streetlight from the open window. The sink is devoid of dirty dishes, freshly bleached. It must be nearly dawn, he realises, because a soft drift of birdsong is infiltrating the room on the night air. More of the little chirping voices join in every few minutes.

"Unh, shut 'em up..." Cherry peels his face off the keyboard. The floor has been swept, the work surfaces wiped. His ashtray has been emptied. There's a fresh bag in the bin, and a fragrant pot of chai tea billowing steam into the air beside him, and a battered candle in an old jam jar burning on the counter. Cherry feels like a slumhead Sara Crewe.

"What the fuck?" he mumbles. "Tommie? Did you lot clean up in here? Where's this stuff come from?" Did he already take that crap he was trying to make and it just broke his brain? What's the point of a painkiller if it's gonna do that? He coulda just Rohypnol'd himself
"I had some things spare... An apology, since I broke your bowl." Cherry's shoulders jump at the deadpan voice from behind him, where the Saint, barefoot on the dirtless floor in his ancient fatigues, with the sleeves of his once-white jersey rolled up to the elbows, is stirring something in one of Cherry's dented aluminium cooking pots. Oh fuck, he thinks, this guy's some sort of stalker. Now he's going to think you owe him, and he's gonna take your liver as payment or something. Why don't you ever lock your fucking front door, you fool.

"Is... that why you're called the Saint? Doing this kinda thing?" ventures Cherry, unsure if he's about to be stabbed with his own wooden spoon or served cream of chicken soup. He means it as a distraction, a ruse while he looks around for his knife, but the Saint's easy posture and the air of relaxed, naive friendliness that surrounds him are disarming. "'Cause... thanks."

"Yeah, it's that," says his new chef, "and it's also because I'm the source of most of the narcotics around this district. If you're addicted to morphine, anyone who delivers it is a saint to you," he points out with a twinge of regret, and swirls the contents of the saucepan about. "But it started off when I used to bring people food." He looks up, remembering something. "Sorry about invading your kitchen like this, by the way... but you were really going to mess this batch up, and it's very good straw, very well-prepared. A shame to waste it." He scrapes around the inner edges of the pot with the spoon, tapping the handle on the side to flick the scrapings back into the boiling liquid. "Nowadays, I'm something resembling a dealer, but once I was just a young man trying to do his peeps some good. I'd give this another four or five minutes if I were you."

Cherry nods placatingly, still not really awake enough to follow anything the Saint, with his barely-audible voice like an Eton schoolboy permanently hooked to an opium pipe, can say. He's heard enough words like peeps and bring people food and source of narcotics to figure out that the Saint, rather than turning out to be a psychopathic killer, is more likely to be pathologically charitable, and definitely not on the opposite side of the law to Cherry and company. "Mhm. What exactly are you cooking? Did your oven break or something, cause you could've just asked -"

"I'm steeping your poppy straw, like I said. Wasn't that what you wanted?" The Saint turns to face him, and the hollows beneath his eyes are arresting despite his smile. He's one of the palest people Cherry's ever seen, with Caucasian skin that's bleached out like an albino's, the little holes in the backs of his hands and those bruised pits looking even worse against the pallor. "I'll dry it back out if you weren't going to use it yet."

"No, no, I was trying." Cherry holds his hands up like a hostage. "Listen, I don't really need any more help, but thanks for cleaning up. I'll bring you a few beers when I'm done tonight. Thanks," and he stands up, expecting the Saint to amble out with his odd junkie grace.

Instead, his new friend points to the pot and beams widely, a genuinely warm grin that looks misplaced between the gaunt cheekbones and the blemished skin, lighting up his eyes so they almost look normal. "Do you actually know what to do with this now that I've cooked it?" he asks, almost playfully. (Can crackheads be playful? wonders Cherry.)

"Well, I've read the wiki."

"I wrote most of that, but I left a few things out. The users have probably filled in the gaps by now." The Saint holds out the spoon in a conciliatory gesture. "If you can do it, I won't intrude any further."

Cherry wrinkles his lower lip. "Fine, you do it."

"I can stay?" Another alien smile.

"Yeah - wait, you can chill here while you cook, you can hang here, but you can't live here." Cherry is struck by a wave of irrational suspicion. "I'm not trading drugs for living space, this is my house, damn it."

"I have a home," the Saint says carelessly, looking at Cherry over his shoulder. "I live on the floor above you, have done for years."

He knew that. Damn, he's out of it. He's obviously been under for a while. The Saint picks up the pan with no regard for the heat it must be radiating, carrying it over to a cup on the work surface on Cherry's left, on whose rim an unfamiliar object - a tiny fine sieve with two scratched wooden handles - is perched.

"I shan't keep the recipe a secret from you," he reassures Cherry in his conspiratorial whisper. "I'm not Betty Crocker... First of all, you don't really need to be grinding it, especially not with straw like this - it's already been ground fine enough that you can just throw it into a few centimetres of water. Let it steep at about sixty degrees for a couple hours, and always add a few shakes of lemon juice, don't forget, because the pH needs to be low..." He looks at his host to see if Cherry is following, oblivious to the fact that although his eyes are open, the veteran is essentially still asleep. "A lower pH makes for a better morphine yield. Anyway, my tea strainer is yours to borrow anytime you need it," and he pours the sludge from the pan, now turned a greyish mud-brown, into the little mesh strainer, compressing it down with a teaspoon. It takes him a while to push all the fluid out of the wire basket, and the resulting cup of brown liquid looks anything but appealing. Its thick organic scent, tart like dung and not entirely distasteful, hangs around the Saint like a cloak as he brings it over. "Here you are."

"You sure this stuff is even gonna work?" mutters Cherry as the Saint places the teacup, carefully like some underworld maitre-d', in front of the still-steaming teapot. Its own gases rise and mingle with the pot's cloud. "I didn't pay very much for it."

"Of course. Papaverum somniferum," shrugs the Saint, as if that even approximates an explanation. Cherry looks at him vacantly. "The root of all opium," he clarifies. "It made the Victorian opium dens what they were and it got the Persians high enough for surgery; it makes the heroin people get from me, and those rubbishy codeine pills that you buy at the chemist's, and the morphine they pump into people in the State hospitals instead of antibiotics. East is east," he smiles. "It's all Greek to me."

Cherry chews at the inside of his lip warily, heaves his head off the table again, stares into the brown stuff. He sniffs it and recoils as a stronger wave of the tangy smell hits his nasal membranes - exactly how much lemon juice has gone into this shit? - and then, with the same instant resolve that made him take this apartment years ago and join the Army a decade before that, he lobs it down his throat.

"Jesus!" He coughs and spits a fragment of stalk away, fishing another out from under his tongue. "God, that is fucking disgusting. Augh."

The Saint puts the half-full, mostly solidified bag of sugar back where he found it, in the back of the cupboard that houses microwave chips, Yum Pax toaster pastries, extra-caffeinated instant espresso and cornflakes, items which compose the majority of Cherry's diet. "You can sweeten it before you... never mind."

"Fuck it. Whoo," Cherry shakes his head as the tea slides into his stomach. "Strong stuff."

"I told you it was a good batch. Thankyou for letting me help."

Cherry raises an eyebrow, but ignores his doubt that anyone would possibly thank people for letting them help with chores. "Sure. Any time." At least he doesn't have to do it.

"Really?" The Saint looks hopeful, and Cherry wonders how many people invite this wasted little dealer into their houses without wanting drugs. What do saints do in their spare time?

"Yeah, come for a beer whenever you want. You saved my ass," he gestures to his creaking back, and to the invisible damage inside his chest from the gas they don't tell recruits about. "Y'welcome here anytime, Saint."

A slow, lopsided smile creeps over the drug synther's face. "Honestly?"


"Then what do I call you, amico mio?"

"Lieutenant-Corporal Martin B. Chandrasekhar, son... but most people stick with just Cherry." He grins back. "Can't be arsed with that regiment shit any more, if I'm honest." The opiate tea is starting to kick in, and his slurring becomes progressively more apparent as he speaks. He drags himself out of the chair and around the table, slumping onto the sofa with relish.

"No ranks amongst scum," observes the Saint as he moves. "We're all just sitting down for a cup of tea."

"Cup of tea," agrees Cherry as his eyes start to close. He's asleep before he can say it again.


thus ends another round of public humiliation. whoop.



public humiliation time!

sometimes i get fucked up and morbid and it leads to me writing whiny-ass pieces in lectures instead of taking notes. i'm sure it looks like i'm taking really fucking good notes, though. anyway here's the piece i wrote in Knowledge-Based Systems today while Dr. Kollingbaum was talking about backward chaining in Jess (awkward); it's called "doll", and it's about biohacking, in the sense of the word that i don't use. assume it's set at some unknown time in the future, like most of my crap. and ignore the wangst; it spills out into the text editor so that it doesn't stay in my head. i'm not actually this emo in real life.

i am a morbid, morbid motherfucker
Lepht Anonym 30.11.09

He can't sleep without his doll. That's fucked up, and he knows it. Close to necrophilia, closer to obsession or maniacal grief. It's just a doll now; no more sentience, no more talk, but he still needs it. He talks to it sometimes anyway, even though it won't hear. Those fuckers. He still tells it he loves it, gives it those little showers of kisses it used to laugh at. It says nothing. It sits.

Those fuckers. He's almost traced them, doesn't know any more how much time and money he's invested in making the contacts to do it and bribing the ISP and trading the guy upstairs drugs to teach him how to work the black wares. It's become all he knows, and it won't make the doll into a sentient being again, but it will make him feel better. Sometimes, like the doll itself, he doesn't feel anything at all.

He kisses its cheek, thirteen years' habit, as he climbs out of bed - it sits up in reaction to his absence, his stomach doing its familiar barrel roll before he tells himself for the thousandth time that that's just the basic functionality of the shell activating. Looks into its slack face to make sure. Sees its dead eyes and turns away sick to the screen. Almost there. Almost there. Those fuckers.

Do they even know? Do they ever feel guilty? Do they give a fuck that they killed the only person he depended on?

Of course they know. They do it for fun. And why should they care? It wasn't their love. They didn't technically murder anyone. They just threw some commands to a botnet drone that happened to sit inside his partner's favourite coffee shop. They didn't even manually spread the infection. Just programmers, showing the world their skills. Clever programmers proving the weaknesses in modern technology. Those fuckers.

He turns back to the bed. It's still sitting there; the urge to smash it rises again, throw the lightweight shell out of the window and watch it be crushed by the trains below or fried on the rails, but he can't move his limbs. It still looks like his life partner. It's still wearing a medical bracelet and the T-shirt that smells like cigarettes long gone. Like it could light up any minute, speak again, make one of their stupid injokes or yell "Psych!" and start cackling. Its head lolls. The deep blue eyes stare at the whirls on its blanket.

He doesn't know what he'll do when the trace completes. He knows it won't be legal. He cradles the doll's limp torso tight.