No Future In Arguing

image

Because of the argument with her mother, Lakshmi wasn’t able to sleep. It happened ten days ago to this very minute and her hatred for her mother hadn’t abated one iota. Truth to tell, she wasn’t able to remember who started the argument or what the initial disagreement was about, but, as with most feuds, it opened a doorway for all the other things, the niggling bits of minutia to spill out and words were exchanged and feeling were hurt on both sides.

Ten days of freezing her mother out. Ten days of refusing to eat or talk or even be in the same room as her mother. Ten nights of lying awake in bed, staring at the headlights of passing cars that trailed rectangles across her ceiling. Lakshmi knew every inch of the ceiling and walls of her room like the back of her hands… which was why she was shocked when her eyes fell upon the crack.

It was beside the mirror that sat atop her chest of drawers, a horizontal crack no longer than a foot in length that looked like a demonic smile. Lakshmi stared at the crack, long and hard, wondering how she had missed something so obvious before… when it blinked. All right, so maybe blinked wasn’t the proper word, but she could have sworn she saw a light flicker from within the crack.

Probably just the wiring, she thought as she pushed a chair against the wall beneath the crack. At night Lakshmi heard mice scurrying between the walls. One of them must have nibbled on a wire and exposed it. She’d have to remember to tell her father in the morning. She was sure it had to be a fire hazard.

Lakshmi stood on the chair and inspected the crack, running her index finger along its jagged yet smooth edge. It was surprisingly cold to the touch and she thought she felt a slight suction… then the flicker again.

This time she was sure she hadn’t imagined it. Lakshmi leaned forward and stared into the crack and was surprised to see something within it. She saw…

Herself.

It was like watching a movie. She watched herself being herself, doing the things she normally did, but not in any day she ever remembered. The images began at a normal pace then sped up to such a degree where to anyone else they would have appeared to be nothing but a blur but Lakshmi was able to follow along because she was somehow connected to them. They were her personal images, of her life and she was living them, retaining the information contained within them.

Her eyes glued to the crack, Lakshmi watched the rest of her life, the entirety of her existence, literally flash before her:

  • Her relationship with her mother falls apart in a series of little spats over the next few years that leads to the big fight when she turns seventeen that causes irreparable damage. That will be the final time the two will ever speak to one another.
  • Her father grows miserable with all the constant fighting, which wears on his soul until he can’t take it anymore. Lakshmi cries uncontrollably the day he finally leaves their home for another woman. She begins smoking to handle the stress.
  • Her dream career of becoming a geophysicist vanishes that day she quits college for a job that allows her to move out of the family home and away from her mother for good.
  • She works so many menial jobs, none of which manages to hold her attention for very long, and slowly saps all the dreams and creativity she holds in reserve. With each successive job, the sheen in her eyes dulls a bit more.
  • As with the job situation, so, too, her love life. Her many attempts at love fail for the same reasons time and time again. Somehow, she becomes relationship poison and seeks out the same.
  • Eventually, her worries and frustrations in finding a mate causes her to settle for a man beneath her standards, a man who adds nothing to her life, a man who also works dead end job after job with no hope of career advancement.
  • Then comes the struggle to save money for secondhand furniture and a used car, and as rents increase, their apartments over the years become smaller and rattier.
  • She cries alone in the bathroom with a pregnancy test showing a positive result.
  • The birth of her daughter, Enid, is agonizing and when it’s done and the baby is placed in her arms, she knows she should feel something, tries to feel love, but the emotions just won’t come.
  • Not long after, she’s pregnant again with a premature boy this time, Jack, and makes the effort to spread the already nonexistent love even thinner.
  • Jack is born sickly and remains that way. Medical bills mount that they’re unable to pay, and her husband comes home later and later complaining of overtime that is never reflected in his paycheck.
  • Fed up, her husband leaves in much the same way that her father did, for another woman, and she now is forced to get a second job to make ends meet.
  • Her already distant relationship with her daughter grows volatile when Enid turns to drugs after running with a group of delinquents.
  • Jack’s condition worsens and neither her husband nor Enid are present at the hospital as he dies.
  • She develops a cough that turns into a hacking fit that turns into lung cancer that kills her a day before her sixty-sixth birthday. And like her son, she, too, dies alone.

Lakshmi thought the images would stop there, but was sadly mistaken. She was actually able to see beyond her own death, where Enid, holding a one-year Narcotics Anonymous recovery coin, arrives at her hospital room moments too late. Too late to apologize, too late to make amends, too late to say “I love you.” And the pain of this sends her running back to a den to score, where a fatal hot dose takes her life.

***

A noise, the sound of wood and plaster breaking in reverse, pulled Lakshmi away from the visions of her future and back into the room with such a quickness that she staggered back, fell off the chair, and hit the hardwood floor with a heavy thud.

A concerned woman’s voice called from outside the room and down the hall. Her mother. The woman she hated mere moments ago and wished all the nastiness a seven-year-old girl’s mind could muster… but now, there was something else. Something she couldn’t quite remember. The images of her future started jumbling inside her head to point they made no sense and turned into so much mental vapor.

Something about her father and her husband leaving? Something about a baby… a girl, or maybe a boy, sick and dying? And a fight, a big fight…

Lakshmi scrambled to her feet and raced out of the door and down the hall as memories evaporated from her mind. There was something she had to do, something before these feelings vanished and she went back to being angry.

Lakshmi burst into her parents room, where her father, just about to fall into a deep sleep, jumped at the girl’s sudden arrival.

Her mother, on the other hand, was fastening her dressing gown and about to investigate the sound from her daughter’s room, when her daughter rushed up, arms flung wide and embraced her.

“I’m sorry! I’m so sorry!” Lakshmi sobbed, as the memories of her future disappeared completely.

Her father watched in confusion. Her mother shrugged at him, smiled and stroked her daughter’s hair, cooing that everything will be all right. Everything will be just fine now.

***

In Lakshmi’s room, the crack in the wall, once the length of a wooden school ruler, began to shrink, as the wall knitted itself whole again.

©2013 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Advertisements

Beast of the Illusory Moon

image

“Mǣnōn concede to me the quietude to recognize the effects I should not alter; the bravery to transform the conditions I am able to; and insight to recognize the distinction,” he leaned against the chain link fence, covered in less blood than he first imagined and prayed to the moon.

Not the Moon, not Luna, the other one, Mǣnōn, the illusory moon that sat back and to the left, that was only visible every four years on the twenty-ninth of February.

***

He had never been so disappointed in himself as he stared at the nubiles sauntering in and out of the afterhours bars and nightclubs that lined the strip. The passersby, those who bothered to toss him a sideward glance, sussed him as an alcoholic, but his problem was far more severe than that.

His affliction stemmed from the fact that everyone had two sides, no matter how open and honest they appeared to be. There was the side they showed the world and the beast side that only revealed its face when they were all alone. And it wasn’t necessarily as evil as it sounded, but it was there nonetheless. And there was no way of really knowing someone’s true nature unless they revealed it to you.

But he saw it. On this night, with the gift he had been granted by the Goddess of a moon visible to no one but he, which wasn’t a present as much as a curse that gnawed at his sanity. He saw the true faces of evil that hunkered down within the tall brush of fashion, cosmetics, and innocence. And sometimes the evil saw him.

He caught sight of a woman as she appeared from one of the clubs, ultraviolet stamp still moist on the back of her hand. Ten years his junior, she was stunningly beautiful in an exotic way that unsettled him. Her auburn hair cascaded over the shoulders of her white satin dress and gave her the appearance of an old-world masterpiece come to life.

She walked past a Chinese take-out joint and the exposed ATM before she realized she was being followed. When she turned, he knew she had seen him for what he was as clearly as he had spotted her. Her countenance shifted from serene beauty to that of a woodland creature frozen in the headlights of a speeding vehicle. But it wasn’t fear that registered in her eyes—she was making a decision, flight or fight.

The moment her face tightened with determination, he knew she would rabbit. And she did. She spun on the balls of her feet, kicked off her heels and bolted out into the street, dodging cars as she ran against the traffic, inhuman toenails ripping into the tarmac.

He grinned as he whipped out past the parked cars; he loved it when they ran. His reflexes, sharp normally, were amped under the light of the illusory moon and hope blazed in his mind as he was about to overtake her easily. In this mode, before what had to happen actually happened, he saw himself as a savior. What he had to do was in everyone’s best interest, even hers. He would not fail this time. He intended to honor his duty. And as he was about to lay his hand on her shoulder and set things right—he heard a wet thumping sound and felt pain down to his marrow as a car bumper made contact with his hip and sent him sprawling into a lamppost.

Nausea and blood mixed his mouth and as he looked up through blurred vision he could just make out her lithe frame turning down a side street. A voice cried out amidst the murmurs in the background, I’m sorry! it said. You came out of nowhere! I didn’t see you in time!

Voices shouted and people rushed to the scene from both sides of the street. He fought the pain and forced himself to his feet. He had to leave before the police showed up. Too many witnesses. He couldn’t have explained why he was chasing the girl in the first place. Who would have believed him? To bystanders, he surely must have looked like a psycho ex-boyfriend or worse, a perverted sex deviant.

He kept his head low and shielded his face from camera phones as he pushed through a crowd of people asking if he was okay, hobbling towards the side street, hoping against hope that he hadn’t lost her trail.

***

He still couldn’t fathom why he was chosen. Had he been a cop or any other branch of law enforcement, this might have been so much easier. Easier to pursue, apprehend and deal with a special brand of evil one night every four years. But as a thirty-seven-year-old accountant, what was he supposed to do? How long could this go on before he was caught, or even worse killed? He had no social life and how could he? This thing made him unfit for human consumption. And what if he managed to hook with a woman only to see, come February twenty-ninth, what sort of demon lurked beneath her cool surface? He knew he had to quit at some point. Maybe tonight, if he was able to resolve this in time he would petition Mǣnōn to find a replacement.

Along with his heighten abilities came the urge. He needed to scour the streets and rid the city of pestilence on this very special of nights. It was a basic bodily function to him, as much a part of his continued existence as breathing.

He limped around the corner, his pace picking up as his fractured bones knitted themselves back together and his muscles and internal organs returned to their optimal state. The neighborhood wasn’t the safest to begin with and those with sense stayed on the strip in crowded well-lit areas. The side street was dark, streetlamps busted on both sides, which was probably why she chose it to escape into, to hide in.

He moved into the street and swiped a finger across a bit of dug up tarmac, touched it to his tongue, and smacked his lips, processing the taste of her. Motionless, twilight settled on him as he cleared his mind—then he picked up her trail.

***

“You don’t have to do this,” the woman called out from somewhere in the dark.

“Yes, I do,” he stood at the mouth of the alley and scanned the blackness as his eyes adjusted to the starlight. She was well hidden.

“I haven’t hurt anyone.”

“Yet,” he spat. “You should come out, you really should. It’ll be so much easier for you than if I have to tear this alley apart to find you.”

The woman eased herself to her feet, stepping from a darker shadow within the shadows, shaking off the alley debris like an octopus coming out of hiding.

“Please, let me go,” her voice, as soft as a butterfly’s footfall, was the sincerest plea he had ever heard from one of these demons. She stared at him, eyes watering, lips pursed into a small quivering bow. It was clear she wanted to live.

“That isn’t the way this works. The earth must be cleansed of all unnatural beasts.”

“W-wait…” her shaky hand reached down to fumble at the clasp of the handbag slung across her shoulder.

He thought she was going for some sort of weapon but what could she have been carrying in such a tiny purse that could hurt him we he was like this, at the zenith of human abilities? Although he wasn’t afraid, his body tensed reflexively, ready to pounce. And he was hit with that thought again, of how incredibly stunning his prey was even in her beastly form. Her hair, slimy from alley gunge, hung in her face like a tangle of dead eels but it couldn’t hide her eyes which were larger than he had ever seen on a living creature.

“All beasts must be cleansed? No exception?” she asked.

“None.”

“Have you seen yourself?” the woman pulled a compact mirror from her bag and held it up, catching the faintest bit of night light.

His expression shifted from predator to absolute horror. His jaw clenched, clamping down upon a shriek, and the grip loosened on his anger. He dropped down on his haunches. She was right. In the reflection, he could see that he was a beast, no different than she. It took a beast to catch a beast, he supposed. And he did the only sensible thing he could have thought to do.

***

Up against the chain link fence, he dug his claws into his own chest and tore out his heart, marveling at how little blood there was.

“Living one moon at a time; enjoying one solstice at a time; tolerating adversity as the conduit to tranquility; acquiring, as you do, this aberrant humanity as it is, not as I would wish it; believing that you will set all things right if I submit to your command; that I may be satisfied in this life and rewarded with you forever in the next,” his guttural voice trailed off to a whisper. And when he had completed his prayer, Mǣnōn, the illusory moon, embraced his spirit with open arms.

©2014 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

About Beast of The Illusory Moon:

Ideas, or story inspirations, come from the unlikeliest of places and often strike when you least expect it. This one came about while I was viewing a trailer for the Kevin Costner movie, Mr. Brooks, that begins with him reciting the Serenity Prayer while staring at bottles of liquor on a shelf, so the logical assumption is that he’s an alcoholic but his actual problem runs along a different, darker line—if you’re interested in the true nature of his problem, view the trailer, the movie isn’t the subject of this introduction, the thought that it inspired is.

The trailer made me think about the dichotomy, the two mostly equal parts of peace and war, love and hate, and the black and white delineation of so-called good and evil that exist within us all.

The story itself doesn’t really tackle or explore the characteristics of duality but that’s the nature of an idea, isn’t it? It never ends up on the page the way it began life in your grey matter before being put through the meat grinder process of dramatic structure.

C’est la narration.

Songs As Stories: The King of Wretches

*Inspired by the song “Search and Destroy” by Sanders Bohlke

I do not have a favorite season, per se, but whenever summer rolls around, my head swims with near endless possibilities of how I can alter not only my reality but the reality of existence itself so that I am finally able to live a life in which my head falls on the pillow with no worries and I awaken the same manner.

But at this moment any life other than my own would be an improvement. You must understand, when you live in the gutter, climbing up onto the pavement can feel like reaching Shamayim, the first heaven, but there is not much chance of climbing that high. My wings, or what is left of them, have not been able to bear my weight for quite some time now.

And I am not alone. I lie here amongst the other bodies that convulse on a human Richter scale that makes it impossible to pray and have those prayers heard. My lips, dry and cracked haven’t kissed another in a century of lifetimes, though I myself have been kissed by a fate who cruelly calls my name and announces my presence, the King of Wretches Among Wretches. This fate who comes down from on high feigns love for me, lifts my head slightly and kisses me deeply and passionately before abandoning me without uttering a word.

So here I exist, an enemy of sleep as I am cursed to remain awake and endure, trying to mask my terror because I was instructed to know no fear but I feel my reserve crack and my secret dreads are beginning to seep through. Left for dead but not truly dead, I sometimes raise myself to my full height and threaten to leave but Those Who Know realize this is an empty threat. My soul is anchored to this spot and even though I can beseech the wind to lift away this all too fleshy carapace, what would I be without that which makes me unique? What sort of life would a soulless one be?

Alas, I am far too proud to beg, even for mercy. Accepting charity never seemed quite fitting to me, which means I stay in anger and at the dawn of each new day I let the carrion pick away at the bits of me that have gone necrotic from disuse. I curse the fact that when they take to the sky they never steal away the bits that made me the monster that led me to be in this predicament in the first place. It is as if the universe believes its very own balance is better with me assuming this role.

The sad truth is that not all dead are buried in the field with the flowers. Some lie rotting away to nothing, slowly dying from wounds that never heal. The minor injuries you suffer repeatedly every single day that rip the scabs off to bleed you anew. It is the slowest death imaginable. Where you die a little more on each anniversary.

And in time these injuries celebrate anniversaries, birthdays, and even holidays. And you cry outwardly until the tears no longer come, then you cry inwardly and when people cannot see you weep, they assume that you have moved on and think it is acceptable to pretend the bad thing never happened and things can return to normal, without realizing that there is no longer a normal to return to.

The parent of dead hopes and dreams never stops being a parent in their hearts. And you spend the rest of your life gathering the leftover pieces and remnants of a future life well past its sell-by date and inhume it in the backyard of years gone by in a specially constructed box of disappointment.

©2013 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Custody Battle

image

Kylie heard there were people who actually had the luxury of choosing whether or not to be a fucking asshole. She, unfortunately, was not one of those lucky shitheads. Her great grandfather was an old-fashioned asshole who begat an even bigger asshole, who begat the king of all assholes, who married the high exalted queen bitch asswipe, better known as the person she called Mommy Whorest. All this to illustrate why Kylie felt she wasn’t totally responsible for the way she was. Not so fucking easy to be a goddammed pillar of the community when the gene pool you’re pulled from was a shitty septic tank.

The other genetic trait she inherited was the uncanny ability to choose the absolute douchiest mate. Enter: Simon. Ever much the prick match to her assholosity, only he wasn’t merely a prick to her, sometimes he was a cunt, too. They were made for one another, the most fearsome twosome since the Kray brothers. And as long as they had a mutual target to focus their hatred on, they maintained wedded bliss. When no target presented itself, they turned on one another like rabid ass dogs.

There was only one person on the entire face of the planet who was spared their abusive wrath, Ms. Brittany Anne, their daughter. The only thing they gave two shits about because she was the only thing the pair created that remained unsullied by the shitstorm of their separate and combined fucked up worlds. And as the only thing they had ever gotten goddammed right, Brittany Anne was the only thing they would have abso-fucking-lutely died for, no hesitation, no questions asked.

So, when their marriage shit the bed for the final time, Kylie told Simon he could keep the house, the car, everything in the joint account, the whole ball of wax, just as long as she got Brittany.

Of course, Simon was having none of that and they wound up in court, which to Kylie was the stupidest move he could have made. He ate his balls in the courtroom. He was a living off the grid, import/export, bootlegging sonuvabitch who looked like dogshit warmed over on paper. Hadn’t taken the judge long to award her full custody, but she knew in her heart of bastard hearts that the motherfucking court order wasn’t anything but a piece of paper to wipe her ass with.

It took Simon less than four hours to enlist the aid of his brothers, who Kylie knew to be a bunch of fake fucking tough guys who swore they had King Kong sized balls simply because they watched Scarface and Goodfellas on a continuous DVD loop. And when Kylie was in the kitchen microwaving Kraft Macaroni and Cheese dinner, those shitbirds kidnapped her daughter.

Being there wasn’t an Einstein among them and together their collective IQ couldn’t reach room temperature, Kylie knew exactly where they were holding Brittany. The hot house. It was where Simon operated his numerous non-corporate businesses, a tiny hovel where his inbred fucktard brothers shacked up when their whore mother threw their shiftless asses out. It was also a shitty crack den that sat in the otherwise decent residential neighborhood like an infected, bloody hemorrhoid. One that was definitely getting lanced tonight.

After Kylie cased the house and picked the best spot for her approach, she drew her piece, the assault rifle pushing its way from under her denim duster. Simon always accused her of having penis envy, and if that was the case then this bitch of a rifle was her goddammed hard on!

Lep stepped out of the front door, planted his feet on the porch and turned his gat Kylie’s way. The gun was a piece of shit .44 he bought out of a Kmart shopping cart from some dude with a serious boner for Clint Eastwood.

The youngest of all the brothers, Lep’s real name was Earl but his brothers gave him the moniker due to his height and bizarre resemblance to a leprechaun. Four foot if he was an inch and at least two feet of that was head. Combined with his high pitch laugh, he had a nickname that stuck for life.

Even thirty feet away and caught off guard, Kylie had more than enough time to clean this asshat’s clock. She whirled around and squeezed her trigger. His oversized head came apart like a pumpkin in a microwave. To his credit, he managed to take a few steps forward and pulled his trigger before he collapsed, but the shot went wild, missing Kylie by a mile.

Lep was the rare brother who had never really done anything to Kylie and for the briefest of instances, she kind of felt sorry for him. But he did try to shoot her, so fuck him, that dancing under rainbows, gold hoarding, headless motherfucker!

The sound of the rifle shot was bound to bring out the rest of the boys so Kylie put a little pep in her step as she walked toward the house.

Slick Sid, the middle brother with the oily, bad skin, was next out of the house and his face went slack the moment his eyes fell on Lep’s body. He started screaming. Screaming like the little bitch he was. Kylie though. Mouth going off like a little pussy siren.

When Sid saw Kylie coming at him, rifle leveled, his hand shot down to the pistol in his waistband, even while he continued to scream. She could have shot his dumb ass but chose not to. Maybe hadn’t even needed to.

By the time Sid’s gun cleared his waistband, Kylie was on top of him. Rifle butt to the family jewels doubled him over, then an elbow to the jaw knocked him down to the hardwood porch deck. Sid’s hand twitched on the pistol grip which made Kylie stomp down on his jaw with a horrible crunch.

“Where is she?” Kylie’s voice was controlled rage. Sid made a noise that Kylie took to be “Who?” Maybe smashing his jaw wasn’t the best idea.

“My daughter, bitch! Where’s my child?” Kylie knelt down and pried the pistol from Sid’s hand. She placed the muzzle on his temple and cocked the piece.

Call it self-preservation or simply blind luck but Sid’s hand shot up and clutched the gun in a manner so that the meat of his hand between thumb and forefinger blocked the hammer from firing.

Kylie was caught off guard as Sid twisted the gun out of her grip, spun the barrel in the opposite direction and squeezed the trigger.

This mutherfucker! she thought as she took a gunshot to the stomach. Kylie grunted as she brought the shotgun up to his neck. Sid’s throat bloated with automatic rifle ammunition and burst, spitting a dark crimson stain on the bare hardwood.

Kylie pressed her back against the house near the front door, the worst possible place she could have been but the wound in her gut wasn’t letting her go anywhere.

“I know you heard the commotion, so you know I’m out here,” she yelled into the darkened doorway, putting pressure on her stomach to try to stop the bleeding. She prayed they couldn’t detect the pain in her voice. “Si, can you hear me? Two of yours are dead. Didn’t need to be that way. Just give my daughter back unharmed and we’ll call it quits. How’s that sound to you?”

Kylie thought she heard someone running inside the house but couldn’t be sure over the sound of her own heart in her ears as blood continued to ooze from her belly. Unbeknownst to her, Gabby Otis, the mute brother, crept around the side of the house and would have had her dead to rights if he hadn’t stepped on a loose floorboard.

The creak snapped Kylie to attention. She brought the shotgun around and blew the bottom part of Otis’ right leg clean off his body. The man dropped face first off the porch…but never let go of the gun.

Otis’ gun came up over the lip of the porch deck, shakily trying to target Kylie. She put the man in her sights and pulled the trigger. Jammed.

Kylie cursed and squeezed her bullet-pierced stomach as she grabbed the rifle by the barrel and swung it at Otis’ hand. Not a direct hit but the butt connected with enough force to send the gun flying off into the unkempt lawn grass.

Kylie angled the rifle butt at Otis’ head, connected and did it once more for good measure. Otis’ eyes fluttered close as he lost consciousness. His head still in striking distance, she aimed the rifle butt again, catching him full on this time. The left side of Otis’s head caved in and blood squirted from his right ear.

Without warning, Kylie cried out in agony as she was blown forward by the impact of a bullet in her back. She tumbled over the porch railing and landed face first in the grass. Though every movement was pure agony, Kylie twisted her head and struggled to understand what she was looking at.

Brittany Anne, the young girl with clear traces of her mother in her face, a face that was now a mask of fury covered with a sheen of tears, held a pistol in her tiny trembling hands.

Kylie tried to ask her daughter, “Why?” but only managed to cough blood as her mouth formed the word. A shadow fell over Kylie.

“No one took her, you dumb cunt,” the familiar voice said. “She came to me on her own. She wants to live with her daddy right now. Isn’t that right, pumpkin?”

Kylie lifted her head up from the grass, trailing threads of pink saliva and blood, in time to see her little girl nod her head.

“But, if you want to stay,” Simon said, “there’s one thing I’m going to need you to do. Remember what it was?”

Brittany Anne nodded a second time and answered, “Kill Mommy.”

“What? No!” Kylie said as the pistol in Brittany Anne’s hand went off a second time.

To be continued…

©2013 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Songs As Stories: The Man

slide1

*Inspired by the song “The Man” by Aloe Blacc

In the beginning of what most believed in their heart of hearts to be the End of Days, there was The Distant Signal. It came in the form of a definitive and verified multi-language message broadcast to all the countries of Earth simultaneously.

What should have been a moment of joyous acknowledgment that we were not alone in the universe, was tainted by a subliminal signal that triggered an automatic flight response in all the various and sundry life forms on the planet.

Dubbed The Great Terror by the media, it opened the door to speculation about the global impact alien contact might have on world governments, organized religions, stock markets, and most importantly human existence.

Then came news of the one person on the planet unaffected by the subliminal signal.

His business card was made of carbon-fiber reinforced thermoplastic. Laser etched in red on the back was his phone number, four digits, no area or country code, because it wasn’t needed. The number could be dialed from anywhere in the world, toll-free. The front of the card delivered the most accurate message any business card ever had. It told the bearer exactly who he was in two simple words:

The Man

Normally slang that referred to either the government, an authority in a position of power, or a drug dealer — which he had no issue with, as he had allegedly been all those things in his youth — it currently served as a term of respect and praise.

The Man had no official credit rating, never owned a bank account, and his fingers never knew the texture of cash. His currency was the Boon License, a service performed, payable by a service at his behest.

The Man never advertised his services, and thanks to a universal binary code, he wasn’t searchable on the internet. His legend was viral, spread word of mouth from those who benefited from his services. The downside of this Chinese whispers campaign were all the old wives’ tales that attached themselves to his accomplishments like gossip remoras:

  • He was incapable of telling the truth and he gained supernatural powers by winning a bet with the Devil in a liar’s competition.
  • He thrived on the broken hearts of virgins after he stole the purest form of love from them.
  • He was born without a soul.
  • He was a genetic engineering experiment using stem cell materials that hadn’t been able to be duplicated.
  • He was born with one hundred percent brain capacity and as a result, has all the information stored on every computer and the internet in his brain.
  • He averted World War Three by winning the jackpot in a poker game with the world’s superpowers.

For a person who bartered in boons, how could he resist collecting favors from the entire planet? But when The Man accepted the offer, he scoured governments, both domestic and foreign, for help, with absolutely no success.

Once The Man signed the contract, he was elected to make first contact, and the world leaders resigned from their posts and contingency plans were underway to build underground shelters. He could not find a government, nation, country or individual to stand by his side.

The final extraterrestrial message contained a set of coordinates for the rendezvous point. Although no one would stand by him, he was able to call in several favors to arrange transport to one of the remote volcanic islands in the South Atlantic Ocean, Tristan da Cunha.

The alien armada arrived like a meteor storm, ships of shifting geometrics burned through Earth’s mesosphere and parked themselves in the stratosphere around the entire planet so that they blotted out the sun.

Plunged into darkness, The Man stood his ground as a lone, illuminated craft, smaller than the other ships, descended to the rendezvous point and touched down on the soil light as a feather.

The ship altered its form and peeled itself away from its passenger and repurposed itself into a ramp. The alien glided forward. It existed on the outer fringes of humanoid description but The Man found its features and its form somehow alluring.

The alien handed him a card with strange markings and upon contact with his skin, the card pricked his thumb and took a DNA sample. The markings changed, cycling through alphabets until it hit his native earthbound English. When all the letters were in place, it simply read:

The Woman

The alien smiled.

©2013 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys