Short Story

Class Warfare

“Maxwell.”
“Max!”
Max was curled up in the tiny corner in the hallway where the bottoms of the French doors almost met the thin carpet. It was an artfully chosen spot and it must be said one of his many afternoon favourites. The curtains were burgundy red and covered the whole length of the glass panelled doors, except for a height of perhaps an inch-and-a-half at the bottom. In this space Max could only be seen, or perhaps guessed at, as a darker patch of shadow, but only then by those who looked closely, and those who looked closely might be rewarded with the realisation that the small dimple in the bottom-edge of the curtain and the small grey shape that caused it, was in fact the grey furry ear of Max the cat protruding into the North hallway to give warning of the approach of those who might cause disturbance to the delicate territorial boundaries of a meditative cat.

In this case the warning system seemed to have failed due either to encroaching deafness on the ear of an adult tabby cat in the prime of his life or some other unquantified at failing that, had it been put into words would perhaps have reflected poorly on the character of the cat in question.
“Max!!”
“Yes, Lady Burbage?” One front paw projected from under the curtain when it reached full stretch, it gave a politely short quiver of pleasure and then retracted far enough that the personage who owned it might consider putting weight on it. Unlike the paws of many (perhaps the majority) of cats called “tabby” this paw featured no white at all. In fact none of Max’s feet had white ‘socks’ – where “God had run out of paint”. Instead, all his feet were brown grey tabby – the same colouration, as it happened, of a standard issue mouse, but with black stripes though this similarity of colouration as had benefitted no member of the rodent species since Max, though well fed by his human acolytes, took pleasure in keeping the larder, the kitchen, the wine cellar and the library free of those he termed “little scuttlers”, a mission in life that earned him a position in Lady Burbage’s retinue somewhere between highly-valued retainer and the kind of long-term houseguest who had their regular place at table for meals.

After a long moment, three further paws, each of similar colouration protruded from under the curtain, stretched taut, toes and claws splayed, quivered and relaxed. After a further small disturbance behind the curtain Max’s sleek feline head appeared, eyes slitted as the lower edge of the curtain passed across them, and as his upper whisker array bent down and popped back up. His spine made a small dimple in the curtain as he passed under it and a larger one as his mostly vertical tail popped through. Max walked several steps into the hallway, looked up at his human and slitted his eyes slightly in pleasure and greeting. Lady Burbage flitted her eyes slightly in return. Max almost quivered in joy. Lady Burbage’s understanding of the protocols of the dance of life – apparently innate – set her aside from the vast ruck of humans, who could only try.

“Good Afternoon Maxwell, I trust the day is treating you pleasantly?”
“It is Mam, that it is, as a matter of fact that is a very pleasant spot, just enough sun through the glass to keep the topside warm, while the gentle cool breeze from the gap underneath the door provides both pleasant fresh air from the garden and a cool waft up the fur offset by the warmth of the sun. Also, at this time of year the sun is at the correct angle to refract through the bevelling of the window pane and cast the most delightful rainbows on the white inner lining of the curtains. Quite wonderfully thought provoking!”
“Oh. I had rather thought you were asleep!”
“Lady Burbage if there is one thing I hope you have learnt from me is that all sentient beings do most of their thinking while they are asleep – the most important stuff anyway.
“Surely that means that there is then, at least half the time, being the waking hours left to think?”
“In my experience ma’m the waking hours are devoted to thought all too rarely indeed.”
“Judging by the quality of the conversation tendered by my last few luncheon guests, I can but agree.”

Max stretched his front paws forward, sunk his claws into the Axminster, and pulled hard against the resistance of the rest of his body, the effort made his tail arch upwards and the fur on his rump stand on end. When he spoke, it was with difficulty. “Precisely. I’ve been thinking you ought to draw the catchment area for your guest list rather wider than available local churchmen.”

“Be fair Maxwell.” They’re the only people in the area who can be relied on to be even slightly educated. For the most part the county is very rural and reading is regarded as a suspicious new invention.”
“Yes and in the village the comparing of phlegmy noises is regarded as conversation.”
‘I know what you mean.”
“It’s doubly disturbing when you travel as close to the ground as I do.”
“And in an odd kind of way Max, that brings the subject of conversation around to my reason for seeking you out and awakening you.”

Lady Burbage sank herself onto the green velvet upholstered red cedar occasional chair that stood in the hall, mainly for riders who needed help removing their boots and looked down expectantly at Max. Max took two steps and sprung into the hammock of her lap.
Lady Burbage had fat warm thighs and favoured long skirts and Max loved her for it. He arched his neck and daintily touched the tip of her nose with his. His nose was cool and polite.
“Yes, your Ladyship?”
“Max there’s not really polite way to broach this rather delicate subject-“
“But Max did you – ah –mess in Mr Wymss’ shoes?” Lady Burbage very gently stroked the top of Max’s head, all the way down his spine so delicately that his fur was scarcely compressed to his body.
Max arched slightly with approval, Lady Burbage was about the only human permitted such liberties.
“Yes Ma’m I must confess that I did.”
“Why on Earth would you commit such a barbarous and uncouth act Max? And on Mr Wymss, too, our esteemed under butler!”
“Well Lady Burbage, not to tell tales out of school, I must say that my revolutionary activities were undertaken by way of revenge.”
“Revenge on Mr. Wymss? For what?”
“Well, the night before last, Monday I think people call it, I’d decided to go hunting in the wine cellar. There’d been a delivery of a couple of barrels and changes in the environment usually put the scuttlers off centre. So I sneaked in as the cellar men took the cart away and I started hunting. Within an hour or two I’d caught eight. I only ate the heads; I like the crunch and because if I’m too full I can’t hunt and pounce properly.”
Lady Burbage queasily considered how close Max’s mouth had just been to hers.
“Anyway I was starting to think that eight was enough or perhaps even more than enough when I realised that what I wanted more than dead squeakers was a nice chair somewhere upstairs and a bit of a think. So in the crack under the cellar door I see a light moving. Its a hand-held lamp and keys are jingling. Its Wymss doing his lock up round. So I wait till he’s right outside the door and I shout, “Hey Wymss! I’m stuck in here! Let me out!”
“And he didn’t hear you?”
“Oh no he heard me alright – he replied, and I quote; ‘Fuck you cat! always sneaking around where you aren’t supposed to be, you want to be in there? You can spend the night!’ And he walks off. The mice are all jumping up and down and taunting me and laughing while I tried to think.”
His voice became a fair imitation of a mouse squeak;
“Cat! Cat! You keel my mother! Cat! Cat! You keel my seester! Cat! We poisons your foods! Cat! Hey Cat! Cat! We poisons your meelky-weelky! All night. Sometimes they even ran over my tail and interrupted my thoughts. Ned opened the outside door about four AM for a small cask of Malmsey; I was out of there like a rocket, and straight to Wymss’ room. Did you know he leaves his shoes outside his room for the maid he’s seeing to clean? Charlotte? No? Anyway it was too easy, I had a bowel full of mostly digested mouse-heads and I’d been dreaming of my target all night. So: I confess and throw myself of the mercy of the court.”

(c) Alex Rieneck
2019

goldilocks and the three strikes: A Rude Fairytale Rated Adults Only

A Rude Fairy tale

One day in the early Autumn, Goldilocks left the little house where she lived with her Aunt and Uncle and went out for a walk on her own in the woods. Goldilocks got her name from her beautiful golden blonde shimmery hair, it was the first thing about her that people noticed and they always commented on it, to the point wherein had become something of an obsession with her. She would fiddle with it, winding it around her fingers while gazing into the mirror above her dresser. Occasionally a little ditty would appear in her mind. This had of course created in her the belief that she was a gifted poetess, even though she had only once ever written down one of her poems before it vanished into the ether. Anyway on the morning of this lovely early Autumn day she decided that she would take a juicy red apple for lunch and her notebook to write down poems when they occurred to her, as she was sure they would, and she’d go off into the woods over the back fence and she’d walk and let the rhythm of her feet on the stately woodland paths do the rest. As far as some things went, Goldilocks was a very sensible girl.

So Goldilocks walked alone through the woods which were only just starting to turn brown for the Autumn and as the breeze caressed her hair, a song started to take shape in her head. It was still far too early to consider writing it down because it was still so inchoate that it didn’t exactly consist of words, just yet anyway, simply the music that words ride along on top of like a rowboat on the gentle swell out from the shore, but Goldilocks was very happy and quite – abstracted, when she followed a turn in the path around a thick patch of shrubbery and came across a little house, as deep in the woods as she had ever been.

The house was little and built from the kind of rounded stones that made Goldilocks think there must be a river or stream nearby. It had one storey and another, smaller one stuck up high under the steeply angled roof. The roof was made of wooden shingles, the chimney showed no sign of smoke and was made of the same kind of stones as the walls. Two delightful bay windows looked out on the pretty flower garden that was separated from the rest of the forest by a rickety looking picket fence made of unfinished wood. To the side of the flimsy looking front gate stood a letter box with an angled roof and a slot for letters. The slot was empty and on the otherwise blank front of the box there was a single paw-print in black paint and the word “Bears” also in black paint. She noticed that the writing was Wrong. In the childish capitals, the letter”S” was the wrong way around. Goldilocks clicked her tongue and pushed the gate open. When she got to the little front door, she rang the bell, even though she had no idea of what she was going to say if anyone answered it. The bell seemed to ring far away even though it was such a tiny little house. She needn’t have worried because no-one came to the door to answer the bell and her knocking went unheeded too. When she pushed at the door and discovered that it wasn’t even latched, let alone bolted, she pushed the door all the way open and walked right in. She was that kind of girl.

The house seemed to be empty and the hallway certainly was. The place was very neat and smelled very clean but under the smell of freshly vacuumed carpet and the faint smell of bleach that Goldilocks guessed must come from the bathroom, or the laundry, there was another smell faint, but still primal, raw and undeniable. Suddenly Goldilocks was much less sure of herself and there was a falter in her voice when she next called “hello?”
Nothing happened, no-one answered her call. And the house continued to give every appearance of being empty, so it wasn’t long before Goldilock’s natural optimism resurfaced, about the time that she saw the reflection of her hair in the dark parts of a glass-covered picture of an important looking bear. Before much more time had passed, she was slowly waltzing around the sitting room of the house, gently stroking the furniture that she passed with the tips of her fingers because aside from anything else, as spying, sticky-beak poetesses went, she was very tactile.

Mr Bear wasn’t happy to see her. He stood, almost completely filling the open door to the hallway and Goldilocks almost waltzed full length into his furry chest!
Mr Bear gave a deep low grumble from somewhere inside all the fur and bear. It was a grumble, not a growl, but Goldilocks could tell that a creature who could grumble like that could easily produce a very impressive growl. It was an instinctual understanding. So she smiled apologetically, took one step back and curtsied, using her pretty frock to its best advantage. Perhaps unsurprisingly her placatory gesture failed rather spectacularly, since bears are very territorial and far less impressed by apologies than they are by territorial encroachments, especially the sort that has inquisitive, cheeky girls pulling the cutlery out of drawers in the sideboard, touching it and then putting it back, hopefully in the right place. Mr Bear gave vent to his feelings. He didn’t growl, he came forth with a full throated roar, and he jumped on Goldilocks! Goldilocks screamed, sure she was going to be torn to pieces, and tried to fall in a dead faint onto the floor, to lie in a puddle of her own pee, but Mr Bear snatched her out of mid-air, bent her over the thick oak dining table, threw her pretty frock up over her back, forced down her pretty frilly panties, and grabbed two big handfuls of her golden hair and fucked her vigorously, until her screams of terror changed and became far too politically incorrect to be set down here.

Before too long, Mr Bear tired of exacting his revenge on Goldilocks and drew his big penis out of her vagina with a loud schlepping noise that was matched by Goldilocks’ moan, that to the unbiased ear, seemed to be pictched somewhere in the narrow territory between relief and disappointment. Mr Bear picked Goldilocks up as if she weighed no more than a blank postcard, carried her across the room and dropped her on top of Mrs Bear who was lying on her back on the floor in front of the fireplace wearing nothing but her fur. Goldilocks’ face landed directly between Mrs Bear’s legs, with her mouth and nose becoming buried in her most secret place. Goldilocks gasped as Mrs Bear’s cold snout buried itself in her vagina which was still scorching hot from Mr Bear’s frenetic attentions. When Mrs Bear started licking hard and fast at her wet honeypot, she screamed with joy directly into Mrs Bear’s clitoris and started to return the favour, with dedication.

Goldilocks enjoyed herself very much but after awhile, perhaps jaded by too much of a good thing in too short a space of time, started thinking that despite her present activity being a great deal of fun, that something was missing, and her eyes rolled up to where she could see baby bear standing in the doorway watching g\Goldilocks and his mother on the floor. His eyes were bulging out of his head in a way that would have comical if it had not been so disconcerting. He was masturbating, very fast and with great motivation.

Of course “baby” bear was not really a baby, more of a teenager. But since bears lifespans are typically shorter than human ones, a stage of mid-late curling or teenager hood can draw the nickname “Baby” in the same way a college freshman can, when addressed by a gum chewing teenybopper calls her beau “baby” while ruffling his hair in between the pops of bubblegum bubbles.

Goldilocks pounced forward like a praying Mantis in her preying in less time than it takes to write, and even in less time than it takes to read. Goldilocks was sucking on Baby Bear’s penis with a mouth that was still redolent with his mother’s precious fluids. In a time commensurate with Baby Bear’s age and lack of experience in such matters, he ejaculated directly down Goldilocks’ throat and urgently arranged himself prone on the floor to catch his breath. In no time at all, he was sleeping and soon after that he was snoring.

“Well, if that isn’t just typical!” Said Goldilocks thought butshe had no idea if it was or not, and she stood up, wiped her lips with a napkin from the pile on the dining table, straightened her clothes with her hands, opened the front door and went out, where she was immediately arrested by the Bear Police, and charged with aggravated burglary, indecent assault, and acts contributing to the moral delinquency of a minor, all exacerbated by offending the judge with a palpable lack of contrition. She was sentenced of prison where continuing minor infringements of the rules saw her living, somewhat happily until the end of her days.

The Village

Once upon a time, long, long ago in a distant land far beyond the mountains, there was a little village, and in that village there lived a man. He was reasonably tall as judged against the other men of the village, and reasonably well-formed. The top of his head was covered in a thick thatch of sandy blonde hair and his eyes were the sharp blue of a clear summer’s sky. He had good teeth too, they weren’t stained and they were even and people could see them a lot because he was usually smiling, or at least grinning because he was usually very happy what with having no particular reason not to be. His name was Awllen and he did many jobs in the village. Being strong and well-formed he would fetch and carry and do simple work that required only strength, but Awllen had a natural affinity for machines, and it was through this ability that he met the Miller’s wife. The miller was the most important man in the village because it was his mill that ground all the wheat and corn from miles around that everyone had grown on their farms. When the grain were ground to powder the powder would be mixed with fresh water and baked into loves of bread. The people would then buy the bread, and eat it.

The Miller’s mill was powered by a waterwheel that was placed across a stream that ran through the village, and due to a finely developed business sense, and a flash of inspiration, the Miller had built a annex to the mill in which he built a bread oven. His bakers sold bread back to the people who wanted it. In no time at all Miller became the most important man in the village and dressed himself in the finest cloths bought from passing journeymen, and the best furs bought from the luckiest and most skilled hunters. With wealth came, as it usually does, a desire for power. He put it about among the people that the village had gotten big enough to be called a town, and a town needed some sort of control, to keep the citizens safe. He told them he should be made “Burgomaster.”
The people had never heard this word before and for the most part a fair number of them didn’t like the “master” part of the word much. There was a great deal of animated discussion, and simply because the miller was easily the richest man in the village (or town if you prefer) a lot of the discussion was emotional and ran against the miller – much of this because the people simply didn’t like change. The wives of the village had baked the bread at home for many generations, some because they were forced to and most out of a sense of duty that they had been educated into feeling. The availability of bread, at a shop, for money many did not have anyway, struck directly at the root of what the loudest voices called, “the very nature of marriage.” All in all, the situation was the biggest drama the village had seen since the bad winter when wolves had hunted in the snow in the Main Street. As far as the miller was concerned, everything was fine; he didn’t care about people’s opinion, he was far more interested in the growth of his store of coins. A stream of copper, silver and sometimes even gold flowed into the strongbox in his cellar and the sight of it, and sometimes only the thought of it, would make him happier, and more relaxed.

Outside the cellar though people were, on the whole, less happy and relaxed. When wives were “with child” or otherwise unable to bake bread, the miller’s bread would be much more necessary. That of course would take money, although the miller would swap raw wheat or corn for fresh bread, the exchange rate was always rather savagely in his favour, one sack of grain to four, or sometimes only two loaves. The miller made no secret of preferring cash to barter, but that made life more difficult for the people of the town. The miller didn’t like paying out his precious coins for grain so the farmers would have to take their harvests to one of the surrounding towns to sell it for cash. The miller didn’t mind, he liked the strange coins from distant places, but the farmers minded. They found the situation to be far more bothersome than they had any taste for, when all they wanted was their dinner and not to look at the back end of their mule for a five or ten league journey.

For the first time in living memory, there was a robbery in the village! One of the farmers, a man called Fyrd, sold a better than average crop at a nearby town and brought to money back to the village with him. Having worked hard over the course of the year and desiring female company because his beloved wife was in the final stages of a pregnancy which had rendered her cantankerous and critical, he went straight to the inn rather than to his home and started keeping time with Edie, the local fancy woman who earned the coins for her bread by keeping company with those who wanted to share her bed. The ale at the inn loosened both their spirits and their tongues and after a night of carousing where they first kept the inn amused, and then kept it awake, in the morning Fryd was found insensible on Edie’s bed. Neither his money, nor the fancy woman were to be found anywhere in the village. There was such hue and cry; gossip ran hot. The miller stood rounds of drinks in the bar and then announced, very loudly, that Edie had obviously stolen the money and run off. She must be found and hanged, he announced, an idea which appealed only to the more hot-headed who heard it. Cooler heads said that Fryd had brought much of his misfortune on himself. And, as most of the village could testify, had a fine old time with Edie for most of the night before passing out. If Edie really did have Fryd’s money, they said, she’d earned it. As it happened, these events had unexpected effects. The miller was kept awake for most of the night by the noises Fryd and Edie were making across the street and the noises started him thinking. He set great store in his chest of coins but they were cold and hard, not warm and welcoming like the arms of a lover. Then and there, that night, he decided to take a wife.

Now the miller, whose name by this stage, had become “miller” didn’t draw any distinctions. He considered everyone in the village, man or woman who he considered even slightly eligible.

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Trophy Hunting

Copyright (C) free short fiction

Trophy hunting

Dark. The sounds of the night are disturbingly loud. Quite close, a dog barks. The camera rattles in shock, in response. A backyard fence flashes past, neat vertical boards cut to shallow pointed tops. The camera’s night-vision is so sensitive that the deep sky is quickly filled with crazed jiggly contrails. A voice whispers “Shit!” urgently. The camera image is filled with a close up view of neatly cropped dew- wet grass.

“I thought we’d been rumbled!”

“Shut up!”

“Alright, keep your shirt on.” 

The camera swings past a rotary clothes hoist festooned with clothes which seem to glow in the hallucinogenic light show.

“Over here!” 

The camera scuttles, bent double, across the yard to stand next to the summoner at the fence. The summoner,  who appears to be the leader, hisses. “Keep quiet! Now you see down that way? About five houses? The lighted window? That’s the target’s window!”

He produces a large, heavy-barrelled, bolt-action rifle with a large telescopic and rests it on top of the fence, pointing towards the window.

“Right.” 

The camera shifts around behind him to look over his shoulder. He hunches into the rifle, concentrating into the sight. The shooter mumbles “beautiful.” He fires, the weapon is heavily suppressed and instead of a loud, sharp report the weapon utters what sounds like “BOOMP!’ with barely any muzzle flash. Approximately a quarter of a second later a window breaks and sheets of plate glass slide and shatter on concrete, away in the dark. A dog blathers its disapproval. Silence. 

A radio chirrups quietly. “Team two are in position and have a clear shot. Five seconds.” The viewpoint shifts back to the point over the hedge. The stars are very bright but the neighbourhood is dark. Ashot rings out. It is the sound of a suppressed small calibre weapon.A fraction of a second later there is the sound of an im0act in a solid surface; “Poc.” A moment later the sequence repeats; “Phut” “Poc.” And again. Again The soft voice over returns “Team Two’s spotter is very happy with this bag. The rifle fires again, another impact. Again. The dog wakes up and. presumably angered at having its sleep isturbed  goes into full “Burglar Alert mode.”

“Shit! Crewteam thee is under attack! Camera Threes’s been bitten!” Over the open circuit, the sound of human voices can be heard raised in alarm”Extract!”the camera runs behind the team One shooter and spotter as they run, hunched over down alleyways staying lower than the back fences. There is much puffing and panting, in fact for all their attempts at stealth the group sounds like a herd of stampeding elephants”In the bus!” a car door slams, another rolls shut. the crew sit on seats fscing foward and set about catching their breath. There is a gust of laughter as a Police car whips past the van close enough to make it rock, its sirens and flashers on”Tough luck Flatfoot!” the dim silhouette of the team on spotter gets a big laugh from the nervous crew.The van drives downhill though a driveway into an underground carpark. Roller door closes behind them. The crew pile out of the van take up positions sitting on the conrete floor smoking cigarettes or joints as their taste dictates. “Ready for live cross in 3-2-1” The image flicks

Cut:  The set is cheesy, Generated, but it still looks cheap. The Compere enters from the right. He is dressed in a loud jacket and a “presidential” toupee his teeth are large, very white and very much on display”Good evening viewers and welcome to the show- and it’s been a doozy so far tonight hasn’t it? I tell *I* was worried when those Police appeared- Even if jackson wasn’t.” Someone laughs quite loudly off camera in the same room as him and the acoustics reveal that the studio is “Homely” rather than” Palatia”l and he darts the unseen person a sharp look. “Well our Schmooze teams have finished their wok, and we all have to thank them again- they have the hardest job at “trophy Hunt(Applause)  but I’m happy to report that we have  an exceptional bag tonight. And new prize money because last week’s show didn’t jackpot- so without further ado-It’s over to my beautiful co-host Ms Lisa Minutti! The vision cuts abrupt to another set just as garish- just as cheap. a “Lisa Minutti” is stunningly beautiful, with startling blue eyes that seem to stare through the camera into the viewer.She is ravishing in a blue off- the-shoulder satin dress that does wonders for her eyes and her ice blonde hair.

“Thank you Dino.” 

“We have had a great bag tonight! Team one’s big points come from their first shot- 600 points for this “Under 11 Soccer Comp Cup” that they shot off the shelf while the little nipper was asleep in the same room! She brandishes a mid-size silver cup deformed by a large calibre rifle bullet directly through the engraved description on the upper half . And One hundred bonus points for this, a third-place ribbon  for the 100 metre dash at the Inner-West tri schools Sorts Carnival.! She holds up a small rectangular green ribbon with a “3” imprinted on it. I features a fair-sized bullet- hole between the “3” and the top of the ribbon. “But our big winners this week were Team Three! comprising Marius VandenHoorst-Spotter and Emeric Poole- Shooter who scored this perfect score- An n Amazing two thousand points for this “Sandringham hotel Pool Comp shield they shot off the den wall while the winner himself was asleep in a recliner in the same room!” She is handed a large wooden sheild decorated with an equalised pattern  of smaller engraved silver shields affixed to it. ” First, good points for this”- she points to the larger central shield “It says “grand final, 17 june 2029 warded to- And, -She giggles- I can’t read that, there’s a hole.” 

“Now look at this ! here’s where the bonus points come in! five little shields around the edge! Five perfect hits! The wood’s actually split!”It’s beautiful isn’t it Dino?”

“It is Lisa, As beautiful as you! When will people learn to close their blinds at night?”

“Oh You”

“thank you all for joining us for another episode of Trophy Hunt(c) We’ll hopefully see you all again next week, in the meantime You all keep your heads down!”I’m Dino Hanlon jr and this has been Trophy Hunt(c) Alex Rieneck 2020.

The Virus Poem

time has come, the cripple said, to talk of many things,

Of news and shit, and screaming quacks,

Of lies and naked kings

The virus first came from China, they said, where nasty people were, and deserved it.

Cruelty reaped its just deserts they said, and their pointing fingers remained steady; “Rubbish” the chinamen retorted, “the shit was probably brought by U.S. soldiers, in what what amounts to war!”

Though no-one listened, the cripple wondered why no-one else had noticed how the virus had appeared first not just in China but also in Iran; two countries with a common enemy, now with common symptoms a fever and a cough, with snot, but really only for the lucky few, who flew around in planes, in cattle class breathing each other’s noxious  vapours, up close for days on end.

”of course, Cripple” the gerbil said.” If they were really old, and already half dead, all bets were off for getting better – they’d as like as not pop their crocs from it as something else. “

“It isn’t much of a bio weapon then” the Cripple said relieved, since despite his mighty bluster his heart was perhaps too kind.

“You’ve missed the main symptoms of the sickness dear Spazz”, said the gerbil and her voice was kind. ”Shut down air travel. The Police to have far more powers. states of emergency in Victoria with police on high alert in face-masks.”

“I think I’ve got it now”, the cripple said, he really felt quite sick.

(C) Alex Rieneck 2020

Jack-In-The-Box

Jack in the Box

There was no question of it, Mr Blenkinsop was irritated. He was still out of breath from the effort it had taken him to get to the park and in his overcoat on a warm morning too; and now disappointment had taken its toll on his usual enthusiasm in spite of the fine weather.

He’d taken a number 47 bus from the city to the small group of shops near the park entrance, intending to fortify himself with a mug of sweet tea and a raisin bun, but the Cafe had been closed for some sort of work involving cement dust and a lot of loud noise, so he’d gone next door to the only place that was open, a horrible American franchise convenience store where he’d purchased a “fruit bun” in an airtight plastic bag and a cup of scalding watery tea in a styrofoam receptacle from a machine operated by a thin-lipped, very dark Indian man who seemed to be hairy in unexpected places.

It was a comparatively short distance from the shops to the entrance of the park, but it was uphill and the sun was hot. By the time he passed the sandstone columns that marked the gate he was hot, out of breath and slimy with sweat inside his clothes. Still he almost jog-trotted along in the sun painfully aware that the afternoon was passing and that he would miss the sweet spot of “rush hour” in the park, and, of course the all-important main event. As a last gasp, the path curved and climbed up and past the Men’s toilets near the fence next to the main road. He hoped they were empty, Mr Blenkinsop tromped past the bed of flowering yellow (Tulips) without glancing at them. His eyes remained fixed on the toilet block ahead. So far it seemed deserted. This was good. Sometimes homosexual men met there and huddled conspiratorially at the urinals, darting suspicious looks at him that made him uncomfortable, worse than that sometimes one (or more) of them would have taken possession of one of the toilet cubicles in which case they would probably be producing noises too unappetising to be easily ignored. The toilets appeared to be empty, except for one young man at the urinal busily engaged in shaking off any remaining droplets of urine that might adhere his penis. Judging by the energy that appeared to be required, it seemed that the young man pissed glue.

The young man looked over his shoulder at Mr Blenkinsop, and instantly recoiled at the look that was returned to him; put his penis away, pulled the chain to flush the urinal and took care not to brush against Mr. Blenkinsop on his way out of the toilets. For his part Mr Blenkinsop recoiled slightly and pressed against the door post to allow more space for his passage. The young man padded down the sunny concrete steps and away down the bitumen path towards the thick shrubbery so popular with those of his kind.

The toilets were empty! Almost running, Blenkinsop crossed the floor and pirhouhretted into the first cubicle, easing the door shut behind him to avoid the sound of a slam that might announce his presence to representatives of oppressive authority who might be lurking outside, avidly listening at the ventilation holes in the pale brick walls. It was typical, the sequence of movements, so swiftly rehearsed in his mind as he crossed the floor, resulted in the knuckle of his left forefinger being caught sharply between the door and the jamb. He hissed in pain, rescued his finger and sucked at the injured knuckle only stopping when the pain had abated enough for him to gather his wits and reflect on the Freudian symbology of his activity. Wincing at the pain in his finger, he started adjusting his clothes. First he removed his belt allowing his loose poly cotton trousers to drop into a pool around his ankles. Then, fingers quivering, he hooked the black suspender belt around his waist, feeling a flash of self satisfaction that, despite his odd diet and lack of exercise, he still had a slim and girlish figure, unlike Kate, who had seemed to balloon in size almostby the day since their marriage. How like mother Kate was becoming! Even her voice was developing an all-too-familiar rasp; perhaps the snoring had damaged her in some way. He pushed the thought from his mind, gave his naked cock and balls an affectionate squeeze and sat on the toilet suppressing a flush of disgust at the feeling of his trench coat forming a layer between his naked arse and the toilet. Hereached down for his trousers draped them across his knees, took the dressmakers scissors that Kate would never miss because she never used them, and surprisingly swiftly cut both legs off the trousers at mid-thigh level. This action left him with a pair of frayed cuff shorts that any young freak would be happy to wear while skateboarding down the High Street, and two fabric tubes each of which had once been a trouser-leg. He pulled the right tube up his right leg and then fastened it in place with the clips of the suspender belt. It was quite easy, the fabric was quite thin and accomodating and he only had to cut one “buttonhole” with the scissors. When he had done both legs, he stood and was gratified to see that the cuffs of both “legs” draped convincingly over the tops of his beige loafers.

He was already starting to become erect in anticipation.

His original plan – the one he had lain in bed and thought up night after night as Kate practised her sleep apnoea in her sunken into a hammock bed in the next room, keeping him awake through two doors – had been that he’d stake out a spot in the “homosexual shrubbery” since it had seemed safe enough when viewed at a distance through the lens of his imagination, but now that it lay the in stark focus in front of him, definitely containing at least one amorous homosexual, the idea filled him with trepidation that seemed to be insurmountable. How like Mother Kate was becoming! Even her voice was developing the same rasp! The familiar thought made him huddle in its headlights

He looked around, ravening for another diversion before the main event. There. Ten metres from where he stood, on the edge of the grass beside the path to the side of the path, stood a group of four bright plastic litter bins prominently labelled with the kind of trash that was supposed to be deposited in them. As usual throughout the park the bins were full to overflowing despite the fact that the “bin-Chicken” birds had done their best to empty them onto the ground, eating that which appealed to them and shitting on the rest preparatory to emitting large numbers of foul smelling lice-infested, yellow-grey feathers as they flew off to repeat their activities at the next overflowing bin.

Mr Blenkinsop to scuttled to the bins at a nonchalant trot that was almost an all out sprint, feeling the silky lining of his trench coat rub on his naked loins. The sensation drove him mad with an emotion that was far beyond simple arousal. He squatted behind the bins so that they formed a wall between him and the path. The spilled rubbish stank. It seemed as if a barbecue chicken was rotting under the piles of rancid sugary drink cans, bird shit and feathers. Away to his left, in the park, he heard approaching footsteps and low voices. He rose slightly and peeked down the path through a triangular chink between a twisted can that had contained orange drink and a Pizza box. A fly politely moved to allow him to see a young mother, a bundle of joy and a little princess in a fairy dress heading along the path toward him. The princess carried a pinwheel which she swiped through the air to make the propellors twinkle. Her mother beamed maternally at her princess.

It was all Mr.Blenkinsop could do to restrain himself from springing his trap just then, but his predatory instinct restrained him -let the tension mount! To pass the fateful last seconds of this phase of his evolution, he masturbated. It was all he could do not to orgasm, to slow himself down, he thought of the gangrenous spree on his mother’s feet. Rubbing the ointment in after school hadn’t helped, the diabetes had killed her anyway.

Closer. Another fly flew into his peeking hole and busied itself with the syrupy dregs of orange drink. Its activities in the can were surprisingly loud. The sun beat down, almost hot today after three days of drizzle. In a moment of silence from the can he caught the little girls voice, ”Are you sure we’ll see them Mum?”
“I think so sweetie, they aren’t due for 30 minutes and the crowds don’t seem too thick.”
The Princess nodded, she seemed satisfied with this answer.
Wait for it, wait for it..
“*AVENGER!!” * “
Mr Blenkinsop burst from behind the bins as the little family passed, less than three metres away, his trench coat was held wide open and his turgid manhood bobbed like an arrow that had just found its mark.
The woman levitated approximately half a metre in the air and screamed. When she landed the high heel of her white sandal turned underneath her and she fell in a tangle of legs to the bitumen path. Mr Blenkinsop wallowed in his unimpeded view of the crotch of her white cotton knickers.
“What the Fucking fuck do you think you’re fucking doing you Fuckwit?” The young mother screamed at the Avenger – who was prepared to make allowances – the woman was obviously hysterical.
The tiny princess took over she had a voice like a bandsaw cutting clock springs
“Yeah! Ya fucking pervert. Fuck off or I’ll call the cops!- There’s a car just there!” She pointed up the rise to the steel bar fence that separated the park from the road.

The Avenger saw the crowds had thickened and some incurious faces were indeed turned their way In the jumble of bodies. He could make out the shape of a police motorbike, leaning against the fence. His resolve wilted. Return to Plan A. He stood up, squared his shoulders and stepped back, turned and mustering as much dignity as he could manage, walked up the path towards the Park Gate and the crowds gathered at the road. The crowds were thinner at the back and it was still early.

It was easy to sidle through the crowd until it thickened up and became more truculent about two metres from the kerb, but he managed to insert himself through the throng, suppressing shivers of disgust at bodily contact until he had completey crossed the broad nature strip and balanced on the concrete kerb between a thin woman with remarkable halitosis and dry, brittle, red hair tied back in a simple ponytail and on his left, a man in his thirties, who gave the impression of having taken the afternoon off work on the pretext of an appointment with his cardiologist and who fumbled with a large camera that seemed very new. From where he stood Mr Blenkinsop was elevated perhaps twenty centimetres higher than the crowd in front of him which completely filled the left hand of four lanes of road, up to the barriers that kept the cordoned off the lanes that the motorcade would use.

Mr Blenkinsop was infuriated. While the view he was furnished with was very fine for a normal parade participant he was anything but that, and the fact that he was functionally invisible from the front from the chest down was a problem that required immediate remediation. Time passed. To confirm this, many people in the crowd consulted their portable timepieces, of whatever type. As the magic time approached, the level of excitement increased palpably. Children cried and were duly shushed, old people complained and sheltered under souvenir copies of the newspaper. Here and there they collapsed out of the hot sun into the shade and comparative cool between the crowds legs. One older man collapsed midway between Mr Blenkinsop and the crowd barrier. The surface of heads adjusted themselves like a lake accepting the arrival of a thrown rock. After several minutes a paramedic arrived and removed the owner of a sunburnt bald head who should have worn a hat. The lake adjusted itself to this too, and by some amazing chance Mr Blenkinsop found himself pushed and swirled by the current until he stood in the very front row of the crowd only slightly flustered, waiting for nothing to stand between him and his moment of transfiguration.

Away to his right, the crowd was roaring. The volume was growing as the wave rolled down the street toward him, as fast as a horse could trot. Around him the crowd became animate, making spasmodic movements that accomplished nothing. People put bags down to rest their hands, other people picked up bags to protect the bags from the blind feet of the crows. Phones were held aloft like periscopes and then lowered and re-pocketed when it was agreed that, despite the noise, there was nothing to see yet aside from a forest of arms holding mobile phones. Mr Blenkinsop swayed slightly on his perch on the kerb, fixated on a highway patrolman who seemed to consider the niceness of the day and the festival atmosphere as some kind of personal insult, his gimlet eyes mowed down the front row of the crowd. The cold blue-grey eyes stopped. Mr Blenkinsop quailed inwardly but the Avenger stood firm.

A young child, a boy of at most four or five forced himself through the narrow space between Mr Blenkinsop’s right leg and the scrawny buck-toothed woman next to him. The child ducked under the crowd barrier and out into the parade route where he stopped in the middle of the deserted asphalt and looked up the street in the direction of the approaching parade. After a second he used the flat of his right hand to shade his eyes, a second after that his hand magically transformed itself into a telescope into which he squinted. A further second passed, he shouted “Mum! I think I can see them!” At the same moment that his mother shouted “Joshua come back here, where its safe!” A bare split second before the patrolman started walking towards little Joshua and saying, “Get back with your mother, kid, you aren’t allowed on the road.” His eyes flicked off Joshua and back onto Mr. Blenkinsop but the momentary distraction seemed to have sapped them of suspicion and rendered them bland. “Go-on kid, your mother’s waiting” his voice had become kinder, placatory, to still the tears and probable hysterics that seemed likely.

The wave of crowd-roar topped the hill to the right Mr.Blenkinsop and grew suddenly louder. In sympathy, the crowd around him grew more excited, more animated – the periscope phones and a man within metres of Blenkinsop wearing a black baseball cap embroidered with the word “Ford” told his very pale and very sunburnt wife, “ I can see them, they just topped the rise!”
She replied; ”plenty of time left then.”
Laying the workings of their relationship open to anyone who could be bothered observing.

The excitement in the crowd increased, manifesting itself in a large number of isolated movements that resulted in a general pressing forward of the herd. Mr Blenkinsop was spared most of the forward motion and managed to precariously maintain his perch on the kerb, but many didn’t, stepping down into the gutter but keeping their position there, heeding the warning shouts of the police. It was a dangerous moment. Had anyone actually fallen they would most likely have been trampled by the crush of people, a possibility everyone, especially the Police, seemed aware of.

Mr. Blenkinsop could see them now, less than fifty metres away, six huge white horses, each arrayed with a white feather plume, pulling an ornate white, four-wheel open-top carriage of pearlescent wood and gold rococo trim. The coachman in a white satin tailcoat and shining white top-hat; all elements together combining into a vision of profound opulence and unattainable fairytale splendour, and reclining inside the vision, in each other’s arms, the bride and groom. The only way that the crowd could deal with the excitement the vision caused in them was to cheer, ecstatically. The red head mother of Joshua rather lacking in inspiration shouted repeatedly “Best wishes to the bride and groom”, repeatedly and each time she did it, she threw a single white long-stemmed rose at the objects of her affection, like a dart. The man in the “Ford” cap shouted “Huzzah” repeatedly until his face was doubly red from sunburn and exertion. His wife stayed mostly silent except for a thin reedy squeal not unlike an over-filled kettle reaching the boil.

The Avenger revealed himself at the moment the carriage was parallel. His rampant power throbbed, ready to explode of its own accord. Joshua looked up then looked away. The young bride was gently kissing her new husband who, as luck would have it, was facing away from the Avenger. The bride’s bright blue right eye singled The Avenger out of the crowd, gazed like a cornered deer into his blazing eyes, and glanced down at his full glory, gave a single great guttural guffaw directly into her husband’s face; and pointed.
As long as the crowd remained ignorant of his true identity, he was safe enough.

(C) Alex Rieneck, 2019

If you like this story, check back often because I write a lot and tell your friends.

Short Fiction

Night flight from Lincolnshire to Nuremberg

It was black, really black. He couldn’t see his hand six inches in front of his face. The dials of the control panel were such a dim red that they would only render up information if squinted at. Years ago and on the other side of the world Mullins had learned photography while in school. The profound blackness of the cockpit reminded him of the darkroom; the barely visible red dials of the safe light.

They hadn’t taught incredible, horrible teeth aching cold at school though and if they had Mullins would have left; they simply didn’t do cold in Molong N.S.W, not cold like this. Back home cold was sitting around a fire, probably in shorts and a singlet. Here, a tray of photo chemicals (if you were crazy enough to have such a thing) would freeze solid, into a poisonous ice block probably in under minute.

Mullins pushed the control yoke ten degrees forward into a shallow dive, stomped the port rudder pedal. The Lancaster went into a shallow dive and veered left. In a moment he would reverse the sequence, and in this way the huge bomber would maintain a gentle corkscrew motion as it followed a straight course across Belgium towards Nuremberg. The corkscrew was a manoeuvre that he had been assured would confuse the enemy night fighters that stalked the night, their pilots apparently gifted with the ability to see in the dark. Mullins doubted that the manoeuvre accomplished anything other than giving him something to do with his hands that would keep him awake, other than the ongoing terror of night-fighters of course. At any instant, completely without warning, his whole comparatively peaceful world of the plane and the night, could dissolve without warning into blood and fire. In a worst case scenario an attack might detonate the bomb load without warning and, in an instant, he and his crew would simply cease to exist.

Or, and it was not the first time the thought had occurred to him, that eventuality might actually be quite far from the worst, travelling along at eighteen thousand feet above the earth in a fragile tube of aluminium, magnesium, perspex and several thousand gallons of aviation fuel and explosives left the door wide open to many possibilities far worse than instantaneous death. One could crash into the ground have most of your bones broken so you couldn’t run, and be cooked alive by burning fuel. One could be very damaged in some sort of nasty encounter, but not die, and live for months under the care of the Nazi Army doctors – who had no love of terrorfliegers. Possibly worse even than that, one could parachute into a burning city during a raid and probably be pushed into the flames alive by the angry citizenry.

The plane droned on forcing its blunt nose ever deeper into the freezing black air. Mullins kept corkscrewing even though he knew in his heart that if a night fighter was sleazing up behind them, they were almost undoubtedly quite fucked, and indeed they had probably entered that state when their wheels had left the tarmac at Warley Fen back behind them in the relative quiet of England. In point of fact, there was no exact point when “not too bad” had degenerated into “fucked” but if he tried hard enough, fighting his way through the clinging spiderweb layers of memory, it had probably been during a lunch discussion on world events at school.

It was brutally hot in the playground; too hot to move, certainly too hot to run, so they’ taken to congregating in the stairwell of the brick building and talking, and back then, there’d been nothing else to talk of. War was coming! There was no exact point where he’d decided to sign up, it was more of a foregone conclusion. He was moved inexorably in the current which he could not fight away from the life he had been sure of, out to sea, far from the sunny beach, out into the cold open embrace of the ocean, to drown.

LOUD! over the intercom, a scream. Wordless, conveying no information except utter terror and pain. The big plane lurched as Mullins’ body spasmed at the controls. In shock and instant sympathy.

The was a procedure for even this, especially this. He pushed the throttles hard forward and simultaneously forced the nose down into a dive, while stomping hard on the starboard rudder pedal; but all the time thinking that he should have seen the flash of tracer, either from the fighter or from the return fire from whichever of the crew had screamed a warning, and from the sound – either died or been mortally wounded. And, as for everything, there was a procedure for this too. He had to shout to make himself heard over the pandemonium caused by recent events. He tried to sound calm but even as he heard his own words he knew that he didn’t do a very good job of it.

”All right you lot, shut the fuck up! Sound off one at a time if you’re O.K.”
The thing was that the person who’d made that noise was definitely not O.K., in fact the person who had made that noise was probably already dead.
“Bomb-Aimer, O.K Skipper” Mitchy sounded quite startled by definitely alive.
“Mid-Upper Gunner Ok” “Radio-operator alright sur.” Both spoke at the same time, their voices garbling over the circuit, but both somehow remaining recognisable.
“Navigator – it wasn’t me Skipper, I’m alright” Pruett sounded aggrieved, probably shocked into making a mistake in his sums. Silence; well aside from the all – encompassing roar of the engines.
“Co-pilot, I’m fine too.” It’d have been funny if it wasn’t strict procedure. Staples was sitting next to him , their opposing biceps inches apart. Surely if Staples had been the source of that scream he would have known? Would have heard it above the engines? On the other hand, perhaps not. He twisted his head as far as it would go to the right without dragging his oxygen mask off his face. Staples had turned toward him too, his masked and goggled face was practically invisible in the gloom, misshapen, insectoid, faint red reflections from the instrument panel adding to an aura of evil. Mullins knew was reflected in his own shape.

The crew was not complete, ”Cookie?”
“Rear Gunner? Did anyone hear Cookie sound off?”
”No Skip; No.” A series of denials and “Mid upper skip. I’ll check on him if you like.”
“Thanks, Les- I know your arse hurts but I’d be happier knowing you were keeping a look-out. Pruett, you’re closest – go and check on Cookie.”
“OK Skip” he didn’t sound happy about it, but he’d be less likely to have an attack of the vapours than Les. Silence, if the roaring and rattling could be called silence.
“Les? Did you see any thing outside that might’ve done it?” That was Staples, pulling rank to chat on the intercom; Mullins said nothing.
J-Jane quivered as she passed through a small patch of turbulence and Mullins felt the airframe flex slightly under his feet.
“Fuck! Shit!”
It was Pruett’s voice and the lack of solid information contained in it was irritating. Given the situation, doubly so.
Mullins, “Fucking What?” Blended with input from everyone else that sound like the arrival of a fox at a duck farm.
“Sorry skipper, I’m up the back, just at the turret, I’m plugged into the port here. I wish I had a fucking light, It’s horrible!”
Mullins was terrified, and judging by the noise, so was everyone else.
“Sal! No lights! Are you fucking mad? You want to attract every Night fighter in Belgium?”
“No Skip – but it’s Cookie. The doors to the turret were open, and he was half out and I think the back of his neck is missing.”
“It’s been shot out?”
“No, the turret looks fine. It’s just; I put my hand – his head…” Pruett made a wet noise in the back of his throat.
Mullins jumped slightly as he remembered that he was not weaving the plane in the sky, felt the plane quiver in sympathy, resettled himself on his profoundly uncomfortable seat, and stomped the port rudder pedal into a comparatively brisk left turn and pulled the control column back into something of a climb. In the excitement it seemed they’d lost nearly five hundred feet of altitude and that was dangerous. The bomber stream they’re part of had an assigned altitude of eighteen thousand feet and altering height and course massively increased the chance of colliding with one of the seven – hundred and-fifty other planes on the same mission. Mullins squinted furtively out the panels of the cockpit bubble and saw nothing except a few faint stars; it seemed that the high grey haze of cloud was clearing. That was good, it meant that they could not be silhouetted on it by searchlights. His mind went back to the minute of the mission with something like relief:
“Navigator, time to target!”
Nothing. “He hasn’t come back yet Skipper, people usually bump into me on the way past.”
That was Les.
“You poor thing. I’ll tell you what, if you’d like to stretch your legs, you can pop back there and tell him to get back to work” Mullins said this with the air of bestowing a great favour.

”Right away mate.” Les didn’t sound thrilled about his new mission and his Australian twang reflected it.
“Don’t call me mate.”
Silence. Apparently “right away” had meant just that.

“He’s not here Skipper.” There was no preamble; it was Les’ voice.
“Whattaya mean? Pruett isn’t there? Could he have fallen out?”

Les was breathing quite hard. ”No; the turret is rotated and the doors are closed, but there’s blood everywhere, so much blood. My feet are sticking to the floor, its trying to pull my flying boots off!” Les was breathing rapidly, starting to come ugly gulps.

“Get a fucking grip Les,” cut in Mitchell’s voice. “Its just fucking blood mate. It can’t hurt you.”

Les breathed in, a big gasping whoop of air and Mullins reflected that people like Mitchy were beyond any price.

“Alright for you, fucker, right up the other end, lying on an escape hatch; there’s something back here that kills people! It killed Cookie, then it killed Pruett and now I think it’s after me!”

“Something? What do you mean Something; you daft cunt?”

Les’ scream stopped suddenly, mid-scream. It sounded as if his intercom wire had been pulled out of its socket.
“Fuck. That didn’t sound good.” Mitch’s normal optimism seemed to have been worn thin.
“Fucking Fuck you’re fucking right! I’m fucking closer to it than you you colonial bastard!” As radio operator, Symthe, a welshman was closest to the rear of the plane his station being just forward of the main spar.
“Smythe! Stop stalling and come up to the cockpit, but before you do have a squid at The Nav stuff and see if you can work out where we are; it’s important.”
“I can tell you that Skipper.” It was Mitch. He was very sure of himself.
“Care to enlighten me?” They were functioning less as a crew and more as a collection of disparate individuals.
“We’re more or less on course for the target about ten miles out.”
“You can see it?”
“Hell yes! Massive fire, one set of marker flares still going down. They’re really catching shit! “ It wasn’t really a giggle, not really.
“Correct course to target.” It was an order.

“Fifteen degrees starboard. We’re a bit low too.” Mullins pressed the right rudder pedal, watched the compass rotate. “O.K. I’ve got her.” Mullins watched a one degree course change further starboard, and a river back to Port.
“There’s a dark patch in the middle of the fires- I’ll try to hit that.”
He’d have his work cut out for him; the thermals from the fires beneath were already making “Jane” jump like a crazy horse, the control column was wild in his hands.
“Wait for it, wait for it,” ‘Jane’ rocked so hard that his head banged hardback on his headrest.

The cockpit was flooded with the light of the orange fires of hell beneath them. Something burst into the cockpit, grabbed at him, faintly, over the noise of the engines. The roar of the fire beneath and the incessant concussion of the bombs, he could hear that it was screaming. It was Smythe; he was evidently crazy, he was waving his large service revolver, pointing it down the narrow companionway towards the rear of the plane, firing twice. Through the thick baffle plates of his headphones the shots were muted, subsumed into the generalised roar of the engines, the bombs and the flak barrage that surrounded them. For a single horrible second the cockpit was incandescently bright as a searchlight passed over them.

Smythe fired again and something black, the size of a dog, that looked like a spider, pounced on him, grabbed his hand and bit all his fingers off. The gun fell to the floor, the port wing fuel tank exploded, and the wing folded in onto itself near the root. The fuselage rotated port longitudinally with terrifying rapidity and Mullins was thrown hard against the canopy.

He awoke several thousand feet lower in freefall to discover that his parachute had been irreparably torn on his progress through the canopy. He landed, long seconds later in the burning ruin of an apartment building, and died instantly on impact.Mitchell’s parachute did open but the immense column of heated air from the fires carried him to the border of the main conflagration where he broke an ankle on landing in a back kitchen garden where he was captured by a detachment of middle- agedVolksturm anti aircraft gunners who took it upon themselves to douse him in diesel fuel and ignite him where he lay. He died when one of them took pity on him and cracked his head with a hoe.

Smythe was still inside the ‘Jane’ when she landed in what had once been a municipal park, travelling at some four hundred miles an hour, at the moment of impact he was struggling to access the bomb-aimer’s escape hatch while fighting with the thing, whatever it was, that had eaten his fingers.

(C) Copyright Alex Rieneck 2019 All Rights reserved.

Seaside Rendezvous

Copyright (C) Alex Rieneck 2019

“Don’t we have a policy of not taking money from fucking perverts?” Tim was not faking being quite angry and it showed in his voice. He was talking across the boardroom table to Attard, who, as usual was fiddling with one of his gourmet Columbian blended cigars and seemed happy and calm at the prospect of smoking it. Tim, who had cut down on his intake quite recently, found the sight rather irritating.

Young cut in; she was Board Secretary and made sure no-one ever forgot it. “No Tim, there was discussion after the Nazi Holocaust investigation the year before last, but the board deadlocked and in the absence of a clear directive from the shareholders, the matter was effectively shelved.” Atttard swooped in for the kill; “The ratings figures on the feeds are clear Tim, our end users are pretty pervy themselves. They aren’t watching the various main release feeds for historical education, but for pure titillation and the bio-monitors are confirming that as time passes, the end uses are getting Pervier. We are middle men we take projects from the feeds and deliver product. They take their subscriptions at their end – the more sex and violence the better, for everybody; and anyway, it all actually happened, we aren’t making any of it up.”

It was one of the central columns of Tr00 publicity – patently true and difficult to argue against.
“But in concentrating on the negative we’re polluting the present, violent attacks are at an all time high – the streets are a war zone.”
“The news media needs to make a profit too, Tim,” Attard pounced.
“Both my nieces have been mugged in the last month!” Tim felt weak, falling back on the truth. The projects always seem alright, like the Nazi Holocaust job – final, total proof that the Holocaust didtake place and the final eradication of the arguments of the so call “Holocaust deniers” – until it went on release and it turned out that the deniersliked being proved wrong and were watching parts of it over and over – and masturbating.
“The thing is Tim, it happened.”
“The thing is, Attard;” Tim didn’t use his first name, on purpose, “I think we’re making the world a worse place by concentrating on the negative aspects of life.”
“And when we try something that’s supposed to be positive, everybody turns off, remember that feature we did on Jesus? Practically nobody watched it except the ones who were waiting to watch Jesus to fuck Mary Magdelene so they could masturbate – good work there by the way.”
“Thanks.” After all the worthy philosophy, some lusty bonking had turned Tim on too, and he was sure his reactions had transmitted through his Locus work.

“But this, there’s no question about this. This isn’t an unexpected interlude between the Messiah and his girlfriend. This one is just straight-out perversion. On purpose.”
“Oh come on Tim, how could you possibly know that?”
“Owen, I’ve been there. In my university days I spent a year living in Italy, moving cities, in the months I lived in Naples I visited Pompeii at least once a week.”
Attard hadn’t known that about Tim but he had no difficulty believing it.
“The Project briefing says the place is called “The Villa Of the Mysteries” and its purpose has defied explanation by archeologists for hundreds of years”
“are you saying you know something generations of archeologists don’t?” Attard spoke with the air of a rat-trap slamming shut on an unwary mouse.
“Yes.”
“Well seeing that all theories are shortly to be proven or disproven, one way or the other by the Locus; I think now is the time to put up or shut up Tim – and to make it all even more interesting, what do you say we put a little wager on your theory, say 1,000 McPhees?” Attard was all buttery charm and easily earned at least double Tim’s annual pay but one thousand McPhees wasn’t extravagant to Tim either, who wasn’t a betting man.
“Sure thing Patrick.”
“Tim? You haven’t already checked your theory out?”
“No, Mr Attard, I haven’t.”
“No offence; it just occurred to me.”
“None taken, it’s a good idea it’s just this sort of situation doesn’t present itself often.”
The way that Attard was looking at him made Tim uncomfortable.
“So,” said Attard, “this large house or villa is set, perhaps terminates, the walk from the city gates. It is renowned for its fabulous frescos which, it is believed show the initiation, in sequential images of a maiden into the cult of Bacchus, the wine God. The God of parties and carousel. There are various rooms in the place that have identifiable purposes; The room with two ovens was obviously a state-if-the-art gourmet kitchen; there was a steamboat, a hot room and facilities for making wine,”
“Later.” ‘ Tim broke in.
Momentarily nudged off- stride Attard looked over.
“Later than the period of use I’m talking about – or earlier, it doesn’t matter.”
“That sounds a bit slapdash Tim-what do you mean?”
“Look, we’re talking about a large expensive house in the suburban/rural fringe of a holiday resort town, over the period from when it was built to when it was buried by the volcano; during the time it was standing, what with the way the world works, it was undoubtedly re-purposed a few times. My theory is that it started life as a clubhouse for the cult of Bacchus and then went through multiple incarnations before finishing up as the “Villa of the Mysteries” at the time of the eruption. It’s the final incarnation that I’m interested in.”
“ And what was it then?”
“That’s what nobody can work out.”
“Except you, of course.”
“As it happens. I do think so.”
“Well if you wouldn’t mind putting your mouth where your money is, do you think you could bring yourself to fucking tell me?”
“The thing is, I grew up in a small seaside town; so I have an advantage the average archeologist doesn’t – I understand how the places work. People think they go to such places to get away from it all, but really they don’t. What they want is more of the same – but slower paced and with fresh air.”
“Go on.” 
“I grew up in a town called Laurieton, on the East coast of what used to be called Australia. Have you ever noticed how small towns all have a building that used to be a cinema? Back then remote towns were out of Tv transmission range and”
“Get on with it!”
“Um, the most important thing they had to do was, entertain the tourists. You see, you don’t go on holiday to do nothing – you go on holiday to have fun and people are creatures of habit with their fun, they develop tastes, then they want more of the same. They like cinema in the city, they want it on holiday too, but without the knife-fights in the popcorn queue – They want it the same, but preferably better.”
“Get to the point.”
“Right, the thing is, I went to Pompeii and I felt right at home. They had all the normal shit you do in the sun with the kids – boat rides fish’n’chips, swimming, fishing, a heated baths complex – and the ancient Roman equivalent of a Imax cinema.”
“A what?”
“A cinema with a very big, very high resolution screen – a late twentieth century attempt to produce the effects of an input helmet; on multiple people at the same time.”
“Will you get to the fucking point?”
“Fuck you; You asked – the dominant entertainment in Rome was not cinema;”
“Really?”
“It was the arena; or as the Romans called it, ‘the Circus’ – the setting of gladiatorial conflicts – the place where prisoners were fed alive to wild animals. Where sometimes prisoners were tortured to death for the amusement of the crowd.”
“I’ll torture you to detain a fucking minute”
“The blood, gore, and pathos were incredibly popular with the crowd – a roman showed his or her true mettle by not showing empathy with the suffering at the circus – while obviously gaining pleasure at the spectacle and, of course, betting on the fights. The thing was the circus in Pompeii, had on advantage over the big arenas in Rome. Oh sure, they got the big purse gladiator fights, massive set pieces and the prisoner holocausts but they had one disadvantage – They’d gotten too big. You couldn’t really see if a gladiator match was fixed unless you were right up the front, and those seats were far too expensive, so only the rich got the full effect, a good view of the wounds, being able to hear the bones break, being able to smell the blood, everyone else was watching something like cavorting ants on a saucer.
Ok! Ok! The thing is, the arena at Pompeii was much smaller, everybody was closer to the action – It was a perfect example of smaller being better – if you like your murder in high detail.”
“You know, none of this is about The Villa of the Mysteries. None! It’s *All *off the point!”*

“It fucking isn’t! The thing is Pompeii was a typical holiday town, the same as you’d find anywhere, even, well, not now, not anymore. Town Its not different, its similar in its differences! The town where I grew up, had a very nice cinema, never crowded. After I’d left, they built an Imax theatre, people came from miles around.”

“The. Villa. Of. The. Fucking. Mysteries.”

“Big building. Expensive two stories surrounding a small central courtyard. Courtyard fenced by solid brick wall about two metres high. Now Romans were small in comparison to us, the size of children, roughly. I was a young man, not fat like I am now,” he patted his large girth. “And I could barely get over it, before security told me to fuck off.”
“The place was a priceless archeological site, not a jungle gym.”
“I was young. And it turned out not to be priceless after all, didn’t it? Just very expensive, I’m sure the new town they build there will be very pleasant.”
“It’s always unpleasant to be an idealist when politicians are involved.” The statement was rather more philosophical than was normal for Attard who had been known to advocate political assassination for elected officials shown to be guilty of lying or corruption but it did nothing to calm Tim who was firmly in favour of exactly the same penalty for officials who took bribes to sell archeological sites for modern development. He attempted to console himself with the certain knowledge that the Villa of the Mysteries and indeed Pompeii itself would always be present for the Locus, even if the site was covered by a twenty-storey concrete parking garage.
“So your theory Tim?”

“The main Pompeian amphitheatre was good entertainment at a good price for the common holidaymakers who can down from Rome on the big Triremes. The Villa of the Mysteries was top class entertainment for rich connoisseurs who wanted something special; probably something to order, and were prepared to pay for it.”
“Finally! Do you know what time it is Tim?”
“Always Patrick.”
As it happened they had less than fifty minutes before the fusion station came on line and delivered the power they need.

The villa actually looked slightly more bedraggled and decrepit in the Locus than it did in the images that had come with the contract file. The back of the structure was partially covered in scaffolding and men worked on the walls as men have for the last thousand years, neither too fast, or too slow but rather just fast enough to convince middle management that they were neither dead or incompetent.

“They’ll be repairing damage from the earthquake of 5 February 62 AD…” His eye caught the bug in the lower right corner.
“Still? Fuck! that was nearly ten years ago! Either this lot are on some sort of maintenance contract or the place was rubble after the earthquake.”
“Let’s see inside.” Attard had no real interest in the plight of the workers, after all, he was upper management.
Tim ghosted the Locus through the locked front gate and through the big wooden red-painted doors. Light glowed in iron braziers each side of the entrance and the glossy paint glimmered. The inside of the interior courtyard was exactly as Tim had described , except that the two metre barrier walls had been covered with a coat of whitewash and bright braziers lit the space from their positions in all four corners. The space between the top of the barrier wall and the awning above was filled with a heavy, taut rope net. Evening was over and the night was well settled in when things started to happen. The sky above the little courtyard was a deep blue and the stars stared down as cold and as hard as diamonds. They delivered the two men first, a big black unpleasant looking man and s small one with a face like a ferret and more white in his eyes than was comfortable. The sedan chairs arrived an hour later, shown into place by a flunkey who managed to walk backwards while bowing. The sedan chairs were placed on portable wooden trestles that had the riders lying at the same height as the top of the wall, with a perfect view of activities beyond it, well within arms’s reach.

Attard was surprised and gladdened when the big black man actually killed the small high speed ferret man. It was almost a fair fight. The Ferret man had a knife which he slashed his opponent with, often, spraying the white walls with livid splashes of bright red. Then he stabbed the black man directly in the penis and was almost instantly rewarded with a high kick to the chest that sent him flying into the wall hard enough to break multiple ribs. The black man then leapt into the air and landed both feet on his opponents body.
The fat bald man in the right hand chair clapped ironically. They delivered the girl ten minutes after the victor was removed from the premises. She couldn’t have been more than twelve and she cried piteously and begged for mercy. The fat man spat in her face so she sat in a corner and cried there. Tim set the Locus to wide-angle, handed control to Jensen and went to the tearoom for a cup of tea and a bowl of noodles. He had no desire to watch more. He had seen them deliver the lion already, it was downstairs, waiting, and besides- it had all already happened

Through Dark Glass

“That’s odd.” 111a’s voice sounded metallic and flat over Rygard’s helmet speakers but there was nothing odd in that, everyone’s voice sounded metallic and flat over the voice circuit. It was a feature of the equipment. Then there was the fact that 111a’s voice always sounded rather metallic and flatanyway, owing to his origin in a robotics factory in Kourou, in what used to be French Guyana. The same penny-pinching that gave them cheap suit communicators teamed them with a survey bot from the lowest bidder at tender time.

Rygard wasn’t happy. It was something to do with the fucking scenery. The horizon was about ten kilometres away and dead flat in all 360 degrees of view except for the highly detailed silver shape of their ship about a kilometre behind them. The sky was as white and featureless as a sheet of untouched writing paper. The ground was a uniform rust red everywhere. And everywhere rust brown rocks, approximately round, from boulder size to the general dimensions of a clenched fist. Shit, if you had the right people you could have one fucker of a rock-fight. Of course it’d be one where if a participant’s suit was breached by a thrown rock they would die in very short order by explosive decompression, “But hell! its all in good fun, right?” Rygard had vaped a gram of the good hash he’d brought with him before he came out on this walk, but it didn’t seem to have helped his mood much.

“That isodd!” 111a repeated. “It’s square.”
That wasn’t odd, it was downright strange – Rygard had no idea what 111a was talking about.

“What’s square?” His voice was rather sharper than he cared for so maybe the Hash was having an effect after all.

“The ground. It’s square.”

Rygard gave up. He turned around. The shuffling of his boots on the coarse red sand carried up to his ears through the air on the inside of the suit, muffled, attenuated but still clear enough to remind him of the utter lethality and almost nonexistence of the atmosphere that surrounded him – 95 percent Carbon Dioxide, 0.8 percent Carbon Monoxide, small amounts of other poisonous shit, a bit of Chlorine, fuck all percent other shit, all poisonous and the whole horrible mixture at a pressure so low it could almost be called vacuum anyway, so anyone exposed to the surface without a suit wouldn’t have time to be killed by the shitty atmosphere because they’d be too busy having their lungs collapsed and probably sucked all the way out through their throat to float away in the low gravity like a nasty, squishy translucent balloon.

The vision was oddly clear and made him think suddenly of the shop he’d bought the hash in; One Shop in the “Eternity” Mall – the logo the word in lurid pink cursive script/purple neon balancing a cartoon flamingo in yellow. The service droid had assured him that the hashish was genuine, imported from the area once known as Afghanistan and was not synthetic or sourced from hydroponically grown plants and, at the time Rygard had chosen to believe it, but now he was not so sure, his imaginings had a tendency towards iridescence that seemed almost chemical. It wasn’t that they were unpleasant, just rather more vivid than comfortable.

“So, what’s square you rubbishy robot?”

111a had launched the drone he kept in his head like a hat thing. At present it hovered, a barely visible black smudge, about fifty metres above them.

“The ground. Look. I’ll feed it through my chest.”

Definitely communications were too shitty to transmit direct to Rygard’s helmet screen. He walked over to the robot, stopped.

“The ground, look down.” Directly under the toes of Rygard’s boots the ground suddenly changed from red oxide sand to black, what looked like tiny melted balls of volcanic glass. In a perfectly straight line.

“It’s a square exactly thirty-five metres on a side.” 111a turned to face Rygard, its chest screen showed two tiny silver figures at the edge of a perfect black square on a field of red-brown.

“So you can do it?” Ambros3 hadn’t been CEO long and he was still finding his feet, one in a bucket of oily threat, the other in a puddle of back-alley knife-fight .

Tim didn’t give two fucks, he didn’t get brought to the boardroom often but it didn’t faze him. Attard, the CFO was smoking so it was obviously alright if he did, too, and if Attard was smoking a cigarillo of Columbian Gold at two-hundred-and-seventy dollars a stick, from his Platinum case and Tim was burning holes in his swollen Jumper with filthy Indian Bidis – was there a shit to go with the fucks? Tim blew smoke.

“Well I don’t really see any reason why not, we’ve sent the Locus further back than that heaps of times and further than that, quite often. Its just a big job, and it’ll take a lot of power, which is of course, budgetary, if there’s no problem there.”

“The project has a diamond rating.” Attard loved other people’s money.

“Then there’s no problem, we’ll liase to bring the fusions on board.”

“By the end of the week.”

Shit. Today was Tuesday. Tim was indispensable, he could get away with the look on his face. Not that he gave much of a fuck about that, either, but he got busy anyway.

“So its roughly 131million kilometres and increasing at 11 thousand a day?”
“Yep, that’s about right.” Yazhen sounded bored. Tim knew she had been on shift eight hours already and wanted her lunch but he was miffed. This was interesting- about as interesting as it could get.

The Mars team were up to the challenge. They assembled a Tr00 locator beacon out of the remnants of a rover microwave radar system and placed it dead centre in the target. It took power from the rover’s remaining fuel cell, and a small battery of Solar panels. The Mars team worked very long hours to get the system running in time, but since the only other alternative was to send a Tr00-specific beacon from Earth, a hundred and eight day trip on what would have to be a special trip with a price tag that would easily run into billions, the team who were already on Mars got little but some rather insincere compassion for their short, frenetic work-overload. But, as Attard pointed out, they were scientists and largely motivated by curiosity – and in this instance curiosity would be a powerful motivator; so he was sure with his inexorable logic, that no bonuses need be forthcoming.

As it happened. He was completely correct. As Rygard groused to Monica Kahn, “There’s nothing to spend it on out here anyway.” Monica, who could get blood out of a stone and ten percent interest out of a billiard ball, stayed diplomatically silent.

“It’s a much more complicated hookup than normal.” Tim told Attard while snipping the end off a pre-rolled filtered “ThaiBomber” which, while it cost far less than Attard’s “Columbian Gold”, would have much the same effect. Tim was in his element. The only thing he loved more than the hardware was telling people about it.

“The Locus is quite powerful enough in its own right to examine the surface of Mars as it was five thousand years ago. Here, the chronological element is comparatively minor when seen against the dinosaur and mega-fauna work we were doing last year. And the tricentennial special investigation into “Abel” the first Aboriginal to land in Australia was twelve times further back. This isn’t even as far back as Atlantis – that was two terra-watt days, from memory and my memory is good.” He dragged deeply on his ThaiBomber. His exhaust smoke glittered like a rainbow. It was a publicity gimmick until the end of the month.

Attard continued to lounge in the doorway of the office. but his exhaust smoke was plain boring grey. “You’re right, two T Days, all five fusion stations linked, we even called in Braid on that.”

Tim had a bit of a coughing fit, which they both politely ignored, and responded through gasps for air. “This’ll be the same, for about half our window the target site is on the far side of Mars, there’s talk of bouncing the beam off their comms satellite. Can’t see why myself just shoot straight through, even at this range, it worked often enough before.” He coughed once more, wetly.

“Anything that keeps costs within reason is Athena for me.” Attard had recently converted to classic.

Tim, who’d been brought up conventional Norse, blew more rainbow smoke, but it didn’t mean anything. “We’re scheduled to start in five when Phobos has passed.”

Together they made their way to the central hub.

“Ok, Clear.”

“Hey Ho, Lets go.” Tim rammed his ThaiBomber butt into the bowling ashtray from Sydney Australia. An explosion on butts leapt forth, some pattering into the crumpled paper in the wire mesh bin next to the desk.

“O.K. sixty metres directly above the mathematical centre of the square minus five thousand, two hundred years. Right on the sweet spot – good targeting people.”

Text versions of the acknowledgements appeared on the screen at his elbow, the words themselves faint chirps in his headset, just the way he liked it.

The screens all showed the same thing. Pure, featureless rust red with a black square dead centre. The black square had been enhanced by a bright, almost too bright equilateral triangle on the right side, the triangle’s point, exactly dead-centre of the square. Tim gaped and the image changed in his head. He was looking straight down on an obliquely lit pyramid.

“Mars team; that light possible for the sun?”

Rygard’s response was reasonably quick, but tonally neutral. “It’s not really my department, but it looks right enough. Don’t you have people for that sort of thing?”

Tim swore. They did; and it was their department and he didn’t need this arsehole pointing it out.
”Cara, get me investigations; what’s his name? Owen something?”

“Can’t Chief.”

“Why the fuck not?”

“He isn’t rostered on. Its a long weekend topside.”

“Fuck.” Tim lowered the Locus to ground level on the bright side of the pyramid, rotated it 360 degrees at a distance of some two metres from the smooth glass wall. Over the flat horizon the distant sun peeped the brightest star among millions in an inky black sky.

“Ok.” Breathed Tim, “I think its Time to go
inside.” His hand shifted inside, the reader field and the Locus rotated one-hundred and eighty degrees, moved forward and passed into the pyramid like a ghost.

“What?” His first thought was that he’d finally managed to break the Locus, somehow, without meaning to and without having done anything anyway and the sudden rush of guilt, false accusations of oneself and righteous denials that took over his internal dialogue made his hand twitch, which made everything worse.

“Hey! Fuck!” Tim didn’t recognise the voice, but he understood the sentiment. Trillions of reflections in every direction. It appeared that the pyramid, wasn’t, but was rather a pyramid equally above and below the surface at the same time, each facet of the shape was not a solid wall but an infinitely long corridor extending outwards to who knew where. The corridors did things to the vision field of the Locus that had unpleasant effects on the human eye.

“Fuck! Fuck! Turn it off!” Tim thought he recognised Sandra’s voice from out in the main control, but the horrible migraine he was suddenly suffering from made it difficult to tell and far more difficult to care. Without warning, in perfect silence and with a reassuring lack of sparks, the image vanished from all streams.

Tim, who found his cluster migraine dissipating almost instantly, was both relieved and terrified. The ultra-speed strobing had obviously neither been good for the system, or for the millions who had been watching the live feed; and now the Locus appeared to be broken, who knew how badly.

“What the fuck was that all about Tim?”
There was a distinct edge to Attard’s voice and Tim looked up at the man standing next to the myriad of lights that were the power input unit. The lights bounced off Attard’s bald head and glinted on the golden rims of his round laser holographed spectacles. Each lens looked to be a gold penny. Attard’s eyes were invisible and his lips gave no clue as to his mood

“Y’know Torlg, I don’t really have the faintest fucking idea, but if I had to guess…”

“And quickly,”

“I’d say that the pyramid tetrahedron, and whatever the fuck it is, it is something very like the Locus itself – Transdimensional and existing in time and space only intermittently. When the Locus encountered the tetrahedron field the two failed to mesh perfectly and there were side effects, “

“I noticed.”

“Now if I had to guess, I’d say probably the tetrahedron field occupied a different point in chronology than the Loc was set for – that the tetrahedron was interfering with the Locus location controls.”

“Why did it cut out? Did we blow a fuse or something?” Attard’s pointed teeth really were an odd fashion, one that Tim didn’t especially care for.

“You know, I don’t think it was us, I think it was them.”

“Who is Them, exactly?” Tim pointed, Attard turned and looked. From a dark area on the grey main screen tall figures approached. Attard gaped and slowly realised that the screen was tracking to follow the figures’ procession. They approached in a group of six, three and three surrounding the blue stone. Tim’s voice spoke behind Attard, “Whatever it is, its one-point four metres long and has a mass of forty tonnes. It tests as transparent.”

“What is it?”

“Fuck knows, looks important.”

The procession stopped. The six figures withdrew from their burden which remained motionless. They were perhaps not tall so much as thin. Tim and billions across the system found the faces arresting, the high smooth foreheads the angular golden skin and brilliant tortoise eyes; somehow they looked familiar and Tim found himself weeping slightly. He blamed the rainbow smoke.

On the surface, Rygard watched the feed on 111a’s chest screen. It was disturbing to think that they were so close to the most watched point in the Solar System-but five thousand years late.

“Any number of registered ocean going cruisers, over one hundred and twelve thousand so far.”
111a’s metallic drone of a voice was rendered more worrying by the completely unfathomable information it was presenting without prompting

“What are you on about?” It was unnerving being looked at by 111a’s blank plastic face while standing on an alien planet, 400 million kilometres from Earth, when the blank face in question started spouting, frankly, weird shit.

“18 minutes ago you vocalised the question ‘why is it 35 metres?-seems an odd size.’ So I ran a cohesive search for everything with a recorded length of thirty-five metres most of the results were small-to-medium-ocean going-cruisers.”

“Well I doubt that this alien super-race looked into Earth’s future and based the size of their time-travelling tetrahedron on some rich bastards marlin killing boat.”

“I agree entirely Officer Rygard. In any event I found what I believe to be and interesting correspondence almost immediately.”

At first I was expecting one of the pyramids on the Gizeh plateau to match but all are larger. The pyramid of Kufu, in fact, is over twice as big, at seventy-five metres on a side.”

“Don’t waste time.”

“I’m sorry sir. In the city that was Paris back one hundred years ago; there was a big art gallery, before the moon worshippers exploded a hydrogen bomb.” Rygard nodded, his head moved freely inside his helmet and he felt slightly silly even as he did it; 111a had a program for body language but he wasn’t human. Then again Rygard had seen a vid once about the death of that city and it had affected him.

“So what is your point?”

“In the courtyard of the art gallery there was a pyramid, it was exactly thirty five metres on a side.” 111a’s round, flat, white plastic face was round, flat and plastic. It’s recessed round eyes didn’t convey any emotion, either. “The Pyramid was glass.”

Rygard looked at the melted looking globules under his feet, and back at the horizon.

(c) Alex Rieneck 2019