Dead cats got shiny eyes #1

On that day Melchior was wearing his utmost formal attire. A piece of plaid kitchen cloth and a shiny helmet made from a thimble he found in a sewing kit. He carried a black trident stolen from a box of pick-up sticks. Melchior was walking down a dark corridor through the attic full of old boxes and old books. Somehow this was his home now.

“Never forget the kitchen,” he murmured to himself. “It was nice and warm in the kitchen.”

It was on that day he would declare the problems of his community were to be resolved once and for all. To accomplish that, it would require a few deaths, that’s certain. A sacrifice was needed. A just sacrifice. Made of an enemy. Blood for blood. Whisker for whisker.

It was dark in the attic, but glimmers of pale moonlight found their way inside through cracks in the walls and roof. One plum of light fell straight at the rats’ altar. It was a spool of rolled up wire on top of a box from an old alarm clock. Here Melchior spoke to the rats. The alarm clock was placed behind him and it’s bell called them all to hear his speeches.

Melchior waited until his friend Rubin arrived. A simple rat. A useful rat. With not much ambition of his own. His foremost quality was loyalty. He followed those greater than him with bravery and Melchior valued that. Besides, Rubin knew how to set the alarm on the clock. Melchior did not.

The ticking was faint. Tick. Tack. Tick.

Midnight struck and the rusty clockwork mechanism came to life. The bell sounded off. After a while tiny paws started scratching the wooden floor. More and more of them. From the darkest corners of the attic they came and formed a circle around the altar. Melchior waited a while for them to become silent.

“My brothers,” he said. “My sisters. The day has come to stop hiding in the shadows. Today, we learn the answer to the great question. Are we rats or are we mice? Why do we live in fear? Since when aren’t we the ones to dictate the rules? Weren’t we the first to take the cellar from the humans? Who did that? Tell me, who did that, brothers and sister?”

“We did it, Melchior!”, the rats all growled and squealed in a chorus. “We, the rats, did it! We did it, Melchior!”

“So, I ask you, why has not one of us been down in the cellar for at least three months now?”

They all went silent. Their eyes were fixed on the floor or each other. A thunder way far in the fields rolled with a roar and raced with the whistling wind.

“Old potatoes? Flour? Beans and corn?”, Melchior went on. “The cellar is stocked with jars and boxes of food. Why aren’t we allowed there? Isn’t the cellar our rightful place?”

“The cats, Melchior!”, Rubin shouted. “Bloody wild beasts!”

Angry whispers echoed among the rats and rose louder and louder just like the storm outside.

“Bloody beasts!”, the rats chanted. “Stinking cats!”

“They think they are the masters of our house!”, yelled Old Limpy. He lost his hind leg in a mouse trap. And his paw was blasted off by a firecracker on some New Year’s Eve. Yet he hated cats way more than anything that befell him by human hands.

“Tear them apart!”, some rat shouted. “Take back what’s ours!”

“Tear them apart!”, Rubin started to chant.

“Tear them apart! Thear them apart!”, the other rats joined in.

He waited for them to calm down. Under those whiskers he had the grin of a champion.

“Fools! Fools!”, yelled someone amongst them. “Fools! You all are fools!”

The other voices went quiet.

“Fools!”, the squeaky female voice remained. “Fools!”

Rubin watched carefully as a small rat was climbing the stacks of books to reach a spot of light on top of it.

“You tell your name, if you want to speak,” Melchior said. His weary eyes had trouble recognizing the rat.

“How stupid are you? Tear them apart? How exactly? How would you fight them? What’s your plan? Do you really want to share the fate of the mice?”

It was Abigail. She wasn’t afraid to speak aloud what was on everybody’s mind. Even Melchior’s, though he wouldn’t admit it.

“Wasn’t there enough blood spilled?”, she had tears in her eyes. “Do you really want to see ours drop like rain?”

She almost broke down.

“Our blood was spilled already,” Old Limpy said. “Have you forgotten about your Bartlo, Abigail?”, he asked looking her straight in the eye and pokin at the air with his crutch.

“Bartlo is dead…,” Abigail said.

“Right! Killed by a cat! Shouldn’t we avenge him?”, Old Limpy pressed her.

“Bartlo tried to reason with them… Bartlo tried to take a stand against them… Bartlo was the bravest. He was the smartest… And Bartlo is dead… So if even he failed, what chance against the cats do we have?” Abigail’s voice trembled but slowly regained momentum. “The cats have sharp claws. They have sharp teeth made for tearing things apart. What do we have? Needles? Nails? Tridents made of plastic?”

She was looking at Melchior. He was silent.

“Even if I had to do it with my rotten teeth!”, Old Limpy said. “They are as sharp as theirs, my young lass. Just let me at one of them and you will see!”

“Everyone, listen to me. We have to find another house. This one has served us well but it won’t sustain us,” Abigail went on. “The mice are gone for a reason. The cats ate them, cause they refused to leave! We should be wise to not share their mistake!”

“You said your words. May I speak now?”, Melchior said. “I know there is fear in your hearts. We are small. We are starving. But we are fierce. And we are many!”

He pointed his trident at the crowd.

“And we are cunning! We are not defensless! We do have something to arm ourselves with, dear Abigail. We have a weapon we will use against the cats, that is deadlier than the sharpest tooth or claw,” Melchior said.

“What weapon?’, Abigail asked.

“Rubin. Show the non-believer. Show them all, what we found lately,” Melchior said and turned to his friend.

Rubin asked a rat nearby to help him put up a polaroid photograph for every rat to see.

“I found a camera in one of the boxes. It wasn’t hard to operate. Of course only when we learned how the batteries are replaced. No matter. You just push one button. And a picture comes out. So we took it with us to explore the house…”

“Get to the point, Rubin,” Melchior said.

“Well, some days ago, I was using a rope to get down this drain and got in the pipes… And I’ve found something. There was a large metal object lodged in the drain. So I went back for the camera and took some pictures. As you can see for yourselves. If you look closely you’ll see that this here… is something that resembles this…”

He put up another picture. It was a page ripped from some history book.

“This is what the humans call a cannon. Now there were many cannons. Some where really, really enourmous and had wheels. But then they had new cannons. Smaller ones that they could fit in their hands. These cannons use what the humans call bullets. The basic point is that the cannon has a barrel. And a piece of metal is shot from that barrel. Basically, what we can use this for is to point it at a cat and kill it with a bullet.”

“Yes! Behold! That is our weapon, my brothers and sisters!” said Melchior. “This is how we will get rid of the bloody cats!”

“Well, I’ll be…” Old Limpy said. “About time, I say”.

“So what? Do you know how to use it?”, Abigail said. “Or are you just bluffing, Melchior?”

“I know how to use it,” Rubin said. “I’ve witnessed one of these used by the humans. I know how they hold it. I know how they load it. We will retrieve the cannon, clean it up and…”

“Brothers, sisters, settle down,” Melchior said. “Yes, Abigail, you hear that? We know how to use it. We do have a plan. You just have to wait, trust us and see.”

“May I?” Rubin climbed up the stage and in the excitement pushed Melchior’s aside. “Listen. There are six cats down there. And there are exactly as many bullets in the cannon. So this is almost and unbelievable coincidence!”

“That’s right, my dear friend Rubin.” Melchior said once he regained his speaking spot. “This is clearly a sign! We won’t share the fate of the mice downstairs! We will hunt the cats down. Or we will force them to leave. It will be them, not us, that will leave! We are smarter than cats!”

“Damn straight,” Old Limpy said. “We will avenge Bartlo! We will avenge our fallen brothers who gave their life to protect ours! Hunt them down or force them out! Hunt them down or force them out!”

“Hunt them down!” the rats chanted. “Force them out!”

“Hunt them down!”, Melchior shouted. “Force them out!”

The crowd of rats waved and cheered, their eyes locked on Melchior.

“Blood for blood,” Rubin said. He alone was looking at Abigail.

“Whisker for whisker…”, she whispered.

Divinity Ltd #2

“So it’s finally time, eh?” The tall man in the black suit was sitting across from me at a long table. He wasn’t looking at me when he talked. “Has it really been that long?”

We were sitting in a white room. White walls. White tables. Everything was spotless. But there were also roses. Red as blood, looking at me from a white vase. Arranged by a kind hand. A hand of a woman, I assumed.

“Indeed. The time has come,” I responded.

I was glad to avoid the unsettling stare of those green eyes.

“Are you certain? Maybe someone has miscalculated.”

“The impending event is not a number,” I said. “It cannot be determined by calculation.”

“It’s not numerical? Well, then the Revelation proves to be quite misleading, doesn’t it? With all those…”

“I wouldn’t know. I’ve never read the Bible.”

“Of course you haven’t.”

The man stood up from his chair. He moved effortlessly and with much grace which seemed unnatural since he had to be at least five hundred years old.

“You were foolish to think you were finished here,” he said, having lit the cigarette he was playing with all this time.

“Maybe you’re right. I wasn’t ready. If I had been ready, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.” My voice was starting to tremble. “But it doesn’t matter now. For me the door is shut. I’ve missed my chance. I am here still and I am mortal. Just like you. And it frightens me.”

The man came closer.

“You and me, mein freund,” he said. “We are nothing alike. You can go upstairs. She will see you now.”

A corridor led to a stairway and up to the highest floor of the mansion. Finally I’ve reached the top. There was a balcony and she was standing there.

“Nice to see you Ba’al,” her voice was very powerful. “Though I must say I’m surprised you haven’t come to visit me eariler.”

“It wasn’t my choice this time, believe me.”

“Do you know who I am?”

“You’re an ancient being. Here to observe the mortals. You give illusion of fate and miracles.”

“No. I perform miracles. And fate is my middle name.”

“Why am I here? Why didn’t you leave me at the police station?”

“Tell me, Ba’al, what do you really know about the mortal man? Cause I know a lot. I’ve been there from the beginning. I saw men who had power. You could shower those with riches or bestow upon them pleasure beyond their wildest imagination. But to all those men everything would be worthless without one thing. Purpose.”

She came closer. Her dress was all white. Her hair red as those bloody roses. She put her lips next to my ear and whispered.

“I had awaken to a vision this morning. A vision of what lies ahead. They will try to hunt me. But I won’t let that happen. The path has been shown to me eons ago and I’ve been walking that path since the beginning of time,” she said.

She looked me in the eyes.

“Treading that path proves to be much more difficult then I’ve anticipated. I can’t even recall, how much I lost along the way. But I do remember the faces of those who had been taken from me. And not any man, nor any nation, nor any god known to mankind is going to stop me. For I have purpose. And my purpose is revenge.”

She placed her hand on my shoulder and forced me slowly to my knees.

“Will you tread the path with me?” she asked.

“I will follow,” I told her.

“Good.”

Wanda & Jerome #1

Blue lights and screams of sirens surrounded the house in the woods. The policeman charged with negotiating was sweating. Tired and exhausted he put the bullhorn up to his mouth and tried again.

“So what’s it going to be? Will you come easily or will we have to go in there and drag you out? We do that, then someone might get hurt.”

He will not surrender. That would be the end of both him and her. They were perfect. She made him whole. Who hasn’t experienced such a feeling would never understand. They wouldn’t see why he had to do what he did. All those horrible things.
He looked once again in her eyes. She was smiling. Told him that it was all going to be ok. That he should follow-up on that thought he had. The one when he took the gun in his hand.

“It’s okay,” she said.

The police squad outside was ready to march on the house. But then a gunshot went off. And another one followed soon echoing in the forest.

* * *

“Do you have a lighter?”

“What?” he asked. He wasn’t used to women talking to him. And especially not this kind of woman. She was about twenty, not too tall. Had nice high heels, a mini-skirt. Her navel was showing. She wore all black.

Didn’t repeat her question. Only looked into his startled face, playing with a cigarette. A moment passed before he realized she wanted something from him.

“Sure. I have one,” he said. He didn’t smoke. Put the last one down ages ago. He did it because of his wife. Now that she’s gone, he thought of picking the habit up again. He did, however, carry a lighter with him at all times in his trusted jacket.
She was getting a little annoyed but he found it finally. He leaned closer to share the flame and could see her lips tighten around the filter and sucking in the sweet smoke.

Think. Think! Say something. Flirt. Do anything.

“What’s that?” she asked. She pointed at the laptop’s screen he had before him. There was a partially coloured sketch of a woman on it. The woman was looking out the window and held a baby to her breast.

“That? It’s one of my works. I do digital paintings for people who order them.”

“She looks sad. Why?”

“Why? I don’t know. Maybe she’s waiting for her lover and he’s not coming.”

“Maybe he’s dead?”

“Dead? Well, maybe… I don’t know. I don’t look into such details of my work.”

“Maybe you should be looking closer. You see that? Her left hand is too small.”

“Really? Let’s just… Oh yeah. You’re right.”

He modified the drawing on the fly with a few clicks.

“Better?”

“A lot better,” she said. “That’s impressive. You can just manipulate it like that? Why won’t you give her eyes of another colour then?”

“Which color would you like them to be?”

“Green.” She leaned towards him. “Like mine.”

Her gaze was petrifying, but very seductive. Don’t scare her off. Don’t scare her off.

“Would you like anything else?” The waitress came to the table.

“No. Thank you,” he said. He then felt a faint kick under the table. The girl tapped her finger at one menu item.

“One more coffee. Black,” he said.

“Do you want our chocolate cookies with that?”

Another kick under the table. This time strong and excited.

“Yes please.”

The waitress grabbed the empty cups.

“Please abstain from smoking here. It’s not allowed,” she said and walked away.

When he turned to the girl in the black skirt, she was gone. He cursed himself for not asking for her number or email address. Only a package of smokes remained. It was the same brand that he used to smoke. He put it in his pocket and felt as if the package had returned to its rightful place.

Well done, Jerome. Another missed opportunity.

He glanced at the screen. The woman feeding the baby had her eyes changed to green and now looked a lot like the girl he just met. He decided to keep it this way.

* * *

He woke up in the middle of the night. Someone was pounding on the door. At this hour? He put on a robe and headed for the door and looked through the visor.

“It’s me,” he recognized her voice. “Please let me in. I have nowhere else to go.”

Now that was something he did not predict. But he didn’t hesitate and let her in.

“How did you know, where I live?” He asked with his voice resembling a child’s as if he received a gift he dreamt of but never shared that dream with anyone.

She slipped gracefully by him standing in the door.

“Your painting was signed. Jerome Stankiewicz? I found out you’ve been staying at this hotel for some time now. The receptionist confirmed and told me your room number.”

He asked not to be interrupted. You just can’t find good hotel service these days.

“I need a drink,” he said. “You want something?”

He poured himself a shot of whisky. In the pale light of his kitchen lamp he noticed the girl’s face was bruised. She had a black eye. He didn’t say anything. Just poured another shot for her and handed the glass.

“I could use a coffee,” she said with a smile. It clashed with the purples and grays of her injured face but still lit up her beautiful eyes.

“Sure. I still have the cookies you wanted earlier.” He got a paper back from the cupboard. “I didn’t want to eat them alone. You want your coffee black?”

“I do,” she said and sit down behind a small kitchen table. She took a cookie out of the bag. “Aren’t you going to ask me about my face?”

“No. You’ll tell me if you want,” he said. “And also knowing your name would be nice.”

“Wanda,” she said. “Can I crash at your place, Jerome?”

“You can take the bedroom. I’ll sleep on the chair. It’s quite comfortable.”

“Where’s the bathroom?”

“Right there by the door. Grab some clean towel from those by the mirror. There should also be a toothbrush.”

She thanked him and went there to freshen up so he made the bade for her. He threw a warm blanket on the chair and relaxed. Finished up his whiskey. He closed his eyes for a moment and dozed off.

When he opened his eyes the girl was standing next to him. She changed into his t-shirt and shorts and was now reaching for his hand. He followed her to the bedroom and they lied down together. It was nice to feel her warmth next to him.

He wanted her. Desperately. But she just lay there embracing him. That gave him peace. He shut his eyes and finally got a good night’s sleep. Something he really needed after all the sleepless nights following the one, when he lost his wife.

* * *

“Are you sure you want to do this?” she asked, when they drove up to the address she gave him. “I didn’t ask you to.”

“No need to.” Jerome had never been more certain than right now. “I won’t let some asshole beat you up. Let me deal with this.”

He smiled at her and stepped out of the car and grabbed a crowbar from the trunk.

Brainstormers #1

Prologue

DOES A NINJA SEE A NINJA HIDING BEHIND ANOTHER NINJA?

„When I write I prefer a keyboard,” David said. „My handwriting is horrible. If my hand were to jack you off at the same pace as I’m writing longhand, you most likely wouldn’t even be able to get an erection. I mean, that’s if you had a penis. Which obviously you don’t. I am using a metaphore here, boss.”
He was grinning as usual, but this time the sparks in his eyes were of a different hue of mad.

Jessica was frowning. Trying to find some meaning in the words formed with capital letters on the screen before them spelling something David called the Ninja dilemma.

„But when I use a keyboard,” David went on. „I’m almost able to jot down my thoughts as fast as they are arising. Maybe it’s because I use all ten fingers, you know? It’s like when you’re playing the piano. Somehow the music is there at the tip of your finger.”

„Yeah? Good for you, David,” Jessica said. „But what the hell does that have to do with a ninja?”

„Everything!” David almost jumped. „As long as I’m equipped with this.”

He pushed his index finger to a spot near his left temple.

„What? Did you have your ear pierced or something?” she asked.

„Yes I did. But look above the ear.”

She approached him slowly and leaned over. The skin above his left ear was paper thin. She could make out faint patterns as if he had a tatoo done in silver ink, but on the inside of the skin.

„What’s that? Looks like an imprint of some circuitboard or wires” she said.

„It’s wireless, Jessica. This tech is great.”

David pulled his head down and pointed his finger at some bare skin shaven near the top.

„Well I’ll be damned, David,” she said running her fingers through his remaining hair when she noticed the GRINQ logotype stamped on his temple. The Q was either a lime or an olive, she could never tell from the brand mark. „Did you give yourself an implant?”

„Yes I did!” David said. „And I’ve designed it too.”

She took a step back. Gazed at this short guy in a labcoat as if she hadn’t seen him for a few years. As if someone kept him locked away from society for some well justified reason.

„You are cliniclally insane. Show me the license agreement.”

„What?”

„David, you stupid asshole!” She raised her hand as if she were to slap him. In retrospect maybe she shouldn’t have had hesitated. „You fucking geek! You let those butchers drill in your head? And then you gave them money for it? Show me the goddamn license agreement!”

„It’s irreversible, Jessica. I’m sorry but I had to do it. It’s gonna be fine!” He patted her on the shoulder. „The point is, it’s working.”

He took her hand and pointed it to the screen again.

„This philosophical dilemma. The one with all the ninjas. This was a random thing that popped into my head while I was looking at you, when you walked into my lab. And this thing inside my head.” He pointed at the GRINQ tatoo. „This thing just ran it through the Web and produced the caption.”

„You’re hopeless, Dave.”

„No, I’m serious. Watch. I can do it again.”

She looked at the screen. Nothing happened. Nothing happend for quite some time.

„Just wait. You’ll see. Any second now.”

And surely after another while she did. The screen replaced the ninja dilemma with a picture of her. Without clothes. It was more like a cartoon. Flat shaded like an early full 3D CGI flick.

„You have to give it some time to render,” David explained. „Even though I lowered the resolution.”

„Is that why it looks like a cartoon?”

„I presume.” He shrugged. „It’s still experimental, you know.”

„So how much did you spend on your experiment, David? An experiment which I know absolutely noone approved here at the Farm?”

„Oh, who cares,” he said. „Weren’t you listening to what I’ve been saying?! A machine read my mind, boss! Hello! It rendered a picture from inside of my brain! Who, in a moment like this, whould think about fucking money, you greedy woman! Jessica, you just witnessed the birth of a techno-miracle! This is like inventing the Quantum Internet. Or the mother fucking touchscreen!”

„Calm down, David.”

„I just interfaced with a machine using only my thoughts with minimal latency. Just imagine what software you could create this way. Compose musicals or record them just by thinking about the sounds! Imagine, you could record your dreams and memories, store them, and play them back, if you wished. How awesome is this!”

„You are getting carried away, Dave,” Jessica said. „And frankly, you are way out of line. I will not ask you a third time.”

She tilted her head to the side and removed her glasses.

„How much of my money did you spend on this?”

„I’ll pay you back.” He shrugged. „In stocks. What do you say? Fifty-fifty partners?”

„How about you turn this thing off and shut the hell up. Then maybe I’ll let you leave this room with a solemn promise of a swift quiet death. How does that sound?”

„Yeah? Then get in line, girl. Patent’s already in. There are investors lined up. The thing is already rolling.”

„Your machine has a different opinion.”

„What?”

He glanced at the screen. On it there was a big drawing of a sad cat. It had two sentences as subtitles. They read: „This cat is happy. And I am lying.”

The cat then turned into a beginng face of a puppy.

„Please, Jessica. I will pay you back, I swear,” David said.

Jessica took a long breath.

„All right, Dave. You’ve got yourself a partner. But the split will be different,” she said. „Cause if this blows up, you are going to jail. And I won’t let you rat me out and drag me down with you, do you understand?”

„I’m not going to jail.” He came closer. „You’re not going to jail…”

He was certain, he had just won an argument with Jessica for the first time and he was more than happy with himself.

„Nobody is going to jail.”

Divinity Ltd #1

The international ban on interspeciary genetic synthesis has not been abolished yet, so with no hope of growing wings, mankind is still limited to machine based flight, thus so am I. At least for as long, as I choose to remain among them. Wrapped with a seatbelt, I wait for the plane to land. When it starts making another round, I contemplate choking on one of those complimentary peanuts.

They process new arrivals, taking time to inspect all for even the smallest traces of infection. It’s all sterile and automated. At least racial discrimination is no longer a factor. Machines scan and probe everyone and afterwards you get to enjoy a rejuvenating cocktail. Helps with the jet lag. Also with any shy bladder issues. The urinary tract’s the best way to flush the drugs with which they spiked you with pre-flight, to keep calm and quiet in your seat during the trip.

“How was the flight, sir?” a smiling face inquires.

It wants to appear friendly, it seems. It’s designed using prerecorded emotions of some nameless member of airport personnel. Impressively, it seems quite authentic for such an unsophisticated puppet.

I breathe into the identification apparatus to validate my passport.

“Damn long. That’s for sure”, I mumble.

Three happy beeps from the machine confirm I’m not some wanted criminal or a terrorist.

“Anything to declare?” The face is curious, but still amiable.

“We are all going to die soon.”

The face stares at me perplexed.

“Sir? You didn’t answer my question. You didn’t answer me, sir. Sir? Can you hear me?”

“I’ve nothing to declare.”

“Thank you so much! Please report to the adjacent security checkpoint for further processing. Next in line, please.”

The airport customs office android waves its artificial limb and smiles with a prerecorded smile. Funny. These slaves to the human race posses no actual emotions, but are capable of expressing some nonetheless. Thus to mankind they’re more in their image than any of my kin. Not being able to perceive or read emotional responses of my species, a human would be unable to feel empathy towards it.

In their eyes we’d be lesser beings than the artificial lifeforms they spawned themselves. They wouldn’t admit it, but I’m certain they do consider themselves godlike to their puppets. Won’t be long, til they deceive themselves completely, seizing to realize that artificial lifeforms have no sense of loyalty. That they have no obligation to morality. No concept of respect. And that they do not believe in gods.

I successfully pass through the next security checkpoint. There’s no way to conceal anything during the scan. It’s sensitive to any variation of matter. Every cell of my body has to be confirmed with the digital fingerprint in the global database. Implanted devices or biological modifications of any kind which haven’t been reported make you subject to questioning. Anything could be a weapon. A very thin line exists between having suspiciously high blood cell counts and wielding a cardiovascular explosive substance. Between an undiagnosed tumor and a weaponized parasite. Nonetheless the full-body scanner picks up on these slight differences. All changes to the body, all received medical procedures, even on a microscopic level, have to be legitimate, properly registered in the database and a license for acquisition of such had to be issued.

“Very well, Mr Ball. Everything seems in order.” The brown eyed woman at the security checkout desk looks at me up an down, admiring. “I must say, I’m impressed. No cyberprosthetics. No biotectronic augmentations. The body you have, it is… flawless. I’ve got to ask, what’s your secret Mr Ball?”

“A very strict and healthy diet.”

“Oh, surely.” She smiles and flutters her long eyelashes. “And that’s all there’s to it, right?”

Under the desk she presses her soft bare toes on my ankle and explores what’s beneath the fabric of my black trousers. Moving her foot upwards very slowly. She then starts unbuttoning her shirt.

But it’s just a flash from her imagination. An involuntary reading on my part. She’s really into me, I guess, and I must have been staring into her eyes for too long.

“I also exercise,” I say firmly, to break the unwanted contact. I kind of wish I could smile back at her, but she wouldn’t even be able to tell. They can’t perceive our true emotions and I’d be expressing them only as well as the android at the gate. “Also, my name is pronouned: BHA-AL.”

The taxi awaits me. I instruct the android driver to take me to the Lastfall Bridge. The machine registers my request, processes it and responds with a preprogrammed attempt at a humorous routine about the origins of the bridge’s name.

“…and I don’t know for a fact, but the large number of suicide jumps,” it informs me, “which have taken place there, might have had something to do with that name, eh?”

The android winks. It seems, this one operates using some kind of repugnant personality AI template. Welcome to the capital. Even our AI here are assholes.

He goes on about the year the bridge was built and goes on about things I don’t give the slightest fuck about. But the android doesn’t care, if I don’t laugh. It’s an old model. Not designed to handle the driver-passenger interaction that well. His conversation options are limited and he goes on and on about the architect and the river, and the modernization works, the authorities approved for the next year and so, and so…

I order the taxi to stop at the middle of the bridge. I get out and the autonomous driver bids me farewell with a preprogrammed punch line:

“Don’t do it, sir! You’ve got your whole life ahead of you! Ha, ha!”

It takes the android exactly three more ‘Ha, ha”s to finalize expressing his false sense of humor and finally fuck off. Not wanting to waste any more time on this crude planet I climb over the railing and spread my arms. Beneath the bridge black smoke gathers.

Then a surprising hesitation paralyzes me. Surprising, because I know my duty. I failed here on Earth. There will be a trial. I will be marked and banished, though being on this planet feels like I alread was.

Shit, I’m standing on the wrong side of the railing for too long. People are gathering around me. Taking pictures. Gasping and looking around for cameras. Trying to figure out if this is for real or just a scene from some reality show. I don’t care. I came this far. I can take my time. Maybe I’ll figure something out. The smoke under the bridge starts to form a diamond shaped cloud. A plum of blue light from below hits my eyes.

“Stop!” I hear a loud cry from behind. Some woman jumps out of a black car. “Get down from there!”

She’s next to me in a heartbeat, grabbing me by my coat and pulling me down. I flap my arms in the air, trying to regain equilibrium.

“Let go! You don’t understand!”

But she’s exceptionally strong and pulls again, harder. I fall and land at her feet.

“What the hell were you thinking?” Her voice is almost sympathetic.

“Why did you do that?!” I scream. “Let go of my fucking coat!”

“That’s a little bit rude of you, ain’t it?” She lets go of the coat but presses down on my arm and shoulder, keeping me firmly pressed to the ground. “I just saved your life.”

“Did anyone ask you to?” I still struggle. I get up on one knee but then my leg collapses. “Aaarrrrhh!”

“Are you okay?”

“Holy shit. I think I… I think I twisted my ankle!” I cry in horror and look to the sky. “I twisted my goddamn ankle!”

“Well, it’s your fault, not mine,” she says with only a slight shade of guilt. “It’s not like you broke it. You’ll be alright.”

“But I… I’ve never… Not one scratch, no bruise… Not a bone broken… Pain. I’ve never felt it.”

“Is that so?” She chuckles. “So how does it feel, eh?”

“Not… good. It’s very… not good.”

“Welcome back to Earth, my friend. Whatever shit you were high on, I think it’s wearing off.”

I turn my eyes away from the sky, look at her and realize she’s apparently an officer of the law. I feel a cold touch of polymer handcuffs on my wrists.

“What are you doing?” I ask.

“What does it look like I’m doing? I’m taking you in.” She presses a button on the jacket’s collar and starts talking. “Dispatch, twenty one nine, I’m taking this one downtown, no need for back-up. There were bystanders, so we’d be smart to have techs erase the scene from the feed.”

“What? Why are you taking me in? I haven’t done anything! Take these off.”

“You kidding?” She looks at me honestly perplexed. “Or just playing dumb?”

“What?”

“Fucking tourists… ” She shakes her head. “Sir, within the Integral’s borders, suicide is against the law.”

* * *

“How many times do I have to…” I’m close to beating my head against the desk. “I was not trying to kill myself.”

“Then I ask you again,” The sergeant stares at me with his tired eyes. It’s obvious I’m not the first man in this interrogation room sounding like a madman to this officer. “What were you doing in the middle of Lastfall Bridge?”

“I’ve already told you.”

“Listen, I’m trying to get on your side here. Please, do not make this harder than it has to be.”

“I’ve given you an answer. It’s the truth.”

“Alright. So you’re telling me, you were not trying to commit suicide by jumping off the bridge?”

“That’s right.”

“Instead, you were attempting to enter an inter-dimensional portal located under the bridge. In the middle of the river. That’s your testimony?”

“More or less.”

“Is that the drugs speaking, Mr Ball?”

“What?”

“The officer who apprehended you mentioned you showed signs of intoxicationwith a class N substance.”

“That’s absurd. Call the airport. They scanned me not that long ago. Immediately after I took a cab. And the cocktail they give you at the airport is sanctioned, and definately not class N.”

“Yeah… No. You see we contacted the aiport. There’s no record of your scans. It might be a glitch in the system, but I’d say your behaviour is pretty consistent with an addict’s. We cannot prove it, but taking into consideration everything you just told me, It’s quite clear your statement is an effect of the hallucinogen. Are you involved in drug trafficking? That would be extremely serious stuff if you were, Mr Ball.”

“You are out of your mind. I’m no drug mule, for Christ’s sake!”

“For who’s sake?”

“Nevermind. Just please consult the airport database again, it will surely clear things up. I’m not a drug user nor a drug mule, sergeant.”

The sergeant studied my eyes, eyebrows, mouth, and nosetrils, utilizing every bit of information on the subject of human behaviour spoonfed to him during training at the academy .

“I don’t believe you,” he said.

“Of course you don’t. You don’t know what belief is, sergeant.”

“Yeah… No. Ehmm. Mr Ball you will be detained for further questioning. And you’re definitely going to need a lawyer.”

“No. He won’t.”

A man in a black suit, dark glasses, shiny shoes and a striped tie walked into the interrogation room and flashed an important looking badge in the face of the cop.

“He will be coming with me.”

The badge must have been important indeed. The sergeant took a second look at it. Then shuddered, grabbed his hat from the desk and left the room.

“Let’s go, Ba’al.”

The tall man escorted me out of the building and instructed me to get in a limousine parked near the entrance. I looked around and noticed that woman, the police officer who brought me in, coming our way with a lit cigarette. She looked a little concerned. Maybe feeling bad for roughing me up at the bridge. My gaze met hers. And I smiled.

She was smiling back. For the first time in my life someone noticed.

“Get used to it,” said the tall man. “You’re one of them now”.