Friday, May 18, 2012

2765 - pt. 1

So it's me and Mr. USA, walking through wet, cold, and foreign city in our civies, hoping we can !@#$ing do what we need to without getting made, or doing the obvious thing.

We're about halfway through the city, and within a few blocks of our goal, when we encounter a large public park. The grass is grimy and sloppy with mud, and the trees are cracked and dying, and studded with razor wire to keep people from climbing them. It feels like people died there, and were just left to rot instead of being taken away; for all we know, that may have already happened -- several !@#$ing times.

But it's the only place where we've seen any color at all, so far today. By chance we both spy a single, dying, yellow dandelion by a spartan park bench, nearby. And, after everything we have seen, today, Mr. USA, kind and gentle soul that he is, decides he needs to sit the !@#$ down and regard it.

I let him do that, deciding to walk on my own a little. I cross to the other side of the park, looking at the children there as they play relatively quiet games in the shadow of a dilapidated and labyrinthine jungle gym. I see that all of them wear some shade of dark gray, with heavy pants and shirts for boys and long dresses for girls. They also all wear black armbands on their left arms, each with a large, white O.

They move singly or in pairs about the rusty, dark wreck, not caring to stop for too long. It's as if they're afraid of something in there, and I wonder if maybe the dead bums were found in there, rather than out in the field.

As the children play what might be a strange analogue of hopscotch, or jump in place without a rope, I see there's only one person not in motion. It's a young girl, maybe ten or so, who stands at the top of the slide. I'm not sure if she's just unwilling to go down into the puddle waiting below, or is claiming the slide entirely for herself.

(I also notice that she, alone, is not wearing an armband.)

A man with an umbrella smokes a cigarette over yonder, maybe fifteen feet from the slide. He's wearing a dark gray, somber, double-breasted suit with no collar, and silver buttons. We both nod to one another and I decide to strike up a conversation.

"Nice day for it?" I ask, smiling. He gives me a guarded smile in return and nods, looking at the girl on the slide.

"My daughter," he says, shouldering his umbrella and pulling out a white pack of black cigarettes, along with a silver lighter.

"Cute kid," I tell the man, accepting his kind offer of a cigarette, and a light. They smell like European diesel, and taste worse, but there's something oddly comforting about them.

(Also something strange, just underneath the taste.)

"She is, yeah," he replies, lighting up one for himself and looking over at her, as she stands atop the slide: "So much like her mother."

"Got her eyes, huh?"

"And her ass," the man says, saying it like he was !@#$ing saying anything else, and taking a long, lung-bruising drag off his smoke: "Not that I can really remember, anymore. I shot the cunt five years back when she started forgetting who was boss. You know how that goes."

"Yeah," I reply, praying to !@#$ing God that (REDACTED) is not hearing this, over on his park bench, yonder.

"She's available, if you want to fuck her," the proud father informs me: "My daughter, I mean. Unless you want my wife, too."

"Not really my thing," I say, fighting the urge to punch him so hard his brains shoot out his ears.

"Well, okay. You can never tell. And not right now, of course. That jungle gym's no fit place for you. But I can set up a date-"

"Well, like I said, not really my thing," I say, tapping the cigarette, and finally realizing what I was tasting: minute traces of heroin.

"Your loss," he sniffs, all bonhomie suddenly gone. He flicks the cigarette out from between my fingers, gives me what he thinks is a threatening look, and walks off to the slide to talk to her. When she turns around to regard him, I see that she has the eyes of someone ten times her age.

I could kill him. I really should just !@#$ing kill him. Two quick steps and a punch to the back of the skull and he'd be done with. I'm sure he deserves ten times worse.

But there would be no point. She'd just !@#$ on his dead, shattered face for money, and then see if her aunt or uncle would be her pimp, now.

"I !@#$ing hate Alter-Earth," I mutter under my breath, and head for the park bench where I left Mr. USA. We need to get the !@#$ out of here and do what we came to do.  


* * *

Yes, son. We're here, in Alter-Earth, in what passes for Neo York City on this side of the parallel universe line. Year 2765, AU, and !@#$ knows what month or day.

Simon was kind enough to deposit us just inside the city limits, so we wouldn't have to undergo what I understand is a fairly grueling (and quite invasive) battery of checks to be sure we actually are who we say we are, administered before letting anyone in. Unfortunately, he dropped us at the wrong side of the city, so we're having to take more time than we'd like getting to our objective.

Now, the poor kid's done a marvelous job of getting with the program, all things considered, so I'm not gonna !@#$ too much. But, seeing as we have no ID, and no money, and no desire to steal either for fear of being spotted and blowing our cover, bringing who knows what kind of !@#$ing heat down on our heads, that means we're having to hoof it.

It's not all bad, of course. It has been extremely educational, and, for me at least, fills in a lot of blanks left in what little answers we've gotten from captured Alter-Earth citizens before they've reverted back to home.

But I think I could have really gone through life without knowing the answer to some of these questions. Especially when the sane thing to do, upon having the question answered, involves severe bodily damage to the person who provided the answer.

Like the man I just talked to in the park, for example.

* * *

The first thing you notice, inside their version of Neo York City, is that there aren't any !@#$ing colors to be found.

Everything man-made's either black or some shade of gray, usually dark. Every once in a while you'll see something white, but it's usually things like police uniforms, emergency vehicles, soldiers, and any building that's associated with big, face-stomping authority.

Same with the clothes, and it seems that the lighter your colors, the better off you are. So most folks are wearing dark to medium grey, with some light grey here and there. I haven't seen anyone wearing white except for the cops, but when vehicles pull by with tinted windows, and everyone getting the !@#$ out of their way, I figure there's someone in white looking out at us.

This monochromatic thing has the effect of making what color there is extremely beautiful. The grimy, weed-infested patches of wilderness, just outside the city, seem like gardens of paradise by comparison. Also the nasty city park we just sat in, and are now leaving with all due haste before the umbrella guy wonders why I didn't want to !@#$-rape his lovely, broken daughter, and places a phone call to the boys in white.

The next thing you notice is how incredibly !@#$ silent things are, at least in public. People don't talk too loud outside, in the street. Cars whisper by, and I haven't heard any music, horns, or shouting. No friendly greetings or blared announcements. Just the constant, oddly-in-time stomping of people's feet as they walk down the street.

Above the streets, with their drab-colored but nicely-styled cars, the architecture is !@#$ing wrong. There are skyscrapers, but they're made of dark gray or black stone, supported by black, grimy iron or off-color brass. Rows of tall, usually empty arches break up the walls, instead of windows, and what few windows there are tend to be small and high up in the arch. One gets the feeling they're there for light and ventilation only, rather than a view.

(Might also be there to keep people from jumping out, or escaping.)

The shorter buildings are based on the same, dark color scheme, only the first floors are lined with black marble columns, and the doors are all made of glass. Most of these glass doors are guarded by a large, light gray-suited fellow who opens them only upon being shown identification. They also have a secondary function of watching the slaves left outside, chained up like dogs to a large, metal ring to the right of the doorway and made to kneel on the pavement.

Oh yes -- slaves. Naked, rain or shine, save for their bright silver chains. They're every color the Gods thought to put on this Earth, including White. They've had every inch of their bodies depilated, and so many of them have had their facial features mangled, sliced off, melted smooth, or destroyed as punishment for various infractions that it's hard to tell.

People go walking in public with their slaves chained to their belts, carrying their groceries or just walking along, eyes permanently trained on the ground. People ask if they can fondle other people's slaves as though they were asking to pet a dog. People also offer to let you fondle their slaves, which has led Mr. USA and I to some rather uncomfortable moments that we are not going to ever talk about, to anyone, when we get home. 

(We have to allay suspicion that we don't belong here, after all.)

Another point of interest is the lack of writing. While all the buildings have street numbers, none of the stores or buildings have words in their signs. They all have silver on black logos, instead: bundles of groceries denote a shop, what might be a burger advertises a restaurant, and a broken arm is a medical facility. Businesses and apartment towers have imperial-looking icons that are most likely unique. I guess everyone just has to be told what they mean, unless they're all seeing something we're not.

I was hoping to find a newspaper and read it, but I don't see any evidence of there being any. Maybe alter Neo York City doesn't permit newspapers. Or maybe they're just supposed to be inside things, like radios.

Yes, they do have radio, here, and I am not !@#$ing liking it. It's mostly what would be called talk radio, except no one's calling, except to denounce their neighbors for not doing what the announcers are exhorting people to do. There's also "real stories," where people who were caught doing something they shouldn't are forced to act out their transgressions, and apologize to the audience, before being executed live on the air through some very !@#$ing painful methods.

No music. No laughter. No criticism of the leadership of the city, the state, or the nation. Just propaganda, the occasional nugget of news, terror and pain served up as justice and punishment, and hardcore audio sex plays throughout the day.

No television, either, or at least I'm not getting any signals on this half the planet. But that would explain why the Alter-Earthers we catch are almost universally fascinated with the boob tube.

* * *

Police? Oh yes, we've seen a few. It was !@#$ing hideous.

As I mentioned, earlier, they wear white, here: stark, blinding white suits and caps with white, wraparound, opaque plates in the shape of sunglasses that act as communicators. They carry white stun sticks that are quite obviously stained with blood, and not washed all that often.

(No guns, oddly enough, unless they're concealing them.)

The first pair we saw were at the head of an alleyway across the street, ordering male passersby to come into it. We thought it might be an ID check, but then we heard muffled screaming, and saw a long line of men terminating at a battered, bloody, and naked woman. The men were being ordered by the police to gang rape her for some infraction, and we didn't know what was worse: that they were doing it, that the men who were press-ganged into the line seemed annoyed to have been grabbed, or that everyone else who wasn't accosted just kept walking, as though nothing were happening.

"What do you think she did?" I asked Mr. USA, once we were a block away.

"Doubleparked," someone nearby said, shrugging his shoulders: "Not her first time, either. I think the stupid bitch likes it."

A block later, we got to see him accosted by another pair of policemen for some infraction of the rules. He protested his innocence, but they apparently were not impressed, and started to beat him with their batons. Every time the sticks made contact, there was a crackle of electricity and an audible crack. 

By the time we were a block away, they'd caved in his skull. His brains and blood added a rare splash of color to the otherwise-drab road they killed him on.

"And what do you suppose he did?" Mr. USA asked me, as I was listening in to police chatter.

"Turned that one lady in for doubleparking when she actually hadn't been," I answered: "And, no, that doesn't mean they're stopping what's happening to her."

"Dear God," he muttered: "Can we walk any faster?"

"Read my !@#$ing mind, (REDACTED)" I said.

And we did.

* * *

We see more things, between there and where we're going. Strange things. Bizarre and unsettling things.

!@#$ing  horrible things.

And as we swallow our bile and try to look like this is nothing new or terrible to us, and that we're just in too much of a hurry to really enjoy watching the occasional street spectacle, I remember everything that every Alter we've caught alive has ever said to us.

I remember how they seemed puzzled at our manners, and our small considerations. I remember how they sneered at the fact that we were willing to feed them in captivity without necessarily demanding anything from them, as if this made us weak and soft.

I remember how they kept expecting us to do something truly rotten and evil to them at any moment, and kept wondering what the game was when we didn't.

As you might expect, I was the only one who got anywhere with these !@#$s, given that I would just smack them upside the !@#$ing head with little or no preamble, or fake them out with the blindfold, meatball, and "gouged eyes" trick. Everyone else got played with, but my willingness to talk to them on their sadistic level meant they'd at least respond in kind.

Case in point: when the alternate Verve was in COMPANY custody, after that nasty old-lady rampage he pulled, he seemed unnerved by the fact that we were keeping him alive. He kept making these weird, black jokes about prison rape, like he not only expected us to do it to him, but was hoping we would, because it meant we weren't about to kill him. And when we left his cell without hurting him it was like a light went off in his skull, or something, because he couldn't even conceive of a world where people didn't do things like that out of hand.

Sitting in that cell, being treated with some degree of decency and human rights, was literally freaking him out. God only knows if he underwent treatment when he got back, but by the time he and our Verve changed places, again, his brain had the consistency of a bowl of half-eaten Jell-O.

See, near as I can figure out, this world is based on selfishness peppered with sadism, whereas ours works on self interest tempered with kindness.

Take "A Christmas Carol," for example. When we read it, we see Scrooge as a greedy but tragic figure who eventually comes around, and consider it an uplifting tale about the power of redemption. But they read it as a horror story, in which a successful man is haunted by three vengeful ghosts, and eventually driven bat!@#$ insane -- so insane, in fact, that he not only gives his hard-won earnings to those beneath him, but gleefully celebrates a holiday based around forgiveness, giving, and love.

There is no forgiveness, here, on Alter Earth. Forgiveness is weak. And weakness gets you hurt or killed.

There is no giving, here, either. You don't get given anything. You have to earn everything. Even your birth and raising by your parents is a debt you need to pay off, one way or another. 

(Witness the man in the park, and other things we've seen in this walk)

And there is no love, here. Love is an illusion. There's affection and bonhomie, sure, but they'll vanish along with the party favors when loyalties shift, or a betrayal seems more profitable than an alliance.

This place is truly horrible, son. It is the antithesis of everything we believe, cherish, and hold dear. Even the terrorist worms who threaten our security love their children. Even the human monsters who put on spandex and threaten entire countries know what it means when someone looks at you that way, and tells you that they love you.

Even Hitler could have been redeemed, given time.

And and as bad as all this is, it's nothing compared to what's waiting ahead of us, just up the block, at our destination.

Stark white marble, its outside walls writhing with white, grotesque statues all !@#$ing and killing each other, the Prosperpinium beckons.

And God help us, for the safety and security of our own world, we go in.

(Sephiroth - Heliopolis. Nothing to drink, today)

No comments:

Post a Comment