Grab your board and join author Stuart Thaman and the Endless Beautiful crew as we seek out rad creative moves!
Stuart Thaman is the Amazon.com best-selling author of the Goblin Wars series, the psychological thriller For We Are Many, the Umbral Blade trilogy, and the upcoming novel Blood and Ash, the first book of the Chronicles of Estria series based on the acclaimed miniatures game Ral Partha’s Chaos Wars. When not writing, he enjoys smoking cigars, acquiring bruises in mosh pits, teaching a myriad of disparate subjects to unruly high schoolers, and preparing for the end of the world. You can catch up with him on Twitter @stuartthaman and on his website: stuartthamanbooks.com.
- Nighttime Crickets
- Silo Whistling
- Ivy Tavern
- Morning Birds
- Packing Tape
Behind the nightclub, all I could hear was the muffled sound of a techno beat intermingling with hundreds of voices and dampened by thick walls of concrete. No one inside knew what I had done there. None of them had been to the upper room and seen all the blood.
I took only a moment to get my mind clear from the intoxicating rush of adrenaline and set my hover board under my dark leather boots. The calm of night, a sharp contrast to the thumping music coming from the building at my back, was my only companion. Well, I had the night, a few crickets, and my gun. I didn’t like the latest firearms all the other Enforcers used, those lazer-based weapons with their high-pitched squeals and their malfunctions every other shot. I used the old fashioned hardware. Sure, it was noisy, but at least the familiar boom of the powder igniting in the brass didn’t make me wince like the wailing of lazer weapons.
Hovering silently down the street, I turned left past the nightclub toward the river. It wasn’t the fastest way to get home, but I grew up by the river, and seeing it made me feel like some part of my childhood was still alive. Maybe some part of it wasn’t stained red with blood. Maybe some part of it didn’t have to wear a mask and leave home with a loaded pistol every night only to come home with one fewer round in the magazine.
The river was quiet, but there was something different. There was a boat cruising slowly upstream. Ever since the second burning, the pollution had become so bad that boats were outlawed altogether. I still remember going out on the lake with my family, but those memories hide behind a torn curtain of my sins in the darkest recess of my mind. I pulled up my board next to a concrete barrier and listened to the gentle lapping of the water only a few feet away.
The boat kept getting closer, like it was coming straight for me. It was dark, but a little bit of neon from one of the businesses in the city reflected off the hull. Somewhere on the deck, I thought I could see a man walking back and forth. Maybe he was pacing. Maybe it wasn’t a man. I was just guessing at his silhouette.
Nine rounds left in the magazine, I pulled my .45 from my shoulder holster underneath my coat. I waited for the boat to get closer, ever muscle in my arm tensing. Boats are illegal. And it was headed straight for me.
A car hovered around a corner, its gravity engine whirring through the night air at my back. I didn’t pay much attention to it, but then it stopped. I heard one of the doors open. When I turned to look, I saw an Enforcer stepping out onto the street. The killer buttoned the middle button on his jacket and took a step forward, some trash crunching under his footfall.
“What’s this?” I asked, keeping my voice level and my finger on the trigger.
The enforcer just stared at me. Then its mouth opened. “You’ve been terminated,” the thing croaked in my direction. Its voice unit was busted, though it doesn’t look like the rest of the Enforcer has been damaged in any way.
I whipped my gun around and fired, aiming right for the Enforcer’s center of mass. I knew I wasn’t supposed to resist an order, especially from one of my own kind, but the other Enforcers did not know that I had recovered my memories. They didn’t know what I had.
And what I had was certainly worth any risk. My shot blazed through the Enforcer’s chest and sent it reeling away, its internal gears and processors buzzing in protest.
Then the boat I had forgotten about crashed into the side of the concrete barrier at the edge of the street. I jumped backward, pulling my gun back around in front of me, but no one was there.
Roll of bone and knife, cutting away the fat, to the thick pad of meat on the bison. She watched as the attendant shifted the blade and cut long strips from the flank, slapping the heavy, wet meat onto the wax paper.
He had a spindly beard, grown over 30 years, twisted and tied up. His face brown from sun. His bare chest, not muscular, slightly sunken. Cesa wondered if there had been a disease when this butcher had been a child.
He looked up at her from the bloody mess, swatted at a fly that had landed on his temple, and took back to his task.
“You’re not from around here,” said the butcher as he sliced, barely missing knotted fingers. “You’re here to find him aren’t you?”
Cesa looked around at the hot bizarre, hundreds of faces, all watching and providing feigned anonymity at the same time. The was no point in hiding it. This place could have killed her if it had wanted to. They wanted Cesa to find Voxel.
A StratBat flew overhead, camera whirring, somebody, perhaps Voxel himself wanted Cesa to know that she was being watched.
“Smart girl, you’re going to need this protein,” said the butcher. “This is the best bison this side of the canal, none of that fake shit like they sell over in the supermax.”
Cesa nodded. She just wanted the meat. She felt exposed. A metal cat squaked from a rooftop. It’s circuitry clouded the air and Cesa felt a pain in her stomach.
“Supermax bison is people anyway,” laughed the wiry butcher. “Eaten too much people will make you crazy, not that I would know from experience. You’ll have to ask Voxel about that when you meet him. Or maybe you already know.”
This butcher was beginning to prod too much. Cesa grabbed her credit bar from her secure strap. You didn’t walk into this bizarre with anything less the worst of intentions and a weapon. Not if you didn’t want to end up poor or even worse Voxel’s dinner.
The butcher slapped the white packaged meat on the table in front of Cesa.
“Say hi to Voxel for me.”
I am thinking about mirrors,
skateboard wheels reflected in puddles,
distorting the jump, the flip, the miss–
how the action dissipates, regroups.
All things are alike if we look into them enough.
Consider the cricket and the whistler,
a song that belongs to an order—a species—
and the stochastic static air sucked
into the lungs—this whistler whistles better in—
but out goes the transported tune—
the lung-ful, the passage sent.
I know these voices. I belong
to their code. We share so many features.
Cut cloth. Culture. The open reaction
in the eye, the lips, the hands.
No one is more alike to me as my sister.
I know her better than she thinks I do
because I am getting better at knowing myself.
I remember that when she wears a watch,
the head lies against the inside of her wrist.
I remember how her hands turned to reveal
the toad caught in the basement sill
in the narrow gap behind the lilacs.
Her daughter is her next closest gene,
born seventy-five years to the day
from the birth of our grandmother,
her mother the one who rubbed butter
into our hands to unstick the pine sap,
the needles stuck to us, knitted tight.
I didn’t bother learning knitting.
Maybe it is not too late.
Overhead, planes rustle the memories.
Nothing like aircraft to take you out of somewhere.
Strange there is air enough up there.
Strange that the further away from earth you go,
the heavier the craft can be held
by the least binding.
EB027 June 23, 2017 Carolyn Decker