Rebate and Resentment at Backdoor SoHo
rating: +12+x

"Excuse me, sir. What is the purpose of this?" the tall guard in front of me asked after consulting someone through the microphone on her ear. She was holding a glass jar with a bunch of flies inside labelled as "Crystalline Blue Flies'' , although the insects looked like normal green bottle flies. Those small arthropods, alongside a few packets of cigars that I was obligated to throw in the bin, were the only items she had confiscated from me while searching for any illegal or dangerous item in my equipment. And it was obvious by her tone that I would need to answer if I wanted to enter the auction.

"Eh, just a snack. Carter and his buddies allow snacks brought from home at their events, right?"

The guard lowered her black sunglasses, so her emerald eyes could analyze better the content of it, and also me. Whether she was angry or confused, I couldn't tell.

"You eat flies?" she asked again. An annoyed look formed on my face.

"You tell me"

The lady gave me a final inspection with her gaze, focusing on my peculiar eyes, trying to discover a lie in them, but it was useless. She listened to the jargon that came through her ear mic for a few more minutes, just to end up throwing the jar back into my hands. It seemed that chameleons weren't a very common sight in Manhattan. Although I can't blame her. For an event like this, one can never be careful enough, especially with a dozen monkeys running on a typewriter all over Backdoor SoHo, wanting to capture an event like this one. While putting the object back into my bag, I saw again the sign over my head, with luminous and elegant lights and words aggressively shouting at everyone its message.

" MARSHALL, CARTER AND DARK PRESENT: FIRST TIME EVER AUCTION AT BACKDOOR SOHO WITH PRESS. COME AND GET SOME OF THE BEST ANOMALOUS CRAFTS AND ITEMS, CREATED BY THE BEST ANARTISTS AROUND THE WORLD!"

Depending on who you asked, the meaning of those words would differ a lot. Most of the answers would be alongside the lines of "Opportunity, Money, Fame" etc etc. But to me, it only meant hatred. Hatred towards Erwen Niffs and his group of mononeural editors.

MC&D need no introduction from me. The largest sellers and buyers in the anomalous world, buying and selling everything one might think of. Food, clothes, weapons, art, objects, species, sentient creatures, you name it. Their catalog is endless, and you can see that at their auctions. A big ass meringue of rich people fighting and screaming price numbers over some of the weirdest, yet most fascinating anomalous items one can acquire. Unfortunately, press isn't allowed there, and no reporter or newspaper was able to successfully sneak past them, so you can imagine how big of a deal it was at Planasthai Press when they announced a week ago that their next auction would occur at Backdoor SoHo, and that for the first time, press would be allowed inside. And that should be a dream to cover, especially for a reptile like me, right?

Except that it wasn't.

"Tell your bug friend that you two are free to enter now. I'm expecting you and the rest of these clowns to behave like adults at an adult event tonight" The guard gave me that final warning, while she started to look at my new partner along with me.

"Yeah, well, I wouldn't be too optimistic if I were you"

Not that far away, next to a crowded guest's line, there was a peculiar human sized arthropod standing out, probably not because of any good reason. R'lek, Planasthai's favourite reporter, was chatting and laughing with what seemed like a normal person whose head was a fishbowl full of water, while I had to pass all of our equipment through security. They were annoying all the impatient people nearby, but luckily for them, R'lek noticed my gestures and said goodbye to the bowl-person.

So yeah, R'lek was my partner. Or should I say babysitter? 'Cause that was pretty much his only job here. To make sure I won't write anything that would piss Niffs and all his stupid editor fucks off. As if peer censorship wasn't enough, I would have to share my name with this mantis sellout. My report on the Final Tour must have hurt his fragile dramatic soul a lot. Aisha told me on coffee break that he couldn't even finish reading it before he started feeling dizzy, tsk.

"So, anything the guards told ya or inspected from us that I should know?"

"Eh, got told the same as everyone. That we need to follow the Strippers rule, we can look all we want but not touch."

"Well, duh, that's obvious. I meant something that's particular from this event."

I stared at his ugly smug face, and continued talking while trying not to sound too tired "Apparently they don't want us to take good photos of the items, because all the press is at the back, behind all the regular folk, but that shouldn't be a problem, since we don't have a cameraman.

"Yeah. Poor Kerak. Apparently an accident occurred on the road from Andromeda to the Milky Way, and she won't be able to arrive in time. What a shame."

"Mhm"

A silence formed between us as we stepped inside, and a million lights blinded our eyes. We found ourselves in a long hall with a typical overused red carpet that all the people were taking advantage of to have photos pretending to be someone talented, and not just daddy's spoiled child. Along the walls there were some signs, talking about some stupid shit like the story of the first anomalous auction, and other nonsense that was there only to distract you from the insufferable first class nearby.

"So, Duke" R'lek mandibles clicked, making a high-pitched raspy voice, which didn't match his looks at all. "I was thinking we should discuss how we should, erh, approach this, y'know?"

"Oh, uh, well, I normally work alone, but I tend to focus mostly on people and their actions, and the significance of the event not only to them, but to our soc-"

"Yeah, that sounds good! But what if you try to focus on the real event this time, don't you think? Like, people don't need more bitterness in their life. You get what I mean? "

For a few seconds I stayed silent, trying to not scream. This was already being more painful than what I expected. And on top of that, I had no cigars on me, because of that stupid guard. Having to endure this smug sellout, who had the permission from Erwen to lecture me however he wanted to was a personified hell.

"Hey, I even searched for a few positive keywords that can help you to focus the main topic. I know very well how hard it's for you to be positive, but I bet you'll get the hand of it in no time."

"R'lek, don't worry. I know how to write for children. That was my first job actually"

"Awww. Wait, really? You used to write for children?" R'lek asked. One could see his curiosity in his eyes miles away, even behind the new purple glasses he bought just for this event.

"Yeah, although I didn't last long. But hey, mistakes were learnt that day. And I promise I'm gonna be a good boy and say only the best things one can imagine about MC&D and their auction. Just do the same and once we finish we read our notes and discuss whatever we have to discuss"

"Wait, just like that? You won't complain, throw me a cup of coffee, or shout like a deranged iguana? Wow. And I was thinking this would end as a mess." R'lek exclaimed, he even looked a bit shocked. He probably couldn't believe I gave up on my morals and ideals so easily. But truth to be told, this was going to be my last report for the Planathai Press. Those idiots already showed me their true colours, and that coming from a chameleon should say a lot. And I knew that if I didn't do as said, I would be in more trouble this time.

"R'lek, we are doing journalism, not a Bypass. No one will die if it goes wrong"

"Well, no one except for us, hehe" R'lek said laughing, like it was a joke, but to me it didn't seem like one. Especially because he said Us , which I found oddly enough.

Before I was able to say anything else, we entered the main room, where dozens of people were waiting for the auction to start, along with a big horde of journalists just taking pictures of everything (including the potential buyers). Me and R'lek just sat in our seats, while a sigh left my mouth. This was gonna be a long night for me, but hey, at least I would be able to see a few decent art pieces by AWCY? and some other interesting stuff to write down and remember.


I don't think that even in any of my worst nightmares I expected an auction this boring. Is this really everything? I expected cursed items, unique and beautiful, not this crap that it takes me an hour to find. I expected each item to have a fight to death, and for the winner to have a big audience roar his name. Hell, those tv shows where an alligator and a monitor lizard fight over the insides of a storage locker are better than this crap. No wonder MC&D never allowed the press here. On top of that, the food here is horrible. How can someone fuck up ants with chocolate? Seriously, it's not that hard. And the booze is mediocre at best, though some dudes were already to drunk to even bid correctly.

It's been almost 2 hours and the only memorable thing was reading that R'lek referred "An epic battle between two sea lovers, for a unique and beautiful anemone, which possesses the ability to sing the songs of the fallen sailors it witnessed" to a bid battle between an Australian teen with a giant mohawk and a shirt saying "Keep calm and admire the sea" and an Italian man with a mane that rivaled the opposite mohawk in size, who had a shirt saying "Keep calm and admire the ocean". All of that only to pay 400 thousand bucks for a horrible dark brown anemone whose singing sounds like a drunk man trying to imitate the sea shanties of his old father. Trust me, it sounded exactly like that.

I looked back at R'lek notes , and I was impressed by how many words he was able to pull out of such a pile of shit. And also jealous. Jealous of how he was able to write what he wanted freely. Even if what he wanted to write was only optimistic superficial bullshit, I envied it, because I would never be able to write something like that and be able to sleep at night. And Planasthai Press, and many other journals praised that, cheap, clickbait titles with colours and stock images but with a happy ending, meaning that the future generations of journalism would fall again and again into the maws of superficialism, and lies and wanting to sell instead of informing that affected journalism since its birth.

I looked to my left, and recognized in a corner, behind all the press who still continued to take photos and to interview the winners of the items, a group of faces that seemed familiar. I doubted my brain for a few seconds, but then I remembered. At the Hall, while R'lek chatted my approximations for ears off, I saw their photos. They were the anartists of most of the items here. They were quite a large and diverse group. I didn't manage to read their name unfortunately, but for some reason I stayed watching them. They didn't seem happy to me at the time. All of the attention wasn't even on their artworks, their projects. It was on the rich assholes who bought it and had no idea about art and the meaning of the pieces and on the stupid presenter, who has some of the worst jokes i ever heard. And Hell, who tells you that they even wanted this? What an artist craves the most is for their art to be seen by everyone, not by an old fat oil owner while masturbating himself.

I looked back in frustration at my almost blank notes, barely adorned with the doodles of a few of the people and random bugs, and with this writing, and got even more frustrated. I grabbed my bag, and started searching for something, anything that could help me distract myself from this idiotic auction. And while trying to not make a mess around me, I found something solid and big.

When I took it out of the bag, I realized it was the jar of flies that the guard had asked me about. The Crystalline Blue Flies. I didn't remembered back at the entrance where I obtained them, but now I did. It was some emo midget in the Library who exchanged them for some books in an odd ritualistic language. Apparently they come from another universe, and have the particularity of releasing a toxin when a predator bites them. That toxin to most creatures can generate extreme pain and nausea, so it is advised to never eat them.

But according to that midget, something different happened with reptiles.

If a reptile ingested the toxin, they would "start seeing everything differently, and better", which was the worst description for a drug I ever heard, but that was how that emo described it, and at the time I believed him, but it seems that i had left the flies inside the bag, and never touched it since then.

I looked at the flies, and I felt my tongue moving impatiently. So I opened the jar, and I emptied all the stunned flies into my mouth. That little dude was right, these were no ordinary flies. They were tastier, unlike most common house flies. And their internal juices had a nice bittersweet flavour. So the kid had scammed me, but at least these were good candies.

Suddenly, I felt like I was slightly poked inside myself, which gave me a cold chill. Suddenly, I started noticing the light, and all the particles briefly appeared through it in the air. They looked weird, almost incomprehensible, and they were making a weird sound.

"Er, why are you changing colours, Duke?" the particles' mandibles clicked, making a high-pitched raspy voice, which didn't match their looks at all.

I looked at my arm and it was true. It was going from blue, to green, to blue, to red, to yellow, and many more colours I couldn't control.

"It's just a chameleon thing, relax. No one is gonna die over it."

"Duke, who are you talking with?" R'lek suddenly said, putting one of his grasping forelegs on my right shoulder to make me notice him.

I blinked very fast, only to be greeted with a grey wall of cement. "Uh, sorry R'lek, I-", but I couldn't finish the phrase, because once I turned to my right, I saw like a dozen of R'leks seated across the room, each one with a scar and glasses of a particular colour.

"What? Didn't you say it's normal for chameleons to change colours?" the purple glasses R'lek asked me.

"Yeah yeah, but I…"

"It 's okay. We need to continue writing about the auction now though! Look at you!", he exclaimed while grabbing my blank notes "You haven't written a single word, while all of us have been writing non-stop!"

Just before I could defend myself, he interrupted me again "Don't worry, you'll be in charge of writing about the artists! Since they're like us, hehe" R'lek said laughing, like it was a joke, but to me it didn't seem like one. Especially because he said Us , which I found oddly enough.

"What do you mean they're like us?"

"Well, duh, it's pretty obvious. They are artists like us, imprisoned here, by some stupid bureaucrats who only want to sell and not inform. Just look at them", he said, pointing his foreleg at them "Don't they look like us?"

But when I looked at them, I saw nothing like that. They didn't look like before, they looked well-dressed, wealthy, happy, laughing at each number the crowd shouted in the distant bid war there was over something I can't remember. But I knew it was something they had crafted. Something not decent, but mediocre at best.

They weren't real anartists. Or artists. MC&D didn't make them sell their stuff, they wanted to. They knew they would make thousands of dollars, and that you only need the sources and the contacts to make something valuable to the clueless first class. Unlike me, that I'm here, being babysitted, being censored and being paid shit.

I was gonna reply back to that R'lek, but he was nowhere to be seen. Actually, it seemed like I was back at the big saloon from the auction. This time with even more people, from all races.

"And now, prepare yourself, folks, because the biggest item in the auction iiiiissss cooooomiiiiing!" the voice of the presenter exclaimed, while the public cheered. That voice sounded so familiar. It sounded like it was from-

"…Erwen Niffs" I muttered, while Mr. Niffs winked at me with one of his 3 eyes, and then continued his monologue.

"This item is actually a weapon! Crafted by the talented anartist we have the pleasure to have here, Mariana!", the crowd started applauding vigorously, while the anartist that Niffs pointed thanked everybody.

"A M1860 Colt Army Pistol, from the civil war, looking brand new! But it's not a normal gun, no no. This gun, whoever uses it to kill someone, will gain all of the memories of their victim, forever! A splendid piece, without a doubt!" Niffs said, while unveiling the gun to everyone, and a notorious ovation was heard. Meanwhile, all the press, the cameraman and the reporters were busy taking pictures of it.

After watching that shitshow, I was frustrated. Actually, no. I was angry. It felt like a mockery. A mockery towards me. They only wanted money, and to ridicule me. But if I wasn't going to sit without doing nothing. If the fake anartists wanted money, and the rich people wanted to spend all of it, then I'll make sure they do it.

"Okey, the bid will start at 600 thousand dollars. Any bi-"

"1 million!" I shouted, making all the crowd gasp, and then be completely silent, looking at me. All the cameras stopped, and even Niffs stopped talking. For a moment, it seemed that no one would say anything, until…

"1.1 million!" Someone from the crowd shouted, and another followed by raising it to 1.2 million.

Soon, all the room was shouting bids, including myself. I was the one bidding the most. I loved seeing how the faces of those rich kids went down when I bid a number higher than theirs. I loved it. It's what they deserved. It was like I said before. A meringue of people, just fighting and shouting numbers. But soon, only 2 of us remained. Me, and a guy I knew very well. Fishbowl dude.

"Well ladies and gentleman, only 2 remain, and it seems that Mr. Vaso will be buying this magnificent item at 2.5 million dollars! Sold in 3, 2, and sold in-"

"3 millions!" I shouted, and again, I made the crowd silent. Fishbowl dude, aka Mr. Vaso looked at me, with an angry gaze. He was almost savouring victory, only for me to remove it from his lips. But I knew he was gonna make a final bid.

"Well, ladies and gentleman, Mr. Gathers has just put 3 millions on the table! Will anyone be able to beat those?"

I knew someone. And I was looking at him, and he was looking at me.

"Sold in 3!"

"I know you want this"

"Duke", said Mr. Vaso, continuing his angry stare.

"2…"

"Just shout the number"

"Duke…"

"1…"

"Do it. Do it. DO IT"

"DUKE" shouted R'lek.

"SOLD! Congrats to Duke Gathers, for buying the magnificent M1860 pistol!" the presenter, who was no longer Niffs, shouted, while a crowd, not as big as before, applauded and looked at me.

I blinked my eyes, trying to understand the situation. It felt like I had just woken up, but I never even closed my eyes. I had a horrible migraine, and I was still trying to understand everything. Did I…

"Did I buy that stupid pistol?" I asked R'lek, who was back again next to me, while I put my hand on my head due to the pain.

"Yeah, duh. Didn't thought you had the money though. Nor that you also liked anomalous guns."

"Come after the auction finishes to the backstage, Mr. Duke, to pay the sum of 3 million dollars to Marshall, Cartel & Dark!" the presenter exclaimed, while the rounds of applause continued.

My migraine stopped, and I realized what I just did. I looked at everyone, thinking maybe this was an effect of the toxin. But I knew very well it wasn't.

"R'lek, please tell me you have that type of money"

"Me? Haha, yeah, sure man. Just wait for my land yacht to come drop it." he said jokingly, but when he realized I wasn't laughing, the smile on his mandibles disappeared "Wait, don't tell me you don't have the money?

"With a reporter's salary? Fat chance!"

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