Twin Notions of Catastrophised Time
rating: +49+x

She dangled her legs over the edge of the building, looking downwards. The lights echoed up, sparkling from the metal surrounding her, enclosing her, crushing in on all sides like great pythons sliding up to God.

"I didn't want to go, you know." His sullen voice was crushingly dull. She continued to stare at the cars, flying high in organised streams, invisible lines keeping them in place.

"It was a bad life, but that's the only way I can feel any more. Slavery is a kind of respite from a world like this, from utopia. I don't want to think of new ways to feel pleasures, over and over again. I wanted to feel something."

She listened, idly, to the shit spewing out of his mouth. When she'd last found him, screaming and laughing as the blood bubbled to his throat, there had been thirty others just like him, strewn across the floor. It was a story she had seen so often recently, as his lives became more and more predictable.

There was a burger place below, a hundred yards off the Eastern Quarters. They had infused the steak with a spice from New Scutari, something dug up in a slag farm off Sumuk. Her mouth watered at the thought.

The sun tinged the sky red. She could close her eyes and smell, beneath the fine chrome and endless curves, the meats burning, changing, morphing in the summer air.

"Don't you get it? Don't you feel the same? Are you even listening?"

She sighed, raised her gun, and shot him in the face. Then she leapt from the building, swooping down below.

Once, many centuries ago, she'd been hunting him in what would be and now had once been Texas. He'd been a white colonist, and she a Comanche girl. She had enjoyed that life. The horses reminded her of home.

Was that when the change began? He'd been eager enough for the first few decades, eluding her over and over again. It was difficult, moving around in a white man's world, but she'd managed worse in other times. The particularly galling moment of that life had been the man'o'war from Portsmouth, when he had whipped off his hat aboard the ship and waved it at her, grinning ear to ear, while she'd been left to scream in fury on the quay.

She'd watched the ship slowly, inexorably turn to the west. It bobbed up and down, swaying in the wind and waves. That was the hunt. That was the moment when the blood pumped hard and the vengeance took hold. She had spent the rest of the day plotting her revenge, the inevitability dragging her once more to America.

When she reached him, out on the wild steppe just south of Oklahoma, he hadn't even run. He'd just sat there, exhausted, staring at his hands. He was dressed in fine clothes, top-and-tails; they'd barely been damaged in his escape.

"Is this is?", he'd asked. "Is it over already?"

She'd been 60 then, he 75. Not a bad run, compared to some; once, she'd managed to strangle him in the cradle, a coup she delighted in taunting him with for many lives to come. She hadn't known how to respond to this, so she stabbed him in the throat.

She glided gently to earth, between twin slats in the road. Nobody walked there any more. The vehicles rushed past, taking people to restaurants, shops, department stores, financial traders, jewellers, soul rezoners, chocolate cafes, chain restaurants, scrying orbs, auto-repair workshops, travel agents, epicurean orchards, malls, tesla farms, tanning salons, torture centres, remembrance purgers, insurance agencies, pleasure homes, sunshine captures, landlords' retreats, slave markets, beauty parlours, consort mines, faraday nightclubs, escort farms, cloning hubs, banks, orgasm clinics, transport exchanges, sterility museums, nightmare merchants, body shops and flesh bazaars, dizziness corallaries, lipose veins, crucifix replicators, daydream stitchers, the weavers of time, the auguries of nine fates, the starlight brigades, the crusts of stellar pastries, the hundred songbird-fires, the techno-cinemas of Rigel's eye, the ashen cross, the meat pumps that over and over again expanded and retracted the cortices for the giggling sexual kicks of strange and terrible masters, and human homes.

She slipped into the cracks, through the metal, the burnished remains of past cycles, and into the tarmac.

After Texas, things shifted again. He'd stopped letting himself become rich. There was no more fortune-building, no more phalanxes of bodyguards. He learnt subtler strategies; stranding himself on the wastes of far-off Greenland, meditating in a Tibetan monastery, plying obscure trades on Amazon tributaries. Far away from the networks of power and exchange, in the most remote places he could find.

At first, she was elated. She went to places they hadn't gone in centuries. She hadn't seen Greenland since 1393, when she had been one of the last Norse settlers of the old colony. There had been someone there - Ingrid? Ida? She didn't remember any more. But she had loved her, her ferocious and catlike ways, had run with her when the fires came and the fish ran out, had spent decades by her side in an Inuit camp, scraping the blubber off seal bone.

But there had been nothing of the colony by 1979. Ida was bone under grassy earth. It had been very, very hard to track him down, between the painted wood of Godthaab and the concrete lines of Nuuk. The ice was cold, the distance vast. The snow got in her eyes. But she set her sights and scraped her skis along, silently, letting the body die, letting the history of it collapse in white, until she came upon her quarry and release.

The burger joint glowed neon green, flickering whatever cheap gas lights would draw in the crowds. You could still see a few brief flashes of sunlight through the upper eaves.

She ordered quickly, tapping her fingers on the counter. Snakes suspended in some pink liquid hissed through insets in the wall. Hard, tattooed men stood watching her, sizing her up, then drawing their eyes back to their drinks.

She grabbed the burger, tossed some coins over, and sped into the night. She weaved through houses, ravenous, desperate, the smoke coiling around her. She jumped from one to the other, grappling and slipping on the concrete and stone, stumbling and laughing on rooftop huts and window-boxes. Nobody could catch her! She was the hunt!

Eventually, she found what she was looking for. A tiny parapet overlooking the halogen rails, far above the flashing lights below. She sat, the wind rustling her ears, looking down at the trains weaving through, pink and emerald and crimson.

She watched, her mind's eye inside them, looking through each carriage, at the passengers with downcast faces, grey overcoats dulled by the colour, the brightness, the leering stinking flashes of the infernal engines around them. All of them were somewhere, once, and soon will be somewhere else, knotting themselves into this place, this weave, darting in and out of one another's space and boundaries.

It was a very good burger. She held the wrapper up, watching it be batted this way and that, and let it go, to flit into infinity.

Eventually, she realised he was trying to avoid her. He would never say so, of course; he'd rather die than admit reluctance. But he had given up on the ecstasy of being prey. He was trying, he believed, new things, new ways of being. As the world turned and changed, as the sky darkened under a thousand vessels of light, he went to new worlds and new quarters. The pleasure-pits of Rigel IV, the fight-arenas of Ganymede, the slave-pens of New Icarus.

And she followed, because he'd never said anything. This was how it worked; she hunted him, he ran on. It's the reason they existed. How could he, now, hide himself in asteroid yards? So far from home…

Space travel had been no fun in those days. Stuck in a metal box, iron clamps around the doors. There was no hunting there, your food parcelled and rationed in little chunks, sharpening your teeth over and over again, dreaming of oblivion.

Once, she found him dead. He had punctured his own spacesuit. She'd had to kill her own body to find him, far out from any civilised outpost. His face was a monstrosity, a cold and frozen thing, sneering in tessellating blood as the ice-rocks whipped and battered him.

In Athens, they had spent long nights talking, arguing, drinking. The hunt had been more relaxed, then; there'd been no hurry to kill, none of the frenzy in which she now found herself. Was that why he was doing this? Did he miss the conversations? But, no - it was him who had stopped them, one night on the Gambia, where he spat into the water as she raised her rifle to her shoulder.

Then, eventually, with Earth stratified and pixellated, with the sky a kettlepot scar of nations and kings, she'd found him in the slave pens, laughing at her, already dying. His blood had spattered her brand new dress.

And she leapt, arms spreading, not knowing what to do or where to go, into the crisscross light below, whooping and laughing at the faces of the nearly-dead, staring up and screaming at the body careening down towards them, dissolving into iron, into nonexistence, into rebirth, slicing its way across their eyelids forever and ever.

She will see him once again, two centuries hence, when the hunt is forgotten entirely. In the trenches of Nouveau Calamar, in the bases of the Resistance, she'll hold a gun and point it over the line, waiting for the enemy, finger scratching on the trigger, baying for it. She'll lick her lips and hold her shot firm.

He will come up behind her, gaunt, alone. "Why did you stop?", he will ask.

She won't say anything. He'll touch her shoulder, and she'll move away. "I'm sorry," she will reply. "I don't have time for my fans."

He'll move away, and slink off. She won't bother to look at him.

But here, and now, in the present, in the light, in the dancing squares of colour and time, in the dissolution of her body, she laughs, and smiles, because she will soon be flesh and mire and a twisting thing above.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License