Something for Everything
Science fiction novel, Automatons Book II
Charles was less mindful and dug in with his hands. Plastic skinned bags had strained beyond bursting before letting go with great looping hernias of kitchen scraps and worse things, far worse. The indescribable head-clogging stench was set to ruin his sense of smell forever, gut moving in involuntary hitching jerks that had to be tamped down as liquor broke for freedom ...
Long ago humanity retreated into migrating cities, leaving the landscape to monsters. Within the safety of walls the caste of Surgeons are denied human touch to preserve their skills.
A Surgeon must not be touched. The city can never stop. Comforting truths to live by. But the other cities have fallen silent. Fear stalks the streets. And John the Surgeon craves touch more than anything.
Monsters, machines and roaming cities, insanity, betrayal and lust: centuries later, the seeds of grim legacy sown in Automatons have borne strange fruit indeed...
Or enjoy a free sneak preview from Chapter 4: Excision
Nobody would answer with one sister swaddled in the recovery clinic and the other, the less fortunate, being processed through formaldehyde conveyor belts at the morgue. By the time the surviving woman got a clean bill her sibling would already be entombed in a funerary jar, and the bill for that waiting. The only place to grieve would be the spot in the city's wall where she rested, name etched in metal. She might leave bright paper flowers. Mourners often did that.
He knocked, and the peeling plywood door groaned open at the slightest pressure. Hadn't been expecting that, although it was common among those with fuck-all to steal and no credit for replacing shattered locks. Sure asshole, come in, poke your nose around. Sentimental crooks had been known to leave stuff in places so bad they looked like home because hey, nobody needs to be a stinker all the time.
The air that had been trapped inside wafted out. Black spore, cheap carpet tile, a whiff of linen never cleaned. John grimaced and pulled his shirt up over his nose before proceeding because he had to proceed. He stepped in.
This was foreign territory, some stranger's lounge and bedroom combo. Nothing in his scope to compare. Even beneath the accrual of depressive sloth John's apartment bore the stamp of neatness, and the wherewithal to acquire nice things. Chaotic mess and all the friend's flat was still ... well, friendly.
Such an intrusion of memory in this time and place provoked a squeezing in his narrow chest, disturbingly like a heart attack. The friend would be sitting anxiously by the screen, checking broadcasts; surely, if his ass was hauled off it'd make the news?
Breathe out. Forcing a fist against his ribcage caused the pain to cease. She'd survive a while longer without a call, she was hardly made of porcelain. More like brick. And he hadn't worked out how to face her yet.
The room John had strayed into was repugnant.
No bulb graced the socket overhead, confirmed when he snapped the switch on. What the eye could discern took dull illumination from streetlight filtering in through fluttering mildewed curtains.
Surfaces stuttered and shifted uneasily.
An eruption of upholstery seemed mysteriously without source, spilling from everywhere over everything. With too-sudden movements it swirled chokingly into the air.
He sweated through his shirt in seconds, feeling trapped. There were some in the city who crawled through the dimness like rats in their burrows. Here was a poverty nit if the pocket, but of spirit itself. Keep your airs and graces, the hope and light and laughter for those who could afford it. A Surgeon's disgrace would have great value to such people, were it dragged squealing into the public eye.
Nonetheless. He had come seeking their humanity. Something he could touch, put his greedy mitts on. Something delicate. Feminine. From the look of the place, hopefully something that wouldn't give him scabies.
He snuck on into the next room. Nightmares proceeded with such slow inevitability, and the sour juicing pouch of his belly felt lighter than air, the rest loosely tethered, feet gently scuffing the dust as he went.
Room two in a total of two was some odd combination of kitchen and toilet. Keep your plumbing in the one place, maybe. There had obviously been a handful of tenants over the years who had given enough of a shit to keep the place clean; peach tiles were scoured down to white clay at their heart. You couldn't scrub any more or you'd be through the wall.
But for all the effort, grout and spreading cracks had succumbed to generations of grime. Dark flora borders about eggshell centres made each tile seem an exploding bloom, on a sinister sprawling vine that ringed the room around.
Billows of tropical steam crawled toward John, the stunned intruder. Scudded along a ceiling clotted with its own dripping garden. There was steam, and a hiss and slither, because the shower was running there in the corner. Somebody was where they shouldn't be, and ha ha, it wasn't John.
This was what he had come here for. Never mind what he had hoped. There would be no warm humanity, only what a Surgeon's cursed eyes
SOMETHING FOR EVERYTHING