Steven, a father-to-son unicorn breeder for 18 generations, was upset. The breeding season was not looking good, but then not good at all. Already, Lucette had started making milk way too soon—all that wasted colostrum was frustrating. And then, for a few months, they had all had aberrant requirements for their end of gestation. Strawberries in the middle of winter, a great classic, it was just the warm-up; afterwards, we had moved on to a cup of eternal snow sprinkled with Aji Charapita peppers picked on a full moon night, or three grams of cerberus skin diluted in original fruit compote, these kinds of little cravings that are easy to satisfy. Steven had been limping since his encounter with the Cerberus in question, he had been bitten by a snake and was still nursing his chilblains; frankly, he was sick of it. On the verge of dropping everything to convert to a quieter job, Steven. Anything would do, horn polisher for Minotaurs or toilet paper keeper in a supermarket, anything. He sighed. He needed air, that’s all.
— Steven, have you finished changing my litter? — No, Leontine, not yet. — So, what are you doing daydreaming on your pitchfork? These edelweiss are not going to distribute themselves! — Yes, Leontine.
Nah, frankly, there was no worse job than raising unicorns. Especially since they had unionized. In Grandpa Robert’s time, they would never have dared to ask for anything other than straw in their unicorn boxes. Edelweiss, frankly! The price per kilo was staggering, and it didn’t absorb anything, either! Steven suspected them of testing his resilience. Or his bank account. And then what an idea, frankly, to breed creatures whose gestation time is twenty-two years. Twenty-two years ! We had time to clean out the boxes before having the privilege of seeing a unicorn! Fortunately, unicorn hair sold very well on the black market. As long as they didn’t find out, he could easily avoid bankruptcy.
— Steven, tell me, with the friends we would have liked to try… Steven, sweating from the effort of stirring the edelweiss, painfully sat up and barked: — What now ? — Still ? How so again? We didn’t ask you today!
Steven opened his mouth to deliver a scathing repartee, then snapped it dryly. Appealing to Lorette’s intellect was a bad idea; it had been fallow for a good two centuries already, apparently. Arguing with her was like playing chess with a pigeon; no matter your level, the pigeon will just knock over all the pieces, shit on the board and proudly strut around like it’s won. Steven sighed; Lorette pinched her nostrils and continued, stubbornly:
— With the friends, we would like to test the Kangoo Jump. — The what? — The Kangoo Jump, you know, the springs you put under your feet? We saw that on TV.
Ah, yes, TV. Installing the small screen for them in the stables was not the idea of the century, it was confirmed day after day. Fearing the worst, he followed the matriarch to the TV, then waited for the commercial to agree to reappear. Between two day creams with Aloe Vera, he finally discovered the machine, terrified.
— But… it’s for humans! — You’ll manage to adapt that to our clogs. — And have you seen the price? You need four of them! — Yeah, oh, it’s not that bad. We will each do it in turn. — And you’re sure it’s a great idea, at the end of gestation, like that? Aren’t you supposed to preserve yourselves, be reasonable?
Lucette contented herself with staring at him in silence. All the air from the Himalayas circulated between his two ears, without encountering the slightest neural obstacle. Steven lost himself in the visualization of a snow-white pigeon, decked out in a golden horn, trying to move a chess pawn. He snorted to come back to reality, ran a sweaty hand over his face and capitulated: — Pink or blue, the Kangoo Jump?
— Hiiiii look, Steven, they are there! — Yeah, great, wow… Insensitive to the overflowing enthusiasm of their breeder, the unicorns jostled around the box just placed in front of the stables. The air sparkled, filled with the sequins they let loose in their glee. — Go Steven, opeeeeeeeen! Obviously, it was up to him to do all the work, since they were incapable of holding scissors, these devils. He tore open the tape and pulled the coveted items out of their cases, like Arthur pulling Excalibur from the rock. A ray of sunlight illuminated the pearly purple of the shoes. The unicorns sighed together, conquered. — Well, you have drawn lots who will start? The tension rose suddenly. Steven realized that several unicorns bore traces of hoof kicks, even bite marks. His instinct for survival screamed death; he raised his arms and bellowed, just in time to avoid the carnage: — OKEYYYYYYYYYY, calm down, it’s up to me! And the first that jostles me will go last! They stopped. — Splash, splash, you’ll be the one to start, one, two, thriiiiiiiii… Lisa-Rose! — But… — And all those who discuss will be deprived of compote tonight! Thirty-four adult unicorns sulked, while young Lisa-Rose waddled contentedly. Steven stuffed the toes of the shoes with cotton, then equipped the unicorn with the Kangoo Jump.
— Above all, be careful, huh? — Yes yes… — Don’t go too fast or too far… watch out for the lake… — But yes… — And if anything happens, you come get me, huh? She rushed forward without deigning to answer, dropping sequins and rainbows, hopping even more as she passed in front of her upset comrades. — That’s awesome!
Steven, reassured by his apparent balance, went back to shoveling his edelweiss. It was Loralie who came to alert him, about twenty minutes later. — Steven? Lisa-Rose still hasn’t come back, and yet it’s our turn! She cheats! Steven frowned. — Let’s not be too quick to judge. Where did she go? — In the forest ! To hide and go on all afternoon, I’m sure! She cheeps! Leaving Loralie to her pigeonish hysteria, Steven went in search of the big offender. — Lisa-Roooooose! Youhou, Lisa-Roooooose! After a few minutes of fruitless searching, he twisted slightly and put his hand over his mouth to change the sound of his voice:
— The stupid-unicorn is called to the reception, I repeat, the stupid-unicorn is called to the reception! Her hysterical laughter made all the birds in the area fly away. — Hey, Steven, it’s not very nice to call me that… — Lisa-Rose? But where are you ? I do not see you !
— Look higher. Steven looked up and launched into a very interesting part of “Where’s Wally.” Searching for a white animal in a birch forest, frankly… A burst of purple color caught his eye on the only ash tree in the corner. Lisa-Rose hung from a branch, her legs dangling, her horn deeply planted in the gnarled wood. — Steven…Steven! Can you stop laughing for five minutes, please? The rancher wiped away his tears and stood up. Unable to keep his seriousness, he fell back into laughter.
— STEVEN! — Yes, yes Lisa-Rose, sorry. — You come look for me ? His voice broken by his efforts, he shook his head no, then explained to her: — First I’m going to need to go back to the stables for a ladder and a saw. I’m coming back, above all, don’t move! He gave her a bright smile and walked back to the building. Before getting her out of there, he had one urgent thing to do: order two pairs of Kangoo Jump for each unicorn present at the breeding, as well as a camera. The week was going to be fun, after all.
This week, I’m bringing you something a little different than usual. My cousin Alice had an accident. She’s fine but she has a broken leg and was entitled to a long recovery time so to keep her busy I offered her a little collaboration. She illustrated this story and the story you are about to discover was written by our four hands.
The story is a bit more childish than usual but I hope you’ ‘ll enjoy it.
The legend of Lilfire
Lilfire stomped forward. He had just argued with his father again: Burninflame was a 625-year-old Great Ruby Dragon and he couldn’t stand that his youngest son didn’t have a job. “Learn from your brothers!” Roarloud has worked at the forge since he was 193 years old. When Fierelmet enlisted in the royal guard, he was just 181 years old. Even Brurn found a job at the mine before he turned 207! And you, at 212, you’re still here! Lilfire would have liked to make his father proud of him, but he was not like his brothers. He wasn’t tall and muscular, and his flames were barely enough to start a wood fire. Every time he applied somewhere, a stronger dragon got the job. When he passed the forge, Roarloud called out to him. “Fuck it!” Did you argue with Dad again? Anyway, I have good news. I registered you. Lilfire grabbed the yellowed sheet her brother held out to her, on which was written in gold letters: “Hear, hear dragons and dragons!” The king is looking for a dragon to defend his treasure. In order to choose the strongest among you, a big sports competition is organized. At the end of the latter, the dragon with the best score will have the immense honor of becoming the guardian of the royal treasure. If you are over 180, register with the palace steward. » Roarloud had signed him up for a sports competition. Organized by the king himself, what’s more. And that was supposed to be good news… “Roarloud, I can’t go. I will make a fool of myself. What would I do in a sports competition? “I’ll train you!” And then imagine how happy Daddy would be if you won! “But I will never win!” There’s only one way to find out…
They had a month to prepare Lilfire for the tests of the competition: acrobatic flight with a block of stone, camouflage, spitting fire on moving targets, and finally, the fight against knights. Unlike his brother, Lilfire was far from optimistic. They started with camouflage since it was the only test he felt capable of tackling. Indeed, he had inherited his mother’s dark gray scales, which made him look like a big rock. For the other events, Roarloud called upon the skills of Brurn and Fierelmet in order to prepare Lilfire as well as possible. Brurn for bodybuilding and endurance, Fierelmet for combat techniques; himself would take care of the fire-spitting. With such a demanding training and such demanding teachers, Lilfire did not see the time passing and one morning, without warning, the sun rose on the first day of the competition.
A colorful crowd crowded the drawbridge to enter the huge arena of the castle. Wooden bleachers stood all around, set up for the occasion. Five large rocks were arranged in a circle in the center of the arena. Lilfire paid no heed to the cheers of the crowd and headed straight for them. Four other dragons did the same. Lilfire didn’t dare meet their eyes, he concentrated on his block and remembered his choreography. He had to keep his rock in the air for more than three minutes by performing as many tricks as possible to score points. A sound of the gong announced the start of the test. All the dragons took off at the same time, except Lilfire. He climbed on his rock, dug his claws into the roughness of the rock and flapped his wings. Gradually he rose. During this time the other dragons had stung to recover their block helped by their momentum. Lilfire, meanwhile, continued to climb. When he was about six meters above the ground, he dropped his rock. He flew another ten meters and swooped down after the huge stone. He passed her, spun around and picked her up on her back. The shock took his breath away and nearly knocked him off balance. He hovered for a few moments then, mobilizing his last strength, did a loop. The boulder fell right back to where it started and Lilfire landed right behind it. Another sound of the gong announced the end of the first round.
A huge blackboard had been set up to record the scores. For each event, the first earned 50 points, the second 40 and so on. When Lilfire looked up at the painting, he couldn’t believe his eyes. Missia, a female mole who failed to lift her boulder, was last with 10 points. Feurlet, a dragon with electric blue scales, followed her with 20 points. Foudre, another dazzling golden female, was third with 30 points, while Veryfierce, a large pine green male, won the class with 50 points. Lilfire was therefore second and gained 40 points. Unbelievable !
For the rest, a section of the arena had been dismantled, so that it was now open to the forest. The camouflage test was simple: the dragons had one minute to blend into the landscape. The first to be seen lost. The five competitors lined up at the edge of the forest, and, at the sound of the gong, dashed between the trees. Missia, who thanks to her dull dress had blended in with the earth, came second. Veryfierce, who had melted into the foliage of the trees, finished third. Lightning with his golden scales was the penultimate, ahead of Feurlet and his dazzling blue cuirass. Lilfire, transformed into a rock, won the test. He was now leading the competition with 90 points! He couldn’t believe it. But his joy quickly waned. The last two trials to come were the ones he dreaded the most.
Thirty yards from the five dragons, targets were mounted on rails. Feurlet passed first and hit seven out of ten targets. Veryfierce burned nine, Missia five. Lightning burned them all at once. It was Lilfire’s turn. The sound of the gong startled him. He inflated his chest to the maximum, felt his fire pocket fill up and spat as hard as he could. He didn’t hit any targets. However, he didn’t have time to mope because he already had to prepare for the last test, the fight.
Lilfire was the second to pass. Three knights in armor were waiting for him on the sand. At the sound of the gong, the first, equipped with a flail and a shield, threw himself on him. Lilfire curled up on himself and leapt above his opponent, without the flail touching him. He landed right next to the second knight who was pointing a spiked spear at him. He mowed it down with a swipe of his paw, while sweeping the first one with his tail. Seeing his two teammates on the ground, the third, armed with two long swords, slowly backed away. He was trying to buy time to allow the others to get up. Lilfire didn’t let this fool her and instead of attacking her directly, he knocked out the other two once and for all. Alone with his two swords, the last knight rushed at Lilfire. As Fierelmet had taught him, he blew out a thick plume of smoke from his nostrils to blind his opponent before ripping his swords off with a sharp claw movement and putting him out of action.
The king stood upright on the dais as he addressed the crowd to close the competition. “At the end of this historic sporting competition we have a happy winner! I would like to congratulate you all for the magnificent show you have given us. Without further ado, the name of the new guardian of my royal treasure: Veryfierce! Congratulations ! » The crowd cheered cheerfully but the king resumed, silencing the cheers. “However, my dear friends, he was not the only one to impress us! Another competitor stood out for his originality and above all for his vigor in combat. Thus, I decided to reward also the second of this competition. You see, my daughter, Princess Iloa, needs a valiant protector. So I designate Lilfire as Princess Iloa’s official bodyguard! Kudos to him! » Lilfire choked at this announcement. Roarloud at his side gave him a strong slap on the back to congratulate him. Fierelmet and Brurn spat flames into the sky to proclaim their joy. The crowd cheered him and Veryfierce, and among all these people, Lilfire saw a large ruby dragon. Burninflame looked at him and in his eyes shone a gleam of pride.
Alice is 16 (well soon 17 years old) but she is already quite a talented artist. She just start her blog but I know it, there will be soon tones of good sketches and photos and other amazing things. If you wanna discover her univers, please go check her blog :
Today is suicide prevention day. Following the suicide of a friend some years ago, I told you about my attempt. Today I just take this opportunity to pay homage to her with this little unpretentious fiction.
The color of water
The water seemed beautiful to her, Maggie planted her tiptoe there. After three long hours of walking under the August sun punctuated by her brother’s grunts, she wanted more than anything to dive there into this transparency: to wash her body of the sweat that ran from her neck to her lower back. and the head under water, not to hear any more its jeremiads. The picnic and the first hike traditionally marked the beginning of a family summer vacation.
The Copenhagen apartment abandoned for two weeks, a journey traced, organized, timed, from the month of January by the mother had begun. But from summer to summer, disconnecting from everyday life became less easy. Parents always found an excuse to check their emails, from work or parent-teacher associations, whatever! Thomas anchored his headphones to his ears at length, only Maggie survived without wires, connected only to the nature around her, looking up at the peaks and the foliage, listening to those of the birds which did not fly away frightened by the disputes about the next stage chosen… She walked with her eyes in the green, in search of a soothing rhythm, her head still too full of the metallic noises of the city.
No need to strive to carry on any conversation whatsoever during this forced march; and then anyway, with Thomas, no more discussion was possible: paradoxically, he seemed to be angry with the whole world since he had won the congratulations of the jury in the final exams of “Gymnasium”*, and the earth whole, it started with her twin who she had only just passed her exam in June. Their aspirations were like disjointed without them really realizing it themselves.
The young girl brought up the rear because she was lingering longer. “Stop hanging around, slug! his father had repeated all morning. Maggie no longer heard, she breathed in, inhaled the smell of dry thorns and smiled at the butterflies in the tall grass, trying to guess the shape of the pebbles under her shoes. Why come this far if it was to run again? In order to be able to hold forth in society in September: we swallowed so many kilometers, on a terrible drop in altitude in less than a fortnight! Competition was the very essence of his parents. We didn’t play tennis: we had to be ranked; we didn’t cook: we made the recipes of the great chefs; we didn’t play the piano: we went to the conservatory…
They had settled down under the welcoming and generous shade of an umbrella pine. Her mother’s pride would come out of her backpacks: terrines, a seasonal vanilla fruit tart, an organic fruit juice, nothing but homemade! So Thomas might grumble that he would have preferred a sandwich, crisps and coke. Maggie was not hungry. She took off her oversized T-shirt and her sports pants, put them next to her shoes. She entered the wave gradually, she seemed afraid to disturb the clear and soft expanse that enveloped her and engulfed her as delicately as a silk blanket, her silhouette was so frail. The young girl swam in apnea as long as she could, underwater, her weight vanishing. When she stuck her head out, she was halfway between the two banks.
She stared on her back then sat up to scrutinize the couple formed by her parents. Neither of them spoke or touched. Like the evenings in the living room. Like the mornings in the kitchen. They exchanged only in the presence of the weekend guests transformed in spite of themselves into relays of the conjugal word a formidable couple, Erik and Cathie! They are on all fronts, everything is successful for them, nothing ever frightens them, nothing is impossible! Cathie had double the work, you think with twins!
Thomas, giving in to his perpetual bad mood, had dissociated himself from the now ill-matched duo, sitting on a dead trunk lying down; she could only make out his already hunched back. She turned and in a slow breaststroke headed for the opposite sandy edge. The more she moved away from them, the more her breathing calmed down. Her heart seemed to be beating better, less painful. Her muscle mass having melted in recent months, the physical efforts were beginning to cost her. But there, between the drops, she felt lighter, almost gone. If Erik and Cathie had taken the time to raise their heads, her naked thinness would have pierced their eyes, her protruding ribs, her sharp elbows and the hole in his belly, her body so thin that she trembled at the slightest breath, they would have looked at their girl ghost, failing to touch the truth.
Maggie totally crossed the river in the carrier current, on the other side, she sat down and tried to take stock. If she went deeper into the forest now, when would they realize she was missing? She didn’t want to worry them, but something in there was consuming her, a force that unbalanced her while pushing her beyond the boundaries set by her family. When one is not armed for life, what escape route is there? When the abyss awaits you, where to hide? She plunged discreetly into the wood; For a long time, she did not meet anyone.
— Thomas, have you seen Maggie? inquired Cathie, who was handing her son a slice of pie. — She doesn’t need to be watched, Mom! — She must have stayed a bit behind, added Erik, as usual!
Thomas approached the water and picked up his sister’s small bundle of clothes. The shimmer of the sun on the undulating surface created flashes, blinded him. On the other bank, he thought he saw a small family set up to have a picnic as well. Parents and children sitting by the river had fun trying to ricochet. Their flat pebbles dipped unfailingly and yet they laughed.
Maggie, vi har savnet dig i mange år allerede og alligevel havde vi ikke set dit ubehag. Jeg håber, at hvor du er nu, hviler du i fred.
Here is a little story that touches me a lot because there is a lot of me in it so I hope you’ll like it.
A shadow. Suspended above the void, I freeze. Breathe slowly, don’t move, don’t let go. Expect. Do not make noise. Behind me, Elton has stopped too. One minute, two, three, four. The shadow has not returned. Slowly, millimeter by millimeter, I advance my hand along the cable. I grab the next handle, then slide my whole body forward. The friction of my clothes against the metal causes slight vibrations that reverberate throughout the structure. I feel them under my skin, right down to my bones. Elton follows me. The platform is not very far away. The palms of my hands are sweaty, I need chalk. I tighten the grip of my legs then, feeling my way, I look for the bag attached to my harness, slip my fingers into it, grab some fine powder. It clings easily to the calluses and roughness of my hands. A few more meters before security. I see the edge of the plateau, so close. With a contortion, I throw both my arms at him, grab the sharp edge of metal, and pull myself up on it, oblivious to the pain. On my knees, I catch my breath while Elton clings to his turn before collapsing next to me. A moment of calm, during which we both contemplate the great void that makes up the majority of our universe. It wasn’t always like that. I still remember very well what the city looked like before. Before my mother, before the creature, before fear, before death. Before secrets.
It is cloudy today, humid, and the mist is dense. The silhouettes of tall towers of corroded metal surround us, ghosts of the glory of the Hanging City. Rusty cables disappear into the gray of the sky, the remains of bridges sway gently in the cold, gloomy wind that glides over our skin and makes the hairs on our arms stand on end. The Hanging City, so beautiful, shining in the light of day, is nothing more than a rotting corpse, rotting at the slow rhythm of fear. Elton pats me on the shoulder to make me turn to face him.
“Night will soon fall,” he signs. “Let’s hurry home. »
I nod. We get up, legs a little wobbly, then we approach the opening cut in the side of the tower. A bay window, surely, when the glass hadn’t yet shattered and disappeared, reduced to sharp dust. Cautiously, I step inside, Elton on my heels. Not much of the furniture remains, but the apartment must have been comfortable. Now it’s mostly depressing. And unsanitary. We sink into the bowels of the building, far into its depths, where the light is only a memory. I light my torch, with which I sweep the shadows around me. The atmosphere is thick, the smell of humidity invades my nostrils, but I still prefer that to the mask. The walls, bare and dilapidated, torn in places, reveal their metal frame. Elton waves at me and points to a door to our right. We enter.
The apartment is not very big, in a surprising state of conservation. Most of the walls still have an identifiable color, which I hadn’t seen in a long time. I put my bag in a corner, scan the place of the eyes, before returning to Elton.
” So ?” he asks with gestures. “It will be very good. » He smiles at me, brushes his hand against my cheek. ” I will bring food. “
I nod and watch him walk away, then disappear into a narrow opening. I then begin to activate myself. I set up our meager possessions, the tent, the mattress, the blankets, the electric stove. We should be able to stay here at least a few days. I frown at our stash of batteries. It has never been so low, we will have to make an expedition to the towers of the northern zone. And the northern area is dangerous. In the evening, we heat up one of the cans that Elton has brought back. Vegetables, no doubt, maybe ratatouille, it looks like it anyway. Elton cleans the pan while I make sure our bedding isn’t on a piece of ground that might collapse overnight. I slip under the covers and Elton joins me. He settles against my back, caresses my hips with his hand, goes under my sweater to grab one of my breasts. I feel his hot breath on my neck, his erection against my ass. I shift, just enough to be able to take off my clothes. He kisses me, everywhere, on every piece of me that passes within his reach. I feel his lips burning on my skin, drawing marks of fire and making shivers of desire hatch in me that go up along my body. Well, we’re both naked. I spread my legs and I feel him entering me, slowly, as he knows I like. I sigh, close my legs around him to pull him closer, arch my back, digging my fingers into his back. He accelerates, he always accelerates too soon. Never mind. I let myself be overwhelmed by the pleasure that I feel growing deep inside me. I scream. I bury my face in his neck and close my eyes. I can live like this until the end of time, with Elton inside me, forgetting the world and the fear.
A moment later, Elton is sleeping, his arms around me and his head in the crook of my shoulder. He always falls asleep like that, as if to protect me from the world, or maybe for me to protect him from what’s outside, I’m not sure. I stare at him for a long time. I wonder about him, about me. And as always, my mind drifts and ends up returning to the past. To my mother.
I was born deaf, a genetic anomaly whose name I have forgotten. It never really bothered me, because I didn’t know what I was missing, so I turned down the hearing aids. But my mother did not accept it. At that time, the Hanging City was at the height of its glory and its laboratories were state of the art. For years my mother worked on crossbreeding and genetic manipulation of guinea pigs to try to find a cure for my deafness. It did not work. And then one day there was an accident. One of her creatures mutated in a way she hadn’t expected, in a terrifying and destructive way. My mother was his first victim.
I don’t know exactly what species she encountered, but the result caused the downfall of the entire city. The creature fled and hid in the cloudy depths of the city. No one ever saw it, or no one lived long enough to tell. A shadow was just a shadow, impossible to find, impossible to eliminate. On the other hand, everyone heard him. And his cry became the nightmare of all that lived. For that scream was so horrible, so strange and monstrous, that it drove everyone who heard it mad. Most people preferred to die. Many are those who have jumped into the void. Some began to kill others. Madness or mercy, opinions are divided. They called her banshee, because nothing could protect her from her cry, that cry which brought death. In the end, those who remained preferred to pierce their eardrums. In a few months, the Hanging City, the pride of men, a marvel of technology clinging to an endless cliff, sheltering several million souls, had become a ghost town, populated by a few hundred deaf people surviving as best they could. I might have laughed if it hadn’t been so tragic.
I feel Elton’s steady breathing against my ribs. He’s the only one who didn’t abandon me after the disaster caused by my mother. He had already learned sign language for me. When he took out his hearing with a few drops of acid so he couldn’t hear the banshee’s screams, he told me he didn’t see it as a sacrifice. I almost believed him. To fall asleep, I think of my memories of the Hanging City, as it once was. Its sparkling towers, its white, wispy clouds, its air bridges that sway gently in the breeze. No one knew what was underneath and no one wanted to know. My mother said that the sea was there, I had chosen to believe her. As for knowing where above our heads the sheer wall on which we were clinging finally ended, everyone also did not know. Perhaps our ancestors knew this a long time ago, but this knowledge had been lost. Our world of metal and wind was enough for us. Some elders claimed that our people had come from the stars in the distant past, but these stories only served to make the youngest dream. I think of the reflection of the sun on the chrome, of the slow swaying of the bridges under my feet, of the smell of snow on winter mornings. I think of things more easily than of people. It’s been two months since we’ve met anyone in the City, and I’m beginning to wonder if there’s only us left. Just Elton, me and the creature.
I must have fallen asleep. When I wake up, Elton is no longer with me. He must have gone to search the surroundings to see if there are still objects that could be useful to us. We haven’t found much lately. Almost five years since the creature invaded us, perishable foodstuffs are becoming increasingly rare, and equipment in working order is beginning to look extraordinary. Yet we were good builders, I really would have thought our creations would last longer, at least long enough for the monster, fear, hunger or loneliness to kill us all. I straighten up when a figure frames itself in front of the window opening, letting the covers slip off my shoulders. Elton raises an appreciative eyebrow, walks over to me, leans down to brush my lips with his.
“Get dressed,” he signs, “I think we’ll have to go to the northern zone. » ” I say. We’re almost out of batteries. “ “That’s not the only thing we’re missing. And the northern zone is the only one that has been almost spared since the disaster. “ “Because it is his territory. “ ” Yes. “
We look at each other for a long time. We both know it’s dangerous, as we also know we have to go. Our survival depends on it. The northern zone scares me. She scares everyone, but my reasons for fearing her are different. She scares me because of my secrets, she scares me because of the truth. And above all, she scares me because of Elton. But I can’t tell her, so I get dressed and, with a shiver, strap on my harness. We are going to the northern zone, we need it. In the pale morning light, the City seems to have changed during the night. The wind has calmed down and the chrome of the towers shines in the sun like the torn chrysalises of oversized butterflies. The air is fresh, crisp, the cold grips without the rays of our star warming us up. I take a deep, almost painful breath, I hold my breath for a long moment before exhaling slowly. I check the straps of my harness, plunge my hands into the chalk bag. The shortest way will probably be to go through the lower floors.
I go first. It still is, I’m a much better climber than Elton, I better be the one testing our route. I’m very good at feeling good grips under my fingers and I have a good eye for sections of cables that are in danger of breaking. With caution, I venture onto a piece of bridge that is still intact. With my toes, I test the solidity of the ground in front of me before moving forward. After a few tens of meters, the bridge disappears to make way for a maze of large rusty cables. Some are in better condition than others, I have to choose well. I run a hand over one of them, up to a huge rivet that I cling to. My other hand follows the same path to another rivet, on the other side of the cable. I secure my hold then hoist my legs up and wrap them around the steel rope. So, slowly, I drag my body along this uncertain line of life. Below me there is nothing but endless emptiness. I can’t afford any mistakes.
When I have progressed a few meters, I wave to Elton and he takes the same path after me. We move slowly, to the slow rhythm of our fear, the sweat running down our foreheads and into our collars. I regularly plunge my hands into the small pocket at my side. Magnesia is one of the things we’re starting to run out of and hope to find in the northern zone. Because without magnesia, there is no climbing, and if we can no longer climb and move along the cables, we will remain stuck on one of the towers, doomed to starve in a long agony. Our progress is facilitated by the absence of wind and, a quarter of an hour later, we reach the next tower, a few floors below. With any luck, we will have reached the northern zone for lunch. Around noon, we almost reach the goal. We crossed eight towers and descended a few hundred meters into the City. Here, the clouds are permanent and the sun’s rays struggle to pierce the thick misty layer to illuminate the sad surroundings. I look at the dilapidated tower in front of me. The northern area is just on the other side, past a new chasm. I shiver, then jump when Elton’s hand lands on my arm.
“Ready?” he signs.
I nod and he shakes my hand briefly before walking past me. We step over a pile of rubble to get inside the building. Despite the lack of light outside, my eyes take a while to get used to the darkness. I don’t prefer to light my lamp here, not unless it’s really necessary. It is an old hydroponic greenhouse. Its large windows are drowned in greenish mold. The automated systems must have survived for a while since some rows of plants are still green. The others are just cracked skeletons, some crumble into brown dust at the slightest touch. Elton has already stepped forward to pick those that can be eaten. It’s a valuable find, but I can’t help but find this display of half-dead plants gloomy. Roots ventured out of their domains in search of nutrients they couldn’t find, but that didn’t save them. They hang from the bins above our heads, brown and withered, making the place look like a huge spider lair. It is however not the only greenhouse nor the first that I see. Devoid of any solid soil and cultivable land, the Hanging City subsisted exclusively thanks to greenhouses like this one, with others favoring agriculture by aquaponics or aeroponics. We cross quickly, recovering on our way all that we find edible. I’m uncomfortable, I feel like hundreds of phantom eyes are looking at me and judging me. I am responsible for the state of the City, responsible for the dead who populate it. Me and my mother’s madness.
I focus my attention on Elton. I didn’t realize I had stopped. I have the impression that this is not the first time that he signs my first name without my reacting. I give her a smile and set off again, no need to worry her with my stories of ghosts and guilt. The cable that should lead us to the northern zone is slippery, the descent is difficult. Every time my hands grip against the metal, I feel like I’m going to let go and fall into the void that awaits me like a voracious being below. Finally, we arrive. I straighten up on the platform that I have just reached, look around me. It’s even darker here, the humidity clings to my skin, which no wind comes to dry. I don’t want to be there, I feel naked, exposed. We move forward with caution. This is banshee territory. Elton wants us to split up, to cover more ground, to stay shorter. I hesitate, I’m afraid. He reassures me with gestures that make no sense in my blind fear. He moves away. I remain alone, alone with my secrets. I have to pull myself together. I have a part of the tower to explore, if I want to be able to get away from here as soon as possible. I start moving again, walking slowly towards the back of the hall in front of me.
Suddenly, something moves, on the periphery of my vision. A form, which appeared then disappeared. I freeze, my heartbeat echoing in my head like the pounding of fear. Wide-eyed, I wait. Another movement, perceived out of the corner of the eye. And then, a cry, echo of the dead it contains, tearing of an endless agony. Then she is in front of me, still far away and yet so close. She doesn’t look much human anymore. Her long hair forms a shroud around her slender, pale limbs. She looks wet, as if her skin is oozing thick liquid. Even at this distance, its smell is strong, the smell of the sea, of fresh iodine. The yellow-green tint of his skin gives him a sickly appearance, the darker green of his hair makes one think of a sheaf of seaweed torn by the tide. She looks like a drowned woman, come back from the dead to take us with her. The creature didn’t kill my mother, I always knew that. I was in the lab that day, the day of the disaster. I don’t know what she injected. She had no human guinea pig other than herself, no other choice in her obsession. It didn’t work out the way she had planned. My mother became the banshee. I never told anyone. This secret, I kept it deep inside me for all these years, certain that it would be my downfall, the end of everything. I ran away from the laboratory, I told that my mother was dead. Then I fled, as far away from her as I could. Far from the truth.
For a very long moment, we remain facing each other, separated by the large empty and dark room. We look at each other. In some of her features, I still recognize my mother, the one who raised me, who watched me grow, who loved me. And what does she see when she looks at me? Does she even recognize me? She doesn’t move, seems frozen, anchored to the ground, her bulging eyes with huge pupils fixed on me. Footsteps behind my back. Elton. I feel panic rising in me. No no no ! Not now ! They grabbed me by the clothes to pull me back. I let myself go, eyes still riveted on her. Elton drags me to the outer platform and then starts shaking me, his eyes full of storm. He then lets go of me so he can sign violently, his face twisted. “Sin! What is that ? It’s the banshee, it’s her, isn’t it? It’s your mother, I’m not blind, it’s her! You knew it ? Tell me you didn’t know that! » I don’t answer. What could I tell him? He will forgive me, he has always forgiven me. He continues to gesticulate, screaming silently with his hands. I am watching him. He’s no longer afraid of the banshee, now that he knows the truth. No longer afraid of her scream either, since he is deaf. He’s not scared anymore, but he’s angry like I’ve never seen him before. A doubt grips me. What if he didn’t forgive me this time? A howl rings out behind me, so mournful, full of unspeakable pain, like the song of the end of the world, the sound of the victory of death over life. I turn quickly. She is there, at the entrance to the tower, looking at us with her shark eyes, cruel and soulless. She seems to be waiting for something, or maybe someone. Maybe it’s me she’s been waiting for, she’s always been waiting for me.
I turn to Elton again. He’s calmed down, he’s looking at me funny. His eyes go from me to the creature, then to me again. I’ve never seen that expression on his face. Very slowly, he raises his hands and asks the one question that shouldn’t be asked. “Sin, you hear, don’t you? You heard her scream, that’s why you turned around. You couldn’t know otherwise. » I don’t know what to say to him, but he doesn’t need to. He understands that it is the truth. I’ve been hearing for five years. Five years since the scream of the banshee gave me back my hearing. From my mother’s first scream, that scream that drove others crazy gave me back the sense I was missing. I’m the only one to hear beauty over death. She wasn’t so insane, my mother, after all. His experiments eventually paid off. She healed my ears, as she had hoped, even though it didn’t happen as she had planned. Elton stares at me, as if seeing me for the first time. As if he didn’t know me. As if he didn’t like this stranger in front of him, this stranger lying to him. I don’t like his look, I don’t like what I see in his eyes. That hurts me. His eyes always said he loved me. Now they say he’s gonna leave me too. I raise my hands, caress his cheeks, place them tenderly on his chest and smile at him. Then, with force, I push him. He doesn’t let out a scream as he topples over and falls into the endless abyss, as if he’s forgotten how to use his voice. His eyes no longer seem to want to leave me, they only express surprise, the immense astonishment of death. It’s better, better than the eyes that leave me. And very quickly, it disappears in the clouds. I stare into space for a moment, staring at the slice of mist in which I lost him. My eyes then return to my hands. They don’t shake, it’s strange. I turn to my mother. She is still waiting for me. Very well. At least I won’t be alone.
In the early morning, the nightclub had nothing of its superb. Lieutenant Hansen pushed aside the protective strips that barred the entrance, clumsily placed by a policeman who was unaccustomed to crime scenes. He hadn’t had time to drink coffee, having been woken much too early by the sergeant’s call. He’d just put on his clothes, grabbed the car keys, and arrived on the scene as his watch hand hit six o’clock. Not an hour to start the day this way, he thought, rubbing his eyes at the remnants of his hangover. Once through the anonymous doors, in front of which a nonchalant cat had replaced the line of revelers waiting their turn to enter, it took him a few moments to adjust his gaze to the semi-darkness that reigned in the room. Under the gray light falling from a ventilator, the track looked seedy. Lieutenant Hansen moved quickly towards the back of the room, without lingering on the bar on his right and its mirrors, which only reflected emptiness. Hard to believe in the silence that weighed on the place, that a few hours earlier, a crowd of people moved in the middle of the track, moving to the hypnotic rhythm of techno hits, while others came and went from the bar with a drink in hand, after yelling their order to the bartender who nodded his head to signify that he had understood. A discreet door opened at the end of the room on the spaces reserved for the personnel. Brigadier Andersen was waiting for Hansen:
«Hello my lieutenant. It’s this way. “Hello Andersen. – I warn you, it’s not a pretty sight. »
Hansen made a vague wave of his hand, to signify that he had seen others. The two men entered a corridor which led to several doors.
« It’s at the bottom, my lieutenant. In the boss’s office. He had finished closing, and he went to look for his car keys in his office, like every day. That’s where he came across… the corpse. »
The door was ajar. You could hear men talking behind. Hansen pushed open the door cautiously. At the same time, three gendarmes turned their gaze towards the newcomer, and greeted him briefly, as if conviviality could have no place in such circumstances. The lieutenant’s gaze was immediately drawn to the figure lying on the ground. A woman, as the brigadier had told him. Still, his heartbeat quickened as if he hadn’t expected it. With her sequined dress pulled up to the top of her thighs, her cheap shoes with oversized heels lying on the floor and her hair dishevelled, she looked like a stranded wreck, thrown up by the sea like trash.
Hansen closed his eyes for a moment. A flash. The same woman dancing with a greedy frenzy in the middle of other dancers. Men pressed against her, irresistibly attracted by her provocative swaying, her eyes full of innuendo, her seductive mouth. The lieutenant chased away the image. The woman now had her eyes half-closed, with a frightening stare. Purple markings marbled his pale neck.
« Strangled?” Hansen asked in a voice that sounded weaker than he wanted. – Affirmative, my lieutenant. »
Andersen, who had remained in the background, took a few steps towards him. “We have started the surveys. The body should soon be taken away for examination by the coroner. The team should arrive soon. We didn’t touch anything, of course, but in my opinion, it’s strangulation, we have no trace of blood.
« And the boss, asked Hansen with a dry throat. Where is the boss? – To the gendarmerie, my lieutenant. Fergusen takes his statement. – Good,” Hansen said. Then, not knowing what to say, he repeated, “Good, good.” »
To keep himself in countenance, he took a few steps towards the victim. The headache that had been smoldering since he woke up now rumbled furiously between his temples. Hansen wondered again what had gotten him such a hangover. He really had no memory of his evening. It was happening to him more and more often lately, and if he had never ended up in the salad cart of his colleagues, he had to thank the lucky star that was watching over him. I have to stop my bullshit, he thought, looking at the woman who had gone too far, there was no turning back. Mechanically, his gaze went around the room, and he immediately noticed discreet but very real traces of struggle. Papers had slipped on the floor. An ashtray was overturned not far from the victim.
«The boss of the club is our main suspect, of course,” continued the brigadier, who did not seem to have noticed his superior’s slight discomfort. Or an employee who would have had access to the premises.
Was the office locked?
I don’t know, Lieutenant. You will have to ask the owner the question. “Let’s go out,” Hansen said. There are five of us suffocating in this room. »
The two men retreated onto the dance floor. The blind walls, without the illusion of the play of lights, were squalid, coated with a dark paint peeling and stained with various splinters. The broom that had been used to clean the floor sat in a corner, next to the pile of dust that no one had bothered to pick up.
«I wish I had a little black one,” Hansen said, feeling his legs wobble.
– What’s wrong, Lieutenant? Anderson asked. You are quite pale. »
Hansen gestured that he wanted out. The room revolved around him. Dull shocks hammered his skull. Boom, boom, boom. He put his hand on the sergeant’s shoulder for support. He closed his eyes again. A new flash. The woman was there, right next to him, laughing lasciviously. Around her, the other dancers melted into an indistinct blur. The deafening music stunned Hansen with its repeated pounding. The woman had grabbed the lapel of his jacket, and was pulling him towards him. The cool early morning air made her open her eyes. Andersen watched him with worried eyes.
“Are you all right, my lieutenant?”
– Yes, Andersen, it’s better. A moment of fatigue. The night was short, I believe. »
Today I am posting a somewhat special text. I lost my grandfather earlier this week. He was a pillar for me so I had to do something to honor him. I hope you’ll like it.
Grandpa died last night. Dad and I drive towards Jørlunde, eyes moist. My father hits the steering wheel every time the traffic slows down, grumbling: “What a jerk! What an idea he had to go up on the roof! Images from my recent vacation come to mind: colorful kites tearing through the gray sky. I wipe my nose again with my soaked sleeve and shout silently: “ Grandpa ! Why ? »
Dad drops me off in front of his childhood home, a tall, five-story building that survived World War II. He asks me if he can leave me, the time to go “ do what is necessary ” for grandfather. I accept, of course, without realizing that for the first time I will be alone in this house where I have spent all my summers, as far back as I can remember.
As soon as I walked through the door, the smell of waxed wood brings a few tears to my eyes – I imagine my next vacation away from this soon to be lifeless place. In the living room, I linger over the photos placed on the sideboard: grandmother; grandfather and her, little piece of woman, hand in hand on the beach; my father on a racing bike; me, very young, all smiles in the middle of a huge sandcastle. I fix these images and engrave them in my memory. Standing in front of the large library, I take the time to recognize the books that I have seen a thousand times near the armchair next to the fireplace. A book with a golden cover, which I had never spotted, caught my eye. I climb on a chair to grab it; the title surprises me: How to age well – not the kind of reading for this house. I open the manual, a feather falls. I pick it up, and notice the wet ink on its end. After a few seconds, I finally sit down in front of the thick wooden table to read these tips that will no longer apply to my grandpa. All pages are blank. Not a single sign, not even a date, nothing. What good advice, congratulations! In rage, I take up the pen and almost engrave my recommendation to myself, on a random sheet: “ Do not walk on a slippery roof ! I slam the book shut and put it back in place before running upstairs to throw myself on my mattress.
Dad comes home a few hours later, dejected. Little talkative, we dine quickly then go up to bed to put an end to this cursed day. From my bed, I hear the wooden floor creak – my father is approaching. The creaks stop – short pause behind the door. He finally comes in, draws the curtains of my room and wishes me good night without looking at me.
The next morning, rays of light stream through the new shutters and wake me up. I hear my mother stirring the kitchen utensils down the hall. Strange sensations, feeling of having braked suddenly, that my memories collided with the walls of my skull. I slept at my house, not at my grandfather’s. I tumble in pajamas in front of my mother, my eyes still glued, and ask her:
— Where is dad ? — In the garden,” she replies. I do not understand. — And grandpa Michel? — Grandpa, I don’t know. At his place, or at the beach, I imagine. Call him if you want. I sit up abruptly, afraid my legs will wobble and let me fall.
At noon, I insist with my father throughout the meal: I want to eat at grandpa’s this evening. He gives in – the privilege of being an only son of an only son. My grandfather, always very happy to receive us, simmered his famous roast for us. After dinner, while my parents are washing the dishes and tidying up the kitchen, I take out the cards to play belote. When I close the drawer of the sideboard where the photos are enthroned, I turn around and ask my grandpa a question, without thinking: — Do you think of grandma sometimes? — day. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of her. — And are you talking to him? — Nope. Not directly. I talk to myself, and since she is etched in my memory, she may hear me. — What was the disease that took her away again? — A hereditary filth, banal and sad, which left him no chance. — Could we treat her today? — Quite a question! I do not know. I do not believe. Do you have any funny ideas tonight, big boy… Shall we play? My parents arrive at the same time.
Restless nights for two weeks, intense reflections, I think I know what happened, without obviously understanding. I alternate between fear and joy at having brought my grandfather back. I didn’t tell my parents. I often have a headache. Dead, not dead, that’s a lot of emotions.
Rainy Saturday, dark gray early afternoon. I’m trying to solve a puzzle when the phone rings. My mother picks up and wipes her hands on her apron. I see her become livid, she cries to me: — Go get your father, quickly!
Grandfather died this morning in a car accident. Dad and I drive towards Jørlunde, eyes full of water, like the road. My father hits the steering wheel every time the red lights of the vehicles in front of us come on, grumbling: — What a jerk! What an idea to drive in such weather! Images of beaches, kites, roofs and feathers cross my mind. I blow my nose in the crook of my elbow, my head is spinning – want to vomit.
My father stops in front of grandpa’s house. He tells me that he will “do what is necessary” and that he will be back soon. Raining cats and dogs. I walk across the yard, go around the puddles, protected by my yellow raincoat. I slam the door, drop my jacket on the tiled hallway, and rush into the living room. The golden book has not moved. I take it gently this time – I don’t want to damage it and make it unusable. I open it to a page drawn at random, and with the quill already inked, I write diligently: “ Do not drive in torrential rain ! “.
My father arrives a few hours later. I come to meet him in the hallway; we hold each other in our arms. We don’t experience the same emotions and he doesn’t know it. During dinner, I chatter a little more than the circumstances would require, but he notices nothing, haggard.
The next morning, my mother comes to drag me out of bed with the promise of hot pancakes. The sun pushes aside the curtain of clouds with vigor. With my mouth still full, I ask if we can eat at grandpa’s tonight; my mother replies that it is already planned.
In Jørlunde, when I set the table, I hear my father talking low, but with intensity, with my grandpa. I only catch snippets of the discussion: it’s about degeneracy and relentlessness – I don’t understand a thing. The evening ends with a game of cards; my grandfather and I, with a smile on our lips, we beat my parents to the hilt.
Another week passes. I fell back to sleep. I feel like I have a super power. At times, that scares me.
Sunday noon, my father comes into my room with tears in his eyes. I can’t believe him when he tells me that grandpa fell off the roof. ” Still ? I want to say, biting my lip. Three accidents, including two falls from the roof in one month, that’s not possible. I curse all the gods I know, and get in the car towards Jørlunde.
My father drops me in front of the house and I run into the living room. When I take the magic book and open it, a postcard falls on the ground. The photo looks like an advertisement for Lake Filsø: a black and red kite crosses the azure sky. I recognize grandfather’s handwriting. He left me a note, very short: “Big boy, I know it’s difficult, but please let me go. I am very sick and I prefer to leave alive. I put my atoms back into play and I join grandma. I like you. Grandpa. »
Last night grandfather died for the last time.
Jeg savner dig så meget bedstefar. Hvis jeg blev den kvinde, jeg er i dag på trods af mors fravær, er det takket være dig. Du vil altid være i mine tanker. Jeg elsker dig rigtig meget.
Take care of yourself and your loved ones, tell them you love them and see you soon!
Wednesday night with Priya and her boyfriend, we watched old movies including Modern Time with Charlie Chaplin. I love this movie but I was exhausted and I fell asleep in front of it and I had a funny dream which inspired me to write this story. It deserves to be a little more worked but I hope you will enjoy it anyway!
I had just taken my service, behind the machine, as usual, like everyone else. On my right, in place of John, in front of the machine, stood another machine, this time sophisticated. An android. It had been a good two months since John had been at the factory. Unfit. It could no longer keep pace and the experts who had come some time earlier to improve space management for better performance had been unable to do anything. The diagnosis was clear: “ Performance disorders ”. From now on, the health services took care of him. Take the chicken, turn it over, remove the giblets, put the chicken on the conveyor belt, take the chicken,…, eight hours a day. John receives the chicken on the chain, hangs it on a hook. He cuts thighs, wings, fillets, thighs,…, eight hours a day. With John, we were able to adapt to the rhythm of the channel. Sometimes I slowed down, didn’t send the chickens too fast. It was only a few seconds gained, but over eight hours it was felt especially when the pain appeared. But that day, the android was going fast, very fast. He was waiting for the chickens. Each time, for a moment, he stared at me with his eyes like cameras. The same as those suspended from the ceiling. When the siren announced the end of the day, I returned home. The android stayed. An immense anxiety came over me. His gaze had something strange. The next day he was still there. The chain started, he came to life, turned his head, looked at me, waited.
— 35 years in the shop and 75% organic matter, John regularly threw at me with his smile tinged with a slight bitterness.
He was a funny guy. Still a little angry and a little disillusioned. It seemed to belong to another time. He often spoke to me about a guy from the beginning of the 20th century whose name I have forgotten. It’s called an artist, I believe.
— You see Louis, this film tells our story. The guy, he screws bolts on an assembly line and the line goes faster and faster. So he accelerates, but he can’t keep up. Suddenly, he finds himself caught up in the cogs, turns inside the system and comes out mad. This guy was a subversive genius. But you see, he was also a comedian and we only remember that, comedy. So everyone laughs, everyone applauds, and everyone goes back to screwing their bolts. But shit, that guy was an anarchist!
A loud beep snapped me out of my thoughts. It was off again for eight o’clock. This android was going really fast. The channel is the boss. She sets the pace. It’s hard on the body. John said that it was called Taylorism around the middle of the 20th century and then Toyotism at the beginning of the 21st.
— The right gesture in the right space. Make the gesture as precise as possible, the most effective, avoid useless movements, limit the loss of time, limit space, erase the singularity, eradicate the error, adapt to the chain. But do you think Picasso could have painted all his work on a chain?
Artist ? Anarchist? Picasso? Taylorism? Toyotism? Where did all this come from? I tried to find out about the web. Since I couldn’t find anything about it on the official corporate websites, I wondered if John was going off the rails a bit. The buzzer sounded again. The android was waiting.
— Louis. May I call you Louis? Our studies show a drop in performance in your job. It looks like your pace has slowed down a bit. In front of me, they were three. Malfunction department agents.
— But don’t worry, we’ll help you find your initial skills. We see in your file that you have already received treatment for your knees.
— Yes, I started with the orientation of the goods. The knees, it was from bending down to lift the boxes.
— Hmm, I see. We have spotted that the failure would now be located in your wrists. You will be received by the health services so that a diagnosis can be established.
With my new biotechnical wristbands, I thought everything would be better. But I kept thinking about a discussion I had had one day with John, at his house, after work.
— I don’t understand John. The guys when they work, they yell at the bosses and when they don’t work anymore, they still yell at the bosses.
— I’ll tell you Louis, it’s very simple. They yell because they are morons. Yes morons. Frankly, to spend eight hours a day with your nose in a chicken’s ass really has to be a moron. But the worst is when they get fired. After all we’ve done for this factory. I spent thirty years of my life there. And now ? Which ass am I going to put my nose in? No, but what do they believe? That we’ll roll out the red carpet for them for service to the Corporation. Yes you are right Louis. When they work, they yell at the bosses. When they don’t work anymore, they yell at the bosses. I’ll tell you. It suits them. Like that, they tell themselves that they are not responsible. But you know, to put your nose in the chicken’s ass, you have to lean forward a bit, sometimes you even have to squat down, and there generally you don’t get a nose. Can you see the painting a bit? At first it hurts a little, and then you get used to it, maybe you even end up liking it. But there is something that really hurts them. That’s when it stops. Because there they find themselves alone in front of themselves. Forced to make the sad statement of their miserable condition. And that is unbearable. So they look further. A guy sticking his nose in the ass of a cheaper chicken. And there it’s even more unbearable, because he has at least an ass he can stick his nose in. So they choose a leader. A manager who will save them. They even vote for him. That way, if the manager doesn’t save them, they can always say it’s his fault. So Louis! Ask yourself! Whose ass do you stick your nose in?
John stood in front of me, his elbow resting on the table, his forearm vertical. In his hand, a life-size, wooden, carved rump.
— Take it, it is for you. And do not forget. The truth is in the chicken’s ass.
On my way home, I looked for this rump. I couldn’t remember where I put it, but I found it in the back of a drawer. I took a hammer. I typed sharply. Inside was a gigamax hard drive. Quite rare and rather expensive. I slipped it into the plug provided for this purpose, behind my right ear, and there: An infinity of data, an immensity of knowledge for which a thousand lives would not be enough to go around.
I no longer have the heart to work. The buzzer sounded three times today. — Louis. Allow me to call you Louis. The corporation has decided to offer you a “ Performance Rehabilitation Program ”. The health services will come and get you. I went to the workshop to pick up my things. As I left, I turned one last time to the android. We looked at each other. It seemed to me that he was crying.
A personal version of my favorite Andersen tale. I hope you will like it.
I am different. I have always been. For my mother, it’s as if I were an extra-terrestrial. But having no place among those hanging around on a mound of dirt doesn’t seem so bad, when you have the whole sea as your home… If I could properly redefine the terms myself, I would say that they were similar to each other; not that I was different. They were the ones who looked nothing like me; who had neither my ardor nor my boldness.
At the first rays of the sun across the big blue, you had to be up already, doing the healthy breaststrokes of the morning, in order to thank the day for having put an end to one more night; in our beliefs it meant that the end of the world was still far away. In this precise order, you had to let the whales, huge and graceful, pass first. Then came the turn of sea turtles, accompanied by molluscs. Afterwards, in a rainbow torrent, a whole flock of diverse, multicolored fish rained down, some more cheerful than the others. And finally, the parade of mermaids, in well-ordered rows, from our coastal cave to the coral reef, without forgetting to always throw the first fin stroke from left to right. Always ! This, orchestrated with the most perfect harmony in the azure and salty blue of an awakening sea. “Stand up straight on your tail! I heard my mother grumble every morning. “Brows up! All, without exception, gave themselves up with grace and zeal to this abominable morning masquerade. And to close the show, it took hours to harvest enough seaweed for the day’s meals. Aren’t they fed up? As soon as I reached puberty, I withdrew from these activities. My rebellious behavior had ended up driving a wedge first between my mother and me, then between the other mermaids and me. The difference was scary. They didn’t look like me, so they kicked me out.
I liked it better in my corner of the sea, waving my massive tail softly, my beautiful brush set with precious stones in my hands, languidly combing my abundant hair. I had found a secluded, deep space not far from the reef where I could snuggle up in the hold of an old ship that had sunk. He was massive. Wonderful. He bore his name well; “La Santa Ma…” printed on its side. The Santa Madonna? Santa Marianna? Santa Maria…? That was all that was legible; “La Santa Ma”… The rest had been erased, and destroyed. I wonder what hair-raising adventure this boat has had… At its prow stood a magnificent woman’s trunk; she had a haughty bearing, her arm firmly raised, and her hair frozen in the direction of the wind. Sometimes I tried to talk to her, to find out her story, but she kept the secret of her eternity to herself, her gaze lost in the distance. Time crashed heavily like waves as I hid in this haven. I contented myself with swallowing what fell under my fins; small crustaceans, worms, sometimes even shrimp hidden here and there in the hold of the boat. But no algae. I could no longer bear this vegetal taste which marked in bitter letters the dreary and monotonous existence of a siren. There had to be something more than just existing. And one night, I discovered it. The Big Blue had fallen into a deep sleep that night. Inky night on land, and under sea. Only the distant glow of a timid moon glided over the almost motionless surface of the water; grain of light in my salty night.
Not a single small fish in sight. Everything was sleeping. Except those above…. Suddenly I felt a call. From the top. He was powerful. Like a punch to the heart. He was almost overpowering my own will. I perceived moreover, a metallic scent, delicious, new, that I did not know. I soared towards that call, cutting through the sea. I carefully stuck my head out of the water, dazzled by mysterious hymns emitted to the tribal sound of the drum, by a crowd of restless earthlings dressed in white. One of them saw me and exclaimed:
— There it is…the water spirit! She heard us!
Saying this, he grabbed an empty conch shell and began to blow with all his might. A bewitching sound made me shiver and prompted me to reveal myself then in full to them, erect on my large shimmering emerald tail, garlands of pearls at my belt. They were much smaller than in my memories, these earthlings. Dead silence. They all knelt down. Except one, waist deep in water, who seemed to implore me with a whimper. He was restrained by heavy chains. Looking at him I understood that he had been beaten. The metallic smell became stronger, more insistent, so I approached him, looking for the source of this intoxicating aroma that had pulled me out of my hole. Staring at his dripping wrist, I then discovered that red, throbbing elixir tickling my gills from the depths.
— What is your name, spirit?! I was shouted — I am Simbi, I answered. — Accept our sacrifice, mistress of the waters, and give us back the rain!
How? ‘Or’ What ? I was just a simple mermaid. What power did I have over nature to the point of extracting the rain from it alone? I had never touched a hair of an earthling; but by the time I came to my senses, there was nothing left but chains reddened by the feast I had just enjoyed. I had crunched many times, while an explosion of new flavors made me vibrate from my claws to the tip of my cock. I cheerfully licked my fingers, my arms, my lips. I wanted more, I wanted more…I approached the shore, beckoning the other earthlings to join me in the scarlet water… A flash of lightning streaked across the sky. And the clouds began to cry, the birth of a sea monster…
I found old fantasy books at a flea market and I had a strong desire to write some. I started a notebook with lots of little ideas that I think could make a good story, if one day I take the time to develop it all. In the meantime, here is something to give you a glimpse of a very small part of the universe in question.
Of Ice and Swords
Lyra put down her cold beer, sighing in relief. This truce in the fighting was a real happiness. Legs stretched under the small table ravaged by generations of drunks, she leaned on the back of the chair and savored the ambiance of the tavern. She always missed that warm hubbub when she went on a mission.
— Hey babe, would you like a…
The young woman suddenly raised her head and stared at the giant who had dared to disturb her tasting. He swallowed, cut short in his bluster. Behind him, his comrades were exchanging hearty laughs. Deceived by the slenderness of the leather-clad figure, they did not know what was hidden under the loose hood of the warmage, and had thought they could have fun at her expense. A common mistake. Lyra tilted her head and raised her eyebrows, daring her troublemaker to add a single word. His icy eye sparkled, and the man stepped back, muttering:
— Sorry, I don’t… sorry.
He turned around, his neck stiff and his shoulders tense, then rejoined his comrades with a jerky step, containing his desire to flee as fast as he could to avoid losing face. He was greeted with a string of surprised questions, which he waved aside, before grabbing a glass and downing it. Lyra allowed herself a small smirk, and went back to tasting her beer. She pouted when she noticed that the liquid had cooled in the meantime. She reached out with her right index finger, brushed the rim of the mug and watched the frost delicately settle there, then tasted again. It was much better. A new shadow invades his bubble of tranquility. She smelled of rancid sweat.
— I’m sorry, my Lady, but I… A thousand pardons, but we’d be more comfortable if you avoided using magic here. — I only chilled that donkey piss you sell like beer.
Lyra’s voice, low and steady, made the innkeeper sweat even more. His bald head began to glow.
— I don’t…yes, of course, but you make my customers nervous, and they… — Good. I am leaving.
The spell was broken anyway. The forty-year-old nearly fainted with relief. He stepped back hastily when the young woman got up, and returned to the relative shelter of her counter to resume polishing her glasses. Lyra took a few steps toward the door, then spun around sharply, her hand on the hilt of her shortsword, feeling someone tug on her cloak.
A little girl was staring at her, her brown braids all tangled, her nose encrusted with snot. She must have been what, five years old? Six, no more.
— Ma’am, can I come with you?
Lyra smiled, slipped her gun back into its sheath, and looked around for the mother. His gaze only caught terrified faces, which annoyed him to no end. Why, she was not going to eat the kid!
— Say, can I come? I too want to become a war mage! — Really, baby? Do you want to live in the cold and the mud, be constantly hungry and thirsty, see all your friends die?
The girl’s eyes widened; this description must not match the stories she had heard. Lyra suddenly wanted to please him, perhaps because she was determined to enjoy her few days off. She reached out and molded a tiny fragment of her power. An ice unicorn appeared on his palm. The mage offered it to the kid, whose face lit up, and took the opportunity to remove her cape from the sticky little hands. Her tranquility regained, she crossed the door of the tavern with a light step, and joined her horse tied to the terrace. The animal, immaculately white, snorts when he sees her come out, tinkling all the buckles of his pale blue harness. She freed him and straddled him lightly, immediately galloping him into the night. Now that she had betrayed her identity, she wanted to get away from this town before the rumor of her passing spread. So close to the border, the village must have been home to a veritable nest of spies.
The moon found Lyra still on horseback, and flashed armor in front of Raven’s Bridge. The mage tugged at the reins cursingly, stopping her mount in its tracks. She spun around in the saddle, and saw more soldiers spring up behind her. Trapped! They had been damn quick on that one. She muttered a few bits of ancient language and a shell of ice covered her like a breastplate. Just in time. An arrow bounces off his left shoulder. The men fanned out to surround him. One of them stood in front of her, and held out a skeletal hand, which clothed itself in flames. Lyra grimaced. War Mage versus War Mage. A nice part of pleasure in perspective.
The wizard’s fire coalesced into an incendiary projectile. When he came face to face, Lyra countered the attack with a wave of ice, but could not dodge the simultaneous charge of the soldiers, who threw her to the ground, causing her steed to flee. She fell heavily on the stones of the path, biting her tongue at the same time, and distributed a whole series of spears of ice around her to buy time to get up. She jumped to her feet, and ducked immediately to avoid another incendiary projectile. He crashed into an enemy soldier and turned him into a human torch. Without worrying about the unpleasant smell of tallow, Lyra charged again: she froze the ground under the feet of the foot soldiers, and drew her short sword. She had time to pierce two unbalanced men, before having to dodge a bluish flame, which grilled an additional assailant and warmed the earth. The others took off.
After several passes, Lyra frowned. The incessant attacks prevented him from concentrating, and therefore from casting powerful spells. Even though they got in each other’s way, the alliance of wizard and soldiers was formidable; she couldn’t do both at the same time. She countered several sword thrusts with an ice shield, which the fire mage immediately melted. A blade slashed the sorceress’ forearm, another brushed her cheek. Good ! It was time to step up a gear.
In a few words, Lyra locked herself in a gangue of thick ice, which her enemies immediately began to break up. One second, two, three… the little iceberg exploded, but it had done its job: the young woman had been able to concentrate enough to shape a spell of greater amplitude. An arrow of ice left his palms and shot up into the clear sky. Its bell trajectory avoided the surprised infantrymen, who did not bother to eliminate it. They charged again, forcing Lyra to protect herself with a new shield, which the fire mage began to pound mercilessly. Lyra’s sword danced and bit into flesh, but it wouldn’t last long. There were still far too many of them.
Feeling his prey weaken, the enemy mage redoubled his efforts. With both hands outstretched, he showered Lyra with heavy projectile fire, forcing her to defend, defend again. He smiled and wiped his sleeve on his forehead. He opened his mouth to fashion a new spell… and collapsed face down, eyes bulging. A huge snow tiger, bursting out of the forest like a cataclysm of violence, left his back and finished him off with a well-placed claw. Lyra, taking advantage of the soldiers’ surprise, straightened up and modeled a volley of ice javelins. Now that they were no longer protected, the men were dropping like flies. One of them tried to run away, but in two leaps the beast was on top of him.
The young woman staggered and fell, kneeling in the earth soaked with vital fluids, dropping her sword. Covered in blood, exhausted, she forced her breath back to normal and felt her heart slow down, calm down. She lifted the spell that drained her remaining energy; the snow tiger once again became Yo’lbars, his placid steed, which immediately put its nose in the grass, indifferent to the surrounding scene of carnage. Lyra surveyed the modest battlefield, and smiled. Eighteen to one. Not so bad for a first day off.
A few miles away, a tiny girl was dreaming of a magical battle and her lips, rustling in her sleep, practiced pronouncing the ancient spells. A tiny unicorn of ice adorned her frost-covered bedside table…
“ You’ll see, it works, I read that in a magazine of the time.” While remembering the advice of a friend, Ed Hill took a deep breath in order to bring down the anguish. Hopefully, the torment his stomach was inflicting on him will fade away in a saving breath of air.
The air entered his nose, bringing with it the scent of his freshly applied perfume, then rushed into his lungs and finally escaped from his mouth. This sensation, as new as it was, gave him an intense surge of oxygen to his brain, blurring his sight for a few seconds. On the other hand, his stress did not decrease, lack of pot.
Hidden behind the black stage curtains, he could already hear Brian Schmitt, the electrifying robot everyone was raving about. “ Welcome to New Encounters, the show where the world unfolds before your eyes… ”, he perceived from afar. Brian presented the most watched TV show in France and just before joining him, Ed dithered. He was just a scientist, not a star. Why inflict such pressure on yourself?
Nevertheless, the commitments were made, the distribution contracts signed with the hand of a wise automaton and the spirits heated to the bone. It was no longer possible to go back. Her life had just changed drastically and, deep down, Ed hoped that she would upset the lives of many others.
— Ladies and gentlemen, please give a proper welcome to Doctor Ed Hill! Brian declared with conviction.
A resounding thunder of applause rang out from the audience, while a tech robot made sweeping gestures compulsively for Ed to enter the stage. Hesitantly, the latter advanced towards the light, touching in the process the dark fabric which separated him from the tray. A gentle heat caressed his right arm before disappearing in a blinding glare.
— Welcome ! Can I call you Ed? Started Brian to relax the atmosphere, while asking his guest to sit down. — Of course. he replied, intimidated.
Apart from the stage, illuminated by powerful lights, everything was completely plunged into darkness. The red sensors of the cameras were pointed towards the center, where Ed Hill was going to be filmed for the first time.
— How are you doing ? You look radiant to me. — I’m glad to be here, Ed said, a grain in his voice.
— You see me delighted. I understand that the events we are going to talk about this evening have not been easy. Will you find it difficult to confide in yourself?
— Don’t worry, I’m ready. You have before your eyes the fruit of several years’ work, as tedious as it is fascinating, Ed confided while pinching his forearm in front of the lens. — Ah! Was it painful? Brian asked, laughing. — Let’s just say it tingles a bit, Ed ventured, smiling broadly.
— What humor ! Applaud him, ladies and gentlemen! Doctor Ed Hill! cried Brian.
Cheers broke out from the audience.
— Very well, then Ed, let’s not wait any longer! Tell us about Hangar 66? Brian continued in a calm voice. — Do you remember your birth factory Brian? — Like it was yesterday. — I will put my hand to cut that it looks like two drops of water. In any case, hangar 66 is identical to mine, I was inspired by it. A particular atmosphere hovers there, full of questioning and doubt, but also of excitement and desire, necessary for the development of a marvelous future. The only difference is that it is not robots that come out, but human beings. — And what a success, cried Brian, waving his arm at his guest.
Applause rang out, then the presenter continued.
— Ed, tell me, why did you want to be first? — That’s a good question, Brian, Ed replied, brushing his hair with the back of his hand. Quite simply because I am the instigator of this experiment. I would have blamed myself if harmful side effects had occurred on people other than me. — Precisely, have you had any side effects? — Not yet, except ravenously hungry,” Ed joked, feeling more and more at ease.
The audience followed him in his euphoria.
— What did you prefer to eat, since your rebirth? — When I woke up, they brought me what the humans called an Emmenthal ham sandwich. — How was it ? asked Brian, microphones dangling from Ed’s lips. — Delicious, I cried. — Cried, you hear that! Brian cried as he stared at the camera, his voice laced with passion. New emotions overwhelm you? insisted the presenter. — All the time. It’s only been a few days, but already I’m lost in the twists and turns of my sensitivity. Empathy overwhelms me when I see robots in distress, anger overwhelms me when I observe the price of electricity, and fear immobilizes me when I launch into an interview like this, my brain is boiling and my body reacts accordingly. — Stunning! How do you handle all of this? — For now, I suffer more than I manage, I’m not going to lie. We still have a lot to learn. This body is like an alarm bell on constant alert, it’s disconcerting. However, it makes you feel awfully alive. — What hell ! laughed Brian, while throwing his arms in the sky. — Nothing to do with god, I assure you, Ed joked.
The spectators burst out laughing.
— Everyone here wants to know Ed., how is the operation going? Brian asked, regaining control of his broadcast. — The trickiest part is the making of the human body. They are so complex, it’s fascinating. Then just download our consciousness into the brain and you’re done, Ed explained proudly. — It seems so simple. But, for what reasons? Why do you want to revolutionize the world in this way? — This experience was born from an observation, which I realized after my first birthday bolts. Like many others, I understood that our mechanical eternity, as important as it is in our eyes, leads us towards a suffocating gloom, in which surprise and adventure no longer have any place. Our archives prove to us that at the time of humans, the world was full of creative energy of all kinds, making the slightest bit of boredom fleeting. Me what I want is to discover what the audacity of mortality can bring to our world in loss of imagination.
A long and heavy “Aaah” escaped from the audience, approving the doctor’s words.
— And do you feel a new energy? — Just imagine that just this morning, I was wondering what I was going to be able to do with the time that was allotted to me. You see, the fatality of death has a spicy taste of adventure, it’s gripping. — And what are you going to do with this time? — I don’t really know, let’s say I’ll take the time to think about it, Ed said humorously. — Funny! Brian stated firmly. Finally, do you have a message to convey? — I must say that for the moment, I live an extraordinary experience. My body is only 20 years old, my senses are awake, my brain is fiery and I have only one desire, to share my life with other human beings. To know joy, sadness, love, melancholy and who knows what else. With our robotic wisdom, acquired over our millennia of existence, these emotions are real sources of inspiration, so don’t hesitate! If you feel like living life to the full and dying with panache, head to Hangar 66! — Magnificent ! It was Brian Schmitt, with Dr. Ed Hill. The first human is reborn from his cybernetic ashes! I wish you a good evening, and see you tomorrow for new new encounters! concludes the presenter, under the ovation of a conquered public.