A serialised novel
I thought I’d share some of the music that has, in some form, inspired the story so far, or, at least, has resonances with it. My suggestion is that you listen to the music either while reading or after reading this week’s episode. I hope it will add a little to the experience!
Sleep That Burns – Be-Bop Deluxe click the link to listen and read!
….”Without you, we have no way of surviving Overload Marker 3″…Hey, it’s not every day you’re told that your whole body is just a walking-talking encyclopaedia right?… Something in my guts just went snap-to, y’know, like things were finally, finally falling into place… I am calm. Like a homely moment, y’know?… “The room where I found you Shem, was not my idea. I thought it might…how shall I put it…open you up to unwarranted interventions…” …So, come on O’Donnel, who is this Harry guy and what does he want with me?… “Alright Shem. Harry. You want to know about Harry? Come with me.”… O’Donnel’s just about to press his palm to the metal plate when the door slides to the side… Out walks Felicity…ha, no shit…Felicity is the top here. Or at least she has some shoulder up on Mr. Flexi-face here. Cool… I can’t help but admire the way her legs work – and the rest of her – as she walks across the hall… Then it begins to filter through my tiny little mind exactly what it was I’m looking at… Man, what a shmuck! Jeez, Felicity you bitch! ‘How it works’? How it works right? Shit. I know what these are! I’m just about to turn to O’Donnel and see what-the-fuck-he-thinks-he-is-playing-at when around the end of one of the shelves comes a familiar figure… It’s about three rows back but there’s no mistaking that big bulging torso and that tiny little football head wobbling about on top… Harry!
Talk about information overload right? I don’t know why but I move myself behind O’Donnel and watch over his shoulder as Harry walks slowly towards us. I don’t know why I should be scared of Harry. I mean, it’s not like he did ever hurt me right? Maybe it’s just the confusion. The unexpected. But it’s like he hasn’t seen us. Y’know? His face doesn’t show anything. No surprise, no flicker of anything. Nada.
“Aren’t you gonna do something O’Donnel?” I ask, like the dumb shmuck I am.
“Don’t worry Shem. It’s alright. This isn’t Harry.” Before I can say something like ‘don’t be stupid O’Donnel, of course it’s Harry, what’s the matter with your eyes man!’ O’Donnel says in a firm voice,
“Stop there.” And he does. Harry I mean. Just stops. Like a switch turned off he just stands still. O’Donnel takes the last couple of steps towards Harry and walks around him. Staying beside him he looks back at me. “I know this may be a shock for you Shem. I was hoping to be able to discuss certain aspects of our operation here with you before you had to encounter this but… well, we’ll have to take it from here.”
I’m thinking this is what Felicity was tearing a strip off O’Donnel for, before we came in this place. Maybe O’Donnel isn’t quite the man-in-control I thought he was.
“This is one of our…operatives Shem. You have nothing to fear from him. Or should I say from them. We produced many of these operatives while we were working on the protocol to deal with the second marker…”
“Produced?” I interrupt. “Like, as in made?” There it goes again, that little creature running around my guts, tearing up my insides. Something nasty is on its way yet again. Don’t ask me how I know these things right, but I know there’s another smack in the kisser heading my way fast.
“Well, yes, in actual fact, I do mean made, Shem. This operative is just one of hundreds of clones that were produced in the years before we realised that there could be a simpler solution to our data problem. This edition was retained after…well…after the solution was found, in order to help maintain the protocol systems that you see here.”
Man I’m not even going to go there. I have that second sight moment where I know just what O’Donnel is talking about when he mentions the ‘protocol system’. I’m looking right at it, right? All these rows of jars with…shit, I can’t even bring myself to say the words, even in my tiny little brain. All these rows of jars are the protocol system. Man, I just wish I could be wrong about things like this. Just once. Just for once let me be wrong about all this.
“We settled on this format because they turned out to be both physically strong yet required very little in terms of, um, shall we say ‘brainpower.’ Now they work for us and help us maintain the systems so that we can…” Yeah yeah Mr. O’Donnel, I get it. Slaves. Drones. Whatever. My tired little head doesn’t need the rest of his efficiency speech.
“So cut to the chase O’Donnel. Harry? How does Harry fit into this little tale of sunshine-in the-city?”
O’Donnel pauses and looks a little uncomfortable. I’m getting used to this change in him by now. Seems I have the knack for cutting through all his bullshit but O’Donnel is pretty slow on the uptake I figure. He still seems to expect me to just listen and nod and take it all on his say-so. Now who’s the dumb shmuck, right? He looks at Harry – sorry, ‘the operative-formerly-known-as-Harry’ and says,
The guy just keeps walking like his battery’s been put back in. He walks straight towards me and carries on past me to the row behind us and turns left, following the line of the shelving. I watch him for a couple of seconds until I’m sure he isn’t going to turn back and look at me. Nothing. Not a damn thing.
“Harry was…a symptom of our failure to complete the protocol in a comprehensive manner, Shem.”
Man I’m sick of this. Every time we come to the part where O’Donnel needs to be straight with me he gives me the shit-speak of a multi-national media conference.
“So you killed him right?” O’Donnel opens his mouth and gives a little shake of his head in a ‘I no compute’ way. Sheesh. “I may not know much O’Donnel…despite you telling me I’m a walking repository for shit-knows-what-… I still think I’m being kept in the dark about this…but like, I know that when you say ‘Harry was‘, you’re talking in the past. Past as in gone. As in dead. Am I right?”
“Well, let’s just say…”
“Fuck it O’Donnel no! No! Let’s not just ‘say’! Right? Just for once let’s talk straight, ok? Now answer me with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’. I don’t give a flying who-knows-what-kinda-duck about whether Harry was a failure to comply with some weird proto-shitoid-whatever, or whether you simply didn’t like the way he combed his hair but will you please, for once in your life, just tell me straight. Did you kill him?”
There’s a long pause. For once I can’t tell what O’Donnel is thinking, because for once it’s not writ in glowing neon across his face. Somehow this one makes him keep his face as cold as stone. Eventually he speaks.
“Yes, Shem, I killed Harry.” It sounds like a confession. But I’m in no mood to play the part of the forgiving priest, or whatever.
“You killed him. Right. Harry. You just wiped him out because…shit I have no idea why…”
“I was protecting you Shem…”
“…don’t get in my way O’Donnel,” I carry on, sheesh I’m getting all warmed up here with the way he squirms around the truth of it. “Just don’t. But you killed Harry and try to sell it to me as some kind of business procedure? Man, you’re so full of shit it’s a wonder you can even walk straight. What was he going to do to me O’Donnel? Hey, I bet you can’t even tell me that straight. Right? What was so scary about Harry that you had to put him out of the picture. Oh, no, wait wait, I’ve got it. I think you killed Harry because you were worried he was going to tell me the truth, right? The truth about your protocol and…and all this shit, am I right?” Man I’m steaming now and I walk right up to the finely dressed gentleman and stare him right in the kisser. “Am I right?”
“Yes, Shem. You’re right. As usual. You’re right.” I roll away, holding my guts and stare at the cold white floor.
“Man I hate it when I know shit like this! Don’t ask me how I know it, but man, I’m really beginning to hate it. All of it!” And all of a sudden I’m crying. Crying like a baby. I don’t know how that burning inside me turns to water but all of a sudden it does and I’m crying like a baby and kneeling on the floor, rocking myself backwards and forwards. Harry, the room, the feelings of all those people out there somewhere, the shock, it all comes up to my throat and starts pouring out through my eyes. For who knows how long I can’t see or hear anything except my own grief and the tearing, choking and spluttering coming from my chest and throat.
Eventually it slows but I’m still on the floor, sniffling like a two-year old. I hear O’Donnel’s voice from behind me, soft and hesitant.
“Was I wrong? What I did to Harry? Was that wrong Shem?”
There’s nothing to say. His words seem a million miles away from what I’m feeling. Sheesh. How can this guy be asking me this? I close my eyes and hold myself with both arms, like willing myself to be back in the room. Back where it all started. When things were simple.
So I’m on the floor there and from somewhere in my mind I see the girl. Y’know? The one who brought me the food. I see her face, right there in front of me. Like, I almost reach out to see if she’s there, it’s so real. But this time she’s smiling, right? How do I know what that looks like? Man, this just gets weirder. But I know that’s how she looks when she smiles, right? Now don’t ask me how I know, I just do.
Schmuck I may be, but thinking of that smile starts to slow my tears and I begin to unravel myself. I can’t hear O’Donnel any more. My hands fall to my sides and I kneel there, letting my breath slow to a more normal pace. Is O’Donnel still there? Before I can look round for him I hear the door click open and a pair of heels coming across the crisp floor towards me. Not more than a few steps and I know it’s Felicity. I can smell the perfume.
Naturally, thinking of Felicity continues the spread of that goodly warm glow and I’m kinda looking forward to seeing that big smile as I look up. Somewhere inside me I’m kinda expecting a warm hug. Don’t ask me how I know but I know it’s going to feel good.
But Felicity isn’t smiling.
She’s holding some kind of a steel tube in her hand. She points it at me. There’s a bright flash and I’m in darkness.
To be continued…
(If you think this is too Sci-Fi have a look at this article –
Dear reader – do you have a suggestion for the next chapter? Perhaps a plot idea? Or maybe you just want to tell me to stop! Whatever, drop me a comment! You may find it used in the next chapter!
‘Til next time,