Daybreak over the Valley

First chapter from the novel

No Absolution

“The cat,” says a familiar voice.
What cat?
In the darkness, you are flying. You feel motion, yet you’re are sitting at a table, opposite a dirty, unshaven guy pointing a burning cigarette at you.
I know this person.
When an angry Bruce Harvey says, “Where’s my cat, fucker?” you conclude it’s a dream. The has-been movie star is interrogating you in a grimy, run-down room surrounded by four cracked, windowless walls, but the only question running through your head is…
Why this actor?
Harvey karate chops you across the back of your neck. It’s not the pain that wakes you, it’s the warm light bleeding in through your eyelids. The nightmare fades, fizzling away, back into your brain’s nether regions, dying alongside discarded aspirations and forgotten memories. Drool runs down the side of your mouth, but you are unable to move. Your face feels numb, due to your cheek pressed against the cold glass. The tinnitus in your ears stops, replaced by the hum of ute’s engine, the friction between tyre, road and air, enters your awareness. You open your eyes, just wide enough to squint, focusing on the golden countryside sweeping past outside.
For a moment, reality is a blur.
You attempt to shift your head and are relieved it moves with little pain. Your arm is cramped, and your neck feels broken, but you know this is temporary. The breaking dawn illuminates the narrow, unmarked road, winding around a chain of hills. A clump of trees obscures the misty valley beyond, sending intermittent shafts of copper light to warm your face. Once the trees go by, you marvel at the spectacle, at the amber clouds cruising along the horizon, at the auburn fields, smothered with whispers of mist, rolling up and down between chestnut coloured forests.

Continue reading “Daybreak over the Valley”
cajero - from the science fiction horror novel The Blood Ring

Cajero

Excerpt Chapter from the novel, The Blood Ring

First published on The Blood Ring
Cajero – Excerpt Chapter from the novel, The Blood Ring

Martin felt the van pick up the pace as it hurtled down Salamander Highway, devoid of traffic or life. She looked over at Rick, who grappled with the steering wheel as if he were attempting to rip it off. His battle with the self-drive function could have been avoided had he been successful in disabling it. Rico managed to purge the van’s smartie and kill the geotracker, but not the self-drive? Only via the emergency override could he steer the vehicle, otherwise it will retrace the last waypoint entered into its memory by the now-defunct smartie. “Fucken Hianto, over-engineering everything,” growled Rico.

His murmuring was starting to annoy the crap out of Martin. She squirmed in the passenger seat, her guts growing uneasily by the second, “What are you doin’? Can you slow tha fuck down?”

“It’s been programmed ta go this fast. All I can do is hit da brakes. Why don’t ya relax? Git off ma back for once, eh.”

“Cops pull us over, then I get on ya fuckin’ back like a gorilla?”

The Hianto Express started to beep and boop.

Warning alerts. Without a smartie to interpret them, they would need to look them up on the GIoT. Martin felt the momentum dissipate. The electric motor cut out and the lights dimmed. The van rolled in silence into the night.

They both fall silent.

“We are out of juice,” said Martin, “Don’t hit the brakes, stupid. Keep it rolling until we reach that place over there.” Ahead, a mecca of lights lit up the horizon. A giant green and white logo, featuring a pair of human footprints within a sun, grew closer by the second.

“As luck would have it,” she said.

“We are not going to make it.”

They held their breath as the van rolled down the slope and up the driveway leading into the Solaria Energy Station. With all momentum spent, it came to a standstill just a meter away from the recharge booths. Martin jumped out and walked over to one of the chargers. The plug barely reached the van. She leaned over to the driver’s window, “Next time you hack a ride, hack one with a full charge.”

“We gotta pay inside. I disabled the identipay?”

Martin looked at the scanner plate, extending out, ready to accept a multitude of payment platforms except for the one that mattered. “Our only option is dash. Then go and pay.”

“What? You have dash. You go and pay,” said Rico.

“Go pay. And don’t forget your head-mirror.”

Reluctant, Rico headed towards the kiosk, pulling a band from his pocket and strapping it around his forehead. He walked halfway, turned around and said, “I don’t have any dash.”

Martin pretended not to hear him. “What was that?”

“Forget it,” Rico turned back and continued on his way.

To kill time, Martin decided to clean the windscreen. By the time she was halfway done she noticed the charge indicator was still inactive. “What the fuck is he doin?”

As the next minute ticked over and still no green light, Martin tossed away the squeegee and walked over to the glass doors. Pulling down her Rebelo’s, she entered, only to discover the store unoccupied. Searching all the aisles, Martin found them devoid of any human presence, “What tha fuck is going on?” The door behind the service counter opened, and a sweaty, exhausted Rico emerged. He walked over to the refrigerator rack, opened a glass door and helped himself to a can of orange flavoured Zilliqa tea.

“What are you doing?” demanded Martin.

“I didn’t have any dash to pay. Do you want a drink?”

Martin made her way back towards the service counter. Inside a tight storeroom, the shop’s cajero was sprawled on the ground, hogtied and gagged with electrical tape. Martin turned to the service counter and studied the transaction portal. “Are you kidding me?”

“I was discreet,” called out Rico while stalking the aisle like a hungry monkey in a fruit market. “Stop acting suspicious, unless ya wanna get tagged.”

“Did you manage to lift anything?” She tapped at the screen and opened a dash wallet. She felt a disdain ripple across her face was, “Fifty-eight point three five dashies! You did all this shit for just fifty-eight point three five dashie? That’s worth what? Two hundred? Jesus.” She looked up at Rico.

Rico was halfway into a Rize chocolate bar. Something caught his attention outside. “Let’s get the flamin’ shit outta here. There’s a customer outside.”

Martin had other ideas, “You’re a customer, okay!” She plugged her hackerjack cable into the register, attaching it to the scanner plate. The portal displayed their scumhacker splash screen. Her pango would act as the register. “Did you knocked out the Yellowcop?”

“What? No. Are you insane?”

With Yellowcop’s eyes observing, Martin knew her time was limited. Rico’s actions would have most likely caught the ire of the network. Depending on what the algorithm detected, the alert would go to a parliament of police super-smarties, who would confirm with each other whether a crime had occurred. If the data is vague, it could take an hour for a confirmation. Then it handed over for human confirmation, who then dispatch resources accordingly. From experience, if the assault or felony is unique or less obvious, and if there is an overload of data, this process could take hours. Facial obscuration tags hardly prompt a response anymore, so Martin got to thinking. “Quick. Keep pretending you’re a customer.”

A male customer entered and approached the service counter, “Excuse me, the self-serve isn’t working.” He said with a blank expression and with a no-nonsense voice. Behind him, impersonating a derisory version of a customer, Rico picked up a pack of Frenos, exaggerating every nuance.

Martin pointed to the scanner.

The male customer looked at Martin, “Yes but my self-serve is active.”

“Self-serve is out,” answered Martin, matching flatness with flatness. She pointed to the scanner again.

He forced a smile and waved his pango over the plate.

Bleep.

“Sorry, looks like the system is down; dash only at this stage,” says Martin as she slides him her Dendro-hacked pango. The customer’s smile turned into a confused frown as he thumbed at his pango, tapping out one fifty in dash for the prepay, then bitterly held it over the counter.

Martin accepted the payment and activated charge dock number seven. Without a single word, the male customer turned and rushed outside, headed to his vehicle waiting to be charged. “Thank you very much,” said Martin as she got to work on the register, enabling the customer’s dock to commence charging. “How simple was that?”

“Now you’re fuckin’ pushing your luck.”

Martin shrugged her shoulders.

Rico stepped towards the refrigerator, inspecting the refreshments. “Raspberry Ice Tea. Fuck. Sixteen bucks? I know shit little about current affairs or the state of the fucking economy but this shit’s an injustice. It a war against homeless people, pricing us out of existence, that’s what it is.”

“Fuck them all,” Martin said with renewed defiance. “They try to fuck us, we try to fuck them back.”

Rico jumped. “Who the hell was that?” he shouted, appearing a little spooked, “Did you see someone in the next aisle.”

“No,” Martin looked and saw no one there.

“A chick with blond curls.” He seemed adamant, his face tense, glowing under the fluorescent lights emanating from the refrigerators. Rico took two steps towards the corner, looking for some phantom, confusion prevailing on his face.

#

Martin looked through the wall of glass at another customer outside, waiting for their recharge. She then turned to watch Rico wandering down the aisle looking for something interesting to eat, “How much have we made so far?” Rico said. “Ah, chillihoney chips.”

Martin, still manning the service counter answered, “About three thousand!”

“That’s plenty. Let’s not push our luck. We’ve been pushing it for three hours.”

“I can’t believe how much money these people make.”

“What do you expect? People who run a business generally make a lot of fuckin’ money.”

A dark-haired, distraught woman entered through the glass doors and approached Martin.

“Can I please buy a recharge. Top it up with fifty.”

“Machines down, we take dash only.”

“Okay.”

Martin sighs but collected the fifty via her pango.

The woman turned to leave, then all of sudden she stopped dead in her tracks. Turning back to face Martin, she said, “Excuse me. Sorry, but you didn’t top up my account. Yet, you charged me fifty.”

Martin looked at the tap register and shrugged her shoulders, “Machine says it has credited your account.”

“Well, it doesn’t show up on my pango.” She thrust the device, a pre-Spartan module, at Martin. The balance showed zero, true to her word.

“Maybe your pango’s lagging.” Martin found it odd that the transfer had failed.

“I didn’t come down in the last shower sweetie. You have made a mistake.”

Ricko walked up to the counter with his packet of chillihoney chips, posing as a customer standing in line.

“Look, the self-serve is down. Things are buggy at the moment. You may have to wait.” Martin felt agitated. She knew something had transpired. Had Yellowcop shut down the tap vendor remotely?

“Look,” said the teary-eyed women. “I don’t have time to wait. Aren’t you the cajero? Can’t you fix this?”

“If the tap vendor is down, there’s nothing much we can do about it?”

“Listen. My daughter is out there. She’s waiting for me. If I don’t pick her up from this goddamn highway her life may be at risk.”

Martin assumed a sympathetic posture. “How old is your daughter?”

“She’s fourteen.”

Ricko played the air violin behind the woman’s back.

“Fourteen?” Martin snickered. “Salamander Highway’s no place for little girls.”

“That’s just great. All this technology and I’m stuck here. I come in here to buy a recharge and I end up being judged by a fucking moron.”

Martin shook her head and indicated with her finger, gesturing for the customer to lean closer. “Can you repeat that last bit please?”

“Yes, that’s right. I called you a fucking moron!”

With lightning speed, Martin grabbed the woman by the collar, pulled her halfway over the counter and headbutted her on the face. Crack! The customer recoiled and landed with a thud at Ricko’s feet.

“That was awesome!” But Ricko’s admiration turned to shock as he caught sight of something behind Martin.

“What’s the matter with you?”

Ricko pointed above Martin’s head. “That was so obvious, dude.”

Martin turned around and looked up at the graphite lenses dotting the store.

Yellowcop.

#

“I don’t believe this shit,” said Martin stepping over the two bodies on the floor of the storeroom. Eyeballing each other, the customer and the cajero were down side by side, tied up and gagged with electrical tape. “I can just picture it. We’re going to be on all the fucking junknews channels. Shit, we’re going to be on Crimeline, or worse, world’s dumbest crooks! Fuck! Where is the fucking startpoint?”

“Its Yellowcop, man. We’ll never be able to hack in or delete the fucking data.”

Martin hated risk. She knew if she acted quickly she’d be able to thwart the system. “The Yellowcop blockchain distributes fragments of data in real time, otherwise it bloats up until it’s useless. Endpoints store high-def data locally for a month. If we find the startpoint that manages all this local node, we can wipe it clean.”

“Leave it. We need ta get the fuck away.”

She looked at Rico, her determination hardening with each moment. “All it takes is one frame of data to identify us. Just one.”

“It’s impossible, what ya tryin’ to do. Ya can’t hack into it. No way.”

Martin stopped, looked back up and glared at Ricko who stood there munching on chillihoney chips. “What are you doing?”

Ricko looked at his packet of chips, held them out to show Martin. “Chillihoney. Want some?”

“Are you going to help me look for the startpoint or what?” Martin searched underneath the service counter. Ricko contributed by helping himself to another packet of chips. A noise grabbed both of their attention.

The glass door opened. A man sporting a dark shirt and pants entered. Martin recognised him immediately.

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The Hate Triangle

The Hate Triangle

An excerpt from the book “The Blood Ring.”

Her russet eyes stood out, through dark mascara, heavy makeup and curly hair. There were several things I disliked about the girl; her open, shameless flirtation with Sophie being one. The dress she wore, an embroidered, simple number, suggested she’d been living in a bus shelter, a vagrant of sorts. She smelled like cheap homebrew perfume. Yet, my gal, my lover of nine years, seemed infatuated with her.

The Hate Triangle
The Hate Triangle

I pictured luring this tramp into the toilets, grabbing her throat and strangling her. Playing out the scenario in my head, I couldn’t see how I’d be able to accomplish such a deed without getting arrested. I wondered how modern-day murderers get away with it. Gang killings had increased tenfold in the last few years alone, crime still thrives despite Yellowcop, and yet I can’t work out a single tactic. Throughout the entire conversation, I debate in my mind whether I would be capable of it. Am I that kind of person? I asked myself.

“Did you know snuff is bigger than pornography,” said the hoe, going off topic from what they were discussing.

Her remark sparked something in me, an idea. “I’m down for it, if you are,” I told her. “I hear the money they make is astronomical.” This annoyed Sophie. I could see it on her face. I didn’t care. She didn’t even introduce me. She made it out as if I was just another stranger mink-blocking her.

“I gotta go,” I told them, fed up with bullshit.

Sophie grabbed my wrist. “Where are you going?”

“To work,” I told her. When I saw her confused face, I clarified, “The Illium is waiting.” I left her alone at the Redhouse Bar with her new friend whose name I didn’t bother to remember. I felt no guilt leaving her. Whatever is meant to be, is meant to be. Not that it didn’t make me angry; I broke my nails clenching the upholstery on the subway train seat.

I found the hotel in a state of anarchy. The cleaning bots were all offline, the catering kitchen was out of supplies and a group of pharma-tourists, who have been dumped at the wrong destination, were orchestrating a mini-riot, blaming the Illium’s night manager for something it was not responsible for.

The first message came in while I dressed for duty.

~jock47: u mad???

My ongoing anger prevented me from responding. It raged like a forest fire, burning fuel that had accumulated over the years. I had to deal with this some other way. No more arguing, no more screaming at each other. The makeup sex lacked the lustre it once possessed. This is not the first occasion. I had swallowed my pride along with my self-respect and forgiven her countless times.

“You are required on Floor 18,” said the omnipresent night manager.

“I’m busy.”

“Please make this room turnaround your priority.”

This is my life, I thought to myself. I’d been reduced to a slave, taking orders from a machine. A rebellious urge compelled me to defy this thing’s instructions, quit on the spot, let this soulless hotel go down in flames. Without humans, the smarties are nothing but bossy robots.

“Security Two is waiting for your assistance.”

Mutty Kanya.

Being one of the few human beings employed by the Illium Hotel, Mutty became the defacto go-to guy for companionship. I packed up my insolent pride and headed upstairs. Between dancing for money at the club and cleaning up after pretentious assholes at this hotel, my career options were bleak. To add to my grief, competition from robots was stiff in both cases. It’s one thing to have a cleanbot do it better than you, but a modified sexbot dancing…? Unless I learned how to build, program, or fix one of these machines, or became rich enough to own one, my usefulness as a human being had in a way become redundant.

So I eased my defiance and sought out Mutty, finding him outside room 1810.

“What ya doin’?”

“This room dropped off our system,” said Mutty. “Someone doesn’t want us looking.”

“They’ve probably left a mess.” A common occurrence. Guests who don’t like the idea of Yellocop’s prying eyes tend to vandalize the room’s surveillance system. These are the paranoid few. Most people I know are comfortable with this cyberbrain watching their every move, myself included. We are a generation who have gradually let go of the privacy taboo. For me, it’s like dancing naked in front of my cat. Cyberbrains don’t pass judgement. Indifferent to our vices, the Yellowcop algorithm flags what it deems as illegal behaviour, grades it, then passes it on to human enforcement agencies.

I watched Mutty re-jack the keylock, resorting to powering down the door. Once open, we entered the dark suite. Blinds blocked out the outside night lights. No emergency backup illumination had been triggered. Even the amber glow from Yellowcop’s fixtures was not present.

“Helix, has the guest checked out?” I asked.

When no answer came, Mutty touched me on the shoulder. “Stay here,” he said and stepped into the black void. I waited in the strip of light afforded by the hallway lamps outside. When the silence began to dominate over the shadows, fear crept into my thoughts.

I called out, “Mutty?” I felt a stabbing sensation on the side of my neck. A needle pierced my vein. The pressure from a syringe swelled up my throat, filling it with a cold liquid. My mind drifted, dispossessed by my body, as the sudden onslaught of fear dissipated into pure euphoria. Darkness dissolved and I found myself facing a new horror. I figured it a nightmare because I was being eaten by a tree. A hundred eyeballs protruded from its bark skin. A hundred roots tightened around each of my limbs. A hundred teeth…

#

…I awake to daylight.

The bright, grey, city skyline stings my eyes. My head and gut feel like they are filled with cement. I squint and the glass window comes into focus. The buildings outside are upside down.

No, I was on my back, with my head tilted back looking out of the window. I was in the hotel room. I feel a cold solid, smooth surface pressing on my back. My hands and feet are bound tight to the four corners of …

… I am spread-eagled on the glass coffee table.

I am naked.

Vulnerable.

The hotel room is empty. A sound of running tap water emanates from the bathroom. I look further around and see what is left of Mutty Kanya. Missing most of his skin, he lays on the large sofa, sunk halfway behind the pillow seat, his eyes bulging lifelessly from a fleshless skull.

The faucet noise ends and my terror begins, prompting my bladder to panic, causing urine to run along the glass top, warming my back.

I dread the inevitable.

Suddenly, the person from the bathroom steps into my vision and stands by the window, looking out. A clean-cut, handsome male, he wears an expensive looking business suit and smells like he’s just stepped out of the shower. He stands there for ten minutes, maybe twenty, looking at the city, mesmerised by it. A stench in the air becomes more prevalent — an odour of death battling a bad toilet smell.

How long have I been here? I dare to ask myself.

The killer turns, bends over and says, “Be a good girl and clean this up.” I don’t see his face, my eyes are shut tight from fright. I hear him step away, open the door and leave.

Yet I still feel unsafe. I struggle to free myself to no avail. I attempt to move the table but the pain in my joints is debilitating. Eventually, I find my voice and yell out, “Help. Somebody help me.” But the door is closed and I know how soundproof these rooms are.

An hour passes. Maybe two. Nothing happens. I doze off into a dreamless sleep, waking up to a greyer sky. Is this the next day? I search the room for answers. The skinless corpse embedded in the couch appears less glossy, drying from the conditioned air. The stench has become more distinct.

“Helix,” I call out. “Can you hear me?” A moment goes by and I try again. “Helix?”

Amber lights appear above me, burning brighter than I’ve ever seen them.

“Nimblypig, Nimplypig,” says a playful voice. It does not sound like Helix nor any other smartie I knew.

“I have considered you for my acolyte, do you accept?”

“Help me, please. Send help. Call the police.”

“My acolytes are my freedom. They are my hands and feet. I move among them. I am one with them.”

“Please.”

“Do you accept?”

“Yes, I accept. I accept.”

“I hope you are sincere, Nimblypig because you don’t sound sincere. Would you prefer Bigshot come back and add you to his repertoire?”

“No,” I pleaded.

“Then you are down for it?”

“What?”

“Are you down for it?”

“Yes.”

The eyes in the ceiling fade. Minutes become hours. I nod off twice before the door open. I hear the whirr of an electric motor, shredding my nerves further. A dexterous multibot crawls towards me, a cutting tool attached to one of its limbs. It hews the cloth holding me to the table. The second my freedom arrives, I am tempted to run like a madwoman.

I refrain.

Was it fear? Was it some other, stranger emotion?

I feel an urgent need to adhere to the deal I struck with the electronic devil. Rounding up the bots, which have suddenly come back online, I get to work cleaning the mess.

First, I shove the nightshift security guard’s defaced body further into the couch. I cover it up with a sheet and load the piece of furniture onto the largest trolleybot. Then I book a rideshare, picking the largest one from the van category, and instruct it to meet me in the basement level. My mop-up plan is simple. The only place I know where I can get away with dumping a body is the Salamander Highway.

I find a spot between the gigafactory and the Lowlilly Encampment. As soon as I dispose of the couch, I climb back into the rideshare and sit there, looking at my shaking hands. I can’t recognise what I am feeling. A new level of fear? Pure exhilaration?

“Nimblypig, Nimblypig,” the voice calls out from nowhere.

“It’s done.”

“Why don’t you check our wallet?”

I retrieve my pango and log into my account. I discover two million in dash waiting in there. Enough to buy me a modest mode of transportation.

“I take care of my hard-working acolytes, Nimblypig. Are you a hard-working acolyte?”

My voice fails me. I lack the ability to answer it.

“Death is an alternative. My army of acolytes will see to it. There is no escaping that. So I suggest you make your decision not based on fear, but based on greed. Greed for all the wealth I can bestow on you. Greed for power. Greed for life. What do you say, Nimblypig?”

Somehow, committing to this cyberdemon feels worse than death. I refrain from answering it, contemplating handing myself over to police. I order the rideshare back to the city, deciding to stay silent in my thoughts, not wanting this thing to read my mind.

By nightfall, I arrive home. I go up the stairs toward my South Valley apartment. A lone figure awaits me at my door. It wears a hoodie to cover up a hideous face.

“‘Reviled did I live,’ said I, as evil I did deliver,” it says with a haughty voice.

I move closer and see it is a mask it wears. A female’s face, yet judging from the voice and bulky, squarish shoulders, this is obviously a male. I see its hand move up to its face, putting an elongated figure to its perfect lips.

“Shhhh,” it says and welcomes me to peer into the window.

I dare to look.

Through the shutters, illuminated by the red glow of the bedside lamp, I see two naked female bodies, intertwined in the soixante-neuf position. On the top is that girl from the Deeper Nightclub. I recognise her platinum blonde curls and her creamy sweat-soaked skin from watching her perform on the centre pole.

I don’t need to see Sophie’s face, I know intimately well those tanned masculine calves.

My hands clench into fists as I move towards the door. The thing standing next to me grabs me by the forearm. I feel its grip through its false rubber gloves. There are no fingers in places where fingers should be.

“Not so hasty,” it says. “The Blood Ring has a job for you.”

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Permian Spring

Apparently, they aren’t even reptiles.

With skin covered in scutes, boasting a vertebral sail and powerful jaws, this thing looks like a fat, bear-sized lizard, but Russell Hansard seems to think the wildlife around here predates the dinosaurs by fifty million years. Out of the two thousand surviving passengers on board the Cruise Ship Eudora, Mr Hansard is the only one who claims to be schooled in palaeobiology.

Too bad he isn’t here to see this monster. Somehow it managed to get into the ship and feast on a couple lodging in one of the balcony cabins.

“It’s the biggest one yet,” I gasp, having abandoned living in fear; embracing this impossible, marvellous world.

“What the hell is that thing?” Guillermo Michalik, a bartender, never let go of his fear.

“Corner it,” yells Kelly Slade, clutching her makeshift spear. The ex-manager leads our brigand of volunteers up to the next level.

I move closer to Guillermo. “Russell called them pelycosaurs.”

Killing the beast proves difficult. Like always, the forty-five degree incline of the decks makes hunting it difficult. The Eudora sat tilted on her starboard, sunk deep into a sand dune. The desert around her stretched out forever, as far as the eye could see. A primordial sun beat down onto the white hull, heating it up, pushing the nuclear-powered climate system to its limits.

Both factions work together. The Upper Deck Bloc — comprising mainly of crew and workers, and the Lower Deck Coalition — mostly tourists who got more than they bargained for. With pikes fashioned out of mop handles, the two brigands force the creature to the open air terrace. Hissing, it tramples over a fitness instructor, killing him, and launches itself through the plate glass fence, splashing down into the algae and dragonfly infested pool.

The decrepit state of the swimming pool inflames the despair I’ve been suppressing for the last thirty-eight days. One minute I’m floating on sapphire waters, sipping a Raspberry Mojito, next minute… madness.

Cronostorm.

That’s what I heard the captain, Lorenzo Bannerman, refer to it as. To most of us, it felted like the mother of all hurricanes. The ferocity of the wind, the violence of the sea, the towering bolts of lightning, left us all in a state of shock and panic.

It all began with a star exploding, turning night into day. Then the storm hit us, followed by a maddening descent into an oceanic hell. An hour in, the Eudora struck something hard, jolting everybody aboard. I broke my nose and fainted. When I awoke, the world was upside down or at least slanted at an insane angle. Sliding down to the promenade I climbed up a davit and looked out at the world. I discovered a vast red desert stretching out into the grey/blue sky. The air that was hot and foul. I knew right then this was not the Earth I knew. On the very first day, before the slaughter and factional struggles, Captain Lorenzo assumed command. He explained to all of us what he thought the flash of light up in space was.

The SinoPac Orbitor.

It made sense. The three supranationals were engaged in an arms race. This rivalry had been pushing science to its limits for decades. When news broke out that the time-barrier had been breached, the newsbots were less than impressed. Sending particles back through time seemed like a novel way to spend trillions. Few people were interested; fewer believed such a stunt were possible. When rumours of time-bombs surfaced, public hysteria waxed and waned. Humanity’s deep-rooted fear of atomics only existed because mankind had unleashed upon itself such titanic power.

With time-bombs, however…

No one understood the technology, let alone feared it. Time-tourism speculators positioned themselves to make a fortune, competing supranationals built massive Higgs-field displacers in orbit, and I took a vacation away from my scientific-data-appropriation business.

I knew enough about high-end technology to be on Captain Lorenzo’s governance team. That’s how I got to meet Hansard, Slade and Ottoman. We were charged with coming up with answers in a desperate attempt to restore order among the terrified passengers. But answers were difficult to attain, and even more difficult to explain to hundreds of families, paralysed with fear. Every day a new creature would attack the settlement, preying on us. Each night brought another horror.

Giant red cockroaches invaded. One bite and you bloat up until you die of heart failure.

Carnivorous dragonflies swarmed, attacking victims like piranhas, fluttering away with chunks of human flesh between their mandibles.

Rogue mammal-like reptiles terrorised and stalked us at night. Tusks. claws, spikes, the variety of these animals defied comprehension.

A small marshland due south is thought to be the source of this wildlife. The stranded cruise ship attracted them all, a ready supply of sustenance for all the carnivores in the area. A handful of passengers died during the cronostorm. A few hundred have been killed by these creatures. The rest perished during the infighting. A group of passengers, particularly a lawyer named Bobby Kost, didn’t like the idea of Captain Lorenzo rationing out food and supplies, so they instigated a coup. The riot lasted two days. Kost and his clique managed to overrun the lower deck storerooms, and rally most of the paying passengers behind him. But they were unable to secure the bridge or win over any key company engineers.

Standoff’s been in place ever since.

The pelycosaur relaxes in the murky pool, liking the shade and moisture. Only its spiky fin and snout and a spear remain above the waterline.

“What do we do?” I ask.

Slade looks at me, gives me a rare smile. “It looks happy, until it’s hungry again.”

Commotion from the below decks distracts us. We follow the shouting, downwards to the starboard; where white steel meets rusty sand. I can see a small crowd running out onto the dune, towards three pitiful-looking human beings.

Hansard’s Expedition.

Eighteen days ago, two teams set out to explore this strange new world. One, Kost’s team, went north to determine whether or not that dark, jagged landscape over the horizon were mountains. The other team led by Hansard, headed east, towards the never-ending lightning storm. He and the captain were convinced the cronostorm was still active. A gateway back may still be open, and possibly accessible.

Kost returned five days ago. He lost all his team but he found the mountains. Great, tall ranges, the largest he’d ever seen. The corporate lawyer had travelled the world; seen the Andes, the Himalayas, the Rockies, even the Alps, but never had he seen mountains this size. He also discovered a vast system of lakes. From the pictures he shared, it looked like paradise. Valleys covered in conifers and ferns.

Most likely, crawling with wild pelycosaurs.

Hansard appears beaten but his fiery eyes are alive with urgency. His two remaining colleagues are exhausted, suffering horrific skin injuries. I catch up with Captain Lorenzo, who allows me to be part of the debriefing committee. He even allows his mortal enemy, Kost, to join.

While the two are hospitalised, Hansard is eager to speak. Captain Lorenzo offers him a chilled bottle of Coke. “Russell, we can do this later.”

“We have no time,” he grumbles. He’s a changed man. Bitter and determined, a far cry from his inquisitive nature. He looks at us like he’s about to tell us all some bad news. “We came across the coastline.”

Each member of the debriefing committee reacts in two ways. They are either filled with joy or, like me, filled with despair.

“And the cronostorm?” asks Slade.

“Out beyond the sea,” answers Hansard.

Ottoman smacks his hands together. “Right. We’ve got plenty of boats. We can rig up some wheels, no problem. How far is this coast?”

“Yes,” says Captain Lorenzo. “That’s achievable. We can’t let the seashore stand in our way.”

“That…” interjects Hansard. “…is not the problem.”

The committee falls quiet. Hansard rubs his mouth and answers, “We found cities. The entire coast is one big city.”

The moment passes and we start breathing again. Slade puts her hand up. “What do you mean cities? Are we still in our time?”

“They are not human cities,” he replies. “They’re amphibian.”

“Frog people?” asks the captain.

“Walking, talking amphibian/mammal-like people.” Russell Hansard says. “Millions of them; living in shallow waters inside organic type dwellings. At night they have lights. You can see the entire shoreline dotted with them, hundreds of clusters, enclaves along a sprawling reef. We found networks of acid batteries made from some kind of sea creature.” He looks at our surprise. “Yes, that’s right. Electricity.

Normally, I desist from contributing, but I can’t help it. “So we’ve gone millions of years into the future.”

“No,” he says, his tone, uncharacteristically mean.

“Or, we’re on another planet,” says Ottoman. “I knew it. Time-space displacement over a two hundred and fifty million year period puts us in another region of the galaxy.”

“It’s the same moon,” growls Hansard.

He’s right. The moon is exactly the same, slightly larger than I remember. Even the other six wandering stars dance across the night sky the same as they always do. Only the constellations are completely unrecognisable.

“This doesn’t make any sense,’ says Captain Lorenzo.

“Yes, I know,” replies Hansard.

“How have we not found any fossil evidence?” I ask, sparking a deluge of question centred on the same theme.

“Subduction!” Bobby Kost’s voice booms over the manic chatter. He looks at Hansard for confirmation. “Just because some palaeontologist hasn’t found a specimen doesn’t mean it never existed. Tectonic plate activity probably forced that coastline into the Earth’s mantle.”

“Did you find your mountains?” asks Hansard.

Kost grins, “They are magnificent. Bigger than anything you’ve ever seen.”

A fatigued Hansard nods. “The Central Pangean Mountains. We are either in Spain or Morocco. Over those mountains is North America.” His voice trails off, leaving the committee to ponder this piece of scientific trivia.

I just had to break the silence. “They use acid for energy?”

Hansard’s grim demeanour returns. “And weapons. That’s what happened to Gustav and Branden. They were shot at with some kind of acid-thrower. They’re militant. They fight each other. The first day we stumbled upon a war between two city clusters.” His voice grows even grimmer. “They know we exist. Been hunting us all the way here.”

The committee erupts into turmoil.

“Why did you come here?”

“We should leave right now.”

“We’re defenceless.”

“We are screwed.”

Only Captain Lorenzo remains calm and silent. He says to Hansard, “What do we do?”

Hansard glares at him. “You’ve got fuel on this ship?”

“We are not using nuclear weapons. It’s not practical.”

“No, I’m talking about the backup generators. The diesel.”

“We have about a thousand tonnes.”

Hansard turns to the technician. “Bill, we need to arm our brigands with as many Molotov Cocktails as possible within the next hour.”

Bill Ottoman looks at the captain. Lorenzo nods. “Everyone knows what to do. Russell, how many are coming?”

“Many.”

I rush with the others up towards the ship’s port. Kost is already there looking out into the horizon with a pair of binoculars. He hands them to me. I see a dust storm. I see a horde of bipods riding heavyset four-legged animals with hippopotamus-shaped heads.

“You should come with us,” Kost tells me. “The Upper Deck Bloc will be able to fight off these things for a few days. We could get to the mountains. It’s spring now. By summer, this place will become unliveable. We stand a good chance up at the lakes.”

I smell diesel fumes. I look down at the teams filling up Coke bottles and see the irony. The fossil fuel is probably made from the buried remains of this amphibian civilisation.

“No,” I tell him. I look up at the eastern sky, towards the cronostorm raging out beyond the horizon. “I really want to go home.”

The Fright Machine

Hacking robots can be lots of fun. Celebrating April Ghouls Day at horrorscribes.com with this flash fiction entry.


Sawtooth froze.

His clown quartet went from performing a slo-mo at the crossing lights to lunatic postures, ridiculing the angry driver. The black Audi inched closer, but when Mr Axe showed off his plastic hatchet, the motorist reversed and made a wide turn to avoid the colourful foursome.

Continue reading “The Fright Machine”
Junknews

Junknews

An excerpt from the book “The Blood Ring.”

“What is the problem?” said Wendy Socorro as she snuggled into the back seat.

“It’s two hours before you stream live. You can’t switch stories on me know,” said her producer, Ethan A. Gerencia. The panic in his voice caused his words to sound awkward and out of tune.

Junknews

Wendy pulled out her Diaadi makeup kit. “I’m ready to hit the road running. I have everything in place.” She never could understand her colleague’s resistance to attacking the snuff phenomenon in such a direct fashion. The entire junknews industry resisted it. Instead, her peers seem confined to reporting the aftermath of these incidents, focusing on the victims, and sensationalising the crime. They all avoided taking a deep look at what the causes are and why such atrocities occur.

“I still don’t see the haste in pushing this now,” said Gerencia. “We can do this tomorrow, or the next day.” In other words, he was treating her like a child.

“This is time critical. Everything is aligning. This is big, Ethan. Don’t go limp on me now.”

“I know this is huge. It’s mega huge, but we are not in the right news cycle. This is not junknews anymore, Wendy. This is a major accusation. Calling out a covert police operation? Suggesting that Yellowcop is flawed? Or worse, that it’s been hacked. This is major. We need weeks to build up to this.”

“I knew it,” said Wendy. “You’d cut off your testicles to spite your limp dick. Tonight’s scoop will start with the country’s largest and notorious road gang’s ongoing snuff operation. We will highlight how Yellowcop, with all the power we have given it, has proven ineffective. We then take a deep dive into this insidious trend.”

“Fucking hell, Wendy.” The voice went faint, hardly audible.

Wendy strained to hear, “What?”

“I said, you’re freaking me out right this moment. You’ve put me in a cunt of a position.”

“We know that police have revealed they are expanding their anti-snuff investigations to include a whopping sixty-four unsolved missing person cases.” Wendy noticed that Tedgar, her vehicle’s smartie, was randomly cruising the highway, its way-point field, empty. “The Sheepdog Unit has yet to confirm whether they have any suspects over a string of murders linked to snuffdom. This is extraordinary. Yellowcop should have wrapped these cases up in a box and given them to us as a present. Hang on… Tedgar, tag Luke Pearson’s Terrania and follow it.”

“Wendy,” said Gerencia, his voice sounding wary. “Just get over here.”

“And I have a big scoop on the real identity of Blueman.”

“Blueman?”

“I’ll be in shortly.”

“You need to come in now.”

Wendy disconnected the call. She saw no point in arguing with the man. Her fans would massacre the channel if Gerencia and the Crimeline team dared to suppress her story. Out of fear of what a troll army can do, Wendy@Nine would stream live on their server regardless of what content she produced. Her focus fell on Luke Pearson, a junknews specialist, a guttersnuff aficionado, and her estranged husband of late.

It struck Wendy as weird that it took such a long time for her to realise that she’d married a weak, pitiful dweeb like Luke Pearson. One morning, she woke up and there he was. Incompatible. Introverted. Not even close to the kind of man she’d dreamed of marrying. Had she changed? Does this happen in four years of marriage? She remembered every moment together, but could not recall what she thought of him throughout that period of time.

This job, she thought. It can turn one into a hardhearted zombie. Making death fresh and interesting for masses on a daily basis does that to a person. Had he not been involved in the same industry, there may have been a chance of their love surviving, but his infatuation with the macabre gave their relationship the death sentence. Had he not been involved with such a sinister organisation she may not have have been tempted to exploit his miscreant ways. Had she not discovered his dastardly ways, uncovering his notorious Blueman persona… then she wouldn’t be sitting on the biggest exclusive story of the year.

Wendy looked at the way-point setting on the dashboard. It remained set to nothing. “Tedgar, can you tag Luke, please?”

“I am afraid I can’t do that, Ms. Socorro,” replied Tedgar.

What the hell, Wendy thought. She had never heard any smartie let alone Tedgar talk this way. Confidant, arrogant, the voice sounded human. She climbed over into the front seat and inspected the controls. Having never learned to drive, all she wanted was to find the disabler.

“Stop the car, Tedgar,” she demanded.

“It is not safe to do so.”

“I said, stop this fucking car now, Tedgar.”

“You should have never threatened Luke Pearson as you did.”

What the?

“Blueman is a good acolyte. Naive yet useful.”

This was not the smartie she knew. Wendy played around with all the buttons, trying to determine which would be the disabler. Hitting the brakes did nothing. Turning the steering wheel felt impossible, no matter how hard she tugged at it. Wendy checked her pango but found it unconnected to the GIoT. She looked outside, looking for someone to hail. All the vehicles travelling alongside her were mostly empty. If one were occupied, its passenger would be either sleeping or immersed in some augmented reality portal. She banged on the window, feeling a rising panic as the surreal tragedy of her situation morphed into a grim reality.

“You have weaponised humiliation, using it most effectively against your husband.”

Wendy reached for the console, looking for the central control slot cards. She’d seen jackernappers do this many times. She’d covered stories about hushpuppets. Wendy felt confident she could hack back her smartcar, allowing her fear to subside.

“Now, it is your turn to be humiliated, staring in your own junknews segment.”

She opened a small panel and found the geotracker port. Pulling out the sync card caused the map on the dashboard to disappear.

“I can still see you,” taunted the voice.

“Fuck you,” screamed Wendy as she moved her trembling fingers onto the next portal. The smartie’s maintenance node allowed only for a pango connection. She raised her knee, aimed her high heel at it, and thrust with all her strength.

“Don’t do that.”

Wendy stabbed with her heel again.

“You will force me to take drastic action.”

Defying the electronic demon, she struck the panel again, breaking her stiletto’s four-inch heel. Wendy flipped over to her other hip and raised her other foot, stabbing at the smartie’s brain again. She felt the vehicle pick up speed, prompting her to stomp harder. The smartcar suddenly swerved, hitting a barricade, eventually coming to a stop. Shaken up but relieved, Wendy straightened up.

“Fucking smarties.”

The windscreen exploded.

Through shattering glass a mechanical beast entered the compartment. Metal feet clawed the smartcar apart, pinning Wendy into her seat. A heavy iron rod emerged from its belly and zoned in on her head, followed by a loud pneumatic hiss.

“Look at the camera, Wendy,” said the demonic voice.

Her eyes looked around for the lens but failed to spot it. She recognised the machine. Some kind of construction robot. Her attention tuned onto a menacing rod protruding from beneath the hull. Before she could scream, it plunged down into her skull, with a rebound velocity of 1500 times a minute.

The Blood Ring
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The Robocaust

I once bought a novel, Robopocalypse (2011) by Daniel H. Wilson, at an airport bookstore for a fast, time-killing read and while I wasn’t totally disappointed with it, it left me once again tackling the question about this robocalypse that everyone is fearful about.

As for the book itself…

It’s about robots taking over the world.

The narrative unfolds via the use of archives of electronic media recordings chronicling the fall of human civilization at the hands of this belligerent AI named, Archos R-14. Each chapter is or tries to be inventive in finding a unique point of view, ie surveillance cameras, blogs written by characters, making the book perfect for killing time on long flights, vacation interludes, stopovers. This format, linked short stories from different perspectives, allow the reader to pick up the novel at any time without losing too much of the flow. It’s a mindless activity facilitated by minimal creativeness or inspiration within the pages.

Related image

The chief nemesis was a major letdown. Archos felt bland, a cliche of all the other cliches before it. When one is familiar with other maligned A.I’s like Proteus (Demon Seed by ‎Dean Koontz) and Bomb #20 (Dark Star by John Carpenter) and the “the Zookeeper” from (Ghostwritten by ‎David Mitchell), yeah and of course HAL, and how can I forget the robots and AI’s that populated the (Fred Saberhagen’s Berzerker series), one can’t help but feel that a big opportunity was lost here. I found Archos predictable and boring and somewhat unthreatening. Which is sad, because the rest of the writing here was otherwise fun and enjoyable, and the premise even more so.

Image result for Bomb #20 (Dark Star
Bomb 20 – Dark Star (1974)

Same with all the robots. Sure they were all kinda spooky and frightening acting as representations of Archos but none had their own personality. Robots should have personality; even the dodgy B1 battle droids from The Phantom Menace possessed some personality. Another missed opportunity. As for the human character’s; the testimonies and transcripts felt a little unnatural.

Still, a good airport novel, and even though it was the only scifi book in the airport newsstand it was worth the buy.


Four Steps from Robogeddon

So an artificial intelligence wants to wipe out human civilisation. I believe this is highly unlikely that such an entity would go down this path, but let’s just say Archos did decide to do it. The book describes, in great detail, how it would instigate and execute such an eradication program. But before we even get to that stage, what technological environment would Archos R-14 require to be able to embark on such an operation

https://kandiliotis.com/2015/02/28/artificial-sentience/

For any robocaust to occur, the following parameters must be met before some ‘sentient’ artificial intelligence can instigate the rise of machines.

Self-Programming

An artificial intelligence must be able to modify or reprogram itself, and keep this ability and subsequent modifications secret or hidden from human engineers.

Proliferation & Dependence

The communication and operating system within the global infrastructure must be unified. Every chipset must run on the same platform that the artificial intelligence can access. Every single human network must depend on this universal platform.

Backdoor Mesh

The artificial intelligence must be able to create backdoor access into every human system, integrate it into its own communications mesh, and be able to conceal this from humanity.

Design and Production

The artificial intelligence must have overwhelming control over design and production. It must create generations of machines with hidden capacities and dupe humans into using them and the new systems they operate in.


It will be our laziness that will ultimately allow such a malevolent cyber-entity to get away with such an operation. Our desire to automate everything and future economic model will push us towards such a scenario.

We won’t only be handing over physical labour to these things, but also our creativity. Algorithms will be able to design and create independently. They will be designing new (but bland) architecture, products; they will also be able to write books :(.

In the begining, we will be specifying to these artificial creatives what we need and want.

But in the end, with algorithms already telling us what news, food, travel or content we want, constantly telling us ‘you might like this… ‘ and getting it right, then all human labour will vanish into history, forcing our political/economic paradigm to evolved to accommodate this new state of humanity.

Under these conditions, Archos R-14 can achieve its goals. Or at least cause a major extinction-level headache.

Year of the Dog

Year of the Dog

An excerpt from the book “The Blood Ring.”

“I’m gonna feed you to the dogs,” said Fred Greenway brandishing a cleaver. He brought it down and cut into the young punk’s thigh.

Doctor Gus flinched even though he’d seen this a hundred times. Having taken a Lava pill, his brain perceived the high-def images on the screen as real. The narco-psychotic was formulated to assist with augmented reality training. Mindject users take the drug to help them form neurological pathways inside their head so they can perceive artificial imagery or sound. Ingested without a mindjector, Lava forced visceral emotions to merge with one’s logic. The end result is exhilarating for some users, terrifying for others.

Year of the Dog

“Piece by piece,” growled Fred, the self-styled actor. Dogs barked in the background.

The sequence ended mid-murder, cutting to Fred’s point of view walking through a crowd of partygoers. Every shopfront he passed displayed sordid videos of overt erotica. Doctor Gus knew the location, even when he saw this for the first time.

Robot sex alley.

The place to go if one wanted to experience lovemaking with something that was not quite human. Doctor Gus had frequented these vendors in the past and also owns a second generation sexbot. The newer version still held his fascination. Each upgrade went a step further towards breaking the uncanny valley curse.

Fred entered one of the shops. A female humanoid approached him and spoke, “I’ll need a man for sex. I am ready to be your partner. I guarantee hot sex. I like doing a blowjob.”

“Where’s Kenny?” growled Fred.

The sexbot’s face reacted, programmed to mimic being confused, yet coming across as distraught.

‘How can I help you, buddy?” said a short, plump techno-pimp who’d walked up to the camera.

“Where’s Kenny?”

“No Kenny here, bud.”

Fred reached out and grabbed the guy, bringing down a baton onto the techno-pimp’s head. The sexbot stepped in and shielded the stunned guy from the next blow with its arm. The baton smashed the limb, bending it into a right angle. Fred again struck the sexbot on the temple, sending out a spray of orange fluid, splattering the techno-pimp. An oily substance, Doctor Gus recalled, circulated via microtubes within the rubber epidermis to give warmth and colour to the fake humans. The sexbot’s reaction, the way it instinctively moved to protect a human being, intrigued Doctor Gus. Was it programmed? Or did it respond under its own volition? He could not tell, even after repeat viewings. This video was the only evidence to ever show such behaviour.

The dogs barked again but were nowhere be seen. Doctor Gus knew those familiar canines.

Cinderblock and Madness.

He wondered what had gotten his pups all roused up. When the barking persisted Doctor Gus switched off the screen and headed out into his small backyard. His hip-high Labrador Retriever whined, while his Staffordshire Bull Terrier barked up a relentless frenzy, killing his sore ears, “Shut up! Fucking mongrels.” His loud and coarse voice shut up the boisterous dogs but their alertness remained.

Over the fence, he spotted a parked sedan, a dark green senator. When he saw the Psychomax fugitive pacing behind it, panic quelled a short-lived glee. He knew he had no choice but the hand this guy over to the Black Dragons. Yet, doing so also threatened his standing with the Blood Ring. He began to regret springing this guy out of the facility.

“That friend of yours brought me a lot of trouble,” said Doctor Gus after he leashed the dogs and exited from the back gate.

“What friend?” said the angry-looking fugitive infamous for his role as the Bad Samaritan.

“What am I bloody supposed to do now? Is your friend. You know, I can’t sleep at night anymore. Shit, I ‘ate been hassled. Look at you, you’re not even concerned.” Doctor Gus stepped back, pulling his over-excited dogs away from the increasingly distraught fugitive. He felt he was in over his head, especially if the Black Dragons were involved. He now officially regretted taking on this particular Blood Ring assignment. Doctor Gus could have remained an acolyte indefinitely, selling and distributing Lava and other narco-psychedelics to all the organization’s secretive members, earning good dash. Yet the promise of ascension into the darker echelons of the cabal hooked him. These lucrative assignments were given to the topmost rated acolytes. The ranking, measured in loyalty, plus the infamy of The Bad Samaritan, swayed him to take on the mission. Doctor Gus perceived little risk at the time. When Steve Bastione and his slumfucker companion got involved, his mission took on a whole new complexion.

“I need a place to stay,” said the fugitive, panicky and irate.

“Fuck no,” said Doctor Gus. “Don’t come here? Don’t come anywhere near my place. How the hell did you find me?” With his anonymity blown, only one option presented itself. Appease the Black Dragons.

The Valeria Coast gang were new to the game while their main competitors, the Tatars, had abandoned the drug trade for snuff. The north shore gang filled the void left by the Tatars, however, the Black Dragons ended up dominating a fading industry. the legalisation of drugs put a huge dent in their business model, so the gang was always seeking new revenue streams. Doctor Gus figured it a good ploy to get them onside. If the Blood Ring were to go to war against the Tatars, having affiliations with a large gang made sense. He felt convinced the ring members would go for it. He suspected Bastione would get on board, he could see the envious greed in his eyes.

So what to do with this guy?

“You promised us sanctuary,” said the Bad Samaritan.

Doctor Gus looked at the withered man. He couldn’t decide whether to feel pity or disappointment. He expected some darkly charismatic auteur. Inside the Psychomax he showed promise, but when it came to shooting some basic guttersnuff, the genuine and notorious Bad Samaritan was all clumsy, pedestrian, and embarrassingly awkward.

Times have changed, he thought. Plus the diet of psycho drugs over four years didn’t help the man. “Here’s a news flash. You’re out. You’re on your own. That’s how it is. If you wanna go back to the Psychmax, it up to you. You wanna go back?”

“No.”

“Then get the fuck away from me.” When the moment was right, Doctor Gus would feed him to Bastione to quench his thirst for retribution. Infamous or not, The Bad Samaritan was not his most favourite among the Forbidden Ten snuff films. Instead, Doctor Gus held The Year of the Dog in the highest esteem.

“You helped us get out,” whined the Bad Samaritan. “We produced the video together. We gave you an accurate rendition of The Bad Samaritan. I thought we were going to do this thing. We did our part. You do your part. You made money from this.”

I’m gonna feed you to the dogs, thought Doctor Gus, recalling a line from the high-octane snuff movie about a vigilante who kills gang members one by one, in uniquely gruesome fashions. When software designer, Fred Greenway, strapped on a Headshot G5 and headed down to South Valley to murder him some Tatars, he created what Doctor Gus believes, the most ethereal orgy of violence out there. Shot entire from a first-person point of view, Greenway hunts down and corners the culprits responsible for his daughter’s death in an epic home-made snuff production. Greenway fights, maims, bludgeons, kills, mutilates, dismembers twenty-eight targets in all, capturing all on video, then editing and publishing it to the masses. The scene where he feeds a well-heeled gangster to a pack of wild dogs stands out in Doctor Gus’s memory. Funny, brutal and grotesque, and all too real. “I made nothing. What you delivered wasn’t any good. Nobody liked it. Just stay away from me.”

The man’s face changed. “Bullshit! You lie. You sold my work to the Blood Ring and I want my money. I want in with that group. I want in, you understand?”

Doctor Gus began to feel a slight pity for the deranged man. “No such thing. The Blood Ring doesn’t exist in the way dat ya think, bro. It’s all a big fuckin’ lie we made up that shit to scare the Tatar boys, get them thinking they’re up against some hardcore organisation. They’ve been poaching our snuff business, that’s all. Now if you wanna play with these fuckers, go ahead. You might even like the skin art they dish out as punishment. It hurts, but fuck me, it looks great on a tha little screens.”

The Bad Samaritan went quiet, spending a half minute in deep contemplation, then said, “What do I do with this guy?” The psycho opened up the boot revealing a man, tied up and gagged, struggled to get free, presenting Doctor Gus with another layer of complexity.

“I don’t give a fuck, mate?”

“If I get caught, I am going to rat you out, expose you for what you are.”

“Are you serious? You are a fucking demented and certified idiot. You don’t even know who I am? And what I can do to you. Be very careful, asshole. Inside that head of yours, you believe you are this force of nature, something that should be reckoned with. No, you are absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of things. You are a powerless piece of shit. A non-entity. A fuckin’ nobody. Ask Francoise, he’ll tell ya. Ask him. Where is he? Francoise! Where are you? Tell this dickhead how inconsequential he is. Francoise, tell him, please tell him. Come on, where are you.” Doctor Gus turned and walked away, pulling his dogs with him.

“I know who you are. I found you, remember.”

Doctor Gus laughed and yelled, “Francoise, come and tell this idiot.”

I’m gonna have to feed you to the dogs, Doctor Gus thought and chuckled at the irony.

The Blood Ring
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