Singing

Ten suburb-sec officers surrounded a quaint house with an actual white picket fence and wet blood flowing down the porch stairs, turning black as the dusk darkened. They flooded the front yard, trampled roses into dirt freshly churned up by an immobile dredger with which some enterprising member of the family had been attempting to dig a well. A well, this deep in the city, surrounded by a white picket fence. The thought of these kinds of vanilla citizens accidentally punching a hole through the crust into the Tunnels was almost funny enough to make Rav Sharps laugh all the way back to the station, were it not for someone in the house shouting,

“Back off pigs, or we’ll hack up this here little girl the same we did to her parents!”

This was followed by a sharp cry of pain from a little girl. At least she was still alive, Rav though. He turned to his outfit.

“Ideas?”

“Let’s try backing off, sir!” Someone suggested. Everyone chuckled, then stopped with a look from Rav.

“So far as we can tell,” he said, “We have two dead members of the community that pays our salaries. Spilled their blood in front of their kid, no less. Two men, probably blacklisted criminals, somehow made their way through the gates, armed, and wandered all the way to this particular house at least a kilometer inside the burb, break in, and take someone hostage.”

“Don’t be thinking about trying nothing, now! We mean it!” Someone inside shouted.

“That’s Yuan at the gates today,” Rav continued. “the Jacobs brothers who programmed the Neighborhood Watch, Abdul and Zena patrolling this quadrant, all likely out of a job today. Lord forbid the kid dies, they’ll never work again.”

The men shifted. They knew it was nobody’s fault, really, that two criminals had found their way in. Suburb-Sec depended on a “severe consequences for messing with our community” strategy more than a leak-proof security net. The community, however, did not care about the methods by which the company kept them safe, and would probably demand a healthy sacrifice of their security company’s force.

“Back in my day, we would call this a Class A, level 10, Cock Up of the Century.”

Nobody breathed.

“So, what are we going to do?”

“We’re going to kill the girl!” Another voice inside the house said.

“Hold on a second,” Rav shouted back. “We don’t even know what you want.” He motioned for two of his men to round the back of the house.

“We want money!”

“I would like nothing more,” Rav sent two men to cover the door, “than to give you some money,” one man climbed on top of the dredger, “however, I don’t have any money with me right now, so you’re going to have to think of something else.”

There was a pause. Rav gave a ready signal. His men tensed.

“Ok, that’s fine, just leave and nobody has to get hurt,” shouted the voice inside. The girl whimpered.

“This is our last chance to salvage some semblance of respect for our company. Keep it in mind,” Rav said to the men remaining around him. He received curt nods.

“Shit!” Someone in the house shouted. A gunshot went off. The windows flashed throughout the ground floor, lighting up the dusk with a low lightning that cast the men’s shadows into stretched caricatures.

“In!” Rav said, and the men moved.

As Rav led the short sprint across the manicured yard to the front door, preparing himself so as not to slip in the blood still flowing down the steps, he listened to the girl begin to scream. Funny, he thought, the thing ones thinks of before rushing into what could be the last storm of bullets one runs into.

He heard a thud as the man on the dredger fell off.

The girl’s scream modulated, took on an electronic quality. It reminded him of the old guitar he had when he was a kid, an ancient Ibanez he plugged into an even more ancient tube amp. He’d fiddle with the knobs for hours, playing with the different sounds he could make out of just one string. Just like that old tube amp, so too did that girl’s voice shift throughout the possible dimensions of sound, into noises he wasn’t sure any human could make.

Three steps covered in blood and Rav raised his foot to kick down the door.

The world exploded around him. One of the men grabbed his flackvest at the neck and yanked him back, shards of wood slicing across his exposed forearms.

“The dredger!” someone shouted.

Rav and his men watched as the dredger entered the house and destroyed everything in its path. It had a terrifying pneumatic swiftness, an unyielding power. The wall seemed to provide no more resistance than a tissue.

A cloud of debris choked the air. There were several more gunshots, a man’s desperate scream, a wet, strangled sound, a dull thud, and then silence.

The girl had stopped screaming.

Dust settled. Rav took two men and entered the house. Lights on rifles switched on. The dredger was illuminated first, smoke and debris causing it to loom from the darkness. One clawed grabber hung motionless in the air. Dangling from it was the headless body of a junkie. Below the bucket, designed to claw one half ton of dirt out of the ground at a time, protruded a bruised arm.

The little girl knelt next to one tread of the dredger, holding on to a spoke as a child might her father’s hand. Blood dripped from her hair and chunks of brain stuck to her nightdress.

“It’ll be ok, little girl,” Rav said.

“No,” she replied.

Advertisements

Junkman

Junkman seen some things. Lots of gross stuff – dead kids, people’s heads, bags of poo, but strange things too. 

Seen things runnin away when he come up with his truck. Little small things, like dogs but shaped the wrong way. Sorta like monkeys, cept the monkeys got stuff all comin out of their back, metal stuff, lotsa hinges and joints. 

Usually Junkman just shine his lights on the bins when he come up, scare the things away. Get to where they gettin braver, though. Start to watch him, lookin out from the shadows. Seen their eyes, he do. Started bringing a little hand light, shine’m to get a better look.  Monkeys never let’m. Don’t like to be seen full on. 

Junkman big, an’ he live hard, don’t like to act scared of no little monkeys, but he get to gettin scared sometimes when he comes to the bins the monkeys be keen on. Starts leavin his truck lights on, pointed at the bins to flash’m good, keeps the monkeys well outa sight. Was one time, though, he come back to his truck and see somethin jump away from his door. Realized the monkeys were messin with his truck when his back was turned. 

Junkman starts lockin his door real good, gettin more scared. He don’t like not knowin what in the hell be foolin round his bins, maybe they stealin or whatever an’ thats fine but they give him the heeby jeebies. So he musters up one night, puts on his rough jacket, the leather one he like to wear when he knows boys at the bar gon’ get real rowdy. Puts on his kneeguards the company gave him but he never wore cuz they itch. Wear his steel toes from the ol’ construction job, never able to sell’m anyway. 

Parks his truck far back-like, round the corner from one of the monkeys’ favorite bins. Real dark place, up against some stank-ass sewers. Junkman bring a real heavy bit of scrap he found that like to keep under his bed. Brought his hand-light, too. He try to walk real quiet-like, though his boots keep makin a stompin racket so he takes’m off and goes on in his socks even though the ground a bit wet.

He get closer to the bin, start hearin monkey-sounds. Scrabbles, chirps, the like. An’ a sound he don’t like at all – metal on metal, metal on cement. Gives Junkman goosebumps.  But he musters up – monkeys been leavin real messes around his bin, he gonna start gettin it from his boss if he don’t do somethin bout it. 

So he gets real close and flashes his light. 

Junkman blinks in the light, then surprised to find himself hangin in the air from his favorite jacket. Looks down at the monkeys, well that aint right. Looks up and kinda sees in the dark a big arm holdin his collar, jus’ like a spider leg, all joints and axle grease. He gets a panic, but keeps up his brave anyway. 

“Put me down ya damn fool monkey ‘fore I smack you wit’ this big ol’ stick!”

He aint move none fer fear of fallin, and done dropped his light at some point, but he hears a sure racket down where the monkeys were.  He starts hootin and hollerin, but the monkeys ain’t do shit but keep jabbering away. Junkman startin to feel less scared an’ more mad, so he gets out his phone, sturdy piece of junk, and flashes the little light on the monkeys below. 

That got their attention real good. 

The arm that been holdin him gone and let go, so Junkman got a nice fall in. ‘Fore he did, he got a good look at what been holdin him in the first place. Big ‘ol spider leg comin out the back of one of the monkeys, cept they weren’t monkeys at all, just a bunch a grubby kids. Then Junkman hit the ground hard and knock himself out. 

He wake up and see a kid bendin over him all grinnin like a fool. 

“What you want, kid? Drop Junkman  around s’more?”

“No way, Junkman. We like you.”

“You little monkeys gone’n make a mess o’ things, drop Junkman on his poor head, hell a way to show likin’ somebody.” 

“We don’t wanna hurt you, Junkman, We just can’t have you running around telling folks you seen us though, feel me?”

“Don’t wan’ me tellin folks? Oh the boys won’t hear the end o’ that–“

But then Junkman seen that big greasy metal spider leg hangin near his head. Kid smilin but Junkman only see the shiny cutter come out of the thing, real slow-like.

“We can’t have you running around telling people about us, Junkman. You won’t see us no more, we’ll move on to other bins, but we got our eyes everywhere, you dig?”

“I feel ya kid, Junkman keep his big ol mouth closed for sure. You just stop messin around with my bins and we ain’t got no problems.” 

That big shiny blade vanish like a magic trick, kid pats Junkman on the head which make him mad but he don’ say nothin about it, then turn and run off somewhere in the dark. 

Junkman don’t say a word to no man, but he still shine his truck lights on the bins.