Garrik parts his cherry lips and looks at the blue sky with resentment. There’s no respite from the heat and he runs his tongue like a lizard along them then speaks. The balloon’s late again.
‘You scowered the eastern zones, you lost no one, yet you seen nothing either. So what fuk’s the job? You missing things, you not seeing the hairs on the back of the hand or something, like there’s something wire in the middle of eye, you get me? You see what I think? I think there’s damn near blood thick stew all over and your team just lying low, keep the main tracks, not travelling the bush. Dot to dot operation, snow white and the forty thieves. You got spots, diamonds, in the frontal lobes. You see else. You look forward better time, better place. You look South. Fuck you. Fuck this heat.’
He’s sitting in the shade, all peach and dream. He waits before he moves his head just a slight distance, from say here to here, then he makes sure he’s seen him doing it so. So. Then there’s a pause. He twitches, but he not nervous, he nothing like that in his breeze, his fluff and blust, it’s more disgust.
‘We saw hair, we saw back of hand, we saw red eye in the midnight and midday. We follow trails through the sand, all along the beaches past the monuments and wrecks. We didn’t sleep, we didn’t fall down not once mister. So we all came back. It was a good team. Well managed. We all came back. Always. Each time back.’
‘You get a bite you fear water sun moon you can’t drink without you fall and shriek. The noises like ground fall and the stink of shit the whole body explodes open. You want to know where you think from after a bite? You think from the belly, from think tube and hose run out from belly. So everything is just input and output. There’s black and brown and white streams, some yellow gold water and cobra. The drip and the drip of the stiff all night. The sewer gates are all opening and closed. The suction pumps and the sluice hands. Everything in a machine of valves and pressure. Valve world. After one single snuff bite mister you be the valve man and nothing more. There’s no jack else. You cease. It spreads out. You get no sympathy because you aren’t there. Not even as memory. Everyone else forgets about you just like you do. One single bite.’
‘The philosphical of confirming this. If memory of victims is erased after the bite then how proceed? That the early question, the early problem. And how could we even suspect it happening? If every case forgotten, then how could we know any of it? Of course the answer’s biology. ‘Course only biology forgot. Elsewhere had ample proof. Look elsewhere than biology.’
‘Bat rabies scare, fear of water, fear of drowning. The shakes, colours in rag streams. Nuke bomb Trinity Test Monday July 16th 1945 5:29: 45 Alamorgordo, New Mexico on Jornado del Muerta, one treble hooped and welded hip of power going off same sector as Moby Dick holes the Pequod, something white in the surface, something that ‘ll come out hell depth. Even when theology fails we know what’s what. Old miseries resurface like old diseases. Someone knows everything and they just wont let on.’
‘You hear the sheep and the goatherds? Crying in the night, blue weeps and curdled milk. In the morning all the churns fouled by piss, droppings, blood. Everything thicker than it should be, crusts. You seen what I’m saying?’
‘This job has to be completed anywhere but in the head. You let psychology in on this and there’s no can do. You keep eyes to the scanners, to the files, to the machines ok? Your theories are just sleight of hand, there’s nothing else. It’s psychology we got to throw out.We even got problems with procedure and order. There’s a problem with the orderly life. With life in general.’
‘We can’t afford to base what we do on anything we already understand, eg ordinary life, language, theory etc etc. That’s all coopted and corrupted already. So no way round these things but floating off the planet. Look to the machines as a way to get the truth. Cognitive exile needs space rockets needs computers. What makes us wolf understand anti wolf. Compare and contrast with reference to etc etc. You look again. Keep up search. Use manuals. Go for the more obscure routes. Pleeeze.’
End state of nation whinge. Garik, closing the door up behind him, slowly pulls out pack of Marlboro’s and lights slowly as hatch and disclose, a sense of danger in the trap, at all his finger tips. The work continues but so does plague. Hysterical outpourings from press corps all follow discovery of files on the System. Although succesfully retrieved to secrecy enough leakage to keep flames fanning. Though noone actually recalls victims, enough to convince a problem for thousands of years.
‘We seen on files routes of whole tribes lost. In the hinterland werewolves tent to the quick and drool, they come under moon and hair and skull and the Charles Manson Dune Buggy Attack Battalion. They obliterate as underworld thuggee groupies long lost found darling Nazis.’
‘Ay. They out there under four feet high in verdant leaves and brick work all shattered up. They just kids. They just starting out. They just don’t recall, have no powers of a past under their belts. So in their young eyes all yellow and blue there’s child, you see, just child boy or gal. They come to sniff against window shutters, up brickwork, stink of soft padded thoughts in eviscerated brains. Count one two three in colours, all new colours, each pip and penny. They starve thoughts, they think string. They shuttle back and five from black bags, from can and box, from shite and shuffle scrap of paper, cardboard, metal, gleam, skin and cream. The nostrils cleverly chew on atmosphere, you see it through infra red, from tunnel vision drilled into sidewalk into full frontal lobe. Every eye a shammy, every mouth moves in water. Over the tooth there’s hard powder, some meat, some fly and node.’
Garik thinks to himself that he needs to get some fuses and a little time bomb from the depot store because there’s last prayer playing on radio and is shed-world out there in bright sun. He says he needs to blow the stuff away. He says this to noone but the shadows he himself drags unwillingly along. The whole home town dump’s on brink, red alert.
Garik needs to stop. He reads again. Words on console glow claw red. There’s every reason to panic. Every reason in the half wit records, writing that spots and jumps and skips. Like there are matters missing, info that seems to settle as a sequence of erasures. Garik scratches head, skin crumbles from the scalp in scurvy snowfalls. He twitches to noone else, just himself. He needs to talk but is too buttoned up and has burned his boats months ago. The room is simple, just black and white and grey.
On the wall there’s a model wooden yaht, a couple of plastic ducks. A plate with a Spanish hol resort from years ago, a pink lantern sits on the fireplace alongside small saucers with animal paintings on their rims. There’s an oblong rubber and long pink pencil. There’s a tiny golden parasol in a blue cocktail glass. He returns to the site. He clicks. The room studds with pin pricks of light, golden, green then red. The words stutter and shake down out of the grist light.
Garrik heaves himself out of his chair and wanders disconsolately along the corridore leading to the veranda. He pushes the green door and leans with a grim look over the waste land. Nothing but pale glass as if its crystalised. Gigantic flies hover and fizz over and around the swollen stems. The white sky is immaculate. He looks up as if expecting to see the rogue airship but there’s nothing but the astonishing clarity leading away from the planet. The building is concrete and its great dome, in which the last of the computers are housed, is covered with thin strands of ivey. Its a relic from an earlier age, it’s like a skull half covered in beach shingle, seaweed slithers on the cracked top. It’s the only one for hundreds of miles; years. There’s a single road leading away to the east.
Garik is the only operator who stayed on. The rest left over a year ago because of the increasing threat of attacks from the werewolves and the failure of the Security Forces in the sector to protect the small colonies between themselves and the coast. Garik considered them all hysterics. He didn’t believe that the werewolves were the problem. He hinted at a deeper, denser problem, starting at home. They put it down to paranoia and he’s laughed and just bolted himself down. The work had gone on regardless although he’s had to abandon several of the console rooms because there were just too many for one person to staff. He stuck to the dome suites.
Unscrambling the texts as they came through was difficult enough. On top of this, keeping his teams disciplined and on task through the network was hard. He felt that they more or less did what they wanted to and would probably switch him off if he pushed them too hard. Still, there were bad things happening in the gigantic urban settings and he felt sorry for those of his former colleagues trying to keep their heads above water in the action zones.
‘There’s a new clan down by the canal route. Half a dozen units. Maybe dozen. Grey heads. They eat by beach sewer inlets. They survived high level radiation drenching four days. Three hundred civilians terminated in the op. Children showed no signs of higher resistance than adults. Diet and sanitary conditions poor. These issues again factored in. Grey heads seem to be more dangerous, more inventive. Complete destructive urges. Strip the rooftops of slate, smash all windows in thirteen hundred residences over a period of three days. Leukemia 1/94 diagnosed in hundreds of children outside of the fatality zones. Current information about this not clear. Residents tend to be elderly. They fearful, they hold baseball bats and cricket bats, lumps of wood and one or two have rifles. They say they use if anyone break in. Break-ins happen when they out, daylight mostly. Hundreds of occurences. No policing here. No point. Waste securicor power. Lack willpower some say. Politicos active in these zones. Cruise in large unnumbered vans. No idea of controllers. Name of group recurs. ‘Process One.’’
Garik eases himself away and smokes another Marlboro. It’s the third time in as many years he’s been given that name. ‘Process One.’ He has it tied in to one of the several apocalypse clans living and breathing in the cracks of the material. Its as if he’s found tiny script in the groove of vinyl and a way of reading it. He spits out a grain of dirt and screws up his face. Physically, there’s something curiously run down about him, like a very young baby reminds you of the oldest crinkly .
Ever since the sub atomic units began to play around with the sub atomic realities, mixing quantum choices so that the werewolves had been given their place, there’s been lack of control and understanding. Everything’s grown aimless and a point lost. As a werewolf what you were before is gone, not realised. Memories are flit elsewhere, yours and all those of the others around you. Your children are assigned new roles and identities which never refer back to their lost parents. Noone remembers you so you were what never happened, never was. You never existed here, along this trajectory, this line. Except that somehow written records had stored the information biology had failed to hold. The purely subjective reality of the quantum universe was disrupted and the easy flow from one reality to the other, a mere rumour up until then, had been finally observed.Weird connections between seemingly distanced objects, many layered Bell EPR experiments where interference with one quantum object simultaneously effected another object seperated by great distances crashed in and caught them all out, with Garik leading the herdsmen from the front, gleeful grin, wild eye and cornflower drink in his paws!
Any nostalgia for a real objective world had collapsed at this point and then the werewolves had been discovered and Garik, the one taking the credit , had been left to stew in his juices alone. Alone except for the lunatic fringe groups who all crawled out of the stomach linings like so many vile bloodsucking tapeworms. And the ‘Process One’ group was the biggest, vilest and most dangerous of the lot.
What a sigh is there, he thinks as he reads the latest then walks back to the deserted canteen where he raids the freezer and chews and sucks the Oxetail soup and the slice of bread then lies down to sleep for an hour in his cradle bed near the window down in what had once been the sports gym.
Meanwhile the attacks of the werwolves are becoming more widely reported. There seem to be centres of attack, and there’s a pattern to their targets. First its a range of fridge appliances and cookers. Washing machines and dish washers are then hit, then telephones and cars. Soon there’s a whole range of domestic appliances being ripped to shreds by the creatures, each attack seemingly more ferocious than the next. People seem to be safe for the moment. Noone is injured in these skirmishes, which take place at night and at great speed. Of course, there will be casualties as soon as people begin to resist.
Security units are already being deployed in the richer areas and in the Grots there are people taking to the streets, patrolling neighbourhoods with crude weapons and mob numbers. All this comes down the line so that once Garik’s back reading the computers there’s all this info and a great deal to be done. He keeps the logs open and memorises everything. Sweat trickles from his open pores and he mutters to himself. He can hardly breathe and the heat is stifling.
The whole world’s had this problem for thousands of years he surmises again and again. He dries his forehead with his green towel, the rag stinks, he’ll wash it later he reminds himself and there’s just a quiver. Something reminds him that they’ve all gone, they all left, they all left him. It wasn’t like this to start with. Or there was something else. He can just recall, a dull memory, a soft, persian blue. There was something else once. I need it.
The vast plain stretches out before him under the full moon stretched out under the stars like a pyramid and there’s a hot southerly wind and a sour scent of blended rose and azalia. In the long grasses there are pebbles and smooth stones cast there by a sea that retreated years ago as the hot blazed, the steam went up and the ice needles crumbled into the salt. He walks out under the sky. He still casts a shadow.
He’s made connections between atoms now flying apart, millions of light years in between. He fingers around with one and knows that the other’ll be feeling his nails. It’ll all be happening simultaneously. His skin blazes and his eyes are weaker than they were so the landscape occasionally blurs to green fog and he has to stop everything and regain his bearings before rattling on. The name starts to be fleshed out, the water drains from the blue glass etc etc.
‘Process One’ seems to open in a suburban bungalow with wide door telephone channels, the name’s in the book, and a single owner who lives with a persian cat. He uses the come - on - over channels to deny any involvement with terrorism of any sort at any level and yet never closes the book firmly enough to allay permanent suspicion. These days the whole scam really does look dodgy. Garik’s found enough dirt to bury him and methodically clicks each piece, one and then two and then three etc etc, into place.
‘Process One’ ties up loose thinking of the Apocalypse with various major corporatist and governmental plotting of the previous milenium. There are rumours which day by day seem to be less rumour and more just ground level, assume baseline. There’s a voice, a dead president resurrected just for the off, the voice serves to keep the pressure cooking; Reagan in 1980 ‘Israel is the only stable democracy we can rely on as a spot where Armageddon could come.’ It’s a dream voice, loaded on the cable and the highways, playing for ever and ever. Garik keeps the channels open. The list is endless, spools out into the information depositories he’s set up for this sole purpose and any sample will kick in enough to keep the connectors busy for weeks at the very least.
Sample of Honours. ‘Process One.’ ‘Los Angeles Times Late News 9 AM Final Wednesday Morning June 18 1952 ROCKET SCIENTIST KILLED IN PASADENA EXPLOSION; TRAGEDY DRIVES HIS MOTHER TO SUICIDE.
‘the requisite contempt for the crowd and for the group mores...’
‘Long Live Death’ The Abraxas Foundation
Anton Szandor la Vey’s ‘The Invisible War’ - weather control, viral and bacterial agents, white noise, black sound, microwave radiation, food and beverage dispersal, psychological smokescreens, the extended weekend, urban warfare
Garik moves away from this simple list . He frowns and returns to the latest news about the werewolves. He’s astonished to find that tv sets have been trashed in the latest sequence of raids throughout the vectors scanned. Again, the pattern of ferociously wild but targetted attacks upon domestic appliances was in evidence. Garik worked throughout the long hours drawing up patterns and probing the surface of the numbers for something, anything, revelatory.
Weeks on and Garik senses that his support units have all closed down. Nothing’s coming to him organised, its more like someone switched the channels open wide and then left. So information flows in without any sense of order and there’s just too much for just one man. He screams in physical agony as he runs from machine to machine trying to get a fix on what’s happeneing. He sets up randomisers trying to hone down the news but its too vast a field that’s now pulsing into the dome. After hours of the struggle he collapses into a drowning sleep, his face grey with exhaustion and worry.
He listens for heartbeat sound from his own rib cage and grins at this nervousness. He stalks off into the emty shells of the other rooms. Everything quiet there. The dead computers in row upon row heap like the monumental memorial tombstones of a giant mind that died - or shed its skin - evolved out. He walks from room to room looking at the solomn and rather gloomy scene. Everything twitches in the blue flickering light of each place. He returns to the one working room left and sits for an hour just watching the coloured lights of the texts as they stream constantly on line.
Stranding on the veranda he looks up at the sky. The airship’s probably never coming back now. It’s all over. He never quite understood what on earth they were doing sending over such a machine. On the day of the close-down they’d dropped rope ladders from it and his fellow scientists had all climbed slowly up to the balloon and had never been seen again. He and he alone had stayed.
Werewolves destroy over a million tv sets in a week end of June. Suburban groups demand closedown of all tv transmissions, thinking that transmissions act as a magnet to the creatures. This request is refused. Then further to this, there’s the disturbing news of trashed computers. First its a matter of hundreds, then it grows exponentially like some sort of virus plague. A shiver like a blister on his back neck. This news seems personalised. It reaches into his room, under the dome like a spook hand, a curling finger beckoning from over the years and miles. The werewolves will smell him out.
Nothing at first then something. A pylon is built next to his dome. Or rather, he walks out one spikey morning to find it there, a couple of hundred yards away. He stares at its splayed gawky scaffolding and gawps like he can’t think of anything to think or say as in his mouth the whole thing stings like shock. How they did it amazes him and he can conjecture maybe it was prebuilt and then dropped there like an oil rig in the nether North Sea Swamp, carried in silence by balloon.
Back inside he get’s logged down to his final scan and he’s not missing anything. Werewolves looping the loop from the centre of the urban squash and out to the suburbs and then out into the remote hinterlands drenched in glue fluids, oil and wire, plastic heated to over a hundred, oozing like licorice over squats, lumps, slums. The mutilated wreckage of a million household appliances strings out in a bloody necklace. He sniffs into the dark bristles of the night like a bluebottle swell twitches its hair. He writes out into the void, he’s all the time wondering who is still able to read his stuff, are there any more receivers, any more deep ports.
‘They coming in circles, round and round and each time smaller circle, thread of wire backs, red eyes still in the midnight, through the Salpetriere, photograph antics, la grande hysterie de Jean-Martin Charcot, interrupted song on the becoming wheel, rosemary, pansies, dried up brains witless as maids unfolding yourself.
Silence in the head. The round skull has to be scraped from the inside, moss and green brittles swept off in powder. Silence all in the dome, the huge grey uplift and the suprise in its oppressiveness, something so full of air so tight. The hair all tugged together then plaited, coarse rigor and use as a belt. There’s some small sprig of twine, the corrupting comfort of physical discomfort, the rover eye twitching for a port of call, last orders, the uniform of hirsuit gore eyes, it all pads over the grounds, concentric circles in beat and timbre, then nature stands them up to laugh in scorn ‘This was [belated or once] a man.’
Verganglichkeit. ‘Transience value is scarcity value in time.’ Werewolves shoulder burden after burden, spine coloured, spliced up, trashed in dark winter, they come from beauty of what was and won’t ever be again, a short time. Readiness is all. They come and Garrik clips word after word, picture after picture, into the cave of the information banks and loses calm, loses head, mutters about ‘Process One’ and perpetual motion. The whole looks precisely weird. He loses contact for a while. Lines collapse but they’re up again by morning.
The balloon inside he thinks. Last thought. Werewolves are going to crawl out his belly soon, somehow in him undercover, and burst out belly like raw fruit. He lies on his back and feels and twigs; the dome was always his belly, and there are foetus maggots beginning to worm about to tube to sluice....tube and hose run out ... everything is just input and output... black and brown and white streams, some yellow gold water and .... drip and the drip of the stiff all night. The sewer gates are all opening and closed... suction pumps and sluice hands... .
Report From ‘Process One’ .
Garrik entered new phase last night. The dome is now leaking and there are huge cracks in the main overhang which makes entry precarious. We’re going to have to think about evacuating soon.
He’s completely wrecked the kitchen area and seems to have made an elaborate destruction of all appliances in the place. It’s as if he’s focusing his paranoia on these items. He still seems to think the computers are up and running even though all of them are obviously messed ,what with all the wires hanging off, backs removed and the insides ripped out. He eats from the frozen storeage. He doesn’t wait for any of the stuff to thaw. He ignores basic hygene procedures, he urinates and defacates wherever he happens to be when the urge takes. There are physical deformities appearing which might be worth taking a look at - a lengthening of the facial bone and a lengthening of the primary canine teeth. Eyes are yellow. He seems to be possessed by immense speed, physical strength and endurance. Thick black hair covers his face and hands, I’d say under his clothing he’s complete.
He keeps looking out to the sky, as if hoping for something to arrive. Since the yellow cloud moved across the hundred mile sector there has been a slight slowing down of the transformations but they’ve by no means stopped. This could run for further years.
Final scan suggests he’s pregnant. Millions of eggs in lower abdomen. I suggest we terminate in next few weeks before they hatch.’
Final message back: ‘Best option: kill!’ Out.
Garik is writing this, keeps on.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Angharad Myfanwy Catherwood is twenty and is currently studying at Cardiff University. She owns a pet iguana and is a computer programmer. Her favourite film is the Orson Wells classic ‘A Touch Of Evil’ and she dreams each night of making love to Joseph Cotton. Her desires are all black and white. This her second story at 3am.