The City (pt. 1)

The way before me is steeped in shadow and absurdity. The road continuously shifts, either widening or constricting, as merging paths feed into what is evidently the main route into the city. Capillary sidewalks and makeshift bridges funnel all manner of noise and agonistic miscreants toward me. The deeper I wander into the city, the more I am victim to the flow of newcomers shuffling in the direction of the assumed terminus: a squirming mountain of laughing, screaming corpses in the distance.



w  h  i  s  s  s  s  s  

s   s   s

is not
a city

s   s   s

s  s  s  p  e  r  s


The ground is soft beneath my feet. I smell wet iron, salt, fresh mint, putrefaction, bile, ammonia, and sulfur. Every breath is acid on my languid tongue. This is a landscape woven of vibration; although I cannot hear the raucous banquet around me, I feel deep reverberations wash over my skin with every new step.

I can hardly surrender my senses to the orgy of despair: scarred nightmares wander alleys groping wildly at empty darkness, contorting and smiling with madness, or lust, or both. Skeletons vomit in the shadows of monoliths that reach up, up, up to the blistered sky. Atrocities breed new atrocities; together they piss, bleed, cum, curse, and howl at the feet of the stone gods around me. A new sin blossoms down every hallway. Every new sin is worse than the last.



A dolphin-shaped creature with four very large bloodred eyes wobbles past on legs thicker than my waist, shouldering me off the side of the path and nearly knocking the egg out of the satchel.


Watch it!


The creature unfurls two hidden arms from its backside and gestures crudely without a glance.



Oh, shit.

Did I say that out loud?




Holding my breath. Waiting to see if—




No. No, I couldn’t have. The creature warned





You will be Separated.










My throat is choked with dust and stench. My eyes dance between the maze of endlessly converging paths and the creatures that blunder unflinchingly about me.

A parade of riders squirms past, close enough to raise alarm. Their begrudging mounts are shaped like oversized dogs but are largely human in form; long folds of skin hang in loose sloughs around the jowls of each beast. Their heads droop, save for one or two of the braver-looking ones. The riders have had less than a trophy hunt, it would seem. Many of the poor beasts look as though they’re not sure if they’ll be fed or eaten come nightfall.

Stumbling wayside and to the rear of the party is a gang of half-caged slaves, chained at the ankles. Most of the creatures have a single arm or leg run through with spiked chains. A few of the more unfortunate ones strangle and spit blood through rusted cages around their throats.



What is this place?




to   the   surface   and  die





The words


a s







c h o r u s





a r o u n d






m e








r e s p o n d s


blank space for blog gaps





blank space for blog gaps



and all at once, every fiber of my being sees her





guardian 1


My hands won’t stop shaking.

Gordon’s pacing—although honestly, I don’t think it’s fair to call it that, at this point—like he’s trying to formulate a new methodology for setting the carpet on fire with nothing but intricate choreography. His living room is immaculately clean, to the point of sterility. I’m not wearing shoes.

It’s that clean in here.

I drove a hundred and ten miles an hour through the city all the way here.

And my hands won’t stop shaking.

For the last twenty minutes, Gordon has been pacing back and forth in front of the sofa where he kindly insisted I sit, muttering the same two or three words over and over.

“I’m fucked. I. Am. Fucked. I’m fucked!

“Listen, I know it sounds crazy, but—”

“Crazy?” I think he’s trying to smile at me, but honestly, it just looks like showing teeth. “Crazy would be if we walked up to Dr. Soliman’s office, pulled out a gun and said, ‘Good morning, Dr. Soliman, I’m having trouble killing myself today. Would you mind to help me out? Oh, and while you’re at it, I’d like to use your office.'”

He’s right. That would be pretty crazy.

“What you’re talking about doing is completely and totally FUCKED!”

If I didn’t know any better, I’d think he was going to break out in tears.

Gordon rocks back and forth as he walks, his body hinged at the waist like a stiff doll; the nightmare Christmas Toy creation of an autistic-savant-designer-turned-terminal-crackhead.

“I’ll tell you,” he says, completing his seventy-fourth lap around the coffee table, “but you have to swear to me you won’t try anything stupid. Just get the video from the archive and get out.”

My plan flashes behind my eyes:

  1. Connect remotely to the Praxem SecureBridge packet and download the server keys.
  2. Create a query in the system to allow access to the building after hours, coded to my employee ID.
  3. Tell the security guard I left my wallet in my office the day before, and
  4. Use my security credentials to bypass monitoring in the archive room. That’s where they keep encrypted copies of the video footage from the cameras in the observation rooms.
  5. Use Gordon’s access code (which he is very close to giving me) to get into the observation deck.
  6. Blastoff…


“Gordon, I promise. Listen, man….”



I’ll see you soon, baby.

I love you.


Our car is a little red Audi we got off a Craigslist ad. It’s a piece of shit, but it gets us from A to B.

I’m tearing through lights downtown when Soliman finally picks up.



“Mason. I told you to get some rest. This is highly—”

“Doc, listen. I have to go back. I have to use the chamber. Listen to me please don’t hang up.”

“Mason, I don’t think—”

“Just listen, alright? Weird shit is happening. I keep having these—these dreams—everything is so vivid. It’s like I’m there, ya know? And Amara is always a step ahead of me. I think I know a way in. Into her reality. Are you still there?”








“Yes, Mason. I’m here. Why don’t you come see me at home?”








“At your home?”

“Yes. I’m here now.”


“Mason, today is Saturday. The lab is closed. If you want to use the chamber again, we’ll have to wait until Monday. Otherwise, if you still want to talk, you can come to my house, and we’ll talk. Talk Mason. I’m not promising anything.”

“Look, I don’t think you’re hearing me. I just got this weird fucking call and—”

“Mason, if you want to tell me about your day, you can do it on Monday. I don’t have time for this. Come to my house and talk, or I’ll see you when I get back to the office. Ok?”










Fucking prick.

Who does he think he is?



I have every right. EVERY RIGHT to be there. Six months now. Six months I’ve been waking up, shaving my body until my skin is raw. Six months I’ve been driving this piece of shit across town, out into the fucking mountains. Middle of goddamn nowhere. Six months of sitting in traffic, listening to thugs bumping rap music, kids crying, yuppies honking. I’ve fucking had it.



I need to get into that chamber.

But how?



Soliman said the lab is closed on the weekends. But the techs go in on Saturday nights to prep the Monday samples. Gordon told me about that once. He said he spent the whole night Saturday and most of the morning Sunday prepping the IVs for chamber observations…


I know the startup procedures by heart.


Six months of the same tests, the same protocols, day in and day out.




If I can get in there tonight when the techs open the place up, I could sneak into the observatory and