ISSN 1757-5419 Issue 18 – October 2012 Editorial
Brother of Death By Michael Lejeune Illustrated By Lindsay B
The Butcher’s Progress By Matt Leyshon Illustrated By Vladimir Petkovic
No Past, No Future, Just Now By Michelle Ann King
Good Dogs By Bruce L. Priddy
Maim Street By Douglas J. Ogurek
I Wish That We Could Lay Here Forever By Harley Carnell
Shush By Stephen McQuiggan Illustrated By Candra Hope
Covetous By Joe Mynhardt
Mouths To Feed By David McGuire Illustrated By Caleb Voorhees
BFF By Richard Farren Barber
Two Winters By Lee Clark Zumpe
The Sea and All That Is In It By Todd Outcalt
Goodnight Children, Everywhere By Kevin G. Bufton
Cover By Sara Richard - http://www.SaraRichard.com/ Proof-read By Samuel Diamond, Craig Saunders, Mark Turner, Sheri White All material contained within the pages of this magazine and associated websites is copyright of Morpheus Tales. All. Rights Reserved. No material contained herein can be copied or otherwise used without the express permission of the copyright holders. 2
Curiosity is surely the brother of death. Every dawn is chased by dusk. Every story is stalked by its last sentiment. Every wanderer is pursued by his shadow, clinging to his heels, until it is swallowed into night. Where curiosity finds a nest, death will roost, as sure as a moth flutters into flame and is destroyed by the rapture it sought. The living have but one method of staving off death in the face of a world which begs the curious to t wonder: fear. And for countless generations beyond history, fear has been the champion of those who are destined to endure. The village of Naal rests in a cleft between ageless mountains in a place that has been forgotten again and again, and lost its name name over the weary stretch of the centuries. It is a place where, until the crude farms of Naal were stacked upon the creekplain, men have not remained long. In a swath of country omitted from most maps, and marked unknown on those where it can be found, thee mountains that loom over the village have sat for an interminable epoch, brooding over their world without the presence of man. Seen from the mountaintops, mountaintops Naal is naught but a speck in the forest, scarce in its size and even more so in its people. But nothing n is as scarce among the villagers there as curiosity. In this forsaken place, where the very soil begrudges the blood of those who walk upon it, there is no quarter for the brother of death. They know well that brothers are never far apart. The farming community of the village is a relic of a large travelling party that trekked across the winding trail through the mountains five generations ago, and who suffered a terrible plague and were forced to resettle far from their destination, in the primitive, primitive, dusty forests that hug the mountains like rags on a corpse. There they have scraped their survival from the windswept mountain roots, and despite their stout bodies and hardy wills they have dwindled to only a handful of families. They are survivors. So it is that fear is firmly seated in each breast, and is fed and kept healthy as a ward against danger. Their traditions are rooted deep, and their superstitions guide their lives with the potency of any other means of survival. Each farmer knows not to t look to the moon on the thirty-first first day of the month, lest he risk his soul to its thievery; just as he knows not to sow crops on the same plot in two successive years. And their wives know that a pain in the teeth is the indication of a trapped demon that hat must be exorcised with smoke of brundel root and three nights of slumber with a hemlock twig beneath the pillow, just as well as they know that the best rosemary grows in June. This is why no villager of Naal may acknowledge a traveller ller at night. Though the seldomused, overgrown path through the mountains passes through the centre of town, when a party is heard or seen to be approaching after dark the townspeople lock themselves indoors and douse their lights. With curtains drawn and hearths silenced, they sit awake in the dark and wait for the wayfarer to pass, and do not resume the appearance of life until the stranger is well beyond the sight of them. The road brings perhaps a dozen visitors each summer, most in the daytime. They are good for trading hard-to-find find items, which the village cannot not grow or forage on their own, and the village provides travellers llers with food and medicine in exchange, which they often sorely need on the endless pass through the ancient mountains. Word of Naal has spread, and those few that dare the pass rather than taking the well-travelled travelled routes that circle the mountain range have learned to bring items the villagers need, expecting to trade for amenities that would surely run low by their arrival at the tiny farming town. These items are known to the traders near the mouths of the pass, as is the fact that no trader may barter his wares in Naal after sunset.
A malignancy of red brick and slate is concealed behind the vines and fir tree tree shadows, its influence spreading like cancer through Leddenton. Within, clinging limply to The Function Room wall like an anemone, your eye gently turns in its pink flesh cup. Ass sputum bubbles gently in the folds like hot fudge and films briefly over your y iris. A mess of machinery works around you, glistening with uterine juice. Pulleys of your fresh tendons ease wetly back and forth to spin shimmering white discs upon bony spindles. Lung sacs balloon and deflate and skulls on femur rods map the lives of the townsfolk beneath a network of your nerves. Outside a car pulls away as within The Function Room a kneecap rotates in its vulval socket. Alarm clocks wake the sleeping residents as a vertebral pendulum begins to swing. A gallstone tumbles through a dried intestine oiled with smegma and a milk float responds, commencing its journey down The High Street. You watch your replacement explore his new domain, a curious insect in your web of gore, and you begin to assess the new controller, to ascertain his purpose. His fat oafish feet scuff away your imprints in the dusty floor, smearing the marks of your struggles to escape. Eventually, with a wet rasp, he presses his eye to yours. Like a night watchman starting his shift, you wait for a moment as your eye grows accustomed to this new play of light, and then you focus as the past of Gormo Gloom, jittery at first like old cinefilm, begins to unfold. You see Leddenton as it was when you first entered The Function Function Room, and you see Gloom the Butcher looking upp at the moon hanging fat and pallid in the sky over pink hills of cloud. He checks his watch before walking up Gladly Chunner’s overgrown garden path to let himself in through the front door. “It’s only me again, Chunner, Chunner my old pal. I’ve brought you some food to keep you going,” he calls up the stairs. Gloom walks down the hall and sets his bag of leftover stock upon the worktop in the kitchen. You watch as he takes a dirty plate from the sink and piles it high with off cuts, slithers of breaded ham, strips ps of beef jerky, untidy hunks of gammon, pasties and sausage rolls, and pork pies oozing jelly at the pastry seams. Upstairs Chunner grabs the bed rail and rolls himself over, puffing under the strain, his stomach turning in rebellion against the stirring of its blubbery cocoon. He feels bitter bile scalding sca his throat. Slowly opening his eyes, he expects for a fleeting moment to see Edith laying lay beside him, but the off-white white sheet covering the narrow space of spare mattress is empty. You glimpse in his face ce how sorrow overwhelms him, and you understand that in all Chunner’s memories of his years with Edith, an impostor now stands brazenly in his place. It was not just that he was older now, bigger and more grey, and it was not just that every molecule that had made him then had long since expired and been replaced, it was because the memories felt to him as though they belonged to somebody else. He was no longer the Gladly Chunner that had married his childhood sweetheart, Edith; he was a grotesque mess of fat and faltering organs. Gladly wonders what might have woken him. He looks at the clock upon his bedside table and sees that he has slept all day again and that it is evening now. Rolling his legs over the edge of the bed, wheezing, he faces the evening with the same reluctant resiliencee as the waistband of his filth-encrusted encrusted jogging pants that he has slept in. His breath explodes in a lily-white lily bouquet before him and he shivers, stretching out his doughy hand for the electric heater. “Is that you, Gloom?” m?” he calls out.
Front door shut and locked. Push it again, jiggle the handle a few more times, to be sure. I left it open once - maybe more than once? - and next-door’s cat got in the house. Henry wasn’t pleased with me. He’s been so good, so patient, but he was very upset about the door. I’ve been much more careful since. So: front door, shut and locked, yes. Keys, purse and shopping list in my bag. Map and directions in my pocket. Coat on, glasses on, outdoor shoes on. Everythingg in order, ready to go. Have to take it easy, no rushing around. Hip’ss been playing me up again lately, and I can’t can afford a fall. If I go down, will I be able to get back up again? Best not to find out. I can’t rely on Henry coming to help me, not any more. I glance back and he’ss at the window, watching. I wave. He doesn’t. t. I smile at him anyway. Poor Henry. It’ss my turn to be the patient one now. The pavement is covered with broken glass, so I watch my feet. It’ss like Dr Ellis told me: Stay present. No past, no future, just now. Now is what matters. Now is all that matters. I’m m pretty sure I treated most of my doctors rather badly. I don’t don t feel good about that, but it’s too late to apologise now. Ellis, though. thou Ellis I liked. The others were all about tests and pills and forms and charts, but they never once looked me in the eye. Ellis was the only one who talked to me like I was still a person rather than just a malfunctioning brain. He gave me things I could coul use - techniques, strategies, ways of coping. Ways of feeling like I still had some control. Some hope. Bless him for that, wherever he is. It’ss quiet out, apart from the sirens. You hear them a lot lately. Cold, too, for this time of year. Or maybe I feel el it more than I used to. But still, despite everything, it’s it a treat to do the shopping again. I always loved supermarkets, with their colour and bustle and endless stocks of weird and wonderful things. Henry thought it was a symptom, the times I spent hours h trying to choose between twelve different kinds of tinned olives, or came home with cassava chips and gaudy tins of Chinese braised eel instead of coffee and bread. But he was wrong. It wasn’t wasn my illness, just the magic of the World Foods aisle. Concentrate. Be careful. Look where you’re you going. Stay present. Broken-down,, abandoned cars line the road - my beloved old Fiesta’s Fiesta among them, somewhere. Henry crashed her a few weeks ago, and it took him all afternoon to walk home. A large ginger cat sits onn the bonnet of the car closest to me. It watches me, unblinking. I stop and hold out my hand to it. “Hey there, Tom.” It drops its head to one side, as if trying to decide if I’m I m worthy of its attention. I like cats.. I remember telling someone - a student? Didn’tt I have students, students once? - that they used to be worshipped as gods in ancient times. You can see why, in spite of the occasional lapse into cuteness. The cat gets up slowly, stretches and gives a wide, sharp-toothed sharp toothed yawn. It leans forward and bumps its head against my hand. A kind wish, maybe, from a superior species watching a lesser one fade away. But I have to go. Have to stay focused. I have things to do. Luckily, I don’tt have to go far. Most of the shops along the parade are blacked out o or boarded up, but the supermarket still blazes with light and activity. It looks like it hasn’t hasn been cleaned for a while, but the shelves are at least half stocked. So many lovely boxes! Cheerios, Weetabix, Rice Krispies. So wonderfully ordinary. So normal. A woman shoots past me with an overloaded, wobbling trolley. She’s She not looking where she’ss going and tips straight into a display stand. Everything goes over. If it can smash, break or split, it does. The woman, a middle-aged middle blonde with untidily pinned nned hair and garish make-up, make yells obscenities at her spilled groceries. Other shoppers stop to watch, until a pair of older men in the freezer section start shoving each other. Then The they drift over to watch that instead. 5
Roscoe scratches at the patio door. The noise startles me awake. He never has to go out o at night. It’s time. I let out a little sob, cover my mouth with my hand so as not to wake Eva. She rolls over beside me, reaches for me, touches my face and smiles, dreaming. I knew the time was coming; I’m not ready, but Roscoe is. So, I slide out of bed and walk downstairs. I turn on the light in the living room, Roscoe doesn’t notice, still pawing at the glass. “Is it time, buddy?” I ask. He jumps, but my hand across the silver fur on his back calms him. The Yorkie looks up at me with white-blue blue clouded clou eyes, sightless. A month ago I heard it in his bark, two stones grinding against each other. Then it was in his every breath. Over the he past six months, months tan and brown had turned to silver on him. A limp invaded his step. Stairs became dangerous for him. For two months he’s kept himself in the living room and kitchen. The bedroom has been very empty at night. After I heard the grinding, I took Roscoe to the vet. “There is nothing wrong with him, other than age,” the doctor said.. sa “Soon, you’re going to have to make a decision.” That was out of the question. I wasn’t going to kill my best friend. We spent evenings in my recliner, him in my lap. Eva would notice a strong sigh and squeeze my hand. “We can get another dog soon,” soon she’d say. I’d shake my head. “No, no dog can be as good as Roscoe.” She’d kiss my cheek, chuckle at me. “There will be others.” “No, there won’t.”
“And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell.” - Mark 9:45 Maim Street’s performance at the 2032 Grammy Awards begins with marching music. Children sing, and their shadows march in place on a glowing blue wall. A deep guitar note smothers the singing, and a light reveals Mage Guillotine. He wears a wizard’s hat and robe, and plays beside a guillotine. Drummer Slaybraham Lincut wears a stovepipe hat topped by a hand, and bassist Delete is covered in eyeballs. Splegos, legos, lead singer of Maim Street, charges onto the stage. A metallic horn juts from his forehead. Moving infants are skewered on his scepter, which is capped by a scaly hand extending a long-nailed nailed middle finger. More infants dangle from his robe. Splegoss smashes an infant on the floor. To the drumbeat. He opens his mouth, revealing fangs, and then bites off the infant’s leg. He lights the infant on fire, then throws it into a fan above the stage. Blood rains on him. The music accelerates. Splegos hoistss a machine gun, and then shoots the blue wall. The children’s shadows fall, and black splays over the blue. Splegos sits on a throne decorated with the heads of past Presidents. The throne, connected to a track, launches over the audience. ### A seven-foot-high high glass replica of the Statue of Liberty stands on stage. Dead animals surround it. Mage Guillotine’s guitar notes sprawl, while Slaybraham Lincut pounds ploddingly. Delete crunches out a bass riff. Lincut raises a drumstick. He chants, “GanGRENE... “GanGREN GanGRENE... GanGRENE” and the audience joins. Splegos, riding his throne over the audience, hoists his infant-loaded infant loaded scepter to the chant. He brings the middle finger on his scepter to his mouth. What comes out merges a shriek with the sound of bladess chafing. Incomprehensible. But the lyrics appear above the stage: “Sports fans: ignoramuses/Businesspeople: greedy scoundrels/Stay-at-home home mothers: prostitutes.” The throne swoops to the stage and the guitar’s drone deepens. Splegos picks up a sledgehammer. sledgeha His voice shifts to a growl: What you buy is who you are What you buy is who you are What you buy is who you are America: I’m disappointed He hits the statue and the glass explodes. ### The band plays a variation on the march that started the performance. Mage Guillotine grates the guitar, and an elderly woman with a fur coat and a cane shuffles out. The march stops. 8
I wish ### He wrapped her up. Tight. Made sure that the bandages were as constrictive (a horrible word) as they could be. He wanted to do it carefully, delicately, but it was not feasible, feasible and each time he had to be firm to make sure that the bandages would not become loose in any way. He apologised. He explained to her that it was what was needed; it was, in truth, the only way. The bandages had to be unrelenting - allowing as little room as possible for any germs to get into her to corrupt her body, so as to, as long as he may live, preserve her almost perfect beauty, leaving only her mouth free, so that he may kiss her beautiful lips one last time. He knew that leaving her lips free somewhat made his bandaging redundant; it was a fact he was aware of, but, he reasoned, the bandaging was not to prevent her decay but rather to postpone postpone it and, even if that was not the case, he knew that it didnâ€™t matter - that her lips, which she had always decorated with (strawberry, as if she knew it was his favourite) lip gloss, were the only thing he could not bare to cover. ### that we
He awoke like the raging sea, frothing at the mouth. The house was still. The quiet ones were back. His room was filled with their shadows; some light and grey, some black and heavy as rain clouds, silently rattling the doorframes like passing traffic. He hid beneath the duvet, talking loudly, a stream of nonsense, chattering about anything and everything that came into his head. Noise was the only thing that could could keep them at bay, they were scared of it, though these last few days they had grown braver, coming ever closer, caressing him with their whispering fingers, and he had to shout to keep them back. There were more of them every morning. They wanted him dead, dead, wanted to drag him down to their soundless hell. He felt himself unraveling,, felt the confusion they brought spread like a stain across his mind. There was only one on thing he was sure of anymore - the silence would kill him. He could feel them on the duvet, duvet, their weight seeping into him, and he screamed, using the brief respite this brought to dart out from the bed and turn the television set on, cranking the volume up as high as it would go. The shadows dissolved, torn asunder by the sudden onslaught. He H would have to keep the telly on when he was asleep from now on, for that was when he was most vulnerable, when they began to claw at his dreams. He grabbed the radio alarm clock and cranked it up too. Chances were things only stupid people took. He would need an appliance in every room for protection. He had already tried his iPod, a constant blur in his skull, but it was useless. It was an internal soundscape; whenever he put it on the shadows gathered and wallowed in the external peace around him. The only o way to ward them off was to deafen them. Shouting at the top of his voice, the shadows fleeing as he hollered, he made it to the bathroom, turning on the radio that hung by the shower. Then he turned on the bath, both taps at once. The blare from the bedroom edroom bled into the dirge of the bathroom, echoing over the tiles, a static sandwich of white noise. Only the spare room worried him now. It was empty, a haven of stillness and calm. Perhaps if he kept it locked it would hold them awhile. Perhaps he would just stay out of there altogether. Regardless, he felt the upstairs was secure, but downstairs in the belly of the house he sensed them gathering, plotting, merging into one dark mass that would consume him. If he was to survive he would have to act quickly. quick He raced downstairs, stamping his feet and yelling, the shadows running from his assault, swooping across the walls like bats, darting into crevices and under the skirting boards. He beat out a raucous, triumphant tattoo on the banister the whole way down, down, but in his hurry he tripped and fell the last few steps. The wind rushed from him, gagging him, and they made a grab for him with their smoky hands that corroded his skin and drew the light from his eyes. Yelling so fierce he thought his lungs might burst burst wetly through his chest, he scrambled to his feet and ran to the living room. He turned the stereo on, tuning it to a commercial station, one with little talk and strident, annoying jingles; CDs were no good â€” they had to be changed constantly and he was vulnerable in the gaps. He put the television on full blast, and the ceiling fan too for good measure. He stood in the maelstrom of noise, with the picture frames humming and the coffee table rattling as if spooked, steeling himself to go into the kitchen. kitchen. If Jenny was here sheâ€™d know what to do; but Jenny wasnâ€™t coming back. He started to cry. It was the first time in so long he let himself, and he was glad for it was loud and messy and the shadows retreated further.
Hannigan slammed the battered tin down, his beady, black eyes still watering from the fumes. Cloudy liquid splashed the upturned basin that served as a table, dripping through the cracks. Harsh impurities burned as the familiar fire gnawed through his guts. He’d been been too soft on the boy, he realised, that was the problem. Milton. Look at him. Huddled up in the dark corner, back pressed against the rusting metal plates of the single room they shared. Weak, lumpen and bulging in all the wrong places. How would that ever turn into a man? He wiped one hand across his mouth. Force of habit – the alcohol had already soaked into the fraying burlap. He was so hungry he bit himself, and had to struggle for calm. Hannigan tapped the bottom of his grease trap, drew off some of the foul-smelling foul sludge that had oozed down the walls from the countless layers of life crushed above him in the Stack and smeared it around a wick made of waxed hair. It took flame from the stolen ember-pot, ember burning a fitful blue in the dead, reeking air. The cramped, low and crooked room he called home brightened. Somewhere not far away, a man screamed his last and the vermin in the walls skittered for joy. Milton huddled before the queasy glow, trying to drive himself into the gaps between the shreds of grey plastic and filth-soaked soaked chumboard Hannigan had hammered over the gaps in the wall. He’d tried to make a home for the boy. Tried to give him what he’d never had, living in the Sump. This was paradise compared to the Sump. A sewage gate opened and the whole sub-level sub level rumbled. The floor settled with a snap as a bracing gave way, canting over to the latrine hole. More gaps to seal up. The rumbling eased as the flow died down. The stench of the leaks soaked through the walls. Dislodged by the tremors, ors, a black beetle fell from the ceiling. It lay on its back on the rusted floor, legs waving in the air. Hannigan couldn’t help himself. Even though it filled him with disgust, there was something about a living thing lying helpless on its back he could not ignore. It was that most tempting of things – it was vulnerable. Before he realised it he’d snatched it off the floor and eaten it whole. Shivering with revulsion and shame, he tried to ignore the aching pit of hunger it awoke. He needed to eat properly, ly, and there wasn’t enough for one here, let alone two. It was make or break time. He picked up Mother, and Milton squeaked, still refusing to look up at him. Too afraid to, more like. Two minutes out that door-door “Two minutes out that door, boy. They’d eat ya. Eat ya alive.” He swung Mother, testing his shoulder. “Stand, boy. Stand or die. Ya’ll don’t learn how, and they’ll rip that skin off and eat ya. Or I will. It all trickles down to the same thing, ain’t that right?” Milton’s legs jerked and his arms arms flailed, reminding Hannigan of the day he had found him, quivering in rust water beneath a seep-hole. seep hole. How he’d ever gotten his skin, let alone kept it that long, was beyond him. So was Hannigan’s charitable impulse. What the hell had he been thinking, taking aking him in and feeding him? This world had two directions, up and dead, and Milton was like a lead weight. “Bin too soft on ya. Gonna fix that now.” Mother swung, the old wood connecting with Milton’s malformed leg with a meaty thunk. The boy cried out. “Stand, dammit. Stand like a man.” Back at the seep-hole hole his first impulse had been to kill the boy, of course, but something had stayed his hunger. A hazy memory, from before he had become a man himself, when he ran the warrens around the Sump – a photo of a man, a woman and a child. 11
Ghosts like sweets. They like lemon bon bons b and cola bottles ottles and peanut brittle and white mice and flying saucers and Smarties. Katy knew this because she’d read it in a book, or seen it on the television, or heard someone say it in the playground. Ghosts like sweets. Which was why Katy was laying out a path of Smarties from the cold spot at the top of the stairs along the landing and into her room. The Smarties had been left over from a recent trip to the cinema. She knelt down and carefully measuredd a hand’s width between each sweet. Enough to tempt the ghost forwards, but never too far to frighten it away. “What are you doing?” her mum asked. “Feeding the ghost,” Katy said. “Oh. Well your tea’s in ten minutes so don’t eat all those sweets.” “They’ree for the ghost,” Katy said, but her mum was already walking downstairs, carrying a bundle of folded towels in her arms. The cold spot at the top of the stairs had been there forever, at least for as long as Katy could remember. Her dad said that it came from from a crack in the window frame and one day he would get it sorted. Katy knew better. Punch would often sit on the top step and stare at the spot halfway up the wall. Sometimes he would growl. Dogs saw things that t people didn’t. Everyone veryone knew that. But Punch’s ch’s cries never lasted for more than a few minutes - as if the ghost had to leave again almost as soon as it had arrived. Katy emptied the pack of Smarties but even when she went back and made the gaps between each sweet wider there were still not enough sweets to reach her room. She didn’t dare separate them further; she was already worried that the ghost would get bored with Smarties and simply drift away and haunt somewhere else, in the way that ghosts obviously did. Short attention span. Her dad said that hat when someone in his class at school was bored and started to mess about, about it meant that they had a short attention span. That would explain why the cold spot never stayed around for very long and why Punch always fell quiet qui after one or two yelps. Their ghost had a short attention span. Katy returned to her room and found a packet of Parma Violets. She didn’t know if ghosts liked Parma Violets. If ghosts liked them then they were probably the only people who did, did because it seemed to Katy that there was always an unopened tube of them at the bottom of her sweet jar, and she never remembered receiving any at Christmas or Easter or Halloween. Maybe that meant that Parma Violets were ghost sweets. She went back out to the landing and made a pattern between the he cold spot and the door to her room: Smartie, Parma Violet, Smartie, Parma Violet. When the pack was empty she went back into her room and waited. And waited. And waited. Apparently ghosts were not good at turning up on time. While she was waiting, waiting Katy read to Anna Ballerina and Mr Jim from some of the books on her shelves. She played with her dolls. She re-arranged arranged the teddy bears in their bed. She waited. She went downstairs for tea when her mum called her, and afterwards she went back up to her room and nd waited some more. Katy couldn’t ever remember waiting so long for anything. At bedtime Katy went to the bathroom to brush her teeth. She tiptoed across the line of sweets, making sure she did not disturb the pattern. When she came back out onto the landing land the sweets were gone. “Mum, mum,” she called. “The ghost has eaten the sweets.” Katy looked down at the carpet. “Even the Parma Violets,” iolets,” she murmured to herself. “Don’t give Punch too much sugar, you know it upsets his stomach,” her mother’s voice floated up the stairs. 12
And the sea gave up the dead that were in it… Revelation 20:13 Pike was the only person working at the zoo who had seen a live elephant. A spry man of ninetyninety seven who had benefited from the genetic engineering breakthroughs of the previous generation, he could still outwork most men half his age and was considered, in the current state of human longevity, a young man. Most mornings, as he hosed out the monkey cages, a small audience of coco workers kers would gather to hear him recount his boyhood memories. “Yes,” Pike said. “I remember coming with my father to this very zoo to see the elephants. They were astounding creatures.” “As big as they look in the pictures?” “Bigger,” Pike said. “Inordinately large. Tons of animal.” “And the rhinos... I understand they were incredible, too!” “Yes, the rhinoceros,” Pike said. “The last one, in fact, died on these very grounds. A black rhino named Postscript... the director thought it was a cute name name given the circumstances. We couldn’t perpetuate him, though. Not even with the cloning devices. It was as if his species, like all the others, simply refused to give up their DNA to the laboratory. There’s something, I suppose, to be said for the theoryy that life wants to reproduce naturally and needs the chaos of the wild. We humans can genetically engineer ourselves because we have the mind for it - can give ourselves over to procedures and science and domestication - but these other mammals, particularly particul the larger ones, always seem to succumb to the basic biology. Too few of them, and they can’t maintain enough momentum to perpetuate the gene pool.” Heads nodded in agreement; some in wonderment. Pike reached into his pouch and broadcast a fine mist of genetic protocol across the floor of the monkey cage, producing a stir of excitement among the males. “That’s why we have to be aggressive with these creatures... these monkeys,” he said. “What is it now - down to twenty-five species and a few thousand of each? The latest journal from the State Department D last week indicated that the Indian jungles have all but dried up. These creatures in our care are perhaps the last of their kind.” Some of the younger workers - including Smith and Putney, both Queensland Queen Tech grads shrugged, but went about their work with an air of expertise, focused on the voluminous checklist that detailed every aspect of their work among the monkeys. They examined the foliage on the trees, drew readings from the air, examined stool stool samples under a handheld electron microscope, conducted needle sticks on each monkey to ascertain cholesterol levels, and weighed out food rations. “I read about this one beast,” Smith said vacantly as he ran a lab test on his computer, “that was mammalian, alian, but spent most of its adult life in the water.” “Yes,” said Pike, smiling. “The hippopotamus. Magnificent creature.” One of the interns - a young lady from Sydney University - spoke up. “I know that one,” she said. “It’s from the Greek, meaning ‘water ‘w horse.’” “Correct,” Pike said. “You’ve seen one?” Smith asked, still focused on his computer analysis. “I was six or seven years old at the time,” Pike said. “Our family had gone to Africa on an exchange program. My father drove twenty miles by car to- ” “- Car?” “- A vehicle used back then… drove twenty miles across the plain so I could see one in the wild.” 13
Russell sat at his desk, a half empty bottle of Scotch before him, and quietly despaired. It had started off so well. The Krazy Kiddie’s Bedtime Hour was the most popular children’s show on television and Russell had been instrumental in its creation. The format was simple. He had taken half a dozen drama school dropouts, lacking either the skills or the looks to make it in real drama, but who could be relied upon to recite their lines with sugary enthusiasm and a fixed smile. To this saccharine mix, he had added a two-bit two band nd that could string together a few ditties that they had shamelessly ripped off from nursery classics, before shoehorning in some cheery lyrics that would appeal to the preschool set. Then he had come up with JoJo. If the truth be told, it was one of the costume designers who had created the character of the lovable dancing beagle, but, since her ideas were contractually the property of the studio, it was Russell who had accepted the awards and accolades that had come flooding in thanks to JoJo’s antics. Hee had discovered that a lie, repeated frequently enough, soon became accepted as truth, truth and he had reaped the rewards. Shooting was set to finish on the final episode of the series. A horde of children sat on levelled bleachers that gave the staid set of Studio Studio 18 the feel of an auditorium. They had sat through half an hour of weakly penned comedy sketches, laughing uproariously throughout. When anybody asked Russell why he chose to work in the medium of children’s television, he had delivered the company line ine that children are the future and that education needed to go hand in hand with entertainment in order to nourish young minds. The cynical truth of the matter was that children had little in the way of critical faculties and would lap up any old horseshit, horsesh so long as it was accompanied by an acoustic guitar and a failed actress dressed as a clown. The curtain had fallen, marking the end of the first act and Ira the Ice Cream Man had come out, pedalling his wares. It had been one of Russell’s better ideas to load the kids up with sugary treats at the interval to stop them flagging during the second half.
Ripped Genes: The Biopunk Special Issue http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/morpheustales 15