Genesis (Immersion #1)

Genesis, track 1 from Pendulum’s Immersion.

Album time, 1:09.

*

The egg,  midnight captured as opaque crystal, rests on its marble plinth spun with silver in the light. The Child kneels beside it, caressing its shell with possessive fingers. Beneath the Child’s elfin hands there is a dark ripple, as the whip of an alarmed fish’s tail disturbs its surrounds.

There is movement within.

We march by, hoards in formation, to stringent raps of snares.  Halted, we salute, percussionists rattling their sticks.

Somewhere deep, darkness is made sound. It moves, heralding genesis. The mist joins the thundering rush, swelling, assailing our ears. And beneath it, we aren’t mistaken.

A crack.

The Child smiles.

We draw breath and hold.

Hold…

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10-Year Tax Day

And now, a randomly generated scene…

This is getting ridiculous. Maybe I should watch My Little Pony before generating words. That might help the end product become something with a slightly lighter mood.

Nouns: fabric, sky, change, punishment, tax, food, laugh

Adjectives: charming, verdant, fierce, utopian, automatic

Verbs: discharge, attend, deliver

Adverb: remorsefully

MP900341400

It was Tax Day. Nathaniel shuffled along, profile pinned to his thin chest, shoulders and hips jostled with every step. According to the chatter, some within the massive throng were from as far away as half a day, as the crow flies. He believed it, too. There was just so many.

They’d all had to attend. Nathaniel knew very little about Tax Day apart from that. His parents had left him with a few tears, a fierce hug each and a simple instruction: do as you’re told. And they’d been told to queue. Formed into thick, haphazard lines supervised by imposing adults in suits, they were herded towards the warehouses like peckish cows to verdant pastures, but not nearly so eager. The vibe was far from cheerful.

Nathaniel listened to his closest neighbours. They had no more idea than he what awaited them. Many feared some sort of punishment. Nathaniel wasn’t worried about that. He hadn’t done anything wrong. His profile said so. Perfect attendance at school, middling to high marks in all in classes. Enthusiastic participation in military games. Strong predisposition towards language and arts – only five other kids in his class had strong predispositions for anything! Nathaniel was more occupied by his aching feet and the hole in his stomach begging to be fed. He’d been standing there all day and had only just passed into the shadow of his warehouse.

Though cool shade was a welcome change from sweating in the sun, he’d have preferred some bread and a cup of water. His parents promised a celebration with a few precious items from their food parcel once he got home – they’d even promised a fizzy drink. He thought enviously of those who’d entered the warehouse before him and could already be sucking down cola, bubbles tickling their noses.

At last at the front of his queue, an automatic door whizzed up and Nathaniel stepped inside, the rush of air on his back cold as it shut him in.

Confining metal corrals steered them across the warehouse, lit blindingly bright. Banners strung across the high ceiling shouted patriotic slogans in monstrous black letters. Hundreds upon hundreds queued, and this was only one of two dozen warehouses. Coupled with everyone who still stood beneath the sky and those who’d already passed through… the sheer number of children was too great for Nathaniel to fathom.

The aura here was starkly different. Outside, there had been nerves. Inside, the silence was oppressive, broken only by the occasional jittery, high-pitched laugh that made his stomach knot, genial Nathaniel wanting to snap at their owners to shut up. After hours more enduring the uptight atmosphere he started to squirm, in dire need of a bathroom.

“Hurry up,” he moaned under his breath as he slowly processed past the midway point of his corral, bladder distending and starting to hate Tax Day. He already dreaded the next he had to attend. At least there’d be a long, 10-year gap.

Hours later again, Nathaniel reached the front of his queue for the second time. Forcing down the unbearable need to relieve himself as the gate was unlatched, he was led to one of ten identical desks. A steely, grey-suited woman sat behind it, looking bored. The young man – he couldn’t have been more than 19 – who’d led him there flashed Nathaniel a charming, but weary smile.

“Profile,” the woman said disinterestedly, barely sparing Nathaniel a glance.

The young man held out his hand and Nathaniel, fighting not to wince and dance on the spot, unpinned his profile.

“Nathaniel John Laker,” the young man read. “Strong predisposition for language and arts. Daily participation in military games, perfect attendance…”

He read Nathaniel’s profile fluidly, easily navigating the difficult words near the end – Nathaniel had no clue what they meant. He tried to listen, but kept getting distracted by his bladder.

Finished, the young man placed it on the desk. The woman’s eyes flicked across the profile.

“No room for more arts boys.”

“But look at his school marks, his ancestry,” the young man wheedled as Nathaniel blinked, bewildered. “Look at his health – almost perfect. No family history of serious disease.”

“Math and science is what we’re after. We’ve had a shortage the last few years, remember? But his profile is decent, I’ll admit. I’ll make a note to keep the next male of his ancestry.”

“But Ma’am, this one’s worth keeping.”

“They’re all worth keeping to you. That’s why we’re past our quota for arts already.”

“Ma’am, I think…”

“Don’t think,” the woman snapped, silencing him immediately. She scribbled briefly and threw Nathaniel’s profile into an overflowing box at her feet. “Deliver him left now or I’ll be sure that’s where you’re delivered next year.”

A flash of fear was replaced by a set jaw of unwilling compliance. The young man nodded once.

“Yes, Ma’am. This way, Nathaniel.”

He took Nathaniel by the hand and led him past the desk. More adults led other children, accompanying them either left or right where two doors led in opposite directions. A banner hung over each. On the right, it simply read “Congratulations”. On the left, the banner read, “Help Us Keep Our Utopian Society Great.”

“Just walk that way,” the young man said, sighing remorsefully. Unexpectedly, he gave Nathaniel’s hand a squeeze. “Be brave.”

He gave him a gentle nudge towards the left door. Confused, but need for a place to piss and his parents’ advice to do as he was told overpowering any desire to ask questions, Nathaniel set off at a brisk trot. To his disappointment, the first thing he came across was another queue. At least this one was short. There had to be toilets on the other side of this door. Then he could go home and forget about Tax Day for another 10 years.

Three away, now two. This door wasn’t as well-maintained as the others, Nathaniel thought distractedly as he took his place at the head of the line. It made intermittent muffled popping sounds, almost like the sound his rifle made through his earplugs when it discharged during military games.

Finally, a rush of air blew his fringe back from his forehead. Nathaniel stepped through the open door into a short passage and was immediately confronted by another door. He waited impatiently, hopping from foot to foot, convinced his bladder was about to burst.

That’s when fabric dropped over his eyes.

Face Salon Shears

And now, a randomly generated scene …

Nouns: lentil, salon, swimming, chameleon, pile, trap, limit

Adjectives: absorbed, befitting, hallowed, better, thinkable

Verbs: enter, propose, rectify

Adverb: exultantly

MP900386678

It was on tentative, creeping toes that the brothers did what was barely thinkable to the other boys on their block—what remained barely thinkable to poor Ronan:  they cracked its broken back door and entered Bellinger’s salon.

They had never been allowed inside, barely been allowed even to peer inside the large square front windows. No child had.

“That stuff’s not for kids,” their mother explained each time she returned, poking her face, her generally critical fingers caressing with such admiration.

The darkened salon appeared empty. Damon stared about him. The walls were stacked tidily with tools and books. A little wheeled cart nearby was loaded with ointments, tweezers, needles, and scissors to be whizzed around the shining floor to any of the numerous mirrors. Apart from the strong smell of disinfectant, the air was scented with curried lentil soup. It drifted from the upper level. Bellinger must be there.

Ronan was understandably nervous. “This is hallowed ground to him,” he reminded his absorbed brother in a mutter. “The place he practises his craft. If he ever was to catch us here …”

His eyes jumped beyond his will, drawn to movement. But it was only a trio of GM goldfish swimming in their aquarium, near fluttering behind the glass with their outsized fins and massive bobble cheeks.

“And the man is a chameleon,” Ronan added when Damon didn’t reply, now engrossed with, of all things, a small rubbish bin. Ronan saw some blobby, yellowed substance spattered on its rim. A shred of flesh-coloured tissue – he didn’t want to think what – flopped over the edge, as well. Why were all the adults obsessed with this place? “Literally, Damon. And you’ve heard Lon’s stories – “

Along with his brother’s pride, Ronan cursed Lon long and lewdly in his mind. It was that smart-aleck that had proposed Damon take up this absurd quest in the first place.

“ –Bellinger likes nothing better than to trap kids that sneak in here. He needs faces to practice on, and refine his craft.”

“Pile of rotten mincemeat,” Damon at last spoke, a confident grin breaking through the general awe of what they’d done.

“I don’t care if it’s a pile of rotten mincemeat,” Ronan whispered harshly. “Hurry and pick something – nothing he’ll notice is gone. We have a time limit, don’t forget. He’ll be finished his evening meal any moment.”

Despite his brother’s urgency, Damon considered his surrounds lazily, drawing out his time in that forbidden salon and relishing each moment, on the lookout for their proof of entry.

“What prize is befitting … ahh, here we are! These ought to convince Lon.”

Damon chose a small set of bone shears and lifted them exultantly into the air.

“Fine,” Ronan said tersely, glancing over each of his shoulders, fine hair prickling sharply along his arms. “Let’s get of here.”

Prize held high, Damon’s jubilant smile melted into a perfectly round O of surprise, muting his intended reply. His arms dropped.

Bellinger, thin as straw and entirely unwrinkled though decades curved his spine and shoulders, stood directly behind Ronan.  He wore a face that Damon, through his icy shock, was sure had once belonged to the florist around the corner.

Ronan stood perfectly still.  He felt the looming presence behind him, and though he dared not look, knew who it must be.

Damon eyes remained locked with Bellinger’s – that lightning violet-blue wasn’t a shade he offered in the catalogue the brothers had leafed through – for several long, tense seconds. Only when he blinked did Damon think of the bone shears he’d taken, cold in his tight grip.

Perhaps he had time to rectify that proud theft before they discovered Lon’s story – every word of it – was true.