The Birds

WARNING: STRONG LANGUAGE & IMAGERY. READ AT OWN RISK.

Jean stood outside her boyfriend’s door, hopping from one foot to the next as she debated what to do. Finally she just decided to get it over with and knocked sharply on the worn wood, glancing idly at the brass number hanging on the middle of the door, half hoping that it was the wrong door that she was standing in front of.

But her hopes were not assayed as she instantly recognized the tousled haired young man who had opened the door.

‘Jean!’ greeted the young man in a surprised tone, ‘What are you doing here? How did you find out where I live, anyway?’

Jean grimaced.

‘I asked Horace,’ she mumbled, looked at his pajama-clad knees (he had obviously just gotten out of bed,a voice in the back of head noted), ‘Can I come in, Tom?’

Tom looked distinctly uncomfortable.

‘Um… yeah, sure,’ he said finally, ‘It’s a bit a bit of a mess though, I hope you’re okay with that.’

He stepped back and held the door open for her. Jean stepped through the threshold, and scrutinized the room. Despite Tom’s warning, the room was actually quite clean and organized, with a few dirty articles of clothing strewn over the back of a chair the only out of place items she could spot.

She moved forward again, only to slip as her foot had chosen a stray piece of paper as its landing zone. She waved her arms precariously to try and regain her balance, only to be steadied by Tom, who clasped her shoulders from behind.

‘Thanks,’ she threw over her shoulder as she bent to pick up what she had slipped on.

It was a slip of paper, with the words ‘PLAY WITH ME’ scrawled over it in big, childish letters, seemingly written in red paint. She touched it and noticed with a frown it was still slightly wet.

‘Oh, sorry,’ apologized Tom sheepishly, as he reached for a tissue for her to clean her hands, ‘That’s for my …uh…. art project, I must have left one of the drafts on the ground. I should have been more careful, ha ha.’

‘I thought you worked at a glasses store,’ queried Jean in surprise, accepting the tissue.

Tom froze as his face contorted slightly, eyes darting around the room nervously, before replying, ‘It’s complicated,’ in a near whisper.

Sensing it was a sensitive subject; she said nothing and moved further through the apartment. As she opened the door to what she assumed was his bedroom, she heard a strange clicking sound, like the impact of stone on stone.

Curious, she twisted the knob and opened the door. Only to recoil in horror as a flurry of movement coupled with a raucous calling greeted her with the force of a tidal wave. Inside Tom’s bedroom were numerous cages, each occupied with a squawking, flapping, avian resident.

‘Shit,’ snarled Tom, as he pushed her aside (quite rudely as well, she thought) and rushed to each cage, snapping his fingers against each one as he went along. Like magic, as soon as he touched each cage, the whirlwinds of terror inside them calmed down faster than if he had tranquilized them.

Jean pressed one hand against her galloping heart while using the other to support herself on the doorframe. She cats another look around the room to reassure that what she was seeing was real and not simply a byproduct of an overactive imagination. She could see many different types of birds- canaries and finches, sparrows and eagles, seagulls and falcons. But the most obviously predominant species of bird were ravens. Or they might have been crows. Seeing the size of their beaks, Jean concluded that they were ravens… but the point was that there were so many of them- there were like 10 of them in the small bedroom alone!

‘I collect birds,’ supplied Tom, by way of explanation, ‘Just whatever I can pick up off the street or whatever the bird recovery centres will give me.’

‘Where do you keep their food?’ asked Jean, sitting down on his bed.

Tom sat down next to her, and then pointed over in the general direction of the kitchenette.

‘I keep it in the freezer. Freaking smelly stuff too- the birds of prey and the ravens eat carrion, but I just feed them special meat that the butcher gives me. Bloody difficult stuff to use, too.’

There was silence for a few minutes as the pair tried to find conversation. Jean looked around the room in faux interest. Noticing a door with an attached mirror that looked… strange… Jean shifted on the bed to inspect it more clearly. Looking into her reflection, Jean noticed it was tinted slightly yellow. Ignoring this, she continued her scrutiny of the room through the mirror.

‘You have a brother?’ Jean asked suddenly, seeing the faint outline of the boy in the mirror.

‘What? Not that I know of…’ answered Tom.

‘Then who’s… never mind,’ Jean said.

Feeling this was a good place to broach the subject which had been occupying her mind and caused her to come over, she opened her mouth.

‘Hey Tom,’ she murmured without looking at him, ‘Who’s this?’

She raised her phone and flicked her finger across the screen, which changed appropriately to reveal a photo. It was a photo of Tom and another girl- a brunette, very pretty- laughing and enjoying a drink.

‘Madeline?’ said Tom in surprise, ‘Madeline’s my girlfriend!’

‘What?!’ yelled Jean, outraged, ‘I thought I was your girlfriend!!’

Tom looked at her in a puzzled fashion, ‘Well yeah, until last week, you were, but we broke up last Monday!’

‘Why the hell wasn’t I informed?! Did you think you can just break up and not tell me? Are you retarded?!’ Jean snarled, half angry, half sarcastic.

‘What? I wrote you a letter, emailed you, texted you, and I also called you like a million times!’ shouted Tom, starting to get angry.

‘I had exams last week! I needed to study! Don’t you think something as important as a break up requires face-to-face interaction? You cold-blooded asshole!’ Jean retorted, fists clenched into tiny balls at her sides.

Tom’s face went red.

‘I was really busy at the store!’ he roared, ‘Antonio just got a massive bulk order from Mexico or somewhere, and you know how he does it! He makes you handcraft everything! It takes ages! We pulled all-nighters almost everyday that week to stay on schedule!’

Jean glared at him as he trailed off, mumbling something about ‘doors’ and ‘blood’ and ‘paper’. They sat in an uncomfortable, angry silence, each refusing to look at the other. One of the ravens croaked sinisterly, a low, angry sound that pierced the tense silence.

‘Well,’ muttered Tom tersely, ‘That’s that, then, isn’t it? We’ve broken up now, officially, face-to-face.Happy?’

At that moment, Jean snapped. Leaping up, she slammed her knee into his nose with such force that it snapped audibly. She then grabbed him by his throat and shook it viciously as she yelled at him.

‘Fuck you!’ she shrieked, spittle flying out from between her lips and onto his blood smeared face, ‘Fuck you and your goddamn smarmy ways! You think it’s all right now? That’s fucking it? What about me? Did you ever think of me while you were cavorting with that whore? Melanie, was it? Well fuck Melanie, and fuck you too, you ungrateful prick! Do you know how much I cared for you? How much you meant to me? DO YOU?!’

The birds around the room immediately kicked up a racket, wings beating and steel shaking, until the entire apartment was a cacophony of sound. Tom gurgled unintelligently, his hands scrabbling futilely at her own iron-hard grip around his windpipe. His face, going blue, contrasted with the crimson fountain pouring from his nose. It bubbled out from his mouth, as he tried desperately to form words with no air and no teeth. His eyes widened until she could see the little red veins, seemingly getting bigger with every second they were deprived of air.

It was not until about half a minute after Tom died that Jean realized and stopped ranting and throttling him.

With shocked, wide eyes, she stared at her blood soaked hands, taking no notice of the clamor of the birds, and then to the motionless body of her ex-boyfriend, laying prone on his bed, bathed in blood.

‘No, no, no,’ she moaned, ‘This can’t be happening! Why did this happen? Why did I just do that?’

She brushed her bloodied fingertips together and then brought it to her face, as if to check its authenticity. She glanced around the room once more, the leering, enraged faces of the birds jumping out at her like a vivid montage of hatred and accusation, screeching and squawking- a discordant symphony of sound.

Oh god, she thought frantically, I need to get rid of the body. Only last month, she had been arrested for shoplifting, and her mother had raised such fuss, revoking all her privileges, and almost disowning her. Jean was desperate for the situation not to be repeated, with only a month in between.

Half in a daze, she stumbled over to the freezer and yanked the door open. It’s all those damn birds’ fault,she thought, if it weren’t for them making such a din, I would’ve been thinking more clearly. She snatched a bag labeled ‘Raven feed’ and staggered back to where Tom’s corpse lay.

She carefully dropped some of the foul smelling meat onto his neck, before throwing the rest of it back in the freezer. Jean then inched over to the cages scattered around the room. Their tenants screamed at her as she neared, feathers and wings flurrying in the space. As quickly as she could, Jean flipped open the cages and then ran out the door, only pausing at the threshold to see the results of her actions.

It looked like a scene from hell. A pack of all sorts of airborne creatures, a hideous ball of wings and talons and ripping beaks, clustered on top of Tom’s dead body, tearing and shredding at his neck and face.

Excellent, thought Jean as she closed the door, the birds will get rid of my fingerprints, and hopefully the police will think that Tom spilled some meat on himself and those damn birds attacked him because of that!

She smiled grimly as she exited the apartment, taking great care to lock the door behind her as she left.No-one will ever know…

————————————————————————————————————————————-

Jean smiled as she walked through the park, whistling a cheerful tune to herself. It had been three days since she had killed Tom, and no one had arrested her yet. The murder had been reported only a couple of hours after it had been committed, with Tom’s roommates, Horace and Wilbur, coming in to find the horrific scene.

She saw a raven perched on a park bench, picking at someone’s discarded lunch. Feeling happy at the world, she reached into her pocket and threw a piece of her sandwich onto the ground in front of it.

Surprisingly, it didn’t immediately jump towards or away from it, instead opting to look at it curiously. It suddenly turned it’s head almost 180˚ around to stare beadily at Jean, it’s abyss-like eyes glaring balefully into her soul. The lunch it had previously been picking at must have had contained tomatoes or flavoured tuna or something, because its beak was stained red.

I know what you did to Tom, the raven seemed to say. I know, because I participated. Suddenly, to Jean, the red coloured beak had an altogether more sinister meaning.

She leapt towards it, and kicked at it, yelling, ‘Get away!’ in anger, kicking up dirt and food as she went along. A few other park goers looked at her strangely, but for the most part ignored her.

The raven flapped in the air, croaking angrily, before suddenly swooping at her, its talons spread wide. Jean screamed as the raven pecked and clawed at her, beating its wings hard against her head.

This torture thankfully only lasted for a few seconds, before a nearby jogger came to chase the bird off.

Ignoring the kind man’s question of if she was all right, Jean instead glared at the retreating bird; her eyes alight with suspicion and fear.

————————————————————————————————————————————-

Jean stood in an empty street, the streetlamps flickering eerily, casting sinister shadows that danced over cracked asphalt and concrete. She turned around warily, trying to get her bearings. She had no idea where she was.

A niggling feeling of being watched started to prick at the back of her head, and she spun around again. A sudden cawing caught her attention, as a treeful of ravens took to the sky in a mass of black shapes and blurred edges.

Woosh… woosh… woosh… several other flocks of ravens took the sky, turning the night into a spectral illusion of flickering gloom and wavering light.

The dark airborne shapes then coalesced into a giant mass of darkness, a singular, enormous raven head. Its beak clacked sinisterly, evilly, like the porcelain chink of a blade on a whetstone.

Jean screamed as it bore down on her, but unexpectedly, it did not engulf her in its cavernous mouth- instead, it merely stopped, folded its legs and placed its beak on the ground, as if it was ready to roost and go to sleep. To Jean, it looked like a mountain had just materialized in the middle of a street, leaving her with nowhere to go but ‘back’.

Suddenly, the raven’s beak opened and out of that lightless void dropped a body. A very familiar body.

————————————————————————————————————————————-

Tom stood up and cracked his neck, his fingers brushing through his messy hair.

‘Heya, babe,’ he grinned, ‘Did ya miss me?’

Jean stared in shock, one hand covering her mouth as she struggled to comprehend the sight that met her eyes.

‘You… You should be dead!’ she stuttered, ‘I killed you! The birds… the damn birds pecked out your damn neck! I fucking saw it!’

Tom, who had been walking towards her with his arms outstretched, as if he was going to give her a hug, stopped and tilted his head in confusion. He closed his eyes briefly and when he reopened them, they gleamed with an enigmatic, maniacal light.

‘Yes,’ agreed Tom smiling with a strange intent in his expression, ‘You did. You killed me, Jean. You killedme. I died. My beloved birds partook of my life because of you, and through my birds, I will live again, and I will have my revenge, on you.

As Tom spoke each sentence, he took an extra step forward, until he was right in Jean’s face, prodding at her chest with every punctuated point. She could smell a rank odour on his breath, but despite the terror and disbelief she felt, she couldn’t bring herself to step back, couldn’t bring herself to move away from this vengeful apparition yelling in her face.

Yes,’ continued Tom, ‘My birds and I…. we are one.

He gestured upwards with a dramatic gesture, and 16 jet-black raven wings exploded out if his back. Jean fell back with a cry, surprised at the unexpected movement, only just managing to catch herself with her hands and avoid being injured by the curb.

Tom turned his head to look at her, and Jean shrieked in fear and horror. The once-pristine, tanned flesh had been horribly mangled. Bloody chunks of flesh, stark under the now steady moonlight, lay carved on his face, large pyramidal divots pecked out across his face and head. His once playfully wavy hair sat on his skull, matted with blood and even wrenched out in places. One eyeball hung next to his cheek on a macabre optic fibre. The other span around senselessly, the pupil viciously removed. Dull white bone shone through in especially brutal lacerations.

Even as Jean watched, a massively curved, cruel beak emerged from where his nose had been, and black feathers started to sprout up over his head.

With a large jump, the anthropomorphic raven leapt up and landed on Jean’s shoulders, pinning her down with only its feet. It crouched down, much like a bird does after landing on a branch, and leaned down to glare at her. Jean stared, petrified, into the beady black orb, dimly noticing that there was a spark of intelligence in there, but being too scared to try and make a plea for her life.

The raven clicked its beak, and then opened it in an impossibly wide smile.

————————————————————————————————————————————-

Jean woke with a start, cold sweat adorning her brow. Thank god it was just a dream, she thought with relief. She sat up, flicking on the bedside lamp and regarding the familiar surroundings with reassurance.

Thinking over the events of the dream, Jean shivered and shrugged her shoulders. I’m being stupid, she thought, dead people don’t come back to life, and birds are just dumb animals. I’m safe. The police have no leads, and I just need to get back into the flow of things. I’m just a little shell-shocked, right now. It’s my first time killing someone, after all.

For some reason, this last thought brought on an overwhelming desire to laugh. Jean did her best to stifle the emotion, but let out a few chuckles anyway. Suddenly feeling slightly suffocated, being wrapped up in her blankets like a caterpillar as she was, in a stuffy room on a warm summer’s night, Jean stood up (disentangling herself from the intricate web of blankets first) and walked over the window, with the intention of letting some fresh air in.

With a click, the window snapped open, and Jean leaned out, her eyes closed and enjoying the fresh scent of the night and the refreshing wind on her sweat-covered body.

But as she leant out further, she recoiled in shock as her face met something soft, something feathery.Dreading what she was going to find, Jean opened a single eye, looking straight into the corresponding ringed eye of a Great Horned Owl.

‘Hoot,’ it tooted softly.

Jean relaxed and retreated back into the warmth of her comforting room.

Caw.

Caw.

Chirp.

Caw.

Tweet.

Caw.

Squawk.

Caw. Tweet.

Cawcawtweetchirphoothoottwittertwittercawgrahgrahcawchirpchirpchirptwitterchirpcaw.

————————————————————————————————————————————-

Eyes wide, Jean rushed back to the window and threw it open again. Surrounding the house were hundreds, no thousands, of different breeds and types of birds, sitting on fences, on roofs, on electrical wires, on tree branches.

Everywhere Jean looked, there were birds, all watching her. All waiting for an opportunity to avenge the murder of their friend. All silent witnesses to a crime, all impassive executioners waiting to strike.

Panicking, she ran from her room and straight to her mother’s.

‘Mum, mum!’ she cried in terror.

‘Mmm… what, Jeanie?’ mumbled her mother drowsily.

‘There’s a bunch of birds outside the house! There are thousands of them, and they’re everywhere!’

‘You’re not a little girl anymore, Jeanie. Birds always do that. They find places to roost and stay there all night. Go back to bed. The nasty birds won’t hurt you.’

Jean shook her head in exasperation, but steeled her nerves in iron-hard determination. These damned birds, she thought, they won’t leave me alone. It’s Tom’s fault, too. That smug bastard. I bet he’s laughing at me from hell. Well, fuck him. I’m not going to let him win. Him and all his goddamn airborne rats.

Jean strode over to the locked chest in her mother’s bedroom, quickly opened it, already knowing the combination lock. Sliding back the lid, she grinned in satisfaction as she spied the mother lode of treasures hiding within.

Jean’s father had been a weapon’s manufacturer, and had stored a cache of his finest in his own home, as a last-ditch security measure.

Now, Jean, his daughter, intended to put them to good use.

————————————————————————————————————————————-

Jean stepped out of the house, clad only in a thin nightgown and wearing a cool look of determination and desperation, in perhaps equal measures. In her hands she held a machine-gun (which model, she wasn’t quite sure), and at her feet lay a box of grenades and explosives.

She grinned viciously and waved the gun around at the emotionlessly watching birds, yelling, ‘COME AT ME, YOU GODDAMN FUCKING BIRDS! EVEN IF I KILLED THAT BASTARD, DOESN’T MEAN YOU CAN FUCKING WALTZ INTO MY LIFE, AND RUIN IT! EAT LEAD, SUCKERS!’

Jean pulled the trigger.

Nothing happened.

Damn, thought Jean, half in a daze, forgot to flick the safety lever. I think I just screwed up that dramatic moment pretty bad.

With a raucous cawing that was as undeniable as the roar of the ocean, a wave of bodies came rushing at her all at once, an unstoppable force of nature.

‘I knew it,’ breathed Jean, ‘You did something, Tom, I know it. You brainwashed the birds, didn’t you? You cursed me. But I’ll go down fighting. You’ll never take me ALIVE!’

Finally disengaging the safety lever, Jean lifted the surprisingly heavy piece of metal and yanked on the trigger, letting loose a rapid spray of bullets. Unfortunately, she wasn’t quite prepared for the recoil, which skewed her aim quite severely. As a result, bullets went everywhere from into nearby residences, into the ground, or into the incoming mob of animals.

Grinning as she saw a few birds fall from her deadly spray of bullets, Jean tightly depressed the trigger, spinning in a manic circle; the metal orbs pouring down like a lethal rain.

But her aim was terrible.

She managed to hit more houses and cars than birds (which was quite hard considering the sheer size of the bird attack force) and this added screams and the wails of car sirens to the din of the regular machinegun rattle of gunfire. This is your requiem, Tom, she hissed in her head, adding her own demented squeal to the cacophony.

Then the birds were upon her. Ripping claws and stabbing beaks, the bludgeoning wings and blinding feathers, the birds were merciless as they mutilated the girl. Despite the vast numbers of them that fell from the point-blank bullets, their numbers were not affected in the slightest.

‘AAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!’ screamed Jean through a mouthful of blood and a haze of red.

The inevitable had happened. One of Jean’s haphazardly aimed bullets had ricocheted off the ground and buried itself in her belly. The red-hot pain felt like it was carving itself deeper and deeper into her stomach the longer she endured it. And all while this was happening, the birds ripped and tore at her body, butchering and mauling her. Her dress was now only a mess of bloody rags and her hair was a carpet of red.

But even through the pain and terror, Jean finally smiled. She lifted her left arm from where it had been shielding her face from the vicious bird attack, and brought it down on the crate of explosives she had brought.

Her left hand held a lighter, and as the flame met the crate, she laughed.

‘JOKES ON YOU, TOM!!!!!!!’ she shrieked into the unforgiving night.

————————————————————————————————————————————-

The world let up in a blinding flash of red and white, followed closely by the thunderous boom of displaced matter.

————————————————————————————————————————————-

(Epilogue)

‘So,’ asked the butcher’s assistant, ‘What did the policeman give you? A dead body for you to mince up and give to the pie lady?’

The butcher gave a hearty laugh.

‘No, son,’ he replied, ‘Apparently, some guy died, and they found a bunch of ‘faux carrion’ in his freezer. They gave it to me, because you can’t eat it yourself. It’s been made especially to give to animals- scavengers, you know, like hyenas and vultures and stuff. There’s all kinds of nasty stuff in there, like offal and eyeballs and shit. Birds love it, especially. They’ll flock from miles around to get a bit of this. Surprisingly, it doesn’t smell very bad, but birds seem to have a sixth sense for it- they just know when you’ve faux carrion, or touched it, or something.’

He took a moment to take a breath before continuing.

‘Listen closely, now, son, because this is important. If you want to be a butcher, then you’ve got to know how to handle faux carrion. Now, birds love this stuff so much that they’ll be extremely vicious in order to get even a nibble. So, if you ever make faux carrion, with your leftover offal and eyeballs and stuff, you need to be able to get rid of your scent, or birds’ll flock towards you like women to a 20% off sale on clothes. Thing is, faux carrion is a little like skunk juice- you can’t get it off with water alone, son. The secret is … coke. If you get a bottle of coca-cola, and wash your hands in it, then you’ll be scot-free and won’t have to worry about no bird attacks, hey? But never forget, because if you leave the scent on your skin for too long, it’s start to fester and intensify, and then you’ll be neck deep in birdshit, no matter how many times you shower! Ha ha ha!’

THE END

————————————————————————————————————————————-

Throughout the piece, primarily at the start, I have included a couple of references to another of my short stories, The Door. It can be found on the Competition Writing Blog athttps://unicornexpressmhs.wordpress.com/2012/05/11/the-door/

The reason for this was that because of the time restraints that I was under when writing The Birds, I did not really have enough time to conjure up a plausible enough character with a credible back-story, so I simply used one from my other story. I placed The Birds into the same universe as The Door, in other words. Despite this devious bit of trickery, reading The Door is not needed to comprehend The Birds.

It was quite graphic and vivid in regards to imagery and description, as well as having quite strong language and vocabulary. In particular, it is aimed at older teens and young adults. At first I was a little leery about using such strong language on a submitted piece of work, but my considered alternatives lacked the emotion I was trying to convey. And without the appropriate emotion driving their action, the main character lacked a sufficient motive to commit the crime, which leads to the amount of guilt featured in the piece.

Hope you enjoy

Kevin Tang 10F

Wings

The Boy stared out the window. The view wasn’t particularly spectacular, but he stared out into the blank expanse of sky before him all the same, just like he did every day. Sliding his finger against the windowsill, he heard the familiar, comforting rasp of metal upon metal and gave a sigh.

He stood up and strode away from the fleeting, tantalising promise of freedom that had swept through his head like a bracing sea breeze, back towards the massive workstation that dominated the centre of the circular room. He stared at the mess of cogs and gears and plasma coils and gave a frustrated sigh. What am I doing here? He thought with an angry shrug.

Just then, he noticed the digital clock embedded on the table. The Boy froze, then exploded into a flurry of movement, yanking out the rolled up section of blue manuscript that lay under a power transformer and a half-deconstructed piston and pulling it open.

The Boy glanced at the jumble of tools and spare parts on his workspace, before carelessly sweeping them aside with his arm, placing the blueprints in their place. He weighed down the edges with some appropriately heavy metal blocks and cogs he had lying around, then hunkered down to pore over the detailed diagrams and annotations.

Immediately, the vision in his left eye flickered and expanded, magnifying and adopting a blue tint. Miniscule metal arms then erupted from the skin around his left eye, bearing aloft small monocle-like objects and bending like small cranes.

‘Hmm,’ mused the Boy, who dutifully ignored the now commonplace transformation of the left side of his body, ‘3 hours until Inspection… challenge accepted!’

He raised his left arm with a reckless smile on his face, the metal surface cracking and splitting into three distinct appendages. The middle one opened up spidery-looking fingers, which flexed experimentally, while the other two ‘arms’ twisted and fractured until a spirit level and the tip of a power drill protruded seamlessly. The Boy grinned, his normal hand snatching up a spanner.

‘Let’s do this!’

———————————————————————————————————————-

-Bzzzz-

The impassive mechanical alarm reverberated through the air, sounding for a minute before falling silent, leaving a tense, quiet in its wake.

The Boy’s right eye flickered upwards to glance at the clock, all the while frantically fitting parts and twisting metal. His arms were a blur of metal and cloth, frantically bending and morphing, a myriad of different tools materialising and vanishing in the span of a few seconds. Finally, he slowly straightened his posture, never breaking his furious rhythm.

He reached up and flicked a stray strand of hair out of his eyes right before a cast iron metal mask constructed itself onto his face. His left arm now only had two branches instead of the previous five or six. With his right arm and one of his left, the Boy picked up two complicated-looking metal blocks and held them together. His remaining hand, twisted aimlessly for a few seconds, before lowering to point at the combined metal parts. The nail elongated slightly, before a bright blue gas flame erupted from the tip.

Moving his finger in regular, even sweeps, the Boy quickly and efficiently welded the two parts together, a sense of satisfaction in every movement.

‘-BOY!!!-’

The Boy, startled by the sudden squawk from the communicator mounted on the wall, leaped straight up, arms and legs akimbo. Hissing, he quickly expelled a quick spurt of liquid nitrogen from his arm to douse the fire that had sprung up when he had moved his gas flame too close to a plasma coil.

‘-Inspection was ten minutes ago, Boy! Where are you?!-’

The Boy leaped over to the communicator and quickly pressed the button with his thumb.

‘I just finished, Master D,’ he gasped breathlessly, ‘I’ll bring it straight up.’

————————————————————————————————————————–

The Boy stood outside the transparent door, his finger hovering over the security pad tentatively. He jammed his finger against the touch sensor while punching in a complicated 16-digit code with his left arm; the adaptive metal growing 11 temporary fingers to help him with his endeavour.

The ‘transparent’ door rippled and seemingly shattered, a million pieces of glittering, reflective glass falling out of place. The Boy did not flinch as the razor-sharp shards danced close to his face. He knew it was all an illusion- a hologram designed to impress those who would come to visit D, the ‘genius’ of Graca. Unfortunately, no-one ever did come to visit the famed benefactor of Graca.

It was likely that down below, on the ground, the Citizens had made up some cock-and-bull story about how D was a criminal or mentally disturbed or such, and prevented any and all visitors that tried to see him. This was the sad truth. D was a prisoner of his own land. Trapped in a gilded cage of his own creation, forced to invent and manufacture brilliant pieces of innovation for a people he hated, the once-lauded ‘genius’ was now reduced to a mere caged bird- a relic that had been a mainstay of Graca for decades… from before the Reform.

The Boy gave a sad smile- his master’s circumstances always brought a tinge of pity and respect to the surface of his emotions, despite the rather negative feelings he secretly harboured towards the harsh taskmaster. He then blinked.

Now, instead of the bustling whirlwind of energy that had been ‘D’ in the illusion, there was only a black shrouded figure sitting morosely at a cluttered desk. He held a small doll in one hand, and was screwing a detached arm back into its original position with an old-fashioned screwdriver, with a handle.

The Boy silently padded over to stand at his shoulder, watching silently, unwilling to break the tense atmosphere.

Finally, after about ten minutes of being ignored by his Master, the Boy cleared his throat impatiently. Immediately, the aging man span around, eyes that still retained sword-like sharpness flicking up to scrutinise the one who had interrupted his work.

‘Boy!’ he rasped, ‘Where were you? Inspection was twenty minutes ago! The Citizens want that Theta Bomb!’

The Boy wordlessly held out his left arm, which immediately opened up, showing a small compartment in which resided the fruits of three hours’ labour. Four pulsing blue cables were connected to the top, providing the fluorescent power coils that veined the metal block with a healthy light.

D snorted in derision upon seeing the weapon of mass destruction, instead simply reaching in and ripping it out of the Boy’s arm. Said Boy winced and hissed as he felt the radium charge cables disconnect from his arm, a terrible cold spreading through the pain receptors in the artificial appendage.

D turned the cuboidal block this way and that in his gnarled hands, inspecting it from all angles. Finally, he gave a vicious-looking smile. Holding the bomb in his hand, he made a vague-looking, twisting motion with his hands. The intricate mass of metal and wire shivered and exploded, tiny constituent parts raining onto the ground like a storm.

That,’ snarled D in anger, ‘was pathetic. That Theta Bomb had an 18% chance of misfiring. What have I been teaching you all these years?!’

The old man gripped the Boy by his collar and slammed him against the wall, the aged muscles still possessing iron-like strength. With his free hand, D prodded the immobile boy in the chest with a grimy finger.

‘I found you, Boy, a nameless orphan who mucked up a jetpack joyride. You were going to die, and I saved your life. You were a nobody, and I raised you as my own son and legacy. You lost the entire left side of your body, and I crafted you a new body using my secret techniques. I gave you life, and I can take it away. You belong to me. Your entire existence is a tool for me to use. A tool to get revenge on the Citizens. A tool, just like this.’

D held up the doll, which had suddenly twisted and morphed into a crackling energy transfuser. Holding his charge tight, and utilising the assistance of the metal wall, which had unexpectedly sprouted numerous tentacle-like cables that held the helpless boy immobile, D brought the energy transfuser close to the teen’s face.

‘Remember this, Boy,’ hissed D maniacally, ‘You are mine. You will always be mine.’

And then he pressed the superheated nib against the Boy’s bare right cheek, scratching a line straight down the bare skin, watching the frying flesh cauterise the wound almost instantly.

Blinking in curiosity, he brought the half-doll, half-energy transfuser back and studied the long scratch down the boy’s cheek. It was an ugly black, the surrounding skin a contrasting angry red.

‘Hmmm,’ murmured D, puzzled, ‘Why don’t you scream, Boy?’

The Boy glared at his master through a haze of pain and tears before opening his mouth and spitting a glob of blood and phlegm contemptuously at the vindictive old man in front of him. But even as he completed this action, a wrinkly old hand snapped out and grabbed his jaw, quick as lightning.

‘Ah,’ mused D, ignoring the wet blood tracking down his cheek as he forcefully opened the teen’s mouth. ‘You bound your gums together with wire. Not a bad application of MESTAR. You’ve adapted to the metal well.’

‘You should never have given me it,’ snarled the Boy defiantly, finally deciding to stand up for himself in the face of his master’s cruel and unreasonable treatment of him.

The tiny spool of steel wire that he had used to prevent himself from screaming had now completely unwound itself and was now coiled in a tight-packed mass on top of his tongue. In a fluid movement, the Boy spat at D, the wire uncoiling itself with the movement, a flying spear of bloodied metal.

The wickedly sharp metallic streamer bolted through the air, directly at D’s head. Flicking near his ear, it grazed the right side of his face, creating, ironically, a deep furrow perpendicular to the Boy’s own newly-acquired scar.

But the Boy saw none of this. He reached deep within himself, finding that part in him that controlled the adaptive metal that made up the left side of his body. He found it, and began to manipulate it.

Smiling, he opened his eyes, and roared. Immediately, the metal cables that grew from the wall and held him immobile exploded outwards, flying away in a million shredded pieces of steel.

The Boy stepped forward and rolled his neck, producing an audible crack. It was now obvious what had severed his bonds- several large, curved blades protruded from the left side of his body. But even as the Boy advanced upon D, who had been blown back onto the ground with the force of the wire attack, the metal blades slowly receded into the grey, skin-like surface of his body.

The Boy held out his arm, which lengthened and tapered to a point, a white glow starting to form at the tip. It now looked less like an arm and more like a superheated spear or lance.

‘I guess I am grateful for the help, Master D,’ grinned the Boy maliciously, ‘But please die.’

He jabbed the lance at his fallen master and smiled sadistically as he heard the tell-tale hiss of shrivelling cloth as a hole was rapidly worn in D’s ever-present black cloak. But when D started to chuckle darkly, a vein in the Boy’s face started to twitch.

‘What’s so funny?’ he snarled angrily. ‘You have nothing to laugh about- you’re about to die, you horrid old man!’

With a suddenness that shocked, D leapt up off his back and straight at the Boy, arm outstretched.

The Boy yelped as he recoiled from the unexpected attack. He reflexively raised his arm to protect himself, and in doing so, impaled D straight through the chest, the heated tip of the lance sliding through flesh and cloth, bone and muscle with almost no resistance.

The Boy sat slumped on the wall, the weight of his master pressing down on him. He blinked slowly, trying desperately to comprehend what had just happened. He glanced at the limp figure skewered on his lance and prodded him tentatively with his normal hand.

When the still form did not move, the Boy allowed himself a small smile of triumph. He had always wondered if he had enough guts to actually take the life of the one who had saved him, even if he took into account the extent of his hatred towards him.

‘You brought this on yourself, Master D. maybe if you weren’t so demanding. So cruel. But you know what they say- what comes around goes around,’ he murmured softly as a solitary tear slid down his ruined cheek.

‘You’re a hundred years too early too early to lecture me, damn brat,’ came a rough voice, like sandpaper over a chalkboard.

The Boy’s head snapped up, unbelieving, as the figure transfixed on the metal pole stirred and raised his head. A familiar face smirked dangerously at him, whiskered features held in an animalistic snarl.

‘Wh… what? H…h…how?’ stuttered the Boy, almost incoherently.

‘Hah…did you really think you could kill me? Me, the great D? The Creator, himself? I am the one singlehandedly responsible for improving and sustaining Graca! Without my inventions and technology, those smarmy Citizens would probably still think digital watches are the height of innovation! You think you can extinguish the life of the single greatest existence this world has ever known? With my own technology, as well? You really are a failure as an apprentice!’ growled D, enraged.

With deliberate slowness, he raised his free hand to where the Boy could see it, a single raised palm. Slowly, menacingly, D twisted his palm into a clenched fist. And the Boy immediately felt an excruciating pain permeate his entire being, a pulsing white-hot supernova of sensation that coursed through his veins and boiled his blood. Not even having a line seared into his skin had been this painful. And all D had done was twist his hand. The Boy didn’t understand what was causing this all-encompassing agony. He felt, somewhere, an urge to scream, but then realised he was already doing so- a high-pitched keening that reverberated inside his head, like a roomful of shouting people.

In some half-deranged state, the Boy entertained the thought of muffling his screaming, to put up a tough front to show he wasn’t afraid of the terrifying old man, but when he tried to reach up with his left arm to cover his mouth, he realised with a delayed sense of horror he no longer had a left arm. Or a left leg. And… oh god, even the left side of his face was missing.

D had, utilising his god-like manipulation of synthetic materials, ripped all the MESTAR sustaining the Boy’s life clear from his body.

It was then, through a haze of pain, that the Boy blacked out.

———————————————————————————————————————–

The Boy stood on a cloud, staring into the distance aimlessly. I’ve always wanted to fly. I guess now it’s impossible. Am I dead?

He stared at his very human left arm and sighed. He had always dreamed of escaping D’s prison on a jetpack- the same way he had entered. After his accident, he had almost given up on that dream, but his former master had craftily strung him along like a mindless puppet, luring him with promises of better technology to enhance his flying experience- the sensation of enjoying the sky.

Unfortunately, it was all an elaborate trap. As soon as the Boy had accepted the metal prosthetics into his body, he had stepped into D’s jurisdiction. Reduced to the slave of his saviour, the Boy once again had his dream destroyed.

———————————————————————————————————————–

The Boy woke to the feel of rushing air, and for a moment thought he had actually died and had been granted his life-long wish. But this wish was soon shattered as he took stock of his surroundings. He was standing at the edge of a giant hole in the floating prison’s wall, still lacking most of the left side of his body, but feeling a strange, yet familiar weight on his back.

‘Hello, Boy,’ came the dreaded, rasping voice of D, ‘I have decided to make use of you for one last mission. I’ve programmed a jetpack to launch you straight down into the nexus of the anti-gravitational field, where the bomb I’ve planted in you body will promptly detonate. Probably the most use I’ll ever get out of you. And then, my ‘prison’ will finally fall, and I will regain my rightful place, ruling the Citizens!’

The Boy ignored him and only focused on what he could sense behind him. A jetpack. He smiled at D before launching himself off the precipice, cutting off his master’s triumphant speech. He could feel the jetpack thrusters boosting, but he already knew, that even D’s unnatural dominance over machines could not wrest away control of the MESTAR that had been a part of him for 3 years (even if it were in a slightly different form), not at this distance.

He asserted his authority over the metal and felt it shift and twist, becoming something far more different. Wings.

He flapped his new appendages, gaining altitude, moving away from the anti-gravitational generator below and instead heading for the universal power transmitter, sitting at the very edges of the upper atmosphere. He could feel his breathing beginning to labour, but used some of his last vestiges of strength to create a mini-communicator to shout a few parting words to his former master, staring wide-eyed from below.

‘If I’m going to die, I might as well bring this wretched planet with me! Because it’s in my nature!’

Suddenly, terrible white light blanketed the sky, leaving only the Boy’s parting words.

‘By the way, my name isn’t Boy, it’s Icarus.’

————————————————————————————————————————–

This was something I wrote for the Imagination Creation Western Union Young Writers Competition.

Kevin Tang 10F

 

What Needs To Be Done

Author’s Note: This is my creative piece for the context of justice. Hope you like it, would appreciate some kind of response. WARNING: Has strong language and themes.

—————————-

“It is the intention of this hearing to determine the culpability of Captain Jones in the shooting and hospitalization of Major Brandt,” the Judge said. He was a military Judge, a hard-faced man with grey eyes. He sat atop his high chair, behind his bench in a skeleton-like courtroom. Jones and Brandt’s lawyers were both there, plus the appropriate courtroom personnel. It was a fairly standard court room construction for what essentially amounted to a court martial. The events about to transpire, of course, were absolutely extraordinary.

“The Defense shall give their opening statement,” the Judge said. It was customary. Jones’ lawyer stood. He was a shrewd man, grey-haired and almost fifty with the kind of glasses that always made it appear as if he was peering at you curiously.

“Good morning, your Honour, Prosecution. My name is Mr Grey,” surprise, surprise, “and it is the intention of the defense to prove one thing today. My client admits to the assault of Major Brandt.”

The Prosecution was grinning, as if his day just became a dozen and half times easier.

“However,” Grey continued, in that voice that carries rapt attention and dares interruption, “my client did so under extenuating circumstances. Namely, the defense of innocent civilians who were, at the time, incapable of defending themselves. It is our intention to prove that Major Brandt’s racism and extremist bigotry led him to raising a gun to a family’s heads. It is our intention to prove that my client saw only one way to stop Brandt from murdering five people: shooting him in a non-lethal location.”

If a pin had dropped in that courtroom right then, not only would everybody have heard, but they would have ignored it. The skeleton crew, numbering about twelve, in the room were all staring at Grey as if we’d grown thirteen new bodily appendages in just as many seconds. Their owlish blinking was rather entertaining. The bland Judge merely sat there, his mouth slightly agape. This case was about to get a lot more complicated, and more than likely, it would also garner a lot more media attention. Attention that he really didn’t need.

The Judge took a moment to recollect himself and picked up his hanging jaw. Brandt’s lawyer stood up again.

“Your Honour, the Prosecution requests a short recess. We need some time to reexamine our case,” he said.

“Granted,” he said. “We will reconvene tomorrow at ten.”

He banged his gavel and everybody filed out of the room.

It was devilishly hot. This area was a frying pan. Every soldier dreaded it. Hell lived on this little patch of earth. It was expansive, and the glare of the rocky desert with small patches of dirty grass could blind an unprepared man.

But these men were far from unprepared. These men had trained for over a year to be here. Special Forces. The best of the best, the hardest of the hardest; the most indomitable people in the world. They were also, in hindsight, probably the most insane.

They parked their Humvee, beige to match the barrens. It was a little village they were visiting, one of the many in this area. With what amounted to mud huts for homes and poppy seed fields for farms, one would be lucky to find a cow amongst these villagers. They got their money and their food mostly by providing the insurgents with drugs to sell internationally.

The thud of the troop’s boots was obvious in the air. None of them wore helmets. All of them had guns.

They walked into the village, joking.

“Do you reckon we’ll see some action today, Dash?” Jerry Malone asked. Jerry was the joker of the group. Brandt, the lunatic captain. Jones, the calm second. Malone, the comic relief. And Sharp, the witty retort.

“Maybe. These guys aren’t gonna shoot at us though,” Dash Sharp replied, nodding at some villagers who were going into their houses.

“Look at the shits. None of them want to stand with us,” Brandt said, pointing with his gun. Jones’ head snapped around so fast, you could blink and miss it.

“’Cos when we leave, the guys with guns will come in here and shoot their wives and take their damn cow if they’re seen with us,” he replied. Jones was the calm one. The rational one.

But sometimes, it was hard as hell to stay calm when your commanding officer was being a dick.

“Plus none of them have your titanium balls, Brandt,” Jerry sniped in. They all laughed at that one.

“Alright, would the Prosecution like to call its first witness?” the Judge asked.

Brandt’s lawyer stood. He was wearing almost exactly the clothes as the previous day. Jones hadn’t bothered with his name before, but now he knew. His name was Mr Hart.

“Yes, your Honour. The Prosecution calls Captain Dashiell Sharp to the stand,” Hart said.

Dashiell Sharp was witty by nature. He was witty at training, witty in the field. But when you put some fancy military dress on the man, he was immaculate.

“Do you swear?” asked the Judge. Dashiell placed his right hand on the book of God by him.

“I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth,” he swore. Mr Hart stood up.

“Would you recount the events that took place on the fourth of June this year for the court?” Hart asked.

This time the courtroom was almost full. This wasn’t trial by jury, as was military custom, but the press would still dig their claws into the back of this case. A soldier shoots another soldier to prevent racism? The scenario begged to be sensationalized.

“We were sweeping through the town, looking for weapons caches, when we came across a man and his family standing outside the front of their house…” Dashiell began.

——————————————-

“Are you sure they meant this village? These people are all freakin’ farmers,” Malone asked. Brandt turned to him.

“The thing about this damn place is that any one of those damn farmers could pull a gun out of their thirty-two and a half layers and shoot your eyeball out the back of your skull,” Brandt shot back. “And of course I’m effing sure they meant this village.”

Malone, suitably chastised, muttered a, “Fine, fine,” and stepped back into line with Sharp. Sharp and Malone made up the back line, and Brandt and Jones took the front end of the unit. They rounded a corner, into a little dead-end road. At the far end of the road (or rather, dirt path) was a man, standing a few meters in front of his family, all of whom were outside what was probably their house.

“Who the fuck are they?” muttered Brandt. Dashiell could barely make out the under-the-breath remark.

“Locals,” Jones replied.

“I know that, but why are they outside? All the others are pissing themselves inside,” Brandt said. Jones shot him a look, and Dashiell looked over at his friend. Even Malone, the guy who always laughed, was frowning at their leader’s behavior. “Let’s go find out.”

Before anybody could stop him, he was approaching the man.

“So you’re man enough to stand out here and look at us, huh?” Brandt said in Arabic. They all spoke the language; one of the reasons they made a valuable SpecOps team.

“Yes. You come into our town and sack and disturb and do nothing for us,” said the man. His wife sheltered her children behind her.

“What the fuck do you mean, we don’t do anything for you? We’re trying to free you from people who want to fucking kill you,” Brandt spat.

——————————————-

“Why didn’t one of you try to stop Major Brandt at this point?” Mr Hart asked Malone. Malone shot him a withering glare.

“Because we didn’t think it would go as far as it did. If I knew now what would have happened, I’d have knocked Major Brandt out and tied him to a post,” Malone replied.

“Continue,” Hart commanded.

——————————————-

“Your freedom and our freedom are not the same,” said the woman. The man nodded. Brandt looked like he would blow a fuse.

“You think we’re the same as the Taliban?” Brandt shouted. “Well, I’ll show you the fucking difference.”

Brandt pulled his assault rifle up, aimed at the family. “If I was the Taliban, I’d fucking shoot you!”

“The Taliban only shoot those who don’t do what they want,” replied the man. “We don’t want you in our house, so you cannot search it or destroy what is inside. Are you going to shoot us?”

Brandt unclicked the safety.

——————————————-

“What was going through your mind when your superior was threatening this family? Did you think they deserved it?” Mr Hart asked. Jones frowned at him.

“No, I didn’t think they deserved it. I was thinking that there are better ways to make the villagers believe we aren’t the Taliban, to make them see that they aren’t trading one dictator for another,” Jones said.

“More peaceful ways?” Mr Hart. The disdain in his voice was evident, and yet, totally unchallenged by the entire room, now full to the brim with reporters, family, and military personnel.

“Better ways,” Jones insisted.

——————————————-

If Sharp and Malone were lost and confused when Brandt pulled his gun up, they were even more impotent when Jones raised his, unclicking the safety professionally.

“You don’t know what you’re doing,” Brandt said, not lowering his gun, or altering his aim.

“Yes, I do. I’m trying to save a man’s life,” Jones snapped back. “Put the gun down, Major.”

“You’ll be court marshaled for this, Captain,” Brandt growled.

The slightest hair fell through the sky, and like a breath, it happened. The almost imperceptible twitch of Brandt’s index finger wasn’t missed by Jones. The sound of a single gunshot cracked through the open plain, echoing against the mountainous walls of the valley.

Brandt was one the ground, clutching his leg and screaming, trying to get at his gun. Jones kicked it away and stood over him, his rifle pointed at Brandt’s chest.

——————————————-

“My ruling is as follows: Sergeant Dashiell Sharp is cleared of any involvement in the events of June 4,” bang of the gavel, “Sergeant Jerry Malone is cleared of any involvement in the events of June 4,” another bang, “Captain Michael Jones is determined to be culpable in the events of June 4 and so is dishonorably discharged from the Armed Forces,” said the Judge, with another bang. It was supposed to be the final one. Cameras clicked. “And finally, Major Mark Brandt is suspended from duty, pending an inquiry into his actions during the events on June 4.”

The cameras went into a furor, and the entire room was drowned in white lights and shouts for comments.

——————————————-

INQUIRY INTO THE ACTIONS OF MAJOR MARK BRANDT: JUNE 4TH/2012

Subject of Inquiry: Major Mark Brandt
Purpose of Inquiry: To determine culpability and if necessary, punishment.

Events in Question: Attempted shooting of innocent civilians in the theatre of war, possibly because of extremist racist tendencies.

Result of Inquiry: Major Mark Brandt is found to have been acting with mission parameters and violated no orders, standing or otherwise active.

Comments: Major Brandt was doing what he needed to do.

——————————————-

fin

——————————————-

 

 Leon O.