By: Antwan Crump
There’s a clown mask hanging from my coat-rack. I’m not entirely sure how it got there, but I can’t seem to bring myself to move it. It’s creepy—that’s for damn sure—but in a weird way, it ties the room together.
Sometimes, I can hear it laughing. Cackling, really. It’s loud and obnoxious. It used to scare me. The same way that a movie could. Startled, would be a better word. Now, I just kind of want it gone. But, then the room would look like shit. Hell of a conundrum, right? I guess it’s kind of funny.
Eighteen goddamn years. Nearly two decades of shucking and jiving. Ducking and weaving. Fearing for my life and watching others lose theirs. Families destroyed by the whim of mortal men with mortal needs and desires. I hear back in the day, they called folks like that weak. If you hear them tell it now-a-days—they’re terrorists. Bullies, even. It’s disgusting.
As an officer of the law, I have the fortune of seeing it altogether different. Men like me…we don’t fear weakness—no matter what kind of upgrade you give to its name. Men like me don’t play the role of the victim or the mark. Men like me don’t suffer, because, if you’re always something—you can’t ever be it by accident.
It’s choice. It’s always been choice. Bombed out streets and decapitation videos and all those other horror scenarios that keep people shitting in their pants—what does any of it really mean, other than what you allow it to? What is life if not the road to death? What is death, if not your reward for life? Chaos my friends. It’s all chaos. That’s all it’s ever been.
End of Daily Log. Verification Two-Two-Six Dash Bravo-Cinco-Verde.
I.D. Special Agent, Victor Maul, Station Seventeen.
Maul stepped away from the glass booth with his eyes lasered in on the droid who’d been administering his psyche evaluation. It was a quarterly obligation that he loathed.
He’d spent the last three years of quarterlies trying to say something that could get him a vacation—or at the very least a day off. He lit himself a cigarette as the “metalloid mess” processed his personal statement.
Its red eyes flashed a green light and smiled. “Seems like you’re doing A-okay, Agent Maul. Although, I regret to inform you that you’ll be issued a citation.”
Maul grimaced at the thought as he pulled the cigarette away from his lip and tightened his eyes, “A citation? What in the hell for?” He was careful not to speak too aggressively—the machines recorded everything and he didn’t have the energy for a sit down with higher-ups about “robo-etiquette”.
“The smoking, Agent Maul. Our records indicate that this will be your…” The droid stopped for a moment to add the number of offenses—and then check that number upward of a trillion times, “Fifty-ninth infraction…not including seven verbal warnings from other personnel.”
“These goddamn things ain’t illegal! You fucking pile of bolts!” Maul said.
The droid answered plainly, “That is true, Sir—but the law prohibits smoking within one hundred yards of a fetus. I’d also like to remind you to mind your tone.” Three armed drones with hefty cameras attached to their bellies swooped down and surrounded Maul from each available angle. The psyche droid’s eyes fixed on him as well. It managed to curve its lips into a smile, “Have a nice day, Agent Maul.”
He eyed the droid and wished it could feel the hate that steamed out of his gaze. Then, he turned to the drones and counted the red dots strategically aimed at his chest. “Some fucking country,” Maul said as he tossed the cigarette to the ground and stomped out its tinder. “That’s another citation, Agent Maul,” the droid said.
“Fuck you.” Maul shoved his hands in the pockets of his overcoat and turned to walk away. As he stared into the glimmer of the orange-hued sun, he heard the psyche-droid call out, “Next agent, please.” There was a line behind him. Every person who’d wished to work in the city had to subject themselves to the same psyche evaluation—four times a year. It was the last legally integrated place for a few hundred miles.
After the second civil war blew half of the country back to the stone-age and the other half off the face of the earth, law-enforcement became the only meaningful means of order. Some politicians were still around—survived rather—but they were nothing if not the relics of a fallen idea. Democracy had failed. America had become a war-zone. A melting pot of destruction.
It started small. Protests and civil unrest weren’t things to be taken seriously back then. Inevitably—at least to those who’d seen war—it became more than just “some spoiled kids looking for a way out of adulthood”. It became anarchy.
It wasn’t long after that, the races divided. It only took about a year for areas to be claimed for, this or that, shade. Still, the government did nothing.
Maul supposed they saw the situation in the same way that they’d look at a solved Rubik’s cube—in a lot of ways it was. It’s hard to complain about who has what when you look like everyone around you. It’s easy to hate people that you never met. A generation later, hundreds of years of “social-progress” were undone.
The communities “took care” of the intermingler’s themselves. A dose of death tends to cure the sickness of complaints. Officers were called in to clean up a bulk of the bodies.
There was no sense in trying to solve murders anymore. People don’t snitch on their own and it made conforming to the new order simpler. Despite the simplicity, Maul never liked the nickname. He’d been on the force for five years—and all of a sudden, he was nothing but a garbage-man.
“Someone get me a goddamn coffee!” Maul screamed as he arrived at his office in the precinct. There weren’t ever many people there. “I’m serious! I swear to Christ, I’m in no mood. I’ll kill every last one of you gumshoe fucks!” Those that did still choose his profession, were amateur at best or psychopaths with a clean record. Maul was the vet.
He swung open his office door as if he’d hoped that it’d finally break loose from its hinges. He was a grisly man—poorly shaven and unevenly dressed—but he always paid mind to keep his office in somewhat acceptable shape.
On either side of his spotless desk was a trash can. The first was for his bloodied cocaine tissues. The second was for his liquor bottles–on a drunken night, he lovingly sprawled the word RECIKILL on its side. It could still make him smile from time to time.
“I don’t see my coffee!” Maul dropped his weight into his rolling desk chair and spun it toward the window. He liked to start his days with a harsh reminder of reality.
“Right here, Sir.” Morales was his partner—a transgendered man or woman, Maul never bothered to ask, he didn’t see the point. “Mo! It’s about goddamn time!”
“Sorry, Sir. I was just.”
“Wasting your breath and my energy to hear it,” Maul said. Morales slid his large mug onto the table and watched as Maul topped it off with a few drops of whiskey. “What’s the news for today?” He said and then took a gulp large enough to drown a child.
Morales closed the door and took a seat on the opposite side of the desk, “Well, I’ve printed out a dossier for you—because I know how much you hate tech,” Morales rushed the folder on the desk and shirked back, “I wasn’t sure if you’d be in the mood for conversation this morning.”
Maul flipped through the papers in the folder, then closed it, “I asked you, didn’t I?”
“Then speak. Or did they snip your vocal chords off too?”
Morales was used to the abuse. On this occasion, it was a compliment. It seemed like Maul was kinder to him when he assumed that Morales was born a man. “Speak the fuck up, Caitlyn.” He wasn’t.
“Blocks three through twelve are getting a little rowdy. We had to send some drones in.”
“The half-breeds,” Maul muttered to himself. “Bodies?”
“Yes, sir,” Morales said quickly, as not to ruin his temporary reprieve from Maul’s insult.
“Alright.” Maul finished the rest of his coffee and got up from his chair, “Let’s go, princess. We’ve got some blocks to clean up.” Though he hated the title, garbage-man did seem more appropriate than “officer” or “agent”. Maybe it was necessary, he thought, the apocalypse rides in, on the backs of an old man, and his tranny partner. “It’s funny, Mo,” he said.
“What’s that, Sir?”
Maul whispered as he gripped the doorknob, “As things fall apart, the center cannot hold”. He laughed, “That old bastard knew his shit.”
“Who’s that, Sir?” Morales asked.
Maul’s face tensed as he realized that most books—including the one that he was quoting—had been censored or extinguished. “Nothing, rook. Some dead guy. Let’s go.”
To Be Continued…
Welcome to the world of the macabre. In this long-awaited anthology, we delve into the dark nuances of the human spirit. From the apocalypse to murder and brutal realities we remorselessly explore them all, in search of the truths that evil holds. Can you face the darkest corners of your psyche or will you cower back to your fairytales and superhero mythologies? When you tire of the lies—we’ll be waiting for you here…in the dark.
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