The following is another excerpt of a work in progress, Chapter 2 of The Various Futures of Farlo Breeze, following on from my previous post, ingeniously titled Chapter One: The Irony of Smart-food.
As per the previous chapter, this is a work in progress and a work of fiction. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, would be quite amazing and I’d love you to get in contact and tell me all about it.
The Various Futures of Farlo Breeze
Chapter Two: While You Were Comatose
Something had changed. Farlo could sense it before he’d opened his eyes or fully come to consciousness. His subconscious was taking a list. There was no rush of smothering oxygen. No wind at all. Or sound. It was darker. He was standing upright, and wasn’t splayed across the city concrete.
He awoke with a violent gasp and opened his eyes, his entire field of vision consumed by the green glow of a bulbous-faced man, leaning in so close their noses almost touched. Farlo screamed: the man did the same, but only Farlo made a sound, which echoed around them both. He tried to throw his head back. Cushion behind him bounced it forward to collide with the man’s, their foreheads meeting with a resonant gong.
Farlo closed his eyes to recover. When he slowly opened them again it was to the man’s large gaze. He tilted his head upward. So did the man. He turned his head right. So did the man. He leaned a bit closer and narrowed his eyes. So did the man. He recognised the face.
He breathed a calming sigh, sending his gaze through his warped reflection in the sheet of curved plexiglass. To the left on the close wall opposite stood a sleeping woman in a transparent tube. Farlo looked down. He was in one too.
He pushed the plexiglass open and stepped out into a hallway of black metal walls, lit green by luminescent tubes in the ceiling’s low roof. The hall was plastered with tubes, every one containing a body. As he turned and looked around he felt the stiffness of his limbs and suit and looked down to find himself coated in something the look and texture of dried custard. Or cream. He picked a bit off to sniff it when a voice came from behind:
He turned and found a middle-aged man in a shirt and loosened tie strapped into a chair. His left arm was stretched out, encased from the elbow in a canister mounted to the wall.
‘What’s going on?’ Farlo asked. ‘Where are we?’
‘Still on Earth,’ the man said. ‘I’m Jim. I’d shake your hand, but,’ he nodded to his encased arm.
Farlo glanced to Jim’s other hand.
Jim chuckled. ‘You don’t wanna shake that one. There are some places when they itch you can’t help but scratch.’
Farlo nodded at the trapped arm. ‘What’s wrong with…’
‘Greenstick fracture,’ Jim said, rolling his eyes. ‘I know. It wouldn’t take a second to fix but there’s a “procedure”,’ he said, striking quotation marks in the air with one hand.
Farlo nodded then shook his head. ‘Wait. Where are we?’
‘Glorified ambulance, as far as I can tell. Waiting to be transported. Might be here a while yet, though. They’re still loading other levels.’ He gestured with a nod over Farlo’s shoulder. ‘Ask the octonurse. She’ll fill you in.’
Farlo turned to find the octonurse floating toward him, its bulk tinged green by the hall’s lights. It was wearing the old-fashioned apron and headdress with a red cross on it he’d seen in old war movies, but at a longer glance he realised it wasn’t so much floating, but rippling on several undulating tentacles as two others waved strange metallic instruments through the air. As it rippled closer he realised the green tinge of its skin wasn’t so much caused by the hall’s green lighting, but further saturated by it.
‘Hello, there,’ the octonurse lilted with an eerie melodic calm. ‘This won’t hurt a bit.’ It rippled closer, flourishing an instrument. ‘You might feel a pinch. Would you like assistance with that? There. You’ll feel better in no time. This won’t hurt a bit.’
Farlo stepped back past Jim. ‘What the hell…’
‘The closest thing to a bedside manner you’ll find around here,’ Jim said. He turned to the octonurse and stomped his foot. ‘Hey! I’ve been waiting for three days! Where’s my water?’
The octonurse rippled to a stop and flopped a tentacle across his brow. ‘Ooh… you seem to be running a temperature.’
‘No!’ Jim cried. He struggled to lean back, his arm caught tight. ‘I’m just thirsty! Really!’
‘Hush, now,’ the octonurse whispered. ‘This won’t hurt a bit. You might feel a pinch.’
Farlo ran, urged on by Jim’s screams. He turned into an identical corridor with people lined against the wall like they were made to order, or seated or stretched out on benches, each with a different limb in plexiglass. In the hall’s centre another octonurse held a man in the air, rotating him like a spit. It bent him into the foetal position, straightened him out, turned him so he faced the ceiling then began to flex him again.
‘We don’t bend that way!’ someone nearby cried, the statement punctuated by a loud crack. Farlo reared back in horror.
‘There you are,’ came the sweet wet voice from behind.
Farlo turned to see the octonurse undulating toward him. He turned back to find the second nurse placing the man into a tube.
‘Upside down!’ someone else nearby cried.
Farlo bolted past the second nurse without looking back. He turned innumerable corners and passed countless ailing before he spied sunlight at a corridor’s end and ran for it. He was met at the entrance ramp by two more octo-beings in overalls, one propping an unconscious man into a tube fixed to a track on the wall, the other wheeling a women in a wheelchair up the ramp, her leg encased.
One of them called out as he sprinted past, but he felt no urge to stop. He turned and was free and running across the grass of a park to the street ahead.
As he reached it he turned to catch his breath and see what he was running from. It wasn’t like any vehicle he’d ever seen. It was more like a building: a huge square warehouse you’d find by a freeway, a pollution-stained off-white with the image of a large red ring on its side. The octonurse appeared on the ramp and waved a number of tentacles. The beings in overalls did the same then pointed their limbs at Farlo. The nurse rotated to face him and waved and rippled sideways down the ramp. Farlo turned back to the street and jogged away.
He crossed the road toward an alleyway then glanced back, realising he had crossed it too easily. The street was empty of people, the area in ruin with cars on their sides, rubbish strewn, and shops around him decimated with broken windows and abandoned wares left scattered, half-looted.
He looked out across the chaos and the park to the sky. His jaw dropped as his gaze fell upon the image of the Moon. It was no longer the pale satellite he remembered. It was a blue and grey orb of continents divided by an expansive ocean. Beyond it was the bright beige marble of another larger planet: one that hadn’t been there the last time he had looked at the sky.
He heard a shuffle to his left and turned. A small pink thing of about waist height emerged from the alley. Its several dozen eyes, delicately fixed to the ends of waving tendons protruding from its cheeks, turned to Farlo and widened. Farlo’s gaze lowered to the slogan on its t-shirt:
I went to earth and avoided dissection!
He froze as a wave of chemical nausea flooded his bloodstream.
The being seemed equally lost for what to do before it took a quick step back and shouted down the alley, ‘I found one!’
The stamping of many feet came echoing from the alleyway before a mob of similar beings slid to a stop beside the first. Their mouths fell open as hundreds of floating eyes stared up at him.
Farlo took a cautious step back.
The mob gasped.
‘I dare you to touch it,’ one of them whispered.
The first’s eyes widened. ‘I’m gonna touch it.’
Farlo staggered back.
‘It’s getting away!’ one of them screamed. ‘Touch it, Mamoof!’
Mamoof giggled and darted forward. The mob surged likewise in its wake.
Farlo wasn’t athletic but you wouldn’t have known it to see him run. He sprinted down the street, across the road and between abandoned vehicles to the mental chant, ‘This isn’t happening, this isn’t happening,’ in spite of the hooting behind him. He crossed the intersection, took a left downhill and let his weight carry him forward. He ran for blocks with the mob close behind. They were fast for their size.
He turned down an alley and focussed all of his attention on running, leaping over stagnant puddles floating rubbish and Smart-food limbs. He looked ahead to the alley’s end where several cars seemed to block the passage.
He heard a clatter of rubbish behind him and saw Mamoof picking itself up as the remainder surged forward.
‘Touch it!’ Mamoof cried after them.
He reached the end of the alley and emerged into the car park of his local shopping centre. He knew at a glance that something cataclysmic had occurred here. Wrecked and scorched shells of toppled vehicles littered the scene. Broken glass and refuse from the burnt-out shopping centre bejewelled the ground.
He veered left and ran through the gap between the wall and cars, but as his body went one way his mind went another: back to the car park’s centre to something he’d just seen. Something stood out as odd. So much so that he slowed to a stop and turned for a longer look.
It stood large at ten metres high, its belly sloping between stumpy tripod legs, crushing the bodies of the cars pinned beneath.
A hollow, metallic thump slapped at his attention and he turned to see one of the mob bounce from a car roof toward him. He leant back, but not enough. The being landed on his face, clutched his hair and rode him to the ground with a gleeful hoot.
He wrestled it off and threw it overhead then climbed to his feet.
The mob stared in unblinking disbelief.
‘Get it!’ one of them snarled. A cry rose out as they leapt in every direction.
He scrambled over a car then across its roof. As he leapt to the ground something landed on his shoulders, nestling its head into the curve of his neck and shoulder with a husky giggle. He stumbled forward and reached up when something sliced by his ear, tearing the being off. A shot rang out. He turned to see its headless body hit the ground. He looked at the mob, staring in frozen horror at their fallen companion. He looked across the lot and found a large dishevelled man, rifle in hand, standing on the top of a staircase at the spaceship’s entrance.
The man stared for a silent moment then screamed, ‘Run!’ and vanished into the vessel.
Farlo sprinted. The mob followed, bouncing beside him from car to car, no longer in delight but a thirst for vengeance.
He reached and scaled the spaceship’s stairs then leapt through the doorway and turned as it slid itself shut. Beyond it he heard a soft mechanical sigh: the stairwell retracting into the hull.
He mimicked the sound with a sigh of his own then noticed the imitation grain of the door’s fake wood. It took him a moment to realise why it seemed odd, and then it spoke:
‘Hello, sunshine. Looking chipper.’
He turned and let his gaze slide down the hallway until it arrived at the sight of his lounge room at its end. He was facing the back of his couch with the view of his lounge room window beyond.
He walked in slow motion toward his lounge room and paused in its entrance beside the closet-sized alcove he called his kitchen. It was his apartment, but not as he’d left it. It was filled with oddities: strange alien artefacts, large stone statues, bizarre appliances and unintelligible treasures.
There was a black leather armchair facing the window.
He stepped into the room.
The chair turned.
His eyes widened. His heart skipped a beat.
Swirling a bulbous glass of brown liquid in a metallic left hand sat an older, larger version of himself. His left eye was covered with an eye patch, his wrinkled face shaded with stubble. A deep V-shaped scar on his forehead pointed sharply to the eye patch, just in case anyone should miss it.
Future Farlo smiled: an eerie, room-for-rent grin.
‘Welcome home, Mr Breeze. I was getting worried.’