The Breakdown

Author: Hari Navarro, Staff Writer

The rain has given up falling in drops and now lambastes the windscreen in heavy punched lumps. The manic whip of the wipers suddenly stops and the engine dies and she eases the car, tempering the brake with her foot until the squeal of tires against curb announces it, too, has rubbed to a stop.

It is late and she toys with the phone in her pocket.

“Who in hell am I going to call and for gods sake why here?”, she laments as she wonders just why a lamp post should be in the business of casting down its pyramid of garish orange light out here on this road only travelled if you happen to live at its very, very long end.

She sucks her finger and hunches into the wrap of her own arms and stares blankly out into the trees.

“So futile their clutch as they snatch and they claw at the wind”, she snorts.

The violence of the storm is lulling and she rocks as it shoulders against the car and she wonders just what she is for.

The light high above does not flicker but the flapping sheets of the night make it seem as if it does. Twisting she leers into the rear-view mirror and is, at once, repulsed by the strobing blink of her image.

“Smile”, she goads of her lips but they deny her and screw to her trademark pout, “God, what a miserable bitch”.

She rests her forehead against the cool sting of the streaking glass and then stiffens as she feels a weight shift at her side. Does she look? Does she dare turn her head as the hairs now itch and spike at her arm?

The thing next to her silently drips and could care less if she offers her gaze. It is not the rain but rather blood riven purulence that now soaks its seat as it grins and it leans and prods at the puff of her shivering cheek.

“Demon”, she’d have cried if only the tendons in her neck had not pulled her mouth tight.

“Demon… Daemon… Dibbuk… Djinn dum-diddy-dum… what are these but names for ourselves, sweet Frances. Like Hell, now, if ever there was a construct made by man… a place, a thing to justify the rotten things that we do.”

The demon looks out into the rain, through the wet needles and into the undulating swirl belly of the trees, and it sighs.

“But then, I guess these words well describe this bowl around whose rim you now find yourself a slithering”

“I hate you. You horrify me. But I will not ever let you win.”

“It’s not me you fear, Frances. It’s you. Am I not familiar? My nose, how the very tip of it dips as I talk and the tobacco smell of my skin it is his, is it not? Remember how these teeth clenched so tight as he beat your tiny body, how you thought they would crack and spill from his mouth as he whispered to you in the night. Blame him, go on blame me for what you did. My eyes, see how the corneas pucker and sag. You know only too well the frosted gaze of the boys you gralloched and left in these woods. You made me… he… made… us both.”

Again, she thinks out into the storm and her finger nails snap back and lift from their beds as she massages the empty seat that creaks and moans at her side.

“You pick such pretty places to break”, he breathes.

Apeth

Author: Hari Navarro, Staff Writer

Daena Nova stares through the recycled molecules in the air and laments that she hates flying even more than her pores do. But business is business and she has a man to meet.

The schematics held on the flash-drive that’s wedged into the canister that’s tucked between her legs will buy her an island. She has no idea what the plans are but she’s been fucked by all kinds of men and women who deal in such things and so she surmises, albeit briefly, that they’re probably blueprints for something that blows shit up or shoots shit down.

Daena owns a beauty that transcends cultural and individual preference. It matters not your sexual orientation, nor the age of your eyes and not even the blind are exempt from the heat she emits, everybody wants Daena.

Bartering her body to the world’s elite leaves her filthy but rich. This mammoth pay-day but one of many.

She savours the rush, not sexual, that she barely remembers but, instead, the pure unfettered punch of power that pinches at her skin as she makes fools of the weak.

“Power is like time. It depends on your vantage point”, she thinks as she takes stock of her lot and she imagines velvet planks laying out before her upon a network of bloated bodies. A bridge, an ascension that knows no pity. There’s no time, she knows she’s been dying ever since they slit open her mother and she slid like greased grace to the light.

The uncomfortable piece of plastic agitates and, though the cubicle is first-class large, it still makes her feel like she’s pissing in a cupboard. Muscles tighten and simultaneously relax, a tricky manoeuvre to hold tight her charge and, at once, let loose her bladder.

A bump, as if the floor has ever so slightly fallen away. Then…

Floating, waves fold blankets against a shore, dredging back in a rhythm that lulls as it rubs. Smiling, content in the knowledge that neither nature nor war nor whatever the fuck that was can end this most perfect of lives.

Sand. An endless stretch of white that catches the light, flicking it like sparks from a fire.

Daena reads people. She knows what they want. She knows the feel of eyes and she feels that hunger now.

“Like what you see?!”

The night is long and beautiful. Sleep hugs and, for once, her subconscious allows her peace and tomorrow her people will come. Tomorrow.

Two weeks pass, bare feet in the wet sand and she hears a splash. This is no human that now steps from the waves, a large silver fish convulsing in the clench of its teeth.

The monkey shows no fear as she approaches, the heady musk of his fur, dripping and knotted.

“A sea monkey”, she smiles.

His eyes widen as he cocks his head, drinking her in.

“It’s you that watches, furry little pervert bastard.”

Weeks roll and she shifts and changes and she craves for things once had.

Today the monkey is more inquisitive than usual. She’s become used to his casual indifference, but now he approaches and touches her face.

She feels the soft pad of his finger in her mouth. She tastes salt and thinks of the blemish-less skin that lays beneath the shag of her fur. Back home… she’ll shave it away, scrub herself raw and lather her body in oils.

“Nobody will know.”

Breath at her neck, his throat a rasp as he speaks.

“Now, you’re like me. The other world, it was not meant for those as beautiful as we.”

Evelyn

Author: Hari Navarro, Staff Writer

Catherine Jenkins has worked on the dissection floor for many years but has not once considered the gory nature of her job. Nobody here does.

Humanix is a huge corporation and this factory is surely one of its largest. Multi-storied, perpetually filling holding pens in which the doomed are drawn to stare at an irresistible light. An anaesthetising flash that stuns but does not kill. Carcasses that are then fed onto a massive conveyor, ever so carefully laid out, so as not to bruise the flesh.

Catherine’s work station is one of many that branch off of this main belt, she operates a lever which opens a gate, a sluice into which a single body slides. A stainless steel cradle that splits at its end. An inverted V that parts the legs and perfectly positions the body.

The legs are first to go, they’re inspected and branded with a code that both grades their condition and labels them as part of a set. Catherine, scalpel in hand, then expertly scoops each from its socket and the detached limbs are wrapped and elevated to the shipping floor above.

The same process is repeated for the arms. Then, the cap of the skull is removed and the brain excised and discarded and the cavity thoroughly cleaned.

The remaining body components are rendered down into pet-food. Pets are of prime importance. In fact, employees are allocated 5kg of raw product should they wish to supplement their mandatory pets’ diets with unprocessed fresh meat. It adds to the sheen of their coats.

Catherine Jenkins knows that she is a synthetic. She knows that these creatures she butchers were, once, the most advanced level of intelligence the planet had ever known. But she does not know why their civilization fell and she has no idea why she does not care. She is grateful for her job, and for the way her cat pushes back against her fingertips and for the music – the human words that flow over her as she stands at her station and cuts.

A week ago the body of a young female slotted down into the chute. Catherine hummed as she snipped away its filthy clothes and hosed it down and disinfected its skin.

“Perfect”, she says as she stamps and detaches the legs.

But her smile turned to a frown as she saw a tiny tattoo at its heel – Evelyn.

“Ruined”, she scolds tossing it into the waste.

The body moves. It’s not uncommon to see spasms, the stun doesn’t always entirely take hold but this is different. An undulation from inside of its stomach. Catherine makes an incision and peels back a doorway of flesh.

A baby, again not uncommon, but there is no way that it should be alive. She places the child in a stainless steel bin and, nonchalantly, continues with the remainder of her shift.

She has no idea why she bundles the child into a specimen bag and weighs it and signs it out as her weekly allowance.

Nor why she takes it home and washes and feeds it the milky sludge that the company provides to nurture her compulsory pets.

Catherine names the child Evelyn and, although she remains indifferent at her work, she cannot now wait to come home of an evening.

The child is changing her. She feels it.

Today Catherine came home and she walked to the cot she’d made from a box. Evelyn is cold and blue and she lifts the tiny human and hugs it close at her neck and she thinks, that if she could, she’d cry.

Rewind + Delete + Play

Author: Hari Navarro, Staff Writer

A woman sits on a filthy blanket, her clothes in a neatly folded pile at her side. Her head rests atop her knees and she embraces them, pulling them into the oily smear at her breasts.

Her head lops to the side and her eyes track the human waste, the faeces and bloated tampons that course through the ribcage cavern of the dead dog that lays hollowed in the gutter at her toes. Its carcass now a channel that ushers our filth down from the sun-polished towers and the corrugated iron hovels and out into the gasoline fingered lap of the sea.

This place is a midden but here on the outskirts of the great city where it tapers to wheezing pipes and rusting decay, there is peace.

She aches as again she feels the throb in her eyes and she squeezes them shut and again she tries to erase, to delete the thing that he did. An act etched in her head. Carved as if he’d ripped off the front of her skull and held it in his hand like a chalice, the prize as he then gouged into it with the tip of his blade the endless tome of his hate. Sometimes she wishes she could too tear off her head, oh to pull it away from her body and cradle it instead in her arms.

“I am the Cephalophore”

There was a time when she thought she’d beaten him, as she wiped clean her mind until not even a hint of her own name remained. But he came back. Tingling at her toes and then searing up through her body, laying waste again and again to that which he took. Like a fire that torments the peat in the ground. Unseen, insidious viciousness ever ready to flare and consume.

The woman rocks gently and then smiles. His hand is on her shoulder and she thinks that this is the first time she has not flinched at his touch. This beautiful man. Himself so broken and scarred. She runs her fingertips across the war welts he wears and she kisses the tremor at his lips and licks away the feculent tears at his cheek.

Maybe tonight she will tell him. After the sex, as they wrap and whisper in the blanket he lay out, she will tell him. She will tell him that she loves him. She will tell him for the first time of her rape, and she’ll probably blame herself. For it is true, it did happen now so many long years ago.

She will tell him she can’t live without the way that he, without question, without so much as a word, stoops down and pulls her back up and hugs her back together. Holding her tight as again and again she falls.

And then, she will tell him…

She will tell him that she is a machine.

Laura’s Not Here

Author: Hari Navarro, Staff Writer

“How long have you been here?”

“Well, it’s hard to say with any degree of certainty but, maybe, ten or fifteen minutes”

“Do you know when you were born?”

“Well, again, it’s hard to say but sixteen, maybe, seventeen minutes ago”

“Do you know my name?”

“No, I’m quite sure that I do not”

“Do you know your own name?”

“No, I’m not very good at this, am I?”

“The right answer is only the one that you give. It’s just that this is somewhat out of character for you, that’s all. I know your name”

“Really? And, I presume, you know your own name also?”

“I do. Your name is Laura Perry and you have been a patient of mine here at Lake Alice for almost ten years now. You came to us when you were twelve. You have no recollection of this?”

“Laura Perry, I like that name. And no, I’m a newborn, remember?”

“Like I said, this behaviour is very much not like you, Laura. The extreme violent tendencies we have worked on, the self-hatred and harm, but never this narrative”

“Narrative? I’m not reading you a book. Laura is not here any more”

“Where is she?”

“She is dead”

“Who are you?”

“I’m an immigrant”

“From where?”

“You’d probably best comprehend it as another world. But it isn’t”

“And, so, you’ve taken over Laura’s body?”

“Of a fashion. I mean, it was mine before it was hers”

“How is it, then, you speak our language?”

“A very fine question, doctor. I really don’t know, all this is very new. Perhaps this ability of my thoughts to reform into your language is a residue. Like driving a vehicle once owned by another, it still functions regardless of the driver”

“Yet, you have none of Laura’s memories”

“We’ll see. There may be some of her left at the very bottom of the pot”

“Laura, you do know that this narrative is not new. It is common in my profession. I mean, the idea of alien invasion, infestation of a human host. It is a well-worn motif”

“I’m unsure of all your words doctor, but this is not an invasion. How can I steal something that was fucking mine to begin with?”, her words spit before then suddenly calming.

“Laura? maybe we’ve spoken long enough for today. Tomorrow we can work some more”

“A very, very long time ago my race planted seeds. We cast here the building blocks of what would form into the very fine biological structures that you, now, regard as being human. It was an inordinately long process, but we grew you so that one day we could transfer from our shapeless form. We could ascend into a new realm of existence. Laura’s husk is mine”

“Are you married, Laura? I mean, perhaps you have someone you love on this plane from which you say you come. Someone to accept you and understand the things that you try and say”

“Why, yes I do, doctor. So funny that you should ask”

“Funny? Why? Why do you think it’s funn…”

Her words trail off and she stares with a look of the most profound and sudden revelation. Laura slips from her cuff restraints and reaches across the desk, and gently she caresses the doctor’s upturned twitching hand.

“Be calm my love. It’s more wonderful here than we could ever have imagined”.