The Castle in the Hill

Author: Hari Navarro, Staff Writer

“Will there be zombies?”, she asks and I shake my head no and we weave around the discarded limbs and the stalled cars and sodden newspapers with pages that no longer flick and away from this city of rot.

“You do know who I am…”, offers the slug that sits at the wheel. His words more statement than question.

“No”, I lie.

Eyes flick from the rear-view mirror and he squints the fat folds of his lids and his gaze it licks at my sister and I shrink her down and beneath the hood of my shoulder.

I do know him. The billionaire grinner who cooed at the screen and beat at his chest but who then vanished when death it blew in from the sky.

Oh what he missed tucked away deep down in his castle. The succulent shards that we chewed from the wind. Aliens that bore harmlessly into blood and then travelled on up to our brains.

Such a deal we were offered as they stole away thought and yet left the body intact. No twitching, no sagging flaps of green flesh, no, this was a fresh kind of horror. Where purulent minds they rot, they drip from ears and yet our husks they crave for tomorrow.

“You’re safe now”, he says. But there beneath the fat of his tongue a sweating perversion it lays.

How he hates to venture out into this filth, but he must. He must gather us in. He will strip me. Though not my sister, not just yet for she is to little and he is surely no fiend, and he will wash my body with spice.

He will kill the brain that now beats in my head and with a muzzle he’ll gate off my bite. With pliers he will pull the scratch from my fingers and forever I’ll paw at his feet.

I hold my sister close and feign sleep as the vehicle accelerates and I think of before. How I’d loved all things black and I shudder as I peep to the dark and the night it forms thick in my mouth.

Elevator doors bordered with a flurry of ornate gold leaf open now deep down in the hill. The slug he steps out and he swivels and beckons with the thick smirk of his grin.

“Come”

I walk towards his impatient embrace and my sister follows just at my back and the doors they hiss closed with a snap.

Reaching my hand back she passes a thing pulled from beneath her filthy thick jacket and I stab it up and into his head. Then nothing, not even a gurgle, as he drops a dead flop to the floor.

An alarm sounds and the doors lock tight and though we don’t know it just yet they will never once open again.

“Slice the tendons at his heels”

I sit with my sister covered in blood. The slug writhes hobbled and bound in the foyer and the dark wall of monitors before us flickers into light. Our eyes they widen as room after room is revealed: Expansive wine cellars and fresh water tanks and vast food stores and tennis courts and swimming pools and gardens with trees and libraries and…

In the shadow toes they begin to contract in the mess that seeps across fishnet stockings and pools at the floor. Teeth clench at the ball in her mouth and something deep in her bones it recalls just how so very long it has been since she ate.

Since they all ate.

Nana

Author: Hari Navarro, Staff Writer

My grandmother is five hundred and ninety-two years old. Left to her own devices and the pitiless march of time this wonderful woman, who is actually my many times great grandmother, would have slipped away and into the finality of whatever the fuck death is five hundred years ago to this very day.

Its difficult for me to comprehend, but there are those in the world who don’t love their families. How content and relieved they must be as time it swallows the burden of age. But then, I am complacent. Not everyone is as filthy rich as we.

The money it took to develop the devices to snap our Nana away from the natural and over to synthetic cognition was as grotesque and it was well spent. It’s an ongoing syphon, but we’re family, we love her and it’s incomprehensible that we live this life with her no longer in it.

We implanted the electrodes that hang from her mind and through the wig that mimics the once tight white twist of her hair and fall as probing tentacles out of the sides of her face. How perfectly we caught that moment when she lost who she was, caught it and polished it and then handed it right on back.

This last Christmas we fitted her with an external drive, to store all the now countless names and birthdays and faces of her children and their children and their children’s children and theirs and theirs and theirs to come.

She once wrote a letter, when she still had fingers that wrote. She scrawled her name to a form and clearly she said that when her time it did come that no doctors should be called and that rather she thought to die in her room – surrounded by those that she loved.

But clearly her thoughts they were wrong.

Now as I walk down the hallway and the scent of the antiseptic hand-gel that I wring through my hands struggles to cancel the smell of bowels that involuntarily open and uneaten food that lays mashed in the cloche, I wonder.

Why, just why she would have wanted to end her life in this place? With these endless open doors that have forgotten about privacy and where the hollow cries of the lost they call out when all that they want is to go.

I’ve told her and told her there is no fucking reason for her to be in this place. That she could so easily exist for us in a great mansion of honed Scottish granite. But this is the one wish we allow her and strangely it warms, this the stark contrast of just how the poor they do suffer as they end and I am content as I enter her room.

There she is alone and many thousands of framed faces they plaster her walls and children’s art it hangs with them too. The crossword puzzle, its pages now yellowed and brittle, lays open on the tray at her lap, an unused remnant of the things she once did. And the rugby it loops on the screen.

I know she’d smile if only the muscles hadn’t long ceased to contract in her face and my heart again surges as her wail voice it croaks and begs from the hole in her neck.

“Don’t be silly Nana”, I say as I kiss her cheek and I know that she feels though her skin it swims behind plastic and she cries and she cries and I know just how grateful she is.

For Nana 1926-2018.

The Shallow

Author: Hari Navarro, Staff Writer

There is life out there in the radium sea. A solitary orb of blue and green. A place where oceans are poisoned and bombs they are cast and beauty is carved out of words. So alien, so different. Though so much is the same and children they get lost in the woods.

She had been warned not to walk alone in this place. But alone on this seldom driven road that sucks thinning to a seldom tread trail she feels something that might be called peace.

Here she can breathe, here she is tolerated and opinions are neither asked nor condemned. She feels an easing of the torque that winds in her shoulders and it mirrors in the gentle creak of the timber as even now the slender shadows they wrap and warp and gather her in.

She’s come here to get lost. She’s come here to find herself, but then she’s always looking for something.

A scent goads as she peels a strip of bark from the trunk that now rests at her shoulder. Rubbing it between thumb and finger she inhales its peaty perfume. But she can’t hide, she knows the smell of the dead.

Charlie. That fluffy puff who crawled deep inside the hedgerow that flanked the backyard of her childhood home. He who choked on a bone and then lied in her dreams about being off on an adventure from which he would surely return.

His was a stink that would tease for days as it tickled her nostrils and licked at the back of her throat. Then, on that sunny day, as she’d paced like a little soldier next to her father, she’d learnt all she knows about death.

Her father had loved the power that shook through his hands as he had run over things that splintered and smashed. Pushing with one hand he’d probed under that hedge and swore as chunks of wood and stone and runaway dolls shattered and flew at his feet.

Festered skin tore from its carcass and wound around the cutter blade with a thump. An explosion that added clumped ginger fur, teeth and shard bone to the assault on his ankles and a ricocheted splatter of rot that spat up and into her mouth.

Her eyes they want to turn away. But also they want to reach down and touch the pallid hand that clutches from the leaves as if pushing its way through a fog at her feet. She wants to help it to stand and dust off the dirt and tell it that home it is close.

The young man’s head lolls as if he is lounging in a bath with arms floating just below the surge of the forests composting decay and her skin it quivers and the wet runs away from her tongue.

She crouches and looks into eyes that are open. The globe of one has been savaged and leaks a congealed paste that runs his cheek to his chin. The other a winter gaze, a cornea frosted and white.

She wants to know more about this boy, this husk, this thing.

“What was your name?”, she mutters.

“Do you not have a family? Poor boy, this is not the face they want found. I have a family, I hide from them too and I’m so sorry for this state you are in. You were my first. Next time will be different. Next time I promise I’ll bury their bodies down deep”, said the alien that looks like that girl on the bus.

Plenty

Author: Hari Navarro, Staff Writer

The old Queen sits on the eve of her twentieth birthday and speaks to her yellow-eyed daughter and their legs they drip from the edge of the huge deck where once aircraft lurched and fell up and into a sky of the deepest floss-streaked blue.

The bow beneath them rises and gently falls as the ancient carrier nudges an uneasy swath through the flotsam tide. It too once a myriad of blues though now a multicolored plastic cloth that spreads the oceans entire.

An unfettered sun cooks from above and releases from the waves a taint that piques the heavy air with a sooty black film that fills the deep grooves in their lips.

“You know there was once a time that the ocean air it tasted of salt”, muses the old Queen.

“Salt? How strange”, says the Princess as one of her eyes involuntarily weeps and absently she fingers the fluid cyst at her chin.

“In the time when the earth it didn’t shimmer in acid and people they infested the land. They who lived until their skin shrivelled and their eyes dimmed and memories fell away from their minds. Mortality their most horrific of demons”

“They were a selfish lot, the old ones. Weren’t they mother”

“They were weak”, the Queen’s words more sighed than spoken. But it is not resignation nor is it pity that labours the breath in her words, it is the cancers that sit atop cancers that now throttle and squeeze at her lungs.

The world is beautiful. There’s no need to conserve, no need for didactic calls to defend species where now there are none to save. This beautiful spinning grey speck. This realm of caustic perfection where the last of us wallow in the glorious mess that was cast.

“Our ancestors they killed it. They poisoned the past”

“You think this beauty is poison? Is it our fault they couldn’t stomach the toxins they begged to be sold? The earth was not dying and it didn’t need to be saved. It was changing”, says the Queen to her daughter and heir.

This perfect family it had suckled the very last pearlescent drip that the worlds old sagging breast had to offer. They won because they evolved, they won because they adapted and all others they fell.

This final bastion, a society breed from a single bloodline. A dynasty who had once encased the world with cosmetics and pouts and skin on demand and a television show about nothing. Breeding with nothing but themselves how they radiate and rejoice at their luck. For this world, it is theirs and theirs alone. And alone in the world are they.

Somewhere below deck a timer trips and a mist of pulverized bone and blood showers down on weeping crops whilst sizzling above a plain it furls out to the horizon. This a pylon forest of jagged rust steel strung in barbed wire upon which lush plastic leaves they are skewered.

A black lagoon lays at its center. A sump oil dredge that forms a thick beautiful skin in the haze as splay-legged polypropylene creatures sip from the fizz of its edge.

“They wanted to live forever. Such waste”, says the tired and soon to be no longer Queen.

“But how did their garden grow? How did they feed?”, the young Princess frowns into her words. “Mother, tomorrow when we feast on your flesh I will not waste one slice, I promise. I swear to you this”

And the Queen she smiles and looks back over her shoulder and drinks in this her land of plenty.

Suckle

Author: Hari Navarro, Staff Writer

The twins lay entwined, shuddering beneath the sodden pail that unfurled from the peak of the seventh hill that ghosted at their back. Babes, innocent as a mothers whisper, cast into the mighty rivers silted shoulder by the paranoid dreams of a great-uncle protecting his crown.

Theirs was an icy mud, a sludge riven with the suckled chill of a water that drifted and swirled as it flowed and duly nailed its ache into these tiniest of bones.

The woman had materialized some weeks before. Falling from the sky. Rupturing through the umbrella head of a great billowing pine, it offering not the slightest of cushion as she punched unscathed to its foot.

That first night she wrapped herself in her own arms and wept. So far as she was from home and a beast it did sway in the dusk and it drank in the scent of the warm chug that sluiced and beat in her veins.

The drip of its hunting drool and the guttural haunt of its moans induced no fear as the woman she crept and snapped at its neck. And she peels from the twitch bind of still spasming muscle a wrap from the cold and warm food that oozed as she swallowed.

This the cape that rakes tassel tendrils of sinew and fat through the mud as she stops and she stoops and she draws up the two boys, eyes moribund, sunken and black.

One each to a shoulder and off to a hole in a hill.

Her eyes are swallowed, gulped down by tiny faces as they crane and turn upward and at once she is lost to their gaze.

Her instincts, those of a mother queen to a race now lost from her mind, take hold as she settles and pulls apart the crossed fur at her neck. Gently she latches trembling coo lips, connecting her body to theirs.

Fingers splay behind warming heads as she moves her hands in caress. The boys they begin to draw and a thick smooth cream it flows, chattering and screaming as it bubbles and swirls at their pouts.

Diminished husks immediately full out and color wriggles from beneath and up into a new glow that beats at their skin.

This rush, the supercharged slap of nutrient’s unknown, the streaming knowledge of ages founded upon ages it pours into the swelling suck pit of their throats.

Greedily they gorge until babies are not babies but are men instead and the woman she slumps as she drains.

The violence is swift and her eyes scream as they widen. Her boys, her beautiful boys they rage and they burn as they scratch and claw at her breast.

A throat is torn and its pulp maw spat to the ground. Two become one and the victor he smirks as he kneels.
His lips they stick and the wide of his tongue curls and he presses it flat to the sebaceous bumps of her flesh and gleefully he laps at his prize.

He knows what he is for as he steps from the cave and descends from the hill. A city to build of wondrous structure and of words and numbers and science. A city to rise above the wet, where water it drains from the streets. A city to call his own.

Today a young woman as old as the stars lays in a cave in a hill. Once mother of all and fearing of none. She now cowers, as her son does nuzzle at her chest and toys with her hair and again he settles to feast.