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.
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.
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”
“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”.
Author: Hari Navarro, Staff Writer
A witch walks into a bar. Heads turn and phlegm is conjured from the depths of throats and spat from pursed lips to the floor. The sight of her simultaneously repulses and excites, and the rooms huddled patrons collectively decide that the air has thickened and suddenly tastes of rot.
Hair, blacker than the pit of a raven’s pupil. Skin, a creamy brown the tint of souring milk. Her eyes are hazel, which is fitting and so profoundly beautiful that none can help but be pulled into the sticky reeds that reach up out from their depths.
Her lips stick at the edges as they open and now let spill the lull of her fishnet whisper.
“Whiskey”, she purrs and the room squeals in silent agreement, this is no drink for a woman. But more evidence of the wickedness that bubbles and pops at her core.
The barman is a lean and wistful fellow and he pours the smooth folds of her drink.
Her breasts are firm, and the waste who leans slumped into a beer at her side thinks they point at him through the tightness of her goat-leather vest. He imagines them scarred from a multi-tongued lash and that her groin is malodorous and cold.
“They burn whores. Sweet flame to peel their filthy rind and send it down unto ash”, snarls the fester-toothed woman at her back and slightly off to the right.
“Strapped to a plank, rocks layered atop their bodies until the evil is crushed, seeping from every last pore”, chimes in the accountant, two-metres behind her left shoulder.
“My son drowned. Tempted to drink and possessed to strip naked and dance to the moon, then cast to the midnight surf. Poisoned by a harlot hag”, says a gun slinger, adjusting the sling of his guns.
“I seen it happen…”, snaps the wistful barman. “… drink”, and she gulps down a mouthful of fiery malt and thinks about angle and distance.
“Not witch. I’m Lellis, daughter of the House of Lilith. I know well the crimes of this plain. For the nameless legions of women; the herb pickers, the healers and those who found solace in allegiance to deities outside of your own, those you burnt and gouged and branded, I take from you and offer to them your pathetic and nescient lives.”
There’s but a blur as she draws the weapons that line the inside of her cloak. Blackened bolts of iron pin the barman’s hands to the bar. Pivoting, they then fly as bullets from the tips of her outstretched hands, punching into the ignorance that lumps in the deep of their throats.
“You’ll like this part”, she says, leaning into the barman.
“My knives have no need of point. A dull flat end makes for much more theatre. I’m told that upon mortal flesh they crackle. Any minute now. Any minute… Well, this is embarrassing.”
Then, bodies that lay clutching the gurgle suck in their necks, begin to bloat. Their skin stretches and renders apart and splatters across the room in a vomit of smouldering flesh.
“There you go”, says the daemon, frowning as she turns to the barman.
“Bastard, you’re one of us. You rile these humans against the unprotected, you pull the strings of their prejudice and hate as you sit amongst them and pour out their drinks. How very human!”
A daemon walks out of a bar. For all of her bravado, she thinks she may not enjoy this killing, and she licks the wistful crunch of soot at her lips.
Author: Hari Navarro, Staff Writer
“This is not who we are”, I mutter as I watch the images cycle over and over on the screen. We are a haven and we love and hold close the freedom and liberty that we’ve cultured here on our tiny beautiful moon. Our special speck of clean green, out on the farthest tip of a bitter and cruel blood-streaked cosmic sea.
We’ve no time for such violences. We play in the surf and we play in the snow, the envy of all those who visit our lush and fertile shores.
My son was a magical child. Really. He had the power to pull down words and render them apart and, then, mix and shape their elements into things. Tangible, tactile, real things.
“I was called into the big chief man’s office today. I have to give it to him, he’s done well. Not sitting and sucking from the system like so many others who filter on down from his swamp, and I totally forgot the projected figures for the next quarter. So, I say, your wife has a nice figure, they used to write rhyming couplets about that flavour of ass. Your kind really pack the junk in the trunk. Am I not wrong? Oh, how we laughed!”, I’d said, more than once, many long years ago.
My son, as a baby barely able to stand, formed from my words countless lengths of cylindrical metal. Pellets that dribbled down his chin and amassed in great piles at his feet.
“Real men don’t put colour in their hair and a man who castrates his penis is not a woman. You cannot re-write that which is written in stone, the sacred tomes that set us apart from the animals – marriage is between a man and a woman”, and again I casually shared my vast knowledge as we sat at the table and ate.
My son, as a young child, he hollowed out the cylinders. Drilling the tip of his tiny fingernail into their base with the keenness of a chisel spiralling away wood at a lathe.
“They’re lazy. The city ones definitely but the rock apes that come in from the country, stuttering and forcing us to assimilate their dead language, it’s on a respirator for fuck’s sake. You want to talk to me then do so in my fucking language, am I right? Tell me I’m wrong. If we find sickness, we vaccinate against it. Their beliefs are a disease. We need to vaccinate ourselves against that. Radicalisation is here, we imported it. We are told to tolerate and embrace the good ones, for they are the majority. But how do we differentiate? Will they whisper their good intentions through the slits in their shrouds? Or must we just await for their cleavers to fall?”
My son, as a teenager, he tapered the ends of the tubes with the suck of his lips and he formed lead pointed tips for their ends, as yet again he plucked their weight from my words.
“They’re coming and their wave will drown all that you love. They will pollute your freedoms.”
Today, as an adult, my son needed only his own words as he ground their bitter dark taint with a mortar and pestle and he filled each of the cylinders to its brim.
My beautiful son, flickering in blue on my screen as he spat at them vitriol and he spat at them bullets and the dead, they stacked as they fled.
“The real cause of this bloodshed is not the sick killer but rather the immigration program, which allow fanatics to migrate to our world in the first place”, said the man with the microphone on the screen, swallowing his spit as he, too, savoured the taste of his words.
This is who we are.