Chapter VIII. Violet’s Recurring Dream

The dream Violet had
of Torvik Antares was
a recurring nightmare.
But with each dream
she came to see a new thread
and eventually she began to see
that he held the threads of her
and that she, like Monster,
had been struggling to be free
of these threads even as she
welcomed the connection
with the mysterious presence
of Torvik.
She could not explain these as
threads of desire, for they weren’t.
Or the world’s threads, for they weren’t.
How could someone whom the
boots of the world had trampled so absolutely
be standing, as it were, above her
manipulating her strings with his hands?
Did Monster have the same questions,
and was this why
he was always struggling to be free?

She gazed out the window of the dark room
in the rooming house which was her safe house
in this town hooked into the eyelet
of an arroyo deep in the high plains
nudging the knuckles and ankle bones
of the mountain range.
She saw a shaft of light
spreading downwards from a gap
in the clouds of a forbidding storm.
She wanted to reach up and
pull the shaft of light from the sky
like a tooth, wrench it out from the roots,
and then stand bathing in the blood
raining from the wound in the sky.

There was a decrepit old aggression channel
some one had forgotten about in
the corner of the room.
On an impulse she walked over
and gritted her teeth and turned it
up a notch and squinched up her eyes
and turned it
another notch
and then up and up and up
until her high-pitched scream
was shattering the windows
and the ceiling was bouncing
like a landRider on a lava field
and Monster’s dead legs were
kicking up and down.

Finally the landlady of the rooming house
was pounding on the door
Lord – a mercy!
and the aggression channel blew out
in a black cloud of acrid insulator smoke
and Violet collapsed,
crumpled in a foetal position
around the body of Monster, on the floor.

Chapter VII. Chasing the accipiter

The annual hunt for Jordan’s Accipiter,
aka the Lesser Front Range Accipiter,
aka the Brown Throated Accipiter,
was an affair of great pomp and ceremony.

The good ol’ boys arrived in small groups
on their monopedes,
each mono plopping down on its preferred
piece of ground and shifting
its slimy stump about until it felt comfortable.

Billy Moses clambered down
from his monopede’s cockpit and said
‘Hey Slugman.
Your mono’s looking kind of fat and happy
this year.
Been feeding it too many deep-fried dumplings?
Must’ve been tough,
climbing all the way up Devil’s Canyon!’

Slugman shot back ‘Don’t get him riled!
You get one started, you’ll set ’em all off!
Then we’ll be up a canyon
without a stump, and you’ll be the one
who has to call in the land Riders.
It’ll be on you, not me, Moses!’

Slugman’s monopede had, indeed,
started staring grimly about, like it was
thinking of settling in someone else’s spot,
just to provoke it.

The Chairman of the Hunt cleared his throat
and adjusted his regal purple sash
with its gold leaf and tellurium filigree.

‘Gentlemen and Gentlemen of the Hunt!
Gathered as we are for this the
583rd annual Chasing of the Accipiter,
Let the spirit of decorum and comity prevail!’

All present fervently nodded.
‘Yea! let decorum prevail!’

‘As is our ancient custom, let us start
with a moment of silence for those
who will no longer be with us,
notably Sir Roger Kingsforth VIIth,
who suffered an unexplained and fatal fall
inspecting his mines on the Mountain of Dreams.

They fell silent, and all could hear
an eerie harmony emanating from
somewhere out there on the range,
which had always been explained
as the chanting of the Accipiter
for their children taken
in the hunts of years past.

The Chairman resumed
‘We begin with the official estimate
of the Grand Commissioner of the Interior.
Using the latest techniques, including
fermion telemetry and infrared distribution analysis,
the Commissioner has determined that
there are in excess of 400,000 Accipiter
in this sector of the front range alone!

So sharpen your harpoons and
jack up your monopedes, men ..’

‘We haven’t seen one in years!’
someone shouted from the back.
‘I bet there’s plenty on the
Prime Minister’s table. Fat ones!’
shouted another.

The Chairman was now struggling
to maintain order, and about this time
the Blue Fairy started making her appearance,
here and there, as one or another hand
held an ethereal blue glow aloft,
yelled ‘To her Heavenly Blue Highness’, or
‘To her Luscious Blue Boom Boom’, and
tilted his head back.

At about this time something unprecedented

A pair of monopedes, on tethered to the other,
arrived together.
Sir Dag Tarquinius, fortune made in
personal warbirds,
a monopede full of Jezebels in tow,
stepped out smoking a huge Cuban.

Total uproar and chaos erupted.
Jezebels! Not even ladies of the realm!

Accipiter sense female menstrual discharge
and gain legendary powers of sight
and hearing!
Who would dare to violate the taboo!

Just as quickly, the tiny spark of a rumor
flicked off a lightning burn
through the ears of the gathered throng.

A suicide posse of terrorist clowns,
blinding the security forces with
gamma ray flares and
juggling quantum continuum disrupters
had leveled an entire block of skyscrapers
1/2 km south of the Great Hall of Justice
including the Interchange and
Central Security Battalions.

Without thinking, the Chairman
walked over to the nearest monopede,
activated its primary display panorama,
and tried to dial in Capitol City.

For a brief moment a view of streets in
complete chaos appeared on the panorama.
Then the view blanked out and
was replaced by a single image of a clown
with a brush fire of hair raging
above his psychopathic grimace
a single droplet of crimson blood
dripping from one of his pointed
7.62 mm teeth.

The monopede started choking horribly
suddenly shot 50 meters vertically,
careened wildly for about a second
before losing traction
and plummeting to the ground,
its neck broken and its stump
sticking up emitting a
fetid slimy ooze.

Chapter V. Violet wakes up / Torvik

Violet awoke as from a dream.
Monster was dead.
Her puppet had been her constant companion
since she was 14.
She remembered the late autumn afternoon
when he got his name,
soon after she got him,
when, upon enduring the 4th or 5th day
of Monster’s week-long tantrum,
trying to get off his strings,
she was utterly reduced to tears,
and her father said,
Alright, that’s it!
We’re turning that monster back in,
getting our money back,
and getting you a golden retriever puppy!
but Violet refused to go back
and admit defeat before
the evil Master of Puppets.

Now, awakening as from a dream,
Violet found herself in a room
she’d never seen before.
Bare, with just a desk
and floating above it a hover globe
with its blinking heliostat.

Monster’s little body was curled up
on the floor, as if asleep,
on the cap she’d been knitting,
his strings carefully wound up beside him.

In her mind’s eye, she saw
the reflection of her mother’s face,
china blue eyes, careful chin
and easy smile,
and the street beyond, the dingy storefronts,
blaring lights, and harried passersby.

She shuddered to think of her now,
escorted by Shadows to the waiting arms
of the Rubik’s Cube.

She thought about the Double Eagle,
the dreadful coin her father designed,
the ridiculous hope she could
bribe her mother out of prison
with a single piece of gold.

If her father had filed a missing person’s report,
which he almost certainly had,
she faced the Rubik’s Cube herself, now,
and the dreaded re-partitioning,
if she was found, or the Rat Colony.

The Rat Colony.
Once, when she was little,
she went into her father’s office
where she was never ever supposed to go,
and opened a file from the Rat Colony,
Torvik Antares, and was transfixed
by the photograph, his youth,
like a wine-pourer on an isle
of silver apples, the careful incisions,
the un-seeing bomb-crater eyes.

Staring for a moment that was a lifetime,
she tore herself away from the photo,
and replaced everything exactly as she found it,
but she was sure her father knew.

For months thereafter she was haunted
by a dream of a frigid night
outside the Arctic blast,
of Torvik climbing in through the window,
slipping into bed with her
with delicate frozen hands,
and her father bursting in on them
and saying

I told you never ever to go in there!
What do you think will happen now?

Violet looked around the room.
Outside was a featureless residential landscape,
the darkening evening.

She tried to take stock of her situation,
and failed.
Nothing made sense.

She moistened the tip of her finger,
reached out and flicked
the hover globe,
let it spin.

Chapter IV. Violet gets puppet

When Violet went to pick out
a puppet at the pound
there were what seemed like
thousands of puppets
jumping up and down, crying,
with snotty little noses,
heads and faces
pressed against the glass.

Why are they always saying
there’s a puppet shortage,
Violet wondered.
Most people had a 3-5 year wait
and she would have too
if her father wasn’t in the Ministry.

The Master of Puppets had
a long crooked nose and
walked in with a stoop and
eyed here lasciviously.

He muttered to himself
how could she even pass
the character check?
Nose rings? Tattoos?
Friends in high places
he spat derisively.

He put one clawed hand
around her waist and the other
on her buttock and steered her
into a windowless room.

She waited very quietly
as her father said.
She was only 14 and
wanted to be sure she got
just the right puppet.

He returned after an agonizing wait
with a giant tome he dropped
with a thud on the desk.

‘You have to fill this out
just like everyone else
even though you clearly think
you’re someone special.’

She read the endless list of questions.
‘If your puppet wants to give
a crust of bread to a vagrant
and you’ve told him not to repeatedly
and he persists in doing so anyway,
to whom must you report
this transgression and
within what amount of time?
What are the penalties for
failure to comply?

If your puppet leans out of
the passenger carriage of a monopede
and tries to catch a scorcher or
diving efferent in mid-air, what…

and the list went on endlessly.

Finally, Violet gave up.
The task was hopeless.

She took out a double eagle,
one of the old ones,
with the Goddess Liberty
striding with her flowing gowns,
and left it tucked just barely visible
under the edge of the tome,
and sat there primly.

Finally, the Master of Puppets returned,
noticed the coin with the hunger
of a thane deserted by his subjects,
then poked a bony claw in her face.

Little hussy likes to run into
all kinds of filthy back alleys
and then get dressed up all proper
Sunday Mornings, hmm?
I know your kind.
I know who your father is.

His breath smelled like a monopede stump,
and she tried to figure out
what was oozing from his left eye,
and she forced herself to sit there,
as her father had told her.
Finally, he slipped the coin into a pocket
and picked up the tome and
stalked out of the room.

Chapter III. Otto’s

The saloon doors blew open
in a sudden burst of cold air,
and Pierre, Bad Dog and Raven
took seats at their customary table
at the dusty end of the long bar,
by the kicked in hollow core
men’s room door,
with the doorknob falling off.
There was a beautiful 10 point
accipiter head mounted on the wall
next to a poster which read
Play an accordion, go to jail.
It’s the law!
and a plastic garden gnome named Geordie
nestled in a tangled skein
of blinking Christmas tree lights,
humming an unrecognizable carol.

The waitress Jerilyn came by,
her hair tied up in a bun,
glasses on a chain around her neck,
towers of bracelets on her wrists,
wearing a shirt that read
‘Otto’s, last drinks for 1000 miles’,
said ‘Hi Boys’,
set up their usual round of Red Eye,
and Crazy Fingers struck up a song
on the standup in the corner –

Our drunken game
of William Tell
the gun was cheap
the bullet low
a hairline crack
if you must know
and by the time
the bleeding slowed
a trove of treasures
opened –
emeralds from Rhadamanthys,
arcturites from fiery
veins of magma –

Bad Dog growled
‘always loved a murder ballad’
fingering a tooth that had seen better days
courtesy of a brawl on a crinkle horn drive
halfway to Devil’s Canyon.
Pierre started talking horses
like he always did,
but Raven was barely listening,
in his mind he was soaring around
the summit of the Mountain of Dreams,
effortlessly finding perfect dendrites.

A group of miners with bushy beards
was playing Ice Pick, thrown knives
slamming firmly one after the other
into the bullseye
except for one miner,
who kept missing, tossing one silver eagle
after the other on the barrel head,
getting angrier and angrier.
Just then a skinny cur
slunk in beneath the saloon doors,
shivering violently,
tried to wrap itself around the legs
of the losing miner
for warmth and comfort.
The other miners saw this,
burst out laughing,
one mimed this by rubbing
his butt against the butt
of the losing miner,
who lost it,
kicked the dog viciously
in a spray of fur and blood
beneath the target,
threw his knife after
where it landed, a perfect bullseye,
humming, a bumblebee pinned to the wall.

Raven saw a man across the bar
with a thin neatly trimmed moustache
wearing city clothes with pens in his pocket,
who was regaling a bored looking Jezebel
with stories about
his personal performance
for the king and the chancellor –
the rhapsodies he played
on his blue violin,
interspersed with laments
about how
‘he was just a dispenser repairman’.
sent against his will to this
god-forsaken corner of the earth.

The Jezebel was idly fingering
a button on her dress and Raven wondered
how long it would take before a fool like that
stumbled into a game of Ice Pick
or broke his neck thinking he could ride
a Blackmoor.

Then Pierre looked up, said
A woman with a mohawk.
She has tears tattooed down her right cheekbone.
She’s knitting a Rasta hat.
Her nose is pierced.
She has a puppet on a string.’

The woman ignored Pierre
and sat down next to Raven.
She idly stroked his shoulder
like she was smoothing plumage.
The puppet kept putting his hands
over his eyes, then his ears, then his mouth.

Raven, trying to respond to
the unexpected attention said,
So, where you from?
She said ‘Capitol City .. no .. I was from …
no .. I just know someone there .. uh ‘
‘What do you do for work?’
‘Uh, the Interchange .. government job,
uh .. my father .. my mother …’
Her puppet was getting more and more agitated,
covering eyes ears mouth
more and more rapidly.
‘Would you like a shot of Red Eye?’

Finally, she said
‘look, I’ve kind of hit a wall.
I need a couple of eagles so my mother
can get out of prison’
and the puppet danced a sad little jig
and bowed deeply.

Raven sighed, pulled a coin
from his bag of shiny objects, a double eagle.
It was a new coin,
the obverse depicting an officer
shooting an unarmed civilian,
the reverse a clown.

He gave it to the woman,
who took one look at it
and put her hands over her ears,
gave out an unearthly scream.
When she stopped,
her puppet lay dead at her feet.

The entire bar fell silent,
swiveled around to look at her.

The dispenser repairman hastily paid his tab,
and slipped away into the bitter winds
that sweep down
from the inaccessible heights
of the Mountain of Dreams.

Chapter II – To the Mines

It was 5 AM and newborn crystals
of sunlight were forming on the Teeth,
and granite-shattering cold
still infiltrated the high desert town.

Old Jobe stumbled by on the street,
shivering, clutching a bottle in a bag
and a tattered blanket and
nursing a broken toe, sputtering,
some ancient skirmish or ambush
going off again in his head.

I was one paycheck away from the street
myself, garage full of broken dispensers
and re-formulators, no money to buy parts,
no one to buy anything I did fix.

I wanted to play on my blue violin,
a rhapsody perhaps, but the angels
were still asleep, and anyway it was
too cold to feel the strings.

I blew steam onto aching blue fingernails,
felt ice floes forming in marrow,
and imagined fighting an army
of crystal swords with a tiny
guttering flame.

The angels! Ah, my youngest one.
I told her never to go there,
never to get lost, but she loved
the trinkets too much.

The subsonic boom of the flare-offs
coming from Mandrill’s Labyrinth,
so low they were barely audible
sent seismic echoes across the
town and shuddered the foundation
of the house, while delicate thermal
shivers in the atmosphere proffered
no warmth.

Mandrill’s Labyrinth stretching out
to the west and south further
than anyone knew, a landfill
of trash replenished daily by
enormous cargo monopedes
who lumbered over the Labyrinth,
hovered, dumped their great loads,
and turned back to Capitol City
to pick up another load.

Mandrill’s Labyrinth, inhabited
only by the Ferals, with their
incognito grunts, pachydermal knees,
and tough leather knuckles scarred
by jagged metal and discarded
chunks of stone, who had mastered
the art of the ascent, the downward scrabble,
the threaded paths through the mountains
of trash, the art of creating caves
on the instant to hide from
the hosts of Renegades who
flocked in titanium susurration
in the air above.

The renegades were personal
warbirds which had, either because of
viral infection or
some unknown technological quirk
thrown off the yoke of enforced obedience
to the military which created them,
and found Mandrill’s Labyrinth
almost by instinct, where they could
feed their instinct for blood,
by attacking the Ferals,
and at the same time satisfy their need
for technical regeneration,
scrounging all the parts they needed
from the vast store of discards
they found there.

Ah! My angel, I told her never to go there.
Was it on a dare?
Was she kidnapped or murdered by a feral? Done in by starvation?
She might still be alive in there.
No, no, that could never be…

A loud crackle came from the garage,
jerking me back to reality.
it was a message from Deniability
on the Jangler.

Discovery of illegal mines
in the Mountain of Dreams.
All technical personnel to report to
Voytsky Bay Triple Zed immediately.

I looked up and, sure enough,
there was the inevitable monopede,
lumbering through the sky like it was
pushing the clouds aside with
a barrel of a chest,
slamming itself down in the yard
right on the cacti where
the baby scorchers nest.

Opening a black maw,
it tapped its imaginary fingers
impatiently on an imaginary desk.
‘I’m waiting’, you could hear it say.

How .. many .. times .. do .. I .. need .. to .. say .. this.
I just fix dispensers.
Co-dependency potentiators.
Addiction re-generators.
Aggression channels.
Justice dispensers.
Bio-reformulators of all shapes and sizes.

But the monopede just advanced menacingly,
leaving a trail of slime on the lawn
where the baby scorchers had been.

Chapter I – The Coin

The new coin was a $20 piece
called a double eagle evoking
the mythical California Gold Rush
and the mythical American Wild Wild West,
features a 99.98% pure
silver slug circumscribed by
a generous collar of 24 kt gold.
The gold is impregnated with
biosympathetic field manipulators
undetectable due to the irrationality
of their crystal structure,
and the silver is doped with
a proprietary ensemble of rare earth elements
that enables it to render
3D images in full color.
The obverse of the coin
depicts an officer of the law – one of the finest,
a field lieutenant, to be precise,
in heroic stance, flattened against the side
of a squad car, with blue lights flashing,
military issue 9mm service revolver
in both hands, drawing a bead on
a terrorist clown flying out of an
upper story window, hurling a bomb
with a sparkling fuse.
In fact, if you squint carefully, and
hold the coin at exactly the right angle
ant tilt slowly,
your eye will be guided along
a warbird’s eye view of an entire
battle in the War on Terror –
shards of glass erupting
into violet sky,
sinister ghetto types
eviscerating innocent civilians
with hidden blades,
off-world clones flying
bullet-riddled through
department store display case
windows onto bloody shrapnel strewn sidewalks.

The coin’s reverse is much simpler –
a sociopathic clown
with incendiary hair,
a bulbous red nose,
white-faced hysterical rictus
revealing 7.62 mm teeth
polished to a metallic gleam
and a single drop of crimson blood
dripping off the upper right incisor,
matching perfectly in hue
and shadow the clown’s nose.

I should know – as senior government designer
I have been humbled and honored
with the responsibility of designing
the clown’s nose.

They’ve had to upgrade
the justice dispensers in the men’s rooms
in the basement of the
Great Hall of Justice
to accept the new coin.
The technical lead in that project
is a total maniac –
plays a blue violin
that makes a noise sounding like
migrant children scraping under
barbed wire on the Southern border –
but he’s just the man for the job.

Jeanine was thrilled and excited to see
the new justice dispensers in action,
so I waited while she went down
to powder her nose in the ladies’ room.
When she came back she was breathing heavily,
shoulders slumped, looking like
she had just had a head-on collision
with an iceberg –
there were no justice dispensers
at all in the ladies’ rooms,
just diaper changing racks.

I should have remembered to tell her,
but minor details like that
sometimes just escape me.

I waited but she wasn’t calming down at all,
in fact, just kept getting angrier,
so I checked my mobile wrist sensor
and her biosympathetic field agitation
was miles above the legal limit.

Jeanine, I said, sometimes
you can fudge the sensor readings
if you’re close to the line,
but if anyone finds you like this,
you’re facing 7-10 years in the Rubik’s Cube,
and an additional 5
in the Norwegian Rat Colony
for the Criminally Insane.

To which she replied
‘”What would you, King of the Red Branch Kings?”
“Be no more a king,
but learn that dreaming wisdom that is yours.”‘

We had to get out of there fast,
so we went to the flea market,
where she found a ceremonial axe
with honed blade that gleamed
like fingers of frost stretching out
across the Field of Blackbirds.

Talked her out of buying that,
instead I found a decorative bowl
artfully arranged to hold
an entire tropical rain forest in miniature –
tiny tiny birds of paradise
singing in treetops,
tiny monkeys chattering
and chasing each other through the branches.

This she immediately smashed in fury,
and we stood on the sidewalk,
watching an entire ecosystem
flush itself down the storm drain.

From there we went into
a club called the Indigo Note,
where a poet backed by a combo
named the Sisyphus Twins
was chanting lyrics

Venus trembles in the otherworldly clarity
of the pre-dawn sky,
Mars pulses with the Dioscuri
and Boreas sweeps clean the icy plateau,
devoid of tree and of home,

while the Sisyphus Twins comped
with a dark introspective force
that hinted of a grand design
long denied expression.

When we left the club it was twilight already,
and there they were, not the clowns,
standing in a semicircle,
waiting for her,
with their mirrored shades
and dark suits and
biosympathetic field sensors and
AR-15s slung casually over their shoulders.