Monday, 28 July 2008

Blue Remora

The car screeched to a halt as the road ended at the lip of a grand canyon, whose gulf stretched away as far as the eye could see to the left and the right. The far side of the canyon was in the distance, slightly hazed by the mist rising up and out. The scarlet tyres seemed to sigh to themselves, and the radio, which had been playing static for the last eternity, turned itself off. June sat up. She had been lying in the back seat staring up into the sky, watching the day-squid lazily wriggle.

"Have we arrived?" she said, her voice slightly thick as though she'd been sleeping and suddenly woken.
"I think it's time you opened the satchel," said the beautiful stranger running her hand over her head. It was the gesture of a woman used to having long, thick hair, and not the crew-cut that she sported. As she finished speaking there was a soft, warm chime, resonant as a bell, and there was a breath of hot brass in the air. A ripple sped outwards from the beautiful stranger, passing through everything and touching nothing, a perfect circle of movement five feet above the ground.
"What was that?" she said, for the first time sounding unsure of herself.
"The ring of truth," said June dreamily. She picked the satchel up off the seat where she'd been lying on top of it. "You genuinely believe that it's time I opened the satchel." She rubbed at her throat with her free hand, massaging the bruises there; five medium sized ones.
"And does that mean it is time?"
"It does, but not because you said it. It has always been time to open the satchel when we reached this point."

High above them in a cornflower blue sky thin clouds wisped together and started to tangle the tentacles of the day-squid. Oblivious, June laid the satchel on her knee, and pulled the first of the clasps loose with a little snick. The day-squid, startled, squirted ink. The beautiful stranger looked up, and saw the black cloud spread out from between the day-squid's tentacles and start to fall from the sky. It was a thick black rain with an ammoniac smell and a rich, earthy taste that enhanced a dish of pasta. June snicked the second clasp free, and opened the satchel.

Everything seemed to blur, and for an instant the beautiful stranger was stood on a hot street, cracked pavement underfoot and enormous buildings towering around her. People scurried past wearing suits and carrying briefcases and pinstriped umbrellas, some banging into her and cursing her for just standing there. Traffic grumbled in a jam next to her, more lanes than she'd ever seen, or could contemplate wanting, waiting for arcane instructions from poles with lights atop them. High above her the sky was empty save for a glowing ball of light, no day-squid at all, and she knew terror. She wavered, feeling her knees go weak, and then it all receded again and she was sat behind the wheel of a high-powered car on the road to nowhere, just in front of a grand canyon. Behind her was the woman she'd been abusing, sitting with a satchel on her knees and a look of wonderment on her face.

"I never had holes in my memories," said June, possibly talking to the beautiful stranger. "I always had memories in my holes. I've been created so many times, and always for the same reason and in the same way. I've never been except when I've needed to be, and I shouldn't have any memories at all. But there's a resonance across all the dimensions, and every time I'm reformed, I resonate, and memories form that have no right to a continued existence. I've been so many people and to so many places, that the world itself records my presence and tells me about it when I come back again."
"So you were in the brothel then?"
"Yes, I was there to meet a woman."
"Where were you before that?"
"I was starting a war that would rage for over a hundred years so that I could meet a woman."
"The Americonfusion war? You started the Americonfusion war? How?"
"I smiled at the right man in the wrong place and let events take their course."
"Then what are you doing here?"
"Meeting a woman."

For the first time in a long time there wasn't an unnatural silence. There was the chirrup of crickets hiding in the grass and bushes, there was the vibrant whistles of birdsong from the trees, there was a dull tremble and roar of water from the waterfall in the grand canyon that was throwing up spray as mist, and there was the soft ticking of the cooling engine of the car.
"Sweet dreams are made of fish," said the beautiful stranger. "I hope you've come to take me away from it all, and not take me back to the city that never sleeps."
"I've come to take your soul, but some souls take longer than others."

Their hands reached towards each other's as slowly as glaciation, and the thick black rain falling from the sky started to strike the ground.

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