Wednesday, 11 January 2012


The day-squid's tentacles flexed lazily, flickering across the sky, tasting the clouds.  Birds squawked in outrage as they darted around and past them, avoiding their touch, not wanting to surrender their taste in case the day-squid liked it.  Light darted across the landscape below like a kaleidoscope, patches of bright colour racing side by side along a burned road until suddenly they darted off at oblique angles and vanished in the scrub grass.
A charred and oxidised smell rose on a breeze, and there were overnotes of old rubber and rotting fish.  A car with scarlet tyres appeared over the brow of a hill and crawled along the road.  Pieces of ash like sloughed skin launched themselves into the air behind the car and fluttered around like zombie butterflies, meeting and mating briefly here and there before falling back to the road again to return to the dust from whence they came.  The driver of the car was a woman with ice-white hair and sunglasses so dark it was like night was travelling with her wherever she went.
She reached up and tapped the pair of fluffy dice that were hanging from the rear-view mirror, setting them swinging.  They were ice-white with orange numbers embroidered onto them; 7, 11, 15, 132, 288 and 1063.  On the driver's side of the windscreen someone had once stuck letters at the top spelling out the name Jennifer.  The driver was called Penelope.  She was trying to smile, but her teeth weren't agreeing.
Under the driver's seat a gun rolled from side to side.  It thumped against the side of the car, then rolled back and clattered against the central transmission column.  Penelope was hoping that it might break itself apart before she had to reach down and pick it up again.  Being an assassin was getting on her nerves.  Too late though, she could smell the flames in the distance and see the road going from burned to embrous before her.
The car stops and smoke starts to rise from the tyres.  It is etiolated and grey and leaks upwards in thin, twisting columns.  Penelope stands up on the driver's seat and looks out to the horizon, looking all around her.  The world seems empty, deserted.  She sits back down again and pulls the gun out from under the seat.  It is, depressingly, not even scratched.  Then she opens the glove-compartment, which is almost as empty as the world, as her soul, as the words that whisper her new instructions to her when she fails to stay awake.  Inside is just a black blindfold, four inches deep and eighteen inches long.  She ties it round her eyes, rests her finger on the trigger of the gun, and stands back up on the seat.
The day-squid twitches as the thin wisps of smoke reach it now, and it sneezes, a noise like thunder.  It masks the report of the gun, the roar of the bullet leaving the barrel and twisting through the air, miniature fins guiding it, holding true to its path.  Behind it is a scent of ozone as it ionises itself a path; it is but the messenger, and the payload comes later.  It's target stares at it, disbelieving, secure in the knowledge that it is invisible, at least to mortal eyes.
The bullet strikes, and it is nothing; its impact dissipates harmlessly and nothing penetrates.
Electricity races along an ionised way, following the path of least resistance, launched from a secondary source by something else, of which Penelope has no knowledge.  It strikes, and the damage it does is awesome.
Penelope stares as first her bullet disappears and then the air explodes into a messy sphere of red, blue and green.  Something that wibbles as it flies through the air splatters on the windscreen, and she knows that Jennifer will never be the same again.  The wind rises quickly, racing to fill in a vacuum where something dense once waited on a burned road in a desolate world. It tugs at her at it rushes past.  She sits down again, starts the car, and turns it around.
The day-squid sneezes again and writhes its tentacles in annoyance.

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