February 26, 2011

Drone Wars: Pig's Blood



            From the back of the warehouse-"mattress room" to the embalming workshop there were only several short yards through the snow.  The naked woman covered in sticky, cheap Champaigne and fake "pig's blood" took her man by the hand.  She braced herself against the cold, and sprinted into the open courtyard on her tiptoes, her willing conspirator in tow.  The entryway was jammed.  Her chivalrous partner wrapped the stained sheet that passed for his death shroud around her trembling shoulders, and fumbled at the latch.  More effort was required.  Another thrust of his shoulder and they would be in.  He ran at the door, and the two of them fell forward onto the floor, all giggles and excited caresses.  Between fervent kisses, the man glanced around for a handy light switch, or lamp.  It wasn't entirely dark in the open room.  A warm ocher, honeyed blush emanated from the small window in the furnace at the far end, but it was far too weak to cut through the dense shadows that engulfed the space. 

            "There's someone else in here," the woman stiffened.  Almost as soon as he took her into his arms he had forgotten about the lights.  The mild flame from the crematorium seemed plenty romantic enough.  "I'm serious," she kicked him, and pulled the white bed sheet up to her chin.  "We're not alone.  There's someone else in here with us, I can feel it."  The whore's stash and works were somewhere nearby.  She patted the floor.  "My lighter is somewhere around here." she searched in the dark.  "No joke."  She figured she had probably dropped it at the threshold of the door.  "Over there.  It's over there, somewhere.  I'm not foolin'.  You have to find it..." 

            A shrill scream pierced the night.  It came from out back.  Despite the precautions the Fortean College cadets' took, someone must have got into the embalming studio.  Whoever they were, they had, undoubtedly, stumbled on the stacked corpses of the church-shelter congregants dispensed with earlier in the evening.  A number of armed, gray-coated conscripts headed up by Tammy and Katie discretely filed out the rear exit.  The two younger women unholstered their weapons and went into the workshop first.  The young whore on the floor was an ugly sight.  She had spit up, and a string of drool hung from her gagging mouth.  Her partner held the lighter to the shriveled face of an old woman heaped against the wall, and moved it up and down as far as his arm could reach.  No matter where he pointed the butane flame, there was another ghastly, lifeless figure.  He looked back at the two young women in Cleopatra wigs.  "They aren't pretend dead -- they're dead-dead," the hustler wiped his eyes with the back of his hand.  He wanted to know what the hell was going on.  Who were these people?  Did the two young women know about this?  What kind of sick freaks were they?  Were they planning on killing everybody at the party the same way? 

            A couple of gray-coated students held his arms behind his back as Tammy Mori pushed the nose of her gun into his mouth.  If she pulled the trigger, the loud report would scare the others in the church-shelter.  She would have a real scene on her hands … -- panicked, nude sex-workers spilled out on the downtown streets, no chance to round them all up one at a time.  If things were bad now, they would only get much worse.  The male prostitute was, however, a definite liability.  What had the instructor said during the first week of field training?  The psycho cadets were too "unruly and impatient".  There was "a fine art to a good kill". 

            Somehow the whore with the spittle on her chin broke free and ran out.  The more adamant she became about the dead bodies in the second pantry outside, however, the less credibility she had with the other revelers inside the main building who all had seemingly equally compelling stories to tell about what they had witnessed at the party.  It wasn't until they saw the two gray-coated individuals come in after her that they became more intrigued by her rant.  Most of them were under the impression they had already seen about everything there was to see that night.  With the event winding down, they welcomed the latest, unanticipated wrinkle to the story, and crammed into the main entrance of the chapel to watch the two masked men subdue her, ready for more drama, in the hope of one last thrill.  One that might surpass every entertainment they had previously indulged in at the expense of their hosts.  What gripped them more than anything else was the verisimilitude of the beating the young woman received after she was pulled from under the middle-row pew and dragged by a leg through the puddle of "pig's blood". 

            "It's a sad day when the real world turns into a shabby version of its own satire," Tammy wistfully pushed her way through the crowd of gawkers.  What else did the former death-squad major teach them?  What was the single most important truism?  If they recalled nothing else from his class, it was the one dictum he wanted them to remember.  She tried to get the words right.  'When in by doubt..." she summoned the obscure phrase from memory, 'Authority, when racked by doubt, has no other choice but to escalate force.'  It was both the privilege and bane of power to accelerate until it could go neither faster nor further.  Authority ramped up because it had exhausted all other options, but once the path was chosen there was a finite limit to how far it could go without inviting its own dissolution.  After a while there were simply no more resources to throw at the problem -- no more money, no more weapons.  Her team was getting nervous.  The crowd of naked sex-workers seemed to respond to some primal electricity in the air.  Any hesitation on her part would only agitate them more.  They would sense weakness.  Two masked students dragged the male hustler's unconscious, limp body into the chamber and flung it next to the woman's.  If Tammy didn't act decisively, she would have a mini-riot on her hands.  The mission phase was too crucial to bungle.  They had plenty enough footage for the Suicide Party montage.  There could be no loose ends. 

            "What are you doing?" Katie Faye balked. 

            "I'm prolonging my life expectancy," Tammy replied, impatiently.  "You might want to do the same." 

Tammy's father had brought home a kitten when she was a little girl.  Whether or not the man was her father, or it was her home, or any of the rest of it had ever happened was, for the moment, irrelevant.  The point was the first several days the cat hid itself behind the refrigerator, and nothing she did coaxed the traumatized animal from the massive appliance.  When no one was around, she knew the kitten came out from its hiding place to drink from the bowl she and her siblings set out for it at night before they retired to their bedrooms.  The third night she and her brothers and sisters had crushed up some sleeping pills they found in the medicine cabinet in her parents' bathroom, and mixed them in with the milk.  All her so-called, presumed memories -- she scowled at the implication -- always ended similarly badly.  The next morning the kitten lay dead on the checkerboard parquet. 

            Had she read it in a book, seen it in a movie, or in one of the inter-active electronic communities she frequented?  Villagers liberated from a repressive regime by a far deadlier enemy than the one they had so admirably fought against all these years.  Rounded up by their purported emancipators, and forcibly marched into the freshly whitewashed town church, the finely carved wooden doors nailed shut behind them, everyone trapped inside, the building set on fire.  Where did the horrific images come from?  What wellspring of traumatic experience -- real, imagined, or otherwise suggested -- could possibly account for such a depraved massacre? 

On the sidewalk the fine ash mingled with the snowflakes.  The vaulted timber of the church-shelter collapsed in on itself with a loud crackle.  Tammy and Katie hung around a while longer after the rest of the team left to make sure nobody got out of the burning building alive.  They could hear the approaching emergency vehicles.  The local authorities would have their hands full identifying the remains.  The two nearly identical young women in the black wigs with severe bangs simultaneously put on their big, round, white-framed sunglasses.  "They aren't real sex-workers," Tammy turned the key in the ignition.  "Garry has this fixation.  He says we're all nothing but high-resolution body scans.  Either that or robots."  Katie cracked the lid of an energy drink, took a sip, and passed it to her.  She put it in a cup holder, and floored the pedal.  Hopefully, enough of the Suicide Party announcements would survive the blaze to support the preposterous fiction she was about to perpetrate. 


-- Daniel Mendel-Black, copyright 2011

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Drone Wars: Sex Factory



            "Yesterday I was a non-entity, a cockroach, a nobody," Sam Spikone rehearsed his lines on the stage of the chapel. 

"A cockroach!" Tammy Mori demanded.  "Say it like you mean it!  You were a cockroach!  You are not a painted plastic man.  You are not a machine-man.  You are against the greed, hate, and intolerance of the painted plastic men.  If you need to, think of all the bullies that have always held you down.  Honestly, I shouldn't think it would be hard for you to channel the sentiment." 

            The church-shelter was lit up like a Christmas tree.  Preparations were made everywhere for the evening's festivities.  They filled the oversized tub to the rim with sparkling wine.  Working girls undressed and jumped in.  The sex workers playfully splashed each other in the bubbly fizz.  Their unnaturally healthy looking male counterparts dangled their feet in the pool.  A few more ladies threw their feather boas over their shoulders, signed the release forms and were escorted into the "mattress room".  They wore spandex, fake furs, and sexy ski outfits with easy access zippers.  A DJ spun records in a corner.  Katie Faye was going after a German cabaret feel, and ushered them to the makeup booths.  She explained for the streetwalkers that they were all to take part in a revenge fantasy.  It was payback time.  The world was about to end.  There was no tomorrow.  If they only had a couple of more hours to live, what would they do?  The apocalypse was upon them.  They were to imagine it was their last day on earth.  The sun would not come up the next morning.  It was the end of life, as they knew it.  If they were locked in a room full of mattresses with men they despised, what would they do?  They were royal concubines, polygamous wives, pink-collar secretaries, mistresses, chattel, slaves.  Would they kill the men beforehand, or would they claim one last sexual thrill before they asserted themselves?  The direction was ridiculous.  The prostitutes all looked at Tammy with the same stupid, unconvinced expression.

            What would the men do in the face of their imminent annihilation?  What was their last desire in a lawless world?  If they could do anything they wanted to, what would it be?  If the world hung on the brink of destruction, how would they celebrate the final count down?  Given an amoral universe, in which their deepest, most secret impulses were not inhibited in any way, in which the civilized social mores that had always repressed them were entirely dispensed with, what would they do?  How would they respond?  Before it was all over, would they have the gumption to enact their most intimate sexual desires?  In the face of their own destruction, would they finally feel free to indulge their animal instinct, perhaps for the first and final time? 

            A number of tableaux were rehearsed.  Two men and a woman looked over a storyboard Tammy and Katie supplied them.  It was difficult to stay on top of everything going on.  The two young women inspected the rooms, and gave last minute direction wherever necessary.  A number of women chanted and danced to the hypnotic beat of a drum machine in the chapel.  Couples scurried off to private rooms.  Folks in the "mattress room" introduced themselves to prospective partners.  Here and there participants had already begun to take some initiative of their own.  It wasn't long now before the place would be a swarming pit of intertwined arms and legs. 

            "When we are asleep the painted, plastic men come into our dreams," Sam Spikone drunkenly adlibbed over the heady drumbeat in the chapel.  "They skulk around like shadows in our thoughts, their faces made up with bright clown colors, and when we aren't looking they try to kill us with their long, sharp, scalpel knives."  Ceremonial wine was passed around.  In the hope of a darker effect, Katie had outfitted the kid with the dog collar in a long, black, velvet cape with a crimson satin lining.  Despite her best effort, however, he looked no more frightening than a child vampire, even with the scabbard held over his head with one hand, the serpentine blade with the snakehead handle held to the side of his neck with the other.  She could take more consolation from the dancers.  With their faces covered in coal, they were thoroughly beguiling.  Straight out of a B-movie, they twirled each other around in torn dresses as if to pay homage to some dark spirit.  Tammy was convinced not even the devil herself could have resisted them when they poured synthetic "pig's blood" over each other, collapsed on the floor, and began to disrobe in the slippery, viscous, red liquid. 

A young man in the upstairs apartment that had belonged to the fat man was the first member to suicide.  He put a gun to his head, yelled at the top of his lungs, and pulled the trigger.  The party was officially underway!  Tammy Mori helped another gray-coated student carry the body to the bathroom, dumped it into the tub, and pulled down the shower curtain to cover the deceased's upper body and face.  Some of the others took pills, or injected drugs into their veins.  One whore notably stuck her head in the kitchen oven.  She asphyxiated.  An older whore was next.  It wasn't pretty.  The woman feigned slashing her wrists.  By the end of the night there wasn't a square foot of the church-shelter without at least one dead body hunched against a wall, or prone on the shag rug.  Thanks to the efforts of the decoration committee, gore covered the place.  They had long since run out of enough sheets, towels, and tablecloths necessary to cover everyone.  Tammy and Katie sidestepped a young girl's half-naked body and urged the DJ to turn the music up louder, not that anyone was dancing.  If they weren't dead already, they were still otherwise preoccupied. 

            Even the psycho cadets found the specter a little on the macabre side, but what could they do if a number of the men hustlers sought out suicided women as cohorts?  The desire was by no means exclusively male, either.  Some of the women prostitutes also seemed to prefer their partners to hold absolutely still.  Neither Tammy nor Katie accounted for the prevalence of such morose fantasies, but the love making continued well after most people were technically counted among the dead.  The longer the evening went on, the more ghastly the scene inside the church-shelter became.  The naked living, oftentimes covered in "pig's blood" from the Satanist themed orgy in the chapel, searched through the bodies of fellow Suicide Party members, like a bunch of fiendish grave robbers in search of one last thrill before it was all over, one last forbidden act of bestiality before they did their part for the cause.  The naked dead roamed around, too, more than happy to amuse themselves as sexy zombies.  There was plenty of living dead tomfoolery, made all the more comical by their insistence on staying in character.  Tammy and Katie were relatively proud of themselves.  They had to confess, it really did look like the world had come to an end. 


-- Daniel Mendel-Black, copyright 2011

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February 20, 2011

Drone Wars: CHUD Town



            Snow came down lightly.  To the woman the delicate flakes were like falling ash.  To her it seemed like her whole inner world raged with fire.  She sat on a stone block bench in the desolate downtown concrete island courtyard of the boarded up performing arts center, once a model of optimistic civic urban design, and threw breadcrumbs at the pigeons.  The doors of the church-shelter closed promptly at eight.  There were no exceptions.  If you got there even a couple of minutes later the fat man locked you out for the night.  Any other time of year she waited 'til the last second to shuffle her cart back to the ministry.  If she didn't make it back in time she could always sleep on the steam grates, but not when the wind-chill after sundown dipped well below zero.  There was a sense of mortality in the air.  If she didn't make it back in time, she could easily, despite the roaring flames that perturbed her mind, freeze to death.  She knew several old whores that had died on the winter streets at night, and her last vestiges of dignity didn't allow for her to let anyone find her that way. 

            Several other members of the congregation started back.  She walked the last blocks with them.  "CHUD Town," one of the youth interrupted the silence when they ducked through a condemned building.  "For cannibalistic humanoid underground dwellers," he clarified.  The younger kids all affected the same stooped posture -- their shoulders oddly pushed forward, their heads hung low, as if they were braced against an impending blow aimed at the back of their heads from some authority figure or other that could without warning materialize from out of the ether to scold them.  "At night, in the moonlight of the urban jungle, it's their town.  They come up from the sewer system through the manholes.  We are only tourists in their world."  His longhaired friends shook their head's in accord, as they made their way through the rubble.  "CHUD Town," they chuckled in a bleak chorus. 

            Most of the rest of the miserable flock were huddled together in the chapel.  They were a sorry lot.  "An assembly of detritus and refuse," Tammy Mori called them from behind the dais.  While the young woman in the wig with severe bangs addressed the hall, the older woman who had come in with the others took in the Suicide Party posters that lined the walls.  It was made clear to all present that their regular pastor was otherwise indisposed.  Tonight they would all participate in a special, previously unscheduled ceremony.  Katie Faye pushed Sam Spikone to the front of the stage.  Tonight Mr. Spikone would initiate them into the ranks of the Suicide Party.  They would be deputized as honorary members.  In a show of solidarity, they were all to drink from the same goblet.  The rite of passage was modeled after a secret society pageant.  Some of the flock might experience a bit of nausea.  There was no need for alarm.  The reaction was perfectly normal.  It had to do with the nature of the mild psychedelic in the elixir.  More importantly, they would all soon experience a sense of euphoria like nothing they'd ever felt before.  Tammy Mori handed the large chalice down to one of the masked, gray-coated, armed figures in the front row. 

            The event was a big-tent version of an urban safari concept they had toyed with back in the motel suite.  The schedule was pushed up because of the shootout with the cops.  Once before, they had used actors, although not quite in the present scale.  A client had wanted to hook up with a prostitute.  He wanted the evening to end with a gunfight between him and the woman's pimp.  Tammy and Garry had arranged everything.  After a night of coke-fueled sex the pimp busted down the door of the motel room right on cue for the classic shakedown.  The client was armed and ready.  His fantasy was to kill the woman and the man.  She and Garry held auditions off campus.  Of course, the actors weren't aware they were going to take part in a snuff film.  The proposition got mixed reactions.  The escort service people all saw easy money.  The whores whose skin was on the line, as anyone might imagine, were a great deal more skeptical. 

Whether or not the congregation was aware of it, they had been enlisted as performers in bit of spectacle Tammy was about to engender.  Despite their reservations, they were all actors in the Suicide Party reenactment.  Regardless of the fact they had never heard of it before, every one of them was newly conscripted as a member of the underworld organization, a nefarious terrorist outfit, fueled by ideologues hell-bent on the destruction of the country.  For the duration of the drama, they were to accept the boy with the black lipstick and nail polish as their leader.  Katie Faye held up Sam Spikone's arm, like a referee indicating the kid as the winner of a boxing match, while Tammy delivered her speech.  The last words were shouted with such vehemence everybody in the hall half expected the plaster to fall off the walls. 

It didn't take long for the drug to take its effect.  In a mass show of protest, so the tragedy went, Suicide Party members made the ultimate sacrifice.  Congregants dropped like flies.  Sam Spikone was given a prepared text to read.  It covered all the basics, such as the disparity of wealth, the control of production by a small minority, the ruination of the American way of life, etc.  The kid looked like a counterculture cult hero.  He told the last few members of the flock they were revolutionaries, and their blood was on the hands of the government.  The scene couldn't have gone better.  He was utterly convincing in his delivery.  Bedraggled party faithful were perfect.  No one could possibly doubt their incontrovertible authenticity.  It was a stroke of genius to use real street denizens as insurrectionists.  No amount of makeup and special effects could have made actors look so utterly deflated.  All that was missing was an organist to play a woeful dirge throughout the death sequence, but Tammy figured they could easily mix it in with the kid's sermon in post-production. 

The video would get uploaded and billed as an insurgent recruiting tool, along with pornographic clips from the "mattress room" recreation film they were about to make later that night.  In the interim, the Fortean College students needed to remove the corpses from the chapel to the embalming workshop out back and make ready for the next scene.  Tammy and Katie held an ad hoc conference with the videographer and the soundman.  They wanted to make sure everyone was on the same page.  There wasn't much room for error.  The action would happen quickly, and they would only get a single take.  There was no guarantee it would make the final cut, but they needed to cover all the possible scenarios.  It all depended on how the characters reacted, and that might be different given diverse circumstances.  They had to account for any number of various unexpected possibilities.  No two people responded the same way.  There was time for only one walk-through.  The next shot was live. 


-- Daniel Mendel-Black, copyright 2011

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Drone Wars: Mattress Room



            More seasonal weather rolled in after the unusual warm spell.  A flock of migrating Canadian geese alighted on the frozen river in front of the interstate bus terminal and folded their long wings back.  Sam Spikone loitered on the sidewalk.  When a man walked past he timidly greeted him, like he had a dozen others before.  The kid had already been at it, albeit without any success, for a couple of hours, and his fingers and mouth were blue from the cold.  If anyone responded, he tried to strike up a conversation.  Most times folks looked away and kept right on walking, but the fat middle-aged man seemed to acknowledge him.  It wasn't much.  Just a nod of the head, enough to give the kid with the makeup and dog collar incentive to press on.  A friend of his had dropped him off at the station right after lunch.  She had given him some contact information.  He was in love with her.  It was his big chance to prove his loyalty.  He told the man he was broke, but he needed to get into the city.  A friend of hers required urgent care.  "The woman lives downtown.  It's a family emergency." 

            It turned out the middle-aged man in the food-stained sweater drove the cab on the side to help support the church-shelter he ran.  "You know what I think," he cleared the fast food wrappers off the passenger side seat.  "I think we should destroy the bogus capitalist system that is ruining youth culture..." 

            The religious ministry was too small for a congregation of any significance, a fairly diminutive building, comparable in size to a small retirement home.  While he helped the other man carry several boxes in from the car, he got an abbreviated, informal walkthrough of the premises.  Once upon a time it had been a funeral home.  Most of the furniture was left over from mortuary days.  There were a number of chambers set off from the once ornate foyer.  At one time, they were a waiting area, a conference room, and a suite of adjoining offices.  Down the end of the carpeted lobby there was a stately chapel that had clearly seen better days.  Funeral services were previously held there.  The man now delivered nightly sermons from the podium.  He had a humble, but growing, congregation.  There was a warehouse in back.  Formerly a showroom for coffins, it was currently the dormitory. 

In an attempt to account for the garish color choices throughout the interior, a vague reference was made to some crazy artist-types that had leased the building as an underground sex club before the city, in a desperate gambit to clean up the neighborhood during the last downtown revitalization effort, permanently shuttered the establishment.  In the erotic retreat's heyday the floor of the casket display room was covered wall-to-wall with sleeping mats.  Patrons knew it as the "mattress room".  A "writhing mound of fornicating bodies" was how a vice detective had described it to a reporter. 

The original embalming workshop was out back, next to the corroded metal hulk of the crematorium incinerator.  The man partly used the place as a second pantry to store excess canned and dry goods.  "Kinda morbid, huh?" he admitted, and unlocked the door.  When Sam Spikone entered he half expected to see a few moribund remnants of the original tools and implements.  He figured there would be cobwebs in every corner, draped like a dead lady's gossamer veil over all the cornices and fixtures of the campy, faux 19th-century decor.  He assumed the place would be covered with a grimy film of dust swathed over every surface, like he was among the first explorers to walk into a freshly cracked vault. 

Until he saw the printing press and the stacks of Suicide Party literature, he had earnestly been under the impression he was the one who had hoodwinked the other man into giving him the ride downtown.  He even thought -- before it was all said and done -- he might walk away with a couple of sympathy bucks from the guy, two or three simoleons for a quick sugar fix and carbo-load.  It never occurred to him that the fat middle-aged man had not gone against his better judgment when he offered the ride into town.  Not in a million years would the teenager have guessed the man only wanted him to feel like he had the upper hand when, all along, he was the one who was hoodwinked into accepting the ride, no smarter than a sadistic child's domesticated pet gerbil. 

Did the contact info Tammy left him actually belong to anybody?  The longer he tried to puzzle it out the more his courage flagged.  More probably the name and number didn't belong to anyone, and she had sent him on a fool's errand, made the address up off the top of her head when she wrote it down for him on the inside lid of the matchbook cover she handed him just before she let him out of the car, a small precaution in case some ne'r-do-well, flatfoot bulldog assigned the bus depot beat pinched him for vagrancy before her associate was able to spirit him away.  Of all the likely scenarios, the most probable one, he was forced to concede, was the one in which she had from the start orchestrated the whole affair to make him believe a good Samaritan picked him up, like the whole setup was nothing more than a chance encounter, when all along the man who gave him the lift into the city was really expecting him, awaiting an opportune moment to step out of the shadows when no one else was around. 

            It was Garry's idea to recreate the Suicide Party downtown.  Katie Faye directed the decoration team.  She elucidated the hideous plan for the kid in black lipstick and nail polish.  It was such a resounding success on campus Tammy wanted to try it out on the real world.  Katie apologized for her lover's little deception, but it was the only way to get the young man into the city.  The ministry was perfect.  Back in the day, she was a regular dancer at the sex club.  The first time she saw the venue she had wanted to throw a private party there.  They would restore the premises to its former grandeur for one last drug-crazed orgy.  The chapel would enjoy one more evening of satanic sex rites.  Nothing would get left out, least of all the "mattress room".  There was a pool where patrons used to swim naked.  They were going to fill it with cheap Champaigne.  No detail was going to get left by the wayside, not even the buffet with the infamous phallic ice sculptures.  The caterers were on their way.  But, Sam had to hustle.  Their little shindig was planned for the same evening.  The kid was in charge of hanging the party announcements.  She wanted him to cover the walls with Suicide Party posters.  He would have plenty of help.  A number of other students were due to arrive soon.  They were entirely at his disposal.  The place was going to get crowded fast.  Meanwhile, she would take care of the fat proprietor's cadaver.  Hopefully, the incinerator was still operable.  Katie hated to think what her options were otherwise.  "Chop-chop," she urged the kid on, and handed him a box of red enamel spray cans.  "When I get back I want the words 'Suicide Party' scrawled on every square inch of these walls!" 

            As he dutifully stapled posters to the chapel and "mattress room" walls, the young man with the dog collar found it difficult not to think of Katie Faye as a demented comic book villain who rambled incoherently on about some awful, misguided scheme she had invented for world domination.  But, if all it took to prove his faithfulness and devotion to Tammy was a little bit of interior decoration in the otherwise dismal surroundings of the defunct funeral home, he was more than happy to comply.  A suave super agent he was not, at least not in this lifetime.  His guess was as good as anyone else's as to what Tammy's latest scam was all about.  Even if he was able to figure it out, there wasn't much promise he could escape from her snare in time to save himself, or for that matter, anybody else.  Not with the hawkish Katie Faye hard on his back.  She and Tammy might as well have been separated at birth.  They were practically indistinguishable.  As far as he could make out, it might as well have been his beloved who fired up the furnace behind the warehouse, and shoved the knotted remains of the fat man down the skate-wheel roller-track.  He resolved to put his all into the task at hand, not to think about things he had no business thinking about, acquiesce to an intellect far more devious than his, and try his best to make the gloomy environs look a bit more festive. 


-- Daniel Mendel-Black, copyright 2011

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February 13, 2011

Drone Wars: Psychotic Reaction



            The Down syndrome woman's father's body was crudely arranged in a seated position on one of the living room armchairs with his upper extremities oddly crossed over his chest and lap.  They had dumped the patrolman's corpse on the couch without much care, and left his limbs to fall where they might, so that he lay unnaturally corkscrewed among the patterned pillows.  The bound and gagged kid watched the gray-coated, masked figures pace back and forth, his back up against the wall, his eyes madly darting from one to the other. 

            "What's with the apple?" Garry Knolls entered the cottage, warily approached the posed carcass of the elderly father, picked the apple off the dead man's head, pulled his black balaclava down from his mouth, and took a healthy bite from the ripe fruit. 

"I was aiming for the Delicious Red," Tammy Mori met him at the armchair with a deceitful twinkle in her eyes.  She was so wasted on crystal meth she could barely stand up straight.  On the balls of her commando boots, she wavered slightly, draped her arms around his neck, languidly pressed her slinky shape into him, and casually snapped off, "But I missed." 

            To the bound and gagged hostage, it looked like the two killers advanced and retreated in perfect harmony, like it was a private, small-scale Broadway dance number they performed for him.  Garry rebuffed her.  Tammy advanced.  Back and forth they went.  Garry examined the deputy.  Tammy raised her black-gloved hand to her forehead palm-up in feigned distress, and retreated.  It reminded him of one of his favorite martial arts movies.  The swordplay was so exquisitely timed in the film, one would have thought, by the way the opposing yakuza gangs perfectly mirrored each other's movements, they were dysfunctional lovers locked in a lethal tango. 

            The members of the hunting party emerged from the saltbox with the swagger of an occupation mercenary force.  There was a lot left to do.  The police dispatcher would expect the deputy to check in.  When they didn't hear back from him at precinct headquarters, they would send another patrol car to investigate, maybe two.  One dead police officer was bad enough, but Garry Knolls had to brace the others against the possibility they might have a fight on their hands.  It was a worst-case scenario, he told them, but they needed to be prepared for the prospect, however unsavory, of a serious gunfight.  Several crucial minutes were required to pile the bodies into the two cars, douse them with gasoline, and set them ablaze.  Tammy Mori's creative solution was to try and make it look like the elderly man plowed into the police cruiser.  No one would buy it, but it might at least make for a complicated story, stall the yokel crime scene crew for a while, at least until they put out the fire. 

            Another black and white patrol cruiser took a hard turn onto the street, sirens blaring, and rammed into the pileup of the two cars just as they exploded in flames.  The initial sick crunch of glass and steel was followed seconds afterward by another minor explosion.  The officer behind the wheel was rendered totally unconscious by the unexpected collision, his forehead badly cut by shards from the imploded windshield.  His partner, however, was only slightly dazed.  The deputy ducked the raging fire, his jacket held over his head as a heat shield, took cover behind the wreck of the cruiser, popped the trunk, pulled out a long barreled gun and a box of shells he promptly emptied, for easy access, onto the pavement at his knees. 

Three more squad cars were already engaged in the melee.  The manic dispatch chatter sounded like utter chaos.  Tammy couldn't stand to listen to it anymore.  Two other deputies were reported slain or otherwise incapacitated.  The body count was up to eight.  Three blocks away, despite the protest of the other members of her team who were keen to hear how Garry's crew fared, she turned the police radio off.  They could still hear the shooting.  In her driver's side mirror the flickering tongues of flame along the horizon of the night sky were like the raised points of a golden crown.  She could already see the images from the shootout plastered all over the Internet, the masked gunmen disintegrating the cordon of squad cars in a hail of bullets.  If Garry and his team didn't get out of there soon, Dr. Edward Vincent's Interan Corp. training program was about to get some seriously unwanted attention, the kind of outraged scrutiny it no doubt deserved in spades, she mused.  Part of her was thrilled with the prospect, she would have loved nothing better than to see the swine finally taken to task, hung by his tiny petards in the artificial town square of the mass media, but unfortunately there were other infinitely more pressing factors to consider.  There was the dramatic arc of the story for instance, as well as the ever more dubious question of her character's motivation.  Tammy impatiently waited for the bicyclist halfway off the curb to cross the street, even though the arrow had long since turned green. 

            She had pulled a phone from the pants of one of the brain-damaged kid's buddies.  If she tossed it alongside the road, maybe, in the ensuing search, some model citizen would find it in the morning light.  Maybe they would put two and two together, and figure out it belonged to one of the victims of the murder spree.  Maybe they would be curious whom the last person the deceased spoke to was.  If they were, they might be able to trace the number.  If she called Garry, it wouldn't reveal much, only that the listing was preceded by a government prefix.  Whoever examined it might find the coincidence too compelling to not pursue any further.  It might strike them as odd the unlisted number was dialed by the dead kid well after sundown.  Had he called for help?  Had he tried to report a crime in progress?  What was his connection with the government?  Was he even still alive when the call was made?  The official police records would eventually provide a timeline that proved it was made after he was already presumed dead, and that whoever the caller was, they might have had direct access to the kid before his body was consumed in the terrible fire of the faked car wreck. 

But, why would the killer call a government number?  Beyond the link established between the two, on its own it wouldn't make much sense to anybody, not even the most ardent and stalwart professional spook.  So what if the murderer knew someone with a government prefix?  If Garry and his team didn't make it out from the showdown alive, the only upside was that it might indicate that others, still at large, were involved in the crime.  If he and his gang made it back okay -- if -- she honked at the bicyclist to make up his mind whether to get a move on or back the light weight aluminum two-wheeler onto the curb -- it was simply a cryptic pointer, a single piece in a larger puzzle that had only begun to take shape in her mind.  She already had a pretty good idea who she wanted to pin the rampage rap on.  The rest of the details would have to fall into place later after she had more time to work them out. 

No answer.  Garry didn't pick up.  She tried again, just to make sure it was recorded in the log, threw the phone out the window, and turned the radio back on. 

Three more deputies were reported down before she and her team got to the university rear access drive.  The first pictures from the on-board cameras on the squad cars were coming through the wire.  She looked at one.  The black sky out front of the schoolyard was angrily scribbled through with crisscrossing white bands of tracer bullet fire.  By her reckoning, the body count was easily up above eleven -- five of them law enforcement officers.  Before she offloaded the others behind the student union the precinct dispatcher lost contact with two more units.  The fight was still fully on.  If Garry and his team were a speed metal thrash band, they were definitely still putting the meat into the microphone.  She clicked through some more stills.  The frenzied white scrawl of tracers over the black field had a wonderfully abstract formal quality.  She smiled with guarded relief.  The pictures were totally useless.  There was nothing incriminating about them. 


-- Daniel Mendel-Black, copyright 2011

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February 12, 2011

Drone Wars: Trail of Dead



            The front door of the saltbox house was left ajar.  "Princess?"  The elderly father of the Down syndrome woman put his bag and keys down on the cabinet in the hallway, and quickly inventoried the sparsely furnished Colonial-style cottage for any signs of foul play.  He took it as a bad omen that his daughter didn't answer.  The fact the door was wide open when he came in didn't do anything, either, to set his mind at ease.  For years, he had worried about this one scenario.  Had she finally had enough, and run away?  The possibility she would some day do something so senseless had so often perturbed his mind he sometimes fantasized about chaining her to the basement wall with the medieval-type arm manacles he had picked up one day at a swap meet when he was in a particularly bleak mood ... at his wit's end as to how best to care for the child-woman on only his small retirement pension.  Regardless of the many times he had wished his daughter away however, he was her father.  No matter how much consternation she caused him -- especially with regard to the unwanted attention of the young boys in the neighborhood -- she was his special little girl, his little princess. 

            He picked up the receiver and thought about whom he might dial.  Where would she go?  Would she go to his sister's place?  The two had a special relationship, but it didn't strike him as the most likely destination.  His sister lived clear on the other side of town.  More likely, his daughter aimlessly wandered around out in the dark streets somewhere, cold and hopelessly lost, feeling sorry for herself because she wished she were back home.  But which way would she have turned?  Any direction was as good as another.  Her choice could as easily have been rational as not.  The neighborhood market at the end of the block seemed like a good place to start.  She sometimes went there alone when she needed to pick up some personal items.

His fingers wavered over the keypad.  His dad's brother, it came back to him, used to have a peculiar phrase for these important junctures in life.  His uncle, a lifelong, government bureaucrat, called them: "Sputnik Moments."  It was, he was made to understand, a dire term, reserved solely for the most important personal and policy decisions imaginable.  When he had dropped out of high school to take the job at the telecom company in order to support his pregnant sixteen-year-old bride-to-be, his uncle had invoked the convoluted expression to steel the young man's nerves.  "Your Sputnik moment," his dad's brother had slapped him on the back, and handed him his first shot of hard liquor. 

He cradled the receiver back on its saddle.  Last-century space race idioms were not going to help him find his child.  He needed a more direct course of action.  Once before, he had found his daughter asleep in her favorite dress, purse, and shoes on the bench at the corner stop, entirely oblivious to the fact that budget cuts had long since resulted in the discontinuation of the residential mass transit route.  He poured out a couple of finger's worth from a bottle he had saved for such an occasion, saluted the dead spirit of his long departed uncle's mindset of clear-cut ideals, forged in the fire of a bygone resolve to out-pace enemy competitor technological advances no matter what the cost, and knocked the full contents of his whiskey glass back with a single swallow.  Maybe that was where she was now -- only a couple of blocks away, diligently awaiting a city bus that never came? 

            One of the kids he recognized from the park stood in the middle of the street waving his arms wildly.  The elderly man was forced to pull to a stop to avoid a collision with the apparently unhinged teenager who ran out in front of his car.  "You gotta help me!" the kid desperately banged on the passenger side door.  "We gotta get out of here!"  The adolescent was clearly beside himself with fear.  "There are killers in the woods... masked killers!  They got my two best friends.  They're crazy.  I saw them cut the head off a woman like the whole thing was nothing but a dumb video game!  Quick, unlock the damn door!" he banged his palms against the glass.  "I only barely got out of the ball park ahead of them.  They thought they had me corralled in the right field dugout.  Please...  You gotta believe me.  There are six of them with night vision automatic weapons, and they know how to use them.  They're not far behind..." 

            A gun blast stove in the rear window of the car with a thunderous impact.  The elderly man leaned into the horn of the steering wheel, dispatched instantly by the deadly round.  Without a word, the kid kneeled on the pavement, and put his hands on his head exactly like he was told.  Someone in a balaclava and gray trench coat pushed his upper body over the metal hood, and frisked him.  "All clear," one of the hunting party members announced after the pat down was over.  "The suspect is contained."  It would have been a perfect fugitive takedown, except that the boy's misfortune was simply that he had been stupid enough to follow his brain-damaged friend into the woods.  Tammy Mori hurriedly dug through the dead driver's pockets for his wallet.  She ordered the others to bind and gag the kid, emptied out the various cards on top of the dashboard, spread them out in search of a driver's license, flipped open her phone, and updated Garry Knolls with the revised plan.  She had a specific address for him. 

            "I got a call about some suspicious activity down by the train tracks.  Gunfire?" the patrolman who pulled his cruiser up to the saltbox house inquired.  "You folks wouldn't know anything about that, would you?" 

            Tammy Mori sat on the stoop of the porch with a couple other members of the hunting party waiting for Garry and his team.  "Government business," she flashed her fake badge.  "Thank you.  We have the situation under control."  The woman in the black wig ground her cigarette out under the heel of her boot, came forward to the curb and lowered her shoulders into the patrolman's open side window like she was poised to scratch his eyes out, but not until after she turned him into a toadstool.  "Just some kid's playing paintball after dark," she bared her white teeth, and slowly pulled her gun out from her belt.  The patrolman was the last person in the world she wanted to deal with, but to say her next move was irrational wouldn't be fair.  She had to know shooting the officer meant taking the game to a much, much higher level.  She must have known she could kill about as many retarded kids as she wanted, easily get away with it, too, as long as she didn't commit the one and only cardinal sin.  And that was to murder a cop. 

Her soul searching would have to begin, she supposed, with the primary question:  Who the hell was Tammy Mori?  Was she the kind of person who could abandon reason entirely?  Was she truly lawless?  Could she completely give herself over to her role?  Could she go all the way -- merge fully and completely with her murderous character, and summon all her meager talents to transmogrify evil intent into a pristinely clear-headed rational for what she was about to do?  The porcine deputy wasn't cast as a hero.  That was for sure.  She lowered her weapon over his badge, closed one eye, braced herself for the discharge, dutifully did what her part demanded of her, and plugged the patrolman in the heart.  The flash from the barrel flared in the night. 

She licked the blood from her lips, and wiped the rest off her face with her coat sleeve.  "It was an impossible situation," she spoke firmly into the phone.  Her partner needed to relax, and climb down from his high horse.  Given the circumstances, what other possible recourse did she have?  She wasn't about to get arrested by a Podunk peace officer.  There was a dead body, and a restrained kid inside the house, not to mention the AWOL Fortean College students on her team.  The patrolman would never have seen it from their point of view.  The entire undertaking depended on her best judgment.  Her instinct hadn't let them down, yet.  Garry would have to support her decision -- there was nothing else to it.  What else could he do? 


-- Daniel Mendel-Black, copyright 2011

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Drone Wars: Wicked Games



            In the dugout, one of the brain-damaged kid's friends passed a nearly spent joint back to the other.  Careful not to burn his lips, the boy took a drag, and rubbed out what little remained of the roach against the concrete wall.  They had, from inside the bunker, watched their friend walk down the street with the shoeless, mentally retarded woman.  The unlikely couple was long since out of sight, but they weren't worried they might lose their quarry in the dark.  They had a pretty good idea where their dimwitted pal would take his new friend.  He would bring her to the pump station.  The Down syndrome woman would have a hard time negotiating the terrain in just her socks.  The sun was almost down. They had plenty of time, and resolved to roll another number before they set out under the cover of dark. 

            Bathed in the acid light of the tire dump's security lights, the leaves of the surrounding trees became translucent -- as if the canopy of foliage that overhung the compacted clay of the utility road was actually made of taffeta, or an even thinner material like rice paper.  Everything around them looked vaguely caricature-like, as if it was manically painted in points of purple and orange, like they had without knowing it walked into some gothic cartoon landscape where stones and trees were sentient.  Even their pump station hideaway loomed up ahead of them like an oddly anthropomorphized black cutout of a traveling carnival's haunted house attraction, the hollow rectangles of the windows and doors vaguely ominous, like the sinister facial features of some forgotten-era, helmet-shaped sea monster washed up on shore millennia ago, and petrified into stone over the course of the ensuing centuries.  The two boys turned off the path, and quietly made their way deeper into the woods along the canal.  If their friend had taken the unfortunate woman to the pump house, they guessed, the two must have already meandered further downstream in search of some more romantic location. 

            The crack of gunfire in the dark forest sobered them up fast enough.  When the shots rang out, one of the guys was about to show the other a sweatshirt with the flocked image of a bunny on it and a pair of fluffy earmuffs he guessed must belong to the Down syndrome woman.  He had picked them up in the clearing next to the tall reeds that grew along the shoreline.  But after the three loud pops from the nearby automatic rifle, he didn't waste any time.  Without further ado, he threw them back on the ground, and took off running ahead of his friend.  The two boys slid down a mound of partly decomposed fallen leaves, splashed through a shallow patch of swamp cabbages, tripped headlong over a rotten tree trunk, and ended up alongside an oddly bent shape they couldn't make out in the night.  One of them reached into his pocket for his portable phone.  In the red neon glow of the dial pad he saw the face of their brain-damaged friend.  Both turned away, revolted by the gruesome sight.  The kid's head looked like someone had set off a quarter-stick of dynamite in a watermelon. 

            Smoke from the business end of a sub machine gun hung statically suspended in mid air as if it were the tangled threads of a clumped spider's web that swayed from some invisible tree branch.  The videographer had rewound and paused the digital camera.  It was the first frame he believed the two kids appeared on film.  There wasn't much to see, only what appeared to be the back of someone's leg, and a sneakered heel.  From the angle of the kid's body in the picture, the camera operator concluded the two of them were most likely going to make a dash for the train tracks.  The hunting party flanked the large figure in the gray coat as they had earlier at the edge of the canal.  He pointed with practiced affect (as if he had rehearsed the gesture assidulously in front of a mirror many times before) to the right and left, and then directly forward into the center of the mound of tires at the end of the lot closest to where the railroad tracks ducked under the overpass and wound into the main depot. 

            The woods all around lit up with peculiar shapes.  Garry Knolls shined a lantern spotlight into a copse of trees.  The luminous, iridescent coronas of the two boys weren't hard to locate among the rest.  They outshone all the other eyes around them.  Knolls could plainly see that they still hadn't made it to the road.  One of them, however, he could tell was already close to the city lights.  His black silhouette seemed to disappear into the halo of the electric lamps, as if he were being fully absorbed into the urban illumination.  It wouldn't be long before nothing was left of his shape -- not even a thin penumbra.  The other boy, however, was definitely not going to give them any more trouble than he had already.  He seemed to drag his leg behind him as if he might have hyper-extended a knee, or sprained an ankle after a bad tumble. 

            Even if one of the kids from the playground got away, it wouldn't be the end of the world.  What would the boy say?  Even if he told someone he saw masked figures in black balaclavas and gray trench coats kill some people down at the canal, it wouldn't give the local authorities much to go on.  If they didn't dismiss the story outright, they would likely conclude the feds had engaged in some undercover operation, and in a way they wouldn't be entirely incorrect.  Garry Knolls signaled for one group to go back up to street level and triangulate the third kid before he could get to a house, or pull over a passing car.  The second group was to dispose of the other boy, who backed himself into a tree when they surrounded him, whimpered, and sat down resignedly with his knees pushed up under his chin. 

            Over the phone Tammy Mori told Garry they had the third boy cornered in the schoolyard.  They would keep him there for the client to finish off unless further notified.  She sounded so enthusiastic when she said it he was sure she was high on drugs.  A couple of unplanned for, unexpected bodies, she asserted cheerily, were not going to knock them off their game.  They had been at it for over two weeks.  So far, the safaris had all gone off without a hitch.  Her unrealistic brand of fervor was as calming to him as the prospect of a venomous snakebite.  Looking back on it later, he would question the wisdom of sending her after the third kid.  At the time, however, it was like she had some weird narcotic power over him, like she could fill his spine with icy fluid, and blast it, seemingly at will, like a gusher of frigid Novocaine, directly into his brain. 

While they loaded the bodies into the back of one of the black trucks, the student who had booked the evening's sordid adventure coolly watched the footage of his three kills thus far on a small portable player.  For the most part, their classmate was satisfied with his digital trophy.  He was only a bit put off the videographer had failed to get the shot of him wasting the brain-damaged kid in the ravine.  The execution-style double-tap to the top of the head of the second boy also struck him as a bit staged given they had so much time to arrange the body that they couldn't help indulge in some minor ennobling theatrical revisions to make it look a little less like shooting a fish in a barrel, but otherwise the student was overall pleased with the grotesque keepsake.  Several times, he recapped the footage from the tire dump in slow motion, mesmerized by the eerie sequence in which the Down syndrome woman's head was waved in front of the camera like some voodoo witchdoctor's prized possession. 


-- Daniel Mendel-Black, copyright 2011

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February 05, 2011

Drone Wars: Rat Play



            Across the street from the elementary school a threadbare tennis ball rolled to a halt at the dirty, tube-socked feet of a strange woman.  Her age was uncertain, but the guys in the schoolyard guessed she was probably in her early thirties.  They waved for her to toss it back to them.  She didn't move.  As far as the three of them knew, the woman lived alone in the adjacent saltbox house with her elderly father.  Once in a while, when her old man was at work, or away on some errand, she came outside on her front porch in the late afternoon to take the sun.  The woman was mentally retarded, that much the boys in the playground could plainly tell.  One time, while they were taking turns hitting a rubber ball out of the park, she had, while her dad was still home, walked out in her front yard in a ripped, undersized chemise that barely covered her pubic area.  Her dad had slapped her on the rear end like she was a bad girl, and pulled her back into the house, but not before the three of them got an eye-full. 

            "I probably shouldn't, my father will be home soon," the Down syndrome woman cautiously rebuffed one of the boys when he asked her if she wanted to take a walk with him down by the train tracks that ran along the canal.  He couldn't give a damn if she was developmentally disabled.  To him, all her other parts looked like they were in fine working order. 

            A derelict pump station overlooked a stretch of the waterworks.  It wasn't the easiest place to get to.  The two of them had to leave the tracks, and make there way through an overgrown lot, and a tire dump.  He and the other guys hung out there sometimes, he told her.  He tried to sound reassuring.  Except for the windows, most of it was, remarkably, still un-scavenged.  Even the original rusty metal pipes, presumably worth good money to anyone who could haul them out of there, had been left behind.  It was a relatively secluded place, a great hide out for when he and his buddies wanted to make themselves scarce. 

"The first time we came out here, we were spooked shitless," he pointed out the small structure hidden behind the deserted pump station, like a ginger bread cookie house from a storybook fable.  "We were convinced some crazy ax murderer lived there."  He put an arm around her shoulders.  "Don't worry.  We're perfectly safe.  'Turns out no one lives there -- just a mangy guard dog they got chained to a post.  In the summer the place is a business of sorts," he drew her attention to the tarred, timber pylons of a small, wooden quay.  "They rent paddleboats.  See.  Once the three of us rented one," he looked the feebleminded woman in the eyes.  "What a comedy of errors.  We were so drunk we got hopelessly lost downstream, and it took almost all day for us to carry the boat all the way back." 

            The kid was fully aware he was no special prize, either.  Most everyone he knew, friends and family alike, dismissed the deliberate, methodical way he had of going about his business as the result of severe brain damage suffered when he was a tot.  His mother publicly joked that she must have dropped him on his head when he was an infant; his father liked to say, as a toddler, his boy ate too much lead paint; but everyone knew what had really happened.  He had nearly drowned in the pool.  The paramedics estimated he must have been under water nearly twelve minutes before his father fished his blue body out of the drink.  Practiced pearl divers couldn't stay submerged under water for more than five minutes, one of the paramedics had told his father.  The brain deprived of oxygen for more time than that, the emergency responder warned, generally resulted in some form of permanent cognitive damage. 

            "I know a fun game," the Down syndrome woman pushed the slow kid in the insulated jeans jacket onto his back in the clearing between the tall reeds along the bank of the canal, her exaggerated childlike expression, like the round, happy face of a theatrical mask painted with shiny apple red cheeks and endowed with an overlarge, egg-shaped forehead.  "After my mom died me and my dad played it all the time..." 

He rolled off her, and placed an index finger on her parted lips.  The sharp snap of a twig broke the early evening silence.  It was loud, too loud for a river rat to have made.  Bobcats sometimes came down from the hills when the days got short, so did reindeer this time of year, and there was even the rare report of a bear attack.  Most likely, though, it was a dog, or possum.  Still, there was no sense in taking any chances, especially if it wasn't a wild animal after all, but another person.  "Who's there?" he yelled at the trees.  "Show your face!" he hollered into the dark forest, and held his breath, expectantly. 

            First, one gray trench coated figure stepped into the moonlight.  Then another.  They came out by twos and threes.  All told, there were thirteen of them.  Each wore a black balaclava over their face to conceal their identity.  Except for the one who trained a digital video camera on the partly undressed, misfit pair, the rest were heavily armed with fully automatic machine guns.  A larger figure emerged from the pack, made some hand signals, and the rest of the group silently fanned out in a horseshoe pattern.  The individual at the center of the half-circle loosened his grip on the barrel of his rifle, let it dangle freely by its strap, withdrew a large machete from its black, leather sheath, and handed the blade to the masked person positioned to his right with an oddly ceremonial gesture, as if to initiate some ritual, occult blood-sport. 

            The footage from the human safari was amateurish and incoherent at best, mostly comprised of fleeting shadows, blurred images that came in and out of focus as the automatic lens adjusted to the light.  Once in a while you could see the backs of the boy and the childlike woman as they peered over their shoulders in fright at their maniac attackers.  For the better part of the chase, all that was audible on the soundtrack was the heavy breathing of the camera operator and the rumbling footfall of the other psycho cadets.  For an instant the face of the scared kid filled the frame.  The camera zoomed in and out.  He was squatted behind a metal-drum trashcan.  Then, as quickly as he was spotted, he was gone, lost from view.  Shots rang out somewhere in the night.  More blurred footage, as if the videographer took a headlong spill.  A moment later the boy's still head came back into focus.  He lay behind a fallen tree with a large cavity where the left side of his face had been. 

Off camera someone shouted: "Over here!"  The picture wildly swiveled.  They had the mentally retarded woman trapped in the tire dump.  The camera shook so much you could barely make out the shape of her overcoat at the end of the dirt road.  She was so worried about the people behind her, she ran directly into the arms of another gray-coated member of the hunting party who snuck up on her from the other side.  The next few seconds of the footage were spine chilling.  There was a bloodcurdling scream.  In a vain attempt to protect her vital organs from the faceless menace she held her arms out in front of her naked breasts.  The tip of the machete caught the moonlight as the blade swung through the air...


-- Daniel Mendel-Black, copyright 2011

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