This is the FIRST DRAFT of a short story that takes place in a sci-fi universe I am currently working on for print, games etc. More on that later…
Oh and remember to play this song while you read the story.
One hundred and thirty six generations after humans established their foothold on the planet, and seven years after her banishment from the settlement, Sally met Boyd – and for a while – everything was just shiny. Fate, if you believe in such a thing, had other plans for Boyd though.
The Outlaw, The Whore and The Estranged Gardener
Clutching the hem of her fraying apron – so as not to smear fresh paint from the edges of the windowsill – Sally peered into the breaking dawn through the recently installed near-transparent organifilm window.
The homestead was a motley shack they had lovingly created from whatever detritus of civilization’s leftovers they had managed to scrounge up. An amalgam of composite photovoltaic panels, driftwood, plastic sheeting, fabric, rock, land-coral and metal struts. It was held together with string, resin, nails, love and the pure stubbornness of desperate people trying make a life for themselves in an alien environment where humans just did not belong.
It was a disaster, coming out here. Although they had carved out a meager niche for themselves in the hills. Plowing, cutting and scraping the stubborn soil into something that would accept edible crops. They had even “bought” and brought livestock. Skinny, shaggy, smelly and stubborn little things she had hoped to breed and butcher to feed the children. That was a mute point by now though, seeing as whatever alien life the surveyors had either ignored or omitted, had laid waste to the stockade.
Although Sally could not see him, she new Boyd was tracking the creature somewhere out there. She prayed to The Gods Below that he would soon see reason and return home. Home to his wife and children. Home to where he could be reminded what it was to be human. Where she could prevent him from being himself and doing something colossally stupid. Home to where she could protect him.
She had, at best, been a mediocre farmer’s wife and a terrible cook but she had always been good at hunting and killing whatever and whomever she set her mind to. Too good, in fact, to be allowed and accepted into civilized society. Way too good for Boyd to ever let it slide. She only prayed Boyd could swallow his male ego and return home before he got himself hurt or worse. To properly break in a new man was something she was not willing to repeat any time soon, plus the children liked him.
The hillock was to hills what hills are to mountains and what midgets are to men. Short, lumpy and nothing in comparison. It provided a good vantage point though and Boyd was determined to make the most of it. He could not and would not return to her empty handed.
Before he became Boyd, surrogate father to Tommy and Elissa, Nathaniel Blunt had been a whore. He had never lain prone to religion but pretty much anything and anyone else. For money, of course, and favor from those in position to provide him with what he Needed. And his Needs had been oh so great and so, in proportion, had his whoring.
“Beggars can’t be choosers, but whores can choose not to see themselves as beggars”, the whorehouse madame had said. And he had been the biggest beggar and the biggest whore of them all. He’d been the prettiest whore too and there were always those who would pay pay extra for a beautiful boy with green eyes and a full head of hair.
Somewhere amidst the blood, the beer, the sweat, the semen and the endless progression of humiliations necessitated by his Needs, he had met Sally and everything had changed.
It had been the first time he had been raped by a woman and through his ranting, and crying and raving for revenge, something in him had broken. While she straddled him in a muddy back alley and strangled him with his silk scarf – her gun rammed into his mouth, her breath fetid from whiskey and cigars, on his, their eyes had met while he slowly choked – and in that moment he had known he belonged to her. From that moment he had been her bitch, and as the years passed, he had learned to love her. That love had grown into a little family, living in a makeshift shed in the middle of nowhere. Although he had no idea, nor any wish to know, where she had gotten the children from or whom she had killed to get them, it was the closest to happiness he had ever experienced.
With time, the outlaw formerly known as the infamous Veronica Tadmin had turned plumper, softer of both body and disposition, and his. His Sally, his Need, his love, his wife, his life.
He was going to be damned if he were to let some filthy alien creature take that life away from him. So he stalked it. A hunter now. Strong for her. For them. A Man made flesh in her image. Harder, leaner, meaner. Scarred by hard years of living off an unforgiving land and Sally’s unrelenting tutelage. A real Man. Not just a pretty man-whore anymore. A taker of lives, things and whatever else held her fancy.
With Sally’s gun in hand, Boyd slid silently down from the ugly lump of a hillock, further and further up into the hills proper, following the trail towards the alien land-coral forest and the abomination that lurked in it.
The garden was beautiful. An ode to fractal perfection. Not a single land-coral branch out of place nor a single Leaf out of harmony with the greater organism. As It – for It was neither a he nor a she in any sense of human understanding – moved between row upon row of hard-life symbionts, It drank in the symmetry, the precision with which the garden had arranged itself and the gentle hum of life and chemistry in everything around It.
Creating, caring for and carefully preserving gardens, such as this one, had been It’s function. It’s reason for being. It had been gestated to be a Gardener. Gardening was written in It’s primary life-code, down to the cellular level.
This garden though, had obviously not been tended by another gardener for some while – not that it lacked order, there just were no tracks or other signs of occupation to be seen anywhere. Probably the filthy soft-life creatures had either killed or driven of it’s gardener. A gardener far surpassing It in skill and dedication, apparently, as evident by the state of the a so long abandoned. It would never know, nor did It much care.
As It passed by a land-coral, It could not help Itself and carefully reached out through the Life Harmonic of the garden and nudged a single Leaf It felt could be placed more efficiently. The Leaf, now compelled, detached itself from the branch it had been exchanging nutrient fluids and energy with, protracted it’s legs, shook its wings and ascended the branch further into the canopy. The Leaf alighted – though not at the spot allotted to it by It – retracted its legs, reattached itself to the land-coral mother-organism, spread it’s crystalline wings and resumed converting sunlight into energy at a less than optimal rate. What should have added to the perfection of the garden, now just reduced it’s efficiency.
With something akin to sadness stirring in It’s mind – although sadness can not even begin to describe anything felt by a being that alien – It moved on. While It’s very being told It to be a gardener, to prune and guide and optimize other hard-life, It was not a gardener anymore. It had been violated by lesser beings – through some dark magic beyond It’s ken – and had now been re-purposed as a Tool. A Tool used to perform meaningless and illogical tasks by hideous soft-life creatures.
They had come for It while It fed off It’s land-coral garden and zapped It with some sort of perverted form of the Life Harmonic. They had burnt out the intricate connections of the land-coral itself, killed most of the Leafs on it and disrupted the Harmony of the garden. It had been drunk on – what It now knew to be – electricity, powerless to resist, powerless against the sheer magnitude of raw energy being channeled into It and had stood there stunned, helpless, and perversely ecstatic as the Leafs panicked and fled.
That was then. It’s garden was long abandoned by It now, but probably still churning out new Leafs and slowly reasserting itself to the patterns It had so carefully laid out for it throughout the many seasons It had been it’s Gardener.
Now It was far away from any place It knew and carried a foreign object attached to It’s primary processing nexus that sequestered It’s will and compelled It to do Their inscrutable bidding. It was anathema to the gardens, It’s own people and everything It had ever stood for.
Once It would have raved and raged and prayed for revenge against those disgusting soft and moisture-filled invaders that now blundered through It’s once beautiful home and ruined everything. Had It cared. It didn’t.
It lived only for the occasional jolt of beautiful, intoxicating electricity – the pure mindless ecstasy of that sweet and ample current, delivered from alien capacitor nodes to the base of It’s skull- provided, of course, only after a task completed by an obedient Tool.
It felt the alien soft-life creature’s passage into the garden. It didn’t matter though. It was was driven half mad by anticipation as it torpedoed through the outskirts of the garden. Anticipation for the ecstasy of current.
It deftly avoided the pitiful creature, circled back and headed for the creature’s dwelling. It cleared the garden and set a course over the hills. It rammed It’s rock-hard legs into the ground, gathering momentum.
Soon It would get what It craved. Soon the insistent voice in It’s processing nexus would stop chirping and spewing forth near unintelligible images and demands. Soon it would dutifully rip through those unnatural formations staining the previously serene landscape. Soon It would choke and gag on on the putrid fluids of acrid soft-life – as it had before that previous night – while it mauled useless soft tissue devoid of any Life Harmonic. Soon…
After a fruitless day of searching for that gods-awful alien through that razor-sharp forest, Boyd was getting angry at himself and frustrated. He was tired, hungry, dirty and disillusioned. He’d never find the bloody thing in this awful place. Nothing made sense here. The trees weren’t real trees, just some sort of coral deposits, probably shat out by something even more fucked up. The leafs weren’t real leafs either, but some weird-ass looking semi-petrified insects of no use or interest for anything else than the even stranger things that came out at night to eat them.
Just when he thought the day couldn’t possibly get any worse – when he stood there in the outskirts of the forest, soaked in sweat and covered in grime, and thought how humiliating it would be to return home to Sally empty handed, a failure – it did. That was when the screaming started.
Like a lightning bold coursing through his veins, the adrenaline kicked in. He ran for the homestead.
Strangely, a fond memory of Boyd, mixed with annoyance at herself for letting the foolish fop take her gun with him, was the last thing to pass through Sally’s mind, before the creature’s serrated silica talons tore it to shreds. Not panic, not regret for anything she had done in her life, nor any compassion for the children now screaming and dying in pools of their own blood, entrails, feces and urine at her feet. Just Boyd.
Staring oblivious into Boyd’s pale-green eyes with empty eyes of it’s own, the creature, thing or whatever it was, stood motionless, defiant, amidst the puddle of gore and guts that had – until earlier that day – been Boyd’s family.
They say a junkie can always spot another junkie and to Boyd it was quite apparent that the fucking thing was high on something. It just stood there transfixed while it sizzled and hummed and almost purred with obscene lust and satisfaction. It was vile, unclean, unnatural and it’s present state felt way too familiar for comfort.
He puked and soiled himself at the very sight of the abomination of it and what it had done. He hated it. He hated it with every fiber of his being, more than he had hated anything or anyone in his life. It was the single strongest emotion he would ever feel, ever again. It was the moment Boyd’s psyche – in sheer self preservation – shed it’s vestigial appendixes of love, compassion and humanity.
As Boyd felt himself become numb to the reality before him, a strange sense of calm settled upon him. He slowly reached for the gun holstered at his hip. He flipped the catch of the holster, pulled, and fired. The gun didn’t just fire, it roared and almost broke his wrist in the process.
Death found the creature in a hail of lead-encased depleted uranium shells, speeding past the speed of sound out of the muzzle of the miniature rail-gun. It never knew what hit it. At first it cracked where the bullets hit it, then it just shattered, oblivious. Never once taking it’s eyes of Boyd. Never lifting so much as a finger. Never even caring.
Boyd kept squeezing the trigger until there were no more bullets. He then released the magazine and capacitor, reloaded and spent another clip and cap reducing what had once been the creature’s head.
When he ran out of magazines, he went at the thing with an axe.
When the axe’s handle broke, he started hitting the thing with his bare hands.
Hours later, when he lay in the ruin of all he had once held dear and the thing he had hated the most, still pounding at it, exhausted, Boyd passed out.
It wasn’t until much later, after he had burnt the bodies and the farm, blasted the forest, poisoned the well and salted the very soil he had spent the last seven years of his life tilling, that Boyd found the chip buried in the base of the creature’s skull. It just said: “Kimora Industries Cybernetic Control Unit – Model 237” and subsequently started Boyd upon the long and bloody road towards revenge Fate had set before him.