A short story set in a near future – Internet and our societies have fallen and the law of the jungle prevails…
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2063. After the Event, communities have reformed — while the majority of the population has regrouped in a handful of megacities under lockdown, the rest are scattered across the globe and fighting for their survival. This is the story of seven survivors stuck in a bunker, in the Middle East…
Someone painted the gears in my mind red. Who’s in my brain? I see the shadow running to hide between the big teeth. The wheel turns around, there is no one. It is madness, crawling around, scratching the walls to make a door. Like the storage room. A hole in plain sight to my little hideout. I hear the gears crying every night and shouting everyday. Because of her. Hail harmony! no more room for you now. She has broken everything. Nice Anna, sweet Anna, the clock is ticking for you. It nears midnight. Dear Anna, gentle Anna, tick it goes. Until the clock strikes midnight and pop you go. It is not enough to keep smiling, you cannot hide these shackles on your ankles. You are chaining us to the other world, the outside Earth, filled with cruelty and insanity. Here, we are safe. So you must go back to your world, Anna. Tic, tac, goes the clock. End is closing in on you. Even the piano agrees: it has stopped. Silence will be your funeral music.
Adam, my beautiful Adam, why pull away from me? For her, of course. Pouring rain on the tin sheet of my brain, crashing drops that drop on my shoulders. My arms won’t catch him. He takes a step to her. The cheater has made his choice. My Adam, see this man in you succumb to his dark side. Watch him crawl on the ground, you fly to the sky with the good and the gentle that was in him.
- Hey, kid, listen…
I am no child. I have not been for years. Before, in the middle of the gears, a child mind. A little girl, running and laughing, folding paper and drinking tea. No more. A shadow dances in my brain, it sweeps away the memories, good and bad. Thank you, shadow. Now I can be myself. I want no past, no Aiko in me. For Aiko was weak and small, she loved Adam and thought he was out of her reach. Aiko was stupid. I know he is just here, I can take his hand: my Adam, we are together, you see?
- Aiko, let go of me!
The cheater lies, the cheater screams. He must get out of the way, I see Adam over there waving at me. He is tall, fair, perfect, he is a god that awaits. He wants me to come, I can see his eyes calling me. Oh, dear Adam, I shall be with you very soon. Aiko is fading away, there is only me left. Look, I am turning black and white, like you: only pure colors, forming a magnificent canvas to paint the world on. Only grays in the palette of the soul, white in my eyes, black in my ears. Everything is losing its purpose, all of it shrinks into a cube in my head. And around the cube, wheels turning to close it tight. My Pandora box holds stars, planets, galaxies; it holds life itself, it breathes with me. This, I offer you, my Adam. This is my gift, a small payment for your happiness and your kind smile.
- That’s enough, girl!
I never did like the old man. He is pale, mean and selfish. His brain is blue, it is sad – so sad he does not know how to talk to me, the Girl of the Sun. I am gold and silver, he is emerald and sapphire. A rift keeps up apart. Gears, wheels: it cracks in my thoughts. The man is holding me! He dares lay his hands on me like he did with Aiko. No more. What’s a little more dirt on my fingers, anyway?
- What the…! Aaah!
- Aiko, calm down! Stop it!
Why? Adam, heart of my heart, hear him cry and understand he was nothing but a rock on our path. Roll over, old man. Your time has ended. Can’t you feel the red flood coming out of your mouth? Iron, salt, metal of all kinds diluted in your saliva.
- You’re crazy! Get away from him!
I look up at Rick, at his face so close to mine now that he tries to pull me away from the old body tainted in red. Poor boy. If only he had not fallen under the witch’s spell, he could see the truth behind this screen of tears. Water deforms things, it shapes fire into ashes and ice into earth. It tricks the human mind: Rick, you don’t see the real world anymore. Let me help you.
- Let me help you, Rick…
- You’re completely insane!
Two strong straps around my chest. He is stronger than I thought. He could have been a great ally, if only… no, Rick, this is not your fault. It is hers, and hers only. Oh, Anna, you hear it, don’t you? Tic, tac, goes the clock… It rings. Midnight, soon. Your last night, dear Anna, you can feel it already, can’t you? As I walk to you, pushing your man away, hearing his skull strike the table, my eyes plunged in yours, you can feel it, can’t you?
I grab the screwdriver. Her skin is soft, it is white and fragile, like porcelain. I stab her, one time, two times, three times… the counter goes up in my head. I once heard about Julius Caesar and his twenty-seven knifes, Ichirō would say it is a nice number. Tic, tac, Anna. Twenty-seven seconds to midnight. These tears on your cheeks, they are not in sync. You do not listen to the rhythm, Anna. Simple, though, can’t you hear it in your head? Boom, boom, boom, pause. The shadow behind the gears hears it, it taps it with its fingers on the cold metal wheels. Boom, boom, boom, pause. Why scream, Adam? You are the only god, here, others are mere mortals that have to die. I will die. You shall always remain, perfect and absolute, the real Adam. The cheater that stands next to me now that pulls me away from her, he will die. But you, never. And Rick, nice boy, contemplate this scene that you helped prepare. Do not blame yourself, man, you were duped and fed false hopes. I do not blame you. And you, old man, you who saw so much when you arrived, you who set this play on its tracks, I salute you. Ichirō, you stand by my side with a smile, as always. Young brother, you truly were the gentle one. Numbers may have made you crazy, but you spoke to them in ways I can never imagine. Your demons had names, and dreams. May you live forever with all of them. And Piano Girl, I should have known better than to hate you. We are the same, deep inside: we want the truth, we fear the words. I know you were the conductor of our orchestra, this piano was your voice and your truth. Only you could achieve all this. Bravo, Piano Girl, that I think sincerely.
But the clock ticks, faster and faster. The cogs are going wild. A sea of yellow powder cracks under their teeth. The hiss burns my ears, it blinds my eyes. Midnight is coming, Anna. Happy witch, go back to your world, with your people, let us be! Twenty seconds left.
The cheater speaks. He cries. Grain of sand in the machine, blow away. Let me see the real Adam. He is like the sun, his rays unfreeze my brain: I can see every thought, every emotion. The screwdriver jumps on my left, to his beautiful eyes. There is red, everywhere, and turning wheels. Adam is a god, he is one second from midnight. There is red outside, too. On my shirt, on my hands, on my face. Warm fluid flowing down my neck. It is salty and tasty. It rolls over the gears in my heart. Tic again, sweet Anna. Counting for you, again. Eighteen seconds to midnight. Toc again, dear Anna. Seventeen seconds to midnight.
- Well done, girl.
Stop. She took a screw out of the clock, the hands are falling off. Clicking head, tapping blood, dripping anger, all out of sync. Boom, boom… pause? Boom? I lost the drumming. Her voice swept it away. Now, she has it. Her fingers are dancing on her chest: boom, boom, boom, pause. It is too soon, I am not yet at midnight. The clock does not tick anymore. Witchy witch, why? Cogs are buried in sand, wheels are flooded in red, gears are lost in smoke. The shadow is coughing in the back of my head, it is dying. Only one thought: she has the drumming. Boom, boom, boom, pause. Boom, boom, boom, pause. My clock ticks. Hands pointed on me. My hands are empty, now. Please, dear Anna: let me join my Adam. And, once, red in my heart.
Dear Anna, thank you for everything. You may go back to your people as a savior, a hero who brought light to us. You lit the shades, you revealed the gods, you killed the demons. Thank you, love.