Red Sky Line
by Chris Tamm
I dreamed this the night after Sydney got its amazing dust storm in 09. The sky was all red and sepia tone like the end of the world said some. It was like Andres Serrano had applied his infamous photographic technique to an entire city and not just Jesus.
Dan looked about over the rooftops for any signs of life. Satisfied there was a dead-spot in people traffic and eye-spy balloons that normally got in his way, he unraveled the tarps he had stashed prior. He unfurled the tarps and bundled them with some weights, then dragged out his hidden treasure. Two twenty foot long scaff boards. And squeezed two tubes of Atomic bond glu onto one end. He stuck the other plank on the end and affixed 6 micropower clamps where the overlapped for extra strength. Now he had a 35 foot gang plank. He slid it over the edge of the top lip of the tenement building, carefully using his weight to get the plank as far out as he could without losing it. Using his whole body wrapped around the edge he shoved it with a quick grunt and with a satisfying clunk it just hit the next building over the lane way. He looked out over the city under the blood red and black sky. The red moon was gleaming in the night sky and the blood comet locked in its orbit was clearly visible. Like a burning hairy star caught in mid fall or some demented neon red spider scuttling over the moon. He didn’t care what people said – he liked it.
The rest of the city was the usual huddle of poorly planned and mismatched towers of irregular heights. All glass and concrete on the beautifully lit front facades while a mess of fire escapes, power lines, gas mains and gutters smothered their darkened rear laneways. The lane eighteen stories below was bare cinderblock walls, garbage dumpsters and graffiti scrawled chaotically like some drunken technicoloured spew. But tonight he would rise above all that. And he wouldn’t use robots, or remotes or any hackers to cover him. He was gonna do it old school. He crawled across the plank, checking the two sections held in the middle – even though he knew it was good. Then finally he was over. From this rooftop he could reach dozens of others and he had practiced this many times so he could move fast. He wore a facemask, goggles, complete plastic suit and had removed all his hair and dead skin. Old school he would leave no trace and move fast. He didn’t wanna get busted from a stray skin cell left behind. He even had a coolant suit to reduce his infra red signature. It was his brothers from the war in ‘22.
He pulled from his backpack two small fire extinguishers full of paint and 25 compact spray cans. The new high pressure plastic ones with the variable caps and mad colours. He first covered 3 faces of the tower with crude letters with paint filled fire extinguishers with red and white, and then went over the outlines in black and fluro green and pink and chrome. He wished he could afford that liquid crystal spray monitor stuff but that was for rich kids or gangsters who would steal it by truckloads. But everyone would know he had done it alone and freehand. LCD spray, billboard hackers and spray drone remotes were for pussies and were ruining the scene for old time bombers like him.
One tower struck out two stories higher than its five tightly set neighbors. The towers and the building he started from where the tallest for blocks around. They struck out 18-20 stories while the rest only had a dozen to sixteen. Plus the block was on a slight rise. The only view was the sewer plant, the internment camps making up 30% of the cities former industrial heartland and more buildings. All the penthouse playboys and their pets had gone to the country years ago. Yeah the red moon and that crazy comet looked cool reflected off the silver in his outlines.
K2LU in letters twenty feet high on three faces visible from miles away. Even in the camps. He had done it. In about seventeen minutes to finish all up. He would be seen by everyone that mattered and they would know he was king of the block. Fuck everybody else. They didn’t matter. He had even locked the gates of the Buffco graff removal team underground garage with dura-bond chain. Ought to keep his masterpiece visible till rush hour in the morning. He would check out the streaming online footage later. Probably with his bros in the compound, after he spent some time with Monica.
As a final act of bravado he ran back across the gangplank. He was careful to pull the plank back in, then remove the clamps, grab his tarp and drop the planks into the laneway. They splintered apart with a satisfying crunch. He was more worried some toy would cross and cap his piece with some shit throw-up than anything. A quick sprint downstairs, out the fire exit and a final crawl on his belly through a drain entrance he had removed the grill from earlier. He replaced it then mounting his skate board he retreated to the underworld.
He crawled in through the dank hole they romantically called “the window”,
all tired and stripped off all his plastic and synthetic layers all soaked in sweat. He wiped moisture off his head and slopped it on the window sill leaving a bigger mess than he anticipated. He flopped his scrawny but muscular body into the pile of blankets, sheets and curtains that passed for a bed and started thinking about what stunt he could pull next to top himself.
“Glad you made it back in one piece” Monica stated matter-of-factually.
He opened his eyes and saw her lean on the wall. Coloured dredd-locks, shiny black wet eye makeup, candy pink lips and belts and bracelets over old leather, chamo and torn layers of fluro fishnets. Her smile was as usual crooked from her piercings. Perhaps she was amused he was alive. He could tell she wanted to interact but that she would save it for later.
“Good to see you babe. Gotta sleep. I can hang a day or so”.
She sat next to him stroking his sodden hair while drinking tea and reading some old book she had found about the soviet economy in the sixties. They thought it was special they owned more sewing machines per capita than anyone. The cat sat at her feet and she heard the comforting drip drip drip like the city had a pulse and was letting them know there was life even in the cracks and gaps beneath .
She heard the grill slide and the familiar flip flop of the Gerald’s home made footwear. Slats of wood with a nail to clench with your biggest toes and tied onto your feet with anything you could find. Fucking hippy. They were so sure they were progressive but were so much a part of the system they lived to despise.
“Hello Mona – how’s it hanging”
Gerald had long black curly filthy hair and beard; a bare chest partially covered by a string vest that looked like he made himself but probably came from some do good abroad shops that sold exploitative ethnic tat. He wore chains, beads, and threaded shells around his neck and wrists and he even had a corroded copper ring a nice shade of green among his filthy black row of scabby piglet toes. He sat down cross legged while Monica rolled a joint and rubbed the cats chin.
“You ought to get involved more Mona – they’re bound to give in eventually”
“Stop calling me that douche bag – I’ve got a business to run. Just let me know what you want and go.”
He looked forlorn like some boy whose kite had flown down the sewer. His dreams swimming with turds not soaring in the stars like his parents promised.
"Forty caps of Pluto, any Leng dust and even any spirocrys.”
"Im not getting you any of that fancy shit without prepay and notice. I can give you sixty caps of Yuggoth spores if you want, but this batch will keep the voices in your brain buzzing like cicadas for days. Like it or Lump it, pay in cash or packaged foodstuff or I can give you a job if you wanna earn it first".
He looked hurt. Then pulled out clean notes from the billy bag around his neck and counted out eight hundred plastic bills. She looked straight at him.
“No more discounts you blew it by bringing your shit friends here – now they always are coming here trying to score pot and crack and drugs for geriatrics.”
“C’mon Monica I was trying to help”
“Everything you touch turns to shit –don’t ever help me again”
He counted out the rest of the red plastic notes with Smiling count Orlock one side and Elizabeth Bathory on the other.
“You should help us more Mona we’re trying to help the world to be a better place man. We make our own clothes, we live and cook together. We recycle.”
“Your idiots. Your all dependent on the system. It wasn’t you who saved the world from starvation or war or ecological apocalypse it was them. They feed you, they give you medicine, freed up plenty of free real estate good on em”.
”C’mon they’re totally unnatural Monica, there not even alive. Their alien blood sucking freaks and we are just cattle. Anything they give us is for their interests. They solve every problem by eating people or killing them – what sort of a world is that?”
"Not really much different from what happened before except instead of random murder and war now it’s all planned out. Instead of overcrowded prisons we have blood tithes or executions for those too sick to pay. You think giving yourselves a dozen kinds of hepatitis makes you free – it makes you idiots. Having no predators is unnatural. At least we don’t kill each other now and the planets not sliding into a slagheap. Take your drugs and piss off. If you want any fancy stuff message me before".
He took the bag of grey spore caps – quickly popped a few and got up.
He sighed and left the way he came in. The chattering buzz of otherworldly voices began in his brain and he started to feel lost in the somnambulistic droning of an alien hive mind.
Monica thought she’d better go shopping while it was still light. She tied up her hair, but on her tool-belt, packed her best knife - a 10 inch commandotech monoblade with a sawblade on one edge. Make a steel one look like blunt salami. She packed her bag with all the currency she could. Blood notes from six territories promising to be redeemable for real blood anytime. All these monstrous old aristocrats smiling on them. They had plenty to smile about. They ran the world since the blood comet appeared when she was just a kid.
She looked at Dan asleep. That’s why she loved him. He didn’t care if the world was fucked or not. He just cared about graffiti – no matter how retarded that was and she loved him for it. He never bullshitted where he was – he was out getting up, bombing the world with K2LU.
She locked the grill lit another joint, took a whiff of spores mixed with Leng dust and Pluto then one steelcap boot after the other she moved inexorably onwards. She had just enough crud to see odd hallucinations of lizards and bats out of the corners of her eyes, luminous transparent jellyfish swimming in her peripherals and the sense of primordial entities from beyond being aware of her. Of course she could ignore it and even enjoy it but never had enough to go really crazy. She was keen to get some blue lotus wine too. It was probably the best thing they had brought out lately. Apparently it was all the rage in ancient Egypt and brought back memories for the older bloodsuckers. She stepped into to dim red light, all this from millions of tons of oxygenated iron particles in space that came with the comet. Must have freaked people when it started she thought. What a stupid bunch of turds people must have been then.
She had picked up Sammy on the way. She was an aggressive girl, always pale, freckles under the fringe of her blood red dyed bob and just a hint of tiredness and stretch lines forming around her eyes. If she didn’t find that nosferatu Romeo soon she’d be a wreck and not the hot littler sex bomb she’d been a few years earlier. Still for now she was still pretty appealing and distracted the amorous attentions in the vampire quarter. They met with Kathazyg, a fairly quiet and polite vamp who never seemed interested in mauling either of them. He was almost seven feet tall, lean and spidery in his movements. He would listen to Sammy’s crap without comment which was fairly unusual among anybody not on a plutonian trip. He would get them into the quarter and make the deal for a modest fee. They picked up the goods, while Sammy fed the ghoulish bodyguards of the dealer till she could just still walk and Kathazyg would escort them back. She briefly saw a news item on a window monitor about Dan's most recent bombing. He really was right to be as paranoid with his hardware. He would be targeted a little more now. Perhaps she could talk him into changing his turf again. She felt the pull of the plutonian trip trying to pull her into the distant misty past but she just wriggled her toes and stabbed her palms with her razornails till the feeling passed.
They walked through ghettotown and Sammy pestered Kathazyg about every stupid bit of trivia about hemovores. The mellow vamp gent said he didn’t go in for any of the religious shit some of his progenitors had and laid it straight as he saw it. He said blood comets were all over the universe shaping life for them. Only his kind could perceive the vast time scales that could ensure survival for life on Earth. Besides after the seas almost died and the starvation and plagues and the decline in the quality of their feeding they had to act. Of course the comet and the sleeping starborn kin it carried helped too.
While passing through an abandoned mall they were suddenly attacked. Kathazyg moved slightly faster than Monica could see and a charging black coated scar faced man ran Sammy through with what looked like a spear. Or at least a sharpened metal stake. Sammy looked stunned holding the scarlet spike through her abdomen while she was pinned to a closed shop front grill. Kathazyg grabbed the huge clumsy figure by the head and the base of the spine, before tearing the whole steel spine and skull from the flesh and ballistic grade plastiflesh body. The flesh and blood ruin fell to the ground in a messy heap of grey gore, connected still by wire to the spasming spine. Kathazyg dropped the twitching heap to the ground, looking revolted by the grey goo which body job cyborgs replaced their vital fluids with. The spine flexed and heaved like a wounded snake. The silently screaming skull making silent gapes in protest.
Kathazyg pulled the spike from the wall gently supporting Sammy.
“I'll get her to hospital. You get home. She'll be fine. Her spine is still intact.” He spat stoically at Monica.
Monica stood shocked while Kathazyg and Sammy were gone before she could draw breath. She looked at the still moving twisted heap, pulled out her knife and sliced just below the skull and put it in her bag. It had an ECCM layer which blocked transponders and made shoplifting a breeze. She might find who sent it. Someone would pay to know who for the pleasure of killing them. Terrorist cells used cyborgs like this in their futile attacks on the new world order. Human supremists – who would use anybody but themselves as living weapons. Kitting up the homeless and desperate with army surplus wartech had to be the lowest of the low. Some human fanatic in a black lab thinking he was saving the world. What a sack of useless fucks. Too little too late. They were like pliestocene megefauna who didn’t know they were extinct yet, too busy wallowing in tar pits of sorrow.
It had rained before she got back shivering she crawled in the entrance way, shedding her wet jacket, and wiping off her shiny black running eye makeup. Dan had bags of soy burger and shakes waiting – the ones with the free hello kitty medallions. He smiled and started talking up his latest bombing and how many calls and online hits he had that morning. Typical. No matter how fucked things got he stayed the same. Every obstacle was flattened into nothing by the irrefutable logic of the graff bomber.
They ate, kissed, screwed then slept. Tomorrow was another day in the shadow of the comet and its children. Till then she dreamed of shimmering lizards, strange new drugs and beautiful graffiti glistening on every surface.