Blue lips curl like a woman’s legs, wrapping over the rim of a cracked glass in a kiss. The cup had earlier connected with the floor in a fit from a foul mood. It was a miracle that it had not broken.
Yet, as a river of deep blue lapped at tongue and flowed down throat, the wine tasted no less despite. A crack in the glass, a tear in the fabric—tastes just as sweet as a broken reality.
It was bitter at first, then sour then sweet; honey and spice, anise or licorice, milk and cream, red meat and hot blood. He had tasted each before, more than once, and right then and there all at once and all over again
The taste was one thing—and all things, really—while the scent was something else. A stench, more like; the smell of spoiled meat or rotting flesh. He had smelled such before.
They refused to eat at first, he recalled as he rolled the liquid around his cheeks. But when their hunger took hold their friend looked like salted pork. He swallowed. A stream of memories reached his stomach. Men are meat.
All species were simply the sustenance of one another. And here the remnant remains, the survivor of the slaughter, the finale of the feast.
“The stars are not compassionate,” he spoke aloud. “They regard myriad beings as food and fuel.” He took another sip, licked his lips, and set the glass upon the table; a delicate tap that broke the silence beside his voice.
“Do you know what that makes you?” He queried with a quizzical brow, exaggerated and twitching like a throbbing member. “It makes you a meal. Fodder for the fathers, morsels for the mothers; a plate of pigeon pie for the patriarchs and the paragons and the pantheons.” He laughed.
“Is not alliteration O so amusing?” He smiled. “Words are wind. Yet there is no air in this cargo hold. No bird to carry you away on its wings. There is only you…” Trailing off, he took a step forward, then another step and another step, and finally his fingers felt the cold skin of a shoulder and his blade bit into the adjacent shoulder. “...And me…”
The man squealed. Not him. The other man. That man bound to the ceiling by chains tethered to wrists stretching arms taut. He was as naked as the man before him; that man with the pale blue lips and the smile that would not quit.
“Now, show me what you are wearing beneath that dress.” The knife slid. The prisoner howled. “Let me set you free.” Slip. Scream. “Your arm is a burden, too heavy to lift its own weight.” A red line circled the shoulder, weeping blood. “Let us unburden it.” He promised as he plugged his fingers into the naked wound. “Let’s look beneath the skin and see what secrets slither within!”
With that, Duron Blackmirth curled his fingers beneath the topmost layer of skin and the tissue below...and peeled. There was a roar that would unburden mountains from their roots. yet all Duron heard was his own name beating like a broken heart. DURON! DURON! DURON!
“Is he awake?” Duron called to the guard, sliding a rag down the length of his blade. The cold air of the cargo hold bit his naked flesh like a kiss from a whore far too eager.
“He awoke for some moments, my lord.” The guard replied, his voice as wavering as a wave in a quiet storm.
“And...then he expired..my lord…”
“No matter,” Duron shrugged. “His predecessors can give us the information we are after. His body can go out the airlock.”
“Right away, my lord.” The guard gave a simple bow then simply walked away.
His mother would be proud, Duron mused. Were she not wasting away in the furnace. She had screamed louder than most. When the flames lapped her waist she was already engulfed in wailing. The skin beneath her legs, that soft skin on her legs, had already been peeled away, so the woman yet to hit forty of years had already been wailing away come the crackling. And then she looked a hundred years older.
“She was a comely commoner,” Duron affirmed after the guard departed. “Class means little and less in a universe that cares only about the brightness of a star...but this one was quite imporverished." He shrugged, gazing into the stars beyond the starship.
“I took her beneath the stars that one night, in our lonesome, on this backwater planet that plucked the boy from the womb.”
Duron thought long and hard back to that moment, not least of all because it came with the kind of victory that could burn roots from beneath the earth.
“Have I mentioned it before?” He wondered, sipping on a dark blue liquid that was more like honeyed wine.
“Yes, my lord.” The dry voice broke the silence, and truly it was a voice that belonged to a carcass.
“Her husband tried to deny me,” Duron licked his lips. “So he hung from the ceiling while I had my way with his wife.” He ran a finger down the chain. “Skin is useful for much and more, from being suspended by hooks to surrendering itself to the fingers that pinch it.”
Duron rubbed his own forefinger between his thumb, looked around the bridge of his Silence, wondered if any others dared to break it.
“My lord, are you sure there are no further samples needed from the expired subject?” The guard inquired.
“No.” The answer seemed as pointless as the question. “I have no need for a husk on my ship. Toss it out the airlock as I have commanded, before I regret stealing you from your bloody womb, then bring me another subject.”
With that, Duron rolled his shoulders and flexed his wrists, readied himself in his quarters and awaited for the next attempt to breed an offspring worthy of his name. Duron! Duron! Duron!
He wished he could help it. By the STARS he wished he could HELP it. But he COULDN’T. There was just so much BLOOD. So much FLESH. So much SKIN. So much...GUTS.
Take that knife—no nah wait—yeah that one’s better. YEAH! This knife, that knife, any karking thing with a kriffing blade as sharp as a Sith’s wit in a shadow. YEAH!
“I can’t help it, you know?” Duron pleaded. The Screaming Man would have none of it. Oh well. Steel flashed and the prisoner shrieked, a hole weeping blood where a nipple had once been.
He was naked. Oh no wait well they were both naked. HA. NAKED. YEAH!
“This...thing...inside me...gnaws at me...a gnawing obsession...that...possesses me…” Another flash. Another shriek. Another nipple. Gone. “Maybe therapy would have helped me...but...you know what?”
The Screaming Man—and by the STARS how he SCREAMED—did not seem to know.
“Wait...well...I mean...HAHAHA...I guess it does...doesn’t...doesn’t matter…” Duron looked left, looked right, cocked a brow at the Screaming Man’s suspicious lack of two nipples. “Sometimes...sometimes...for a long time, for a long time, I’ve dreamed only one dream…”
Blade bit belly. It slid sideways. The BLOOD. Look at all the BLOOD. So much BLOOD.
“Sometimes I wonder...have I...have I gone insane?”
Wait...that was wrong...something wasn’t right… The Screaming Man was missing his left ear, his lips, his eyelids—since when?
“What happened to your pretty face, man?”I don’t care, shoot me up and cut below the knee.
The Screaming Man wept blood, wept tears, screamed his fears and covered the hangar in all that bloody blood.
The guard returned. “My lord?” The guard looked right, looked left, looked at all the BLOOD and GUTS and SKIN and all the other...STUFF...on the FLOOR.
“I’ll need another subject,” Duron confirmed as he took a rag to his blade, turning his back to the dangling debris of whatever was left of what was once a man’s naked body...and how pretty he had been..
Kayden-Duron-Drake conveyed. “The subjects are…” Trailing off, he looked between one cadaver and the next; this body and that one, each one missing too many layers of skin so as to keep said subjects breathing. “...Exhausted…”
“Yes, my lord,” came that same crippled voice. Is it a person speaking to me, a lamb or a ham sandwich?
“I wonder…” KDD pursed as he pursued his aide. “What would I find if I opened you up?”
“Secrets,” came the immediate response; impassive, as though invalid of emotion. “And the darkness concealed within them.”
“So...you say you dwell in darkness, is that it, man?” It was a man he was talking to, no less and no doubt, but so much less and nothing much more.
“I dwell in the darkness that suits my lord, my lord,” bowed the head. “Nothing more, nothing less.”
“I see…” KDD entertained. After all, he could either accept his crony’s cryptic words or deny them, and the latter did not bode well for the latter. “One more.”
KDD looked upon the ceiling, saw the hooks and the hangers, the skin and the blood, and the stars beyond the ship’s hull that marked a million lonely eyes hungry for more.
“Once more unto the blood and bone…” Kayden-Duron-Drake sharpened, this blade on that one. “Once more into the breach.”
So his subjects came like flies to the pie...like flies...and like flies they died...one after the other then once more.
The voice was pointed, pungent. That voice! It came from the other chair, some man sitting in it, Kayden on the other one, and his chair was no less comfy in a room of four walls, a floor and a ceiling. And lots of books on a shelf. That voice!
“Who are you?” It repeated.
“What are you, my therapist?”
The man tilted his head. “If only. Yet, no form of therapy would cure you, Kayden Skyler.”
Kayden shrugged. “I don’t need therapy. I don’t need you. Poison is the cure.”
His therapist shrugged back. “As you say.”
“I do. What I say is true.”
“MY truth!” What else mattered?
“You have peeled the skin off your victims while they screamed, laughed as children burned alive, starved your enemies just long enough to feed them to each other…and I hear you even stole the fetus of a woman in bloom to transplant it into a bantha. Is that true?”
Kayden drummed fingertips on knee. It bounced up and down. “What of it? The whole universe is a joke. I feel like I am the only one laughing. Why aren’t you?”
“You don’t know?”
The man, that therapist, leaned forward. “I am you, Kayden. I am you.”
“Impossible. You don’t look half as pretty.” This other man had blue lips, an eyepatch, a lighter hue of skin, longer hair. That eye, though. Kayden could not deny that eye. That smiling eye.
“Search your feelings, Kayden. You know it to be true.”
“NO!” Kayden threw a coffee cup. “NOOOO! THAT'S NOT TRUE. THAT'S IMPOSSIBLE!” Bolted from his leather chair, threw away the glass table between both men, leaned in nose to nose. “Listen to me, you twisted kriff! That's Kayden Skyler you're talking about! I'll stab you in the shower!"
Therapist recoiled. Said nothing.
“See, we’re through, you and I, finished! And you’re lucky if I don’t break you into fifty thousand pieces!”
An instant later, Kayden found himself sat snug in his leather chair as if he had never sprung from it to begin with.
“How does that make you feel, Kayden?” Therapist queried.
Kayden looked left, looked right, held up an empty cup. “Can I get some coffee?”
In the seat made for sitting, Kayden sat back, sipped his coffee. It was black. “No sugar,” he had insisted upon the therapist offering. “I’m sweet enough.”
So persisted a timeless engagement of silence, silence, silence. Was it minutes? Was it hours? Kayden had lost track of time. This was all so droll as much as dull, so why do anything else than let the hand move around the clock, then that hand then this hand? DROLL. DROLL. DROLL.
“Sugar?” The therapist insisted yet again.
“Sure, sure,” Kayden obliged, holding up an empty cup. “As long as you melt yourself first and crystalize your remains into this cup then, yes, sure, sugar it is.”
Therapist laughed. “I guess you don’t know who you’re speaking to, Kayden Skyler.” Therapist had that eyepatch, that hair, those teeth. A rabid beast if nothing else, maybe a pirate losing his sanity, but what do I care?
What Kayden cared about was how feminine that male therapist’s voice had just become. I…recognize…that…voice…
“You do, don’t you?” Therapist spoke. “You have heard this voice in the very womb of your mother, Kayden Skyler. Let it haunt you.”
“No. I sit before a stranger. You mean nothing to me. You are no one.”
“Wrong. You sit before the queen. Your queen. Your sister. Your twin. You know who.”
“NO.” Kayden tossed his cup, watched it break apart against the wall. A moment later it was whole again in his hand. NO.
“Oh, yes, Kayden. I sit before you now. And I shall dissect you from hereon out. I am you, I always have been, and I have news for you.”
Kamelle leaned forward, hand to belly. “I have something to give you.”
The spots in the dark. Blurry vision. Bugs before my pupils. I see them like ants, like roaches, crawling across the cosmos, worms crawling along a finger. A finger. The finger who lost its flesh, the worm crawls along the bone, slick with blood, tendons twisted like a tall and twisted thing, with one black eye and ten long arms, sailing on a sea of blood.
They crawl through space. Crawl through the space. Lazy like splayed shoelaces. The feeding worms. The feeding worms. The feeding worms. THE FEEDING ROOM. Where was he? In a room? Was that what one might call this room? A room?
“When’s the last time you plugged?” Asked some wayward voice from some manwhore clanging dishes. He was donned in dirty jeans and a shirtless chest, orange skin riddled with red dots like a mistaken pincushion. “Ya-Ya-Ya-Ya-Ya got any?”
“The kark are you supposed to be?” Kayden narrowed his gaze down that dark alley. He didn’t recognize this fool for anything more than a footstool.
“Ya got spiced up last night, right? I know ya did, hey.”
“Okay. See that staircase?” Kayden pointed upward. The druggy nodded. “Go hang upside down from it by your shoelaces and piss on your face.”
Druggy scratched his face, felt like clawing at it, obliged in the end. “I’ma go hang upside down from that staircase and urinate on my facial features, hey!”
“Have at it.” With that, Kayden navigated the dark dank alleyway. What a chore. What a bore. Would this nightmare ever end? Am I awake?
Last thing he remembered was being in some psychiatrist’s pisspot of a room watching his sister rub her big belly. Pregnant belly. Pregnant with some turd. What a slut. She was never much more, never much less.
“Kayden Skyler?” Called a mechanical voice neither male nor female. An IG-88 unit fell from a staircase, got to its feet on the ground, spun to face its master. “I am TT-66. You are Kayden Skyler.”
“And you are in my way.”
“I am here to take you to the things that screech, to the screaming things and the groaning things, the things that sound like rusty hinges, like dead cellos in your head, the things that become the things that the dying make when their skin is peeled from their bones like orange peels.”
“And the things that make my ears bleed, like your voice, apparently.”
“I heard a rumor, Kayden Skyler.” TT-66 stared dead ahead.
“Oh?” Pee on my forehead or get this over with already.
“I hear that you’re the kind of guy who would see your own mother skinned, salted and taken over and over again if it meant a few more glasses of wine and a free ticket to the latest holomovie about sole survival upon the sea.”
Kayden offered his empty pockets in response. “You got me. Now get me out of this alley. Or I’ll flay your wires.”
TT-66 turned back around and led his master onward. As they traversed, all Kayden could hear was the sound of a barking dog and the cry of a baby tucked between its jaws.
Kayden ran along the damp dark dirty alleyway ground. His boots thundered across it, slamming into this puddle and leaping over that homeless woman. Some dog stood in the way, barking at him. He drove his boot into its chin, sent it flying. Darkness ahead. Darkness. Hello darkness, my old friend.
The ground disintegrated into darkness; and inky, black depth. THE KARKNESS!? Red emerged in the black, twisted bars twisting about themselves like snakes or vines around bars. Or bleeding entrails. He walked them anyway, hey.
The ladder that spanned the horizontal space connected with other ladders, until space was nothing but ladders, no stars or buildings, no puddles, just space and ladders. He ran across them anyway.
“Where are you!?” Kayden called across the cosmos. “I’ll find you!” He didn’t know who he was talking to, of course, but would find out soon enough. “Your little doll house sucks. It reeks. I’m going to burn it down, haha. BURN IT DOWN. BURN IT.”
“That sounds like hyperbole to me, Kay.” It was no man’s voice. This was no ‘he’. It’s her. It’s you.
“Kam?” Kayden hopped from one ladder to the other as this ladder and that ladder began to fall into the nothingness that was space. “Is that you?”
“What do you want?”
“What do you?”
“You know. You’ve always known.” Few in the universe did. Few, very few, knew what Kayden Skyler actually wanted. A few of those few were no longer alive to whisper of it. Others would rather suck their thumbs and rock back and forth. Kamelle Skyler was naked to the truth. She reeks of it.
“Very good,” her brother congratulated. “Very good!” He all but stormed his way through the rungs. “Come to taunt me and haunt me, have you? Well…” The ladders were behind him now. Only the edge of space before me. “Come see. Come play.”
“You think this is a game, brother?” Kamelle cackled. “Whose head do you think we’re in, anyway?”
That voice. That voice. Kayden allowed that voice to curl around his cheeks, his cheekbones, his flesh and bone, his ears and eardrums, -beatbeatbeat-, tickle his eyes like itchy irises, come back around and circumvent the circle of Crazy Town so as to make sense as to how.
“So…” he began, fingertips to temples, -squeezesqueezesqueeze-. “...You’re in my head? Is that it? Do I have it right, sister?”
“Head?” She finished. “Your head, brother?”That voice. “You think it’s a head we’re in?”That voice!“Guess again!”THAT VOICE.
“YOU KRIFFING KARKING BITCH I’LL FLAY YOUR ELBOWS YOU SLUT I’LL PEEL YOUR TITS AND MILK THEM INTO UGNAUGHTS”
“Save your hyperbole. Look around. You think we’re in your head?”
Kayden looked around, saw flesh and blood, muscle and membrane, realized he was actually looking at all of this druk and it was not just in his head. Or is it..? Is this what…going insane…feels like?
“Insane? HAHA!” Kamelle karking cackled. “You were always half-mad, Kayden, so only right you go all the way. Look again. Where are you?”
He gazed. Gazed and gazed and gazed, like a gazelle caught in the headlights of a lion. “No…” He demanded. “I…don’t believe it…” He disputed. He gazed again. He saw. There it is. There you are. There it was. There he rested.
It was an infant of tomorrow, growing in the womb, an unborn babe as real as yesterday. “Kriff you.” Kayden disobeyed. “Here’s my gift to you, whore, you and your spawn.” He jerked his hand, felt no hilt, heard no hum, jutted his other hand and watched the fire spew from the fingertips.
“Burn,” the brother commanded. “Burn, you bitch, you and your bastard.” The fire spread, became an inferno. “BURN.”
Flying at speeds most would consider unnatural, the boulder broke against the wall of earth, fracturing into hundreds of thousands of pieces like a skull in a grinder.
Dust and dirt exploded toward the sky to shower back down, though the lifeless land might never see a drop of rain again to care. Neither will she. Never again. No rain to wash her, no bath to cleanse her, not even a tear to shed and show me how much she suffers.
Jagged stones, pebbles as small as pupils and chunks of rock were what remained of that boulder; an object once whole then broken, torn apart, gone. No. Not completely. The pieces were in disarray, strewn about chaotically, but perhaps there was an order to it yet, a kind of pattern. Perhaps...a purpose yet...
The same could not be said for the setting. The wall of earth went round and round, mud and stone erected with pristine craftsmanship, but only because the wall was married to the ground that had become the crater.
The meteor that had struck the planet was long gone, vaporized upon impact, and what pieces remained had since been spat out to settle upon the ground or back in space. She had no such luxury. She, too, was gone. But…not completely…
There was a crater in her skull, courtesy of the hand that had crushed it, a hand that now held the head by the hair. She was a Zabrak, nineteen or twenty, strawberry locks whipped by the wind, one green eye gazing skyward and the other dangling on the cheek.
She had been beautiful, still was under the circumstances, and boasted the figure of a dancer. Her body had gone the way of the boulder and the meteor, however, with just a spinal cord tethered to her stump of a neck, glistening in the sun.
“I don’t think I’m getting any closer…”
The voice bounced around the shaven sphere, the cereal bowl, the halved bubble, the perfect pit that was that crater. An echo…from afar? The voice sounded familiar, sounded like a man, like someone he knew, even resembled his own speech pattern.
He lowered one hand and raised the other, squeezing the hair wrapped between fingers like seaweed in a swamp. “...Which means…” His head turned. Is someone there?
His arm turned and her head turned with it, green eye gazing into yellow, and he boasted two. “...We’re not getting any closer, my dear, but as far away from being whole as those pebbles are from being a boulder… Unless . . . ”
The man closed his eyes, reached around with his free hand, felt the fabric of space and time, focused on marrying pebble with stone, this piece with that piece, that particle with this particle, pattern and puzzle, point and purpose, but failed at the first attempt.
“Useless,” he sighed, releasing both hands now as something thudded upon the ground. The man reached backward and kicked forward, launching the dead girl’s head against the wall. She reacted the same way the meteor and the boulder did, only this shower of debris was rather like rain after all.
Cows could tilt their head to the sun to bask in the warmth and the light and why should men be any different? This man lifted his face as bone cracked like walnut and the skull spilled out its secrets, blood and brain and pulp. He bathed in it the same way she had when he found her in the shower the previous night.
The first smile she gave him had been her last, no shared laughter over candlelit dinner, though while the screaming had been all her it was something that he had shared nonetheless. Now, after a fashion, the nameless lady and Kayden Skyler were sharing the same shower, though only one of them was laughing. Rain… Even in the desert, I can make it rain!