Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Caught in the rain

The clouds above the city blackened. Eubert Haische withdrew a collapsible umbrella from his trousers and hurried to the sidewalk, boots scattering concrete. The overcast blanketed the street in shadow. Then the rain began, sticky, fist-sized bolts that beat against the awning over his head and splashed resoundingly on the ruined tarmac. The few humans on the street ducked into gutted buildings with faded signs and labyrinthine facades of cracked neon, their umbrellas folding shut.

Eubert was almost at his apartment. He walked, rain pooling at his feet, fingers clenched on the handle of his umbrella. He felt it shuddering in his hand, a living thing governed by a Swarmer chipbrain. The parasol unfurled, a delicate amber membrane veined like a leaf from a tropical plant. Indecipherable Swarmer hieroglyphs blinked on its surface. Stung by sudden frustration, he let the umbrella fall to the ground, where it squirmed its way to the wet street. Rain sucked at his heels as he walked on, oblivious.

A man and a woman in unisex Ministry jumpers walked on the opposite sidewalk, holding hands. Eubert watched them from the corner of his eye as he reached an intersection; they turned a corner and disappeared into shadow.

A Swarmer van, long and segmented, came to a sudden stop in the middle of the intersection. The awning above hung in greasy, beaten rags, revealing the wire rungs beneath. He turned away and braced himself against a cracked concrete wall. Eubert narrowed his eyes, not daring to look into the van's single wan headlight or the thin forms of the emerging Swarmers. Rumors maintained the Swarmers killed eavesdroppers: the tainted rain, oozing through cracks in their exoskeletons, bonded with chemical receptors, inducing them to frenzy. He had watched samizdat footage of the Swarmers at their vicious worst. It was hard to judge how real it all was. Their bodies had the smooth, lean quality of twentieth century computer animation, easy to simulate onscreen.

He watched the Swarmers congregating outside their van, black armor glistening in the streetlights, which had begun to blink on one by one, throwing overlapping rungs of shadow over his hiding place beneath the awning. He heard the van's engine idling: a sloshing sound, like an enormous stomach having a particularly difficult time digesting a meal.

The Swarmers stretched their thin arms and thrust their pleated chests forward. The heavy drops clung to them like molten jewels before vanishing between the cracks in their armor, making their bodies swell. Their feet scrabbled on the tarmac, and Eubert thought he could make out the fluttering of vestigial wings.

8 comments:

Colette said...

So...

If I buy your book(s) will you autograph for me?

Intense insectoid involutionary idealogue said...

As Eubert stood in the shadows, back pressed urgently against the cracked wall in a slowly rising state of fascinated dread under the limpid, fragmented awning, he continued to closely watch the group of seemingly oblivious insectoid Swarmers begin to form up in squads of two and three prior to their nightly patrols.

Suddenly, out of the corner of his eye, Eubert realized one Swarmer, towards the far edge of the van, was quietly watching him with what seemed like an unearthly, forboding intensity...

Mac said...

@Colette

Hell, if you send an SASA I'll illustrate the damned things.

@Intense

Hey, did I give you permission to partake of my imagined dystopian universe? Huh? ;-)

Intense said...

"Hey, did I give you permission to partake of my imagined dystopian universe? Huh? ;-)"

We eldritch chitinous ones need no such human permission! 8^}

Simply consider my speculative contribution as just one more proof of an alternate thread of string theory within the infinitely branching multiversal uber-reality of implicate order... uh, or just a goof. Hey, does Eubert have any dialogue with any Swarmers?

captcha: forrev

Mac said...

Hey, does Eubert have any dialogue with any Swarmers?

Indeed. He works for their Bureau of Transportation, where he helps design landing zones for their shuttlecraft. I might post more.

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