Sunday, October 4, 2015


It all started with Cousin Wubz.
Dex wanted to help his Cuz. But no-one dared help Dex – Not even Zap. And he was all balls.
Then, they snatched Zap’s kid sister.
That changed everything...
It is said: The Freaks come out at night.
Well, in Dominion City, the Freaks are out twenty-four-seven.
There are, in fact, so many Freaks out on the mean streets and congested airways of Dominion that the genuinely disturbed and deranged go virtually unnoticed. You could say they fit right in...
Freaky-deaky hairstyles: check.
Semi-sentient nanobotattoos: check.
Variglo bod-mod piercings, augmentations and embellishments: double checkaroo.
The latest in lurid and outlandish fashions: check dat mutha.
No shizz from nobody no-time attitude: check dat every which way and check it quicksmart, before someone makes off with all the checks.
But, even if you’re one of the Freaks, don’t mean you’re safe...
...Not by a long stretch.
Even by the bent and crooked standards of the rest of Dex’s kin, Wubz was the black sheep of the family; the wild card, the loose cannon... a real hard-baller.
Dex could remember Wubz raising so much hell and souring so many scams his folks had going that, when Wubz finally took up with the local Outfit over at Ric’s Yard, their Grandaddy told Dex’s aunt: “Let him go, Zora, or he’ll crush this family. Let the villains decide if he makes the grade.”
And Wubz had a good run with the Outfit. If anything, it calmed him down. Knowing that you’re not the meanest mutha on the streets can do that to a wannabe psycho.
The family calmed down too. They suffered the occasional visits from their mobbed-up member, where Wubz came on tough, showing them the hard hand and creaming off what he saw as his legitimate slice of the action. His dues, Wubz called it. Protection money, more like. Nobody ever talked about it; it was too much a thorn in their pride.
Still, nobody liked to see what happened with Wubz when the Outfit changed hands and Ric bought the bullet.
Zoot, the boy wonder, was supposed to be a frickin’ genius: From the outside, he seemed like a musclebound, mechanoid prick. Sixteen, seventeen years old and savaged his way to the top; a genuine, hell-frozen-over type maniac.
Knowing Wubz’ new underworld boss was a stone-cold psycho might have prepared his folks for what came next – You’d have thought. But, you’d have been wrong.
Dex recalled only too clearly seeing the glowering heft of his henchman Cuz come shambling through the door. It was Founding Fathers’ Day and Wubz had come for his slice of the family pie.
But, it wasn’t the Wubz of old...
...Maaang, did he give them all a fright though.
Dex could tell something was wrong right away: the sunken eyes shaded beneath Wubz’ deeply-furrowed brow; the twitch of his cousin’s face; that haunted look. They’d all seen Wubz in some states through the years; raging, wired, frayed on the cusp of a comedown – but this was something else.
The flailing limbs Wubz tried to pass off as acts of random violence. He played it tough, like nothing was going down.
But, in his cousin’s eyes, Dex read the desperation of the damned. It was like looking into the eyes of a wounded animal.
On impulse, Dex reached out to his Cuz, touching Wubz on the arm.
Ordinarily, Wubz didn’t want anyone touching him. Dex was cruisin’ for a bruisin’.
But, on this occasion, Dex thought his Cuz seemed to welcome the contact.
The arm itself was taut like cable. Dex could feel the electricity coursing through, trembling the flesh. Yet it was shivering cold and clammy to the touch.
And then, Dex was gripped in the iron vice of his cousin’s hand.
Wubz pulled Dex towards him, wrapping an arm around his young relation’s neck.
Straight off, the rest of the family sensed that Dex was in mortal danger and stepped right up. Everyone was punching and kicking Wubz whose grip showed no sign of slacking.
It was looking like curtains for Dex, eyeballs bulging and his face turning blue...
That’s when Nana grabbed her taser stick, jabbing it into her grandson’s neck. It gave Wubz just the jolt. And, finally, the rest of the family were able to wrench Dex free.
A smell like cooked bacon filled the room. Wubz sat there rigid with steam coming right off of him.
For the longest moment no-one said anything. And then Wubz broke down in tears. “It’s not me.” He wailed. “It’s not me.”
Everybody was shocked and mortified. It was likely only the ladies in the room; Nana and the two sisters, who had ever seen Wubz cry. And that had been when he was a small boy. In the meantime, he had grown into one big, mean hoodlum.
The whole family froze. Witnessing a gnarly Skidz Freak mobster cry is the sort of thing they later have you shot for.
It was Dex who got it together first, offering his cousin the outstretched hand of forgiveness. Dex knew something wasn’t right. They shook.
“What gives, Cuz?” Dex croaked, massaging his throat with his other hand. “’Sup...?”
Wubz was out of control. He couldn’t stop the flow. But, through the twitching and the tears, he came clean with the skinny. And then they knew, without shadow or doubt, that Zoot was the one they all needed to fear.
What Zoot had done to Wubz went beyond the pain. Zoot had explained to Wubz every last detail of his living hell, describing his ordeal with merciless candour and teasing out the finer nuances of the soulless sentence, laying them out bare for the victim to savour and dwell upon.
With a staggering, heartless intellect at his disposal, Zoot, the crime lord and underworld gang master, had sought the means for perfect control over both his competition and his crew. His research had led him to refine the active ingredient and mechanism for mind control found in one of nature’s more perplexing products of evolution and conduits of reproduction, namely, Ophiocordyceps unilateralis, an entomopathogen, or insect-pathogenising fungus more commonly known as zombie ant fungus.
In his reformulation of the fungal transport mechanism, Zoot had succeeded in preparing the acme of all dictatorial regimes; a slave serum which, once imbibed by the unwitting subject, gave a modicum of control over the subject’s activities to a foreign agent; a puppet-master, as it were.
Imperfect, in its early stages of development, this serum was only to be improved in its functioning capacities through experimentation on a series of human subjects, preferably individuals whose behavioural characteristics were already known to the researcher. Wubz, a low-level goon with little ambition and only the merest hint of a psychopathic nature, provided one such ideal candidate for experimentation.
And so, with a hearty slap on the back and liquor tumblers raised in salutations, Wubz, unwittingly, had become Zoot’s latest guinea pig, downing the slave serum in one.
When Dex’s Cuz cried: “It’s not me” he meant it. Zoot was the one trying to crush the life from Dex in an exhibition of control over his minion. It needn’t have been Dex. It could have been anyone near, if not exactly dear, to his subject. The point had been made. Wubz was no longer in control.
“I feel it; I’m changed.” Wubz complained to his family. “I’m alive. And, I’m not alive. My thoughts aren’t my own. There is no ‘me’ anymore. But, I’m still here.”
The rest of the family pretended that they didn’t care what happened next to Wubz. It was the easier route to take.
Dex didn’t buy it. He saw that they were all too afraid to help their relation. They were all too scared that the same thing might happen to them. They’d rather die.
Wubz wanted to die too. But only part of him did. Crucially, it was that part of him that was no longer in control.
He asked the family to do it for him.
Nobody had the balls.
Nobody wanted it to come back on them.
Dex didn’t really blame them. No-one thinks: ‘Hey, I’d like to be a zombie.’
Dex wanted to help, but he didn’t know how. He figured on blackmailing Zoot, somehow, to put things right with his Cuz – But, how...?
He knew he couldn’t pull off a stunt like that on his own, but none of his folks dared to help. They wouldn’t even talk about it.
Dex’s crew, Da Moops, were no better. Sure, they all could talk big about taking out Zoot... BLAP, BLAP, BLAP. But, when Dex got real, Moops got real quiet, avoiding eye contact and finding other things to do and say.
And then Zap’s kid sister, Rain, got snatched off the streets.
Zap was with her at the time: Got put on his ass, trying to fend off the Skidz Freaks. He hopped on his hover-board and followed the skidjacked floater back to the Yard, so he knew it was Zoot’s boys that took her.
When Zap told his folks they went to pieces. Zap told Dex he could see the fear in their eyes. They were all for doing nothing. Rather mourn their loss than draw the anger of a mobster.
Maybe it was youth on their side, but Dex was up for it and Zap was too.
You could say that Dex got lucky: Zap was younger, but a big unit with half a brain; odds were he wouldn’t prove a liability. Dex was pushing seventeen; the same age Zoot was when the psycho took control of the Yard. Dex had skillz, he was street, but he could only marvel at the gulf between himself and his adversary. Dex tooled up from the family arsenal; Zoot had weaponised body parts. Zoot was part man/part machine; part super-abundant muscle, all freakin’ psycho.
Figuring time pressing, the two of them hopped their Hovers and schemed a plan to blow both their minds while scooting on down to the Yard. There was nothing else for it...
Dex had been conducting recon on the Yard for a couple weeks prior to Rain getting snatched. It was time the groundwork paid its dues.
There was no way a couple of punk kids were going to win a shootout with a gnarly bunch of Skidz Freaks. And it wouldn’t further their aim any to do so. This meant going in all guns blazing was out of the question. A more subtle approach was required...
They tailed a lone flyer in a hot skiddoo, weaving illegally through fly lanes on their hovers, until the Yardee pulled up a couple blocks later hauling supplies.
When the douche exited the venue and was making for his stationary floater, they rushed him, sticking him from behind with a taser. They bundled the Freak into the waiting vehicle and put to the rogue a proposition.
The proposition was this: they fly to a rip-off joint, do the dirty, and load the swag on board the Freak’s skiddoo. They flip the flyer back to the Yard, complete with booty as proof of their credentials. They wanted in, wanted to join the Yard. This was their audition.
“The alternative” said Dex, “is not so pretty: we shock you up and hang you out like a kipper; flip the flyer back to the Yard and use you as our audition. Take the first option and we’ll cut you in on the bounty before we head back; no-one’s any the wiser. Sure, you’re compromised, but you get a pay-off besides.”
The Freak took the first option. Dex knew why: Freak thought Da Moops would drop their guard at some point, meaning the Freak could flee the scene with pride intact.
Didn’t happen...
Dex left Zap guarding the villain – His instructions: “If the Freak moves, or gives you any yap, shock him with the Ruptors and sling him in the back. Just be ready to burn. I’ll be back in ten, stat.”
In the meantime, Dex knocked off a merchant in precious metals, using the tricks of the family trade. In this case, insider knowledge was the key: Dex knew that the in-store security had been compromised in advance of his Uncle Riz planning a heist of his own a couple of days hence. Dex knew he’d be in line to cop it from his kin for snarling up a sure thing. But, he figured, if he was still alive and not twitching like Wubz following an encounter with Zoot, he’d cop all the flak and laugh about it later. “Sure beats being a zombie...”
Besides, Dex only cleaned out the swag he could carry on his Hover. It was no more than a token gesture. The place would be ripe for the picking again in no time. Uncle Riz would be sweet.
Upon presentation of the goods back at the Yard, the thieving and skidjacking duo of Zap and Dex were met with a less than enthused response from their would-be partners-in-crime. Zoot was nowhere in sight. They were left to deal with some gnarly screwball with android peepers and a tell-tale twitch to his face; some Freak who had clearly taken the ‘pirates of the airways’ analogy to heart and had a skull-and-crossbones motif moulded into the metal plate covering the back of his head. “Nah, Yoot...” He declaimed in menacing patois, “ya don’ get to be ‘da one who decides. ‘Ting fo’ ‘da boss mang – He decide...”
Dex held the suspicious glare of the sneering henchman.
“So, let him decide...”
Cue laughter from the Skidz Freaks.
Tough crowd, thought Dex. He flashed a look across at Zap; flushed red and burning with anger.
“Ya like lambs to slaughta’!!”
Dex could feel Zap tensing beside him. Much more of this stonewalling and the Moop was gonna blow...
“Well, at least I still got a mind of my own.”
The Freak’s android peepers widened and whirred. His jaw clenched and his face twitched involuntarily.
“How’s that mind control serum working out for you...?” Dex chided. “I’ve a mind to grab the swag and flee this joint before the puppet-master comes a-calling...”
Low laughter rumbled gutturally through the henchman’s grinding teeth.
“Nah, ya won’ be leavin’ – He decide... or we decide. Ya got nutin’.”
Zap turned toward Dex, fear brimming in his eyes; fear for his sister; fear for his life; fear at what he might be about to do.
A spasm wracked the face of the Yardee before them, as his droogs were gathering in close, in a tightening arc about the newcomers. The force of the spasm cinched up the Freak’s face and he raised a hand to his head as though that might help. It must have been painful, causing him to stagger and he stepped forward, raising his other hand to grab hold of Dex by the shoulder.
Dex took hold of the Freak’s hand, clammy to the touch, trying to brush it from his shoulder.
The Yardee breathed heavily in Dex’s face, a gust of moist earth mixed with battery acid.
Zap was coiled and ready to spring.
The facial spasm subsided eventually and the staggering Freak straightened, inhaling deeply.
Then he cleared his throat: “Boss mang decide. He will see you now...”
The Yard Boss was every bit as intimidating as they had been led to believe.
In fact, if anything, Zoot’s reputation failed to do him justice.
In person, Zoot was a towering hulk of an individual, pumped-up on steroids and augmentation regimes since his pre-teen years. His twenty-year-old face bore no trace of the teenager, worn by the ravages of drugs and trauma, not to mention genius and psychopathy.
As Dex and Zap were ushered in to his orbit by the Yardees, Zoot stood absorbed in the play from a hundred or so miasma ports and data streams, occasionally motioning to orchestrate the activities of teams of mutant Freak technicians labouring diligently on various projects all around the workshop.
One arm ended in a huge, clunking, metal fist, the fingers of which were plugged in to an enormous construction sphere. Each chunky metal digit emitted pulses of light, manipulating faculties within the sphere, controlling operations directly. His other arm, unfeasibly bulky and sculpted yet essentially human, was gesturing in the direction of Dex and Zap. A hooked index finger impatiently beckoned the brazen duo toward him.
Dex gulped hard in an attempt to swallow down the fear rising from somewhere deep in his gut. He stepped forward first in a show of confidence, trying to maintain his swagger. Beside him, he could almost feel Zap trembling in his MegaPunk Power-Boots.
“We brought booty... a haul of precious metals. We got skillz aplenty.”
Dex was trying hard to sound street, projecting loudly.
“What makes you think I give a rat’s ass...?”
Zoot’s voice boomed around the hangar workshop. Powering down his metal mitt, he disengaged from the construction sphere and turned the might of his armoured frame towards the young upstarts.
“We want to join your crew, get a piece of the action...”
Zoot looked upon the pair with utter contempt, his steely grey eyes giving them nothing.
“Oh, I got plans for you Moops – Just on my terms, not yours.”
Dex knew, right then, they were rumbled. Any cover they might have had was laid bare. The element of surprise was lost. And that was all they had to begin with.
“Yo’ da’ Boss Mang...” Dex agreed. “Might sure is right.”
Zoot nodded slowly, allowing a chilling, omniscient smile to play across his worn features.
“So, I ask myself: Why does a guy, who knows what I am capable of, come before me now?”
Dex felt a cold hand grip the back of his neck. The grip was firm, unyielding and, somehow, familiar. He looked round to see cousin Wubz staring back at him.
Wubz’ left eye was twitching wildly and Dex felt an awful dread sinking in the pit of his stomach.
“Do I really have to explain my plans for you... or should I allow Wubz, here, to explain it to you all over again...?”
Dex looked over to where Zap was struggling against the tightening grip of his cousin’s other hand. Zap was squirming manfully, but all to no avail.
The puppet-master continued, delivering his lecture in a mildly-amused monotone which still managed to project threat and menace, “A great man once said: ‘Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.’
Zoot paused, eyes narrowing, nostrils flaring; savouring his conclusion.
“Then, the fool got snuffed by the forces of darkness – I got news for you Moops... the darkness can always get darker!”
Dex heard Zap’s strangulated plea: “Gimme my sister, you goddamn psycho...!”
Then everything went black.
Dex awoke to the sound of sobbing nearby.
He was imprisoned in a rudimentary cage, one in a row of similar holding pens.
Zap was stationed in the row opposite, slumped down on the floor of his cell; one hand was gripped tightly about a column barring the entry; the other reached forlornly outward between bars, opening, closing, to the beat of his sobbing.
Zap had his head down. He raised it as Dex addressed him: “Yo! Moop – Get it together. We bin’ in worse scrapes than this...”
Dex was shocked at the sight of his compadre.
Zap was gone to pieces.
He was a pure, solid wreck.
“I saw her, mang...” Zap was slavering and gasping, blubbing like a kid. “We are sooo screwed!”
Dex flinched at the morbid fear in his partner’s eyes. “Who, Zap...?” Dex knew the answer, but he asked the question anyway. “Who did you see?”
For an age it didn’t seem like Zap would answer, didn’t seem like he could bring himself to say her name. He was looking back down at the ground again, sobbing. “Rainy...” he said, eventually.
Zap’s grief was palpable in the way he said his sister’s name.
Dex’s mouth began producing way too much saliva, like he was about to be sick.
He spat on the floor of his cell. There was nothing to be gained by both of them losing their grip – He had to keep it together.
“So you’ve seen her... she’s still alive, then? Stay strong, if you wanna be good for her; you wanna help her, doncha?”
Zap was breathing heavily, trying to compose himself.
“She’s alive.” He moaned. “But, she aint Rainy no more...”
To prevent Zap going to pieces again, Dex pressed him with questions: “Was she here, Rain? What did she say to you...?”
“Her hand was sooo cold, mang – it’s not her; it’s not Rainy...”
“Dude: what did she say?”
Zap looked across at his friend; the other caged Moop. His eyes were glassy and distant: bereft and yet searching; searching for hope amid a hopeless situation. Lighting upon nothing, Zap broke eye contact with his buddy, appearing utterly crestfallen; his spirit ground down by the lack of a solution.
“Zap..?” Dex endeavoured to keep his partner from drifting.
“I gotta do what she tells me... or else, she says, they’re gonna hurt her.”
“What is it that she wants you to do?”
“She wants me to drink from two cups. I have to choose which one...”
“What’s in the cups...? Zap, keep talking - Tell me, buddy: what’s in the cups?”
“I don’t know – One’s gonna turn me into one of them; a frickin’ zombie!”
Dex was breathing heavily too, vibing off his companion, struggling to find the positives. He felt hollow from the guts down, all the weight suddenly in his chest.
“Come on, guy, it’s fifty-fifty. Hang in there. You’ve always been lucky...”
Zap just looked at him grimly.
“The other cup will kill me. Then they harvest me for body parts.”
Dex let his chin fall, briefly, to his chest. But he came up fighting.
“Listen to me, mang – You don’t have to do what she says...”
“But, they’re gonna hurt her...”
“Look, Zap: you said it yourself; that’s not your sister, dude, not anymore.”
“They’re gonna use her for parts. Sell her organs, use her for parts...”
Dex could tell he was losing his friend, the fear and hopelessness overwhelming Zap once more.
“It aint your sister mang...” He reasoned.
“I can’t let ‘em hurt her.”
“You’ve gotta let her go, chief. Try and save yourself.”
Dex was feeling panic setting in. His brain had begun churning out negative thoughts; nothing productive – No use to anyone. This is where your luck runs out...
“Then what are we here for...? I can’t do it; I can’t let ‘em hurt her.”
Zap collapsed in a renewed bout of sobbing; sorrow and self-pity getting the better of him.
Dex tried to focus. They needed some kind of escape strategy, or else a means of buying some time. He’d been shaken down of all gadgets and weaponry, natch. There were no fixtures and fittings to the cell, no visible lock mechanism either. In the absence of any hook from which to hang hope, his brain ramped up the negativity, running the churn harder, faster. This is what fate feels like. It all comes down to this...
...And then, a gentle, lilting voice...
“Hush now, Bubba... don’t cry, Bubba.”
Dex hadn’t even noticed her ghosting in on her bare, blue feet...
“Don’t cry, Bubba. Here’s a nice drink for you...”
The young girl’s voice was soothing as she attempted to mollify her brother’s distress.
Rain was standing in a simple Variglo tunic which came down just below her knees, proffering two cups through the bars of Zap’s cage. The lurid, shifting colours of her garment were in stark contrast to the pallor of her little arms and legs, all mottled and blue-grey, looking distinctly sickly. In addition, the child’s shoulder-length dark hair was all matted and straw-like with no natural sheen to it.
Dex reached through the bars of his cage, making a frantic grab for the girl. He was trying to knock the cups from her hands. One cup contained an unnatural-looking blue concoction, the other an equally foul and suspect green liquid; both appeared injurious to health and were giving off unpalatable vapours.
“Zap, don’t do it! I’ll get us out of here, mang – I swear!”
The girl who had once been Rain remained, frustratingly, agonisingly, just out of reach. Dex’s fingers were left groping thin air.
Zap knelt on his haunches, considering the two cups being held out before him. He wiped the back of his hand across his quavering lips, looking sadly across the way at his desperate friend, his fellow captive droog and Moop.
Dex continued to implore him: “We aint done here, dude, believe... can’t you see: the psycho’s just playin’ ya...?”
Dex persisted with grasping the air... if he could just grab the girl’s hair; pull her backwards, knock her off balance...
But, it wasn’t to be.
In a rush, Zap took hold of one of the cups.
He downed the metallic blue liquid in one swift motion.
Almost immediately upon swallowing the foul brew, Zap fell sideways to the floor, choking and clutching his throat in agony.
Rain turned her head. She was smiling. It was a weak smile, but her thin, blue lips revealed her satisfaction.
She looked at Dex’s outstretched hand still desperately trying and failing to get hold of her. Then, she shifted her gaze, looking directly at her brother’s friend.
Her eyes were dead pools, devoid of all lustre.
Dex had known the girl, Rain. He had known her a little, enough; the way a dude knows his buddy’s kid sister. Rain had been a smart kid: funny, sort of old beyond her years; the way some kids with older siblings can be.
All of that was gone.
This child; this zombie; this minion of Zoot’s was a crushed soul.
Her eyes were cold and calculating. She gained pleasure only from pleasing her master.
The smile left the zombie Rain’s face and she shook her head at Dex with a look of disdain; like he didn’t understand.
Zap was still squirming around the floor of his cell in the latter stages of his death throes.
The zombie Rain turned her head back towards her brother, to witness his demise.
Dex was chilled to the bone as he saw the smile return to her face.
He shouted a stream of profanity, venting his frustration: at the girl; at his friend’s decision; at his own plight. But, mainly, Dex’s anger was directed at Zoot: the puppet-master; making everyone around him dance to his tune...
As Zap finally succumbed to the toxic blue swill, breathing his last and shuffling off this mortal coil, his sister rounded on the other detainee, one brimming, steaming cup of green dreck still held in her right hand.
The zombie Rain was all sweetness and light again as she sought to do her master’s bidding. Her eyes widened in a show of innocence and she spoke once more in her sing-song voice as though butter wouldn’t melt in that cold mouth of hers: “Hey, Dexie, I have a nice drink for you...”
Raging, Dex shook his head, shook the bars of his cage, roaring loudly in an attempt to blow the little girl over. If he had been able to get his hands on her right then, it horrified him to think what he might do to her.
Rain smiled, offering the cup to him and pulling back deftly as Dex went to knock it out of her hand.
“But you have to be a good Dexie and drink it all down, you hear...?”
Dex was spitting, apoplectic, as he searched for a shred of humanity remaining in those insipid eyes.
“...And what will you do if I don’t...?”
It was childish, sinking to her level. But it was all he had...
“You have to drink the nice drink.”
That sing-song voice; her innocent smile...
“...Or what: how will you punish me?”
The zombie Rain twirled her lank, dead hair with the fingers of her free hand.
“If you don’t drink the nice drink,” she cooed, “the nice Mister Zoot will feed you to the monsters.”
Dex scoffed at the suggestion, blowing a jet of scorn through his pouting lips.
“Well, the nice Mister Zoot doesn’t scare me. And I’m too old to believe in monsters...”
The blank-eyed slave child continued twirling her hair and shrugged her shoulders like she really didn’t care.
Cocking her head at an angle then, she gave a little tinkling laugh.
“Don’t be silly, Dexie. I can see the monsters... they’re right behind you.”
As much as Dex thought, I’m not falling for that tired old routine, he knew, he really knew, from the vibration underfoot to the feeling of eyes on the back of his head, he knew, that he really ought to look behind him. And – call it better judgement, call it survival instinct – he knew in that sudden, sinking moment that he wasn’t going to like what he saw...
At the back of his cell, the smooth, blank rear wall had altered in appearance, clearing into a transparent partition between Dex’s cage and a larger, more brightly-lit chamber which contained a collection of vaguely humanoid creatures; life-forms which in all probability were the fruits of experimentation by his host, the crazed genius, Zoot.
Lumbering shapes with reptilian jaws and muscular, worm-like appendages pressed hungrily up against the transparent partition, straining and salivating in their eagerness to burst through into Dex’s cell and make his acquaintance.
Dex broke into a cold sweat.
A primal fear gripped the length of his spine, from his genitals right up to the base of his brain.
In that moment, Dex knew that he would do anything to avoid becoming the new plaything of these grotesque apparitions; these monsters, before him.
Squirming against the bars of his cage, Dex turned to face the zombie Rain.
She was smiling, innocently, as he knew she would be, offering the cup towards him with the green potion that would make him just like her.
“Drink the nice drink, Dexie, for the nice Mister Zoot...”
* * * *
AUTHOR’S FOOTNOTE: Ophiocordyceps unilateralis is a naturally occurring tropical fungus which exerts its influence over Camponotini ants. This so-called zombie fungus alters the behaviour of infected host ants, causing them to leave aside routine activities and travel to the underside of low-hanging leaves, where the host ant clamps its jaws to a major vein in the leaf remaining there until its death. Even in death, the fungus retains control over its host, the ant’s jaws remaining fastened tightly to the supporting vegetation. From this position, fruiting bodies grow from the host ant’s head, eventually rupturing to release fungal spores. These spores fall to the forest floor, coming into contact with fresh hosts and the reproductive cycle continues.
To the best of the author’s knowledge, this fungus has yet to be reformulated for the purposes of mind control in humans. Something tells me, though, that it is only a matter of time...
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Some of my best ideas arrive when I'm sleeping.
You know the type: Some clown with a melted face offers me a bag of jelly beans that contains the whole damn Multiverse; each one I eat is me chomping down an entire Universe... this one's sweet... and this one's really bitter. That one tasted like gorgonzola!
And it's not as if the clown has any qualms about this senseless devouring of reality... I ask the freak: "What happens when I eat the Universe that we're in right now...?"
And, the weirdo just looks at me with eyes that have seen too much of the heart of every star; have been baked hard, then melted, and ultimately screwed - and he says to me, this Dream Peddler, he says, "Aaah, there you go laddie: we're in all of them, at the same time, for all of eternity..."
Then, he starts to laugh, maniacally, in the manner of someone who's been given far too much adulation for far too long, and when I look again into the bag of jelly beans, I realise that I've been eating pellets of dung all along.
That sort of thing.
I like to channel a sense of dream absurdity and multi-textural reality into the high-octane, psychedelia of the dystopian, cyberpunk sci-fi that I write. It seems to me an adequate form for satirising the sheer, unbridled lunacy of life on Earth as a human in the 21st century.
Because if you forget to smile and laugh, you go mad...

Fool's Sacrifice: A Dominion City Blues Novel

Lee Lazarus is an ace pilot flying stolen vehicles in Dominion City. His life is endangered from the minute he teams up with a tough girl called Spider. Spider's smart but is wrapped in a web of secrets and bad luck. Never more so than when they steal the wrong vehicle and their fellow gang members are blown from the skies. Lee and Spider soon find themselves under suspicion from their gang boss and the police who see them as terrorists hellbent on bringing Dominion City to its knees.
As things go from bad to worse, Lee must make a choice. Face punishment for his crimes or accept the help of a mysterious stranger from an other-worldly group known only as the Long Hedz Inc. But help comes at a price. The price of a fool's sacrifice.

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