Ben Sheridan, editor of Funemployment Press, brought a dystopian love story to our editor’s series.
Written by Ben Sheridan
Illustrated by Sean Kirkpatrick
I sometimes wished I’d never met him, but in the end, he’s my everything. Tior and I had been thinging it for two years. I was his short-frame long-hair brown-eyed art school reject, he my Nordic tall principled AWOL obsolete factory dream. We’d both been flippers plunging through the cracks of what government was left post-war, me scrounging through parties, him scrounging for work. We met at a flipper fest in a mosque where the dust was two feet deep. My then-thing ripped Tior off on a half, and Tior already had a rep in the scene for being quiet, absolutely mental, and carrying a flare-gun from his war days. Third-degree burns later, he was hotter than the last walking dildo I clung to.
We’re standing in the back of Dustin’s shop, as always, in the bowels of some wretched tunnel system beneath a record store. The ever-present candle fills the room with pale light and the white noise that eternally echoes at 10hz to sound like ghostly voices really don’t help the ambience. Dustin’s an old long-haired ex-noisefreek asshole who knows West Ark San Fran chemists, apparently. Always hated the lanky loser – crawling brown eyes, wrinkled face, skinny shit frame. Still, when someone knows someone and has cash…
Tior, the wonderful concrete slab of a man, is standing in front of me, quietly arguing. He’s got Dustin by a good four inches, in more ways than one, and I like to think it helps. The usual capitalist ritual in this decaying place, filled with century-old kabbalist paperbacks and illegal electrodes. We’d been running hot through burb houses last night, jamming memstats up mid-class noses, injecting folks with tranqs, and stealing their dreams. A relatively new racket in East Ark, one that still paid well before every kid on the eastern seaboard jumped on it.
The vial of sunset-orange fluid in Tior’s fist is clouded like a nightmare, but I’m pretty sure whether you wake up screaming or not doesn’t make a difference. Dustin rambles on about implants in the skull and dream refining while I lean against a bookshelf. A coffee table piece of non-Euclidean architecture prints near my left thigh catches my eye. I can feel the polychrome cover through my tattered tights. Flickers of pre-dropout lectures dance through my head, a quick interplay of fingers and spine, the book somehow appears beneath my dead cow jacket. The vial is sitting on the smooth cedar table, our negotiations conclude, Tior calls Dustin a cunt and we stroll out. I slip the sheaf of bills near my left tit as Tior pauses. I stroke his smooth head, his piercing blue eyes look up at me, sensual shivers through my body, as he leans over to tie a Doc.
We go for a long walk, hand in hand, through long rigid tubes once used for inter-level freight. Like all the back routes these days, they’re filled with oily puddles that stick to the boots. The walls are crumbling, letting the outside in. They’re all smeared with majestic murals of starving refugees, nuklear apocalypse, dead trees, pigs teargassing the protest folk, all that political bullshit. People like that make splat rise. No time for that in post-Amerika! We pause and do a huge rail off my new stare material, the last of our flip. Smiles all around instantly, a crush of euphoria rockets from my toes to my nose. Stolen silk panties instantly soaked. We barely make it back to the squat, despite Tior’s frigidity. Always too serious, my leather-clad burnout boy.
Front yard littered with folded paper scraps. Dead grass, dead pot plants, only scrub. A stimulated skip up the two front steps, through the turquoise door that’s shattered off the hinges. Up two flights of moldy stairs, a growing rainbow riot beneath our treads. Into our little home, blue light clean field humming as we enter. A pristine single mattress, moonlight kettle and hotplate side-by-side, jacked Google projector for the vids, Tior’s yellowed stack of vintage Criterion collection blu-ray lined up on his lathed shelves, my half-finished abstract canvas, and our piles of crime clothes too filthy for even the clean field. The bathroom with scrubbed shower, clean toilet, red tiling, off-brand toothpaste. Bulbs hanging from a solar panel by twisted dangling wires like a renewable mobile. I toss the scrap down on my pile of unread books. Rip off my jacket, visions of frantic fucking frolicking in my skull. Miriam, uppity bitch, of course promptly chooses the exact wrong moment to knock. Tior is stripping off those Militia-surplus combat pants the colour of a broken kerb, undoing tool belt, sweat pouring down his body like acid rain.
I hate Miriam. Spends her days middling for a Syrian strip gang that rips off auto-trucks on the upper levels, her nights dancing in buildings that breathe. Devious little downstairs black-haired backdoor bitch, designs on my whole life, the way she looks at him. Her ice blue eyes, retro witchout haircut, dresses as a two-buck handjob honey. Tior snatches the cash up in one fluid motion from where it had fallen like leaves. Hands me a tenner, the rest to Miriam, her mouth a mocking mask of cute and contempt. She carries the flip.
“Hey, Miriam.” “Hey, Tior.” “Fifty?” “Fifty.”
Passes it over. I have the pleasure of slamming our red door in her fucking face.
Sit in his lap, rails forever off the infinite staircase cover. Last century surrealists would be so proud. We screw, then take a few more rails as the real hours of the day arrive.
Get dressed in all-black crime clothes, load out with the carry, Tior grabs the toolbox. He, forever the gentlemen, crosses the holy street, our neighbours spill out in the dead of night to their own deviant odds and ends. Up to the garage. It’s the definition of dilapidated, with gouged-eye windows, a galaxy of grime crawling up the walls, and a huge scrawled signature of some kid that was also two Feds twisted head over heels, particular parts in each other’s mouths. Some of the youth creativity makes my heart swell with pride. Tior lifts the rusted handle, winch whining like a spoiled brat as the battered wood rises.
The Traverser, body smooth as a butter ration, painted black as the plague, slumbers on its four wheels. The shelves are flat against the wall, made from wire ripped from walls and auto-direct poles torn from the street. Screwdrivers of every shape, calipers of every caliber, wrenches of every width, hang like the condemned. Gull wing doors open as motion sensors hum. I run across the street, boots tight, feeling the continual rush rip through me. The red eye of the security system winks me in, we leap into the Traverser, we’re off.
We’re screaming down the Curve at a few hundred clicks every sixty, engine roaring as we twist around the traffic of auto-cars and other freeks on their way to wherever. The massive curve cylinder of asphalt winds down and down and down, a speeding spiral of blurred lines on the pavement and the dashboard. Launching down the Curve always brings back plugging marbles into flimsy coloured tubes, legs folded on carpet auto-vacced of my cookie crumbs, watching the light reflect as it spirals and spirals…Things were simpler then, not that I had known it.
The Traverser vaults down an exit, Tior’s teeth grind like millstones as he handles the wheel with typical grace, and we lurch to a halt on the side of a quiet burb street. Permaculture lawns, quiet two-story homes, and most importantly, long rows of stilled suburban auto-cars.
We’re four cars in, doors hacked with my worm exploit, when it got to be too much. Waves of pleasure pulsing through me, strobe lights of sensation. Tior demagnetizing a high-end car stereo, fingers clutching the magno-caliper, sweat dripping, penny pupils. It’s too much, the kushy leather seats, the blood bilging through my heart, the flip neutering neurons. I lean forward to plant a kiss, hand marching up his thigh, watching Tior work always drives me up the wall.
“Fuck off,” and he shoves me away. My elbow nudges the half-taken stereo enclosure, and I trigger an alarm. An immediate cascade of sound and light illuminate the block.
We run, but never get far.
About the Author
Ben Sheridan is a sci-fi/fantasy/weird lit author and editor of the Canadian / Cascadian publisher, Funemployment Press.
About the Artist
Sean Kirkpatrick is an Australian artist and creator of comics such as “Baddies,” as well as the short graphic novel “The Days.” This piece was a collaboration between the artist and a spilled cup of joe.