Joey Fucknuts Takes to the Skies
rating: +141+x

steelwing.jpg

clang

Clang

CLANG

CLANG.

The sound of metal pealed like church bells throughout the small town of Vulture Gulch.

This wasn't terribly unusual. Metal was altered and molded and beaten to form night and day in the poisoned desert burg, by men and women that had forgotten how to sleep and knew only one thing: progress.

They did not know what the word “progress” meant, nor how to spell it, but they chased it relentlessly, all the same.

CLANG!

And one of these men, the mayor, was hard at work.

He needed no hammer. He needed no schematics, nor training nor any real knowledge at all. He shaped the steel with his heart, knowing that what he did was good, and necessary.

But more tangibly, he shaped it with his fists.

CLANG!

Joey Fucknuts punched the steel plate, deforming it greatly. And he punched it again. And again. He beat the metal against its supporting frame, welding it into place not with fire, but with pure physical force. Working it cold, so it kept its crystalline lattice and maintained strength without requiring any tempering or annealing.

He did not understand any of these concepts. He just thought that it didn't make sense to work the metal with tools when his fists were good enough.

CLANG!

He punched it again, each of his knuckles sending sparks flying. The metal caved in further. Taking form. Becoming something that he understood as clearly as any man understands his god.

He had waited for a very long time before dragging these pieces into the yard. He had thought for long hours, before squeezing any rivets into place with his bare hands. He weighed his options and considered the path he was to take before lifting any beams or struts.

And he had watched the sky, for many days.

He was afraid. Joey was always afraid of something, because he was a man who thought for long periods of time. Men who think cultivate fears as a farmer cares for his crops.

But while Joey was afraid, and confused, and stupid, he knew that he was these things. And he refused to let them stop him, though he could feel them pooling in his mind like sludge.

Joey stopped. It was time for a smoke.

He pulled his goggles up over the bill of his hat and rested them on his forehead. He pulled a pack of cigarettes out of an inside pocket of his brown leather bomber jacket. They were labeled “Shallowgraves”, and they had a picture of a smiling skeleton on the front.

He removed three from the pack and lit them all with a blowtorch.

Joey took a deep drag, then let the smoke flow from the hole where his nose used to be. He sighed. The dead man knew that if he wasn't focusing on punching the metal, he was going to start to think again. But he was tired. He had been working for four months, day and night. This was the third break he had taken.

“Joey!”

From across the yard came a colossal monster. Eight feet tall and weighing nearly half a ton, with a torn, rotted face and muscles that bulged under its skin like bridge cables. It wore mismatched rags cobbled together to resemble normal clothes. No trousers or shirts would ever fit its behemoth frame. This beast was seen frequently around town, tearing cars apart with one twist of its massive hands and pulling down buildings without so much as a grunt.

It lumbered up to Joey and smiled with teeth like a row of moldy tombstones.

This was Awesome, one of the nicest guys that Joey had ever met.

Awesome said, “Hi Joey! Whatcha workin' on?”

Awesome was visibly very excited to see Joey and talk to him. Awesome was always excited to be doing whatever he was doing at the time, especially if it had something to do with one of his friends. Which was everyone.

Joey replied, “Same thing as yesterday.”

Awesome kept smiling and nodded enthusiastically. “Yeah. Yeah, what is it again? I forgot.”

“It's called an 'airplane'. It's a car that goes in the sky.”

This made the seventh time that Awesome had had this explained to him, and he reacted the same way every time.

He put his huge hands up to his head and his eyes widened.

“Joey. Joey, woah. That's like… Joey I don't even know. That's like… You're like a supergenius, Joey.

Joey smiled and shook his head. “No, Awesome. The Boss told me how to do it. He's the genius. I'm just working, like you.”

Awesome laughed. “I'm not working right now, though! I'm fucking around!”

Joey nodded. “Me too. But just for a little bit. Then back to work.”

Awesome seemed suddenly confused, his smile melting away. His voice, which had the timbre of a cinderblock being thrown into a woodchipper, became plaintive, and diminished. “But Joey. Joey, if you make a car that goes into the sky… you could go away. Like, away away. Joey, I don't want you to go away. You're my friend.”

Joey nodded. He reached up and patted Awesome on one of his swollen arms. “You're my friend too, Awesome. But I gotta. We gotta do what the Boss says. He's taking care of us. I'll come back. And when I do, I'll probably have lots of stories. You like my stories.”

Awesome smiled again, and nodded. “Yeah. Like, oh! Oh! Like that one that you readed to us, oh. The one about the little boy that goes to a school and he learns how to do magic and he makes friends and they do magic. I like that one a lot. Magic is really metal.”

Joey nods again. “And metal is really magical.”

The titan's eyes widened, and he froze. Then he lurched forward and picked Joey up by his shoulders, bonking their heads together so he could look Joey right in the eyes.

Joey that's the smartest thing I've ever heard. I love you, Joey.

He then gave Joey the biggest hug that ever existed.

—-

A lot of people had talked to Joey about what he was doing. He had been working for a long time, almost a year now, and naturally it had caused a lot of buzz. Most people were convinced that Joey was doing a really metal thing, and that he should keep doing it. Some, like Paulie, who was kind of a jerk, thought Joey was wasting his time.

And Joey thought it was possible that he was. But he didn't care.

One day he realized he had not slept in nine months.

He was very tired. The airplane was nearly done. He gathered supplies, he put the things together and the whole time, he felt himself changing. Joey, like the rest of his brothers and sisters, didn't feel much. But Joey felt something. Something different. It was inside him, in his chest, in his arms and legs. It felt like the time he had tried to make battery salad, but good instead of painful.

He decided to sleep for a while. Then he would stop being tired, and he could think more about what this all meant, where he was going, and why. Maybe his dreams would help settle his humming mind.

He went to his home, which was the vault of a destroyed bank. The citizens of Vulture Gulch did not understand money, but they understood that one should probably put really valuable things behind a big steel door, and so they had decided that Joey had to sleep in there. They insisted that Joey was important, no matter how he protested.

He laid down on his mattress made of shredded tires and torn automobile upholstery. He lit his blowtorch nightlight to push back the cold gloom of the vault interior. Then he slept, his head heavy, full of thoughts putrefied by doubt.

—-

Joey finds himself in a familiar place.

The desert yawns all around him, wide and empty. He can count the number of things that are here without even using his fingers.

One, there is the ground, made of orange-warm dirt and dust. It holds Joey up and stops him from falling down, back to where he came from.

Two, there is the wind, unseen but felt on his dead skin, gentle and urging. It brings the promise of distance, whispers of places that are far, far away, and asks Joey if he would like to see them.

Three, there is the sky, colossal and unknown, blue and royal. The demesne of mysteries, that great expanse within and through which Joey knew there were things of great importance.

Four, there is the sun, hot and bright, the undisputed ruler. The king of the sky. Here it is far larger and hotter than when Joey was awake, a massive blast furnace and foundry, where all things were made.

And five, there is Joey. Small, ugly, stupid, and dead. A gross scarecrow of a man, thin and tall. Dressed the way that Joey always was, both within his mind and without: brown motorcycle boots, worn jeans, faded Ramones t-shirt, green army cap with his goggles resting above the bill, and his scarred leather bomber jacket, its woolen collar frayed and thinning. A grim caricature. A bony pretender. A ruined thing that most people on Earth would not call a 'person' at all.

Joey has no conception of people beyond the ones that he knew. But he has seen pictures, on burnt postcards and travel guides from the old gift shop, and he has heard stories from when the scrapper teams used to come back from stealing from and scaring those people. People that knew and built things, and loved one another, and had families and houses and jobs. Soft, pink and brown people, with their own dreams. Joey, like the rest of his siblings, is gray-green, dry and leathery, and tough. And he knows that every time one of the outside people saw one of his siblings, if they weren't wearing a long white coat or thick black armor, they were terrified.

The mayor of Vulture Gulch sits cross-legged in the dirt. He can feel a tide of chill, scummy waves washing all around and inside him. He is sure that when he leaves, he could meet some of the soft outside people. And he is sure that they are going to be scared of him. This makes Joey very sad. He didn't want to scare anyone. He wants to make friends, and be nice. He wants to learn, and get stories that he can tell to his brothers and sisters, and see how much he can help everyone when he really, really tries his best.

Joey wanted to keep being mayor. He had never asked to be mayor, but he helped people understand things better every day just like he imagines a real mayor does. He reads things to them so they can do better work and make themselves happy. If he leaves, he can't help them anymore. If he leaves, they will miss him, and he will miss them. They will be sad, and so will he. He will be letting them down, all so he can chase a strange desire that he cannot understand, so he can go on an adventure that could end in disappointment or frustration. Or much, much worse.

The waves of slime pool around Joey, turning the warm dry earth he had been sitting on into clammy, viscous muck. The sun dims, and he begins to feel cold. Cold, and wet and slick with the saliva of some great beast that Joey has never met and could never imagine, but he feels it all the same. Something bad. Something… horrible.

“Hello there, Joey.”

Joey looks up, and sees two more things in this place that used to be warm and bright.

One looks like something Joey has seen before. A lizard. But this one is blue, and huge, and standing on two strong legs. It has metal armor on parts of its body, and things that look like guns attached to its back and sides. One of its eyes is metal and red, but the other is brown, and soft, and looking directly at Joey.

The other is also like a lizard, but just as huge as the other one. This one is red, and has enormous wings with claws on the end. On its frilled, spiky head is a pointed hat with twinkling stars in the fabric, and in its claws are a long wooden stick and a thick book.

These two lizards are giant. They have sharp teeth and claws. And they are both looking directly at Joey.

The blue one turns its head to the red one and says, “Oh dear. I think he's frightened.”

The red one nods once and replies with a quiet boom, “Poor guy. Look at all this mess. I don't think this place is usually like this; this filth feels nothing like him. I suspect foul play, Palsinnor.”

The giant blue lizard leans its head down close to Joey's own. Joey is terrified, and wants to move, but can't. He is cold, and frozen, and can feel all of his fear and doubt writhing and multiplying within him. He can no longer see the sun.

A huge blue head touches its scaly-smooth cheek to Joey's. And Joey hears a gentle, powerful voice in his left ear. A voice like warmth and rest.

“Peace, child. Peace. I know you are scared. I know. But we will not hurt you. We only want to talk to you for a short while. You do not know us, but we know you, and we love you. Let go of your fear and hear our voices.”

The head pulls back, and Joey sees that the sky has changed. The sun is gone, and replaced with an explosion of stars all across a sky that softens to deep indigo as Joey stares. The slime has gone, and Joey is sitting in rich, soft earth, lush with grass and flowers that seem to spread out across the ground from the two huge newcomers.

Joey no longer feels cold, but cool. Not slimy, but clean, and refreshed.

The red lizard snorts, producing a short flash of fire from its nostrils. “I've pushed it out. It's not gone, but I've put a lock on it. It won't bother him for some time. It's the best I can do until he puts the pieces together.”

The blue one nods. “Thank you, Dathrun.” It regards Joey, looming, its sapphire scales and burnished armor sparkling in the starlight.

“Listen to me, Joey. Do you understand me?”

Joey nods silently, afraid of sounding stupid in front of these very smart lizards.

“Joey, you must not let your fear overtake you. It is natural to be scared. Going out on your own is hard, and the world is full of scary, strange things. But you are special, and you are loved. You have a beautiful heart, and a soul as bright as the sun. You have so much potential, child. You have to be brave, and believe in yourself. Your people are counting on you to see many things, to learn great lessons, and lead them to where they were meant to be.”

Joey frowns. He looks down at the ground and says, “But I'm dumb. I'm really dumb. I don't know how a lot of things go, or how to do stuff, or where I should go or what to do. I don't know how to help them.”

The red lizard says, “Nonsense, Joey. These are your brothers and sisters. These are the Black Iron Boneheadz of Vulture Gulch. Are they not heavy metal? Are you not heavy metal?”

Joey looks up and blinks. “I mean, they are, mostly. I don't know if I am, really.”

”If they are heavy metal, Joey, then they can take care of themselves while you are gone. They are strong, just like you, and you must have faith in that. Trust in them, and in yourself.”

The blue continues, “You are more than capable of this, Joey. I know you can feel the heat within your chest. You want to go. To see. To discover. You cannot stay here and idle away the years, wondering what it all means. You say that you are dumb. But it does not take a vast wealth of knowledge to do the right thing, to be the best person you can be. And most importantly, you are aware of your limitations. You know how much you do not know. That is wisdom, Joey, and you must use it well. Your curiosity, your passion, your wisdom and your kindness will carry you and your family so far. All you need to do is decide to take the first step.”

The red growls, “Use your strength. You are Mayor of Vulture Gulch, and you were given that title for a reason. Your people are capable, but they need direction. They need someone to show them the way, to happiness and a life that they deserve. Do not acknowledge your fear. Do not doubt. You are their champion. You did not choose to be, but you are, and you stand at the edge of something glorious. Go to it, Joey. Go, and win your people a place among the stars.”

The blue stands tall. “Go, Joey. We know that you will do your very best, and you will succeed. Go, and discover all that the wide world has in store for you.”

The plants have grown from horizon to horizon, bringing sweet smells and color to what was once a bare wasteland. The stars shine above, each a precious and scintillating jewel. And Joey feels an old feeling, once again.



"Go, Joey. We believe in you."





—-

Joey stands in the wide vacant lot at the end of Gold Street and sighs heavily.

Behind him are the results of his work.

An airplane with broad, sweeping wings rests on fat tires, shining gray and bright in the desert sun. It is enormous. It is haphazard, unpainted, messy, and in all likelihood extremely dangerous. It is inelegant, clumsy, misshapen, and a flagrant mockery of aeronautical engineering. Made of aluminum beaten into shape with Joey's own two hands, equipped with four massive propellers molded painstakingly from the finest scrap metal the Mayor could find, with powerful engines handcrafted night after sleepless night, it was a dreadful Frankenstein's monster of twisted metal and rust.

It was also an airplane. And Joey had never been more proud of anything in his entire life.

He had found a book in the small library some time ago that had pictures of airplanes in it. He had tried to design it as close as he could to his favorite picture, which was labeled B-17 Flying Fortress. He didn't get it exactly right, but he thought it was close enough.

In its cargo bay and cockpit he had placed supplies. A big black motorcycle, armored, turbocharged, and rigorously tested, so he would have something to ride on the ground. Six or seven flamethrowers that Joey had enhanced himself, adding axe blades to the heavy ends and extra barrels and fuel canisters for better coverage and weight. He didn't know where he was going, but he wanted to be safe when he got there.

There was also a box of keepsakes, mementos, and gifts that the people of Vulture Gulch had given him. Some containers of Chef's best oil soup. A bowling ball that Awesome thought was hilarious for reasons that he tried to explain, but couldn't because he kept laughing so hard whenever he saw it. A copper chain with a pendant in the shape of a cactus flower, given to him by Flower so he wouldn't forget her. Joey had said that he could never forget her no matter what, but failed to explain why that was.

Those people and more, all those people that he had grown and learned with, the ones that he loved with all his heart, were standing before him, gathered in a small crowd. Work had been stopped for the day. Making super rad cars was rad, but the Mayor flying into the sky to go on an adventure, to bring back amazing stories to tell?

That was fucking metal.

Joey cleared his throat, and said to them all, “I don't really know what to say. I pretty much never know what to say, I guess. I'm not good at talking. Or a lot of other stuff.

“I'm sad to go. And I know that you're all sad too. But I'm not going away forever. I'm going to go and see what's outside. I'm going to go there, and I'm going to try to figure it out. I'm going to see what the Boss wants me to see, and what I want to see, and what I want the rest of you to see one day too. I'm going to go meet the whole world. And I don't know when I'm going to come back. But when I do, I promise, I'll have some amazing things to tell you.

“Build cool things while I'm gone so I can see them when I come back. Be safe, and be nice to one another. Goodbye. I love you all.”

The crowd exploded into cheers of different flavors. Some, like Awesome, cried. Others, like Chef, howled wordlessly into the sky, not having the words for how proud and excited they were for their Mayor and friend. Some raised a chant, echoing an idea that someone had had not long ago when Joey's plan was discovered. A new name for their Mayor. They shouted it again and again.

One, unnoticed by the rest, merely watched, and waited.

Joey didn't look back. He climbed into the airplane's belly through the bomb bay door, and hit the switch to bring it up. It worked. He had checked the electrical system over three thousand times.

He went up some stairs just thick enough to hold his weight, through some rooms he had made to hold some things, along the central aisle. He entered the cockpit.

Joey did not understand how he knew that he could make this plane fly. But he built it, and he knew.

He flipped switches and let power flow into the plane. Little lights came on, in different colors, all taken from different sources. A Christmas tree light below a label that read “OK YOU CAN FLY NOW” flickered to life. There was a big switch there.

Joey hit it. He didn't have to pray, or hope. He knew it would work.

The four huge propellers coughed, then roared, spinning up and reaching speeds so fast that Joey couldn't even see them anymore through the cameras. He looked ahead through the cockpit window. Gold Street was, unusually, completely clear of cars or wreckage. And just wide enough.

He let go of the brake, and the huge airplane, the massive, absurd work of a restless year, thundered down Gold Street. It lurched, it juddered, it creaked and complained, but it held together. Joey had poured all of his determination into this machine, and he could feel that it wanted to scratch the sky as badly as he did. This was going to work. This was going to work.

He pulled up.

The wind and air swept over and under the great steel bird's wings, and it left the earth behind. It shattered the chains that held all things hard to the ground and roared in defiance against gravity. It rose, higher and higher, the buildings and crumbling ruins falling away below.

Joey saw the wall that the men in the white coats had built. And for the first time in his life, he did not care about it at all.

The one they now called Joey Steelwings rose above it all, and flew on toward his destiny.



Addendum 3885-03: On 2 May 2018, an unmarked makeshift aircraft visually resembling a World War 2-era B-17 Flying Fortress took off from SCP-3885, using the town's main avenue as a runway. After investigation, it was determined that personnel assigned to Subsite 3885 had noticed this vehicle periodically during its construction by a single SCP-3885-01 instance, but did not take action, citing disbelief that SCP-3885 instances possessed the mental capacity to successfully construct a functional aircraft. Subsite 3885's administrative staff have been formally disciplined on charges of gross negligence leading directly to a containment breach.

The aircraft in question was observed flying due northeast. Foundation recovery assets have been dispatched to recontain the SCP-3885-01 instance or instances onboard.

No other SCP-3885-01 instances within SCP-3885 have cooperated with Foundation investigative personnel, and as a result, the aircraft's destination, and purpose, are unknown.






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