“Joey, why is there a pile of corpses here?”
“I dunno, none of us were doing this.”
Arsehole tentatively poked one of the bodies.
“Pretty fucking metal.”
“Well, yeah, but it’s not really that clever.”
“So, what, get rid of them?”
“Nah, someone was working on this. We censor it, we’re as bad as The Man.”
“Yeah, but at least, like, chuck a blanket over them or something, right?”
“No. We work around the corpse pile.”
Arsehole tapped ash from the end of her joint onto the pile. Artists were still setting up their pieces in the series of courtyards and alleyways. Joey and Arsehole walked over to Overgang’s collection of CRT screens and buzzing computer towers.
“Joey, Arsehole. Shouldn’t you guys be getting ready?”
“I’ve got the food sitting out on tables already, Arsehole’s waiting on Hiro.”
“Ah, cool. Joey, take a look at this. Whipped it up last night, thought I needed something new.”
Overgang tapped a few buttons on a mechanical keyboard, triumphantly hitting the Enter key. All screens displayed the same text: ‘To Joey, who taught me how to be cool, and Overgang, who almost made it out.’
“Joey as in me?”
“Well, yeah. And it only says my name there since I was the one who played it last.”
“I’m flattered. What does it do?”
A scene appeared of an oil tanker, a pixelated captain watching out at the ocean as birds flew across a deep red sunset. Words scrolled up the screen, saying ‘The Book of Tamlin’.
“Damn, is everything in this game named after me?”
“Well, no, not unless you’re the one looking at it. The name syncs to the players’ surname at startup, it was ‘The Book of Dood’ when I played it before.”
“So what does it do?”
“Play it and find out!”
“Dude, I don’t have time, just tell me. I’ll play it tonight.”
“Spoilsport. It runs through your memories, procedurally generates your life story and lets you replay through key points.”
“It is cool. Still getting a few more things ready, making sure these things aren’t going to explode.”
“Is that likely?”
Overgang shrugged noncommittally.
“Not really, but you fuck around with computers as much as this thing does, you make sure you’re ready for anything. How’s everyone else going?”
“Well, Nibman’s got his books up and running. Literally, I mean, his books are running all over the place, screaming out ‘SNAPE KILLED DUMBLEDORE’, stuff like that. He was building a tower of cards when we left, I dunno if that’s actually going to be something or if he was just bored.”
“Ah, I think those cards were just boredom, yeah. Nate and Kyle brought along Miley, too.”
“Yeah, you know Miley, from the thing in Alaska?”
“Oh, that Miley. What are they working on?”
“I actually have no idea. They’re hammering nails into the ground and wrapping a bunch of string around them, you know, like one of those kiddie craft projects.”
“Intriguing. Oh, can you give this to FTF when you see them? Candice asked me for some new synths and I had a bunch lying around from years ago.”
“Can do. See you tonight, dude.”
Arsehole took the CD case and shoved it in her back pocket, then walked along the sidewalk with Joey.
“So where to next?”
“Well, I think FTF’s setting up in the south courtyard. Let’s meander that way.”
“Meander? Joey, I love it when you use esoteric vernacular.”
The pair continued meandering. People were busy smearing posters over the walls, twisting space through impossible structures; it was indeed a wretched hive of scum and artistry. They were blocked by a giant crate being wheeled towards them, forcing to sidle against the wall. When they passed, they saw the person who had been moving it; a schoolgirl wearing a black dress and carrying a similarly dark parasol. She cheerily waved to the pair.
“Joey! A-hole! How’s it going?”
Joey grinned back.
“Rita! We’re good! What’s in the crate?”
“Oh, you know, bits and bobs, this and that. Mostly spiders.”
Arsehole moved back from the crate, hearing scuttling inside.
“And what will you be doing with your spiders, exactly?”
“They do tricks. They’re trick spiders.”
“Well. I’ve not seen trick spiders before.”
“Neither have I, they’re invisible too.”
“Oh. Okay then.”
“Know a good place to set up?”
Joey scratched his chin.
“I think the west courtyard’s pretty free right now, just take a left through there.”
“Thanks, Joey! Come check it out tonight, okay?”
They walked away, the clattering sound of Rita’s crate fading behind them.
“Arsehole, you’re scared of spiders?”
“A bit. Creepy little fuckers, sticking webs everywhere. They’re gross.”
“They are a bit gross.”
“My uncle had this shed just filled with ‘em, whenever I went out there he’d always-”
Arsehole’s phone buzzed in her pocket; she pulled out the banged up Nokia and read the note on the screen.
“Alright, Hiro’s here, we’ve gotta set up. Here’s the disc or whatever. See you tonight!”
“Cool, see you then.”
Arsehole passed Joey the CD case, skipping off into the distance. Joey walked out into the south courtyard and was bombarded with a wall of sound. The members of Futanari Titwhore Fiasco had just finished playing their underground hit single, ‘Stereo Shenanigans and Binaural Bullshit’, lapsing into the newly released ‘Laser Butt Disease Raptor Orgy’.
Lasers shoot into the sky
Farting is a way to fly
Raptors fuck they don’t ask why
Clever girl, it’s time to die
Your disease is my desire
Lasers refract and start a fire
Within my feeble raptor heart
Shoot a laser, release a fart
Endless cravings help me please
I’ve caught laser butt disease
Raptor butts light up the trees
What if everything is bees?
The raptors all retract their claws
The raptor orgy takes a pause
They realise that they have contracted a serious disease
And all concur that the best course of action is to seek urgent medical attention
The raptors approach an alchemist
He diagnoses them with laser butt disease
They ask, how did you know we had laser butt disease?
He says that it is because he is a medical expert and has been educated at Cambridge
Unfortunately he did not know how to cure laser butt disease
And they all failed to find a sufficiently experienced physician or doctor
As such, the laser butt disease raptor orgy continued
Until the end of the cretaceous period
And that was how the dinosaurs went extinct.
The scattered artists in the courtyard applauded the performance. The three girls on stage bowed in unison. The singer hi-fived the keyboardist and guitarist, then jumped from the elevated stage and walked over to Joey. Her vibrantly-dyed green hair shimmered as she moved.
“Didja like the song?”
“Yeah, it was pretty cool! Catchy, too.”
“I wrote the lyrics for this one!”
“Good job! Hey, Overgang gave me this. I think he said Candice wanted it, new synth settings or something.”
Joey offered Annie the CD case.
“OI! CANDICE, HEADS UP!”
Annie pulled the CD from the case and threw it discus-like to the girl sitting at the keyboard, who plucked it from the air and placed it in the laptop next to her.
“CHEERS, TELL OVERGANG THANKS FROM ME!”
Joey frowned at Annie.
“You could have broken it.”
“But I didn’t. All ready for tonight?”
“Yeah, I think so. Everyone seems to be going well. Should be a night to remember.”
“Right, right. Still no sign from any of ‘The’ people?”
“Nope. If they’re turning up at all, they’ll probably just charge in tonight.”
“Heh, ‘charge in’. You make it sound like a war or something.”
“Well, it kind of is. The war of who's cooler… the Cool War.”
Joey looked to the sky as it slowly turned from blue into orange.
“…that’s stupid, forget I said that.”
Tangerine was sitting in front of his completed work, distributing business cards to passers-by who seemed interested. Agent Green approached him, clearly uncomfortable in a blue hoodie and sweatpants. Tangerine jumped on the chance to show off his finished product.
“Greetings, person I’ve never seen before in my life! Like the piece?”
He avidly gestured towards the slowly shifting wall. It was covered in aluminium foil, which had been treated with a heat and pressure-sensitive coating. The wall undulated and changed colours, sparkling with iridescent and entrancing hues. Occasionally, the foil bent slightly outwards, as though something were trying to break out from the other side. Agent Green, as much as he hated himself for it, could not hold back a smile.
“It looks great, artist I’ve never met before in my life.”
“So, seen anything else of interest tonight?”
“Two people were standing near the west courtyard, a Sculptor and a Builder, it seemed. I’ve heard there was also a local Composer around here somewhere.”
“I’ve seen a Painter moving around. One of his pieces went up over there.”
Tangerine gestured to the opposite wall, covered in adverts for various pieces on display that night, along with prices and disparaging comments on how derivative they were. It drew some attention, but most artists actively ignored the piece.
“I don’t suppose you’ve seen a Janitor around?”
“Dude, we’re outside. Why would there be a Janitor here?”
“I’ve not, no. Though the best Janitors remain unseen by other employees.”
Tangerine offered a card to Green, who took it and placed it in his pocket.
“How long have you been sitting here, then?”
“About three hours.”
“Seen the corpse pile?”
“Yeah. Nobody saw the artist who put it there.”
Tangerine lowered his voice.
“Prints and hair.”
“None in the database.”
“What’s our backup like?”
“Thirty on patrol.”
“Guys upstairs are crossing their fingers.”
Joey ran up to Tangerine, offering a platter of chopped fruits.
“Here, try a slice of banana, people are going crazy over them!”
Tangerine took a piece and stuck it into his mouth. Joey turned to Agent Green, who was fighting to keep a neutral expression.
“You can have some too, of course, sir.”
Agent Green picked up a slice of banana, feigned placing it in his mouth, and palmed it. He imitated chewing and swallowing, slipping the banana into his pocket as he did so. He smiled and thought of the taste of bananas.
“Delicious. They taste very-”
Tangerine panicked as he chewed the slice, realising Green’s mistake.
“You really got the lemon flavouring spot on, Joey!”
Green froze up, noticing his error. Joey seemed oblivious.
“Thanks, I’ve had to go buy more bananas three times tonight! See you later!”
Green looked at the mildly bemused Tangerine.
“I didn’t say anything.”
“Whatever. I’ll see you later, still haven’t seen the north alleyways.”
Green started to walk off, but then stopped. Someone was crouched in front of The Painter’s advertisements with a stencil and a set of spray paint cans dangling around his belt. He placed the stencil against the wall and it began to shift, the outline changing shape at a thought. The figure grabbed a spray can from its belt, evenly covered the stencil, then ran off into the crowd. The wet paint covered the price tags and scathing remarks with encouraging critiques, and placed a stencilled audience cheering at the bottom of the wall. The style looked vaguely familiar… Green turned back to the grinning Tangerine.
“Well, he was in town.”
The Builder and The Sculptor were standing in the west courtyard.
“So, Robbo’s out doing his thing, Snipper’s dumped his corpses here and fucked off, Sam’s given me a tape so he doesn’t even need to be here, I’ve got my van filled up with a few doppelgangers, and you’re… what?”
The Builder continued whispering to his handful of building seeds, ignoring the question.
“Fucking hell, this should have been done half an hour ago. I’m letting out my stuff, I’ll be back in a few minutes.”
The Sculptor walked further west, exiting onto a road. His van was rattling in a carpark on the opposite side. Cautiously he jogged across the street, with little traffic to get in his way. He fiddled with his keys and opened the back door of the van. Seven pairs of dull eyes stared at the sudden movement.
“At least you fuckers know how to follow directions. Get out, go that way, find the person who looks like you, claim you’re the original and then beat the shit out of them. Got it?”
The duplicates nodded, then jumped down from the van. They charged mindlessly across the road without any sense of self-preservation. One jumped directly in front of a car and, illusion broken, fell into chunks of raw clay.
Felix walked casually through the crowd, adjusting his beret. A small face-painting stall was attracting attention. Felix looked left and right, remembering the joy of creation. Hundreds of grinning faces were all around him. This was what it was all about, he thought. This was true art.
He came across the pile of corpses and shook his head disapprovingly.
“Ladies and gentlemen, that song was ‘Please Don’t Stop Singing This Song I’m An Entity That Lives Inside Of Soundwaves And If You Do I’ll Die Oh Please God No’, and I hope you all enjoyed it! For our next song, we’re going to-”
“HOLD IT RIGHT THERE!”
Annie looked up from her microphone into the crowd. Three people had barged in and were forcing their way through the mosh pit. They crawled up onto the stage. The band members looked at each other, before Annie asked the question on all their minds.
“Are you evil robot us?”
The duplicates looked to each other, shared some hushed whispers, and then the Annie duplicate provided a response.
“No! Are you evil robot us?”
“No. Who are you?”
“We’re Futanari Titwhore Fiasco!”
The crowd looked at each other, unsure of if this was a scripted event.
“But… we’re Futanari Titwhore Fiasco.”
“But WE’RE Futanari Titwhore Fiasco!”
“Okay, fine. You’re Futanari Titwhore Fiasco.”
The duplicates looked puzzled.
“Well… okay then.”
“Do you want our instruments?”
“Ummm… yes. Thank you.”
The duplicates awkwardly took over from the originals, who walked to the side of the stage and anticipated the next development.
“Well… uh, like we said… we’re Futanari Titwhore Fiasco, and… ummm… please hang on.”
The duplicates huddled together, uncertain of what to do next. The duplicate Candice turned and walked over to the original.
“Umm… I don’t know how to play the keyboard. I got told that’s what I do, but… nobody told me how to actually do it!”
The original Candice stifled a giggle. The third member of the band, Pris, approached her duplicate.
“Do you need me to teach you how to play the guitar?”
“Yes please! I mean, uh, if you can, thank you.”
The duplicate Annie suddenly remembered their instructions.
“Hang on, weren’t we supposed to… what did he say? ‘Beat the shit’ out of them?”
The original Annie interjected.
“Why would you beat the shit out of us?”
“We got told to.”
“Do you actually want to beat the shit out of us?”
“Not really. We’re supposed to be just like you.”
“Well, you certainly look just like us, at least. Where are you from?”
“I don’t know. We woke up in a van.”
“Huh. Nothing before that?”
“Dang. Well, you seem nice enough, not-evil-robot-us.”
“You seem nice too. I don’t want to beat the shit out of you any more. Please tell me not to.”
“We need to be told what to do.”
“Oh. Don’t beat the shit out of us?”
The duplicates breathed a collective sigh.
“Furthermore, I absolutely order all of you not to follow any orders from anyone from now on unless you want to!”
The crowd went wild.
“Thank you so much!”
“Alright, first of all, we’re going to need a way to tell us apart. Ladies and gentlemen of the audience, can I borrow some hats from any of you?”
The Sculptor felt like he had forgotten something… it was probably fine. He’d had to rush the duplicates; finishing seven in just a day was a lot of pressure. He’d left a few things out, so some of them weren’t as complete as he had been hoping. Exploiting golems was a tricky business at the best of times. He’d gathered up the clay from the one that had been hit – he had, at least, enjoyed seeing Ruiz Duchamp’s body limply fall apart – and put it back into his van. He walked back to The Builder, who was busy planting his building seeds in the ground.
“About time. Just let out the copies.”
“I saw them run through. Perfect likenesses, good job.”
“Cheers. Your building ready to go?”
“Should be in a few minutes. Give me the recording, there’ll be a PA system running through the place as it grows.”
The Sculptor handed over the cassette tape.
“…you’re kidding me.”
“I was expecting a CD. I can’t use this.”
“Fuck. FUCK! Hang on, I’ll call him, get him to come in.”
The Sculptor spun around, yanking his smartphone from his pocket and dialling The Composer’s number. It rung twice before getting through.
“Sam. You gave me a cassette.”
“We need a CD.”
“That’s what I said.”
“Alright. Okay, uh, I can burn it onto a CD here and be down in, like, an hour-”
“Not enough time. Can you e-mail it?”
“Yeah, but I’ve still got to transfer it to my computer, I’ve only got it in tape form. Should take about five minutes. You’ve got a CD burner?”
“Not yet, but there’s an electronics store two blocks away.”
“Brilliant. I’ll send it through the second it’s done.”
The Sculptor angrily pressed the end call button.
“Alright, Builder, get started here. I’ve got to go buy a CD burner, I’ll be back real fucking soon. And remember, you see Duchamp, you punch that asshole’s lights out, got it?”
On the other side of the city, Ruiz Duchamp was pacing in his studio. He wondered if Felix was enjoying himself.
Overgang Dood was fiddling with his computers when Joey walked up behind him.
“OG! What’s up?”
“You’re what’s up, asshat!”
“Sorry, sorry. But look at this!”
Joey looked at the row of CRT screens glowing dimly. All of them displayed “The Book Of Tamlin” on the screens.
“The program’s got stuck on your name, it’s not changing for anyone else!”
“If I knew that, it wouldn’t be a fucking problem, would it?”
“Have you tried turning it-”
“Don’t you dare finish that fucking sentence. That did not work.”
“Well, I dunno. Slice of banana?”
“What does it taste like?”
Overgang took a piece of banana and threw it into his mouth. The mushy banana texture and tangy lemon flavour were flawlessly fused in a mouthful of impossible food.
“That’s pretty good.”
“That’s what everyone’s been saying, yeah.”
“Anyway, I really need to fix this before-“
The duplicates of Overgang Dood and Joey Tamlin yelled in unison from across the courtyard. Overgang turned to Joey.
“Were you expecting this?”
“Well, gotta roll with the punches. HEY! CLONE OF ME OR WHATEVER! GET OVER HERE, I NEED SOME HELP!”
The duplicates looked at one another, then walked over.
“Alright, I’ve been having trouble getting this to work, I’ve tried-”
Overgang’s duplicate punched him in the face, knocking his sunglasses to the ground. Overgang rubbed his jaw, Joey and his duplicate looking on. The original stood up, plucking an almost flawless copy of his sunglasses from the face of his duplicate, then placing them on the bridge of his own nose.
“You’re right, evil clone, I haven’t just tried hitting it yet. Silly me! Can I borrow your head for a second?”
Overgang grabbed his duplicate’s skull, driving it into one of the CRT monitors and showering glass onto the ground. The duplicate twitched as sparks and smoke rose from the dusty box. The original pulled his duplicate from the wreckage, placing his hands on the duplicate’s shoulders, bending him over, and brutally kneeing it in the chest. The golem’s eyes opened wide, breath thrust from its lungs, and then Overgang followed up with another knee, and another, and another. He roughly pushed the copy to the ground, then lifted his leg and stomped down on its ribcage with a resounding crunch. The duplicate shuddered and rolled over, illusion collapsing slowly around it. The original took a run-up, then kicked the head clean off his copy before it collapsed to raw clay. Overgang pushed his trademark sunglasses up the bridge of his nose.
“Fucking golems. Can’t even throw a proper punch. Now…”
Overgang turned, grinning madly, to Joey and his stunned duplicate.
“…which of you is the copy?”
Joey showed his platter full of banana slices. The duplicate looked pleadingly at the original.
“Fucking hell, aren’t you lot supposed to be artists?”
Joey clanged the metal platter against his copy’s face, following up with a solid jab to the stomach, then a kick to the groin. He grabbed its shoulders and kicked its knee, bending it unnaturally backwards and forcing his doppelganger to the ground.
“No. We’re Anartists.”
He stomped on his copy’s skull, squashing it flat into the pavement. Joey walked over to Overgang, hi-fiving him and still dizzily happy from the adrenaline rush. The surrounding crowd began to cheer at what they thought was a well-choreographed fight sequence, lauding praise onto the artisanry of the duplicates. Overgang decided to capitalise on the attention.
"Now that's over, IS THERE A CODER IN THE AUDIENCE?"
The Sculptor walked into the electronics store, moving straight to the counter.
A middle-aged man appeared from a back room.
“Hey, where do you keep CD burners?”
“What, like, by themselves?”
“Yeah, in like an enclosure or something.”
“Well, we’ve got DVD and Blu-ray burners, nothing for plain old CDs these days.”
“Hey, no swearing in my store.”
“Do you have ANYTHING that can burn a CD?”
“Well, I think one of our prebuild towers has a burner in it.”
“Can you take the burner out for me?”
“Whatever, how much for the tower?”
“Hang on, let me check.”
The manager walked into the back room. The Sculptor impatiently tapped his foot, walking over to the rack behind him and pocketing a 5-pack of writable CDs while the manager was gone. After a few more excruciating minutes, the manager returned, lugging a large black computer tower in his hands. He placed it onto the counter.
“Well, here you go.”
“This has a CD burner in it?”
“Yup, that’ll be-”
The Sculptor discharged his firearm into the manager’s head, blood and brain spattering on the wall behind. He pushed the corpse from the counter, then pulled the tower over, power cord trailing behind. He moved it over to one of the demonstration desks, carelessly throwing netbooks to the ground and resting the tower on the table. He fetched an LCD monitor, keyboard, and mouse from around the store, paying no attention to the body slowly bleeding dry. Slowly the computer whirred to life, while he shoved an Ethernet cable into the thing. He looked at the screen as it suddenly flashed on. The Sculptor mashed the keyboard, signed in as a guest, opened the default web browser, accessed his e-mails, downloaded The Composer’s CD image, then burned it to all five of the discs in his pocket. May as well have spares, he thought. He strode out the front door, turning the sign on the front to ‘CLOSED’ as he left.
The body was not found until morning.
You sat with Arsehole and Hiro, dutifully entering your confirmation code into the prototype art bomb. You and Hiro had spent most of the last few weeks working on the internals of the expansion mechanism, while Arsehole was the one who actually co-ordinated the colours involved. Hiro and Arsehole entered their codes, everyone backed away, and the impossible mechanism turned itself inside-out. You started conversation.
“This one’s safe, right? It’s all disabled?”
Arsehole pushed her index finger into the colour burst, pulling it out and showing you a perfectly intact (albeit bright pink) digit.
“See? Perfectly safe.”
Hiro kept tapping on his phone, still hardwired to the point of origin within the slowly expanding technicolour sphere.
“Readings are looking good. Everything seems to be stable.”
“Speed it up a bit!”
“Alright, alright, hang on.”
Hiro swiped his fingers across the touch screen, and the ball began to grow even more.
“Readings are still fine. Let me just-”
You looked across the courtyard and saw someone who looked almost exactly like Arsehole. The Arsehole standing beside you took the firearm holstered in your pocket and promptly shot the duplicate twice in the head, whereupon it collapsed into clay. She offered the firearm back, and you re-holstered it gingerly. The trigger was now dyed the same bright pink as her finger was.
“Come on, Hiro, bigger! Bigger!”
The Sculptor returned to see The Builder’s seeds had constructed a white marble hall around the west courtyard. The edges were slowly weaving outwards past the alleyways, blocking the natural moonlight and replacing it with flickering fluorescents.
“You got the CD?”
“I’ve got five, here.”
The Builder took one of the CDs and placed it into a small slot in the marble. The Composer’s song started to play; the entrancing classical music bounced harmonically around the marble walls.
“Well, at least you got that bit right.”
“Yeah, sounds damn good.”
“He tell you what it does?”
“Vaguely put, ‘degrades comparative artistic respect’. It’ll make people hate the other pieces.”
“Well, that should be fun to watch.”
“Yup. Once the building actually contains more stuff, it’ll start criticising them specifically. I’ve gotta oversee the growth of the building for now, make sure it doesn’t suck anyone into the walls or something stupid.”
“Cool, I’ll go check on-”
The Painter ran through the expanding marble corridor, heading straight for the pair.
“That fucker’s here.”
“Not Duchamp, you twat, the British fucker. Smearing stencils over my stuff.”
“Shit. Have you told Janitor?”
“Can’t find the Janitor.”
“Shiiiiiit. Alright, here’s a pistol. Track him down and shoot the bastard.”
“I can’t shoot for shit, man, you know I’m bad with guns.”
“Alright, alright. I’ll deal with him myself. You stay within the building, put up some of that stuff in here, do your thing.”
“Got it. Thanks, man.”
The Sculptor walked out from the marble flooring to the uneven, pebbled alleyway. If you wanted something done right, you had to shoot people to do it.
“You’re not even the least bit curious who sent them?”
“I’m more curious about WHY I CAN’T GET THIS STUFF TO WORK.”
Joey and Overgang sat sucking banana-tasting lemon slices. The clay bodies of the golems sat untouched.
“Seriously, I can’t think of anyone who actually wants us dead. Well, us specifically, at least.”
“Well, after Critic’s lot, we’re probably the biggest game in town.”
“You don’t think The Critic did this, do you?”
“Oh, hell no. He’s not an idiot, if he wanted us dead he’d at least do it cleanly.”
“Wait, should we maybe check on the others? Make sure they’re all okay?”
“Eh, they’re probably fine. Everyone here can take care of themselves.”
“True. I just want to know-”
“Alright, top-hatted not-evil-not-robot-me, we make a pretty awesome duet! Hi-five!”
Annie slapped the hand of her duplicate golem and new friend. It was like she’d found the sister she never had.
“Okay, our next song’s a nice, soft-”
“We’re going critical!”
You braced yourself as the art bomb exploded outwards in a flash of colour, coating the courtyard with technicoloured ooze. Hiro wiped the blue from his face, glad that it had worked, while Arsehole jumped and cheered and demanded to do it again. You started to say something, but then
Felix continued making his way through the crowd, then suddenly bumped into a towering black figure.
“Apologies, I… oh. Hello, old friend.”
The Janitor turned around, gas mask filter buzzing.
“Greetings, Felix. Long time, no see.”
“I am on watch tonight. This is not a safe place.”
“I’ve been in less safe places, friend, don’t you-”
Rita continued her show. Thousands of invisible spiders crawled around her miniature circus, juggling lint balls, bending paperclips, and least impressively of all, swinging unseen from trapezes. Next time, she thought, she should dip them in paint before bringing them along. That, or knit them some tiny jumpsuits. She offered a finger for one of them to climb onto, when
Ruiz Duchamp heard a sound in the distance.
The Sculptor stalked his prey as subtly as possible. He had seen the figure deface two sets of posters, and knew the location of the next one that he would be targeting. He started running down a backstreet, planning to overtake, when
The Painter was putting up his posters inside of The Builder’s growing exhibition hall. The Composer’s music played in the background.
“Hang on. If I put these up inside here, isn’t the music going to make everyone hate them anyway?”
The Critic heard a sound in the distance.
Tangerine sat near his work, watching the delicate colours fluctuate. Even though he was an Agent, he still enjoyed creating art. He enjoyed messing with the fabric of reality. It always had an air of romance to it, and from here, he had gained an appreciation for it. Perhaps, after they let him go, he could find a nice little cottage in the hills and paint landscapes. But of course, after what he’d seen here, how could simple painting ever compare? He’d seen prodigies craft miracles with nothing more than their fingertips, and as much as he had been told that was a bad thing over and over again, through the GOC training, through the Foundation… all he’d seen was happy people, making each other happy through
Agent Green approached the corpse pile. It was smack-bang in the central courtyard. He mentally assigned it as his primary cleanup priority. He’d have to check all the people in there, find out who they actually were, inform next of kin. It’d be a long and arduous task, but someone had to do it. Green didn’t mind. It was important work. He was making a difference.
Green looked up at the blasting horn noise from above. A bulging red balloon was suspended from the building tops, an enormous speaker stuck to the bottom. He instinctively moved his hand to his pistol, tightening his grip. The speaker spouted a heavily distorted voice message.
“HEY GUYS! SORRY I COULDN’T MAKE IT, BUT I’M SURE YOU UNDERSTAND. YOU KNOW, THINGS TO DO, PEOPLE TO KILL. SOME OF YOU HAVE GOTTEN TO KNOW ME INTIMATELY OVER THE LAST FEW DAYS, AND YOU KNOW, I’VE REALLY ENJOYED CREEPING THE FUCK OUT OF YOU. BUT IT’S ABOUT TIME TO END THE SHITTY LITTLE CHARADE.”
Agent Green was well and truly spooked. The speaker would be loud enough to be heard through the entire city.
“I’M NOT AS CRAZY AS I SEEMED. OR, RATHER, I’M AS CRAZY AS I SEEMED AND QUITE A BIT MORE. I’M GOING TO BE HONEST HERE, THE CORPSES DIDN’T EVEN MAKE THAT COMFORTABLE A SEAT. BUT ONCE YOU GET ONE, YOU’VE JUST GOT TO COLLECT THEM ALL, AM I RIGHT? ANYWAY. SORRY TO HAVE MISLED YOU, BUT I’VE FRANKLY NO INTEREST IN YOUR LITTLE GANG ANY MORE. YOU’RE BORING, YOU’RE BLASÉ, YOU’RE FUCKING BLAND. THERE IS ONE LITTLE THING THAT I THINK I’LL KEEP FROM OUR EXCHANGES, THOUGH. I’VE ALWAYS WANTED A CATCHPHRASE.”
Agent Green prepared himself for the worst.
“SNIP. SNIP. SNIP.”
With the final SNIP, the balloon fell. It moved downwards, almost in slow motion, directly hitting the centre of the corpse pile. The sides bulged, and the balloon popped from the impact, a minty green ooze bursting from within. He had prepared himself for the worst, but he had not prepared himself for this. Agent Green had only one horrified thought running through his head.