Zoltán Schmidt: Distemporal Blues - Chapter 1
This is a revision of the first 3000 words of the novel edition of Distemporal Blues
Written in the summer of 2017; as-of-yet final revision: 28th July 2017.
Thanks for everyone who could make it happen; but most notably Atis1, Rothens and the Scribophile community.
A pale stripe of light, cutting through dark shreds of clouds was what caught his sight as he looked upon the sky. It went far beyond those clouds of acid and soot: running across the sky, only to disappear on the horizon, like a delegate of an invisible hand, grabbing the galaxy, to enlighten the creatures of the wilderness and the civilization alike. It was surely not bringing anything remotely good to this portion of space, though – at least, not that he cared at this point, either way. All those desaturated shades of colors served only one purpose for him: filling his dark brown eyes, to become an abstract system of neural connections that he considered will keep his otherwise weary and steadily stressful mind occupied until the end of the shift. It did not take much time from his life, anyway: soon, a butt landing on the gritty ground, accompanied by the stomp of a tattered footwear meant an end of his break in the drizzling rain, after which he returned the building, and aside of a pushed coffin nail, the only feature remained of him on the outside was his silhouette slowly disappearing in the decreasing view through the automated door.
About thirty meters below the guards’ feet, bare steel bars were taking place instead of automatic doors – yet the floor was not less grounded than the surface soil. One of those unfortunate ones, who were forced to reside strapped in those cold, moist rooms actually found the gravel especially uncomfortable.
“Shut up!”, she got the response from a guard in the hall after her jittery acts on the floor. “You wake everyone up!”- he shouted, though ironically, his sharp voice echoed through the octogonal hall much louder, than the prisoner’s mild clanks. She looked behind the shoulders of the detainer, for a second look of said hall; since her forced arrival in the early night, her vision could barely keep accommodated to the weak lighting. Her prison consisted of two levels, and beyond the central hall, a line of hall for each level, in a perfectly perpendicular section in the middle – she could even notice a bright green patch of an exit-indicating lamp at the end of the corridor above, in front of her. This small examination was far from enough for this captive to ever start considering any plans of escape; she was sure she is going to be kept in this hall, with almost every unexposed surface of its walls filled with prison cells, among a dozen other prisoners, indefinitely. As such, she hardly, but eventually obeyed the guard, slouched her head to the point when her blonde tresses blocked her view upwards, and in a painful gnarl, she hissed: “Yes.”- After the man in the dark brown vest left, she fell on her left side, where her shoulder was not exposed, and while attempting to fall asleep in sadness, she inspected the hall some more. The brown clay-like touch of the floor, the beige tracts in the surprisingly ornate pattern of the central floor, the rust on the bars and the lock, the water dripping on the wall in front of her, and the crackline of the pastering at places, where the cells were noticeably forcedfully shaped by breaking bricks out of the wall. At some parts of the wall, she could see the wiring – what she could not comprehend, yet was already tired enough to wonder about the strange features of her prison. She already closed her eyes and was about to sleep when somehow, through the anisotropic filter of her subconsciousness, the words of a guard, talking near to her cell, could be heard:
“-was a great catch, I say! The Vigilante bros w’d pay a billion for her. Nooo, no way, always the Baron chooses first, ‘u know the rules- damn, I don’t want to find my ass in a cage like that! Eh, yeah, maybe. Those tattoos are int’resting anyway but I don’t thi-…meh, okay. Gotta free up a room at the morning, but you better not fuck up. I mean you can, but only her, hah- Oh by th’way, about the tunnel of those Rebel scum, what about that? That’s a hot spot down there, I don’ wanna get cau-”…The voice trailed off, eventually there was silence.
The first rays of light from a desaturated star were already catching up the peaks of the black chimneys far on the horizon, when a sudden quake made the guard woke up. It was indeed a long shift for him, even at the entrance, and even he and his coffin nails were proven to be insufficient to keep such a young, weak >and< stressed body awaken.
“Daviau! Can you hear me? Fuck it, Daviau, take it up!” - a fuzzy voice came up from a pocket on his denim vest. After a small delay, he took out a cold metallic brick, flicked a switch on its side and started talking: “Daviau here, what the hell happened?”
“Explosion at the hub block, those goddamn Rebels infiltrated the compund!”
“We’re full of them, the living quarters already fell from the sewer entry up to the Segiera street. We fucked up, boy, we should have filled that motherfucking tunnel!” The young guard started shaking in panic, while focusing on the shooting sounds in the background through the radio.
“Listen REALLY closely”, the broadcast went on. “, the Lakha Avenue is still our control, but the gates there are of critical importance. The immediate order for you is to hold that friggin’ gate, right?”
“Hold that damn gate! The avenue is the end here, we need that!”
“Got it, got it, no one goes through here!”
“You better not screw it up, boy…” With these words, the communication has been intermitted. The boy folded the device and put it back to the inner pocket of his vest. No more gunshots and no more uptight shouting – what remained was him, the distant sounds of the inner alarm system, and the reticent snap on his lighter, as, in the given situation, he was not caring about the propriety of smoking on the outside. “Must not let my attention die down”, he thought, fueled by periodic inhalation of the nicotinic admixture – and indeed he was on the spot, but soon, he burnt another butt, leaving him withdrawn and bored. It was proven to be a safe spot for the exit he was guarding, and eventually, he let his thoughts wonder. It took about twenty minutes for this impatient guard, with an automatic rifle on his side, so lay back to the corner, and reevaluating some moments of his recent days, while watching the makeshift steel hulls on the walls very slowly rusting away. A mysterious white light, unreasonable numbness, and a vacuum-shaped crater around him; that is how it all started four months ago. This transition was almost seamless for the young guard, though: in a moment he was jumping from one abandoned apartment to another with his grappling hooks, being chased by drones and some sort of Commando – in the next, he was beaten up by a bronze-colored prosthetic arm, in a moist, rustic storage room, behind a woodern crate. Not a big deal for him, as he was barely ever seeing sunlight in both. The shadow of the mile-high skyscrapers were replaced by the shadow of the smog; the holographics ads by indecorous paintings on shattering and eroding brick walls; the Commando by the Metropolitan Government Units of the Republic Forces; and the symbols of consumerism by one universal flag – blue background, a small white ring within a larger one, and a beam originating from the former, diagonally, breaking the edges of the latter. The flag of the Republic, almost too colorful for such a godforsaken hellhole, spreading its word about conquering a galaxy, creeping over it as an immutable force. He has already befriended the thought of these events, without bothering the mystery any further, especially because one single fact: only crime. Only crime has not changed at all. Punks with prosthetics are quite literally identical to his previous fellows, and beyond them, the selection was not confirmed to be any better: multiple kinds of religious lunatics, multiple kinds of fascists, and the loyal “strong people” of the status quo. Nearly killed by one, repeatedly despised by another, the guard was interested only in money. Principles and morals were not convertible currencies in this bizarre underworld either, but he already knew, what to do. Yet, he still could not forget that crater – and all the mystery…
Did he die when he was shot?
Did she die when she was impaled?
A blonde woman in brown skirt and top had similar concerns. She has been wondering about the hole in the ground she woke up before being caught. Even her close-to-nature mind could find any word but »clusterfuck«, to describe the events leading up to her captivity. Dim sight due to blood loss and extreme pain, implying hallucinations and improbable events…a giant insect crying in deafening pitch…hordes of arthropods murdering tribespeople…a dam made of reed…the ever-stretching canopy of the jungle, her homeland… …and that was it. In the next moment, she laid in a pit, filled with unnatural linings all directed towards her – and half a dozen of rifles, pistols and swords above her body, in a similar manner, held by people wearing some sort of armor vest, crudely painted brown.
“Gal…-GAL!”, a shout bring her back to reality. “Don’t daydream now!” - and indeed it was not the right time for it: she and this bald male in green jacket, holding a light blue handgun were running away on a dark-lit corridor, with the sounds of shootings, near ricochet bullets, unearthly shield vibrations - and a site-wide siren. She was away, deep in her thoughts, yet it was understandable, given the suddent pace increase of events. At one point, she was trying to sleep, subconsciously listening to an apparent phone call; at another, an explosion, with distorted sound, shakes the underground chambers, making everyone jumping up, running around and forcefully pulling and beating captives throughout the passageways. At one point, this girl was crammed into a small whitewashed room, in the company of a wheezy guy unzipping his jeans; in the following very moment itself, what she witnessed was the glorious silvery shine of a chromed blade, shimmering through his blood – and through whatever used to pump that to his lower body parts some miliseconds ago. And then the siren, the silhouettes of people with green clothes waving on their backs (building up a heavy contrast with their unreasonably desaturated brown burlap trousers), a sudden blackout, followed by the vision of them shooting bright projectiles towards her (at this point, presumably former) detainers, and at some point, even the clash of knives and blades, accompanied by blood pouring everywhere on sight.
“Listen…”, the bald man said, grabbing her shoulders for attention. “I know the way up here was chaotic, and we are sorry for that. But I promise that everything will be fine.” - She kept speechless in confusion while he nodded towards a series of stairs. - “Now, the stairs in front of us lead up to the avenue! You can hide there until we get shit done down here.” Then, the male took out two wooden sticks out of the weapon holding case on his side, attached them to a single long one, and offered it to the girl: “Take this. I get your back, you just have to strike through the entrance, but may encounter hostility. You seem to be a great warrior, so it must do the task.”
“Hey, what the- wait, what, and how, and…”, she was faltering as attempting to respond.
“Hurry! f anything goes wrong, you can find us at 7., Porta Alis – remember: seven, at Porta Alis, green dresscode.”, the male responded, followed by turning his back and setting off his gun in a vibrant glow and a distorted shoting sound. The girl stared over his shoulder, as his jacket fell back. With turmoil in her head, she started running, never even making a glance back. She caught his final words before the echoes of the concrete halls faded into obscurity:
“Remember us, and you’ll be remembered - may the Bless be upon you!” Periodic flash of lamps on the ceilings, additional ricochets from behind, a sudden grenade explosion, and yelling in pain accompanied her on the final meters of the corridor, at the end of which she slammed the door with a kick, releasing dust, an entrance door of electric powering, rusty hulls crudely screwed over a pale brick surface – and a slovely male in the corner wincing, jumping of and holding dark silverish, black-lined rifle in waist height, aiming towards her.
The two were staring at each other in silence for long seconds. Both had a serious adrenaline rush in their bloodstream that made them nearly unable to facilitate a fast reaction. Shrunk pupils of a weary, dark brown eye were receiving light reflecing from another pair, with colors so bright he never thought were actually possible for anyone’s organs of vision without augmentation. And for sure he knew she can not be augmented: not only the bright light blue eyes, but the brown leather skirt and top, with a strange, almost scale-like pattern on them; a tattered armor plate on her right shoulder, and one of her legs exposed from the skirt totally - tattoed from ankle to thigh, with black angular scrabblings all across, shaped like a ring as running across her leg. Beyond her tribal appearance, the young guard was genuinely amazed by her dynamic pose she took with the stick in her arms, as well as by her waist and the appeal of her short blonde hairdo – a woman the kind of who he has never seen, neither on the cobbled road of the city under smog, nor beneath the shadow of the arcology he used to be raised within. On the other hand, it caused an unexpected shock in her, to witness such a wildly different man in the same building, where sadists, rapists and murderers were mocking innocently imprisoned civilians: the lack of brown color, aside of his hair reaching his chest, was an immediate impression, as well as the harmony of the pale blue vest laying on his flimsy back and his similar jeans. The two were seemingly flowing into each other, shaping a nearly unexplainable topology, divided by a black shirt and a sallow metallic tone of a high-tech rifle. She has never seen such a male before, not only in terms of his unusual appearance, but his body shape, as well. Holding a gun, as well as wearing a suspicious, gray, ring-shaped ornament on each of his lower arms, right below the wrists, she could not properly evaluate, what to expect. The whole world she was awaken seemed to be almost alien and supernatural for her. The people, the weapons, the scale of the buildings, everyhting resembled the absolute upper-class of spellcasting for her; spellcasting on a level she never even considered to exist.
This tense situation took almost as long as both the noise of the collapsing coating on the walls nearby, and the yelling of the brown-vest guards in the background ceased. Eventually, the time frame was deemed to be enough for the blondie to notice his opponent’s awe, mixed with his trigger-ready awareness, and so, on the first occasion in the previous seventy hours, she decided to mock her enemy, for not having to worry about any unexpected trap or threat. At this point, she realized there is no other way, but the >magically locked< door behind the long-haired boy.
“Hah!”, she giggled while standing up from her fighting pose to a careless one, putting her left arm on her waist and holding her staff in the right one in a strutted manner. “So those monsters left the weak behind to guard the cave?” It took a handful of seconds for the boy to return to reality from his confusion, and when it happened, he responded with an angry grin and a load on his rifle.
“Shut up, cunt!”, he said. “Get the hell outta here, before you regret it!”
“Me?”, she laughed in pride. “All your warriors are in chaos down there, a matter of time for the other captives to come here and beat you to death! Unless >I< do so before…” The guard quickly raised his gun, preparing for fire, without any word. He knew he could not respond in a way that would resolve this conflict. She smirked. She was definitely not aware, what to expect exactly from the weaponry of his opponent, but slowly contracting her eyes and focusing on every little motion, she was about to jump and fight. He was afraid, though. The young guard was self-aware enough to know his boundaries, and it was not the first time he became scared of an enemy being clever enough to show threatening. He did not even have the desire to shoot down such a fine lady, either, and as a result, the rifle was shaking in his hands. Eventually, while being sure he was not going to get a proper and meaningful answer, shouted:
“Who the hell are you, anyway?!” - his panicking sound told on its own that he had serious stress due to the situation.
“Hah!”, she laughed. “Since when the likes of you care about prisoners like me?”
“I- I don’t, I just gave you a chance to identify yourself before applying violence.”
“Hah!”, she laughed again. She was totally convinced at this point, that his enemy is confused any panicking. “So you still think I can be one of you? You’ve got to be kidding me…” - all she was waiting for is his first mistake. There was no room for any at this point, however. After some extra moments, during which both realized the fight will begin soon, the tattooed girl took a huge step closer.
“Do not approach, I said!”, the guard responded, with preparing his gun. The girl smirked one last time, deliberately holding her stick low, and made a final step.
To be continued…