Late evening, darkness falling
It wasn’t really a town, only a bleaker neighbourhood in a bleak city. And across its busy Centre Street, lined with shabby carts, a threadbare sex trade, dead storefronts and hawkers, was strung a multitude of crackle screens, like paper lanterns hanging over a once brighter Chinatown, each screen with the face of the Chief Victor, leader of the Federated States, speaking, all day every day, assuring the People of the brightest and winningest of futures, interrupted only by advertisements.
Noah Bones leaned against a brick wall at a corner, sipping cheap street cart tea from a paper cup, watching an advert for a sugar confection called Pokyfun, a thin brightly wrapped bar of cheap genetically modified carob gown in rooved-over reclaimed asbestos mines in the irradiated Western Wastes, and tempered with hydrogenated pork fat, paraffin and microcrystalline wax.
The ad consisted of a bald mustachioed man in an orange pinstriped suit and purple tap-shoes capering madly across a stage to frenzied music with a Pokyfun bar in each hand as a line of scantily clad dancing girls in gold lame kicked and smiled deliriously behind him.
“Pokyfun,” the mustachioed one finally shouted, as confetti fell, bright coloured lights flashed and strafing jet fighters flew across the length of the stage on green screen, dropping napalm on fleeing victims, “it‘s the Chief Victor’s favourite bar!”
Then after a snowy pause, the Chief Victor himself appeared on screen to deliver a brief pre-recorded message, one viewed and heard by millions ad nauseam.
“I smell dog on the air,” he said, his creased pastel expression hardening, his small hands gripping the podium top. “Underground influences, enabled by Koslov himself, have delivered sham tidings. Koslov, the enemy. He’s the heaviness you feel. The promise of thunder, rumours of disaster. He’s what estranges us and isolates you, and why long ago I intervened on your behalf, placing all art and expression under my gracious care. Fake dispatch is a disease that weakens the Greater Plan, and undermines the righteous authority of your Great Leader—sad.”
“He’s stopped ad libbing,” said a man coming to stand next to Noah, and lighting a cigarette, the smoke mingling with the stagnant odour of Rabble Town.
“That’s old news, Markus,” Noah said, sipping his tea. “I’m not even sure it’s him anymore. Suddenly he’s downright eloquent. He must be being handled by some spook in the background. On the other hand, maybe he’s retired to some tropical island, laughing his head off. Or maybe he’s already dead.” Noah pointed at the image on the screen. “Maybe this is an automaton or data generated.”
“Then what’s the point of this meeting?”
“The point is that we’re here,” Noah said, “like we promised we’d be. The point is that Dr Vlad promised he’d be here too, sometime close to dark.”
Marcus sneered, “I don’t trust that little queer.”
“It’s too late for that. We needed an insider disenchanted with the Plan, and Vlad’s definitely that. He’ll be our push against their shove. Besides, Sylvia M says he’s on the square. That’s good enough for me.”
“I don’t trust her neither,” Markus said. “Vlad’s her little slave. There’s something kinky going on there. Plus he’s a puny little zealot, and I bet he’ll be cashing in big if we pull this off. While we’re sent packing with just a pay cheque.”
The video on the screens hanging above and down the length of Centre Street distorted for a second, the sound crackling noisily as the Chief Victor’s image disappeared, replaced by a manic ad for hand soap, featuring battle tanks and missile silos.
“And don’t forget,” said Noah Bones, “we’re just the hired guns. We aren’t the thinkers. That means that we—you—can leave anytime.”
“No,” Markus said. “We can’t. We’re in too deep now, know too much. If any of us left now, he or she’d be dead in a day.”
“Then why not just enjoy the ride?” came a voice from behind them, as small well-dressed man stepped out of a shadow cast by a street light. “We’re plotting history here. You’ll be heroes soon.”
“Or in a corpse pile,” said Markus, “awaiting trial, post-mortem.”
“Heroically dead, then,” said Dr vlad. “What’s not to love?”
Noah Bones is a story written in short chapters, not quite flash fiction. This due to the fact that I now have a real job, and less time for writing.