Saturday, January 13, 2007

Terrors at the Tower's Top

The Sears Tower was no longer Earth’s tallest building, its lofty claim long usurped by a wave of pretenders from Far Eastern nations hungry to prove themselves. But in a pinch, it would do.

It was a clear autumn day, the light yellow and knife-sharp, the sky painfully pristine blue save for a line of dark clouds building and boiling out above the lake. Had anyone with binoculars or a long enough lens cared to, they could have looked to the very top of the Sears Tower and seen two men standing atop it, without safety harnesses or any other visible precautions, gazing from its precipice across the expanse of the city in the curious, indifferent manner of tourists.

“It’s rude to suck your teeth,” Operator Vore sighed, without looking at his comrade.

“Oh,” Operator Grin said, poking stubby fingers beneath the brim of his hunter’s cap to scratch at an itchy place on his scalp. “Is that what they’re called?” He resumed sucking at his teeth for a few moments, a wet, dental sound, and then casually spat a thin stream of something purplish-red over the side of the building.

Twelve stories below, the wind caught it and blew it back against the glass of the building. Where it hit the window, it sizzled and smoked for more than a minute.

“Funny what that guy in the hat said,” Operator Grin observed. “About how we couldn’t come up here.”

Operator Vore nodded. “And yet, here, we are. I attribute it to a failure of imagination on his part.”

Operator Grin chuckled, and picked a splinter of human bone out from his teeth, hissing and sizzling corrosively, and flicked it away. “He also said, ‘No, no, don’t eat me.’”

“And yet...” Operator Vore began, and nodded once again. “It’s come a long way, hasn’t it? The city, I mean. Even the Kroatan would be impressed.”

“I like that one,” Operator Grin said, pointing at a blood-red skyscraper just a few blocks away. “On account of the color.”

“I like to picture it all on fire,” Operator Vore replied, and smiled thinly.

I am large, Walt Whitman wrote. I contain multitudes. Had he ever encountered Operators Vore and Grin -- at least in the brief seconds before Operator Grin was licking his grimy fingers and hacking up cottony tufts of white beard, catlike -- he would have realized just how accurate that particular statement was.

If you could put either Operator inside an MRI machine, or even an X-ray, two outcomes would result.

For one, a glance at the results would drive you completely and irrevocably insane.

For another, in the brief instants before your every neural connection audibly shorted out from an onslaught of information that the human brain was simply not designed to process, you might have been able to make a simple observation: They were larger on the inside than on the outside.

Yes, the shapes they wore were indisputably human -- had, indeed, once been human, prior to circumstances best not imagined. (Suffice to say that, at some point in the recent past, two otherwise ordinary and anonymous members of the human race had each had an extremely bad, and unexpectedly abbreviated, day.) But the strange life that now boiled and undulated inside each animate bag of skin, hair, and teeth was as far from human imagining as possible, and half again more.

“Invisible jet,” Grin said, punching Vore in the upper shoulder. Vore’s lips pursed, and his eyelids half-descended in annoyance.

“Where?” Vore asked, squinting in the direction of Grin’s outstretched finger. “Oh, I see it. Fascinating. You think that’s the other ones?”

“Look,” Grin replied. “If I close one eye and make my picking-up-or-pointing things go like this, it looks like I’m crushing it. Crushy crushy crushy!”

“I don’t know why I talk to you,” Vore sighed.

“I think it has something to do with your tongue,” Grin said. “And your -- whaddyoucallem -- teeth, maybe.”

Vore sighed again. This was going to be a very long assignment.

Thunder rumbled, distant and digestive, from the black armada of building thunderheads to the east. A new wind swept over the city, and Vore breathed it in, sampling it with organs that were not, in the strictest sense, a nose or lungs. He smiled once more, showing teeth.

“Oho,” he said. “That’s new. I think we’re about to have company.”

“Crushy,” Grin said, in elongated chewing-gum syllables, squinting at the distant invisible plane, pinching at nothingness. “Crushy crushy.”

1 comment:

Matthew said...

Damn you! I was going to write pulp fiction about Tom Morrow! (A name I thought I had come up with and which hadn't been used before). (And I'm sure other people have used the name at times too.)

In fact I actually had written some, but most of it disapeared when my mac book died about a year ago.

Anyway, I'll keep working on my stuff and I'll try to read what you've read : )

Good luck.