1. It was after I ate the sixth brain that it began to dawn on me you really are what you eat. The first two had belonged to a plumber and his wife; both had mediocre intelligence. The next four I stumbled across hiding in the university; all of them were professors and highly intelligent. Upon scooping the physicist's grey matter into my mouth it dawned on me that I was not only consuming their brains - but intelligence too. I was fast becoming the most intelligent zombie walking the Earth.
2. Of course, barring happy accidents, intelligent people are harder to catch. I quickly came to see that to ensure my continued . . . survival might not be the word . . . my continued continuance, I would be forced either to participate in an encephalic arms race or to blunt and dissipate my newfound intelligence in the pursuit of brains scarcely worthy of the name. I permitted myself a lipless (and therefore mostly mental) smile at the thought that I was also becoming a connoisseur.
3. I remember the day I wandered into the assessment clinic the morning of my twenty-fifth birthday. I had awoken to a vid message telling me today was my special day, and to report to my nearest assessment clinic by 2PM. Trepidation filled me immediately; this would decide what I did and who I was for the rest of my life. I had always considered myself above my classmates and workmates all my life; except for the few whom I know had carried the mark of assessment. But my life was about to change and I faced my fear and entered the clinic.
4. White coats and fever, a crowded corridor. Above, a faulty fluorescence flickered; through the hatch the hatchet-faced receptionist scowled. My name? Unimportant. My d.o.b., ah yes, you are here for the reckoning.
5. Hatchell is the name. Atcheson Hatchell. I'll thank you to remember I was not born yesterday. In between the flickers I recall the future. That's when it all started.
6. I never wanted to be a messenger, but I know now why my eyes were opened. The visions persist and they come with more frequency. Being merciful, it seemed better to keep my mouth shut. I suppose that I can begin by telling you this: there is no reason to envy the wise.
7. I can see better with my eyes sewn shut. When the visions take over, a raging fire begins in the pit of my stomach, then consumes everything. The cries of women and children echo in my ears. The only thing untouched by the fire is a small narrow tunnel, miles below the earth, one that leads into the orifice of my soul. There is a distant voice belonging to the child I once was -- he is saying, "Father, they know nothing."
8. And we all know nothing, because we see the stars above and try to pray-shake secrets out of them; we stand in darkness and think we see; we call from mountaintops, alone, and expect people to listen or even to hear. Fire burns in me for truth, for knowledge, but the truth is there is no knowledge that could settle me. I am tossed and I turn, and the voices inside rattle still. Father, they know nothing. Father, make me blind.
9. Hey! did I say right away? Did I even say my prayer was otherwise than rhetorical? Boy! watch every word you speak around a revengeful God/father/demiurge or what? That was an astoundingly powerful sunset, no doubt in part responsible (those violets, purples! flaming reds!) for the mood of melancholy in which I prayed for of all things blindness. In truth sight is one of my two or three favourite senses.
10. In a sense, truth is what He seeks: He reflects back what it is we all want. He is the powerful sunset, or He is nothing. From beyond the cosmic horizon, He sighs privately and tweets: I am not here to give you all the answers. I am Jehovah. Not Google.
11. The Latvian put out his cigarette and said, "Bah. You think hell is all fires and little devils. It is not. It is cables, thousands and thousands and thousands of miles of cables. Like under the sea, but empty."
12. Then he lit another cigarette. And waited for a response. He waited for a long time, smoking. And when none came, he put the cigarette out in the palm of his left hand, and raised his right eyebrow, then stitched it to its twin, and said again: "Cables."
13. He closed his eyes. Under the dark chamber's lone light bulb, the scars of his face deepened to cragged mountains. From the palms of his hands, from the pit of his abdomen began to uncurl glows of cords. Faint at first, they grew thicker in their luminance, silver speckled with rainbow colors, to cables that wavered and danced together, reaching further and further through the blackness. Suddenly one cable flew from the others, wildly flailing, the end turning into a gryphon's head, tongue lashing at the figure bound in the rickety chair.
14. When, by the shimmering light of the cables, the spectators identified the seated figure as a naked woman of lusty proportions, a roar of excitement rose from their collective throats. Terrorized by the eerie wailing of the gryphon and the susurrating disturbance of the air caused by the flailing cables, the bound and blindfolded figure rocked back and forth until, with a deafening CRACK! the chair collapsed. Freed from the chair's constraints but still bound hand and foot, she rolling to the edge of the precipice, her hands struggling like frenzied asps to free themselves. A hush fell over the onlookers as the woman teetered on the razor's edge of the abyss. Then her hands broke from their bindings and, snatching away the blindfold, she leaped to her feet, her fierce Amazonian musculature rippling beneath the ripely-turned surface of her flesh, her blond hair streaming in the cosmic wind, her voice howling with rage at the universe.
15. She gazed out at the crowd, turning from face to face, from eye to hungry eye, with an expression of unutterable sadness. A tense, viscous silence descended on the stadium as her baleful gaze turned from emperor to serf to cleric to market trader. And something in her stare made those assembled feel that though she was unclothed, it was they who stood naked before her. Finally she spoke. 'Is this all you've got', she asked.
16. A murmur passed from mouth to ear, as if they expected her words to have an immediate effect. Instead the sun continued to beat down upon her skin, discolouring it even further as the minutes crept by. Then, as the first drop of cinnamon-scented rain fell upon her cheeks and she began to shiver, she felt a shudder of sympathy under her feet. The crowd roared in approval as the ground below her opened up and she slid down the giant petal into the bowl of the gargantuan flower. 'Beauty can be so ugly up close,' she thought, wiping pollen from her hair and eyes.
17. But as every grain adhered
and voices were packed in wax
to sustain her later on.
Both the sun and moon were waning
and the moth guides all but gone.
They have left their fine cocoons
spun from the strongest silken thread.
And now its up to her to find
her way inside her head.
18. Find her way inside her head. The words shook her. Was it true she'd lost her way-when the moth guides emerged in their glory from their cocoons and loomed over her at their full height, and she'd all but swooned? She brushed a palm across the silken cocoons, still warm where they had been torn apart. This is madness, surely?
19. Or not, she thought. This was not madness, after all. The madness was outside on the street where they had laid that blue tarpaulin, hiding the street, saying that it was an urban surprise. She only saw it once she walked on it for the first time and realized only then that she was going a little mad.
20. There had been a sense of fluidity to it, the blue of that tarpaulin like the surface of an immense ocean that had flooded the street, sweeping all before it, with strange creatures feeding on the flesh of crucified matelots as they were carried past her by the racing current. And in that moment, walking on the water, madness had first entered, opening a door into her consciousness and daintily stepping over the threshold, a dandified gentleman caller with eyes downcast and cap in hand, intent on seduction. By the time she set foot on dry land, she was already as one of the lost.
21. He raised his painted eyebrows at her, reaching over in his three piece suit to grab the edge of the tarpaulin, pulling on it and folding, pulling and folding, until the entire metaphor of that immense ocean was packed in a tight blue square. And still he folded, that square getting smaller, brighter, bluer, until all that had swept her here could be held in the palm of his perfumed hand. Rubbing both palms together, grimacing at his effort, he spread his hands apart, the square transformed into a ball of blinking blue eyes. "Lay on your back, spread your thighs, bite on your index finger while I work this ball of eyes up inside you." She did as she was told, watching the ball of rolling eyes as they were brought further and further up between her thighs, their black pupils reflecting the same image a dozen times, an image of her she had before only been able to see with a carefully tilted, pink-rimmed mirror.
22. And then the sphere of eyes became a tower which, vanishing into her inmost depths, revealed to her and her strange lover all things, as if they stood both inside and outside themselves. Suddenly he was struck blind and her voice sounding above him seemed a hundred miles distant, saying "I dreamt that we were on a sinking boat on an ocean, but now it seems that we are white doves fluttering between towers on a high fertile plain." He moved his hands and thrashed his feet as if to escape her crushing grip but found instead that his black suit blossomed and decayed into the wings and armour of an immense black beetle. "I feel as though I am the umbrella of a Victorian opium addict lost in the elaborately tiled corridors of his gentleman's club in Hyderabad, about to be sentenced to public castration for my illicit collection of young girl's smiles preserved in elaborately-carved ivory chests filled with cherry brandy, help me!" "Alas…" she replied, "all is lost, for snow has fallen in my heart as delicately as the fine-dust of a carpenter's workshop and I am an abandoned sleigh in a remote Russian village whose planks long to receive the dreams of a team of exhausted Huskies who have travelled all night through immense areas of cold darkness."
23. And so the beetle and its skulking bride are cast in dusk as love's light dissolves to vespers. "Have I not sacrificed even the weather of my heart for you?" asked the beetle. "Have I not made of myself a desert for your merciless sun to beat upon ... with now my final reward to be the flight from me of my own very humanity, the sole possession of mine I had thought I could not lose?" "You have," said the girl tenderly, as she crawled beneath the shelter of its carapace to snuggle firm into its crackling flesh, "you have utterly destroyed yourself for me, or at the very least permitted that destruction, and yet it is not my fault that love is nothing but a swiftly dissipating mist of rays in an infinitely dark Creation, and it is assuredly not my fault that in your secret heart you have so cravenly coveted those girlish treasures that belonged to others, even while you proffered to me your proclamations of enduring and inalienable affection. Only damnation fulfills perversity and cowardice, such is Eternity's law upon us, as it always has been, as it always will be."
24. The insect beetle could not bear anymore of this and with his final bit of magical power he transformed himself with a loud banging sound into an ivory white VW Beetle, its size, color and character the very opposite of the tiny black malicious insect he once was. When the air was no longer vibrating with the deafening sound and when the blown up dust slowly settled down again, one could see that the girl had not survived the sudden transformation of her lover, she was crushed beneath the bonnet made of rusty steel. The beetle could not mourn her, his destination and priorities now lay elsewhere. Still carrying the body, not being able to get rid of it without help, he started his engine and moved on, longing for a life less complex and less dark than the one he left behind. A nice breeze, sunshine and a meandering road through the pine forest were hopeful signs of this, and feeling better than he had for ages he pulled a face at Eternity's law.
25. However, Eternity's law had been proved, and tested, in billions of case studies and as his travels continued the rotting corpse of his lover putrefied and returned to its exquisite blend of juices and chemical soup -- a heady cocktail that did not mix well with his petrols, oils and metals. Within days he was losing speed, finding his gears cranking up hill and down dale, his tyres sticking to the tarmac, and it was increasingly difficult to see the road ahead for the swirl of bluebottles that clouded his windscreen in anything but the strongest of breezes. He came to a halt four miles from a service station that might have offered salvation. Over the coming centuries his metal carcass disintegrated and crumbled and people began to make up new stories about his existence. But then one day Eternity's law was disproved by a gifted mathematics student from Dudley and the universe blinked out of existence, and everyone could breath a sigh of relief that that was all over and done with.
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2. Sara Bickley
3. Daniel Tannenbaum
4. Steve Dodd
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7. Kyle Hemmings
8. Adam Lowe
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