Teeth [excerpt] – Ryan Kelley

4. Seriana :: Sane Vibes


Smeared earthworms. Paled knuckles clutching spring orchids as she studies her shoe. Royal violet dress. These and other memories for sale to girl-roids via their promethNET hub.

The neuroNET was tested for a reason. Interlacing a whole City of otaku could have ended in sick ultraviolence. Before there was the neuroNET, there was promethNET, and it’s what the girl-roids were left with.

Left with though promethNET is strange and full of harm.

So Seriana bypasses the market screen with a steady blinking pattern and flips out to geo-spatial tracking.

“It was an ANIMUS,” Kaye says. “Just scan for those. It’s all good.”

Not Seriana’s to ask how Kaye knows. Something in the way of reading Onii-Gaisha’s eyes like a paperback. How can a God be used like that? But Kaye is sure, and when she’s sure, she’s right.

So Seriana reads the digital context fast and pulls herself out of promethNET. Gives a soft cry as the data bleeds away, seeps into the physical world one cut at at time. Tattered the moment before it’s gone. The skeins of fate, she thinks, brazen, tempting sane-vibe failure. So easy to give in. To let it all go and spiral her mind-map into the trillions of divine nodes beyond the starfields. Waiting for her. Aren’t they?

“It’s hardwired,” Seriana says. “In my head.”

“Stay faithful,” Kaye says.

Seriana nods.

Then she wings.


5. Elise :: Dead Seeds


She dreams. Her heart taps out a surrender code and she’s gone.

Later she’ll wonder about the heartbeat coda that takes her away. Does it fuck with her veins? The blood flow stops and starts in a pattern, after all. Veins were not designed for patterns. They know one rhythm. The body depends on each cell in the megacosm getting it right.

She dreams, and in her dream she’s before the Black Shrike. What else to dub it? Its feathers are slick with spores and tar black oil. The dankness affronts her in waves of shock and fury. How has she failed this hard?

The Black Shrike sings its song. A heavy song, thick with the sludge and reverb of the Kabuki-Maids, but without the atonement in melody. It abrades. Seems to line her mind with blades that pick away at her thoughts. Exhume them so nothing is left but the pits. The dead seeds. The aches less their flesh-fat growths of wishing-well fantasies.

Elise aches as the Black Shrike sings.

“That’s enough,” she says. The Black Shrike doesn’t listen. When has it ever? Except it’s never been this dark. There’s never been so much at stake.

The ground she stands on is barren. Blasted as if by neutrino bomb. Her feet are bare. The glassed stone digs into her with each breath.

“Please stop,” Elise says. “I don’t want you.”

The song surges into a harsh noise wall, thick with static and reverb. The black gloop runs in cascades through the down. Plaits tufts in sickly clumps of paste as the Black Shrike’s chest heaves. Elise waits for that bliss, the moment when her dreaming brain tunes this to B.G., but it never comes. She’s there with it under her skin, feeling the noise beckon something within her. A hellish puke. Horrid effuse through her vein walls, reaching her skin cells. Her skin sips her guts.

Death wears her skin like warpaint.

Death wears her skin still as she blinks light into waking being. She awakes to the Kabuki-Maid song, seeking what’s left of her. Knowing her remnants aren’t enough. Not enough because the fantasy beats her heart now. Will for the decades of her life. Through them the dark pattern will gnarl its myth into all she touches. The stained physical world to turn over and repeat. All blooms her years find will wither in abscess until she’s left with a frail, broken body frothing its own cuts and bleeds with spit.

Onii-Gaisha drools his hentai spit in dreams. Push ’em away. The Kabuki-Maids have gathered in the centre of ANIMUS. Apart from them, Elise is all alone. The sippers fled. Out there somewhere beyond the force field, maybe sleeping now, comfy, sheeted.

But they’ve seen the devil’s face, the look in the girl-roid eyes, and felt her soft touch. All of them now plagued by Mold. Just as Osa wanted. He had it all figured out, she thinks. Knew I’d want Shimmy Juice the moment I left. Sippers, frail in the static shock of enthohol, now saints in Osa’s crusade.

Her Shimmy Juice glass is empty, light twisting through it tattered by smears. What sticks in Shimmy has caught, marked its presence, the rest finding her throat. She hadn’t known she’d drank. Her heart must have thrown the world away, keeping it on that trash level your brain averts its gaze from. That level where fetii twist from embryos to escape the insects. Elise’s seen wraiths from that world before. Dead souls refuse heights and show off the wreckage of their choice to fall.

It’s a choice to fall no matter how you die.

“I’m leaving,” Elise tells the girl-roids. They remain crouched in a huddle. Keep their looks from her as she approaches the force field.

It flickers off for her and then she’s gone.