Publicat Duminică, 20 August 2006, ora 11:46
The door slid, uncovering the girl’s slim silhouette.
To all appearances preoccupied to examine the weapons peddler’s market stall, Ucid saw her with the tail of his eye and he heaved a sigh of relief.
“This is what you wanted, isn’t it, sir?” the peddler precipitated, and Ucid saw in his own hand a bio-energetically-commanded knife. At first, he was glad because his uncontrolled sigh or relief passed for a sigh of satisfaction for finding the desired weapon. But then he realized that meant he had to buy the knife; for a fraction of a second, he made wry face remembering the low number of credits he could still use for sundries.
The trained eye of the man from the other side of the market stall didn’t escape Ucid’s grimace.
“ Don’t worry, sir, the prices of my weapons are – dear me! – more than reasonable! “
Ucid’s eyes sparked; the peddler called him ‘sir’ for the second time, though he probably observed, from the first, that Ucid hadn’t the coming of age sign. Have it been the usual well-balanced servility of the guild, or the other one saw in him a young man perfectly gifted to harmonize with the society?
The second supposition increased Ucid’s self-confidence and cheered him up to look without reticence towards the ‘prey’ he hankered after.
The girl continued to remain standing on the doorstep, as if she was getting wind of danger.
“What the fuck, her apartment could have had no observation systems?”
“She’s very beautiful”, the peddler said, as if he tried to justify the girl’s excessive prudence.
How easily he gave himself away! A wave of fury made Ucid’s blood throb in his temples. Simultaneously, he was assailed by the hate against the indiscreet that dared to follow his eyes. As if executing an order, a knife, which was the very image of the one he held in his hand, sprang out from his pocket and stopped a millimeter far from the peddler’s neck. The man shouted and went down on his knees.
Around them, everyone became silent an Ucid suddenly felt everybody stared at him. He observed that even the girl had quitted the illusory protection of the door and had got a few steps nearer.
“Armed robbery!” the peddler mumbled, trying to look as full of enthusiasm as possible. “It’s a promising beginning, sir! Do you wish my entire wares, or only a part? Tell me, and I’ll immediately adapt to your bio-field all the weapons you want!”
The audience grumbled as if disappoint. Also surprised by the lack of resistance, Ucid really looked at the other one for the first time. He was old, pale like death - and without any sign on his temple! The man had turned white, but hadn’t come of age! Moreover, he had obtained no favorable point!
That’s why he called Ucid ‘sir’! That’s why he boasted with the more than reasonable prices of his weapons! He was an inefficient man, and such people were not allowed to earn more than was necessary for the lowest standard or life. A single man’s life! They couldn’t support a family. Not an earthly!
“You have so many witnesses!” the peddler continued to mumble. “No doubt that you’ll obtain a point! You know, don’t you, that a single point it’s all you can obtain killing a wretch like me!”
The people around them laughed. Ucid even distinguished a tuneful trill and imagined it belonged to the girl he hunted after. However, all of a sudden, the show aroused his pity. Such an intense pity as the knife noticed it, withdrew its blade making a noisy bang and returned into the pocked that it had emerged from.
“God bless you for it!” the old man whispered. ”Let the fortune always smile upon you!”
The crowd buzzed with displeasure.
“Milksop!” an old elegant woman said emphatically. A few people sniggered. The other ones only mimed their disapproval and, abruptly loosing their interest, they came back to their own businesses.
For a moment, the gill stood still, but, when Ucid tried to catch her eyes, she turned her back upon him and she took herself off in a hurry.
Ucid threw the knife he had held in his hand all the time on the market stall, flung over his shoulder an excuse (“Sorry, man, I’ll buy it some other time!”) and ran for the girl who was about to disappear in the crush.
He has been following her for five days. Why? Not even him really knew that. Nobody was allowed to have a woman of his own before coming of age. As to an under age girl’s rape, it would help him to obtain only three more points. Three, when he needed at least nine for his coming of age! No doubt, the stake was too insignificant. It is true that he’d like to enjoy that young sexy body, but… Well, he wouldn’t like to obtain it by force; he’d prefer her to offer it to him. He had heard that sometimes the rape could be only a put-up affair, but he knew he was to shy, he wouldn’t dare to accost her and to shock her with such a suggestion!
On the other hand, the rape and the killing of the victim would solve everything: the coming of age, the status of a citizen having all the civic rights, the marriage… The marriage with a girl as young and thirsted for live as that one; that one who, at that time, should be dead – stabbed, strangled, poisoned, burned…? He could choose any method, more or less elegant, more or less subtle… Theoretically, he was a master over the art of killing! Theoretically…
“It’s as easy as ABC!” he had always been told. “Your bio-field starts the weapons and then they serve your passions. You only have to hate, they‘ll kill.”
As easy as ABC?! He hated the harmless peddler for a second, sufficiently for bringing the blade near his throat, insufficiently for commanding it to cut, to pierce. And then, damn! he took pity on that old man, sufficiently for turning the weapon into a harmless thing!
As for the girl, he wanted her, he felt himself urged on to attack her. But she also had weapons (it would have been a nonsense to run the risk walking alone and unarmed) and his aggression would certainly wake up her hate. There was always easy to invert the parts; he could have become the victim, he could have been the dead one. Dead before the coming of age! His mother would have cursed him for that!
He was only a few steps behind the girl when she suddenly turned to him, breaking apart his mixed up thoughts. He tried to leave her behind indifferently, but she pressed his arm, smiled to him and moved off the locks that covered her left temple, as if she was doing it accidentally. Ucid started. Instead of the three tiny red points he noticed the day before, on her temple there was a winding thin line, like a small bloody thread – the coming of age sign!
Therefore, she played a trick on somebody, the women’s since Adam trick: they go out of doors, fuss around a guy, make him lose his head, he attacks – and the woman’s hate, or only her indignation, kills just when the man considers her defeated and defenseless.
“I should have got into hot water unless she had entrapped another guy, probably last night… And now, what does she want from me?” he wondered while she was turning her back upon him for the second time.
All of a sudden, he understood - and he began to follow her again.
“Now she’s of age – she’s of ten points. Rape her, boy, and the coming of age is yours! Piece of cake, boy! Ten points at once, and all of them for you, who have only the single one you have obtained when three, strangling your next-door neighbor’s cats! Yes, yes, rape her, boy; she invited you (do you understand? she proposed the put-up affair!). Then you may keep her, she can’t belong to anyone else, she’s of age for less than a day - she can’t be married!
Follow her, boy, she invited you, squeeze through the crowd, run, keep an eye on her, see that she caught an expressway cabin, don’t stand gaping, elbow your way, get another expressway cabin, program it correctly for the pursuit…”
Her expressway cabin stopped in front of The Museum and Ucid felt he was sweating when he saw her getting down and making her way to the entrance. For a second, he decided to leave all in a lurch, but, in that very moment, she turned to him and stared full in his face, and Ucid didn’t know if her smile meant both mockery and incitement, or only mockery, or only incitement… but he left his cabin and stepped behind her through the gate.
He had never entered The Museum before, but he knew nobody was allowed to go further than waiting room without replacing all his bio-energetically-commanded weapons with the rudimentary traditional ones, which were set working not by the agile subconscious, but by the movement of the hand, a movement commanded by the slow conscious mind. And, when your hate can’t persuade your knife to stick into your adversary, how could your poor judgment order it to do this?
“Under age guys aren’t allowed to go in”, the woman at the reception desk told him. “An under age guy’s credits don’t cover the price of an access ticket.”
Rather relieved than disappointed, Ucid wanted to back out, but the girl hurried to interfere:
“He’s my guest. I pay for him. I think I have this right!”
“Of course, madam”, the woman said, with the smile of an accomplice.
The girl chose off-hand some traditional weapons, and Ucid imitated her. Then the woman let them in.
The girl took his hand.
”We are in The Museum now; we must walk like lovers did in the old days.”
Embarrassed, Ucid stared. He had never heard the word ‘lovers’ before, but he didn’t dare to say he didn’t know its meaning. He contented himself with using his other hand to touch the weapons he had chosen: the knife, the gun and the machine gun.
“My name is Eve”, she said again. “You aren’t the single one who has never been here before. But I suppose we both know all that’s necessary about this place.”
Ucid answered with a nod.
“Let’s go by train”, she suggested – and he repeated the silent approval.
They went through what seemed to be an old fashioned square and entered a crowed railway station. Ucid started to tremble and got the goose flesh when, among scantily dressed and languorous eyed women, grasping eyed men and sly eyed old fogies, he saw lots of monstrous mutants, hideously disfigured. He knew they were the descendants of the degenerates born after The War; banished in the Museums and walled in; their lineage was dying out, slowly and spectacularly cut off by diseases and weapons. Happily, the few people not altered by The War had been hardy and prolific and they had succeeded in repopulate the earth.
Immune from that odd place, Eve unsheathed her knife and slit her own blouse and her own skirt, showing both her bosom and her left thigh.
“ We must suit the occasion’, she explained, with a careless smile.
Her gesture attracted dozens of covetous eyes.
Ucid felt insomuch indignant as he rejoiced he hadn’t his bio-energetically-commanded weapons. This time he would have killed; beyond all doubt, he would have killed her! On the other hand, the sight of female flesh made him to exceedingly wish to throw her down, on the dirty cement, and to possess her there, under the stared out eyes of those disgusting creatures. And he would have done it if he had been in his world, not in that Museum where the custom of not interposing between aggressor and victim was never observed.
He contented himself with seizing her arm and pulling her, almost dragging her along, towards the platforms where old–fashioned trains stopped one by one, prompting the possible passengers with wide opened doors. He set eyes on a rather empty coach and lifted Eve in. Then he pushed her into an empty compartment and locked the door, hoping that its antiquated bolt was a strong one.
“O.K., boy! Now you’re alone – and it would be better for you to disarm her!”
Still gasping, he propped up his gun on her ribs.
“ Throw all you weapons through the window! Now!”
“Are you nuts?” she huffed, not at all scared. “Didn’t you notice I put up no resistance? Why should I throw them?! We might be in great need of them!”
“Do you really want to die?” Ucid insisted. “I’ll enjoy your dead body; it will be still warm!”
“Dear me!” she minced. “And how are you going to kill me, lover of the dead? Just like you killed the weapons peddler?”
She smiled - both mockery and incitement, there was no doubt! Resigned, Ucid let the gun down a second before her knee hit him unexpectedly. He roared, curled up and, instinctively, put his hands over his painful balls.
She laughed, raked the bolt with her machine-gun fire, tore up her blouse for good and started to scream jerkily, while she was hitting the walls with the butt.
The uproar allured about ten mutants, who jostled one another on the doorstep and stopped, hesitating, goggling their eyes at the still curled up man, at the pretty naked woman, at the straggled weapons.
Ucid thought his last hour has just arrived and imagined himself dying foolishly, being lynched by a horde of degenerates for a lame rape; a rape which he didn’t at first wanted to carry out, which he had then taken for a put-up affair – and which had ended by transforming him into a ridiculous puppet.
The frights were still hesitating, giggling, when two huge guys – a long-bearded one, with his loose-flowing hair braided in tens of rachitic queues, and a beardless one, with his skull as sweat as it could be – made way for themselves hitting out.
The long-bearded one dashed against Eve and, to all appearances making no effort, knocked her over one of the two couches.
Ucid was about to rise to his feet and to take back his machine-gun, but a blow with the beardless guy’s fist overthrew him, curled up again, on the opposite couch. As if he was dreaming, he heard the rustle of the skirt the long-bearded one was tearing as laughing, the beardless one’s incited wheeze, the bystander mutants’ squeak and, at last, the woman satisfied moan.
All the hate in the world made his eyes grow dim, knotted in his throat, coiled itself up in his stomach and erupted, strengthening his muscles, usurping his judgment.
As all the others were fascinated by the linked pair, unobserved, he groped, found and took the machine-gun, passionately slammed the beardless one’s skull, cut away the astounded mutants and turned to the couple on the couch while Eve was yelling “No!” striving to get rid of the long-bearded one’s dead body and to recover the knife she had stabbed him with.
Ucid put down his weapon and helped her. She remained crucified among tatters hanging without covering her, relaxed, smiling – no mockery, only incitement.
The mockery came back when Ucid curled up for the third time, groaning, and vomited for long, like the kid he was many years ago, the kid who had almost belched out his bowels over the killed cats’ carcasses.
The mockery was still there while Eve was that which rose to her feet and shot down, one by one, all the curious persons who were creeping – until the supervisors came to clean the place and to congratulate them on their survival.
Ucid was looking at himself in a glass, examining his left temple; the small red thread –the coming of age sign, knitted with the golden one – the ennobling sign, beautified it. The one who was able to kill in The Museum, with primitive weapons, was always raised to the nobility – if he left that place alive!
“ There is a Museum in each metropolis, and in each Museum, my son, the ancient world is preserved. Or, at least, so it’s supposed to be”, had speechified Ucid’s mother, many a time, in the frequent evenings when he used to watch her inhaling her favorite drug. “Before The War, my son, the bio weapons didn’t exist, and the mob used to lynch the aggressors it caught unawares; as for the victims, they used to leave them in peace, to make fun of them, to rack them, or to kill them, in accordance with their caprices – although those barbarians, my son, used to reprove the arts of killing, of robbing, of raping, of… Well, they used to reprove a lot of things that belong to human nature, restricted all the people in their rights… It was a terrible world, my son, and so it’s now The Museum. As your mother, I advice you to side-step it; but I’d be glad if you dared to go in and if you came out ennobling us - ennobling you, because you’d have succeeded to survive, and ennobling me, because I was the one who carried you in her womb. You know, my son, don’t you, that to take a noble’s life is one of the deadly sins?”
And the old hag was a noble now, Ucid could see her in the glass, she was sprawling in an easy chair, stroking her red-golden sign, which was the very image of both Ucid’s sign and Eve’s sign. Eve was there too. She belonged there, because she was a noble lady; she was his noble wife!
“I paid her a great deal for helping you to come of age and to raise to the nobility”, his mother had confessed as, feeling pins and needles in their just beautified temples, they have been waiting for Eve’s going out from The Territorial Tattooing Surgery. It had been a long confession: about Ucid’s harmless father, who had come of age after she had taken the initiative in feigning a rape and who, afterwards, had lived boringly, never attacking, always standing in the defensive – until she loathed him enough to make him killed by one of her hair pins; about Ucid, the kid, beloved when he had strangled the mewing animals, disowned when, frightened and colorless, he had vomited over them. She would have killed him unless the mother’s instinct - that atavism! - had existed. The same atavism that had made her to be ever more afraid for him, because day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year had gone by, but he had obtained no more points which could bring closer his coming of age, although all the natural impulses were smoldering in his soul – she could fell them with her hart, after all, she was his mother!
She knew he needed a catalyst – and that’s what Eve was!
Eve – her mocking eyes were piercing though the scruff of his neck and she was smiling insolently to his mirrored image.
Maybe one day he’ll hate her, maybe one day he’ll kill her… For the moment he needed her too much – he just realized that he hadn’t yet enjoyed her, that everything had run to fast (the scene in the train, the recognition of their common merits, The Territorial Tattooing Surgery, the proposal of marriage, the official ceremony), that the party (the triple celebration: coming of age, ennobling, wedding) was about to begin, that he still had to wait till Eve would offer him what was his due: the body she incited him with, the body he had wished for and had followed for days.
Soon the first guest appeared, and then more and more others came; a lot of bio weapons already lied in the special protected room – hidden by their tipsy masters’ odd impulses, which could order them absurd attacks.
However, Ucid held a needle launcher – the classic defense weapon – and, unobserved, he left in the middle of the party.
He ran through narrow dark streets (he hadn’t been able to find an available expressway cabin); anyway, the golden sign, a phosphorescent one, protected him against attacks. ‘Kill a noble if you wish to get rid of your luck for ever!’ – few people doubted that!
He arrived at the bazaar late in the day. The most of the peddlers have already left their market stalls after they had armored them. Still, the old man was there, among the ones who didn’t have the heart to interrupt their trade.
Ucid took up a position in front of him, saw that the other one stared at his new sign and understood he had been recognized.
“I am glad, my noble lord”, the old men groveled, “I am glad the fortune smiled upon you, just as I wished!”
“Listen”, Ucid interrupted him, just realizing why he had run to that place, “listen, old men, how could you get old without killing at least a single time?”
“Are you mocking at me, my noble lord?” the peddler stammered.
“Not at all!” Ucid smiled. “I only whish to warn you. I think a lot of people envy your clean temple – and it’s no doubt that someone’s envy will kill you!”
© Copyright Ana Veronica Mircea
|Sursa : Imagikon
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