#Bizarro. #Splatterpunk

Posted: July 18, 2020 in Uncategorized

This is a novella I wrote for Eraserhead Press that wasn’t accepted. Wrote it in 2009 after I talked to Kevin Donihe a few times. Being that it’s old and I have so much material, I’m posting it on here. Hope you enjoy it. It’s called Nuts.

Jeff

NUTS

 

ONE

 

 

The air is hazy. There is dew on the grass. Ty’s hand is stuffed inside the vagina of a cow. It’s slimy inside the cow and logic tells him to get his hand out of there, but he can’t. The cow is monstrous, and he needs a place to hide that moves.

 

 

Carolina laughs at the disgusted expression on his face. “You look like you’re a gynecologist.” “Funny. You’re going to be doing the same thing in a minute.” “True. But I still wish I had a camera.”

 

 

Behind her is an open gate and mammoth cows wander through the opening, off the laboratory’s property. To the east of them is the processing plant. Milk is produced from this smallish structure of brick. A garage is on the other side that houses the garbage trucks for waste disposal. In front of them is the charred husk of the laboratory where the magic happened. Screams of joy and fear travel from different parts of the city. Roller coasters are visible, rising into the sky, and falling down into pits that seem to descend to the center of the Earth.

 

 

Moments ago he inserted a duffel bag of money inside the cow. Now is the time for his body to go inside. With the same look of disgust on his face he shoves his full arm inside the cow and his other arm, takes a deep breath, and pushes his head through. Shimmying through, the only part of him on the outside is his legs, and Carolina pushes them through all the way. Like a worm in wet earth he wiggles over to the duffel bag and touches it. It is warm and wet in the cow. He understands how he felt in his mother’s womb now, a flashback to gestation. Surprisingly, there is enough air to breath.

 

 

“That wet skin against me is turning me on,” Dick says. “You’re sick,” Ty answers. “You’re soaking wet. I like being soaking wet.” “You’re disgusting.”

 

 

The cow is moving. Carolina is leading it through the open gate into the open field that has less green grass and more useless brown dirt and small stones. The road to freedom. The gateway to escape. Ty pulls a cigarette from the pack in his pocket and lights it up. Carolina’s head and shoulders squish through the vaginal opening of the cow and he is surprised, jumping against the roof of the womb, hitting his head, and falling back down with a juicy squish. Carolina’s midsection is stuck, and she is unable to push her legs through, and helpfully Ty tugs on her arms until he falls on top of the duffel bag, and she is all the way through. Her hair is soaked, matted against her scalp.

 

 

“It really stinks in here,” she comments. “Let me hit that cigarette.” “This is how women smell that don’t wash themselves well. You get to find out for yourself.” “I always wash myself thoroughly. You’ll never know, though.” “After all we’ve been through you owe me.” “Never.” “Come on. I’ve paid my dues.” “No.” “Whatever.”

 

 

He passes the soggy cigarette to her and she takes a long puff, and holds it long enough for him to light another one with an irritated click of his teeth. The cow is moving again. Their plan may work. The walls vibrate. They can hear the thundering heartbeat of the cow. Air circulates in and out of its lungs noisily. It’s a guessing game when they will decide to climb out. This plan has to work or they’ll be dead, replaced.

 

 

“Put the moves on her now,” Dick says. “Try harder.” “She doesn’t like men. We’ve been through this. You heard me a minute ago.” “You give up too easily.” “Maybe.”

 

 

“We’re like Bonnie and Clyde,” Ty says sarcastically. “Right. But a lot wetter. How does one end up in the vagina of a cow?” “It’s a long story.”

 

 

TWO

 

 

The getaway. Bags of cash on the backseat of the beige sedan with the dented fender and squeaky brakes. A hostage is in the back with Ty. They sit to the side of the bags of cash. She is comfortable in his presence, uncomfortable with the others who wanted to kill her once they were out of the non-smoking communist city. They are on the superhighway, the no man’s land where law is not enforced, where thieves can escape freely without regulation. The law can follow from a city and apprehend them, but there is no law on the superhighway. A green and tan car pursues them from the communist nonsmoking city, desperate to get the money back.

 

 

“She’s hot,” Dick says. “Make a move on her.” “Now is not the time.” Periodically she looks back at the pursuing vehicle. Periodically Ty does the same. Mr. Fink in the passenger seat is leaning out his window, throwing copper. Mr. Prick navigates at a dangerously high speed through traffic, whipping around cars and cutting cars off. A veteran of seventeen robberies he’d been the driver every time. Ty is known to the pair as Mr. Wink. They found each other on Craig’s List.

 

 

The hostage has her phone on her lap and Ty texts her with his phone. How are you feeling? Scared. I won’t let anything happen to you. You are completely safe. Mr. Prick is a prick. I know. But he can drive his ass off.

 

 

Ty attempts to light a cigarette and she stops him. She punches the keys on her phone. Please don’t. I’ve never been around cigarette smoke before. Okay. Sorry. I’ll wait until you are out of the car. Thanks. You’re much nicer than the others. “You have her,” Dick says. “She’s ours.” He puts his arm around her and peers out the back at the green and tan cars swerving to avoid the bullets spitting from Mr. Fink’s pistol.

 

 

Inexplicably a bullet slices through the windshield and hits the driver and the green and tan car veers into the next lane over, smashes into a large luxury car, and plows over the guardrail thirty feet to the road below. Instantly a gray cloud of smoke rises into the air. On the superhighway there are no paramedics in addition to police and the car is left there to burn out until a motorist or motorists decides to shove the wreckage onto a shoulder or into a field near the tract of superhighway. With the threat of capture gone everyone relaxes, except for the hostage, who leans closer to Ty, snuggling against his shoulder.

 

 

“Okay, we’ll pull up under this coming overpass and settle the money,” Mr. Prick says. “Then we can rape the hostage and let her go.” “We might need her,” Mr. Fink says. “The Gestapo could come again.” “I guess we get her after all,” Dick says privately to Ty and wiggles in his pants. “Not like this,” he says back mentally. “This isn’t right.”

 

 

Mr. Fink lights a cigarette and the hostage’s breathing becomes panicked. “Put that out,” Ty barks. “She’s not used to smoke.” “Fuck her,” he retorts. “We’ll be fucking her shortly,” Mr. Prick adds, overjoyed with the prospect. Surreptitiously Ty sends a message to the hostage. No, they won’t. I won’t let them. And she nods gratefully, leaning her head against his chest.

 

 

Under the overpass the tattered sedan stops in a field of overgrown green grass and they stretch their legs. Whoops of joy eject from Mr. Prick and Mr. Fink. In communist cities money is distributed equally on Fridays to the workers, who each are paid an identical wage regardless of their distinction in their chosen trade. Cruelly the meager wage was stolen by Ty and his partners. Ty suffered there, not smoking for two weeks while they planned the robbery at the money distribution center.

 

 

Despite an insatiable urge to smoke Ty doesn’t because of the hostage. Mr. Prick and Mr. Fink smoke freely. Ty stands in front of the hostage and she covers her mouth and nose with the uppermost portion of her green fatigue shirt. The three robbers wear green fatigues also. That is the custom in the communist city. During the robbery they wore hockey masks and were a cross between Jason Voorhies and Fidel Castro.

 

 

Mr. Prick paces to the car and draws the bags of cash out one by one. Three bags are loaded with roughly two hundred-fifty thousand dollars apiece. Each heavy bag is slammed down roughly on the hood of the tattered sedan and three deep dents are formed. Looking through each bag he shakes his head yes and lifts one at a time to judge the weight. “Seems to me that each bag is even. Now we just pick which bag we want and part ways. Deal.” “Yeah,” Ty and Mr. Fink say in unison.

 

 

Mr. Fink drops his cigarette and crushes it underneath his black steel-toed boot and it ceases to burn. “Stop hiding the hostage, Wink. I want to hang out with her too.”

Ty allows her to stand by his side, not holding her away from Fink, nor handing her over to him. Fink takes her hand and walks over to the back seat of the sedan, whispering in her ear, and she looks back at Ty hopefully. “She wants you,” Dick says. “Don’t share her with these losers.” Fink has his pants down. His thing is aroused. With no subtly he pries the hostage’s fatigue pants open and shoves them down. A pair of green cotton panties is around her crotch with Chairman Mao’s mug on the portion that hides her pubic region. Fink’s gun is out and he slides it against her thighs. Shaking a little he looks insane. Mr. Prick moseys over and fondles her breast through the green bra she wears. They are plump. “I get you wet,” he asks. The situation is evolving into a Clockwork Orange type of situation. Everything in slow motion. Classical music playing in Ty’s head. Igor Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. Someone has to stop them.

 

 

Mr. Prick has his penis out, erect, and rubs it on the hostage’s thigh. Ty takes his gun from the shoulder holster that it rests quietly in and shoots Mr. Prick’s penis off. Not large to begin with the scrap left after the shot is ridiculously useless. Screaming and crying Mr. Prick stumbles away from the hostage, searching the grass for fragments, a whole piece that can be put back on, anything left over. There are only specks of flesh strewn on the grass, on top of blades.

 

 

“Wink, I’m going to kill you.” “Fink, get away from her too. She doesn’t deserve to be raped. Both of you stand over there.” Aggressively he points to a spot on the grass, Fink walks to the designated spot with his head down, and Prick hops along with bloody hands, attempting to use his underwear as a tourniquet to stop the inexorable flow of blood.

 

 

“Keys,” Ty shouts at Prick and Prick throws them over to him. Prick drops to his knees, moaning and crying. The hostage has pulled her pants up and closed her shirt. Cars speed by on the superhighway. Motorists and passengers saw the shooting and have great stories to tell friends, family, and coworkers about when they reach their destinations. Again anything goes on the superhighway. Murder. Rape. Robbery.

 

 

“You’re going to leave us here,” Fink shouts dejectedly. “Yeah. And I’m taking your money. Learn how to treat a lady.” He lifts the heavy bags with one hand. Keeping the gun pointed at Prick and Fink, he motions for the hostage to get in the passenger seat, and she does, and he takes the driver seat, and they speed off, scraping grass off the ground, and leaving tire marks.

 

 

After a few minutes of silence on the road Ty speaks. “That worked out well. Now I have all the money.” Leaning forward she kisses him and Dick sighs, and he kisses her back, barely keeping an eye on the road. Merging into traffic, the tattered sedan gains speed, and he keeps one eye on the road, and navigates around slower vehicles. A few seconds elapse and she is on his lap. “Thank God,” Dick says. “No problem, buddy.”

 

 

Her arms around his neck. Her tongue on his neck. The little hairs rise up. His face between her breasts, motor-boating. His right eye on the road. Dick loose from his pants. The green fatigues down to her ankles. His foot pushes the pedal into the floor and the sedan hits a dangerous speed. Up and down she shifts on top of him. He thinks about asking her name and doesn’t, preferring the mystery. Most of the signs advertise nonsmoking cities and he cringes, seeking a smoking city. Every city is autonomous and has some special feature to lure people there. The turn signal blinks for no reason. People in other cars stare, shaking their heads at the lawlessness of the superhighway. Sex in cars. Unbelievable. Ty gives thumbs up to as many people as possible. Sweat trickles down his cheeks. Between her breasts is a puddle. Between her legs is a puddle. Sweat beads are on the tip of her nose. Orgasm comes and an overwhelming sleepiness. He navigates to a shoulder as cars whiz by and they switch places, and she drives, and he sleeps, trusting that she will take care of him.

 

 

THREE

 

 

Sweaty from sitting under the sun for a long time he wakes and yawns, surveying his surroundings, and sees that he is alone in the tattered sedan. The driver side door is ajar, the key is still in the ignition, and two bags of money are missing. The sedan is out of gas, the key is actually forward, and the engine isn’t running. The car is parked on a grassy median between opposite flows of traffic. To the left of the median is a sign welcoming motorists to a nonsmoking city, and the right side is a sign welcoming people to a smoking city. An easy choice for Ty.

 

 

Walking for a few miles, he strips away his fatigue shirt and lets it fall to the gravelly shoulder of the road he walks down. Even the white t-shirt he has on is too hot, but he leaves it on. The gun is shoved between his belt and lower belly, and the bag of money swings in his hand. Cigarette between his lips he puffs freely, taking in all the nicotine he can, and making up for the two weeks of hell he endured to make this heist.

 

 

The city is called Peacockville. The picture of a familiar woman with orange hair and freckles is on the sign welcoming visitors to the city. There is a gate that stops interlopers from breezing into the city easily. It costs a hundred dollars to enter the city. A woman is inside a booth by the gate, he pays her, and the gate opens. Before he enters she tells him not to lose that ticket or he will be sent from the city. After walking through to the other side another booth is situated in front of him. A man in a black shirt and pants with a red bowtie asks to see his ticket, and rips it in half. Ty is left with a stub that he has to carry with him. A truck is parked near the gate, and money is being loaded into it by two armed guards with badges. Piles of cash that make his eyes wide. It takes several seconds for him to turn his head and continue walking

 

 

The city has no houses, only tall, medium, and small glass buildings. The city itself is an amusement park. Certain rides and attractions are advertised in blinking lights. Crowd favorites. Roller coasters loop around glass buildings. Rollercoaster tracks hover in the air. An artificial waterfall is near him and a boat of people come flying down the waterfall, a fifty foot drop, and the boat splashes into a pool at the bottom, sending water onto the pavement near where he stands. He thinks about the woman on the sign. There is an actress that starred in a bunch of movies named Peacock. Popular twenty years or so ago when she was young and beautiful.

 

 

Men look down at their shoes meekly as they walk. Women stare into his eyes longingly and then at his crotch, mainly at his crotch until he becomes self-conscious, and fidgets, moving the bag of money in front of him. Hideously disfigured people with orange hair are sprinkled around the block, standing out because of their Picasso faces. Asymmetrical eyes, crooked noses and mouths, missing ears, and hands missing fingers. Corporate logos are tattooed on the sides of their faces, necks, and bare arms. Mostly they wear jumpsuits, some the uniforms of fast food restaurants, and others wear colonial garb. This is the same for most of the people on the street.

 

 

Hungry after the long walk he finds a building that houses fifteen fast food restaurants on fifteen floors. It is sandwiched between a place where one can watch talking wax figures portray famous presidents and a place with a killer whale in an enormous glass tank. The killer whale jumps in the air, doing tricks. From the other place he can hear someone proclaiming to be Abraham Lincoln. A flag hangs out of windows on each floor advertising the name of the establishment and the items that can be bought for a dollar. In the air a rollercoaster flies by at a ridiculous speed. Beside the fast food building is an alley filled with homeless people holding boots. A barber shop quartet sings high notes with ease. Each man has a defeated air, a slump of the shoulders, or malaise visible in the eyes in the form of a total absence of passion. One man in a jumpsuit holds his gaze, looking back with wan eyes. Seeing the suffering men he sticks his hand in a hole in the side of the bag and withdraws several hundred dollar bills and stuffs them in each boot. Each man thanks him with a ludicrously high voice.

 

 

“Why do you talk so high,” he asks the man in the jumpsuit. “Sold our nuts.” “Sold your nuts. For how much?” “Fifty thousand dollars.” “That’s not a terrible deal. What happened to the money?” “Spent it all. I actually only sold one of my nuts. Twenty five thousand dollars. Economy’s bad here.” “You work for this amusement park city.” “Used to. That’s what ninety percent of the population does.” “You want to eat? All of you can come with me and eat.” Only the man in the jumpsuit follows. The rest continue to stand there with their lifeless eyes. “What’s your name?” “Bob.” “I’m Ty.”

 

 

The first floor of the building is a lobby with a glass case containing a map in the middle of the room and several potted plants on the sides. They walk to a row of five elevators. Men and women write text messages with their heads down, eyes on their phones. Ty gives Bob a cigarette and lights it for him. “How many people have sold their nuts,” Ty asks. “I’d say mostly every man in town. Supplies have to be low. They might start raising the reward for selling them.” “Economy is that bad.” “Yeah. There’s a program that is creating clones. Those orange haired people you may have seen around. Nuts are needed for cloning purposes.” “How come they all have orange hair?” “Peacock has orange hair. This is her city. She got rich, took over the city. She can’t have children of her own. You can take a tour of the laboratory. It’s like a museum. They charge admission and you can walk through and see what goes on.” “You ever take the tour.” “No. I don’t want to go back. I have nightmares about the place.”

 

 

A disfigured woman with orange hair joins the queue. Her eyes are crossed. A low number of teeth in her mouth. Pointed teeth with huge spaces between them. Her face is fine, but spoiled by tattoos of corporate logos. The corporate logos make Ty think about spending money, buying some of the things that the logos bring to mind. Three women stare at his crotch. “They likee,” Dick says. Bob shifts away from the orange haired woman, close to Ty, practically into his pocket. “She is a little creepy,” Ty admits. “Yeah. Majorly creepy.”

 

 

Doors open to an elevator and they shuffle inside. Instead of numbers on the console there are corporate logos and each person pushes the button to select their preferred floor. Ty attempts to press a button and Bob stops him. “That one is clones only. You have to pick another one.” Sighing, he chooses the chicken restaurant floor, and presses the button.

 

 

A man in a jumpsuit recognizes Bob and pats his shoulder. Bob responds by tucking his boot behind his back. “What’s up man?” “You working today.” “No, I don’t work anymore. They gave a clone my job.” Nervously the clone alters the way she stands, changing weight distribution on her feet. “That figures man. Clones are cheap. You have money though. The gas thing. You sold your nut.” He speaks with a regular voice. He hasn’t sold his nuts, yet. “No, I’m out of money. On the streets.” While Bob speaks he glances nervously at Ty and back at the man. The elevator stops and the man and the clone get out. “Good luck, Bob,” the man says before the doors close completely.

 

 

They reach their floor and the doors open to reveal the chicken establishment. Signs on the glass walls advertise deals on chicken nuggets and strips. The talk about testicles being cut off and sold and clones take away from Ty’s appetite a little, but he hasn’t eaten in a day, and he recovers.

 

 

Freely people eat and smoke cigarettes. There are two clones in the whole restaurant, sitting together in a corner booth. Downtrodden men and frustrated women eye them suspiciously. A woman urges a man to sell his nuts and obstinately he shakes his head. She threatens to do it for him, to cut them off in his sleep, and he threatens to kill her. The two clones survey the room with equal suspicion. A large group of elderly people sit around four tables pushed together. Conspiratorially they talk about the younger people and the clones. One can tell by how they look at the people they are talking about. The elderly people ordered the most expensive food off the menu and wear expensive suits and gold watches and fancy jewelry, diamond necklaces, diamond earrings, diamond rings, etc. Tourists are discernable by Hawaiian shirts and khaki shorts. Both men and women wear these telltale getups. The elderly people don’t like tourists either.

 

 

Bob eats ravenously like he hasn’t eaten in days, looking around suspiciously at everyone in the dining area. Ty takes puffs from his cigarette between bites from his chicken nuggets. People eye his bag of money, which he has on the floor tucked between his feet for safety. “So what do you do here for fun,” he asks. “Ride the rides.” “Don’t you get sick of it?” “Yeah, but that’s the best thing we have.” “Do you know a place where I can stay?” “Yeah, there’s a hotel four buildings down from this one.” “Cool.” They resume eating in silence.

 

 

FOUR

 

 

The hotel has a roller coaster above it. Next door is a circus building where one can see clowns, people playing with lions and tigers, trapeze artists, authentic donkey shows, and contortionists, and people lifting things with body piercings. For peace in one’s room one must turn the radio or television up to blot out the noise. The line is long to see the woman at the reception desk. Clones do maintenance around the building, clean out vents, wash windows, and carry bags to carts which transport the guests’ belongings to the elevators that lead to their appropriate floors.

 

 

Unabashedly women stare at Ty’s crotch, at his complete set of nuts. “They love you,” Dicks say, but he doesn’t hear. A daze has come over Ty looking at the clones. The corporate logos hypnotize him and he thinks about expensive purchases, things he doesn’t need. The line evanesces until he is in front of the counter and the woman slaps the countertop to wake him up from his reverie. “Sorry,” he says, looking into her eyes. She has light brown skin, light brown eyes, and swirls of wavy hair dangling down to her neck. Her teeth are as white as ivory. What a sparkling smile? A name tag says her name is Carolina.

 

 

He asks for the largest, most expensive room possible, and she tells him a ridiculous price, and he sets the bag of money on the counter, and plucks hundreds out until he has enough to buy a week’s worth of time in the hotel. “I’m the owner of this hotel. I hope you enjoy your stay. Feel free to ask for anything.” Her eyes blink. Taking the key card from her static electricity passes between them, a spark.

 

 

“I sense an attraction between us. What are you doing later?” “Looking for a girlfriend. I don’t like men.” Red creeps into his cheeks. For the first time he notices that she doesn’t stare at his crotch like the others. “Stay away from her,” Dick says. Face still red, he turns, and walks to the elevator, glancing back at her a couple times.

 

 

On the fifteenth floor, the top floor, he locates his room and swipes the card through the slot, and the door opens without a creak. Everything in the room is white. Large Bed. Large TV. Large CD player. Large sofa. Large bar. Huge closet. Throwing the bag of money on the bed he enters the bathroom, which features a Jacuzzi, and comes back out, removing the gun from the waist of his pants, and massaging the chafed area where he kept it. Beside the bag of money he flops on the bed and lights a cigarette, and blows rings of smoke at the ceiling, and turns on the television with the remote that is bolted to the night stand. Soon he is snoring.

 

 

FIVE

 

 

Downstairs he asks Carolina what people do for fun and she tells him to look around and find something interesting. Again he attempts to ask her out and she rebuffs him, agitated that he asked her. “Give up on her,” Dick says. “She likes girls.”

 

 

Ty strolls down the block. Women stare at his crotch. The bulge of his nuts is apparent in his tight jeans. “Cash in,” Dick says. “You’re like a white buffalo here.” By his walk women can tell he is different, his head is raised high, and there is an optimistic bounce in his step. In alleys homeless people stand with boots. On street corners men sing in high voices with hats at their feet. Clones stroll by, disfigured, and marked up with advertisements. The urges to buy a soda, a car, an entertainment center, and a vacuum enter Ty’s mind, and take root, planted in the soil securely. Tourists move in and out of buildings, smiling. More women stare at Ty, and he smiles at them, looking for the right one to talk to.

 

 

He stops the prettiest woman he sees. A blonde with long hair in a ponytail and blue eyes and a multitude of curves. Other women try to stop and talk to him, and he ignores them until they walk away, aggravated. Her name is Leona. Casually he asks for her phone number and she proffers it to him. In an alley next to a freak show which features lobster boys, bearded women, and mermaids, a garbage truck scoops up four men with boots with two steel beams that rise from its sides, mashes them together, and drops them in the back of the truck.

 

 

Leona accompanies him to a ride. The Puker it is called. A few hundred times she’s rode it, but never with him, and she can’t help but look at his crotch every other minute as if his pair of nuts are an illusion, waiting for the illusion to fade, but they are real. At the gate he pays the admission for them. An old man wraps a cane against the window to the ticket booth, demanding a senior citizen discount, and the placid man in the booth shakes his head dully, clearly afraid. Tourists take pictures of everything. Numerous pictures of the old man banging his cane on the glass of the ticket booth are taken with their phones. They don’t have old people where they’re from, it’s a young person city.

 

 

“You should take her to the hotel,” Dick says. “Skip this shit. It’s a waste of time. She already wants us.” Ty’s not in a rush. The tickets are purchased and the pair hands them to a man who rips them in half, and they pass through the turnstile.

 

 

Her hand is beneath the protective bar, fondling his nuts. “Yes,” Dick sighs. “She doesn’t care about you. It’s your friends that intrigue her.” “So what. We’re all part of you.” Between her fingers they twist and turn. His tight jeans are unzipped. Her fingers search out his nuts, and find them, and her head lowers, mouth open upon them. Dick is rigid, eager to be touched, and is ignored. The ride rises and dips. A drunk guy leans over top of them and throws up on the people below them. Pure alcohol. Like yellow rain it falls on their heads, and they scream at Ty and Leona, thinking they did it. Ty shrugs. Orgasm. He slumps in the seat and Leona zips his pants, but keeps her hand on his nuts.

 

 

Up and down the roller coaster goes. Leona on top of Ty. Dick’s happy. Elated. Her hips rock up and down. Hair is spread across her face, stuck to her skin with sweat. The bed sheets are wet with sweat and vaginal excretions. Her hands claw the bed sheets. Her long nails cut lines into the fabric. Panting, Ty pushes his pelvis, entering deeper inside her. Gripping her thighs his fingers leave white marks that fade seconds after they form. One of her hands holds his nuts and twists them in circles. The twisting makes him harder, but with a sharp twinge of pain. His toes dig into the bed for more leverage, his rump is off the bed, and he is pushing with all his force off his elbows deeper inside her. Muscles tighten around Dick, squeezing him. Orgasm. During their rush into sex he declined to put on a condom and the ejaculate flies deep inside her. Tired, Dick deflates, his body relaxes against the bed, and his head rests heavily on the pillow. Nimbly she rolls on her side and puts her head on his chest, and cups his nuts in her hands, massaging them. It’s hard for him to keep his eyes open and they close completely.

 

 

Still asleep. Dick is awake and sees trouble. Leona and a friend intend to snip his nuts off. The friend has brought a pair of scissors and a cooler of ice into the room. The blades of the scissors graze his scrotum. Small hairs are sheared off. Instinctively his nuts try to creep into his stomach. The blades are open fully and are closing for the cut. Suddenly he wakes and kicks Leona in the face powerfully, knocking her head back. Fully awake, he takes in the situation. The other woman is on the bed also, holding the cooler of ice.

 

 

“What the fuck is going on?” “Your nuts,” Leona says, coming at him with the scissors again. The blades of the scissors graze the side of his leg when he kicks her again, knocking her off the bed. Reaching over to his clothes he finds his gun and points it at the two women. “Enough. Neither of you are getting my nuts. Get the fuck out of here.”

 

 

The sight of the gun is enough to force them out. Ty reaches to the side of the bed and balls her clothes up and throws them at her. They cling close together, grumbling. “Lock the door on your way out.” Walking backward, watching the whole time they reach the door, open it, lock it, and close it behind them. Sighing, he lowers the gun, and his head drops back against the pillow. “That was close,” Dick whispers.

 

 

SIX

 

 

Later on in the day after he recovers emotionally from the attack he goes shopping for new clothes. He’d been wearing the same outfit for four days. Sweating profusely from the summer heat beating down on him he carries shirts and pants on his shoulders, adding to the heat on him. The clothes are expensive, fancy. Two thousands dollars. Clones worked at the store and had the name of the brands he bought tattooed on their faces. Good advertising.

 

 

After showering and changing into a black shirt and slacks that fit his body tightly he goes downstairs to the lobby and looks for Carolina. She is AWOL from her post at the front desk and a clone stands in her place. A clone with a gnarled nose that is split into two parts with a wide rivet through the center and tattoos that advertise sodas. Two competing companies. One ad is a quarter inch larger than the other. The voice of a terrible singer drifts from the lounge and he goes there.

 

 

It’s karaoke night. Most of the women are tourists accustomed to men with nuts. Ty isn’t special to them, just an average guy. Male and female clones serve drinks and food. They speak dully without enthusiasm or colorful language, just basic words. Tourists sit around circular tables and wait their turn to sing. Drinks are drunk. Cigarettes are smoked.

 

 

Cigarette smoke swirls around him. A clone with a hunched back and only one ear appears at the table with a towel over her forearm. Her clothing is a series of interconnected ribbons that reveals a multitude of different advertisements for alcoholic beverages on her flesh. Using the clone’s flesh for a menu he orders a pair of exotic drinks with mixtures of a few companies’ alcohol. The clone shuffles off to acquire the drinks. A beautiful voice comes from the stage, singing a song Ty likes. Carolina is the singer.

 

 

Hitting a ludicrously high note to end the song she comes down from the stage, and strolls drunkenly to his table. Unlike the other women in town she doesn’t stare at his crotch, amazed by the presence of nuts. “How’s your stay been so far,” she asks with a slight slur to her voice. Half a glass of something clear is in her hand. With a crash she settles into a chair beside him. “Pretty good except for the part where my nuts were nearly cut off. Besides that great.” A jerky giggle issues from her mouth, mutating. “Seriously, I brought a woman to the room, fucked her, and she tried to cut my nuts off.” “Don’t trust anyone. Those babies are worth a lot of money. People disappear around here every night. More clones pop up.” “What do the clones do eat the people?” “I don’t know. There’s rumors. It’s either them or the old people or the tourists. The economy’s terrible. Those balls in your pants can make someone some money.” She guzzles her drink to the bottom and makes slurping noises trying to suck up the last bit of alcohol. “You might sell them if you can’t find a job around here.” “No, fucking way,” Dick tells him. “I know, I know,” he says mentally. “No way,” he says to her.

 

Again she doesn’t look at his crotch. The menu clone returns to the table and Carolina orders four shots for them, waving off his offer to buy them for her. He’s a customer she says and he nods. The menu clone scurries away, afraid to upset the boss by taking too long to bring the drinks. “They work for nothing you know. Pay them shit and they don’t complain.” “But isn’t that part of the problem. The economy is bad and you’re hiring creatures created artificially.” “So what. I’m a businesswoman.” “I noticed that you don’t stare at my crotch like the rest of the women.” “I’m a lesbian. I don’t care about balls, penises, muscles, I like the beauty of a woman.” “Damn,” Dick screams.

 

 

The waitress brings the shots for them and saunters away with her head down. “She’s sexy,” Ty jokes. “I love the hump.” “Didn’t hire her for looks. Hired her because she’s cheap.” They clink glasses and take their shots. Gags. Choking. Watery eyes.

 

 

“So what do you do anyway,” she asks half-interestedly. “It’s complicated. I’m a man of mystery. Have gun will travel.” “You came here with no luggage and a huge sack of money.” “I know. I don’t want to tell you. It’s better off that way.” “Secrets. Secrets. Secrets. Do you sing? Want to do a duet?” “Maybe after I’m drunk.”

 

 

A few more drinks are drunk. Sneakily, thinking that Ty doesn’t notice, Carolina is watching a short brunette in a theatric black evening gown on stage singing. Visible attraction. At the same time Ty likes her. “She’s hot,” Dick comments. Gracefully the woman moves across the stage, a slit goes up the side of her evening gown. The woman hits a high note better than Carolina, finishing the song, and comes down from the stage carefully in her extra high heels. There is a predatory look to Carolina’s eyes.

 

 

Carolina’s name is called and she talks him into singing a duet with her. Hilariously she picks a duet by Elton John and some woman, and Ty knows he can’t sing the high notes, and despite the amount of alcohol he ingested his face is turning red. The DJ is a sweaty man in a shiny silver suit, a clone of course, and his face advertises music sold by corporate record labels. The DJ hands her a frizzy boa and a pair of yellow star-shaped shades, which Carolina coaxes him into putting on. Feeling and looking one hundred percent like an ass he sings the words that appear on the screen to the left of the stage. The bright lights of the disco ball make the words hard to read and he messes up a few words, and a few women boo to his chagrin, not to mention the fact that his voice is too deep, a man devoid of nuts is needed to step in, and sing the song properly. The point of coming up here is to be close to Carolina and he stands behind her, practically with his head on her shoulder. His hand touches her ass, her right cheek, and she elbows him in the crotch, and he hits an unexpectedly high note. She is staring into the eyes of the brunette in the evening gown, vying for her attention, and the brunette is staring at Ty, even with the clownish spectacles on. “Hit that note again,” the DJ encourages. Not likely. He can’t. The song ends. Carolina notices that the object of her desire is watching him and she scowls at him, and marches down from the stage without a word, collects her drinks, and moves to a different table.

 

 

Coolly Ty takes off the lame shades and hands them back to the clone. “You were great,” the clone says with a high voice. Indifferently he shrugs and walks back to his table. It takes a couple minutes for the brunette to stroll over and sit down across him. Angrily from her spot Carolina watches, talking to a group of old women that brought their grandchildren into town to go to the amusement park from a retirement city. “Note to self: watch your nuts around her,” Dick says seriously.

 

 

Some conversation. Flirting. Light touches to her arm. Light touches to his leg. A dozen funny comments come out of his mouth. Two more times while they converse Carolina goes on stage and the songs grow progressively angrier, singing a pair of Alanis Morrisette songs. Noticing that she is the challenge, the one he likes better, he stands up, and leaves the brunette, and goes to the stage to stand and show his appreciation. The song is finished and she pushes him out of the way when he tries to tell her how much he likes the song. The DJ shrugs at him, and rubs the side of one index finger over the top of the other. The international sign of shame on you. Shame on him.

 

 

Dick is telling him one thing. His brain is telling him another. His brain is losing. The alcohol dictates his actions, a tsunami wave crashing over sensibility. A kiss from the lady in the evening gown. Carolina storms from the lounge hastily, brow knitted, and hands clenched into fists. One kiss is all it takes for Dick to win, and they are out of the lounge, in the elevator, in the bedroom, and…

 

 

SEVEN

 

 

At a car dealership he talks a salesman with a pencil thin mustache, the white man’s equivalent of an afro, and a pinstriped suit down to a thousand dollars for a beat-up pickup truck with an oil leak and a life expectancy of six months. He missed the clones with car advertisements on their skin, and makes a prudent financial decision.

 

 

His first foray into traffic and he is cut off by an elderly man driving a car the size of a houseboat. The houseboat has hydraulics and bounces along in and out of lanes without a turn signal. The old man throws a hand out the window, making a gang sign from his West Side Story glory days. Angry that he was cut off Ty hammers his horn until it dies with a quack like a duck, never to work again.

 

 

Hungry, he navigates to the fast food building. An old lady who is too short to drive, her head sits an inch above the steering wheel, turns the wheel to her car too hard, and crashes into his car, knocking him into an old man’s car, which is houseboat caliber in size like the other one. The man wears a fedora with a red cardinal feather in a band around the middle that falls out when his boat is struck. The air bag explodes in Ty’s face, engulfing his features in white foam like fire extinguisher blood. A crash, a crash, and another crash, and six cars are piled up in this mire.

 

 

Stunned by the crash and the explosion of foam in his face he sits there. The old woman who hit him first is furious and she backs into his car on purpose, colliding with his fender once, twice, again and again. The grinding of metal on metal. The smell of burned rubber. Her left back tire is flat, down to the rim with her insistence on bashing the gas pedal furiously. The old man in the fedora gets out of his car, and marches over to Ty’s car, and cracks a cane against the other side. Ty can hear the paint chipping off.  The forming of a dent. “Stop it,” Ty shouts at the man, and the response is a grizzly bear caliber growl. The old lady gives up on bashing his car into oblivion and exits her vehicle, stooped over as if she has scoliosis, her back is unnaturally arched, and she fiddles with the contents of a golden purse that is bulging with inane items. Glad that the rocking has stopped Ty opens his door, and staggers from the car dazedly. Touching his face on the spots hit with the discharge from the airbag, he doesn’t see the purse swing at his head, and is struck hard enough to knock him off his feet.

 

The world goes on as normal. Cars drive around the pileup. Clones and people walk down the street purposefully to destinations. A garbage truck stops by a couple arguing about the man selling his nuts, and the metal bars rise up, and clamp together around them, crushing them, and their corpses are deposited in the back of the truck. It’s so subtle that no one seems to notice.

 

 

One good man arrives to stop the insanity. Bob. Today he isn’t garbed in rags. Instead he wears a jumpsuit, red, white and blue, like an Evel Knievel outfit. The customary attire of the amusement city worker. He seizes the old man in a headlock and the old man doesn’t stop kicking, even as his air supply decreases. Bob has to force him several feet away. Able to concentrate on one assailant and aided by the fact that the old woman is tiring Ty snatches the purse, and tugs it from her hand, the purse opens, and bags of licorice, myriad bottles of pills, dentures, coupons, receipts, two change purses, a checkbook, a wig, deodorant, and two pair of reading glasses are strewn across the pavement. Shrieking the woman hurries to collect the fallen items and Ty throws the purse. His head and side hurt. Ty and Bob exchange pleasantries.

 

 

“So what’s with the uniform,” Ty asks, suspecting that Bob is employed and merely hustled people for money as a bum. “I lied when I said I was jobless. On my days off I bum money from people with the boot. I steal credit cards too and sell gas at cheaper prices to people at gas stations. I’m called The Gas Man.” “I’ve done worse for money.” “Like what?” “Robbed banks.” “Not bad.” Indifferently Ty shrugs. “I work part time. The clones are getting the full time hours. They’re more productive and cheaper to pay.” “I’d like to learn more about how nuts are used to make clones.” “You can take a tour. Personally I don’t want to know. They scare the shit out of me. Like the new world order.” “I want to check it out.” “It’s spooky. Peacock uses her own eggs. That’s why they are clones. Clones of her. She has that curly orange hair, is real pale, and has a ton of freckles.”

 

 

The bumper is hanging off Ty’s car. Coming closer is a garbage truck. With a light yank with his hands he pries the bumper loose, and brings it to the center of the road. “That garbage truck won’t take it. They don’t pick up trash. They just seem to drive around and watch people.”

 

 

Ty sets the bumper on the cement by the side of his car. The garbage truck drives right by it. Two clones are in the cab and they stare lifelessly at Ty and Bob. “Want to pick that up,” Ty shouts, but there is no answer.

 

 

They enter the fast food building, ride the elevator to the desired floor packed in place with old people and clones. A group of old people walk in front of them with walkers and canes. They smell like licorice. The smell is caused by the fact that they are nibbling on licorice. Red ropes. The advertisements on a clone’s face steal Ty’s attention, and he thinks about buying what is advertised.

 

 

They sit at a table in the middle of the joint, surrounded by old people. Mostly the old people don’t eat, just drink coffee and juice, and watch the television that is showing the bleak world news.

 

In a corner of the room is a group of teenage girls with modified faces. Faces that have been mutilated into faces like the clones. Tattoos on flesh. Crooked noses. Missing eyes. Missing ears. “They’re not clones are they,” Ty comments. “No, they’re clonies. Wannabes. It happens a lot. They want to rebel and be different. They disgust me.” “They’re not really rebelling. They are becoming part of a group that looks and acts the same. Conforming.”

 

 

The clonies stand up and get in line to order more food. They make the old people shudder and point and gossip about how strange they are. Glasses are tipped on noses to see clearer. Some old people accost them and ask them what they did to themselves. The clones speak with bland language, a lack of enthusiasm, robotically. The clonies mimic them at the counter, speaking the same way, ordering more food, and expressing a desire to date them. They pass numbers to the clones and the clones pocket the numbers without looking at them. Bags of food and cash are exchanged and the clonies walk back to their corner of the restaurant and sit back down. The old people murmur disapprovingly. Ty shoves the rest of his burger into his mouth and chomps it into crumbs and swallows the crumbs in one gulp.

 

 

“You ready to go,” Bob asks. “These old people give me the creeps.” “Me too. I have to see the place where they make these clones. This is the weirdest thing I’ve ever heard of, man.” “Whatever, let’s just get out of here.”

 

 

EIGHT

 

 

The line is long to enter the laboratory. Admission is paid by Ty and Bob and they assimilate into a line of tourists interested in science’s newest advancement. Admission is twenty dollars per person. At the start of the line they were on the sidewalk across from a green pasture loaded with humongous cows, cows the size of medium-sized dinosaurs. Two hundred feet from the pasture is a garage with a fleet of garbage trucks. A steel door rises and a garbage truck drives out, traveling down a long gravel driveway, and merging into traffic with the normal cars. Ty and Bob smoke and watch the garage suspiciously.

 

 

The line moves along at a semi-rapid pace and they enter the facility. Visitors are not allowed beyond a pair of velvet ropes that produce a narrow walkway. The air stinks of antiseptic. Glass rooms stretch for as far as the eye can see. A tour guide explains things to them. The first glass room is full of men with their pants pulled down, doctors or scientists or something in scrubs have scissors poised near the scrotums of the men, and cuts are made, and bloody testicles drop into their gloved hands, and blood drips to the floor. The people in the scrubs ignore the flow of the blood and quickly place the testicles in coolers like the one Leona and her friend had in Ty’s hotel room. Wincing Ty and Bob look away. “You had that done,” Ty asks him. “Yeah, one ball. I have bad nightmares.”

 

 

The line moves along to the next room. Everyone is shaken by the sight of the testicles being removed, men and women alike. This room contains beakers with liquid inside. Doctors or scientists or something in scrubs are inserting the points of needles into testicles and are extracting fluid. Behind the surgical masks are clone faces. A few strands of orange hair stick out of the caps they wear. The tour guide narrates what is going on. Sperm extraction this is called. Hormones are injected into the extracted sperm. Clones push down on needles and blue liquid squirts into test tubes with the sperm.

 

 

In the next room the sperm is added to extracted eggs. The eggs have been given the same hormone or blue liquid. They cook inside beakers on burners, sizzling and bubbling. Beakers of sperm are brought into the room, oohs and aahs from the visitors. Robotically the clones walk. The guide narrates that sperm is about to be added. The sperm is refrigerated for twenty-four hours after extraction and the addition of the hormones. The beakers of sperm look cold in comparison to the beakers of sizzling eggs. Lids are taken off the beakers and the sperm is poured into the same beaker as the eggs, and the lid is quickly replaced. Popping sounds. Frenzied activity within the cooking beakers. Explosions of liquid against the glass. The visitors move along to the next room, only Ty lingers, staring at the activity in the beakers, and the guide tells him to move along, and eventually he does.

 

 

Rhesus monkeys carry the children to term. The fertilized eggs are inserted inside them. This revelation raises eyebrows. Questions come. The guide doesn’t answer them. Monkeys on tables have their legs strapped apart, and clones stand between their legs, peering into their vaginal clefts. The monkeys are drugged and stare back at the visitors with glassy eyes. A long tube is inserted inside the clefts of the monkeys and fertilized eggs are pumped inside. The gestation period is short, a day at the most. Each monkey carries as many as six fetuses. “Those poor monkeys,” Bob says with a shake of his head. “Drugged and used for this shit. I’d love to free them.” Ty smirks.

 

 

In the next room monkeys with swollen bellies are drinking milk. Large cups with lids. Small slits in the lids allow them to drink. After a monkey drinks a cup another cup is given to it by a clone in scrubs. Oddly the swollen bellies grow, pulsate with each cup they drink. “Where do you get the milk,” Ty asks and his question is waved away by the guide like a gnat. “You’ll see later.”

 

 

Monkeys giving birth. A horrifying process. Screaming monkeys. A bald human head protrudes from between the legs of a monkey. The clone is screaming. Its skin is clean, devoid of tattoos. They will be added later. A monkey opens its mouth to scream and a human face is in its mouth, pushing out. The whole head comes out of the mouth, then the neck, a clone yanks on the infant’s large ears and the necks comes through, and its torso. Its arms club the face of the monkey, which is choking. A clone snips the umbilical cord with a pair of scissors. The same kind that snips testicles off. Bob throws up on the man next to him.

 

 

A bulge moves in the fur of a monkey. The bulge is pushing the skin and fur of the monkey to the limit. The hands of the monkey push down on the bulge. The scared creature is screaming. White foam pours from the monkey’s mouth, liquid the color of ocean water that crashes hard against a shore or an obtrusion. The head of a baby rips through the flesh and fur of the monkey’s stomach. Its teeth are bared and its white face is fierce and frightening. Bob squeezes Ty’s arm, wiping the vomit off his chin on the sleeve of his jumpsuit. “That’s an ambitious one,” the guide comments. Through the hole in the stomach another head pops out, and a third one. These three babies don’t need help from the clones to come out, they crawl out on their own, hopping off the operating tables, three feet to the floor below, and land hard without tears, with a coldness in their features. Their umbilical cords stretch from the floor to the bloody hole they crawled from. “This is why we use monkeys,” the guide says. “Madam Peacock didn’t want to destroy human lives in the process.” The bloody babies sit on the floor. Not quite as hideous facially as the ones on the street. A few strands of orange hair already growing on their heads. Freckles galore.

 

 

 

Baskets with blankets are brought in. Cords are cut. Babies are put in the basket and the blood is cleaned off them with the blankets. “Let’s move on to the next room,” the guide says cheerfully.

 

 

This is where the babies are tattooed, naked and crying. Ty notices something weird. None of the babies have genitals. They are like dolls that aren’t anatomically correct. The buzz of the needles can be heard through the glass wall. A loud buzzing like a thousand bees converging on a honeycomb. A list of companies and logos are on a sheet of paper that the tattoo artist peruses before applying the ink. The artist is a clone with a red and blue bandana on, a sleeveless shirt that reveals tattooed arms, and ripped jeans that reveal tattoos on his legs. His entire face is covered in tattoos like a mask. The guide explains that corporations bid on the number of advertisements per infant. Freshly tattooed babies are whisked from the room in tiny wheelchairs. Looking at them makes Ty want to buy the products advertised. The company names in ink make thoughts swirl through his head. Dazedly he follows the group to the next room.

 

 

Huge clear containers hold milk. Tubes in the ceiling pump milk into the containers. At least a hundred babies are in the room, strapped to tiny oversized chairs, and tubes are inserted in their mouths that pump milk inside them. The guide explains that the milk is loaded with steroids and hormones that will speed up the growth process. Before the eyes of the group the babies are growing into toddlers. The milk is like air filling a balloon, expanding the fabric of the babies. From babies to toddlers to teenagers to adults in five minutes.

 

 

Beyond these display rooms are other rooms. A door opens and Ty can see another hall. An ephemeral glimpse of other rooms, private rooms not open to the public. He asks about them and the guide ignores his question, choosing to discuss the details of the next room. In this room are the adult clones. They sit in chairs with wires stretching from computers plugged into their ear holes. Images and words scroll down the computer screen rapidly, fast enough to give Ty a headache from watching them for a couple seconds. This is their education the guide explains. Their education is as fast as their development. A crash course on the universe.

 

 

“How come these clones look better than the other ones,” Ty asks, noticing fewer deformities. The guide is interrupted in the middle of a sentence, and she coughs her aggravation out. “The process is being perfected. Less defects.” “How come there are so many of them? What do you plan on doing with them?” “They will go out to work and become productive citizens.” “They aren’t enough jobs as it is,” Bob chimes in. “The tour is only an hour long. We have other things to see. I don’t have time for these questions.” Ty remains silent. “There’s too many of them,” Bob whispers. “People are disappearing and more of these things are popping up.”

 

 

The tour runs out of rooms. Fresh clones appear and shake hands with everyone in the tour. The tourists are happy to meet them, they stop, and shake hands with them, and Ty and Bob shirk away uncomfortably, declining physical contact with them. At the end of the hall is a large portrait of a freckled woman with orange hair. “That’s Madam Peacock,” the guide announces proudly. “Like the Walt Disney of Cloneland,” Ty comments to Bob. “What’s the point,” Ty asks. “Why create these freaks?” “These are not freaks, sir. These are scientific achievements. She couldn’t have children of her own so she chose to find an alternate route to procreation. We have to continue with the tour. Please follow me outside.”

 

 

They walk in single file down a thin hall to a door with a neon sign above it that says exit. Outside they are greeted by warmth, a reprieve from the cold climate of the laboratory. They are in a pasture with the humongous cows tromping around, eating grass, and defecating. Huge udders dangle down from the underbellies of the cows. The cows are genetically engineered according to the guide. Ty asks if they were born in the bellies of monkeys and the guide gives him a peek at her middle finger, tired of his comments. She continues to explain that the cows are injected with steroids to make them larger and that certain hormones are fed to them periodically to increase the quality of the milk they produce. An opportunity to ride a cow is offered and Bob is on the back of one, laughing giddily. The docile cow takes slow steps, clearly uncomfortable with the prospect of a man on her back, but it refuses to retaliate. Ty refuses to ride one and smokes a cigarette defiantly, studying the giant facility directly behind the laboratory.

 

 

The giant facility is where the milk is extracted from the cows. Huge tubes are attached to the huge udders of the cows with lips on the ends that suckle the teats, and the milk travels through tubes into aluminum canisters that are shaped like grain silos. “What if a regular person drinks the milk,” Ty asks. “Would they have super powers?” “No. This milk isn’t for regular people. No tests have been done with normal people.” “It seems to help those clones a lot.” Clones apply hoses to the tops of the canisters, yellow liquid is poured into the aluminum canisters and a button is pushed on the side of the canisters, and a whirring sound is emitted, like a milkshake. “Okay, this is the end of the tour. Pictures are available with clones if you would like. Photographs cost five bucks apiece.”

 

 

They follow her outside and she leads them back around to the front of the building where they waited in line. A group of refined clones stand around, posing with people already. Clones take pictures of tourists and clones preening for the pictures. “You ready to split,” Bob asks. “Yeah man,” Ty says, disconcerted by the whole experience.

 

 

NINE

 

 

Carolina stops Ty in the lobby. Bob is helping him carry a giant television set to the elevator. Earlier in the day they carried a couch through the lobby, squeezed it into the elevators, and set it up in Ty’s efficiency room. “What the hell are you doing,” Carolina demands with her hands on her hips. The first time she has spoken to him in days. “Just bought some stuff.” “This isn’t a house. It’s a hotel. The room is already furnished.” “I’m going to get a house too. Put all my new stuff inside it.” “The couch cost him six thousand dollars,” Bob says and shakes his head. “Damn thing was supposed to be shipped from Milan. He’s lost his damn mind. He’s buying all types of shit. You should see all the clothes that he has.” “You have to stop,” she says like a parent. “How much did the television cost?” “Two thousand dollars.” “I still have plenty of money left. There’s some other shit that I want to buy.”

 

 

Thoughts about advertisements swirl in his head. He has seen too many clones. The logos have affected his brain. The slogans. The corporate names. The process that leads one to sell their nuts has begun.

 

 

Carolina slaps his cheek. The two men set the television down softly. “You have to stop this behavior. You’re going to be broke and on the streets.” “I still have money.” “Yeah, but you have no income coming in. Your money is going to run out.” “I have plenty right now. I can get more if I need it.”

 

 

Women walk by, checking out his crotch. “Take a look at them,” Dick says, but his mind is on more purchases. “I need a new car. That old lady ruined mine.” Carolina watches the women walking by, checking out Ty’s crotch. Whispers and girlish giggles and they check out the rest of him. “You know something. Have you thought about prostitution?” “I’ll be your pimp.” “No, I could be your pimp. You’re the one that the women want. We could make a fortune.” “I like it,” Dick says. “Maybe.” “I got an idea,” Bob interrupts. “Let’s break into the laboratory, mess it up, free the monkeys, and stop all this clone nonsense.” “That’s not a bad idea either,” Carolina admits. “I like the prostitution idea,” Ty says, staring into space. “I can handle the advertising and I’ll provide you with the honeymoon suite.” “It’s a deal.” They shake hands and smile.

 

 

“What about breaking into the laboratory,” Bob asks. “We can do that too,” Ty says disinterestedly. “Letting this craziness go on is too risky. We might be replaced by tomorrow. You’ll be gone and a clone will be walking around in your clothes watching your TV and sitting on your couch.” “Grab the other end of the television. I think we can do that.”

 

 

Bob picks up his end and Ty takes the other end, and they walk to the elevator. Carolina follows, discussing business with Ty. Her plot to make money. The ideas sound good. Bob talks about breaking into the laboratory.

 

 

TEN

 

 

Another day. The largest purchase. The last of his money is spent on a brand new sports car. Ty sits across from a salesman with a pencil-thin mustache, bleached white teeth, and a shiny suit that can glow in the dark. The cash is exchanged and documents are signed. Sixty thousand dollars cash. The salesman faints for several seconds and wakes up again. Tingles of anticipation course through Ty as he envisions driving the beautiful car out of the lot. The two men stand up and shake hands.

 

 

Ty practically runs to his new vehicle. It is shaped like a jet, bright yellow with shiny rims, and a spoiler on the back that is shaped like a horseshoe. The huge engine rumbles like an angry lion. His foot taps the gas pedal, letting the engine rev. On the corner are a group of singers, who sing a high pitched tune. Women on the street stare at him in the seat of the luxurious car. “The ladies love this car,” Dick says. “Yeah baby.”

 

 

With the windows down he drives down the alley between rows of cars with prices written on the windshields. At the corner he digs in his pocket and finds no more money. He thought about giving some cash to the singers. Forlornly they stare at them and he shrugs sheepishly at them. On a lamppost is a poster with his face on it and the word whore written beneath it. An advertisement put up by Carolina. Women on the street smile at him. The fact that he has a pair of testicles is mentioned on the advertisement. That’s the key element to his allure. Posters have been put up all over the city. Sheepishly eunuchs walk with shoulders slumped, looking forlornly at his poster, and at the excitement on the faces of their women. Pitiful existences.

 

 

With a push of his foot on the pedal he accelerates into traffic and a large car comes within inches of hitting his bumper, and angrily he beeps his horn. The car in front of him stops suddenly and he has to hit the brakes to avoid hitting its bumper. The car behind him is beeping its horn. Looking in the rearview he sees an angry old lady giving him the finger. He gives her the finger back stupidly. Her only logical response is to tap the back of his car and his fingers dig into the fabric of the wheel. “I paid a lot of money for this damn car,” he shouts out the window at her. The tap is soft, not enough to do serious damage to the car. Scared to look at the spot that was bumped he sits agitatedly in his seat, tapping his fingers on the wheel.

 

Beside his car on the sidewalk is a pair of people walking quickly. A garbage truck is following them. Through the windshield of the vehicle he can see clones inside. They don’t have tattoos on their faces, just the telltale orange hair and freckles. With each hurried step the pair takes the garbage truck creeps closer. Then the metal bars rise from the back, and they clamp around them, squeezing them together, and dropping them into the back of the truck. Ty is appalled.

 

He pulls into the parking lot of a gas station and joins a line of cars waiting for gas. The same woman that bumped his car tries to follow him in. A different car pulls in behind him and he is protected by a car in front of him and a car behind him. Bob is selling gas here illegally with his stolen credit cards. He wears a t-shirt that says gas man in bold letters. It looks as if he wrote gas man with a black marker. People pay him cash for the gas and he fills their tanks by swiping the stolen credit cards.

 

The old lady shouts at the car behind Ty to move so she can hit his car. The driver sits in place obstinately. The only logical response for the old lady is to ram his car. The muffler of her car crushes the bumper of his car, and the bumper dangles, half on the ground, and half hanging in place. Another push from her car and the bumper falls off completely and the driver is incensed. His door opens, he staggers from his seat carrying a steel walker in his hands, and he throws the walker down, and pushes it in front of him to her car.

 

 

“Bob,” Ty shouts and Bob sprints over. For a minute he admires the new car. “Nice man. You have to be out of money now.” “Yeah. But I start the gig tonight. Listen I saw some clones in a garbage truck crush two people with those metal bar things.” “I knew they were behind the disappearances. Those garbage trucks. You have to trash the laboratory with me. You have to get Carolina to help.” “Yeah. We have to do something. This is too much. So this is your gas gig. Nice shirt. How do you not get caught doing this?” “I bribed the attendant. Fifty bucks and she looks the other way. No problem. Pick a card any card.” In his open palm are seventeen credit cards, each with a different name. “Stole them from tourists. Pickpocketed them.”

 

 

A man is pumping gas at the pump and Bob watches them suspiciously. “Hold on a minute, man. They might be going over what they bought from me. They try to get over on me sometimes.” Sprinting to the pump he yells at the man, who shrugs, and tries to say that he accidentally pumped extra gas. The man says that he is broke and Bob pulls a gun, and has the man empty his pockets. In his wallet is another twenty dollar bill and Bob takes it, gives the man the proper amount of change, and tells him to move along. Afraid of Bob he jumps in his car and pulls away. Two more cars pull up into the spots and the line moves forward. Ty’s car moves forward with the other cars in front of him. Behind him the old man and woman fight on the ground, rolling around, and fighting for control of the steel walker. A car cuts in line and moves behind Ty’s car, close to his bumper.

 

 

The line progresses until Ty is at the pump. Bob pumps gas for him for free. The window is down and he speaks to Ty through the open window. “Tonight’s the night. You have to convince her to come.” “I’ll try. She employs a bunch of them. I’ll try. I’ll definitely be there. See you.” “Alright, be careful.”

 

 

ELEVEN

 

*

An elderly woman comes in, wearing a house coat and nothing else. Shyly she expresses her fantasy to Ty. “No way,” Dick says. “I’m not participating in that shit.” “Yeah you are. We’re getting paid.” She wants to spank him like him like a bad boy, a bad boy fifty years younger than her.

 

 

Without remorse he goes along with the request, bending over her knee, and she smacks his buttocks furiously. “Bad boy, you bad little boy. Momma will make you behave.” A slap, a slap, and another slap, and red handprints form on his skin. She whispers in his ear, and he moves into a position flat on his back on the bed, and she straddles him. The wrinkles in her skin are trenches. Sweat is inside the trenches like little rivers. Loose skin dangles from her neck like the skin on a turkey neck. “You have to be kidding, this really sucks,” Dick says. A smell like old lettuce drifts off the woman. Forced inside her Dick coughs claustrophobically. Methodically she grinds on him. Slowly her wig is falling off her head, revealing a bald pate. Ty tries to straighten it out, but she pushes his hands down, and continues to bounce on him. There is a cracking sound, a creak, and a snap, and she stops. Her back is hurt. There is medicine in the pocket of her housecoat, and with her instruction he locates the right pocket, and untwists the top of the pill bottle, and drops two in his palm, that he feeds to her, and she sits motionlessly on top of him, waiting for the medicine to kick in.

 

 

“Why don’t we just sell a testicle,” Dick says. “Anything is better than this. We don’t want to have kids anyway.” “Shut up. This isn’t that bad.”

 

 

Two minutes later the old woman is able to move her back again, and they resume. The roller coaster goes up and down. The wig is fully off, and the strings of hair on her otherwise bald head stand straight up. Slapping the bed with the palms of her hands she reaches orgasm. Though he is still erect she tells him to stop. For several minutes she stays on top of him with her eyes closed, enjoying the fantastic feeling. Gingerly she moves from him to the bed. Needing aid he lifts her up and stands her on his feet. Gently he places the house coat on her, tossing it over her back, and sliding her arms through the sleeves, and with a hard tug he pulls the belt together, and seals it for her.

 

 

Outside the room Carolina stands watch, providing security. He gave her his gun. A clock was put on the wall and she counts the minutes. One hour is five hundred dollars. Half an hour is two hundred fifty. The old woman spent forty-five minutes with him and Carolina rounds it off to an hour. Gladly the old woman pays and the next customer is allowed go in.

 

**

The next customer weighs three hundred pounds, long brown hair, and an otherwise pretty face. Her body is shoved into a tight black spandex dress. Each step she takes toward the bed is thunderous. Her husband follows her in. A small man with a placid face and hunched shoulders. “I’m not going to keep doing this,” Dick screams. “I’m going to go on strike. This is ridiculous. Cruel and unusual punishment.” “It’s money. A job’s a job.” “Good day, ma’am and sir. What can I do for you?”

 

 

The dress is whipped over her head, tangling her hair. The eunuch sits down on Ty’s expensive couch from Milan, and watches dejectedly. “He used to be a great lover until he cut off his balls. Now he’s not worth shit.”

 

 

Smiling blithely she sits on the edge of the bed, and the weight of her body sends the side of the bed that Ty is on into the air, and he is catapulted into a wall. Breathless he sits there, trying to recover from the impact. Carolina opens the door and looks around. She can’t see him on the other side of the bed. “What did you do to him? Eat him.” “I’m fine. I’m on the other side of the bed.” “Okay. Scream if you need anything.” She wears a fedora with a long peacock feather in the brim, silk button-up shirt and bell bottoms that hide the high heels on her feet. Content that Ty is okay, she shuts the door, and sits back in her chair with the gun on her lap.

 

 

Dazedly Ty climbs back on the bed from the floor. He rubs his elbow gingerly. There is a stinging tingle to it from banging it on the wall. “What can I do for you,” he asks with a deep voice.  Leaning close to his earlobe she whispers her request. “This is ridiculous,” Dick says. “Shut up.”

 

 

Naked he stands on the bed over her body and attempts to defecate on her stomach. Her hands caress his nuts, twirling them like stress-relieving balls. He doesn’t have to go and the effort is ridiculous. “This is disgusting,” Dick tells him, shriveled to its smallest possible size. He grunts. The small man stares at him with glassy, sleepy eyes. His buttocks graze her belly and he shimmies, tickled by her skin. His nuts twirl in her hands. “Take your time, honey, I like playing with these things.” Deep concentration. A rumble in his belly and something comes loose. A small turd falls on her belly and she takes her hands off him and claps her hands, and smears the turd across her skin. “I need therapy,” Dick says. “Me too,” Ty says back, disgusted. “Anything else,” he asks, moving from over her to the nightstand to get a cigarette. “No, this is great. Thank you.” Delightedly she spreads the shit across her belly. The man stares at Ty. Ty throws up on the floor.

 

***

This time there are two ladies. They have beautiful faces and attractive figures. One wears an oversized blonde wig that is a bit oft-putting to Ty. The reason for it isn’t immediately clear in his head. It’s low on her head, hanging over her eyes. There is something familiar about her. Is she the woman from the robbery? The one who stole the rest of the money while he was asleep and left him on the fringe of this town. No, it’s from somewhere else that he can’t quite place. Her friend is also familiar, a brunette with thick bangs, a petite frame, blue eyes, and a tattoo of an empyreal demon on her bicep.

 

 

A little enervated Ty lies on the bed and asks what he can do for them. The pair begins to undress, dropping their clothes to the floor. Their bodies are beautiful. “Aren’t you glad we’re doing this,” he asks Dick. “Yessssssss.” “See this isn’t all bad.”

 

 

They don’t say what they want. Stealthily they move around. The woman in the wig has something shiny in her hands. “What’s that a sex toy,” he asks. The other woman seizes his wrists and holds them together. “Close your eyes,” she coos in his ear. A little leery about closing his eyes after the attack by the woman he closes them a little bit, but he can see through his eyelashes. The shiny object is a pair of scissors and he realizes where he knows the woman from. It is Leona, with a wig on.

 

 

She lunges with the scissors at his nuts and he turns his lower section away, and the scissor blades stab the mattress. The second woman has a good grip on his wrists, some wire has been tied around them to bind him, and he can’t use them. She attempts to hold his legs apart and he kicks at her arms, face, and chest. “Carolina,” he shouts. The struggle causes the wig on Leona’s head to tumble off. Her dark hair is bound by pins, frizzy and wild from the sudden removal of the wig. A maniacal look is in her eyes, unfettered greed. She paid a hundred dollars for a chance to cut off his nuts. Forcefully his foot connects with the hand that tries to pry the scissors from the mattress, and her hand goes numb. Her accomplice has a good hold of his hair, tugging his head back. Furiously he wiggles his wrists to free them from the wire.

 

 

The door bursts open. “Get the hell off of him,” Carolina shouts authoritatively. In one hand is a gun and in the other is a cane. Bypassing murder as an option she chooses to bash Leona’s accomplice with the cane. Two taps on the top of the woman’s head cause her to eek off the bed, seize her clothes, and run for the door to avoid further harm. Unable to pull the scissors from the mattress, they are wedged in place too securely, Leona thrusts her mouth at his nuts, and he tucks everything between his legs protectively, and she bites his thigh instead. Her teeth dig into the meat of his thigh, holding a nice amount of meat hostage. The cane smacks the back of her head, knocking her out, and she tumbles from the bed to the floor. Teeth marks remain on the flesh of Ty’s thigh. Seconds after her teeth leave his flesh the biting sensation lingers. “You okay?” “Yeah. She won’t give up on stealing my nuts.” “We live in desperate times,” she responds. Carolina grabs hold of Leona’s hair and drags her limp body from the room roughly.

 

 

TWELVE

 

 

Three misfits on a crusade. Garbed in black from the beanies on their heads to the shoes on their feet, Ty, Bob, and Carolina creep around the perimeter of the laboratory. They peer through dark windows. Shapes move around inside. Vague shapes that they can’t discern as clones or a trick of the lights outside shining inside the darkness.

 

 

Bob throws a brick through a window. He has a bag of bricks. The crash can be heard a block away. The glass falls from the frame and tingles like bells upon contact with the ground. Expecting an alarm to go off they prepare to retreat, to abort the mission, but no such thing happens. Everything is silent. People stay off the streets at night, afraid that they will disappear like the others. The loud motors of garbage trucks can be heard in the distance, not close enough to pose a threat to them.

 

 

Satisfied that there is no alarm or a security force patrolling the premises they creep back to the shattered window. Monkeys are crying inside. Mournful wails. Babies are crying too. Adults are talking, reciting facts that the computers are feeding them. They peeked at the pasture before coming around to the front. The giant cows sleep standing up in the pasture. A surreal spectacle like they are frozen. Like sentinels guarding something valuable they stand around.

 

 

They climb through the empty window frame one by one, dodging dangling shards of glass. Tiptoeing they move down the hall from the tour. The smell of excrement is heavy in the air. It easily penetrates glass walls. No one is around to spray antiseptic into the air like during the day. Their eyes have adapted to the darkness and they look through a wall into a room. It’s the one where the eggs are fertilized.

 

 

“I want to see the area not on the tour,” Ty says. Every couple of minutes he rubs the bite marks on his thigh to ease the pain. “Let’s free the monkeys first,” Carolina says. “We can do that.” Bob throws a brick through the wall, shattering the glass, and creating a cannonball-sized hole. With the bag of bricks he knocks the rest of the glass out of place and steps through the aperture into the room. Immediately he snatches beakers and drops them on the floor, breaking them. He breaks everything in sight and steps back out into the hall. “You can be a little quieter,” Carolina cautions. “There has to be some kind of security.” “I don’t know,” Ty says. “This has been pretty easy so far. I don’t think they have any security. Our attack wasn’t expected.”

 

 

A brick through another glass wall and the same loud crash of glass shattering, loud enough to wake the dead, or at least signal to the clones that their haven is under siege, and the trio pushes glass shards out of the way, and enter the room. They are surrounded by dozens of unrestrained, very pregnant monkeys that sit docilely on the floor as if they have been drugged. “They’re so darling,” Carolina says and attempts to pet one. The monkey slaps her hand away, grabs her around the waist, hoists her into the air, and carries her out through the hole in the wall as if she is light as a feather. “That was unexpected,” Bob says. A monkey punches him where his nut used to be and he laughs. “Monkey, I only have one ball.” The monkey isn’t amused and jumps onto his chest, wrapping its legs around his waist, and biting the side of his head, teeth tearing through the cap on his head to his scalp, and sinking in deeply. “Goddamn,” Bob shouts and punches the monkey. It’s unbothered by his petty assault. Ty grabs the neck of the monkey and tries to pull it off. Two monkeys jump on his back. They are heavy, huge bulges are all over their bodies from the babies, adding weight. One monkey on your back can be hard to carry. Two is even worse. Another monkey moseys over to Ty and begins to hump his leg aggressively with its teeth bared, grinning.

 

 

Thrashing wildly Ty bumps into a table and into Bob, who is under equal duress with the monkey eating his hair. They scream, bumping into each other. Carolina returns to the room with a broom in her hands, half her beanie is torn off along with the sleeve to her shirt. Striding behind Ty and Bob she bashes the monkeys with the brooms until they release the men, hiss at her, and hide behind a table. The rest of the monkeys filtered out during the struggles. Their shrill voices echo down the hallway.

 

 

“Well this worked out great,” Carolina says sarcastically. “Yeah,” Ty says, massaging the claw marks on his back. Blood drips from the side of Bob’s head, pitter-pattering on the floor. There are two monkeys still in the room, hiding behind a table. Teetering on the edge of collapse they stagger around to where Ty, Bob, and Carolina are, and stop. Like bowling pins struck by a ball they fall over and give birth.

 

 

Simultaneously a mother gives birth traditionally and through her mouth. The face of a clone baby pushes through her open mouth, greasy and growling. The trio screams. Another monkey’s stomach is ripped open and two faces push through, growling psychotically. These babies have faces without defects. The process is nearing perfection. The mother with the hole in her belly has a baby ripping through her mouth, opening her mouth so wide that the flesh of her face tears up to her temples, and her jaws are broken. Distressed Ty and Bob stand close together, shuddering. The babies break all the way free and crawl on the floor, leaving a trail of slime in their wake like slugs. It’s frightening to them how strong these clones are as babies, imagining how strong they are as adults. The mothers are dead, ripped apart by the births. Five babies on the floor.

 

 

“Cute little things,” Carolina says. Despite the protests of Ty and Bob she leans down and pats them on the heads. They already have teeth, sharp teeth as jagged as the shards of glass dangling from the wall. Expecting her to be bitten they watch as the babies let her touch them without protest. Drawers are in the table and she opens them, searching for something to clean the babies off with, and finds some folded towels, and takes them out, and applies the towels to the babies. In another drawer is a pair of scissors that she uses to sever the cords. She spreads the towels on the floor and puts the babies on them. They sit there with bright brown eyes, studying her face. “They’re too cute. We have to take them with us.” “What,” Bob shouts.” “Yeah, I don’t think that’s a great idea,” Ty adds. “They haven’t been brainwashed. There’s no tattoos on them. They are innocent. I’ve always wanted children.” “Well, you should try dating men,” Bob says bluntly. “Fuck you. I’m taking them with me.” “You can’t carry them by yourself.” “You two are going to help me.” “I thought we were supposed to wreck the operation.” “We still can. But we’re taking these little cuties with us.”

 

 

Ty and Bob don’t win the argument. Obligated by the fact that she saved them they carry two babies and she carries one. In the next room full-sized clones sit with tubes in their mouths. No more milk is pumping into them. They are large enough, males are seven feet tall and about two hundred-fifty pounds and the women are six feet tall and around one hundred-fifty pounds. They have abnormally large heads that house abnormally large brains. Pure beings in the eyes of a mad woman. They sleep with open eyes. “I’m not messing with that room,” Bob says, shaking fearfully. “Yeah, let’s not,” Ty agrees. Suddenly the clones stand up, tear the tubes from their mouths, and slam their palms against the glass. Strangely these clones don’t have tattoos on their faces, but are disturbingly the same facially. The deformities in the past gave each one a certain level of individuality. That is gone now that the process has been perfected. Their nakedness reveals that they possess no genitalia like the ones they saw on the tour.

 

 

The trio keeps moving down the dark hall. The clones walk from the glass wall to the door at the back of the room and open the door, and walk out, the last one shutting the door behind them. Their footsteps are silent on the other side of the laboratory, too far away for the trio to hear.

 

 

Perfect clones strapped down to chairs with wires protruding from their ears connected to computers stare lifelessly at them while data scrolls down the computer screens. Years of learning are skipped. The information is merely downloaded into their big brains. Effectively giving up on their plan the trio walks by.

 

 

They find a passage and walk down a forbidden corridor that leads them into the private portion of the laboratory, the portion not seen by outsiders’ eyes. A room filled with hundreds of monkeys that are banging on the glass with their fists. They hear footsteps, heavy steps on the marble floor. The laboratory is labyrinthine. They pass by more rooms that mirror ones on the tour, monkeys giving birth, babies drinking milk, growing exponentially, and clones learning. Finally they find a difference, huge rooms with sleeping clones on bunk beds. These rooms are twice as the large as the others and up to a hundred clones are sleeping in each one, an army. The crying babies stir them from sleep though, and groggily they see nothing because the group has already moved on, inches away from being seen. A huge room full of monkeys which aren’t pregnant. After meeting the others these monkeys are as scary as the clones.

 

 

At the end of the hall behind them are clones. They march after them, stepping in a line like trained soldiers. The hall is dark and the trio hopes they are not seen. The babies are crying. The other clones are given milk immediately after birth. These clones are being deprived. At the end of the hallway is an intersection. They reach it, cloaked in darkness. The marching continues. The tap-tap-tap of clones’ feet on marble. They look in each direction judge that a left will lead them back the way they came, and they take a right. “Run,” Ty shouts. “We have to move they’re gaining on us.”

 

 

More intersections. More options. More rooms to investigate or vandalize. But at the end of this hall is a door and they run for it. Survival is more important. Running causes the babies to scream and cry and they don’t have time to quiet them, they just have to keep moving, and hope they can get through the door before they are caught. Ty is the first to the door, he pushes it open, and an alarm goes off, and a red light blinks above the door. This the important part of the laboratory. Security is needed here, not at the front, at the tour portion of the building. The tour is what is shown to the world. The things that transpire here are secret.

 

 

Under starlight they survey a green landscape. Cows are standing, asleep. Mountains are in the distance. A fairly tall hill stands in the middle of the pasture. A hill hidden by the laboratory and not shown on the tour. Inadvertently they step in cow feces, crushing mushrooms into jelly. The alarm is disconcerting, a signal to all clones that the facility is under siege. There is a rectangular vehicle a hundred yards away. Its headlights turn on. A garbage truck. On the other side of them another pair of headlights turns on.

 

 

“The hill,” Ty shouts. “Get up the hill.” Things are protruding from the fabric of the hill. Carolina falls, cradling the baby tight against her bosom. Bob drops his babies down on the grass and tiptoes away, upward, digging his fingers into the soil of the hill, and forcing his body higher. The babies land awkwardly and break their necks, too fragile at this young age to survive a fall. Ty crouches beside a protruding object. From his pocket he draws his lighter and flicks it on, and discovers a human arm protruding from the ground. Swinging the lighter around, he sees that heads, arms, and legs are sticking up from various points of the hill. This is a dumping ground for corpses. A man-made mountain literally made of men and women. Carolina screams, discovering that she is eye to eye with a head. The flesh has been picked off by carrion creatures, leaving a near naked skull. One eyeball is left. Bob discovers the remains of monkeys that died during birth, beakers with sperm residue inside, used tubes, and needles. This is just the top layer. The trio realizes that this hill is composed entirely of these things.

 

 

“They are killing people and burying them here,” Bob says. “Where are the babies,” Carolina asks. “I left them behind. They’re clones.” “Asshole. They’ll die out here.” “No big loss.” “Let’s move higher up,” Ty suggests. “There’re bushes growing at the peak.” The headlights of the garbage trucks are close, at the foot of the hill. The engines are idling. The occupants are invisible in the darkness.

 

 

At the peak of the hill amongst dozens of rose bushes, which add a sweet fragrance to the air they huddle. “You’ll be caught,” a baby in Ty’s arms says serenely. A shiver passes through the bodies of the trio. “We are the future,” the baby in Carolina’s arms says. “You are obsolete. He dies first for killing two of us.” The baby points a tiny finger at Bob. “I didn’t kill them. I just set them down.” “I’m still keeping them,” Carolina says. “Are you crazy,” Bob shouts. “Will you two keep it down? Those garbage trucks can drive up the hill.” But they don’t. They just circle the land beneath the hill. Ty sets his babies on the grass and lights a cigarette. “Don’t smoke around them,” Carolina says. “I can’t take another minute without one. Shoot me. This is too much stress. This was a really shitty idea.” “These freaks need to die,” Bob says. His foot pushes into the soil, kicking grass and dirt aside. The grass is more like artificial sod than natural grass. It comes off the ground easily in one sheet, not as a separate clump. Below it is a thin, rotten corpse teeming with maggots that form a layer of skin on it. “Another corpse,” he bellows. “That creature said I’m going to die. We need to kill them all before they kill us. Bury us in this fucking hill.”

 

 

“What about the testicles,” Ty asks the baby. “What then? How will you all reproduce?” “We don’t need testicles to reproduce. We can reproduce asexually.” He mashes his cigarette out. “How come the new ones don’t have tattoos?” “They don’t need to. We don’t need the money. You creatures are obsolete. We only need ourselves. Can I hit that cigarette?” He puts it to the infant’s mouth, but it takes it from his hand instead, and takes deep puffs until the cigarette is out. “What about Peacock,” Ty asks. “Dead, buried up here with the others.” “The tour guide.” “She’s dead now. Replaced.” “How do you know everything,” Bob asks. “You’re an hour old.” “I’m perfect.” “Do you need milk to grow,” Ty asks. “No. We all share the same consciousness. The trucks won’t come up here because they are afraid you will hurt us. Death to one of us is felt by all.”

 

 

Lost in thought Ty paces the top of the hill, smoking another cigarette, and kicks a round object. Bending down he pushes a rose bush aside and finds the head of Peacock protruding from the soil, buried up to her dead chin. The frizzy orange hair and the freckle-laden face and the glasses on the tip of the nose. The rest of her is skeletal with strips of flesh hanging off. Breathing heavily he gestures for Bob and Carolina to come over and have a peek. They return to the babies on the sod. “So the trucks won’t hurt us because we have you,” Ty tries to confirm. “Yes.” “Then let’s go down. We’re safe.”

 

 

They descend. It’s steeper going down than up. They have to move slowly or risk tumbling to the bottom. Ty carries his two babies who ask for cigarettes and receive them, and Carolina carries her baby. The garbage trucks wait at the bottom. An army of clones stand naked in the shadows. None of the clones step forward to protest. They are afraid that harm will come to the babies. With their heads jerking around Ty, Bob, and Carolina walk away from the hill.

 

 

Outside the laboratory on the street parked at a meter is Ty’s car. The army of the clones follows. On the street are two garbage trucks waiting by his car. “You better keep us around,” a baby says. “The minute you let us go they’ll get you.” Ty smokes his cigarette to the filter nervously and throws it away. “We’re staying together,” Ty says. “We’ll stay in my room. We’ll be okay. We’ll figure out something to do.” Bob shakes his head. “I’m making a run for it. I’ll see you guys later.”

 

 

Stupidly he runs. His shadow dances off the sides of windows. The clones run after him, run faster than him. Ty and Carolina keep walking, get into his car after he unlocks the doors, and try not to watch. A wave of clones causes Bob to disappear. Does he escape? They can’t tell. The clones are still moving, a crashing wave. The fancy car starts up, he looks at Carolina, and she nods for him to go after Bob.

 

 

Corners are turned by clones. They attack as a wave and separate after the target is taken out. They are scattering, spreading out. Ty and Carolina don’t see Bob and fear the worst. Ty moves his gun to his lap and holds it there. “He’s dead,” a baby says. “There’s no point looking. He has been replaced.” The words are cold, chilling. Sad to know that their friend is dead they return to the hotel.

 

 

THIRTEEN

 

Midday. Plenty of work for Ty in the morning. After a scant amount of sleep his body is worn out, useless, and Carolina gives him a break. They spent the night in his room with the babies. The clones didn’t come for them. Dick stayed pretty quiet, too scared to comment on anything.

 

 

He’s in the lounge with his naked baby sitting next to him. The baby has a glass of milk and a cigarette in the ashtray smoldering. It’s grown to the size of a toddler, with the vocabulary of an adult. In front of Ty is a chicken sandwich and French fries that he can’t eat. Clones are in the lounge. Clones are checking into the hotel. Clones. Clones. Clones. Everywhere. How many real people are left? It seems like only he and Carolina are normal, but that can’t be true.

 

 

“They know everything,” he asks. “Yeah, how you’re holding me hostage. I’m growing up fast. You won’t be able to keep me for long.” An abundance of acid in his stomach. A dry mouth. A definite need for a plan. “I’m not going to hurt you,” he says with a placatory tone. “I just don’t want them to come after me.” Looking around he sees the clones taking glances in his direction and then turning their heads when they see his eyes fall on them. They are plotting, waiting. He has to keep his guard up. The gun is tight between his waist and the fabric of his jeans.

 

 

His phone chirps like a bird. A text message has come through and he checks the phone out. It has a minute keyboard to it, making it easy to type with. The message is from Carolina. She says that men in gas masks and air tanks are looking for him. They spoke to her, demanded to know where his room was, and threatened her with guns, and she lied, and said she didn’t know him. The gas masks make him think of the city he stole from. Deep down inside he knew that someone would come for him. He sends her a message, asking her to meet him in the lounge, and he sees her coming with the two babies walking beside her. They have grown to the size of toddlers also, and have grown to like her. Each one holds hands with her. His clone child is less friendly with him, maybe because of his distrust for the thing.

 

 

It’s early in the day for drinking but Ty orders a rum and soda from the menu on the clone’s face. It’s an older clone, not part of the perfected batch. Facial features twisted and ugly. Nervously Carolina sits down beside him and the two children sit on her lap. “Can I have some of your milk,” one of her children asks his child. “Sure.” It has a milk mustache and Carolina wipes it away. “You’re too affectionate with these things.” “Things,” his child shouts. “Things. We are more sophisticated than you.” “Well…whatever…anyway…you know what I mean. They’re taking over the city. They killed Bob.” “Freaks,” Dick says to him. “They found the woman that stole the rest of the money from you. They found your car and tracked you here. They want their money. They have the woman with them to identify you.” Ty shrugs. The city is being taken over by clones. He spent all the money he stole. Big deal.

 

 

No privacy. The clones lean from their tables, listening to them talk, and they lean closer together. “We have to get out of here,” he says. “I can’t keep hooking and you can’t keep running this hotel. Things are out of control.” “I love this city.” “It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t belong to you anymore. I can rob a bank and we can run away together.” The clone children talk, whispering to each other. One makes an attempt to stand and Ty points at it angrily with his index finger, and it sits still sheepishly. “We need to get leashes for these damn things.” “Again with the things,” one says. “We are people not things.” “Whatever. Don’t move. Where did the men go?” “To look around the hotel for you.”

 

 

Some clonies walk in the lounge and try to speak with the clones, but they ignore them, and disappointedly the clonies sit down and order drinks. A pair of the inferior clones joins them at the table. They appear sick. Their skin is a bluish color and they are frighteningly thin.  A waitress comes to the table. The clonies order food, but not the real clones. They light cigarettes with frail, shaky hands. “They are obsolete,” a baby comments. “As useless as you people. Stabs at miracles that failed to hit the mark.”

 

 

A clone with a flawless face approaches the table, stops, collects a chair from an empty table, and sits down with them. He wears an amusement city jumpsuit. A name tag on his shirt says Bob. “Hey guys, that was a crazy night last night.” Ty and Carolina exchange glances. From his pocket he pulls out some credit cards and studies them. “I have to make some money today. The rent is due.” The clone has picked up Bob’s life, jumped into his shoes, and knows his routine, his job, and his gas man hustle. He nods at the babies and they nod back. “How are you three doing?” “They’re treating us good,” one says. The false Bob shakes his head in understanding. “So what happened with the clones last night,” Ty asks. “You seem different.” The clone just smiles. A picture forms in Ty’s head of a clone wearing his expensive dress shirts and slacks. Prostitution won’t work though. The clones don’t have genitals.

 

 

A sickly clone falls from its chair at the clonies’ table and hits the floor. There are no spasms, just a cessation of life. Motionlessly it lies there, expired. A group of perfectly formed clones march in with a large black trash bag and tug it over and beneath the body until the corpse is inside. Garbage bags are thrown over the heads of the clonies and are slid down to their feet, and they are trapped, and lifted from their seats. Another group of perfected clones approach with musical instruments and play a sad jazz tune. With the corpse inside the bag strings are tugged at the opening and the bag is sealed. The dead clone and the clonies are walked from the lounge. The band continues to play the sad tune. “You know there might be some new step that makes you obsolete and then you’ll be thrown in the trash. Buried in the hill.” They don’t comment, and just look at the clone in the amusement city jumpsuit. “Soon that will be you,” one says. “You’ll find your way to the hill. A hole waits for both of you.” Nervously Ty and Carolina look at each other. They are alone. The two of them against the world.

 

 

“How’s the prostitution biz going,” the clone asks nonchalantly. “Not bad. I’m a little sore.” “It has to be rough.” Digging in his pocket he produces some pieces of paper. “Here are some coupons for some of the rides. You should take some time off. Relax. Take it easy.” “Sure. We’ll take the kids there. Have a holiday. Carolina, can I talk to you for a second?” They stand up and drag the kids with them. The fake Bob sits in his chair, savoring the cigarette that he is smoking, blowing smoke rings into the air lazily. A waitress approaches him and they talk, glancing at Ty and Carolina.

 

 

“We have to get the fuck out of here,” Ty says. “This is too weird. These little bastards are right. We’re next. We need a plan.” Carolina nods toward the entrance of the lounge. Standing there is a quartet of men in fatigues with gas masks and air tanks attached to their backs. They have the woman with them. She is strong enough to survive without a tank, but is pale, and sickly from the smoke. Abruptly Ty turns his back. “She saw you,” Carolina whispers. Instinctively he goes for his gun. Footsteps coming toward them. Muffled voices. The gun is gone. “Where’s my gun,” he hisses at Carolina. “I got it,” the baby by his side says, pointing the gun up at him. He kicks the baby in the stomach and the gun is jarred loose from his hand. Before he can recover it the fatigues surround him. They breathe loudly inside the masks, sucking in the oxygen from the tanks. The baby reaches for the gun too. His hands push the baby’s hands away. The false Bob stands up, but a fatigue points a gun at him, and he sits back down meekly.

 

 

“Stop moving,” a fatigue barks. In surrender he raises his hands. “Stand up and face us.” He does, dragging the baby by the arm. “Is this the guy,” the fatigue asks the woman. Ty and her lock eyes. “Yeah, that’s him.” “Take us to your room please.” Ty snags the baby by the arm for insurance. Just in case the clones decide to attack. “You can leave that baby here.” “I can’t. It’s my son.” “It doesn’t have a penis.” “He has a hormone problem. It’ll fall down soon. I love him.”  The fatigues give in. Surreptitiously the baby picks up the gun and stuffs it in Ty’s back pocket. It trusts him more than the fatigues and feels that he is better armed than it. Carolina sat back down at the table, clutching her clone. Ty gives her a defiant shrug.

 

 

FOURTEEN

 

 

On the way up they tell him that they don’t want to jail him. They just want the money back. That’s going to be tough he says. They don’t believe that he spent everything.

 

 

They cram into the elevator together. Three perfectly formed clones and four tourists in Hawaiian shirts and khaki shorts are inside too. Ty has his arm around the throat of the baby. “Thanks for ditching me before. I save your life and you steal from me.” His nameless onetime lover doesn’t say anything, just looks at her feet. “Then you rat me out to these guys. Thanks.” The eyes of the clones are on him. They want him too. “You have to get in line,” he says defiantly to them. “These scuba boys have dibs on me first.” They don’t say anything, just stare at him coldly.

 

 

The doors open on his floor. A gun barrel is pushed into his side and he steps forward. He drags the baby along beside him. To someone who doesn’t know better you can think that he is protective of the baby the way he holds it so close to him. Wrong. He is protective of himself.

 

 

They reach his room and he inserts the card in the slot and the door opens with a sigh. The group walks in. The room is crowded with expensive stuff that he bought. The room was furnished to begin with. An extra sofa is beside the hotel sofa. Another bed is by the bed. A surreal painting of plants attacking people is on the wall beside the hotel’s landscape paintings. Two flat big screen TVs. A stereo system and speakers stand as tall as the walls. On the floor are three stacks of clothes, dress shirts, slacks, and socks. Twenty pairs of leather shoes are situated around the bar. The fridge is packed with expensive entrees that don’t taste good unless cooked a certain way that can’t be done with the cheap hotel stove. There’s a bear skin rug folded in a corner of the room.

 

 

Immediately the fatigues stare at him. “You spent everything didn’t you,” one says dejectedly. “Yeah. I told you.” After the last heist he spent all his booty on hookers and liquor over a six month period. He spent his money this time in record time.

 

 

Despite his declaration that he spent all the money they search anyway. Beneath the mattress is the money he made as a prostitute. They find it, a meager amount, only a couple thousand dollars. They remove the pillow from its case and stuff the cash in the case. Two fatigues do the searching. The other two keep their guns on him. The woman stands next to him and he lets the baby stand freely by his side. Ty lights a cigarette, causing the woman to back away from him fearfully, and the fatigues to make disgusted faces beneath their oxygen masks. “Disgusting,” a man says. He stands close to Ty, close enough to grab him

 

 

Ty takes a few steps closer to the fatigue. “Why don’t you take all the stuff and the keys to my car and sell it.” “Is it enough to recoup all the money stolen?” “Close enough. This town is going to shit swiftly. I can’t drag it all out of here anyway.” The suggestion breaks his heart though. He loves his stuff.

 

 

“You sell the stuff. We’re not doing it. We hear that they buy testicles here. You should sell yours.” “No,” Dick speaks up. “The consequences are simple. We’ll give you two days to come up with the money. You don’t pay and we’ll drag you to the interstate, to neutral ground, and kill you.” He may not even last two days. The kid has grown a foot taller in the time since they were in the lounge. Three feet tall now. The kid is inching toward his back pocket for the gun and he takes a few steps away from it and a few steps closer to the closest fatigue. Deep inhales of the cigarette and he blows perfect smoke rings out. The fatigue cringes each time he blows a ring in his direction. Ty’s inner rebel tells him to make a move to test the boundaries. Attack one, see what they do, and try to shoot his way out of here.

 

 

He lunges forward and snatches the mask from the fatigue’s face and blows a ring of smoke into his naked face. The effect is instant. His skin turns pale, then yellow. Both his hands grip his throat, and he coughs desperately to remove the smoke from his virgin lungs. The other fatigues aim their guns at Ty, who reaches for his own gun, and finds that it is gone. The clone took it. Now it is backing to the door with the gun pointed at the small of the woman’s back, dragging her along with it as a hostage. The fatigues don’t need them. Human life means nothing to them. Squeezes of the trigger and the woman and the clone are full of holes, flat on their backs. Blood pools out of them. The throes of death and they move no more.

 

 

The smoke is killing the fatigue. His skin is a pale yellow like a yellow shirt that has been washed too many times. Flat on his back he flops like a fish in need of water. The mask is connected by a hose to the tank on his back. Lying on the tank elevates him a foot off the ground and the hose is tangled around the tank. Reaching behind his back he tries in vain to seize the mask, and put it to his face. His chest is sinking in. His fingers curl into claws. His lips wrinkle. Ty turns to run and a gun hits the back of his head, and he falls over.

 

 

“Glad you woke up,” Dick says. “Do something.” His hands are down. A fatigue with a knife is parallel with his crotch. The knife looks sharp. Two fatigues hold his arms up, twisting his limbs at the shoulder. “I’ll get the money. I’ll get the money. Don’t cut me.” He kicks at the man, who shifts away from Ty’s feet, but continues to lean over his crotch with the blade. “Make him still so I can cut,” the fatigue says emotionlessly. Ty is whacked on the bridge of the nose with the butt of the gun.

 

 

From sleep his eyes open again. He can feel the crusted blood around his nose. The bed sheets are wet with his blood. Blood is trickling freely from between his legs. The fatigues think he is still asleep and he keeps his eyes partially closed to give them the false impression.

 

 

“Take the other one,” one fatigue says. “One is only worth twenty-five thousand.” “We need him to get the rest of the money. You see how placid these people are. Taking both will leave him completely emasculated. Worthless.” “We have to stop the blood. He’ll bleed to death.” “We don’t have stitches.” “Burn the wound closed.” One fires a bullet into the air, and feels the hot barrel. Not hot enough. Another shot is fired into the ceiling. In the room above someone screams. Someone is hit.

 

 

 

Too much blood. Drooling Ty’s eyes roll back in their orbits and he is back asleep again. While he is asleep the hot barrel of the gun is pressed against the wound, searing his flesh closed. Two additional shots are fired to add more heat to the barrel. Again the flesh around the wound is seared. Skin melts and rolls together to close the wound.

 

 

A glass of water is thrown in his face to wake him. A fatigue holds an object shaped like a walnut in his hand. The hand is smeared with blood. Instantly he screams from the sight of his nut separate from his body and from the pain. It feels as though his scrotum is on fire. “Shut up. You have two days to get the money. Rob a bank. Do something. Or you lose the other nut.” Acquiescently he nods. This is the first time he has been caught and forced to face the consequences. Barely conscious he passes out again from the pain, and the fatigues leave.

 

 

FIFTEEN

 

 

Carolina wakes him. She has her children with her. Three corpses are on the floor. His pants are down. Seeing the fatigues’ handiwork makes her gasp. Too weak to move he asks for a cigarette and she lights one for him. The children look at their dead brother/sister/thing forlornly. “Who did this,” one asks. “Not me,” Ty says weakly. “They beat the shit out of you,” Carolina says. Holding the child by the hands she kneels beside the bed. “We have to get out of here,” he says. “They’ll think we did it. They want to kill us already.”

 

 

“You’re never getting out of here,” a child says. They have grown to four feet tall. “Shut up.” “Your time is coming. Both of you. We are not pleased.” “Shut up, I’m not in the mood to hear your negativity. I’ve had a bad day.”

 

 

His gun is gone. “I need another gun. I have to rob something.” “The bank is heavily guarded.” “What about those armed trucks that bring the money from the gate to the bank? There has to be a lot of money in one of those.” “Two guards drive the money there. They are armed.” “I just need one big score. Fuck these guys. I’m not giving them the money. We rob the truck and we leave. Just get the hell out of here.” She shrugs. “We have to bring them with us,” she says, gesturing to the children. “We need to do something with this dead one,” Ty says. “They’ll think we did it.” “Lets put a shirt on him and I’ll take him with me.”

 

 

They stand placidly by their fallen sibling, a little too far away from them. “Get over here,” Ty barks and they comply with disdainful expressions. “Stay over here. We need you.” “You will pay for killing one of us.” “I didn’t kill it. Those guys in the gas masks did.” They don’t seem to believe him, choosing to squint in his direction. “Let’s get out of here and we’ll figure out what to do next.”

 

 

They leave the room, looking in both directions. Ty stands the clone corpse up by holding its shoulders, and makes it appear to walk. One of his expensive shirts covers its body and wounds. The hall is empty and they start walking to the elevator. One of the children slips loose from Carolina’s hand stealthily, and backs away. The doors to rooms open and clones come out. Stone-faced they march after them. Dropping the dead clone Ty tackles the child to the floor, and pins it down with his arms. Breathing hard he drags it to its feet and puts his arm firmly around its neck. The number of clones double. They occupy every room on the floor. He has to leave the dead clone on the carpet to hold the other one, which is thrashing wildly in his arms. Carolina pushes the button on the wall and they wait for the elevator to rise. “Where are we going to go,” she asks Ty. “We got these two. They won’t hurt us.” “They don’t look like they care anymore.” “I didn’t kill the kid,” he shouts. Every clone has a shiny knife. Like they all shopped at the same cutlery store. They must have been advertised on clone faces. The lurch of the elevator reaching this level shakes the floor. With a whoosh the elevator doors open. The child bites his arm and he drops it and it runs to the pack of angry clones. Clones’ hands reach between the doors as they close and their fingers are severed and fall to the floor of the elevator. Absentmindedly Carolina hits the button to the roof. The roof. Nowhere to go but down. The elevator rises.

 

 

“How are we going to get out of this,” she asks. “I really don’t know. I don’t have a gun or anything. We got a hostage though.” It’s growing heavier, gaining weight, and another foot in height. It’s up to five feet tall. “You’re dead,” the child says. “We will hunt you down for killing one of us.”

 

 

The doors open and they are on the roof. A warm breeze plays with their clothing and hair. Some of Carolina’s hair blows into his face. “Why’d we come to the roof? How are we supposed to get down from here?” “I don’t know. I just pressed the button.” They attempt to reach the doors before they close. Her finger hits the button, but it doesn’t stop the doors from shutting, and the elevator from descending. They are trapped.

 

 

Numerous large fans are blowing. Air conditioners rattle and hum. Ty holds the child in a headlock. They walk to the edge, and look down. Below in an alley is a group of men singing high-pitched songs. Garbage trucks idle by curbs. A small group of drunk people walk down the street, laughing and talking loudly. The garbage truck creeps from the curb, gains speed. The metal bars rise from the back and come down in front of the truck like the tusks of a mastodon, and encircle the group, and squeeze together to grip them, and the bars rise, crushing them into pulp. The bars rise to the back of the truck and open, dropping the now dead bodies into the back. A grinding sound. The bars lower down from sight. Trash blows down the street, wrappers, newspapers, cigarette butts, cigarette packs, and cans and bottles. All ignored by the garbage truck.

 

 

“Watch out for the garbage truck,” Ty shouts to the singing men. They look up and hold their boots up at him. The garbage truck turns into the alley. The singing men are cornered. There isn’t a back way out. “Run,” Carolina shouts. The metal bars rise out again, and the garbage truck accelerates as they attempt to run deeper into the alley, tugging doorknobs, and trying to climb the walls to no avail. Those devious metal bars come together, binding them together, and crushing them at the midsection, snapping spines, and squeezing flesh into the bone until the flesh bursts. Like volcanoes their mouths spew blood into the air instead of lava. The spatter hits the walls and ground like thrown paint, forming abstract shapes.

 

 

Behind Ty and Carolina the elevator doors open again. Silently thirty clones march to them. Each one has a glass of milk and a shiny knife. The males are seven feet tall with huge skulls and short orange hair. The women are six feet tall with huge heads and long orange hair that touches their shoulders. The end of individuality. Complete conformity. Cookie cutter beings. Formed from the same mold.

 

 

“This is brutal,” Ty says, looking down. The corpses are dropped in the back of the garbage truck. The driver or drivers are invisible in the cab. The windows are tinted. It seems like the garbage truck is waiting for something because it waits directly beneath them.

 

 

Above them is a serpentine segment of roller coaster track. Only a couple feet above their heads they can jump up and reach it. Handholds are available. Glancing over his shoulder Ty notices the approach of the clone mob. The garbage trucks in the alley below ascend the side of the wall, defying gravity. Headlights shine in their faces. Trapped, the only way to escape is the track above their heads.

 

 

They can’t take the clone with them. The small army continues to march toward them. Ty walks the clone to the edge of the roof. “I’ll throw it over the edge, you better stay back.” For a moment they stop, waiting, and then resume walking. Carolina jumps up, grasping the secure steel rail. Ty drops the child over the edge and it lands on the front of the ascending garbage truck. Ty imitates Carolina and jumps up, clutching the rail, shoving his arm through a space between steel, and dragging the rest of his body up laboriously, sweating, and straining his biceps. Carolina is acrobatic enough to throw her legs up from below her to the rail, and wrap them around the steel, and hold on securely. As the garbage trucks turn onto the roof, Ty straightens his body out on the rail, and takes a moment to catch some air in his lungs.

 

 

Running on the rails is dangerous, tricky. The garbage truck can’t follow them. It needs a surface to drive on. It is able to accelerate into the air and strike the rail, but the rail is durable, strong enough to support the whipping roller coasters. Tight-roping across the rail they reach a souvenir building, drop down to the roof. The clones don’t seem to be following them. A rail wraps around the building, not for a roller coaster, but for a ride with a harnesses for the riders. Daringly they drop down to the rail and follow it down to a few feet from the ground. Beneath the rail is an empty dumpster and they leap into it.

 

 

Expecting to be found hours go by and nothing happens. Ty calls Rico, describes the location, and the scheme. Rico promises to be there soon.

 

 

SIXTEEN

 

 

Paranoid. Hunted by a horde of clones they chose not to spend the night in the dumpster and snuck into a funhouse and waited until morning there. They fell asleep on a seat to the ride that leads passengers on a journey past skeletons, ghouls, and serial killers. Wax dummies powered by wires and doodads jump out at adventurers. All night they had to look the dummies, falling asleep with their heads on each other’s shoulders, and dreaming about clones.

 

 

Rico calls and says that he is on the way. The plan is to take out the hotel, lure the clones there, and destroy it, and rob the money truck on its way to the bank. Ty tells him to bring plenty of explosives and he agrees to do so.

 

 

Furtively they cross streets. There are just enough elderly people and tourists to conceal them, to move unseen by clones. They keep their heads down. No eye contact with anyone. The number of non-clones is dwindling considerably. Carolina knows where a shop is that sells clonie accessories and they stop there.

 

 

Ty picks up a jumpsuit that he puts on in the fitting room. A realistic mask is picked out, latex with scars, an asymmetrical nose and eyes, and he puts it on. Carolina buys an orange wig and stickers that she can put on her face as false tattoos. Same jumpsuit. She puts her costume together in the fitting room also. A third clone costume is purchased for Rico. Ty carries it tucked in a brown paper bag. Luckily the store keeper isn’t a clone.

 

 

They look each other over. They make believable clones. After purchasing their items they walk out into the day. There are even less regular people now. Clone wear tourist garb, dress like the elderly, drive the cars of the elderly, and act like them, and looking around they don’t see any regular people. The changeover is complete. The money truck drives from the front gate to the bank. They watch its progress. There is some traffic and it waits for a while. “We’ll need an accident,” Ty says. “We stop traffic and the truck stops and we hijack it.”

 

 

“What time is he coming,” Carolina asks. “In a few hours. He’s bringing explosives. We can lure them to the hotel and blow it up if you’re willing to do it.” “I think it’s time for me to leave. I can get insurance money from the hotel burning down. Not a whole lot probably. But that plus the bank robbery money and I can get something going in another city. I don’t think we can kill them all off though. New ones are being born every minute of the day.” “I know. It’s worth a try though. For Bob.”

 

 

SEVENTEEN

 

 

Flyers are put up by day. Same color and texture as the ones advertising Ty’s sexual services. A party tonight at the Marigold Hotel. Clones only. Food. Karoake. Drinks.

 

 

Carolina spends the time before his arrival kicking out the last regular guests, telling them that poisonous gas is pumping through the vents and that they need to leave immediately or risk dying. It’s a good excuse, one step away from saying that she will blow up the building with Ty. The rest of the rooms are occupied by clones in Hawaiian shirts and khaki shorts who study her face when she knocks on the door. Breathing hard she apologizes, saying that she has the wrong rooms, and leaves before they smell that she is not one of them.

 

 

 

Rico arrives two hours before the party is set to start. The clonie costume is given to him and donned. Several chandeliers are in the ballroom. Crystal apples and oranges on a crown is the design. They hide the plastic explosives behind these chandeliers, which obviously look out of place in the ceiling like globs of mud. The explosives are powerful enough to bring several floors down. They hope the ensuing fire will engulf the floors as they fall down from the explosion.

 

 

By eight o’clock clones start arriving. They wear work clothes, jumpsuits and uniforms from their respective gigs. Men and women, tall and eerily alike. Refined ones with perfect features and no tattoos are the majority. They stick together, ignoring the disfigured clones. Clonies show up too. They are welcomed by the disfigured clones, but the refined ones shun them. Carolina bought plenty of milk. The clones don’t drink the alcohol they put out. The food is far from catered, simply fast food they picked up from the fast food building, and brought in. Primarily the clones eat hamburgers. A few nibble on chicken nuggets. Every single one drinks a glass of milk, using the same mannerisms, and speech patterns, cut from the cloth of their original creator.

 

 

Hours go by. The clones talk about taking over the town, about rounding up the remaining people, and about the murderers that attacked the lab. Clone production is still going on. Like Carolina thought earlier blowing up a large number of them isn’t going to be the solution. They have to destroy the lab, not merely vandalize it.

 

 

Ty mingles around, tugging on the false nose of the mask that irritates his skin. He pulls the bottom of latex up to reveal his mouth and he pokes his cigarette between his real lips. Casually he does this and some clones notice and he feels paranoid, thinking that they know who he really is, and he paces around, not staying in one place as an easy target, and chain-smokes to calm his nerves.

 

 

The trio comes together and agrees that it is time to detonate the explosives. Clones watch them. Most of the real clonies are gone. Peripherally Ty glimpses one being shoved into a black trash bag, kicking and screaming, and the clones carry the bag casually into a crowd of clones. No sad jazz tune for the clonie. Disfigured clones drop dead as if a button is pushed that stops their hearts. They are defective, have short life spans like flies. They are bagged up and a jazz band plays for each of them. Fallen soldiers in the crusade.

 

 

They meet outside by Rico’s white Bronco. “We have to go all the way and blow up the laboratory,” Carolina says. “It’s the only way to end this. Stop it at the source.” “They’ll be more careful after we broke in the first time.” “I have grenades,” Rico says coolly, smoking a cigar. “Killing these things won’t affect the robbery will it?” “No, of course not. Tourists are coming in every day. Admission is charged at the gate to the town.” “That really sucked. Hundred bucks to get into this dump.”

 

 

Above them a roller coaster swirls around a building. Down the street people stumble from a haunted house, screaming. A clone runs out with a real human corpse that has been sliced up in several places. The tourists howl and run across the street to the souvenir shop that has a clone in a dog costume pacing around in front of it. The clone with the human corpse walks back inside the haunted house, letting the door slam closed. Through the window of the freak show next door to Carolina’s hotel they can see a creature with two faces peering through the glass. A donkey with a human face is in another window, tail wagging. “Let’s do this,” Ty says.

 

 

They get inside the Bronco. Rico presses the red button on the remote control and the explosions are set off. The sound of the ceiling falling down is deafening. Smoke pours through shattered windows. A rumble as the lowest two floors collapse down. The entire building doesn’t fall. It simply shrinks by two floors. The occupants are crushed and burning. Fire eats flammable material, growing. “You ever read I am Legend,” Ty asks, feeling a twinge of guilt. “In the end he is the monster.” “They’re the monsters,” Carolina says, trying to reassure him. “We’re not the bad guys.” “Life is murky, baby. In their eyes they are the good guys.” “We doing this,” Rico asks. “Yeah, let’s go.”

 

 

Outside the laboratory they separate, and carry grenades to different points of the complex. The moon is concealed by the cloud of smoke above the city. Distantly the screams of people on roller coasters can be heard. Distantly the smoke from the fire blends into the smoky sky above the city, a cloudy trail leading to a greater cloud. Bright lights blink against the glass of the building. The wall they penetrated before has been healed. Still there is no security. No motion detectors. No alarms.

 

In front of the façade Ty pulls the pin from a grenade and hurls it into the front wall. Backing up quickly to avoid being harmed he pulls the pin on another grenade and lobs it onto the roof. Two explosions. Glass flies forward. The roof caves in. Motes of burned plaster rise into the air. Clones emerge from the ground, pushing segments of sidewalk up. Their hands have mutated into blades. Their fingers come together into perfectly triangular shapes with the potential to cut. Ty pulls a pistol Rico gave him and shoots them. They aren’t bulletproof and fall down meekly, full of holes. But more emerge from the ground, through the passage that must lead from this spot on the ground to the back of the laboratory where that crowd of clones resides. A phalanx of them spread out. Easily he takes them down, unloading every bullet he has in his gun, and reloading, and pitching a couple grenades. Clone bodies fly into the air. Clone bodies litter the ground.

 

 

Explosions from other sides of the complex. Other segments of the building cave in. Flames jog through the interior. Pulling the pins of three grenades he hurls them through the opening he forged, putting all the force he can muster into the tosses. A fireball flies out of the opening. Burning clones stumble from the flaming structure. Hairless monkeys run out with packed bellies. Their skin is left a pale pink after the fur was burned off.

 

 

The trio regroups. Garbage trucks drive up to the inferno. More explosions. Delayed reactions to the pulling of the pins. The garbage trucks accelerate. More come out of the huge garage after the doors rise silently. “How many grenades do you have left,” Ty asks. Rico smiles and hands five more to Ty and four to Carolina. “I got more in the truck,” Rico says cockily. Waiting until the garbage trucks are within throwing distance they toss the grenades at the trucks after pulling the pins. Explosions. Garbage trucks fly into the air. Crushed bodies fall out the back. The wheels roll down the street. The burning clones fall out the doors. Living fireballs that move only a few feet more before falling down. There are no garbage trucks left on the street. Two structures are destroyed. The rides don’t stop. Screams of glee. Clones in bear costumes walk around the streets. Tourists stop in souvenir shops, restaurants, and pay additional admission fees to ride the roller coasters. A splash of water flies off the water slide and strikes a stretch of pavement with clones standing with boots in their hands, singing high-pitched songs. The fun never stops in Peacockville.

 

 

EIGHTEEN

 

 

The robbery. The truck loaded with money drives down the street. A black van is wedged between two large cars. Two clones portraying elderly people fight a fake clone in black with canes in front of the black van which has been smashed on both sides by the two cars. This accident stops traffic. Two rows of cars are stalled on both sides of the road. There is no room for the money truck to pass. It’s a hot day and the attendants of the money truck have the windows down to let cool air in. Guns are pointed in their faces, Ty on one side, and Carolina on the other. The orders are simple. Get out of the vehicle and open the doors in the back that hold the money.

 

 

The attendants run to the back of the truck hurriedly, under duress. Ty and Carolina are dressed in tight black fatigues with their clonie masks still on. Hot fabric for the weather.  Garbage trucks linger in the distance. There are no locals today. In their place are perfect clones with glasses of milk, drinking placidly. Even the tourists have been replaced. Clones wear the elderly people’s clothing and drive their expensive boats. Ty’s car is parked behind the truck. The money is kept in large black duffel bags, the size of body bags with dead people inside, and equally as heavy. It takes the effort of two people to lift a bag. An attendant and Ty lift the bags out while Carolina keeps the gun pointed at the other attendant. Rico joins them. A few bruises are on his arms from blows from the canes. He and the other attendant load bags into the back seat of the car. Body bags of money are stacked to the ceiling of the fancy sports car. They run out of room and give up on the rest of the money in the truck. The tricky part is how to escape. Cars are stuck behind them. Three garbage trucks are smashing into cars, knocking them out of the road. The clone murderers have been found.

 

 

“Trucks,” Carolina says. The trio is sweating. They allow the attendants to escape and they get in the car. On every corner is a garbage truck. They are interspersed between every three cars in traffic, pushing cars forward that crash into Ty’s car. It’s an expensive vehicle, but is made cheaply, and the frame is folding in.

 

 

To evade the pursuit Ty uses the impressive maneuverability of the car to swerve from the lane, dodge another car, and pull onto the sidewalk and drive. Garbage trucks follow his plan, smashing cars into brick buildings, crushing the cars into flat shapes. Ty swerves around the few scattered tourists and elderly people, but tries to ram clones. Clones fall on the hood, on the windshield, and bounce over the roof. Clones spared by the onslaught of the bruised and battered sports car are convulsing strangely, bulges form on bodies, writhe, and pop off in small balls that sprout arms and legs. Little clones are born and grabbed by their parents before they are harmed. With hands full of tiny babies they move to the road, to safety.

 

 

The pursuit of the garbage trucks is relentless. Down an alley. Back out the other side on an empty road. Garbage trucks appear from east and west, to pursue, and to block traffic. Spinning the wheel Ty makes the fancy car zigzag to avoid pursuit. “Any idea, where to go,” Ty asks. “I have one,” Carolina says. “Go to the ruins of the laboratory.”

 

 

Bouncing off of garbage trucks he maneuvers for the laboratory. The speed of his car is too much for the garbage trucks, on an empty street he accelerates to a hundred miles per hour. The garbage trucks become distant. The ones that pull in front of his car to cut them off are too slow to block them. Through the gates of the laboratory property the car crashes, knocking the fence over, and bending the hood back like peeling the lid on a tin can.

 

 

“Stop the car,” Carolina says and Ty hits the gas. No garbage trucks are in sight. They were left far behind. Ty and Carolina get out and unload one duffel bag of money. Rico shifts into the driver seat, the key is still in the ignition, and he drives off with the rest of the money. “Unfucking believable,” Ty says. “That’s the second time in a week I’ve been robbed after a robbery.” They stand there, looking at the cows.

 

 

EIGHTEEN

 

 

The cow is moving. For a long time it migrates. Bells tingle around the gigantic cow’s neck that they hear from inside the womb. They can hear its heartbeat. Boom. Boom. It feels as though they lie on jelly. The duffel bag is between them like a third person.

 

 

The bells stop tinkling. The cow stops. Conversation outside the cow. Debate. A hand shoves through the vaginal cleft and seizes Carolina’s leg, and pulls her to the light of day. Blind in the darkness of the womb Ty tosses his hand out to catch her hand but misses and she is gone, and he has to go out too to save her. Like a birth he shimmies to the edge and falls out, covered in clear liquid. The sky is clear blue here, away from the swirling smoke of the smoking city. Carolina is on the ground. His friends are present with guns aimed at them, fatigues, and oxygen masks. They followed the path of the cow in a jeep. Other gigantic cows are grazing on green grass. Mountains are nearby, with a highway cutting through it.

 

 

“Thought you could escape us,” one asks. “Where is the money?” With the guns pointed at him he has no choice but to point at the cow. A fatigue walks over, the tallest one, and shoves his long arm inside the cow, fishing around for the duffel bag. “You got a good score,” he says. “This bag weighs a ton.” Gradually with grimaces and grunts he drags the bag out and it drops heavily to the green grass.

 

 

“How did you guys find us anyway,” Ty asks. “We were watching you closely. We barely got out of there alive. Even the tourists are gone.” “There’s more money than what I took in there.” “We’re taking it all for our trouble. You’re lucky we don’t kill you. Here you can have this back too.” Ty’s severed testicle, a withered walnut, is thrown to him. Carolina winces at the show of disrespect. Nonchalantly Ty puts it in his pocket as if he can have it reconnected later and pulls a cigarette from his pack, and lights it up. He blows smoke in their faces vindictively. The gun is in Ty’s pocket, but he doesn’t try to use it. Living is more important. He can’t win a gunfight against them. “Don’t come to our city again,” one tells him.

 

 

They get inside the jeep after two of them held two ends of the duffel bag and tossed it in the back. The exit of the jeep kicks grass and dirt into the air. “Now what,” she asks disappointedly. “I guess we rob a bank or something in the closest city.” “Bonnie and Clyde.” “Yeah. Bonnie and Clyde.” He leans in to kiss her and she punches him in the nose. “I still don’t like boys.” “Even after everything we’ve been through.” “Yep,” she says. “She’s no fun at all,” Dick says.

 

 

The gigantic cow is a placid beast obviously after allowing them to enter its womb and it has no problem with them climbing on its back. Tugging its ears entices it to move and they travel on the back of the gigantic cow down the shoulder of the super highway. Cars whiz past them. Funny faces on the occupants like they haven’t seen two people riding the back of a humongous cow. It goes on everyday back in Peacockville. They should visit there sometime.

 

 

A city comes into view. A huge billboard advertises its features. Prostitution, bestiality, incest, drugs, and murder are legal here. The population number on the welcome sign has been scratched out numerous times, an ever dwindling number. They cross the road after all the cars pass in both directions. There is no admission fee to enter the city. Just the sign welcoming newcomers.

 

 

The town is average, just at the line of the status quo, nothing amazing. Buildings are average. No feats of architectural genius. The cars are average, nothing luxurious. A quiet day. Not a lot of people out and about. Only people in cars that drive by too fast for them to see faces. The drivers look a little similar. Orange hair. A plentitude of freckles. Women with orange hair and freckles fornicate with horses behind glass windows. Three men are chasing a brown-haired man down the street with hammers in their hands. “We picked a good one,” Ty says sarcastically. “I’m too tired to keep walking,” Carolina sighs.

 

 

They stop in a fast food restaurant to pick up some food. The liquid dried on them, but they smell horrible. Both employees and customers share the same features, orange hair, and freckles, and the pair feels sick. Customers drink from milk cartons that have Ty and Carolina’s faces on the back of them. They stop drinking, recognizing them from somewhere, and look over the back of the cartons. Clone killers

 

 

“We’re so fucked,” Carolina whispers. Ty palms the gun in his pocket. The clones are unarmed, but he doesn’t have enough bullets to kill them all. One by one the clones stand and he has to pull the gun and wave it around, shouting threats.

 

 

The clones spread around them, forming a circle, drinking their milk, and edging closer, closer until there is no room for the pair to run. Hands reach out to grab them. Ty starts shooting, preferring to die after a fight than placidly lying down. Six clones drop slowly, and fade into the background. Ty and Carolina are pushed into the floor. Hands hover over them. Big hands that can palm their faces. Hands are manipulated into knife-shapes and rake their flesh, opening deep wounds. Pulling their bodies together into an embrace they try to shield blows from falling on their heads unsuccessfully. Milk spills on them. Kicks continue past the point of blood being drawn and broken bones. The world is going black to Ty. “Give it one last try,” Dick says. Listening, he kisses Carolina on her lifeless lips a second before his head is crushed and his life is ended. Two black trash bags are brought out and the pair is slid inside them for disposal. There is no jazz accompaniment to their demises. Just a peaceful blackness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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