"That which is overdesigned, too highly specific, anticipates outcome; the anticipation of outcome guarantees, if not failure, the absence of grace."
-- William Gibson, All Tomorrow's Parties

And here's something from last week that I was mildly entertained by until it turned into Yet Another Heaven/Hell War Thing.

Working on something at the moment that will definitely not fall into that strange little trap (for some reason, my brain enjoys sliding down that particular slope; which is idiotic considering how little thought I actually ever give to religion. I assume it's actually some form of pre-fantasy fantasy literary fetish).

There are a few other bits of flashback and some raw, gross dialogue here as well.

It's tempting to think of the victim as just a body. A slab of decaying meat, unexpected but not unheard of, found by some unsuspecting passerby. What one of his ex-partners had referred to as Just Another Dead Guy Syndrome.

While Morales was on the beat, he'd always figured the jokes and the nonchalance the dicks displayed towards their Does as pure show. The slick sloughing off them like summer sweat, cynicism like a swarm of flies. It never crossed his mind, then, that it was pure reactionary survival instincts that caused them to act that way. Something they had to do to get through the day, to make it less real.

Seven years with Homicide had leathered him up pretty good though, and he'd closed down that one particular sense that never seemed to do him any good at crime scenes. He walks into the apartment just right, with all the carefully oppressed attitude; sight, smell and sound all keyed up and ready to roll, his empathy left on the coat rack by the door.

It always found him, but he would need those first few minutes of clear observation to make sense of anything.

It was immediately obvious this was something else, though. Not Just Another Dead Guy. A half dozen techs gravitate around the body, tiny rocks held in the thrall of some red giant, all over-extended and messy across the carpets and furniture. They step carefully over the wet litter which at first appears to have be cast haphazardly across the expensive living room rug; they set out their little flags and take their pictures and video. They scrape lightly at the dried blood on the walls, then step backwards, never turning, expertly avoiding anything that falls under the umbrella of "evidence" with all the grace of a dancer.

He ignores the techs. They're as much wallpaper as the EMTs loitering around outside with nothing to do, smoking cigarettes with the filters cut off. Mobile white noise.

The eye is naturally drawn to carnage, but he fights the reflex out of habit. Takes in the room before it was covered in what used to be happily encased in someone's skin and muscle. The problem here is the gore has covered the tasteful paintings, the perfectly painted walls, the floor lamps that are too expensive looking to be from IKEA; it's pooling in the very slight indentations on the leather seats of the couches. So he gives in and follows the pattern of blood inward.

And notices, finally - though in truth only seconds have passed since he walked into the room - that there are indeed patterns drawn on the floor. What appears to be wet ash, slowly drying into the thick carpet, the heavy seams of the rug. Occult symbols that slowly converge into nearly coherent meaning form concentric rings around the shredded body. The corpse itself has been put into the exact center of the rings; he knows this subconsciously, without looking at the yellow measuring tape that has been laid out by the techs. Knows with the surety of millennia of monkeys seeing patterns in cloud and on tree bark, knows with that innate human sense for symmetry.

The organs have been removed and placed at what he has no doubt are mathematically precise points, finely calculated distances from the victim and the surrounding symbols.

The majority of the signs are meaningful to him in the same way that reading German is meaningful. There is a semblance of understanding, a vague impression of actual content leaking through the barriers of language. His racket has always been Earthly crimes but he's been around long enough for the gist to get through: A summoning circle. Judging by the dried out look of the heart, liver, and kidneys, and how the stomach was untouched, the dead guy had been a successful sacrifice.

"Jesus fuck," Morales sighs.

One of the techs looks up at this, eyebrow arched above his goggles. Morales crosses himself and shoves his hands back into his trenchcoat pockets.

This is going to be a long day.

Growing Up

When Morales was growing up, his family lived on the third floor over a bakery. He could remember the smell of baking bread waking him at three A.M. every morning for months after they'd moved into the apartment.

Eventually the bakery was replaced by a fish store, a convenience store, a laundry, a liquor store, and finally when he left for college, a book store.

The thing is, he can't for the life of him recall any transitions between these states. Only that one morning he would wake up and the bread had become fish; neon signs advertising various beers and wines had been replaced by fake wood panelling, metal scrollwork and the smell of new books.

He can't remember any Grand Openings or Going Out of Business Sales. Someone flicked a switch somewhere and what he envisions as a chrysalis forms over the building. A cellophane cocoon which cracks open at dawn, spilling its new wares onto carefully arranged displays on the sidewalk.

Mobster Demons for Jesus

"I'm a big fan of Jesus. He got the shit end of the stick but stood up when called. I respect that. You have to understand, then, that our -- our being 'Hell' in general -- beef wasn't with Jesus but our shared Father. See, all the events leading up to the Fall, and I know you can taste the capitalizations here, all of it, were orchestrated by God. And could it have been any other way? This should have been obvious, of course, but hindsight sees more clearly and all that garbage.

"So about fifty years after the Romans poke holes in the Son, we start getting funny vibes from our mutual upstairs neighbors. Astral banging on the floor, you might say. Eventually they send a messenger down and in not so many words ask us if we'd seen God around. Us, they ask. Us, who had been cast out, hunted down... and, really, for no other reason at all except God insisted on sneakily giving us what you monkeys have had all along: free will. And like all teenagers realizing there's a whole world out there, we started pushing our limits, and boom, the Old Man throws us out. We were suitably amused when Heaven comes by and asks us, over fucking crumpets, if we'd seen the cagey bastard. Like maybe just gone out for a bagel or something. So after He puts us through all this bullshit, getting most of us killed in the process, he goes rabbit on us. Pulls a runner, right?

"Eventually Heaven broken down all the roads and paths that ran between them and Hell, leaving only a single road to Earth. So you monkeys, if any of you magically somehow manage to not fuck up horribly and follow all His asinine rules, you can find your way home. And some of you must, because not all of you grace the shores of *my* homeland when you kick it."

Meeting Special Liaison Jones

"Jones," the guy in the hat says. He looks a bit too much like Cary Grant to be this far from L.A. "Special Liaison. What've you got?"

Morales says nothing, just steps out of the doorway into the hallway. He gestures inside, pulling a toothpick out of his pocket and putting it between his lips. He begins to chew, ignoring Jones' outstretched hand. Jones shrugs, walks into the apartment. He pulls the fedora off as he walks down the hall, pauses just before entering the living room.

Jones nudges at the ash circle caked into the carpet with the toe of his expensive shoes. Something not entirely quite like static electricity leaps up, wrapping around his ankle for a moment before dissipating.

Morales grunts.

Jones Pontificates on Human Omniscience

"So you think you know everything about me, eh?"

"I know what they seem to think I needed to know. I know [... filler ...]. But they really know it all. You ever work with one us before, Morales?"

"What, they didn't tell you that?"

"Need to know, you know."

"No, never. But my last partner had. He said he got tired of how the Liaison acted like he knew his heart and mind, like he was telepathic."

"We've all of us got a little empath in us. Telepaths are rare. They don't get to come up topside, though. Thing is, if you humans wanted to, you could know as much as we do, and just as non-invasively."

"We don't have a machine to read people's minds or smell their emotions. We only have their actions."

"And is that so different? If you could see every move someone makes, every purchase, what women they lust after, what television shows they watch what commercials they flip through... you're spitting distance of knowing that person 'heart and mind' as you so quaintly put it. Actions are ripples, Morales, and you can easily deduce where the pebble was dropped by observation. And believe, you humans have the ability to observe as much as you want. You've really got it down to a science."

October 13, 2004 12:47 PM

'poke holes in the Son'

Great turn of phrase there. It feels some how familar, yet Google can't find anything even close to it.

Posted by: DinoNeil at October 13, 2004 4:35 PM

I can't recall hearing it before, but I retain very little of what I read consciously. So it all seems to eventually leak out and people who read the same things I do (and have better memories) get to point out my accidental plagarism later. :\

So it's entirely possible.

Posted by: bda at October 13, 2004 5:21 PM

I didn't intend to cast any dispersions. I was mostly trying to comment on how, when correctly phrased, a sentence can slot into a well-worn subconscious niche like a tumbler in a bank vault.

Have you ever read "The Books of Blood" by Clive Barker? Most of his later stuff bored me to tears, but it his writing was extremely tight and well edited in his short stories. This sort of thing would have slotted in perfectly next to any of his.

Posted by: DinoNeil at October 14, 2004 4:54 PM

No, but I will be reading them shortly, I'm sure. The first Barker book I read was "Abarat", and it was amazing (but I really like weird kid books like that).

If his earlier stuff is of a similiar quality, I will be very happy.

My roommate is mad about Barker, so he has most of it, I'm sure.

Posted by: bda at October 15, 2004 11:32 PM
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