Bill Drennan

escape from dead city

The Ectoplasmic Virtual Machine picks up the frequencies of dead souls, & induces their spillage from cross-dimensional fields. They spill like water from an Archimedean bath — before being converted to a state of readiness for the employment of a virtual field, which constructs the fabric of the ‘visitor’. These energies are channelled into a kind of solid holograph, a tangled assemblage of magnetic fields. The result is a ghostly substance, like Madame Blavatsky’s lung emissions … or translucent fabric pulled through a pan-dimensional mangle. The device works by sucking the magnetic frequencies of migrating souls from another plane of existence & redirecting them via light-twisting digital signalling technology — so that the virtual energy is twisted into the poor captured spirits & then merged with them. At this point in the process the ectoplasm takes a tangible state &, as such, is torturable — like it has a solid ghost-psychology to meddle with. Despite the technological advantages that have made this device possible, there are certain drawbacks relating to stability. The machine is not always reliable when it is set to return unwanted visitors. Some of these spooks have ended up hanging around for longer than they can be sustained. But they all disappear in the end. Another stability issue is that though in a tangible state, the dead soul never remains fixed as a ‘body’. Its ‘physical’ qualities are altered constantly, moving in unlikely, extra-temporal contortions — existing out of time as we understand it. Existing in dead city time …

Memo to all demons: Before gaining a pass to enter the city, all visitors should be dead first. While this may seem an obvious prerequisite to entry, it is wise to be vigilant. In order to join the queue, appropriate ministry records must be checked by Event Portal personnel. Only then are visitors to be given a pass to the city. If a visitor is not actually dead on arrival, then the said Spirit Event (SE) is under no circumstances to be treated as ‘live’ — & is to be designated ‘unvirtual’ (UV). ‘Live’ indicates a state of readiness for examination. UV does not. All UVs must be apprehended immediately & returned to the Event Portal for expulsion treatment. UVs are not to be tampered with & must be returned to source, even under circumstances where the Virtual Machine is functionally challenged. The Ministry provides only bureaucratic support to all visitors until they enter the city. Until that point, it is therefore not suitable to implement any measure in excess of this level of service. Until a visitor enters the city gates, any support beyond bureaucratic torture is inappropriate. Virtual contact is reserved for live city guests only & is to be carried out either by nuclear-genetic specialists, necromancers, virtual disease specialists, aerobotics technicians or skilled periscopists. [Chief Executive]

As with ancient Pythagoreans, a silence has been imposed on the queue of souls. The beastly & twisted operatives, however, observe this code of conduct with a paradoxical eye. A visitor in the queue who is silent will be snarled at, lashed, told to shut its fucking hole … then lashed again for doing this. Although this kind of action is illicit, higher officials tend to turn a blind eye. Imagine a hypothetical, poor, bewildered Spirit Event arriving at the end of the queue. It will be natural for that visitor to ask another in the queue — though normally having to raise its broken voice to compete with the background noise, with the heart-wrenching wails — to ask what exactly is going on: “Excuse me, but ...” by the time our poor, non-dead, hypothetical visitor arrives at the city, the poor bastard is going to be slightly the worse for wear. So worn out are they, in fact, that they do not, generally speaking, have the energy to move — let alone escape …

I’d just recently injected the Spirit Event with a regular shot of ecto-genetic virus. After relieving myself — with all due haste & attention — I undertook the interrogation task. The visitor responded with regular reaction times & normal defiance levels ... I asked it if it cared that it was a sub-ectoplasmic, sub-virtual, extra-atomic fucking fuck from a phallocunnicentric fucking universe! ... what the fuck did it think it was anyway? ... "don't you fucking patronise me", I said, after it spewed on my face ... "irregular pile of spazz! ... you didn’t even fill the SE112 form in properly … useless moron! … just because YOU need something bloated & airy-fairy to latch onto in your vacuous little shithole of horrors — don't go spewing your garbage at me, hairy-arsed bell-end … Go fuck for Jesus you stinking ex-mortal piece a filth!!” The creature did not move after that. I assume it slipped into a catatonic knot. It was then that I alerted the periscopist team … [Virtual Disease Nurse]

The Spirit Event in question was undergoing torture of the most severe nature. Myself & my colleague had the visitor fixed by the virtual ectoplasm to the periscopic instrument with the scat-bit attachment, which — as is standard procedure — was greased with stabilizing gel in preparation ... The gel, as you will no doubt be aware, temporarily mutates ectoplasm into a spacially-compatible fixed form. We were rotating the upper rack — when, suddenly, with definitely & absolutely no warning, the subject slipped out of the machine. The stabilizing gel itself was not out of date & was used successfully on the last SE. We applied the amount specified in the instructions. We can only conclude that the subject has quite possibly developed some kind of immunity to stability. We left it unattended only for seconds, but by the time we returned it had disappeared. [Chief Periscopist]

I’m collecting some batteries from the virtual device units store by the deformitory, when ... well, I sees this great blob rumbling towards me! Well, I mean, what else can I do? It’s moving so fast — it’s on me in no time — so I lashes out at the bastard with my torture truncheon & it makes some weird noise — like it’s enjoying it or something ... Anyway, that doesn't stop it ... no, the fucking thing swallows me up, doesn't it?! ... bloody well tries to eat me whole, though I don’t know whether I’m sucked into its arsehole or its mouth … I see through it from the inside, everything looks like I have a yellow, spotted, diseased-looking skin covering my eyes. Soon, two guards turn up with eye-laser goggles & try to cut me out ... but the blob keeps moving. So, what can I do? There I am, caught inside this freak of nature, can't get out, goggles don't do no good — ‘specially since the two guards can't keep up with the monster ... So this is what I do: I bite the fucker, & bite it hard — hard as I can! Just like that! Give the blob a bit of indigestion, something to chew over, a proper stomach clamp job ... rubbery it was too ... tastes bloody horrible ... so what does it do? It fucking loves it, doesn't it? — "mmmmmmmm" it slobbers. So I tickles its tubes. That does the job! 'Coz the fucker sneezes me out. Of course, with the bang on the head & all that, I’m out cold. Don't see what happens next. Been down to see about compensation though … [Deformitory Warden]

Although the actual mechanism of the Spirit Event’s escape is not fully understood, this is probably less important than the consequences of its escape. It must be noted in the interests of ministerial security that no torturer is allowed to leave a visitor unattended. Able to think more clearly than the average Spirit Event, those who develop a high pain threshold remain more sensible &, strangely enough, more sensitive — as if having established a firm & earthy understanding of sensation. This is what happened to our escapee once it slipped out of that rather grim prospect of periscopic torture & swallowed the warden: It was to find its way to the Chief Executive’s office — like it knew exactly where to go — as it rolled & rumbled through a labirynthine network of dimly-lit corridors. Two of the torture clerks who were alert enough to notice the "rumbling fat bastard" were not alert enough to avoid being consumed by it. Its digestive system had mutated — temporarily — a kind of evolutionary survival instinct brought about by the injected disease, which sped up the genetic survival potential to generate virtual modifications — even strands of virtual excrement can find it in the DNA to mutate as needs require — in this case, into one resembling a fly's, where hideous juices are released from some gland or other — ejaculating a nasty anaesthetic gunk. The fiends were incapacitated — then devoured by a pile of slime so vile, you could lose your sense of disgust by fucking whatever orifice was up for grabs on the poor creature. Then it makes its way to the chief’s office with revenge rumbling in the folding hollows of its bulk. Does it use the stairs? Mannerless blob, it does not! Once it has smudged its way up the stairs, it does not even wipe its feet! Horrors! Can the monster not read? WIPE YOUR HOOVES is printed clear & unfaded on the doormat & is perfectly legible in accordance with relevant industry standards. Perhaps our escapee thinks to itself: "But I have no hooves!" & it would be quite right. Except the poor sod doesn’t know what it does have — other than a severe bout of the wobbles! Meanwhile, the Chief Exec is celebrating the retirement of a very long-serving repairman (the repairman, of course, will disappear & the gold watch presented to him will be recycled) & is not to be disturbed. Other than the odd genetically modified fly in the net curtain, the Chief Exec’s office is empty. The door has been left unlocked. The monster moves in. Suddenly, howls & screams... "There it is! — Stop it!"... the lashing of whips, buzzflashing of ancient lasers, scurrying, bouncing off the walls, a good old farce in technicolour ... The two guards have caught up. They muster assistance from the inattentive deformitory fiends ... "Blubbered fuck ... you won't be slinking off like that again ... we'll fucking molecate you!" The monster is in. It locks the door with groping green sludge. It peeks through the keyhole. The assailants are screaming up the stairs. The monster thinks quickly & devours as many of the papers & files from the Chief Executive’s desk as possible. They do not taste very nice. Now, our blob might possibly be a spy — who really knows the score with those arseholes & their stupid set-up. It’ll mop the fucking floor with the lot of them — lousy, superficial morons, jumping themselves up over regulations they don’t have the intelligence to understand … Is it collecting evidence for an unkown organisation, for itself, for God & Angels? … Thumps at the door ... & the wiping of hooves roughing up the doormat … "Let us in, you heap of steaming turd! You pile of jellied jizz!!" The door rattles & shakes. The creature finds its own records in the alphabetically ordered filing cabinets … they are the most detailed … Bloody computers hold only basic entrance information … They can be swallowed or trashed next … The door bursts off its hinges. A shower of fiends falls over itself in the general direction of the blob. The blob cannot cope with so many at once. It has indigestion after swallowing the papers & files. It spews & belches. It rolls & grumbles & sizzles & spews. It divides in molten malformation — but to no avail. The fiends thrust stabilising-gel-tipped skewers into the beast — like a hail of arrows — in order to freeze it as it mutates. It becomes less translucent, more fleshly, yet still fluid — like a Dali picture in four-dimensional full-blownness, or a heap of jelly beans with mouldy lumps. It eventually solidifies onto many skewers, is lifted in pieces & carried away.

It has digested the records of itself. Officially, it is non-entity — having devoured its own soul & inner bureaucratic workings. It is sent back to join the queue under the directive which prohibits the torture of souls whose records are lost. Its ectoplasm has since gone off & has been expelled for good. Wherever it is now, it has evidence of its descent. If it can find someone to take it back again, it will. It has unfinished business. It could become a super-hero-spy. It can become anything it likes. Why it chose to become a blob is beyond me.

Bill Drennan's writing has appeared in small-press publications, both on-line & on paper, since the mid 90s. Author of flightpath resistor (Spring, 2007) & the soon-to-be-published conspiracy machine. Further examples of his work can be found on his blog, Hypoetics.

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