Wakeup Call

man's torso muscles tensed

The light is blessedly dim, he’s not sure why. Dance can smell his partners sitting nearby, hastily washed, with the old traces of swamp and more faintly of bug, and a lot more loudly, the taint of fear.

They can’t talk to him, though. They couldn’t hear him respond if they tried. The roar of the wind is enough to explain the dull, hours-long brassy odor of stress in the clothes that they borrowed. Emma is wearing soft things that once belonged to a bird, faintly dusty; the odor of feathers is still perfectly clear to him, in spite of the rush and swirl of eddies in the gaps of the building.

Oh yes, the storm. It’s not a tropical depression any more, not now, it’s a hurricane. The rain hits like bullets on the siding. It whistles. It moans. The floor rocks like a ship very slightly, giving way and surviving, a very old swamp-built house indeed.

Dance blinks, feeling the floorboards flex under his back. He turns his head, and looks at his lovers.

They don’t see him at all, off staring at something that happened years ago, something he doesn’t know in the least. Old fears, old failings, old laws that were broken, old rigid rulers who didn’t care what they broke underfoot, what they trampled, or who carried out the strange edicts that came mumbled out from some nightmare.

He can feel the heavy cerametal threads laced into Emma’s bones, and she’s drowning in opened data boxes now, feeling guilty as sin. Looking for answers that aren’t there to be found, rummaging things locked away in her skeleton long before the crucial things were ever lost to history, unrecorded.

Drin’s just as bad, for all his memories aren’t indexed or tidy. His keep exploding and screaming and dying inside, he flinches at things that aren’t there in the room. But he may be right, nonetheless, that the things he is fighting are quite close to them now, and the wind is the only thing that keeps them pinned down where they lurk.

wood and iron swing over water with leaves
Rising Water

When the water starts rising they’ll be through any remaining fences there are, heaving up in masses like drowning ants, piles of bugs as desperate as dying hives might ever be. They’ve nowhere else to go, as the flood waters push them higher.

Dance can hear them all over the local broadcasts bands, shrill unintelligible high UHF squeals, screaming for help that won’t come, like tinny brigades of toy pianos, all howling. The records are gone, erasing themselves, disavowed, the investors gone, the officers long since covering their asses, and all that’s left is the bureaucrats running away from the evidence.

Scoured concrete pads, unidentifiable plumbing scattered for miles, random scraps of stinking meat, that’s all that will be left behind when this storm scrubs away bug labs.

He hears Emma mutter the dates that the sources vanished, on things that no longer exist outside that goddamn General’s memory of hers. She’s shifting records about, pulling extracts and building a precis and listing reports like an index of hell, records of war crimes that she won’t forget. He is hearing her do it, on some deep frequency that tickles a place he can’t itch.

I’d put their balls pickled on ice, with cocktails, and she means to do it, by God.

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