is a writer and musician living in South Bend, Indiana. You can follow him on Twitter at @negativecopy
THE CLONE SAGA
NOCK is reeling from the revelation that, not only did INCHER—THE HOWLING ENEMY—survive their last encounter, but that he has been manipulating Nock’s life from the shadows of his hidden world ever since his apparent death!
Lured beyond the edges of space and time on a secret mission to defeat the resurrected Incher and save his otherself MATCH from certain death, Nock returns to the understory and his partner ESP to find his life in disarray and the truth of his own existence more uncertain than ever.
Meanwhile, the mysterious MORROW has infiltrated Incher’s hidden world on a secret mission of his own, unaware that Incher’s final contingency has already been set into motion…
A Wonderful Door Opened
The drugs of weather flog the alien earth. Slippages, undead cankers of animal, vegetable, mineral—other (horror examples). The scene of a secret accident—if creation was an accident (if it was a plan, it was a trap): the mysteries of the dead world of the howling enemy.
Morrow, wearing a breathing apparatus, deep inside a series of drowned technology corridors. Green murk—an isolated terminal—old molts of the enemy rustling in the corners. Morrow at the terminal. The alien earth groans. Swimming images appear in the terminal—the black egg, wrapped in pneumatic angel hair. Chittering, it frays. Out steps Nock (another Nock)—the bluish white cream of the egg…
These warped emissions cannot be ignored—they may be part of the enemy’s attack pattern…! The swimming images petrify and crack. Out froths the howling enemy. Morrow, it says, a spray of green foam. Morrow rips the system’s guts out, but the enemy already fully exceeds the confines of the system, and it continues to load into the environment.
An illegible interpolation of forms—blue sterility in a lace of pale corruption (a corpse-eating fungus) mixed up with the green furry whatever of the enemy's new body. All slapped together in a blank zero-gravity space. Their blood drains out in trails of globes…large, mantis-like blades…
Is it like being your own ghost, Morrow? asks the enemy. A sword swallower, but not a sword—history?
(Are those copies of the enemy’s “skull,” crushed under Morrow’s tread, or is its “skull” a copy of them? What has Incher become, cavorting with grief in the far reaches of the no-go zones—at the terminator between the inner and outer darknesses…?)
Overwhelmed by the enemy’s flagella, and corroded by simple exposure to the enemy itself, Morrow blitzes off through the maze of tunnels hewn into the alien earth. Morrow bursts from the decompression silo and doesn’t stop until the humiliation of civilization rises visible in the distance (the trees begin to bristle with eyes).
He goes all silhouette in the rush of the understory, only half-alive but unidentified by the eye. Morrow’s hood of corrupt violet protoplasm swells. Hinged and creaking logic fills his head—another prophecy: Esp, dead, and, standing over her body, nothing but APE...
So, the great stone temples are all profaned, a long time ago, animals suicide bomb the ice caps, the planet drowns in thick ripples of scum and ruin, now there’s only this fossilized hyena laughter left. Zero percent hydrographics, extinction after extinction, and all that’s already happened.
But while I’m here, I said, says Esp, breathing the drugged air, Alone perhaps for my whole life, I guess I’ll gridsearch the local situation for something I can click on. And I found you. A wonderful door opened—the size of my enclosure doubled. But I could still see the end of it from where I was. She and Nock walk through a vast and crumbling shell, buried in the alien earth—traffic in and out is restricted. It's hard to swallow, sitting desiccated at the desk of ants, says Esp. I get all exhausted and ammonia—I'm the kind that is suffocated by dust! But that is the animation required of me: after closing my jaws on my prey, I must also dissolve it.
In the ruin of the (petrified) horse market, the editor says, Sorry, Nock. There’s no work for you right now. You dropped out. Might be awhile before we can pop a joint loose for you. You know, there’s been a verger around asking about you. You and someone named Match.
In nature, my triggers are activated again and again as the trapped prey struggles, says Esp. Its frenzy determines how long it takes to finish the job. So, Nock, is it the more that you struggle, the sooner it’s over, or is it, if you don’t quit squirming, we’ll never be done?
Morrow appears, holding a few dense gigs, which he offers to Nock. His hands are cracked, leaking steam and radiation. He says, If you lack the necessary scientific expertise to understand this material, find someone who can explain it. He walks up the wall and disappears over the edge. Nock, says Esp. Who was that? I have no idea, Nock says. Didn’t something about him seem familiar to you? asks Esp. Did that really just happen? I don’t know, says Nock. He’s holding the gigs. He dredges them with the web. Nock pulls up his encryption. What about our explorations? asks Esp. Yes, says Nock. But—if what the gigs say is true… Sure, says Esp. Nock spreads himself across the attack surface of the web and crawls the wall after Morrow. The drugged air swarms Esp with his afterimages and she is alone in the gigantic shell.
Breaking through the tangled walls of flora and fauna at the edge of the unmapped reaches, stumbling out of the decompression silo and into the gutter channels, the third Nock, torn and bruised from the effort. He examines the patterns worn into the alien earth and orients himself. Something stirs in the corrupt smoke assets of the broken environment. Three men approach him in the darkness. They have particular distortion characters. Something happens in the third Nock’s head—a creature erupting with legs scratching at the inside of the glass in which it is trapped. Its skeletal apparatus shifts into a loaded position, and the third Nock knows what these men are going to do before they do it; they will move to break him.
The skeletal apparatus unloads itself, and so the third Nock moves, before they do, in a way that they cannot, including the broken environment in his violations of order. He sees now that it is all one system under the glass, one system under the knives of the bristling creature that sits at the system’s center.
He stands over their dead bodies.
The scratching in his head subsides, leaving a maniac design etched into the glass that the third Nock studies before he strips one of the men, the one his size, and dresses.
The third Nock drifts through the rain, a blank in the jumble of the alien earth and the deluge of plastic, and begins to feel, in the grooves of the scratched glass—a direction (an instruction), a specific combination of words in a specific order: somebody stop him…!
(There is another man. He flees the scene. Behind him, a body. The site of a critical juncture. The third Nock ignores the man. He sees the man again. The man flees the scene. Behind him, a body. The site of a critical juncture. The third Nock has been wounded. The third Nock finds the man in a cave. The third Nock leaves the man flat under the night. There is a purity in the wound at the center of the third Nock that means he will never heal.)
The understory, the (foaming) horse market: Match is spying on old friends, people he remembers in the false implants left over from his time as Nock. There is someone of romantic experience. There is someone with an irregular music for laughter. There is someone unrecognizable after half a decade kneeling at the guillotine. The howling enemy and its dog thing appear and deploy a swarm of instruments. The people nearest begin to mutate, massaged by the enemy’s waveforms, enticed by the enemy’s equations—the irresistible logic of the fleshmath. Match pulls up his encryption and gives himself over to the processes of the web: somebody stop him…!
The mass of encoded slaveweapons grows and begins to fill the concourse of the (immolated) horse market. The enemy moves among its transformed flock, lifting the someone of romantic experience above its cyclonic maw. I love this new body, says the howling enemy. Sensation unlike anything I ever felt when I was human. Incher! says Match. He struggles to contain the enemy’s slaveweapons. They are all sharp corners and blunt, crushing surfaces that do not register Match’s frantic combat contortions. They ignore him as they force the screaming people of the (poisonous) horse market into the enemy’s grinding mouths where they are mulched in bursts of red, and the enemy grows. More and more people are fed to the enemy. The concourse is a mass casualty genetic catastrophe. I love to make their flesh into my flesh, says the enemy. Match cannot save anyone.
The enemy is vast, now, the all-throat, bristling with polyps and cystic abnormalities. The all-throat shimmies like the engorged hood of a cobra and its slaveweapons, having fed everyone to the enemy, now offer themselves to it as well. The dog thing stares into the hissing puddles of the enemy and sees its own distorted reflection. Then the all-throat of the enemy vomits forth a skull. Then another. Then another. Then more. Many, many more. Dozens. Hundreds. Thousands—far more than it had eaten today, how much of the understory had Incher already devoured—and Match is clothed in the skulls of the enemy’s victims, and he is anointed with their oils, and he understands.
After the enemy is defeated (somehow, but also of course, and despite everything), the eye arrives and ensconces the enemy in a neutralizing lattice. The enemy reverts to its old form—Professor Incher, catatonic after the orgy of death.
The dog thing walks up to Match. Let’s chat, it says. It produces some gigs from a green fold. Proof, it says, that you are the original Nock. Putting a lie to all the other lies of the enemy. A burst of coded static floods Match through the web—something is wrong. Oh no, says the dog thing. It slides apart in cancerous globs. Match fishes the gigs from the dog thing’s steaming remains.
Match is at the smokestacks on the edge of the understory, loaded on the web’s sweet clock signal, when he finally quits the program he’s been threatening to quit for the last five years and tosses the gigs into the smokestack, feeling the painful relief of something ripped out by the roots.
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