The Un­no­tice­ables

A night­mar­ish and hi­lar­i­ous tour through the 1970s New York punk scene, mod­ern- day Hol­ly­wood and the dis­eased mind of Cracked’s Robert Brock­way.

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Rated / Promotion - By Robert Brock­way

The sur­vival of the hu­man racend is in the hands of a washed- up punk and a wannabe stunt­woman. We are well and truly screwed.

For the first time in a long time, I woke to find my­self not in pain. A cold flood of fear washed through me. It ran down my chest and set­tled in my gut. I couldn’t re­mem­ber why wak­ing up with­out pain was sup­posed to worry me. The re­ac­tion was just in­stinc­tual. I lay in my mas­sive, ridicu­lously soft bed for half an hour. A king- size mem­ory- foam mat­tress that fills ev­ery sin­gle inch of my tiny bed­room, and an ac­com­pa­ny­ing six- hun­dred- dol­lar down com­forter are the only great and stupid lux­u­ries that I al­low my­self. I was try­ing to fig­ure out where the anx­i­ety was com­ing from, and I fi­nally pin­pointed it: I was not sore, bruised, burned, or bro­ken at all, and that meant I was un­em­ployed.

At least par­tially. I still had my job wait­ing ta­bles, but I hadn’t done any stunt work in weeks. I guess some­time dur­ing the night, I fi­nally shook the last stub­born bit of stiff­ness in my hip from that botched som­er­sault I took while shoot­ing The Damned Walk… Again!? So I woke up feel­ing phys­i­cally great but with a trade- off of crush­ing spir­i­tual en­nui. For al­most this en­tire month, I had been just and only a wait­ress.

I sighed and rolled out of bed. I had to roll sev­eral times just to reach the door­way and then heave my­self out into the hall. My bare feet slapped the cold tile all the way to the bath­room. When I sat down to pee, it re­ally hit me: I was in ab­so­lutely no pain. Even as a lit­tle girl, I would wake up each morn­ing with a very small but per­sis­tent ache in my third pinky. Yep. Third. I have six fin­gers on my left hand. The su­per­flu­ous lit­tle bas­tard has hurt me ev­ery day of my life, ex­cept for two: the day when my kid sis­ter died in a house fire, and to­day.

I couldn’t re­mem­ber any­thing about the day of the fire. The ther­a­pists said I’d re­pressed the mem­o­ries, but ev­ery once in a while I got this feel­ing, like ter­ri­fied déjà vu, and I just knew it was some small piece of that day com­ing back to me. I had that feel­ing now, when I sud­denly re­mem­bered, in per­fect clar­ity, wak­ing up with no pain in my sixth fin­ger fif­teen years ago. I re­mem­bered run­ning down the stairs to tell my mom. It doesn’t hurt any­more! It’s all gone! My mother laughed, picked me up, and placed me on top of the din­ing room ta­ble. “Are you kid­ding me? Is this a joke?” she asked. I shook my head and wig­gled my skinny, sin­gle- knuck­led lit­tle digit for her. “That’s great, baby!” she said. And that’s where the mem­ory kicked out. Noth­ing past it, just a pleas­ant lit­tle short film and then fin. But I still had this sick fear that wouldn’t shake loose from the bot­tom of my stom­ach. Some­thing bad hap­pened af­ter that mo­ment, I knew that much, but when­ever I tried to think of the specifics, I could only pic­ture a bright, col­or­less light and notes of tone­less mu­sic. Mem­o­ries de­fined by their ab­sence.

I flushed the toi­let, turned the shower up as hot as it went, and stood un­der it un­til the heat made me dizzy and pink. I slid the cur­tain aside and grabbed for my towel. I was so dazed from the warmth, I al­most didn’t no­tice the face star­ing at me from the other side of my win­dow. I clutched the towel tightly against me, and in­stinc­tively screamed. Je­sus, just like some ditzy hor­ror- movie star­let. To my credit, the in­vol­un­tary yelp only lasted a sec­ond. The tirade of in­creas­ingly de­tailed ob­scen­i­ties lasted for much longer. The face dis­ap­peared in­stantly, duck­ing away in terror. I barely had time to register a set of puffy red cheeks, greasy stub­ble, and glazed lit­tle eyes be­neath a ratty green beanie. Still drip­ping wet, I threw my jeans and T- shirt on, slipped into a pair of flip- flops, grabbed the big­gest kitchen knife I could find, and stormed out of my front door.

Mrs. Winslow, the nice lady that lives on the sec­ond floor, who, thanks to a se­ries of mis­un­der­stand­ings, thinks I’m some sort of rag­ing psy­chopath, gave me an odd look as I sprinted

past her, soaked, swear­ing, and bran­dish­ing a butcher knife over my head.

Add that to the list, I guess.

I kicked open the main gate to my apart­ment build­ing, scar­ing a lit­tle white Chi­huahua tied to the side mir­ror of a brand- new sil­ver Fer­rari.

Los An­ge­les.

I rounded the cor­ner to­ward the side of the build­ing where my bath­room win­dow looked out, and saw the Peep­ing Tom.

“Oh, this is a bad day to be a per­vert,” I said, ad­vanc­ing upon him, twirling my knife in tight lit­tle cir­cles. “I hope you liked my tits, buddy: They’re the last things you’re ever go­ing to see. I hope my tits keep you warm in hell.”

He wouldn’t turn around. His back was con­vuls­ing oddly, and he was tak­ing quick lit­tle breaths. Oh, God, was he…? Of course he was. I took a step. Another. I wasn’t sure where I was go­ing with this: I was pissed off, true, but I wasn’t “stab a hobo” pissed off. I didn’t have a plan, but that didn’t seem to mat­ter. I was still hold­ing a kitchen knife and ap­proach­ing a mas­tur­bat­ing bum in a dead- end side yard off Pico. Surely the sit­u­a­tion would work it­self out some­how.

I was just within stab­bing range and felt the mo­ment was com­ing to its head. I wasn’t go­ing to knife the guy, but I was at least go­ing to have to say some­thing. Maybe cut him a lit­tle, just to keep him on his toes. I opened my mouth to speak, then the hobo’s stained can­vas jacket abruptly ceased its bounc­ing. His rapid breath­ing halted. We were both still for a long mo­ment, then he slumped to one side with a sick­en­ingly fluid mo­tion. I saw that one hand was cov­ered in some kind of can­cer­ous- look­ing sludge. It stank like burn­ing plas­tic and flowed slowly out­ward from his body in a thick, rapidly con­geal­ing pool.

And just past him, shim­mer­ing in the air, was an an­gel.

I in­stantly knew it for what it was. I had seen one be­fore, I was sure of it, but I couldn’t re­call where or when. The an­gel was an in­tan­gi­ble blur of pure lu­mi­nes­cence, but within it, barely glimpsed frac­tals and im­pos­si­ble an­gles ro­tated, shifted, ad­justed, and dis­ap­peared. The ra­di­ant blob was bleed­ing all color out of the world around it. The spa­ces sur­round­ing the light were col­or­less. Wan and over­sat­u­rated. It was too bright to see, but also too bright to look away. The deeper I gazed into the heart of the an­gel, the more I be­came aware of a sound. It was al­most too sub­tle to hear, but the sec­ond I no­ticed it, it be­came deaf­en­ing. There was an or­ches­tra of re­ver­ber­at­ing chimes har­mo­niz­ing over a dull, roar­ing static. It was like a thou­sand beau­ti­ful voices singing to drown out a mil­lion more scream­ing. I blinked and the sound stopped. I opened my eyes and it came rag­ing back.

Waves of nau­sea and panic washed through me. I dropped the knife, and the an­gel sharply ad­justed its fo­cus. I couldn’t pick out in­di­vid­ual move­ments, but it seemed to be in­tent on the knife now, like it hadn’t no­ticed the blade be­fore. It sud­denly ap­peared above the knife. I backed away re­flex­ively and lost a flip- flop to a patch of mud be­neath a leak­ing gar­den hose.

Be­fore I could blink, it was there in front of me again, now fo­cused on the san­dal.

I turned and ran, and some­where far be­hind me, I heard a crack­ling, suck­ing noise, as if some large, tacky mass was be­ing scraped up from the ground.

I had a brief, scat­ter­shot flash­back. Just still im­ages. Po­laroids taken of mem­o­ries: torn lit­tle slip­pers with Corvettes on them. The taste of pur­ple left on the wooden stick af­ter the Pop­si­cle was gone. My sis­ter scream­ing. Flames on a set of pais­ley cur­tains. A noise like step­ping on fleshy chew­ing gum.

I had heard that sound be­fore. To find out what hap­pens next, pick up The Un­no­tice­ables, out now from Ti­tan Books ( RRP £ 7.99). E- book also avail­able. www. ti­tan­books. com

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