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Vague Visages Short Stories: Beaming by D.M. Palmer

The following subject was admitted to a free-clinic run by the Church for a New Understanding with God in Pierce Heights, after being discovered in an intense state of distress by a CNUG street pastor. When the subject became unruly, they were transported to a Gov. facility, and underwent three days of intensive treatment before being able to talk:

It was because of the shoes. I saw them coming through the crowd and I couldn’t believe it. Vintage Kreka Jozops, authentic first-run. You can tell if they’re first-run by the hexagon of perforations on the quarter and the green collar lining. So I started following them by the LED heart monitor on the heels. He wasn’t important, the kid. It was only the shoes, okay.

I had a pair of them when they first came out. The first day I wore them to school, Scott Thompson said “nice new kicks” in his usual sarcastic tone, but you could tell he was jealous, and he stepped on them. He put his foot down hard, left a big black mark on the toe puff. Then he looked me dead in the eyes and waited to see what I’d do. I just walked away.

The ones the kid had on were scuffed up and looked at least a size too big for him, his foot was almost coming out of them every time he took a step — I’m guessing from a goodwill or a hand-me-down. They go for big prices among collectors, if they’re in decent condition. If I’d have kept mine in the box with tags, they’d go for mega-ultra-Big-Cash now, no sweat.

So I followed the jumping lifelines across the station concourse and up the steps to the exit. They came to rest at a bus shelter, and I joined the line behind them. I had just enough in my Big-Cash LEJR to transact the fare, listening to where the kid was going. The kid went to the back of the bus and I sat opposite. I got a better look at them, through the reflection in the window and with quick looks across at him. They needed some real work to be saved.

When I got my first pair of Jozops, I signed the Kreka Pledge — I promised to protect the Kreka brand, and to intervene if I ever saw a pair of Kreka kicks in a state of distress.

The subject was asked if they were aware that the Kreka brand no longer existed, that the company filed for bankruptcy seven years ago. At this, the subject became belligerent:

I know a pair of first-run Jozops when I see them! And the Pledge still stands! For your information, Kreka’s trademarks were acquired by the Tentaclos Holding Corporation, and the Asian re-launch of the Jozop and Mark IV lines have been a great success! I had my Mark IVs imported, and lots of people comment on how great they look! 

After being restrained and sedated, we resumed the next morning:

The shutters went up over the windows as the bus approached Pierce Heights. You could hear stuff bouncing off them. The driver navigated from his video display console.

Before the lights came on and we sat in the dark, the Jozops started beaming. The first-run line was coated in an ultraviolet resin, but they had to discontinue it because it turned out to be carcinogenic. That’s how I know they definitely weren’t knockoffs. Okay?!

The bus stopped, started to rock, a slumbolt went off, then we moved on.

I hung back when we got off, stood under the shelter and pretended to check my Device. I followed the kid at a careful distance. It had started to rain and the kid put up his hood.

The kid went up the driveway of one of those big old houses on the main road, all broken up into single units now. I stood across the road and watched him go inside. I took out my Device, brought up my MilUr portal and set up a sweep for every Device in range.

The kid came back out in a couple of minutes. He got on a bike which was leant against the garage door and set off in the direction of Pierce Heights. MilUr found the kid’s Device and I followed. It was already getting dark and his Jozops were starting to beam.

The kid stopped at another house in a row of terraces. It had grey splashes all down the red bricks. The number was chalked on the front door. Two big dogs were caged up in the tiny yard. He left the bike on the path, went inside without knocking and came out after a couple of minutes, wearing a backpack. He rode up the hill toward Pierce Heights.

On the main strip of Pierce Heights, the kid turned down an alley between a Cash4Teef outlet and a grey-meat market. I stood across the road, outside a Krool arcade. This bloke came up to me with a big smile that never left his face the whole time he was talking, like he couldn’t control it. He said “friend, I’m not like all these others. I was injured in the Retaking of the Wakhan Corridor.” And he lifted up his shirt to show me a long scar down his chest. I told him I didn’t carry Fee@, then he got out a LEJR and told me he takes Big-Cash!

The kid came back out and I stepped away from the smiler. The smiler didn’t move, just stood there grinning as if I was still standing in front of him, holding out the LEJR. Then he turned, like he’d been rebooted, and started screaming down the street about how the judgement is coming and everyone is going to have to account for how they’ve treated their brethren, and there will be an almighty reckoning when the eternal LEJR is calculated.

The kid stopped and watched the smiler, then turned to look at me.

I tracked the kid up the strip. He turned up a hill and went down an alley.

The alley came out onto a cul-de-sac. I stood at the mouth of the alley and listened to high-pitched voices shouting at each other. I realized I’d never heard the kid’s voice. 

That’s when the slumbolt went off. I dropped onto my stomach. My ears were ringing and my head was pounding and my eyes went out of focus and my bones felt empty.

I laid there for a while, then I had to go see. I started coughing from the smoke. Every time I coughed, the ringing in my ears went higher. I kicked something and fell against a fence. As my eyes cleared, I saw it was a wheel. There were bike parts all over the place.

The main part of the kid was laying at the bottom of the cul-de-sac. The backpack was gone. I’d never seen close up what a slumbolt does. It ripped the kid to pieces. I found the kid’s feet on a front lawn up the street. I took off the Jozops. I had to honour the Pledge.

I looked up and saw a man’s face in a broken second-storey window. Blood was coming from his nose and ears. He started shouting at me. I couldn’t hear, but he looked angry.

A woman ran out of her house and started shoving me. She looked down the street, and I looked too. A man was walking toward us with a Popov Log. The man deployed a Popov round into the air. I held the Jozops tight. I shoved the woman. I ran toward the alley.

I felt something hit my neck. More things hit my back. I looked over my shoulder. A group of people was chasing me. They had various models of Popov Home Defence weapons.

I had to let them go. I know I broke the Pledge. The beaming was keeping them on my trail.

After I threw the Jozops over the fence, I started to feel sick. I threw up on my feet, but I kept moving. My back and neck burned, but I kept running toward the lights of the strip. I had something to tell them all. I figured I was done, so I might as well get it off my chest.

I stopped outside the Krool arcade and let it all pour out. I don’t remember what I said, but it seemed like everything had finally fitted together perfectly, and I could express every thought or feeling I’d ever had with absolute clarity. The power of my logic seemed to heal me.

Then the smiler pushed through the crowd that was gathered round me and started heckling. The smiler told the crowd not to listen to false prophets, that if they looked closely they could see my forked tongue, that I was a messenger from the Subterranean Reptilian Order.

Even when I had my hands round his neck, he was still smiling. That’s the last thing I remember. His crooked brown teeth lit up by the lights from the Krool arcade window.

Just for the record, I want to apologise to the Tentaclos Holding Corporation for not keeping up my end of the Pledge. I didn’t protect the Kreka brand. I just couldn’t save them…

At this point, the subject broke down and was returned to their Ganzfeld Bath. 

D.M. Palmer (@MrDMPalmer) is a writer based in Sheffield, UK. He has contributed to sites like HeyUGuys, The Shiznit, Sabotage Times, Roobla, Column F, The State of the Arts and Film Inquiry. He has a propensity to wax lyrical about Film Noir on the slightest provocation, which makes him a hit at parties. The detritus of his creative outpourings can be found at waxbarricades.wordpress.com.

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