Flat Out

published in ABRAXAS in 1995

She is a woman who lives beyond her means. She has a one-room flat in the city and only a sewing-machine for company.  But, she cannot bear her own company once the light slides from the sky like a blackening tide. It affects her in that way. She shoots out to the late-opening shops, empty purse in hand, counting upon the pilfering darkness to hide the prestidigitation of her thoughts. Anyway, that’s how her mind goes.

Space is a large place – larger than can be possibly imagined by a human – and being so large, it’s possible it’s as full as it’s empty. Some civilisations towards Space’s upper pole are still in the pre-wheel era. But, within this vicinity, in various entropic pockets of a precinct known as the Green Monkey Constellation, a rocketship, as large as our Earth, is hanging like a dewdrop – engine turning over – waiting.

This evening she meets a man whom she suspects is giving her the glad eye. He’s done up like a dog’s dinner, a wheeler-dealer type, obviously waiting by the side of the road for something other than a taxi. She is indeed kerb-trawling at the time. Dropping down a gear, she does a ‘Singing in the Rain’ routine just in front of him, more as a selfconscious attempt to hide her selfconsciousness rather than as a mating-dance which he evidently thinks it is. He smiles, but looking into his eyes, she sees more than a lick and a promise. He doubtless requires her for a journey into hidden territory.

The mighty rocketship quietly slips its docking, unnoticed. Then, with a surge of power, much in the vein of a cat’s back arching aftermath, it as good as disappears.

The room to which he has taken her lacks lights because, as he explains, he doesn’t have the right change for the meter. ‘Slow down,’ she hisses, since he cannot unfasten her clothes fast enough, it seems, and the street lights outside the window are too feeble to give him much assistance. She has stitched her garments to each other, with the sewing-machine, in any event, to curtail such advances. But, now, he’s dumbfounded for he’s found the lift-and-separate brassiere neatly hemmed to the flesh of her back and breasts. He whistles via his teeth.

A savage, with loose back teeth, stands alone on a windswept hill, his hand placed across his eyes to dull the glare from the elongated sun that screams along the horizon. He can see his fan-nerved bone clearly silhouetted.

She’s now dealt with his fat face – by unmasking its birthright – and grabs his even fatter wallet from the dresser. It bulges with crisp notes and there is still a lot of shopping to get through before they finally close for the night. But, before leaving, she must give him the promised licking – which is, after all, no more than he deserves.

A crowd of beach bums will be startled from their combing of a dying civilisation’s salt-riddled flotsam. A surge of light fills more than the sky and, with a touch of God, is on its way again. But their minds, so hollow, allow the vision to go in one end and out the other, without touching the sides. They will continue to sift through the bones and teeth which litter the strand – desperate for some existence they have not yet attained.

Back to the one room, back to the sewing-machine. But tonight, she has more joys than enough to last her for several nights. Fat Face had been a fur-lined gent, if ever there was one. Give him that credit, at least. She takes out a few crisp notes for the rest of the night. She stitches the rest inside her body. As soon as she is back on the street, she yodels with delight, not even aware of the congenital shyness that has bugged her in each and every reincarnation of her existence. She notices that weather akin to glue ensues, and we all look up to see a wide, throbbing sausageshape, evidently in near nova, big enough to be God’s finer part, slowing down over the sloping city. She feels some sort of rot setting in. That’s what she thinks, in any event.

The stitches unravel as she stands within the body of the ghostly savage and stares – as others will stare also from this tortured hill when the seas eventually come back in. The blood-seeping nicks in the crater of her threadbare nether-flesh are indeed salt-riddled, whilst the bank-notes become green pulp: primeval slime. Entropy swells in her parish of reality and the two-way sex transmitter creeps upon tachyon toes across the halting infinities of space. A rocketship follows slowly after, flat out.

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