Chapter 11: Psycho Bankruptcy

Tales of The Plumber 10…

Kodek woke up in the back of the car. The car was moving. Who’s driving? He remembered the crazy Latino woman who had just tried to blow his ass off a cliff with a bazooka. She missed, but managed to blow up his Mini Cooper and all of his rock ‘n’ roll tapes-

Kodek woke up in the bed beside Anna. Thirteen months later? Six weeks later? Who the fuck knew… There was something going on…

Kodek woke up and the first that that flashed through his mind (Deja vu?!)

…Long Live the New Flesh.

Fucking Cronenberg was right all along.

Who’s Cronenberg?” Anna asked, leaning up on one elbow on her side of the bed. She shoved the sheets off and placed a hand on Kodek’s naked chest before realizing he was still asleep.

Talking in his sleep. He suddenly snorted out a gnarly snore and woke up

in the bed

beside Anna.

Long live the new flesh. Suddenly, Kodek remembered his ear. More specifically, his earlobe. And even more specifically, the earlobe that was leaking that yellowish-clear fluid-

-Last night Anna was on top of him, fucking him, she leaned in to kiss his neck, and her face brushed the side of his cheek and her tongue snaked out and licked the edge of his earlobe. Fluid mixed-

Suddenly Kodek got a brief shudder of slight embarrassment (for her or me?) when he propped himself up on his own pillows. The morning sun was cracking through the window now and Anna had kick the sweaty sheets away from her naked body. She’s hot, was all Kodek could think at that second.

You were talking in your sleep,” she told him.

Was I?”

She nodded.

Did I say anything interesting?”

I’m afraid not.”

I’m going to consider that a good thing.” He rubbed his earlobe, something crusted off into his fingers and turns to dusts. Her rubbed his fingers together to sweep whatever it was away and tried to remember not to touch the fucking thing anymore.

That last story I told you…” Anna began to explain, when he interrupted:

What story? Were you trying to talk to me while I was sleeping?”

No, I’m talking about last night.”

Before we–?”

When we were having dinner. I was trying to tell you about The Rig. Back at the restaurant, remember? Or was your mind too busy wandering?”

Yeah, he remembered. The Rig. The big fucking truck that he drove his Mini Cooper into, an event that had somehow disappeared an entire year from Kodek’s life. Yeah, he remembered that. The twelve months that had apparently followed, well, he didn’t know what the fuck to make of that. Time travel? Really? And Larry the Brain and his source code-writing fingers… What the hell was going on, exactly?

Are you listening to me?” Anna asked, and she didn’t exactly sound impressed. He figured he must not have been listening to get a tone like that.

Yes.”

Well?”

Kodek shrugged, which cause a short chain-reaction that ended with Anna rolling her eyes. “Anyhoo,” she went on regardless (and for his own benefit, too), “It didn’t really have a beginning, middle and an end. You know, how they tell you the correct construct is supposed to go.”

What didn’t have a beginning, middle, and end? That last story?”

Well, that didn’t either,” Anna admitted, “But actually, I was talking about the pre-code affect you experienced inside the back of that rig.”

I’m affected

Pre-code affect?”

Yeah. It wasn’t until that time-jump happened to you that Larry the Brain was able to figure out that it was all based on algorithms. Well actually, it wasn’t a time-jump, exactly. More of a time-displacement. That’s why you were probably so fucked up when you woke up in the back of the car.”

After you tied to kill me.”

Yeah.”

A year ago?”

Six weeks ago.”

You sure about that?”

You’re the only one who doesn’t think so,” she replied. “Look, all you have to do is think about it for yourself. You feel like thirteen months has gone by, your body feels it. Maybe you mind on some level. But think hard. Can you honestly compile thirteen months worth of memories in your mind, or is your brain just stretching six weeks’ worth of memories into the residual feeling of time-displacement.”

Kodek laughed.

What?” Anna asked, slightly miffed.

I think you just told me that I have a time-travel hangover!”

Pretty much.”

Shit, Marty McFly never said anything about this.”

It’s not funny.”

I beg to differ. Anyway,” he waved his hand as if trying to sweep the last three minutes of the conversation away from the bed, “Let’s play this game. So, I’ll assume this is all true.”

It is true.”

Right,” he agreed with a crooked grin. “So, what I would deduce then, is that Larry the Brain set me up as some kind of time-traveling guinea pig, tricked me into driving up into the back of The Rig, which was actually his time-machine prototype. Right so far?”

Way off, Kodek.”

Way?”

Yup. The Rig was just a rig. There was no fucking set-up.”

If there was no fucking set-up then why the hell is Larry the Brain so involved with all of this. Isn’t he writing the time-warping source code as we speak?”

Well, shut up, and I’ll tell you.”

Fine,” Kodek sighed, and leaned back on his pillow. “Go ahead, I’m listening.”

Anna went ahead: “Brain had been doing genetic work for The Factory.”

What kind of genetic work?”

Alien.”

Fuck off,” Kodek was sure she was kidding.

Hey, you asked.”

Apparently, she wasn’t. She continued telling the other side of the story…

Kodek pressed his foot on the accelerator and began a verbal mantra regarding something about not hitting the tunnel walls while rounding the curves. The tunnel was long, long and windy, one of humankind’s clever resolves to carving roads into the side of mountains. …he saw the open back of a truck-trailer and a wide ramp (or wide for the Cooper, anyway) waiting for him… Kodek shot the Mini Cooper up and into the truck-trailer and someone he couldn’t make out slammed the back door shut, while even inside the Cooper Kodek could hear the rattling of the latch and lock on the trailer door, followed by the metallic crashing of the ramp being dumped onto the cement outside as the truck already began to move forward. Kodek killed the engine and yanked on the driver’s door – which only banged against the inner wall of the trailer.

Stuck.

There was more banging at the back door and he could hear it open then quickly slam shut again. Inside the rig, Johnny Fingers turned to Zarana when she was clear of the back door and up on her feet again (after having rolled under the tight space he was kind enough to open for her). “Thanks,” she said and ran a hand through her pink-striped black hair, but in the darkness of the back of the rig neither of them could really make out the colors.

I don’t know why Brain sent you along with me. I could’ve taken care of this myself,” Johnny Fingers said.

He didn’t,” Zarana admitted. “I escaped. I’m out.” She let that one sit with Johnny for a few seconds.

How?”

There are ways. Others come and go.”

But… How?” was all he could ask again.

This time, Zarana shrugged, and Johnny could make it out in the cross-shadows.

Nobody gets out of The Asylum,” he said, the edge of awe still in his voice.

Are you kidding? You don’t know what it’s like. You’re just one of The Corporation’s Roadworkers.”

What the fuck does that mean?”

It means Roadworkers don’t know shit about what goes on back at The Asylum. People are always going back and forth from The Asylum to The Factory. Shit, the Asylum’s half-populated with Factory staff.”

What? That doesn’t make any sense.”

It doesn’t make sense unless you know that they’re connected, “ she corrected him.

Connected? In what way?”

In ways you don’t want to know about, brother.”

She walked around to the Mini Cooper. The space between the side of the Cooper and the inner wall of the truck was pretty thin – thin enough to keep the Cooper door from opening enough to allow Kodek to get out. But Zarana was pretty lithe and she got her body in between the side of the car and the wall of the truck without effort. She looked inside the Cooper.

He’s out,” she told Johnny, and Johnny hit a switch on the back wall of the rig near the back door that released a ventilation chamber opening and started a fan/suction device. As the clear gas was sucked from the inside of the back of that rig, Zarana lowered her respiratory mask, and Johnny did the same.

How long’s this shit last?” she asked him.

A couple of hours, tops,” Johnny said.

What did Brain decided he wanted us… or your, rather… to do with him?”

Well, actually, I hate to tell you this, Zarana…” Johhny Fingers whipped the .45 pistol out from behind his belt and pointed it at Zarana’s head. “It was really no accident you escaped from The Factory. Or The Asylum. Or wherever the fuck it was. Kodek’s just collateral damage, in a sense. I don’t know what Brain wants with him. Hell, maybe he’s just the MacGuffin.”

For what?”

For you, Zarana. This set-up… it’s all for you.”

Well, fuck me all to hell.” Fast as a movie ninja on a fast-forwarding VCR, Zarana reached behind her and whipped out her own 9-millimeter pistol… But Johnny’s was already drawn, it was no contest.

He pulled the trigger.

Zarana’s brains splattered all through her pink-striped hair and all over the inner wall of the rig. The shot rapport in the back of that truck was enough to deafen Johnny for a few hours.

Johnny sat up front in the cab for a long time. It had, in fact, been hours and finally the ringing in his ears was calming down to a steady buzz. Both his and Zarana’s (blood-painted) guns were sitting on the passenger seat of the truck’s cab. He glanced at them. And pondered.

In the darkness of the back of the rig, Kodek was still out and Zarana was lying dead, somewhat awkwardly, with her legs between the rear left tine and the rig wall and her torso at the back of the car, twisted on the rig-trailer floor. Her head was only still half there in splashes and jagged, torn flesh and spillage. Mostly splatter on the side wall and back-splashed over the Mini Cooper, there was even hunks of velocitized flesh and hurled grey matter all over the Cooper’s window and even inside the ajar door, where it had managed to hit the unconscious hitman Kodek, who currently had no idea whatsoever what was happening.

At the time Kodek’s eyes were fluttering in the back of the rig inside the Mini Cooper and his mind was slowly ramping up its own awareness of the current and surrounding situation, the chunks of Zarana-flesh were rolling down the front of his shirt and along the side of his thigh, not so much rolling as squirming, and then not so much squirming as slithering as the chunks of flesh themselves began amalgamating with each other an the splattered blood, blood which by every earthly right should been coagulated into hard crimson clots by now, but had instead turned to some sort of jelly-like (jellyfish) entity of its own right, each bead of jelly-fish blood sucking over to the next crimson droplet, joining up with it to create a bigger rolling jelly-drop of living-cell blood.

It was John carpenter’s The Thing all over again. Only in the back of a rig this time. As flesh and jelly-blood continued to gather into itself and slither away from Kodek and his Mini Cooper, trailing down the glass on the outside of the car door, and the blood-splattered grey matter crept down the length of the rig wall of its own seeming-intelligent accord, Zarana herself began to twitch. It was not like any voluntary sort of twitch, it was as if something was twitching her. Like her corpse had been filled with thousands of jitterbugs. If Kodek had remembered this (because by now he was, in fact, completely awake – if not completely alert) then he might have though that Zarana’s insides had been made up of thousands of dancing bugs.

As the flesh continued to creep away from various (all) parts of the initial splatter-zone, it began sticking to Zarana as if she had some magnetic force over her old, scattered (and should-by-all-means-be-dead) flesh. Her body sucked in the rejuvenated flesh and jelly-blood, and she began to push herself up off the floor. First with her hands, then she got one knee under her. And as her recently reanimated corpse struggled to gain power of itself, a small light appeared in the back of the rig, as first only illuminating as mush as a Bic lighter would have – and then it too began to pulse with the creeping flesh, and it began to grow, as Zarana’s corpse was sucking, eating, taking in the creeping flesh as it came nearer, crawled/rolled/slithered up the side of the boots, her legs, up her thighs, soaking into her clothes and gripping the inner skin of her thigh and pushing itself up through her vagina and inside her as simultaneously, her skin began to soak in what was still clinging to the outside. She was becoming herself again, growing and rendering both inside and out as the reanimated flesh overtook her inner organs like a pliable succubus. And during this, right in front of Kodek’s eyes the light had become some sort of ball, yet inside that ball of light there was a core of darkness, and Kodek would never remember that he started that ball of darkness right in the center, which was no bigger than a tennis ball, and he thought, Damn, that thing looks heavy. I didn’t know that’s what the color of darkness was. It was blacker than black and something so indescribable Kodek’s mind would at some point give up and decide just to forget about the entire thing altogether.

And all the while, in the upper right corner of the rig, was Larry the Brain’s wide-angled high-resolution camera taking the whole thing in. It would take Brain at least a year to crack, and then digitally duplicate, the dimensional gene-warping code he had inadvertently unleashed on the planet as an unintended side-effect to the work he’d been doing for The Factory.

It was positively Lovecraftian. And soon, it would be universal.

The ball of light was getting so bright it was actually making Kodek start to itch. The only problem, was that he was starting to feel intensely itchy from the inside. Nothing much he could do about that, unless he could reach inside his own torso with his own hands to scratch the shit out of his own organs. One glance up to the Mini Cooper’s rearview mirror showed him that somehow Zarana had obtained that talent, and she was utilizing it to the best of her efforts.

Her hands jammed up inside her shirt, up under the flesh that was below her belly button but above her line of pubic hair, her hand were crawling up inside her own guts, scratching her won ribcage, being guided by arms that had somehow cracked the elbows backwards so she could perform such an inhuman function. The look on her blood-caked face was sheer… satisfied relief. As Kodek watched, even the blood on her face was rolling back up her cheek and into her eyeballs as if they were little round gravity-defying sponges. Here hair was black and pink and not a trace of her blood or brains or bits of skill showed there. If she didn’t currently have her arms on backwards and her hands weren’t crammed up inside the skin of her torso and pushing lumps around the inside of her body, she would’ve looked completely back to normal.

The itching inside of Kodek was getting so intense he thought he might go mad. Even the blinding light that had long since burned out the color-chip in Brain’s camera was no longer bothering him, nor the dark blackness of nothingness floating just outside the Mini Cooper’s windshield, all he could think about was the increasing itching, the terrorizing feeling that there were ten thousand cockroaches doing the samba over every one of his internal organs, biting into his arteries, chocking his hear and click-click-click-click-click-click-click-click-clicking through his BRAIN!!!!

The second time Kodek awoke, he was on the roof of his own Mini Cooper. The rig he was in was moving. He was alone, in the dark. The normal dark…

Kodek woke up talking in his sleep. He rubbed his eye and touched his earlobe, then turned his head to the left and saw Anna, propped up on her elbow, staring at him. Staring though him?

Algorithms.

He re-adjusted himself on his pillows, propping himself up in more upright-sitting position. “Algorithms,” he repeated. “Reminds me of Superman 2.”

What?” Anna asked – “Why?”

I guess you never saw that one. Or if you did you forget it. In Superman 2, Lex Luther is in jail and he explains to his sidekick Otis that he found where Superman’s main digs were because he’d tracked him flying patterns using algorithms.”

Anna laughed in his face.

What?” he asked playfully. “It’s true!”

No it’s not!” she said back, still laughing at him, “you totally fucked that up!”

That threw him for a loop. “What are you talking about?”

First of all,” she explained, “I have seen Superman 2. Several times. I have plenty of older brothers. So secondly, I totally remember that. Lex Luther being in jail. Starting to plot his revenge. And the fact that he tracked Superman’s flying patterns with Alpha Waves, not algorithms, dumbass.” She took her pillow and playfully slapped his chest with it.

Oh, yeah,” he said with a seriously pondering expression on his face. “You know, that’s why I never liked Rubick’s Cube.”

What’s why you never liked Rubick’s cube?”

I’m very fond of puzzles,” Kodek told her. “But the solution to Rubick’s Cube can only be found through algorithms. Which means that no matter which way you fuck that cube up, you will always be able to solve it by memorizing a precise series of movements.”

So,” Anna said, “It’s more like a maze then. There’s only one solution through a pre-designed series of movements.”

Not really,” Kodek said. “You can always make new mazes. You can buy a puzzle book with a hundred mazes in it. There’s only one Rubick’s cube.”

Anna agreed. “I was thinking about that last story.”

The one you were just talking about now?”

No, the one I was talking about last night over dinner at the restaurant,” she said.

The restaurant that reminded me of The Hunger, he remembered. “Ah, the story without the beginning, middle or end.”

Right. I figure that was a transitional story.”

Oh, do you now,” he jested.

Yeah. Like a segue story.”

He agreed.

And then the truck stopped.

Kodek looked down at the windshield of the Mini Cooper inside the back trailer of the rig, and couldn’t really remember how it had gotten there.

Johnny Fingers pulled the trigger and Zarana’s skull exploded, brain splattering on the wall behind her and fragments of bone shattering and projecting outward at nearly she speed of the bullet that had just hit her. Kodek was out, he didn’t notice one of the skull fragment cracking the windshield just over the dashboard. Two inched to the right and the bone would’ve nicked his bicep and he would’ve bled all over the interior of the Mini Cooper. The bullet ricocheted off of something, and somehow wound up splitting the steering wheel. Kodek was lucky. Two inches to the right and-

Kodek was dreaming about something else. He was out, but his conscious was making a valiant effort to swim up through the water-fog of his brain…

Kodek climbed out of the back of the truck. The door wasn’t locked. When he got out he saw that the entire rig was surrounded by saltwater. He climbed on top of the truck, the sniper rifle strapped around his shoulder. He crawled across the roof of the eighteen-wheeler on his belly, like a slug. He wondered if he was leaving a trailer.

He saw the couple on the beach. He lifted his rifle and put his eye to the scope. And he watched…

Johnny Fingers had met Zarana on the beach. He’s killed her a year ago, in the back of the rig. He’d driven the rig, with Zarana’s corpse and the Mini Cooper and that unconscious hitman named Kodek out onto the deserted beach. A beach so quiet and deserted it could have been quarantined by the military. But no, the property was merely owned by The Corporation. Vast – miles and miles of property.

Brain had sent him back. He had no idea what Brain was up to, but he thought that this ridiculous mission was going to be a piece of cake. Now he was losing his mind, in more ways than one. Johnny Fingers watched as Zarana came out from the back of the rusting, rotting truck parked in the salty waves of the beach.

She reached out, her arms reaching out to embrace him. He didn’t want her, but he took her anyway. His head spun. The impulse to discover took over. It mixed with his own perversions of mind. They kissed.

Was she still a corpse?

They kissed, and soon, he tried to get answers. This only led to arguments. Insecurity. And fear.

Much, much fear…

He tried to kiss her again, despite the arguing, but there was something coming out of her mouth now. His eyes darted to the right, focused past her head out towards the waves. He could see the sniper on the roof of the truck. He didn’t panic. Brain told him that the hitman would be there, and had specifically told him not to panic.

But seriously, how the fuck could that guy be there? He was left trapped in the Mini Cooper in the back of the truck a fucking year ago! He doesn’t even look like he missed last night’s dinner. What the fuck…? And he’s still pointing that rifle at us… At me…? Is Brain trying to set me up? Am I a walking dead man? No, no, don’t panic. It’s a sniper rifle. It’s got a scope, he probably just scoping us out. Yeah, and with his finger on the trigger. Just… remember what Brain said… make like you don’t see him. Act like he isn’t there. He doesn’t matter. He won’t shoot…. How the hell does Brain know this shit? How could he–?

Kodek watched them through the scope of the sniper rifle. They looked like they were arguing. Kodek knew that the guy could see him. Must have seen him, Kodek might’ve been on his belly but he knew that the angle of the sight-line in conjunction with the space he had to the edge of the right side of the truck roof… there was no way that guy didn’t see him. This all felt like a set-up… Brain…

And then the guy on the beach looked like, even after the passionate arguing, like he was about to kiss her again…

Johnny was about to kiss her when that thing sprung out of her mouth. The fucker looked like some coagulated blood-drenched slug, but it was huge and long, like a thing slug-snake. It was enough to make him puke in her face. He grabbed the slug and pulled it from her face-

Kode3k watched through the rifle scope as the guy on the beach grabbed the girl’s face. He yanked her towards him, like he was trying to pull her jaw clean off. He punched her, right in the face-

Johnny had no choice, the slug would not come out of her fucking mouth – so he punched that slug! And then he punched it again-

Even though the rifle scope, Kodek could she the blood slash through the salty air when the guy punched the girl in the face. He was pummeling her. Kodek knew he could stop it. Knew he could stop with the reflexive flick of his index finger.

It fluttered over the trigger…

To Kodek, that was six weeks ago. To Kodek’s mind, however…

You would’ve died in that rig if you’d been there for a year. You have no idea. I sent Anna to help you clean up and you woke up in the back of a moving car and you didn’t even know what the fuck was going on…

Brain was trying to keep meticulous notes on all of the subjects. True, Kodek had only been the MacGuffin. True, it had all been about eliminating Zarana. She was not useful to The Factory’s research and development department any longer, and nobody at The Asylum really liked her much anyway, but then it had occurred to Brain… maybe… her genetic code…

Brain actually quit typing for a second in order to think back on the series of events. Well, Kodek wasn’t the MacGuffin, per se, but in that situation the idea that he was needed for an operation was what the MacGuffin was.

And Zarana had finally served a full and nearly complete purpose.

The nice thing, thought Brain, was that even though Johnny had bashed her skull in with a rock on that lonely stretch of beach, effectively killer her twice, she would still be sticking around this mortal coil for a little while yet.

Larry the Brain resumed tying onto the keyboard of the computer, entering a digitized series of coded information and cross-referencing it with genetic mapping…

I need to figure own how the cross-genetics of Zarana and the foreign DNA cause that shift in time/space placement. I wonder if that fucking rig had something to do with it? I’ll have to make a note on that…

And he thought about Johnny Fingers. Next time Brain took a break from this work, he’d have to ring up ol’ Johnny Fingers and get him to go back to that stretch of beach one more time…

To retrieve the corpse of Zarana…

And bring her BACK.

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