Accustomed to exercising military power, that afternoon Rachstad was strolling like a god in his cloudy gardens. He went along escorted by a group of anti-demographic agents that usually accompanied him on his rounds through “Reality.” “Reality” was a euphemism used by the soldiers and civil servants in the regime to refer to the unpoliced zones and the sites of tolerance where the local governments still hadn't closed the shackles; mournful zones where technology was scarce and that the regime maintained free of sanctions to serve their own interests.
Two all-terrain vehicles were accompanying the official automobile of the Forces of Order. In the Eden of virtual and semi-virtual prostitution nothing seemed like to “Reality”, and General Rachstad was eager to direct his rage to the unwrinkled ripples of human muscle. He missed the aggression applied to the flesh. He remembered, with nostalgia, the torture of his previous victims. Almost four weeks had already passed since he hit and raped some little girls, on an afternoon when his troops finished off the survivors of the Hochstock genocide. Without these ultra-violent sessions, his body suffered the lack of stampedes of adrenaline and the maximum excitement. When the migraine tormented the vertebrae of his neck the only remedy was to apply the enervating compound and that was it, but the hangover episodes were disheartening and exhausting, besides inducing him into a melancholy state of mind.
“We'll make a recreational visit,” Rachstad said into the microphone of his headpiece, “head towards the cave.”
The caravan veered towards the clandestine farming plots, flanked by the rock, bluish hills. General Rachstad was following a tip given to him by an informer for the regime, a man who managed to get out alive from a demographic sanitation raid. During the interrogations, the man assured them that a known pimp and seller of chemical substances, called Mcveigh, had a young woman sheltered in a brothel of virtual attractions and robotic eroticism.
The frontal helices of the vehicles made the advance through the thickness of the countryside easier. They destroyed an enormous quantity of vegetables, legumes, opium poppies, and medicinal plants in their path. The lookout drone moved ahead and detected three armed men, positioned on the edges of the countryside. Rachstad saw that the red light was flickering in the upper part of his monitor, an unequivocal sign that they were approaching a holographic zone. The guardians of the farming plots fired at the vehicles as soon as they were within their range. In response, they anti-demographic agents leaned out of the sunroofs of the vehicles and fired at will. The attackers were eliminated in a few seconds, except one that was hiding on the slope of the hill. The shooter managed to make a few shots before a remote-controlled missile reached him. Proud, he didn't even try to escape enemy fire and stayed still while he took the hit right in the face.
“That casualty was a narcozombie,” claimed the driver.
“You don't know anything,” retorted the general, “he was just trying to be brave.”
“The thing is that you don't believe in the narcozombies. They aren't brave. They just stay there because they smell the flesh and the blood from far away. Once they taste human flesh they can't accept animals anymore.”
“Just because they revive some dead guy for a few hours now the fucking White Coats are famous, and everybody believes them, right? There are substances that also revive the vigor of old men, and the delight also lasts only a few hours.”
“I understand,” continued the chauffeur, “but they also say that those White Coats do experiments with a Mexican fish, and with that they're going to become rich.”
“Pure bullshit,” counterattacked Rachstad, “if that were true, those White Coats would already be in some jail.”
The chauffeur was about to reply that this rumor was running through the poor district of Asintia, told by people that were known for their frankness, but he shut up for fear of suffering the bureaucratic interrogations of the regime.
There was a lot of talk about dead people brought back to life by designer drugs. News also ran about biogenetic methods of resuscitation, temporary and permanent. Those testimonies were passing from top to bottom, spreading like the Coxsackie virus, among the pedestrians of Asintia. After the worldwide onslaught of genocide, the cadavers multiplied, piling up in such a way that with them, barriers and barricades could be built to continue the armed struggle. Before this abundance of lifeless bodies, communal logic pointed towards recycling and the reutilization of the cadavers. Therefore, postmortem experiments reached astronomical levels, intensifying with the establishment of Monthly Quota of Escape Law.
The central display screen in the vehicle identified a direct entrance to the recreation center. The mouth of the cave was glowing on the east slope of the hill and the detector indicated a low level of holographic materialization.
“Their technological backwardness is notable,” said the chauffeur while he scanned the zone with the drone's display, “it's three years behind, approximately. There couldn't be greater containment problems, nor of capacitation, in case that were necessary. The cavern has two levels and a passageway that connects to the rear building, where there is a pool with solar panels on the roof, and that is everything, General.”
Rachstad glanced at the images. No other building or metal installation was visible past the last warehouse. They could only see more fields, a few trees and abundant vegetation. He pressed a button on this belt and spoke into the microphone on his headset:
“Iker! Actius! Front and center!”
Rachstad was the first to get out. Iker and Actius turned around to see, startled by the lack of concern of the general.
“Everything is on display,” said Rachstad, “the installation are in sight. The farmers were already detected by the system and the missiles are programmed. The host is at the entrance. His name is Mcveigh. Trajectory: pimp, without military experience or weapons management. I sent him to the Asintia Penitentiary. After lending his services to the regime he was exonerated.”
Iker and Actius went ahead to comb the area, putting on their multi-beam goggles. They advanced until they arrived at the cave and they noted the figure of a man, outlined by the light that came from inside. As they got closer they discovered that it was Mcveigh, who was smoking an electronic pipe that gave off intense aromas and visual effects of recent popularity. Mcveigh was laughing while he expelled the smoke through his mouth and his nostrils.
“You already did in half of the farmers,” complained Mcveigh, “and they attracted many clients.”
“It's your fault for not informing them of my visit,” said Rachstad, “besides, they began to fire at us. What were we going to do? Wait until they ran out of ammunition?”
“I couldn't warn them because they display screens and several cameras don't work anymore,” explained Mcveigh, “they were deactivated by the shooting last week and others remain useless. It's a pleasure to see you, General, after so much time.
“How long? Five, six years?”
“I would say five,” responded Mcveigh, pausing to inhale and exhale the smoke from his pipe, “and the good thing is as the years go by life becomes more entertaining, and toys like this are produced” he added, pointing to the female android, dark like ebony.
The general took a step back, distancing himself to appreciate the immodest blackness in its entirety. He passed his hand over the shoulder and slid it down towards the breasts. A titillation averted his gaze towards the face of the girl robot.
“It's a facial hologram, General,” pointed out Iker.
“That's correct,” explained Mcveigh, “the face is interchangeable. We can program the one you like, General, even that of some heroine or martyr of your choice.”
“Really?” said Rachstad, “it is astonishing. It was a good texture. And these have a very delicate finish,” he added, while he caressed one of the nipples, “but I'm looking for something more natural, more innocent and vulnerable. You understand.”
“I have a girl that enjoys beating in one of these cabins,” offered Mcveigh, “the more you beat her the more she will writhe with pleasure, without any cost to you, General.”
Rachstad desired a human specimen where he could feel the vulnerability of the flesh and taste the authenticity of the pain inflicted. He was looking for someone with a virgin throat that would provide cutting shrieks: decibels of innocence to wound the eardrums.
“I want to completely lose control,” he said.
“Don't say anymore, General. I understand you perfectly.”
They entered a tunnel illuminated by the lights of fish tans that were embedded in the walls of the cave. Goldfish were floating inside them and some axolotl, aquatic animals with similar extremities to those of human beings. Rachstad moved closer to gaze at one of them, and it seemed comical to him that a round-faced animal would have a short smile and bulging eyes in the middle of its pike face.
“I've just scanned them,” said Actius, “they are originals. They're not clones.”
“Opportune information from your goggles,” laughed Mcveigh, “this is like being accompanied by gastronomic guides that warn you about condiments and the calories of the dishes.”
Upon leaving the tunnel it has already gotten dark, and they found themselves surrounded by strange vegetation, similar to the coral reefs. Some flashing insects were flying above the vegetation and were absorbed by the corolla and the tips of the most luminous plants.
“I detect human necrosis,” said Actius, “excessive necrosis, General, in the plants.”
“Of course there's necrosis,” said Mcveigh, “there's necrosis and what follows, bodies all around. What did you expect?! The attack was a week ago and your boss gave the order. Check your files, Actius, you're smelling your own ass.”
“Shut up Mcveigh!” said Rachstad, “he already got your message. And you, Actius, you're pitiful. Take Iker with you. Go have fun and leave me alone.”
“Take the goggles General,” said Iker, stretching them out to him.
“Negative,” responded Rachstad, “there won't be a register of this.”
Actius and Iker returned to the tunnel, while Mcveigh and Rachstad continued their path until arriving at the doors of the warehouse.
“Inside there is a pool,” explained Mcveigh, “she's chained up,” he laughed, “she's a little rebellious. The chain is long enough for you to take a dip with her. At this temperature you feel like it, right? Take into account that she's young, General, an innocent person, you could say, I hope that won't be a problem.”
“You are, General,” smiled Mcveigh, “I admire people that lean over the precipice of innocence without even hesitating.”
Mcveigh punched in the opening code into the device and deactivated the security system. The bolts in the folding doors retracted. Mcveigh pulled on one of the doors and let Rachstad pass through. The interior of the warehouse was illuminated by ultraviolet light. Inside, the young woman had her back to her visitors. Rachstad smiled upon seeing the girl seated at the edge of the pool, moving her feet placidly in the water. She was wearing a tank top and rose-colored panties. Her complexion suggested she was about 18 years old and her stature was short. Her arms showed scabs and dark areas that looked like tattoos and bruises. Her black hair glistened sticky and taut.
“I’ll let you know,” said Rachstad, sharply, as if he were responding to a question that Mcveigh had mentally formulated.
Mcveigh turned halfway and went through the doors without saying a word. The general went over there to close them and activated the closing of the bolts. Later he walked over to where the girl was and saw that a shackle covered with slime encircled one of her wrists. At the sight of the girl’s panties up close, he got an erection. He took off his gloves slowly, savoring the smooth edges of that youthful body. He removed his whip, loosened his cartridge belt until he was free of it and he let it fall to the floor trying to get the attention of his victim. The automatic weapon, the toxic gas spray gun, the handcuffs and the Turkish dagger, attached to the cartridge belt, crashed as they hit the tiled floor of the pool, but the girl remained impassive, engrossed in the movements of her feet inside the water and in its ripples, which were highlighted by the ultraviolet light in the enclosure.
The general kicked the cartridge belt and, to his surprise, the girl continued ignoring him. Aroused by her indifference, he went over to where she was and began to massage her shoulders.
“Come on, beautiful, at least give me a smile.”
The young woman didn’t respond, and he clenched his jaw. With a brusque movement he took her by the chin and turned her face towards him. Her features seemed strange: a round face and a tiny nose, bulging set widely apart that avoided Rachstad’s gaze, looking instead at the sides of the warehouse. Accustomed to surprising his victims during raids, Rachstad trembled with fear when he saw her remove the shackle swiftly. She smiled before the shock of the general and held his gaze. All of a sudden, her eyes corrected her divergent squint, changing in a calculated culmination of her mischief, making them line up directly with those of Rachstad.
“Your shackle is too big for you,” laughed the general, “you are naughty and you like jokes, right? Here I have a joke for you.”
The general stuck his hand in his jacket, as if he were going to take something out of the pocket, and as he took it out he dealt a blow across the face of the girl with the backside of his hand. She gave an animal-like groan and jumped on top of her aggressor, seizing him by the hair. She placed her knees in the groin of her attacker so that she gained better traction and enough balance to pull his hair forcefully and bring his face towards her. Rachstad tried to pull her off of him, directing his blows to her ribs, but the young woman didn’t move an inch. She kept pulling his hair and brought the nose of the general to her mouth. She began to bite it, drinking the flow of blood with the thirst of a leech. Each bite caused her incisors to grow, which reacted in a biochemical impulse. She relished the blood of the general and absorbed the stampede of red blood cells and leukocytes, which supplied her long-awaited narcotic effect. Following this sensation of cannibal empowerment, there was an outburst of jagged rage with which struggled to make her way towards the organs of her prey, and even down towards the essence of his vascular nature.
The cameras, mounted in strategic places in the warehouse, opened their shutters. Before the incredible strength of his adversary, Rachstad panicked and extracted a knife from the sheath around his ankle. He launched the first cut and the young woman received it in her lower abdomen. He noticed that the girl’s pupils contracted and he launched a second cut, but she managed to stop it, and also twisted his wrist. The resistance and perseverance of the general seemed admirable to the eyes of the scientists, especially his ferocity in launching himself with the girl into the water.
In the subterranean observation room the monitors also projected the images from the subaquatic cameras, which had been placed on the sides and the floor of the pool. One of the White Coats activated the opening of a sluice gate inside the water. Several genetically modified axolotl came out through a grate and swam quickly after the trail of blood. In his struggle with the girl, the general made a superhuman effort to hold his breath. The young woman bent the general’s wrist, forcing him to let go of the knife, but he responded with his elbows, hitting her on the sides of the neck and in the clavicles, which provided the desired effect. After repelling her he made some arm strokes to reach the surface and swallow quick mouthfuls of oxygen.
Debilitated by the stab wound, the young woman felt an electric stroke in her body, she relaxed her muscles and sank until she touched the bottom of the pool, but she still had enough strength to grasp the foot of the general. Rachstad tried to reach the edge unsuccessfully. He dove in again towards her and encircled her neck with both hands, obliging her to remain anchored. He caught a glimpse of two smooth horns that were moving over the nape of the girl’s neck. The eyes of the cameras captured the moment when the axolotl swam over to her, introducing themselves into her wound and provoking convulsions. From the floor of the pool the generator emitted the first streams of genomic rays. The chemical and electric signals facilitated the communication between the girl’s damaged tissue and the genes that were controlling her mother cells. The gene pax7 of the axolotl embraced her genes and introduced regenerative elements into her cellular morphology. Her wound absorbed the blood that was still flowing from Rachstad’s nose. Her own blood flow integrated the red blood cells and leukocytes, the symptoms of her appetite surfaced immediately: tension in the jaw, inflammation in the gums and a tingling sensation in the nerves at the roots of the teeth.
Rachstad felt the girl’s hands grip his calves and they yanked him so that he lost his balance, submerging him. He slapped and kicked with force, and barely managed to stay afloat, but upon receiving a bite in the abdomen screams of rage and impotence burst from his throat. He could still twist his torso and see in the direction of the doors. The cameras captured his bulging eyes and the White Coats saw Rachstad focus on the only option he had to save himself: to get out of the pool and take the automatic weapon from his cartridge belt. He gathered all his strength and bent the young woman’s head forward, bending it downward to inflict a few blows with his elbow on her back. In this way he managed to free himself and advance until he clung to the edge of the pool, but he couldn’t prevent the girl from immediately reacting and fastening her jaw onto one of his calves. Rachstad screamed again and imitated the cannibalism of the young girl with very poor results. This was an attack strategy the White Coats had seen during other experiments. So the general launched himself on her, propelling them towards the edge. He managed to lift her and, as he saw her neck, sensed the possibility of causing a hemorrhage. He concentrated all his hope in his jaw and closed his bite on the girl’s carotid artery. He put all his mandibular determination to get the blood to flow, but she began to laugh, as if she had planned for her prey to bite her.
The young woman continued to laugh as one of the White Coats activated the neuro-sensory tentacles. The metallic extensions came out of the camouflaged hatches in the gird of the pool. The pincers caught the general’s cranium and the White Coats contemplated the peaks of exchange of information on their monitors. The blood of the girl had memory and it was carrying out the process of transferring past experiences to Rachstad’s mental register. Those sanguinary memories were rapidly decoded. Rachstad realized that his past formed part of the neural archives of the young woman and that the blood flows ordered the decompression of the content to be displayed. It was processed as if it were a movie of edited experiences, Rachstad discovered himself trapped in episodes where he was playing the role of the protagonist: he was on a mission of demographic sanitation, in charge of a crew; he was in the massacres that he and his agents orchestrated; he saw himself in the gunshots directed at the backs of the unarmed people that were fleeing from the attacks; he found himself in the rape and murder of a woman while her daughter, a young woman similar to the one by the pool, was a witness; he saw himself on top of the young girl and inside of her, perceiving her to be disposable flesh, like beaten flesh, stabbed flesh, dead flesh, and in that moment he understood that both were the same person, and that her face, now modified, was the face of the axolotl.
Mcveigh turned his face towards the White Coats. “That’s enough,” he said.
An operator silenced only the speakers and the monitors continued transmitting what was happening in the pool: the young girl, always smiling, chomped down on the face of her aggressor, stripping off a good portion of the cheek that made it bleed profusely. She submerged herself again and breathed comfortably with the gill horns. She sunk her jaw in the abdomen of Rachstad, where some of his organs were now visible and she chewed on the fleshy tissue of his entrails. The blood flooded the monitors and the neuro-sensory pincers let go of the general’s cranium.
The girl seized Rachstad’s neck, plunging him into the water and later giving him the opportunity to come out to breath after a Little bit. The most difficult part of her predatory task consisted of tiring her prey and debilitating it sufficiently enough to restrain its drive. She took Rachstad by the wrists and applied all the violent force of her jaw to his chest. While she did her incisors gained ground in his flesh, tearing it sufficiently to produce an enormous hole. She stuck her hands in the general’s chest and curved her fingers into the form of hook to grasp his ribs. She gathered all her strength and yanked them aside, opening them up like collapsible doors. The heart, in all its splendor, showed its weak, intermittent pumping. The young woman, still aroused by the red blood cells and leukocytes that aerated her blood flow, bit the organ and inserted her protractile tongue into the aorta. She sucked out the vital liquid in fractions of a second and the effect on her system was instantaneous: a sensation similar to the human orgasm relaxed her muscles and a mental calm, bordering on sublime peace suspended her in the middle of the water. The axolotl came out of her moth and surrounded her floating body, and seemed to smile, satisfied, watching over their future.
The White Coats were still concentrating their gaze on the monitors when they saw the girl come out of the water and press her nose to the crack that was opening between the folding doors of the warehouse.
“She’s smelling her prey,” explained Mcveigh, “she has matured. Now she can remain outside the water for longer. I hope that we are worthy of her resurrection.”
He pressed a button and the bolts of the doors retracted. The monitor showed the young woman heading quickly toward the rooms where Iker and Actius were enjoying the last sexual encounters of their lives.
Translated by Christina Miller
Javier González Cárdenas (Tijuana, 1973) has a BA in Communication and a BA in Spanish Language and Literature from the Universidad Autónoma de Baja California. He has written for Diario 29, El Mexicano, El Informador de Baja California, Letras Libres and H para Hombres, among other newspapers and magazines. Some of his fiction and poetry work have also been included in the anthologies Al Margen Reversible, Invocación al Mar y Otros Poemas, 13 Poemas, and ¿El Crimen Como Una De Las Bellas Artes? Tomo II. He has written and directed several short films and audiovisual poems. He was awarded the ‘1st Northwest Literary Prize’ (CECUT-SOGEBAC, 1995). In 2005, he won the ‘XXI Premio Nacional de Cuento Fantástico y de Ciencia Ficción’. He also won 3rd place in the ‘5th Virtuality Caza de Letras-UNAM’ (2011) for his chronicles. His first novel was Esto es lo que pienso de ti [This is what I think of you] (CECUT-CNCA, 1996), followed by his short story book Ficciones de carne y hueso [Fictions of flesh and bone] (Altanoche, 2008). His latest novel, Muerto después de muerto [Dead after dead] (Abismos, 2013), narrates a post-apocalyptic battle between narcozombies, a drug cartel and the Mexican government.
Since 2004, Christina Miller has taught Spanish at the University of Oklahoma, where she was awarded the Provost’s Certificate of Distinction in Teaching Prize. In 2017, she received her Doctorate in Spanish from the University of Oklahoma with a dissertation titled: “Detectives That Read: The Role of Literature, Evolution and Resistance in the Neopolicial by Ramón Díaz Eterovic and Leonardo Padura Fuentes,” for which she was nominated for the Office of the Provost PhD Dissertation Prize for the best thesis defended in 2017. As a researcher, her main area of interest is the Latin American detective novel (20th and 21st centuries). She has presented in various national and international conferences such as: South Central Modern Languages Association Conference, The Southwest Council of Latin American Studies Conference and the Congreso Internacional de Literatura y Estudios Hispánicos. Her translations have been published in journals such asLatin American Literature Today (LALT) y World Literature Today (WLT).
LALT No. 6 goes from the gripping true stories of literary journalism to the strange worlds of fantastic short stories and graphic literature. We highlight chronicles by Colombian journalist Alberto Salcedo Ramos, speculative fiction in a dossier curated by Mexican writer Alberto Chimal, and Yucatec Maya poetry and prose in our ongoing Indigenous Literature series.