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Daze walked towards the Hayden building to enter the Security Complex through the employee tunnels. It really was an admirable system of deception. She did not see anything she was doing, as wrong. Leaving the city was an option that should be available to her and anyone else. It seemed odd that Longfellow thought it was such a clandestine affair. He really did seem like a nice guy, but he seemed to have some sort of persecution complex. She supposed that after living a life away from the natural world, people can get too wrapped up in a materialistic worldview and begins to see the demons of human designs everywhere.
She walked into the acquisition center to pick up her uniform to find three officers waiting there in full combat armor. Richard Prescott stood between them in his sharp black city suit. He turned leisurely and stared at her with an air of confidence that bordered on arrogance.
Without a word he motioned for her to go into one of the rooms adjacent to the center. She smiled in a friendly way and walked ahead of him into the room. Two of the guards followed her in, while the third remained outside.
Without saying a word Prescott flipped on the monitor which showed her entering Longfellow’s cubicle. Daze shrugged and motioned for him to get to the point. He stood their staring at her.
“Are you upset because we didn’t put on more of an erotic show for you?”
He let out a short snort at her obvious humor and motioned for her to sit down in the chair.
“You definitely make things interesting for me. I haven’t forwarded this tape to the council yet. I don’t know if you’re just ignorant of the way the world works here, or if you are deliberately trying to cause problems? After less than a week on the security force, you are seen offering aid and comfort to the most wanted man in Tucson.”
Daze sat down across from him and stared at him directly without blinking.
“Is there some sort of law against whom I can and can’t spend my time with? How can he be the most wanted man if you never charge him with a crime and you even had him in your custody less than 24 hours ago only to release him free and clear?”
Prescott did not back down from her stare.
“You know damn well why we do the things we do here. I have let you in on the system and I expect that if you want to be an officer that you will adhere to it. So let’s just cut the bull shit and level with each other. You are planning on leaving the city with him. I can’t allow that. There is too much that we have tied up with that kid, too much depends on him being here as the perpetual threat. We can manufacture the attacks and the propaganda, but nothing brings people under our system more securely than an actual living threat that shows his face and moves around.”
“There are still some of those people around who participated in the Kool-Ade rebellion. There are some people who want to return this city to a free state. Things have changed out there though, we no longer have the option of expelling people out of the city, thanks to that crazy bastard in California, there aren’t going to be any new immigrants coming into the city. If we can’t maintain the population, everything falls apart.”
“This isn’t about any kind of crazy ideals; all we do here is protecting the species from extinction. I have no interest in politics or ruling people’s lives; they are free to do whatever they want here as long as they don’t hurt anyone else. Some people on the council may have some aspirations to power, but even those are mild and minor impositions.
“I am being straight with you because I remember what your father did. If you try to take him out of here, I will have to stop you. I don’t care if you want to have a relationship with this man, but I will not let you become a part of his schemes. I have seen what a samurai can do. I would have no choice but to kill you.”
Daze smacked her lips in a casual way and placed both hands on the table pushing herself up. The two guards drew a bead on her and red dots appeared tracing their way along her body before coming to rest on her head.
“Beware the day when a state grows so powerful as to demand of its citizens the dictates of their own conscious. Your system is the problem; it destroys the spirits of the people that live under it. You glorify the annals of history as a materialistic god. This is the metaphysics of your socialist state, and it is the right of every man to choose whether or not to live under its rule.”
“You have treated me with nothing but honor, so I shall offer to leave you in peace. Please do not try to stop me, or it is I who will have to kill you and I take no pleasure in killing honorable men.”
Daze smiled as Prescott lowered his head and shook it back and forth in disappointment.
“I thought I could reason with you. I thought you might understand.”
Daze placed her hand on his shoulder and brought his head up to her with her hand.
“Strategy is different from other things in that if you mistake the Way even a little you will become bewildered and fall into bad ways. You have fallen, Mr. Prescott. It is impossible that anyone should become a protector of the people to whom they have not yielded the subjugation of their hearts.”
He stared at the red dots that crawled upon her face.
“Take her down!”
Daze’s hand flung out towards the guard catching him in the shoulder joint of his armor. He spun to the side opening fire on the guard next to him. He fire ricocheted off his armor as she ducked down below the table. Her leg swung out and brought the stunned guard down close enough for her to grab his rifle. She pointed it directly at Prescott as the third guard burst through the door.
“It’s not too late. No one has to die. Just let us leave the city and you can tell whatever lie you want to the world.”
Her laser sight was locked onto Prescott’s forehead.
“You’re not going to get out of here. You can kill me if you want, but there is no way out of this complex. In fact, I don’t even think you would kill me.”
Daze paused and then hit him with the butt of the rifle. She pushed him forward at the guards and leaped out of the door closing it behind her. She turned to the guard in the acquisition desk and screamed at him in panic.
“We have an emergency situation! Call all units code 459! Don’t let them out of the room they have Prescott as a hostage!”
The sirens screamed and the lights along the hall flashed as the area became filled with armored troops. She fell back from the door as she heard the automatic lock slip into place, sealing them in. she turned and ran into the glass enclosure and tossed the rifle to the acquisition’s clerk.
“I need my gear, number 137.”
She gave him her ID card and he popped the locker door. She grabbed the body armor suit as well as her swords and guns. She left the standard issue guns inside. She had no need to steal from them.
Daze quickly donned the suit and made her way out of the building amid the security scramble. She ran down the street pulling off her gear as she went. People looked at her astonished that a guard would act this way.
As she came to the shore of the river she dove in and swam across to the opposite side, hoping that the water would malfunction the suits tracking capabilities. As she pulled herself up out of the water she saw a form standing unsteadily in front of her.
In one hand he had a rolled up piece of canvass, and in the other a metal pole which he leaned upon.
“You’re already famous. I was just headed down to the complex when I heard all the alarms; I knew it had to be you. No one else in this town is that stupid except me.”
She grabbed him and placed her arm around him.
“We are going to have to move fast. It won’t take them long to get organized and they can track us all over the city.”
He thrust the map into her hands.
“There is no way we are going to make it. About three blocks to the south, there is an access tunnel leading to the water treatment facility? Before you argue, I am going to follow you, but not right now. They won’t touch me, I am Teflon here, and I’ll follow as soon as I can. Make your way to Phoenix, there are some people there who will meet you and set you up in the city. I don’t know what the radiation levels are up there, but if you have to move on just leave word with them and I’ll follow you as soon as I can.”
He kissed her hard and with full intent.
“I told them you were coming, so they should be able to smuggle you in past the security. I promise I will find you.”
Daze paused briefly before turning and heading up the street. He called after her.
“Just watch the Ballyhoo Networks, I’ll send you a message!”
Daze dove into the small opening that acted as an overflow reservoir and jumped down into the water below. Her city suit clung to her now and she tore off the sleeves and adjusted her swords. The guns were probably going to be useless for awhile until she could find a place to dry them out. She unrolled the drawing and could see the starting point marked on her left arm. She made her way forward marking note of any irregularities she could use as compass points.
The tunnels were tall enough to stand up in easily and a few places even had toe paths to walk along outside the water. She made better time, but felt the weight of the water every time she rose out of the river. The thought of William filled her mind. Here she was again, leaving the world and everyone who trusted her behind. She was just constantly on the run now. Even if she did make to Phoenix, they will have labeled her a fugitive. More people were waiting there to put their lives in danger, just because she wouldn’t bow to the system.
She thought about turning back, but there was nothing for her there now either. She would be killed if she headed back. Shattered fragments of hope lay before her, but only the shadow of death lay behind.
Daze stopped to rest along the side of the wall. Pushing her way through the water was tiring her out and it was a long way to Phoenix. She would wait for Longfellow in Phoenix, she wouldn’t leave him behind. Even if that meant she had to come back for him. There was a promise of a life with him, and that was all she had right now. Just a promise.
Daze stayed with him that night tending to his wounds and learning the history of his battles with the city. His name was really Longfellow Clifton. He had been born and raised on the frontier down in Nogales. He had been at the forefront of the raids and the great purging movement that spread across Arizona. He had been much too young to see the actual events, but he grew up around the people who had lived through it.
Nogales was the entry point between Arizona and Mexico and the front line for retaliation from both sides from the unofficial war that was waged between them. Border disputes led to open conflict and raiding parties ravaged both sides of the border. After one of the raids killed his father, he had fled with his mother and sister to the relative safety of the city state of Tucson.
His sister had embraced the ordered society of the city and excelled in her life here. She was the reason he lived the way he did. Without her assistance, he would be living in one of the city housing units and rotting away in the vegetable fields as cheap manual labor. She had secured a position with the city council and soon after married one of the council men and set up her home in the upper end of the city.
Daze just remained silent and let him unburden himself to her. She got up and made tea from time to time to help sooth him and heal his wounds. She even made a paste from the used tea leaves and spread it gently over the swollen areas to draw out the moisture and swelling of the skin.
It seemed that even in the sociological structure of the city, it wasted nothing. It was always the same everywhere; people were using people in a matrix of hidden agendas and designs. It was an old saying that she shared with him that her father had often said about the world leading up to the great war of indifference: “Since learned men have appeared, honest men are nowhere to be found.”
He became the Kool-Ade Kid after the popular drink was discontinued by the state. It was just one more instance of the government dictating to the people how they should live their lives. It wasn’t even that big an issue, but it just happened to coincide with his first act of civil disobedience. So he called himself the Kool-Ade Kid as a joke to get attention and dressed in an outrageously colorful outfit. He led a protest dumping several cases of Kool-Ade into the river and turning it a gross color as all the different flavors mingled together. It was supposed to be akin to the Boston Tea Party, but in reality it was just stupid.
The Ballyhoo networks had jumped all over it and even though he wasn’t even the leader of the group responsible, he was the most ridiculous looking person there and the Ballyhoo Networks sought to discredit the movement, so they deliberately focused on him in order to ridicule the movement and undermine the legitimate concerns that they had. It was an old ploy used by the soviets in communist Russia, and it worked here as well.
He was a joke for a long time, but that movement had taught him a few things. One was never to expect the media to be impartial and sympathetic to your movement and the next was that by following the dyed water along the river, he discovered the entrance to the intercity canal system. The observance of the communal traditions involves the constant sacrifice of the individual to the state. Education, in order to keep up the mighty illusion of delusion, encourages a population of ignorance. People are not taught to be really virtuous, but only to behave properly. Education does not make a man good; it only makes him clever, usually for mischief. This is how the system runs. The Ballyhoo Networks bombard the senses to overload with sensationalism in order to keep the peace. It is not a lack of education, it is overexposure to education. Too many facts and misrepresentations make everyone insecure of their own opinion and that was the downfall of the Kool-Ade movement.
It took him a few months, but he explored the system and made several maps of the routes to different cities. Through there, he had been able to smuggle weapons and people out of the city and off to a better life. One of the traps of the city was that it would welcome you in, but as soon as you set foot in the government housing, you began to ring up a debit bill, they used this as leverage to keep people in the city. Of course, that was before the war with Mexico irradiated the entire region. Now they no longer needed the pretext of debits and imprisonment, now the entire city was a prison camp.
Daze sat opposite him as she absorbed the history of this young man. In such a short space of time, he had seen and heard so much. Her experience was limited to a few bandit raids and old stories about the Great War. All of her training in the art of strategy and Bushido were detailed and in-depth, but his knowledge was much more diversified and encompassing. Where he knew more of the world and could probably even name all of the ten thousand things in heaven and earth, her knowledge was limited, but absolute. She possessed a moral certainty which he did not. He was raging against the system, but his efforts were undisciplined and unfocused and therefore yielded no results.
By morning, he was in much better health than he was before. Between her nursing him and just listening as he unburdened himself to her was more of a tonic than anything he could have found in the city clinic. It had been almost a year since he had last had anyone to talk to. That was the last time he had led a “migration,” as he called his little escape trips.
The pain was still there but his heart was no longer as heavy. It did not take much to renew his faith, but as he had always believed the root of the poison of the city state to be, and was also his personal mantra: Happiness dies if it is not shared.
She left him with a kiss. This time he did not hold back and pressed himself fully against her, leaning in to savor every second of precious contact. The pain filled his mind in stark contrast to the desire that he felt.
Daze looked out at the city from the vantage point of the numerous monitors which lined the walls of the room. She sat at the control desk awaiting the call to activate a patrol, her eyes traced their way along the screens looking for any abnormality. Three other people were in the room with her monitoring the whole of the city. Their eyes followed the bright clothing of the young kids as they traveled the city in packs.
Daze’s eyes followed the “Norms” who seemed out of place in the collective at large. A mastermind criminal would choose not to draw undue attention to themselves and would try to blend in, the Kool-Ade Kid was a perfect example of low minded criminal. His outrageous gear just set him up as a target that was used and manipulated by the propagandists of the city to further their own cause. His personal indulgence was the very definition of self-destructive behavior. He only wanted attention, not mischief.
One of the screens flashed his image to her. They had a surveillance camera in his home, so they could monitor him whenever they choose to. She just shook her head when they pointed it out to her. He had already been released by the security forces, which really had no intension of bringing him in that night if she had not interfered. They were only roughing him up to break up the monotony of the patrol. Apparently it was a common thing among the officers.
The old saying rang true to her now; standing armies excite states to outrival one another in the number of armed men, which has no limit. Through the expense occasioned, peace becomes in the long run more oppressive than a short war; and standing armies are thus the cause of aggressive wars undertaken in order to get rid of this burden of excessive arms and soldiers.
She knew that there were cameras which could not be viewed from these screens, including the one which was watching them. There were probably several within the town council chambers, although the only ones that appeared here were for the outside of the structure. There was also more than likely, one within her room. She could imagine them wanting to keep an eye on any new resident, especially her.
The other officers were like herself in light body armor, just black shirts with a Kevlar vest underneath, deep in the bowels of the security forces building, the rules for protective wear were less strict, but each one of them had to enter the office with their full battle suit and weapons and store them in the lockbox under their desk.
Her orientation had informed her that the security forces used black to make themselves stand out in stark contrast to the white and powder blue of the city. This way they were easily identified and avoided confusion in a crisis situation. The lone star of the nation of Arizona flag was emblazoned on their shoulders, just like the patch she had received from the government down on Gila Bend, but had never taken out of the plastic wrap, but among the larger population of the enclosed city, symbols and status were far more important than they were on the frontier.
Every hour, she received a ten minute break to help her un-focus her eyes from staring at all the monitors. It provided her with an opportunity to scout out the building a little bit and to revive herself with a quick pacing along the halls, as well as drink some enhanced water, which was necessary in a job like this. The stimulant effects of caffeine were essential to the tedium of the job, but all rookie officers started here while they were undergoing training before being sent out into the streets. The classes were simple enough, the only one that was any different than what she had already done was the public awareness class. It dealt with the behavior and presentation of the officer’s behavior while out in the community.
It was interesting to see all the psychological factors that they had to consider in order to maintain their air of authority. Out at Gila Bend, she had to prove herself by doing, and even then, she had been resented by most of the citizens, but tolerated out of necessity. Here they did not really resent the authority of the security forces, but welcomed them into their way of life. They were considered to be an essential part of the community.
It was difficult to pass judgment on people in a world such as this. She could rise up and attack the forces and probably even bring them down, but would the city be any better for it? There was no great oppressed outcry for freedom here; this is how they choose to live. It seemed oppressive to her, but in that she was alone.
The working day lasted ten hours, three days a week to ensure alertness and proper rest for The Guardians, as her position was called. The other two days she attended classes for five hours, which would then turn into shifts on the street once she graduated from the training schedule.
The only person who seemed to have any right to complain against the system was the Kool-Ade Kid and even he seemed rather passive about his role in the scheme of things. He lay quietly in his room healing from the beating he had taken and sketching out some drawings he had been working on.
They appeared to be geometric forms laid in a sort of relief pattern to create a larger, more elaborate design. The head of a woman was made up of all sorts of symbols and shapes that were fitted together like an awkward jigsaw puzzle to form the image. One of them she noticed right away was her. Apparently she had made an impression on him and he was paying tribute to her is this unusual way.
Daze felt a sense of pity towards him as she watched him draw his distorted images while nursing himself from his injuries. In his home he wore the standard city suit, and she could see the fluctuation in heart rate and breathing monitored on the screen as he worked and healed himself throughout the day.
A red flash on one of the screens indicated a malfunction in the city suit of one of the citizens on the street. Daze placed the com-piece to her ear and quoted the position to the nearest squadron to apprehend the citizen and replace the suit at once.
She could imagine the array of scanner lights that flowed through the city like an unnatural light. They were unseen ELF waves which bombarded the city continuously, drawing data from the city suits and monitoring all life within the complex.
After another long day of tedious ennui, Daze finally set about the now routine of gathering her body armor and weapons and checking them in with the acquisitions manager, before changing into her city suit and leaving the security complex through a rear underground exit that brought her up in another building several blocks away, in order to maintain her anonymous standing within the community. No one outside of the security complex was to know who worked for them. It both protected the security officer while off duty as well as spread an air of mistrust within the community, so plots against the order of the city were hard to organize.
The under lit lights of the city had been dimmed giving the impression of evening. The lights surrounding the dome of the city would soon be extinguished and with it, the mock sun would set upon Tucson. Even in the world of artificialities, the illusion of the normal bio-rhythms of the earth was replicated to give as natural a feel to life as possible.
Daze turned onto the street leading to her cubicle. Nothing about it attracted her. She was used to the sparse lifestyle, but here, it seemed to lack any soul of heart. Everything was uniform. It was of good quality, but it weighed down upon the soul in its sameness. The very presence of the place seemed to deter any hope of ambition or individualism, but still, she could not overlook the people. They were happy. Her co-workers all seemed to enjoy their lives. They talked to her about their families and children and what they had planned for the week-end. They were living a life that she could not relate to, but maybe it was her that was wrong in this instance. This was the world they chose to live in, while she was a prisoner to the nuclear holocaust outside, they were here from choice. Freedom of will made all of the difference here. In their eyes, this city was home, for all its faults and all of its oppression, they lived here because it worked for them. Was that wrong?
She turned again and walked once more along the water, as she moved along the shore of the city, she stopped to purchase dinner with the credits she had earned. The meal was a synthetic vegetable protein made to resemble actual meat. It was a far cry from Mary’s meals down at Gila Bend, but it was nutritious and in an effort to get along she approached the meal with deliberately lightened expectations.
As she wandered out again, she knew she was deliberately pacing herself for a single destination, but she avoided allowing it to appear as a thought in her mind. Her body instinctively navigated the corners and turns of the city until she found herself before the building which housed the cubicle of the Kool-Ade Kid.
The building seemed the same, as hers as everything in the city seemed to take on an appearance of sameness. The only difference was the size of the cubicle you were issued and the amenities that it contained. From The Guardians monitoring room, she could tell that his cubicle was about twice the size of hers. He had a bedroom as well as a kitchenette and a studio for his art. All she had was a square room with a bed and television monitor, but she was in the public housing building where only the poorest people lived. In a few weeks with the security forces, she would be able to move up and receive a large place befitting her rank in the city.
There was no security to the building itself, anyone could just walk right into any of the buildings, that is what the security forces were for, they made the need for locks and other personal security devices unnecessary. You were perfectly free to steal if you wanted to, but there was nowhere to run to and nowhere to hide the goods or even sell them without being tracked by the police. It was definitely a Xanadu, the land of milk and honeydew.
Daze walked to the door that was marked with the number she had seen in the upper right hand side of the screen. The city suit showed her coordinates to be the same as she had seen before on the monitor.
Her knocking was answered by a muffled sound of shuffling and the sharp crash of something hitting the floor from within. The door opened and a young man stood before her, barely resembling the wry, ego-manic she had seen before. His face was swollen and badly bruised. The swelling around his eyes had reduced to allow him to at least see more clearly than before. There were still ice bags taped to his shoulders and ribs which she could make out from the bulges in his city suit.
A look resembling something along the lines of shock crossed his face as he looked at her. The abuse done to his features hid the normal spectrum of emotional responses and facial expressions.
Daze smiled at his tone of disbelief, unsure of how to respond. By avoiding the idea of coming here, she now blanked at the idea of what to say to him. This was a guy who had accosted her a week ago.
“It’s nice to see you without the clown costume.”
A look of seriousness came over his face as panic set into his mind. He looked out past her into the hallway beyond for any sign of the security forces. He winced in pain and stumbled against the door as one of his muscles went into spasm.
Daze quickly grabbed him and supported his frame, ushering him into main room. He quickly regained himself and adjusted the ice pack on his side to alleviate the pain.
“So how did you know where to find me?”
He winced as he sat down on the corner of the chair. The bruises on his sides restricted him from sinking back any further. Daze noticed the canvass and the easel which were lying on the floor. They explained the crashing sound she had heard before.
“I work for the security forces now. They have always known where you lived as well as having a camera in here to monitor your every move. You were never a threat to them, you know?”
She walked over and picked up the easel and righted it. He made a slight movement that was smothered by a sudden flash of pain as she picked up the canvass and set it on the stand. It was a picture of her, the same one she had seen earlier. In it her hair was blue, like it was before she had come into the city. There were two swords and twin guns hanging low from her waist. She looked like a cross between a punk rocker and an old western outlaw, but up close the image was comprised of tiny lines and patterns of shapes which then made up the greater image as a whole when she stepped back.
She rolled up her sleeves revealing the intricate artwork that was inked on her arms and compared it to his picture. Her tattoos were much more common than the details he had worked into the drawing, but it was the first time since she had been in the city, that she had even looked at her own body art.
The Kid just watched her as she looked at his work. At first he felt ashamed as if it was something that he needed to hide, but as she looked at it closer with more focused interest, a felling of pride built up inside him and he watched as she revealed her own ink and compared it to the depiction he had made.
“It’s really amazing.”
Daze ran her finger along the picture, careful not to actually touch it. His eyes were drawn towards her now with arousal. Even in the bulky conformity of the city suit, he could make out the impression of her amazing body. She turned away and looked back at him.
“I had to come and see it in person. I saw you working on it all day, but it loses something when you’re spying on art from a voyeuristic view. It is the first things I have seen in this city that is unique.”
It was his turn to be flattered now. He nodded and struggled to rise. Daze came over, but he waved her off and came over to her and the drawing.
“I started this the day I saw them bring you into the city. I thought you might be needing it, and I didn’t know if I would be here to give it to you or not.”
Daze looked at him confused and gently led him back to the corner of the chair. She felt him lean his body into her a little more than necessary, but she just planted herself and wrapped her arm around him a little more.
“The picture is a map. If you look at it closely, you will see what I mean. It is your ticket to getting out of here.”
Daze helped him sit down and she placed the cloth over his eye, carefully brushing away the remnants of sleep that had accumulated there. She carefully rubbed it across his face taking care not to press on the swollen and bruised areas.
“Why do you think I would want to get out of here? And even if I did, there is nowhere to go. He radiation levels outside the city are still at fatal levels.”
He reluctantly raised his hand and placed it over her wrist stopping her from brushing him anymore.
“You are a free person. You lived out on the frontier. No one has come to this city to stay for a long time. The radiation and the war on Mexico was a boon to the city states, they were beginning to die out. No one really lives here, and it does something to you. It wears down your will to live.”
“You think for a moment, that I didn’t know all about the security forces keeping tabs on me? I am here doing what I do to help people get out of here. They use me to try to get people to stay, but you know as well as I do that there is something wrong about this place. This is not living, this is existence. The only thing I have here that is real is the occasional pain they inflict on me. It reminds me that at least something in this place is real.”
“They use me and I use them, but I can’t just stand by and watch them eat away at you. You are the genuine thing, a prime mover; there is more to this place than what you have seen on the surface. A lot more. This map will show you the way.”
Daze saw the earnestness in his eyes and her heart went out to him. She gently brushed her lips against his, careful to only lightly touch him. She brushed his lips and traced her lips across his cheek until she was inches below his ear and whispered.
“I know more about the way than any map can ever define. My name is Ni Ten Iche Rye, it means the art of strategy.”
He breathed heavily and she could feel his heart beating under his cheek. She remained where she was enjoying the sensation of human contact. He whispered back to her pressing his face against her.
“There is a way out. There is a vast network of underground tunnels running between the cities. Only the higher up members of the council know about them, it is how food and resources are distributed from time to time. It is built upon the old canal system, you can get anywhere in the state from there, The south may be too far gone from the radiation, but further north, you might be able to live again.”
Daze pulled away from him and looked into his eyes.
“There is nothing left to the south and it will be a long time before any more people come into this city from the outside. I will go, but you are coming with me.”
He swallowed dryly trying to find the moisture to give fluid motion to his response. It had left him all at once. Daze leaned in and kissed him this time she was not as gentle and he did not care. The pain was worth it.
The city began to come to life around her as what passes for day set in upon the city. Daze walked through the streets with a renewed vision. She was headed for the office of city security. She was not a samurai any longer. She was not a sheriff. She was simply Ni Ten Iche Rye, or Daze to her friends.
The security center was a massive complex rising to the highest peaks of the dome. It is said that a society always builds the largest temples to the things it holds most dear. First it was temples of God, then the temples of government, and finally the temples of business, now they seemed to worship the notion of security above all else. They were all monoliths to false idols; none of them existed in any real sense, thus the need for edifices of monumental construction. They were ideals forged of sand and cement and just like the temples they were hollow inside.
Inside the building everything was in complete order and control. There were no mobs of suspects or frightened citizens reporting acts of vicious crimes. Daze looked all around the lobby, but everything was ordered and controlled. She shook her head in disbelief as she walked to the information kiosk.
This was the vision of the mankind made real. This was the apex of their desire to control the world and remake it in their own image. It was a clean, perfect order, with everything in its place.
She walked up to the woman and stood before her. Her city suit had dried, but she still appeared disheveled after her swim in the river.
“I would like to inform the council that I have reconsidered their offer for a security position.”
Ice dripped from her eyes as she stared at the child before her. It wasn’t even fitting to call them humans. No living thing would willingly give up its freedom for the illusion of security.
“Please place your hand on the scanner and I will forward your request to the sheriff ma’am.”
Daze complied but noticed the look of panic that spread across the woman’s eyes.
“The system doesn’t seem to be recognizing you. There must be some fault in the city suit you are wearing. I am afraid I must place you under detention until this matter is resolved. Security agents have been notified, so resistance is not an option. Please cooperate with the security officials until we resolve this crisis.”
There was a red flashing light which lit up from the four entrance points of the lobby. Two guards rushed through each of the doors and took crouching positions while a third waited behind to provide cover from the middle of the doorway.
Daze remained still while the officers trained their rifles on her. She noted the position of each one as they positioned themselves.
“Remain where you are citizen! Do not attempt to resist. The officers will escort you to the interrogation facility! Should you resist in any way, we will respond with extreme force!”
The sound of body armor clicking and safeties being dislodged rented the air. Laser sights shot out in a prism array from each doorway tracing along Daze’s body.
One officer from each group rose and walked towards her with their guns trained on her. Three of them stood off pointing the rifles at her while the forth man went behind her, drawing her hands back and placed the zip cuffs on her wrists. The sound of the girl in the kiosk breathing a sigh of relief broke the silence of the standoff.
Daze remained calm and offered no resistance. Once she was secured, the officers raised their guns and set at ease once again. The officers in the doorways lowered their weapons and resumed their more casual stance. The officer came around from behind her and motioned for her to head through the door off to the right, leading into the bowels of the building.
She was led through the blank corridors devoid of any ornamentation. There were no markings or signs to indicate location from one corridor to the next. It was an impressive design, she noted to herself. If anyone was ever stupid enough to come through here, they could actually get lost just within the hallways. Everything was designed to look identical in every respect. It was a maze.
One of the doors was opened and she was escorted through into a small chamber containing several molded plastic chairs and long metal table that was bolted to the floor. The chairs were set into tracks on the floor and could be moved out and in, but were likewise bolted to the floor. Everything in the room was designed to be a permanent fixture. There was nothing that could be used as a weapon, another excellent design.
Her cuffs were slit from her wrists and she sat down in the seat indicated by the officer.
“Please wait here citizen, while this matter is resolved. Your tracking identification seems to have been tampered with or malfunctioned in some way. You will be released once your identity is established once more. Someone will be here shortly.”
The three other guards had taken positions outside of the door while she was being led in. Daze had no doubt that they remained there after the officer had left her. She closed her eyes and bowed her head to await the arrival of the next officer. The swim in the river must have shorted out the tracking tape she had noticed in her city suit. It was a very poor design flaw there, definitely a weakness in the system.
The door opened once again and a clean shaven man in an immaculate gray city suit came into the small room. One of the guards positioned himself besides the door and remained at attention while the officer was present.
“So you’re the Sheriff from Gila Bend?”
Daze nodded and fixed her gaze directly upon the older man.
“You know I only ever met one other sheriff before in my life, he was also from Gila Bend.”
Daze’s eyes flew open from the squinted stare down she had been engaged in.
“He came in here almost ten years ago on his way to some other city. It was so long ago, but then again, meeting an honest to God Sheriff is not something you soon forget.”
Richard Prescott noted the surprised look on her face with expectant approval.
“I couldn’t believe it when they told me another Sheriff had come into town, much less surviving that mess they made down in Mexico. You’re from the Hohokam tribe if I’m not mistaken, right?”
Daze’s stare narrowed as the initial surprise faded from her emotional memory. She nodded once more and focused on the man in front of her while her peripheral vision kept tabs on the mass of armed body armor that waited by the door.
After the initial War of Indifference, Arizona had been one of the first states to declare its independence and began the systematic purging of illegal immigrants from its borders. The remnants of the Hohokam tribe had long lived in the Gila Bend Indian Reservation, but after the war, the new country of Arizona decided that it would take sovereign control of all the land within its borders.
This was met with an extermination campaign which led surprise attacks into many of the larger reservations massacring tens of thousands. The smaller reservations had time to react and mount brutally violent campaigns themselves, but their numbers were too small and they were soon overwhelmed by the superior weapons and numbers of the Arizona National Army.
There was finally a treaty of surrender issued and in accordance with their surrender they were once again relocated to Skull Valley near Prescott. Once most of them were gathered there, a vigilante group comprised mostly of members of the Arizona National Army, attacked and killed all but a few stragglers who had not yet reached the valley. The Native tribes of Arizona ceased to exist.
The new government condemned the attack, but no action was taken to bring the vigilantes to justice. They granted the few remaining natives, special status, but this just further enraged the people who had suffered under the melting pot mentality of the previous government to hunt down the remaining Natives and kill them all. Most were driven out, but her father had stayed at Gila Bend, protected, to a degree by a family of sustenance farmers whose daughter would eventually become her mother.
Despite the overwhelming success of their purging campaign, the sentiment towards Latinos and Native tribesmen never really went away. All the other races and creeds were regarded with ambivalence, but the once dominant and protected classes of the former government were still hunted down along the border and used as sport. The name most hated and feared among all of the people who fled was President Willcox of Pima County.
Prescott noticed the change in the mood of the room at the mention of her tribe. He walked over and took the chair opposite of Daze and sat down. As if reading her thoughts, he exhaled deeply for effect and placed both of his hands in front of him on the table.
“That is all in the past now. You are a welcome member of this city and I think any of the purging party that remain learned their lesson years ago when the other Sheriff came through here. He is still a wanted man in these parts, but he left here long ago and never returned. You can imagine, there were some concerns when you showed up here and the incident involving the detention of the citizen last night sent warning flags to every officer in the city.”
“I arranged for this meeting to let you know that you are a guest in our city, and we went out of our way to make you welcome and even save your life. In return, we ask, no that ain’t right, I demand, that you show my officers the respect they deserve and that you do not interfere in matters which are not of your concern. As of now, you have done nothing wrong and I want to keep it that way. Your presence makes a whole lot of people in this city nervous, but under the circumstances, kicking you out of the city would be nothing short of a death sentence and I refuse to commit an act of murder based on other people’s fear.”
Daze’s gaze never faltered from her stance.
“As I told the woman up front, I have reconsidered the councils offer and would like to join the security force. It turns out that I am not suited to being a farmer.”
She delivered her statement with an unwavering monotone, carefully choosing each word with pointed deliberateness. Prescott brought his hand up to his chin and scooted his chair back along the groove in the floor. Taking a more casual posture.
“This could be interesting.”
“The world of the samurai is no more. The idea of a sheriff is nothing but an anachronism in the modern world. What am I but a relic from a lost world?”
Daze knelt naked before the great alter in front of her. Incense burned in memory of the lost world. In the rising tendril of smoke one could make out the whole of history as it slowly faded into nothing and dispersed into the wind.
“You have become modern, that is to say old and disenchanted. You have lost that sublime faith in illusions which constitutes the eternal youth and vigor of the poets and ancients.”
An old man sat before her with the gloom of the altar all around him. He was pale and frail and only clung to the world of the living by the slimiest of filaments. There was a cup of tea and a plain bowl of rice that sat before the man forgotten for what appeared to be a lifetime. The room itself was constructed of wood, with only the minimal needs for survival allotted for. In comparison, even the cubicles of the city state were a luxurious palace.
You see your life as an occupation or a code of conduct. This is not the way. A living person is more than the sum of their parts. They are infused with a spirit, like the water infused with the life essence of the tea. It becomes something greater than it once was.”
Daze bowed her head respectfully. She would not look the old man in the eye. She was here to receive not to teach. In a Zen state, she had transcended the human effort to reach through the mediation zones of thought and see beyond the range of verbal communication. She looked down at the silken rug which she kneeled upon. The room was decorated with simple masterpieces as this. Nothing was taken for granted and everything that was in the room was of the finest quality and workmanship. Everything here was designed with deliberate thought and effort; nothing was overlooked by the eyes of discipline.
“What is my place in the world? I have nothing left. There is no need for me anymore.”
The old man raised his hand to silence her.
“You are as you always are, as you always were, and as you always will be, the past and future exist side by side in the immense present; and it is you who move to and fro among the shifting protean experiences.”
As the old man spoke the wafting scent of cherry blossoms filled the room with their delicate perfume. White pedals seemed to scatter themselves around her on the floor and all over the room. Even they succumbed to the ordered discipline of the temple and fanned themselves out in a chaotic design of delight.
“Your mind is clouded like the morning mist which clings upon the hidden mountains. Like the Yin and the Yang, your mind fights with itself in the confusion of contradiction. No longer is the single path clear and uncluttered. There are many forks in this path and there is no wrong road, they will all lead you where you are going. The true test of a first rate mind is the ability to hold two contradictory ideas at the same time, you are a disciple of both the creator and the destroyer, and the only choice we make is which master to serve and when we do so. Life and death are ours to deliver; we cannot serve one to the exclusion of the other. Both are needed, both masters serve the greater good; truth can only be reached through the comprehension of opposites. This is the way.”
The smoky scent of the jasmine incense mingled with the perfume of the cherry blossom, but both were now washed away by a new scent. It was clean and cold and raised goose bumps all over her body. It was an embracing scent that seemed to revitalize her and awaken her in a way she had never experienced before. The air moved around her in a stream of frigid wind. The pedals of the cherry blossoms fluttered in the wind and washed away into the shadowy corners of the room, now forever out of sight.
Daze froze at the sudden remembrance of scent; it brought back a vivid memory from the depths of her mind. The fragrance was clean like water bringing with it the cold temperature of the frozen north, the wind itself was the movement of life, the scent was that of spirit, the driving force of life. In warmth it had wrapped around her on the desert plains, in cold it had wrapped around her on the mountain tops. It was the scent of force and motion, the essence of life.
Daze rose from the water with a sudden splash. Air filled her lungs painfully as she rasped for every gasp. Water dripped down her sterile city suit as her hair matted itself down from the streams of water pouring off her.
Daze looked around her and saw the city with a new sense of life. The details became crystal clear once again. It had seemed as though everything around her had been hidden in a fog. Even her very sense of being had been shrouded in misty ambivalence.
Her heart was beating quickly in her chest. Its rhythm throbbed throughout her body as she felt her pulse thump through her. It was not vengeance that fueled her now, it was not love or fear, all she sought now was truth.
This is a prose poem written by Lovecraft around 1920 and it suffers from the same contradiction as The Picture in the House. If the narrator of the story has passed on into oblivion, then how could they have possibly related this tale?
In the horror tales he wrote, many times he would have the narrator of the tale go mad and end the tale in an unfinished fashion where the reader realizes that the narrator either died from the unspeakable horror, or went mad and was locked away. But in the case of the Ex Oblivione, Lovecraft has created a character, which has found a paradise of a dream world that leads to a locked gate. He finds a way to open the gate and is swallowed up into oblivion, a sweet release for the narrator, by his estimate, but none the less, begs the question, how are we reading this, if the narrator dissolved into oblivion?
I really don’t think Lovecraft had much of a concept of plurality when he was writing his early tales. This tale could easily have benefited from a third person approach and have been a perfect little story, but by taking the first person singular, the whole concept of the story falls apart.
The story in original and has an interesting concept behind it, especially for the time, but the execution of Lovecraft’s style is not up to pulling off the story with any real effect. It seems to me to be more of an exercise piece written to strengthen his descriptive skills, or perhaps a brief outline written from an idea he had and planned to later expand on, but the fact that he actually published it seems to dispute the idea of this being a practice piece. This is one of the stories which shows the limitations of Lovecraft’s early style of writing.
This is one of Lovecraft’s weaker efforts in that it comes across as incomplete. He uses the first person narrative again in the story, but this time the ending falls short. We get the usual horror movie cliché of the red blood dripping from the ceiling, and then the “oblivion” which overtakes the narrator, but if this happens to the narrator, then how is it possible for him to relate the tale to the reader?
The story is important in Lovecraft’s development for 2 reasons alone. One is that it is the first mention of the town of Arkham, and two it is the first mention of Miskatonic, in this case Miskatonic Valley. This fictional location would morph over the years to become the fictional destination of most of Lovecraft’s future tales. I believe it is the first time in the horror genre in which a single location is used again and again as a setting for many different tales. This is a common practice now in horror TV and movies as well as popular fiction in place such as Castlerock (Stephen King) or Haven.
Arkham has also been appropriated by the comic book universe of DC and turned into an infamous madhouse in the Batman canon. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arkham for additional appearance of this mythological town.
Miskatonic would later become Miskatonic University and many of the scholars used by Lovecraft would be affiliated with this institution. It is also the home of the legendary book the Necronomicon, which is the fictional book which contains all of the Cthulhu mythos cycles.
The picture in the house is actually a pretty tame story about a traveler who seeks out an old building in order to get out of the rain. In the house, which is of course a rundown antique, are several old books, and one of these books is a very rare volume which contains lavishly illustrated pictures of horrific things. The narrator finds out that the house is actually inhabited by an older man who invites him in and shows him the book. The rest is pretty standard stuff for a horror story, but it is really lacking in a plausible plot and seems to be a rush job by Lovecraft. Perhaps it was rushed to impress the editor of the “National Amateur,” a woman who would become Lovecraft wife.
This was also a period of great production for Lovecraft as a writer and some stories are bound to suffer from the haste in which he wrote them.
Daze heard it before she saw it. There was a blue afro wig lying on the side of the street. The sounds of pain being inflicted carried across the empty street to her. The rows of shops were already closed for the evening under the curfew law. Most people were tucked away already in their climate controlled cubicles awaiting the blissful state of sleep.
Up ahead four officers were berating and beating the bloodied body of the Kool-Ade Kid. His blond spiky hair was now matted with blood and his face was swollen and the unpleasant blossoming of discolored skin marred his body as blood vessels ruptured under his skin spilling sickly blotches of purple across his torso. His brightly colored jacket had been ripped off and cast aside as one after another the security forces laid into him with tazers, boots and clubs.
He had given up all forms of resistance and just laid their taking abuse after abuse to the laughter and taunts of the men.
Daze stepped towards them instinctively. She reached out and held the one officers hand before he drilled his club in for another blow.
“You suspect is subdued. There is no need for further attack. You can arrest him now.”
The helmeted guard pulled his hand away from her roughly and pushed her away.
“This does not concern you citizen. Return to your quarters. We will deal with this matter.”
They guards stopped their assault and began collecting the remains of the Kool-Ade Kid. Blood fell from his mouth as they picked him up and placed the handcuffs behind his back. His swollen eye fell upon the blur that was Daze as a black oblong vehicle pulled up alongside of them. They loaded him face down into the coffin like structure and sealed him inside. It hovered next to them as one of the guards picked up the jacket and blue wig.
“As you were citizen.”
The guard in front of her moved his armored bulk between her and the containment vessel. This was an act of dismissal for her, and Daze stared straight at the helmeted officer before slowly turning away and walking back up the street. Part of her wanted to take on the four officers and free the kid, but she did not know enough about life in this city to interfere. There were so many half-truths and deceptions going on that there was no way of knowing what was real and what was fiction. This was a society ruled and governed by propaganda; there was no way of discerning reality. The over reaction of the security officers was obviously wrong, but were they enough to justify taking arms against the city that had taken her in? And even If she did, where would she go? There was no longer a life outside the city. The world began and ended at the great walls of the dome.
Was it justice to interfere? Justice is an abstract concept which means different things to different people. It is only the naive who pretend to champion anything beyond the law. The law was the only definable thing which can be considered even close to interpreting justice and the laws of the city were not for her to determine yet. She was still a guest of the people, not even a full-fledged citizen. The attack was over, the rest she would leave to the system to handle.
Her fingernails bit into her palms as she rounded the corner. No amount of rationalization could cause her to lighten the burden she carried. She would never have walked away from that situation before, but out in Gila Bend, she was the law, here she was not. She was just an agri-gardenist.
Her feet began to move faster along the pavement as her walk turned into a trot and then exploded into a run. Her body was reacting to her mental rebellion as it launched itself along the streets of the city. She did not concern herself with where she ran; all she knew was that she needed to run. She needed to inflict a physical pain on her body to match the emotional pain she felt inside. Indecision, rationalization, these concepts were alien to her, but this was her new reality. She paused as she came to a dead end street overlooking the river and let out a scream of frustration mingled with rage. It echoed briefly before the sound of running water swallowed the resonance in its eternal tide.
The threat of tears boiled under her eyes in a long forgotten reaction she thought she had forever put aside. Everything came upon her all at once. Mary, Crazy Cole, and William lying there along the side of the road burning away from the elevated exposure to radiation, she could envision his corpse lying there slowly eroding away into nothing. Pus and blood spilling out onto the street, just like The Kool-Ade Kid.
She fell to her knees on the bank of the river and just gave herself over to the feelings. Her tears flowed as freely as the man made river in front of her, purging her of all the grief and responsibility she had burdened herself with. She had run while everyone else around her had died. She lived, but only in a nightmare shell of existence that seemed like a living hell. This was not a life.
She rose slowly, the tears still flowing freely as her shoulders shuttered beneath the weight of the emotion. Her neck convulsed in reaction to the release. She stepped forward edging closer and closer to the river. At first the water lapped around her ankles and than her calves, she continued to press forward and was soon up to her waist. With a small effort, she threw herself down and sank into the river.
Water enclosed everything in the world around her as the air was pulled from her lungs. She let it go without regard. It was all that she could do. The only punishment she could envision. Life meant nothing anymore. Her vision clouded and then turned to black as consciousness fled from her mind. She prayed now for the delicious non-being of Nirvana.
This is a prose poem written around 1920 which is the beginning of what would later become the Cthulhu Mythos. This is the first appearance of the deity which will later make an appearance in several of Lovecraft’s stories in different forms. He appears in four stories and two sonnets which is the most of any character in the Lovecraft Mythos, although he does take on different forms in some of the stories.
In this incarnation of Nyarlathotep is introduced as almost a pharaoh type figure who travels to earth and through the display of amazing devices such as electricity and prophetic warnings, he gathers a great number of followers.
Nyarlathotep is primarily referred to as “The Crawling Chaos,” and is considered to be one of the outer gods in the Lovecraft mythos. Many other writers in the Lovecraft circle also wrote about Nyarlathotep in differing degrees and he became second only to Cthulhu in popularity among the Great Old Ones.
The prose poem is actually better told in the “Fungi from Yoggoth,” which is a retelling of the Nyarlathotep poem. This idea was said to have been born from a dream which had a powerful effect on Lovecraft and became very influential to his later work. In this prose poem, we see Lovecraft conjure up the great gulfs of nothingness as the blind, voiceless gargoyles dance to the monotonous whine of blasphemous flutes and the maddening beating of drums beneath space and reach to the dizzy vacua above the spheres of light and darkness.
All of these elements would reappear later in tales of the mythos. This captivating poem is really the beginning of the cosmic horror which would eventually become Lovecraft’s calling card.