Posted on: March 27th, 2011 The Break

By Amy McLane

The desert sun blazed over my head as I bartered in the market. That was an hour ago. Now Fog was settling into the nooks of the city as I scurried along. I broke into a run, clutching the gyrebreaker to my chest. The Reset was coming.

The gyrebreaker cost me everything I had; the sage dust, the zombie mice, the transit pass. Although I’d loved the way my mice would swarm a bruiser or debt man, it was the transit pass I was regretting the most. I could have been whizzing along right now in the safety of the subway, protected in the anonymity of the dark. Now it looked like my bid to break free from this place was going to cost me my life instead.

“Hey walla!”

I put on the brakes. A gasham poked her crowned head out of a basement window. She waved at me, bracelets jangling on her wrists.

“Got room. You can pay?”

“Yeah darling,” I lied. Fog was settling on my head and shoulders, stinging me through my robe. I started to bleed.

“Slide in.”

I did. Nearly knocked her over, tiny thing that she was.

“Panc toya,” I said, as she locked the window shut, “Who else you sheltering here?”

“Couple other gashams. Juju. A Cop. And you, walla. Where’s your shiny?”

I caught her gold-covered wrist. Her eyes narrowed, her painted lips thinning to a fubuddy sneer. You don’t put hands on a gasham unless you’ve got good cause. This one looked like she could blow my brains out my nose in an eyewink.

“Where’s the Cop?” I whispered.

“Upstairs.”

I showed her the gyrebreaker. Her eyes widened.

“What else you got?” she asked, not taking her eyes off it.

“Nada. But I’ll pay you, I promise.”

“Shilshat. You’re jumping ship.”

“I won’t, not till-”

She grabbed me by the throat with her mind. “Show me your face.”

I pushed back my hood.

“Pretty. Cop’ll love you.”

“Don’t,” I choked.

The grinding howl of Reset began. The gasham let me go as the tremors knocked us both off our feet. Her crown slid off her head and rolled into a dusty corner. Without it she was young. Maybe even young enough to run.

“Come with me,” I said. “We can jump now.”

“I’m a gasham,” she said flat, “I’ve got power, money, protection. Why would I want to give that up?”

“You want to live your whole life in a closed loop? Singing birdie in a cage?”

She looked away.

I held my breath. Reached close. Touched her shining hair.

“Gasham, your Juju’s loose!” The Cop ran down the stairs. He saw us sprawled on the floor, the gyrebreaker in my hand, and drew his Ware.

“Put. The breaker. Down.”

I looked at the gasham. Fear was in her eyes, fear and something more. She took my other hand, the one that had dared.

“Do it.”

“You heard her, walla.”

I did. My thumb hovered over the gyrebreaker’s switch.

“What’s your name?” I asked her.

“Ashram Lily.”

“Panc toya, Lily,” I said, and threw the switch.

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Posted on: March 13th, 2011 MOD

by Shelley Ontis

I talked about having the top of my ear pierced and he decided he wanted one, a little diamond to glint at him in the mirror. He’s shy, so I was surprised and told him he’d look sexy. I chickened out, hadn’t been that serious to start with. I got infected the first time, I said. And I did, but I was nine and not gung-ho for hygiene.

I reminded him to turn it, but I didn’t need to. He spun it constantly, his eyes lighting up at the little burn. He smiled and walked taller when people noticed and admired it. Within a year he had six holes in each side. He went from studs to hoops, then gauges until he could hook a finger into each lobe.

He suggested a tattoo. I cringed while a man wearing sunglasses etched the outline of a tiger into his back. He liked the sting, the numbness then the new burn once the flesh got used to the invasion. Hurts so good, he said, laughing. I rubbed the shoulder where I’d thought about getting a daisy. The way he smiled as the needle tore through his skin, I knew I didn’t want it.

Serpents, a lion, skulls and thorny flowers joined the tiger. A zombie covered his heart, gruesome beasts protected his belly, tribal designs filled in the fleshy spaces between. Sometimes I stared at his face, touched it to remember his skin. Gauges stretched the piercings in his nose, hoops caged his lips and the ridge of his eyebrows that I used to rub when the headaches came.

I traced my finger from forehead to hip, then down his leg, following a single black line that ran from one hideous image to another. I kissed the tops of his toes, his groin, the palms of his hands, where I could still see him hidden beneath ink and metal. He mused about a barbell in his tongue, but he couldn’t stand the thought. Not his tongue.

I begged him when he showed me pictures of a man’s penis, split in two, curled in on itself, said I couldn’t bear it, how could he think it? So he pierced it, decorated it with rings and inky scales in green and black. I loved the soles of his feet best then for their pale, pink honesty.

Some gawked, some showed him their tattoos and holes like gaping wounds that gave me nightmares. Most stayed clear, crossed the street, tried not to stare. He stopped smiling, wore long sleeves, looked down at his feet, repeatedly licked his black lips with his unscarred tongue.

He wanted a foreskin since I couldn’t bear him splitting himself. I suggested a tongue piercing instead, but he shuddered, said he couldn’t. He stretched and clamped and asked me did I think it was working, and I would say yes, yes, it’s almost covered now. He didn’t stop, but stretched and pulled and clamped and asked does it reach? He’d pull the skin to his sides, covering each hip and I’d said it’s close.

I loved the new flesh, stretched and pink, solid and smooth and whole. He pulled and tugged and trained it until it covered his hips, his legs. He stretched it out beneath him and stepped inside, pulled it up like a cocoon, forced himself in so that only his head peeked out. How does it look now he would ask and I would say you’re almost there.

I woke one day, him next to me with only a small circle of his head showing obscenely out the top, the part he’d shaved and covered in black roses with blood dripping off the petals like dew. By that evening, the hole was almost closed.

More, more came muffled from inside the sack of flesh. His tongue appeared through the slit, tensed and straight. I cried as I kissed the pink, perfect tip of it, then fetched the hole punch, a needle and thread.