Posted on: May 8th, 2011 Space Falling

by Jon Hakes

He was a double in that motorcycle movie, in spandex. His cousin knew a guy, and got him the job.

The last day on the set, the stunt coordinator with eight fingers offered him a semi-permanent position with his company. After that, life was just one mind-numbing action movie after another. He worked on a movie about sharks attacking people in outer space. In the story, the sharks were genetically-engineered great whites, left behind by an interplanetary circus. Their skin was tough enough to survive the cold depths of space. They breathed gamma rays. In real life, the sharks were slow animatronic skeletons that would be CGIed over in post-production.

He worked on the remake of the outer space shark movie five years later, and didn’t even realize it.

He broke his leg jumping off a hotrod in the contemporary teen-rebellion movie. The trailers for the teen-rebellion movie generated a lot of interest from critics, and jeering from moviegoers. The movie itself generated jeering from critics and record box office receipts in rural markets. By the time his leg had fully healed, they were already shooting the teen-rebellion sequel. He was not invited.

He was working on the western zombie noir pic when the stray elbow of an undead desperado splattered his nose across his face, and across the gigantic sinking yellow sun. They had to shoot all sorts of personal pick-up shots, and digitally replaced the whole-nosed him in the background of every previous scene. The director and the editors weren’t happy. The producers patted him sympathetically on the shoulder, assuring him that they’d look out for him. There would be other jobs.

The producers’ phones went straight to voicemail once he was floating free on the open sea of Recession economic realities. The eight-fingered man gave him a roll of bills and put on a sad face.

In the mirror, he wondered when his hair had started abandoning posts on the border. The thinning hair at his temples made him think of winter branches.

The recruiter had nine long arms and a slanted grin full of grinding blades. In his living room, he could tell the recruiter was real, in a way the animatronic sharks had not been. The recruiter just looked real.

Real outer space was much darker and brighter than the stuffy studio lot. Looking out the window of the ship, there was a clarity to everything. Inside the ship, the recruiter looked even more real than on earth. Real as rocks.

They dressed him as a champion, made his limbs into superconducting waldos. They rewound the clock, molded the muscles in his face, then the muscles and organs and bones all over, and stretched and re-wrapped the skin around it all. He looked at himself in the reflective atom screen and felt the brassy tolling of an unfamiliar, haughty arrogance.

Pretend to fight, they told him. Do not turn your waldos up to full strength. Do not land the killing blow. Take punishment. Take damage. Sacrifice even those parts that once upon a time you might have taken care to protect. Whatever happens, you’ll be rewound into something bigger and more beautiful.

He fought, and pretended, and was hurt, teeth busted out, skin roasted, soft parts pierced. Each morning, he emerged from the Command Tent and dismayed his enemies with his newer and brighter physique. The enemies fled into space. His employers slapped him on the back and lit cigarettes on his sparking elbows.

They brought him to a synthetic star system, built as a gargantuan ship, hurtling through space faster than the speed of light. The ship was infested with hordes of carnivorous simulacrums. Everything was bathed in blue light.

This is the edge of the universe, they said. The light here bounces off the space-time horizon, and heads back along an impossible arc.

He took on the new enemy. The wounds were deeper. The pain was like glass. Every day, he emerged more powerful.

After an epoch, the simulacrums scattered like dust.

The recruiter, who was now his direct supervisor, led a standing ovation, his ninth hand clumsily clapping with two of the others.

The recruiter took him aside.

Our universe is expanding too fast, too far. What it is expanding into, we cannot say. But all of our data indicates that something is tiring of our encroachment, and will soon push back. It will probably break through from the other side.

All we need you to do is take the first punch.

Filed under: bad-ass, stories

--Brain Harvest