Authors: David Collins
All Rights Reserved.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters,
businesses, organizations, places, and events are either the
product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is
No part of this manuscript may be reproduced,
stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted,
in any form, or by any means, electronic, mechanical,
photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the
prior permission and consent of the author.
Gordon Latimer kept a tight grip on the warm little hand encircled by his own. The press of bodies swirling around them had now passed beyond annoyance and his concern for Cathy’s safety was mounting. Who would have imagined that a polk-a-dot cow with four enormous, obscenely-pink-udders could attract so much attention?
Yet here he was, like so many other fathers and mothers whose progeny had demanded that they be taken to Oakville Place—‘The Children’s Mall’—for Rhonda’s Celebration Day. He wouldn’t even have considered bringing Cathy in the first place had it not been quickly pointed out to him by his precocious eight-year-old that Daddy had already promised weeks before.
Gordon couldn’t remember. Usually, Leigh brought Cathy to Oakville Place, well aware of Gordon’s aversion to the glitz and noise which accompanied the mass-mall-marketing of toys in an atmosphere of gleaming chrome and glass. And the crowds, especially on Saturday’s, were more than he cared to negotiate.
Carefully parting a line of Crones linked six-abreast, Gordon immediately sensed their sullen, unspoken disgust and felt himself generating an impulse to threaten them with physical violence. Didn’t they see that he had a child? He stiffened and glared at them.
Cathy, quite naturally, smiled at the line of puffy, wrinkled faces. One of Crones stretched bloodless lips into a grin that was more of a rictus than a greeting. A gnarled hand with red-stained fingernails aimed for the child’s head, perhaps to stroke the pretty blonde hair, perhaps to hurt by jamming hardened nails into soft flesh…Gordon slapped the Crone’s hand away, taking satisfaction in the sharp gasp of pain which followed. He placed his angry features within a breath of the Crone’s spotty grey eyes. He smelled the sour stink of Redlets and noted the tell-tale stains of ochre in the deep crevices in the corners of her mouth.
“Honour the child...or shall I cause you grief?” Gordon raised the left lapel of his jacket and allowed her a few moments to recognize the shape of the gold pin he wore. A smokestack, signifying his position as Director of Crematoria. He watched with satisfaction as the old woman’s eyes glazed over in submission waiting as she, followed by her clan, bent arthritic knees and with audible difficulty lowered themselves onto the cold marble floor. He heard them mouth, “Honour the child” in several harsh, successive gasps, forcing the air out of radburned lungs.
These hags, these last remaining remnants of birth-mothers whose now-ancient ability to reproduce madly and wildly, inflicting their whelps on society without so much as a by-your-leave, were now an ancient pockmark on the face of Mall-society. They worked the cannery, ensuring a steady supply of Bammo! to the Malls, while existing on their addiction to Redlets.
Gordon left them, a line of black-coated harridans, their arms waving like rotten sticks fending off the crush of Rhonda-fans, as they struggled, pushing against each other to raise themselves up from the marble floor.
“They shouldn’t be allowed to travel in such numbers,” muttered Gordon, wondering if there was a holiday at the canning factory. If his daughter heard him, she gave no sign, intent as she was on the colourful Rhonda pavilion which had been erected in the centre of the mall. Gordon looked at her beautiful, innocent face. Even amid the impossible turmoil of mall traffic, the sight of her was enough to drive all frustrations from his mind. Ours for four more years, eleven months, nineteen days, and precisely twelve hours. That was a long time. Stage Two, the most important time. (
see endnote 1
) But it might not be enough, especially now that he knew something that he was, most certainly, not supposed to know.
“Embryos,” he muttered, “goddamn embryos!”
“What? Daddy?” Cathy was looking up at him, puzzled.
Gordon smiled. “Nothing, honey. Daddy’s just mumbling to himself.”
Cathy smiled and turned her attention back to the Rhonda display.
Great care must be taken, Gordon sternly reminded himself. Oh yes, extreme caution must be followed or all we have will be lost and my beautiful little girl along with it.
Ladies and gentlemen. My name is Dr. Antioch Wilson-Wilson, Professor of 21st Mall-Thought at the University of Mall. Good evening. In the latter half of the 20th century, Chomsky and Hermann determined that totalitarianism and—for their want of a better term—‘bloodbaths’ were of three distinct varieties: the benign, the constructive, and the nefarious. We have, since that time, discovered that there is a fourth alternative and that I have named the total-totalitarian-bloodbath as, it appears to this happy survivor, to have been all-encompassing. I cite the former metropolitan conglomerates of Bombay, Jerusalem, Chicago, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Sydney, and Los Angeles as but some examples among thousands.
Despite the best efforts of the 20th century interconglomerate-governmental-industrial complex (I.G.I.) to shape the destinies of people such as you and I for the common weal, it proved not only to be impossible but, ultimately, self-destructive. This was due to four factors; first, the inability to match sophisticated technology to the brain functions of the largely illiterate masses; second, the failure of the I.G.I. to control the growth of fundamentalist religions; third, the spread of home nuclear weaponry; and, fourth, the failure to prevent a certain psychopath in the workplace from learning how to create and spread a viral infection with the uncanny ability to replicate itself.
Leigh was late. Twenty minutes late. Gordon, however, was otherwise preoccupied, trying to maintain a safe distance for himself and his daughter from the spirited, jostling throng. The excitement that Rhonda’s appearance in the centre court pavilion was generating surprised him. He hadn’t realized that she was so popular. And yet, here were smiling adults and their delighted children paying homage to what Gordon reckoned was nothing more than a sideshow. It was a rather disgusting display of udders—four of them, all grotesquely swollen like fat bags of pink blood, each with teats of a thickness and protuberance that prompted the more bilious among the press to cry “Ooh!!” in long sighs of amazement and delight. Gordon couldn’t quite see the point of it all.
He finally caught sight of Leigh threading her way gracefully through a mix of Rhonda-fans and mallshoppers. When she saw him, she smiled and waved, only to disappear again as the crowd suddenly parted, attempting to avoid the wet consequences of the explosion of udder number one, an occurrence which showered one section of the ecstatic masses. The stench of sour milk was pervasive and Gordon was quick about picking Cathy up into his arms to protect her. He shouldered an escape path for himself and Cathy, liberally knocking people out of the way to reach the small parkette adjacent to the centre court. There, he stopped and stood Cathy on the end of an otherwise-occupied bench. A Mull slid over a half foot without looking at them.
Cathy’s face was alive, caught up in the excitement.
“Look for Mother, Cathy!” Gordon felt a hand rest on his left shoulder.
“I can’t believe this cow is so popular!” The voice over his shoulder was musical and fresh.
Gordon smiled. “Disgusting, isn’t it?” He kissed Leigh and then watched lovingly as she offered to Cathy. There were hugs and kisses for all as they communed but Gordon, still wary of the crowd, kept one eye on the bovine situation. Cathy was explaining excitedly to Leigh that Rhonda-dolls were being offered on special and that Daddy had said that she might ask her mother.
“It could be my early Revelation Night present, couldn’t it, Mother? Mother, isn’t Rhonda the Udderly Fantastic Cow amazing? Will she burst another one? Can we stay and watch? Can we?” Cathy was alive with enthusiasm, hopping from one foot to the other as she hugged her mother once again.
“It’s disgusting, Cathy,” said Gordon, making a sour, funny face. “I don’t know why I let you persuade me to bring you. That cow is not as funny as she is on TV anyway. Look at her! Pathetic!” Gordon waved an arm in the direction of the bovine star, around whom technicians were scurrying as they readied her for yet another hilarious explosion. Gordon gave Cathy a big, sly wink.
“I like Rhonda, Gordon. The Mayor says she’s very good for the children.” Leigh matched her brown eyes to those of her husband.
Gordon smiled.You are the perfect mate in every way.
Leigh smiled, liking the thought in his eyes, and the unmistakable undertone of a deep love which accompanied it.
“We are so lucky,” Leigh said, feeling it to be true, then she turned to Cathy and began retying the dark green sash around her daughter’s waist, the sash which marked Cathy’s recent success in Stage Two assessments at the Academy.
As you know from your grade school studies in history, the first virus released into the population was the Acquired Immuno-Deficiency virus. Although this virus was initially introduced to slow down the incessant growth of the Black population, it soon replicated itself and began infecting persons of both genders and all races. It was spread through sexual contact and, as we know, moved through the Sames rather than the Blacks. Not what the I.G.I. (through the C.I.A.) had intended, but acceptable to them nonetheless.
In 2002, the cure for the AIDS virus was announced, but the population’s relief proved to be short-lived. Norwegian-American, Jeffrey Meilgaard was just months away from gestating Virus 1, the first of the fourteen known replicant strains, and the fount of this total-totalitarian-bloodbath.
Now as you can see from these restored videotapes of the riots in early 2003, shot in a number of the world’s cities...once the general threat to the population by these viruses was known, egalitarianism went out the window. One estimate, formulated by Dr. Pierre Benoit of Trinity University in Dublin, Ireland in late 2003 and received via the Internet before the system (and Dr. Benoit) collapsed, pegged the number of United States citizens and landed immigrants killed by their government during the violence at 6,435,000 and change. As we know, Replicant Virus 4 would remove ten times that number in under one month in Black January 2004.
The problems which followed the explosion of civil unrest throughout the world and the subsequent collapse of the I.G.I. are, as you might imagine, still being catalogued. Here at home, in Toronto Nation, we have archived videotape footage of salt being ploughed by Canadian government troops into the Plains of Abraham during the First War of Canada, and we have also catalogued for posterity the decimation of Vancouver’s Asian communities which began the Second War. Hundred of other videoapes of atrocities exist and you can rent them as easily as I can at Rupert’s Video and Shiatsu Therapy in the E.C. Mall. There’s your free plug, Rupert!
Intelligence scores placed Cathy well inside the gifted range, a blessing that had not surprised her parents who had long known of their daughter’s abilities, having previewed the embryonic intelligence assessment before she was born. In fact, Leigh and Gordon had been meticulous in keeping track of Cathy’s progress right from the beginning when they helped choose the sperm, the embryo, and the genetic implants. During the first six years of Cathy’s life, they had often visited her at Rod and Jean Bodecker’s—Cathy’s Stage One parents—home at the Birth Centre at Cedarbrae Mall.
Cathy was stroking her mother’s shiny brown curls, humming the Rhonda Song.
Leigh laughed. “Let’s stay for one more burst,” she said, “and then it will be time for us to go home. Someone has an hour of homestudy to do….”—Cathy frowned at that—“…but when it’s done, I think there will be a
pizza delivery for supper.”
Cathy clapped her hands. “
” echoed Cathy as the audience in the mall laughed uproariously.
Rhonda was struggling to regain her footing on the small stage inside the pavilion. One technician, his left hand crushed by an errant movement of a Rhonda hoof, had his screams quickly muffled by co-workers who rushed him offstage behind a small curtain. Gordon was scanning faces in the crowd, wondering how many were aware that the injured technician would now be assigned a higher number on the Crematoria’s Endlist. Just more paperwork for me, he thought.
There were few looks of concern and as the chant of “Rhon-da!, Rhon-da!, Rhon-da!” became louder the crowd continued to jostle excitedly for a better view of the much-hoped-for second, udderly-wonderful explosion. Gordon and Leigh kept Cathy safely between them, each holding a small hand as she stood on the bench.
“She’s up! She’s up!” The more vocal of Rhonda’s devotees, members of Rhonda’s Fan Club, were shivering on the edge of hysteria as their heroine finally managed to upright herself without further damage. The transplant, which the technicians had managed in near record time, was a perfect match and the four glistening, pink udders were now undulating gently back and forth. A vibrant sloshing sound, picked up by tiny microphones attached to each udder and amplified through large speakers, sent the Fan Club into a frenzy.
“Rhon-da! Rhon-da! Rhon-da!”
Gordon regarded them with undiluted scorn, this ragtag collection of Mulls whose milky-dark facial features could not be completely hidden by their lurid lasing tattooes of udders-and-teats: a cornucopia of lime, burgundy, and vivid pink images indicating fealty to Rhonda. Several of these Rhonda-Mulls had had their broad, flat noses reshaped and transmuted into smooth, pink teats. Gordon considered them to be abominations, freaks who sentenced themselves in their madness to long hours each month in the peeling parlours in order to maintain their mutations. Inevitably, cancers and amputation followed. He watched as a massive Mull turned, his large, pale pink teat flapping languidly against the right side of his face, a non-functional replica of the present position of his manhood below.