Cunt Toward Enemy[4] The Birthday Effect

Lazur sits at the booth, the restaurant dim as always, black interior, cold morning light through half-drawn curtains. He wears blue jeans and a green field jacket and worn-out combat boots, black stripping to gray.

The only reason he knows about this place is because as a child he was taken in search of what was supposedly his dad’s favorite restaurant. They drove for hours looking for it as his dad explained the virtues of this particular location, hinting that it would reunite them with something that had been taken from them, imparted by proximity to an authentic mode of production, something honest and true pertaining to manhood and culture. Lazur still isn’t sure if this is the restaurant, or another restaurant his dad settled on in lieu of the perfect, still-undiscovered ideal, in whose absence their masculine trajectories have suffered. When they ate here, his dad seemed vaguely subdued, which his child-self didn’t think much of, but decades later he tried to decode the cloud of adult emotion in retrospect. Perhaps it was the restaurant, but it wasn’t as good as his dad remembered. Perhaps it would have been better never to find it at all.

It’s been awhile, but no one has come for his order. He sees a few other people eating, served before he arrived. An old man looks around, waiting for service, and Lazur gets the tripped-out notion that his dad never left, and has been aging here the whole time. But his dad has come apart in his memory, and looking at photos doesn’t help.

It might just be staffing issues. But there’s a pressure in the back of his head. He knows when time is missing, when a countdown has begun. It takes place in that empty space, that deceptive silence, the time people refuse to give a name, the time they waste.

He goes to the back, lays his hand against a door, then pushes. The hum of the street and the murmur of diners disappears.

The room is dark, the lights are off, but something glows from the floor. He thinks of a hologram. The floor is broken like a pipe leaking phosphorescent gas. It has familiarity, like looking at a waterfall, a phenomena of pure motion cheated by a lens to a static image. Chunks of concrete are suspended in the air as if from invisible wires. The still image is optically unstable, as if projected by a light source or the wires are vibrating. The light is a gradient of fire colors, separated starkly into whites and warms, debris jeweled with chromatic aberration.

In front of the spectacle, a tiny table is set with food.

Lazur reaches under his jacket just as Rubicon rolls into view. Dark segments split the ruin of his flesh into hemispheres, as if a Fordite figurine had facets of black diamond. The light is harsh and eerie, making it difficult to parse the material.

“Miss me?”

Lazur’s hand trembles inside his jacket, the grip of his gun squeezed choking tight. He can’t trust himself to draw. “What is it this time? The trolley problem except this time the trolley is going to roll over my dick? Is that, that your brilliant plan, the latest plan from the mind of the incredible genius?”

Rubicon flinches, then something like a smile pulses in the quasi-clitoral migration of his melted lips across his cheek. “What do you think it is?”

Lazur stares into the oozing conflagration. A swelling cloud of heat and shock and rubble and he’s seen it before, in a fraction of a second. “A bomb.”

“A slow bomb.”

“How slow?”

“The blast escapes in twenty minutes.” Rubicon follows his gaze into the suspended explosion. “Isn’t it beautiful? The world breaking slow, superheated, stochastic—”

“What do you want?”

“Eat with me.”

“What?”

“Eat with me and I’ll give everyone the chance to leave. Does that satisfy your twisted sense of morality? You freak?”

He parses what Rubicon is wearing now. A tight little black dress.

Rubicon says, “It’s covered by their insurance. This restaurant has been struggling for years. Your conscience is clean.”

“Someone will notice.”

“The bomb is surrounded by a weaker version of the field. We’re technically in the shockwave. Can you feel the tension? That whisper? This entire dinner will take twenty seconds.”

Lazur allows disdain to arm his voice. “You need someone to talk to that bad?”

It must take a deliberate effort and tilt of the head for Rubicon to keep saliva from dripping from his mangled mouth, that busted dam of teeth and lip, because he’s gushing, eyes furious. “Need? I don’t need anyone.” He wipes his mouth. “I was just thinking about you in those hotel rooms being so sad, and when I saw you going to the gun range, I thought, this guy, he’s going to shoot his brains out one night and it’ll be so anticlimactic, after all the effort I put into ruining your life. And your birthday was coming up, and you know the birthday effect, statistically it’s very dangerous for people like you. So I wanted to cheer you up.”

“That makes perfect sense. They call you a terrorist because you’re good at making people happy.”

Rubicon’s eyes disappear for a second, lids like fleshworld camouflage. “I have friends.”

“Friends?”

“I don’t know. Colleagues.”

Lazur’s stomach growls, eating away his center, he sits down, arms detached from his nauseous body, shaking on the table as he stares at the napkin covering his plate, pure and clean and he’s sure whatever lays beneath is none of those things. “What’s with the dress?”

The slow bomb glitters and glows and tunnels in the backdrop, chiseling iridescence into the tight dark fabric wrapped around Rubicon’s body. “You know how when your body is severely deformed, generic men’s fashion looks even worse?”

“Yeah. I heard all about that.”

“It sags and hangs around me, makes me look like a crispy kid.”

“The bomber jacket was pretty funny.”

“Yeah. Haha.”

The tight, thin fabric fits the blasted body like an alien sheath, burnt shoulders bare, an elegance of sinew, recurve clavicles catching the light along snaking curves. A bent foot rests naked on the floor, big toe missing, strangely dainty without it. The other foot is fused together, smooth as a slipper.

Rubicon is embarrassed at Lazur’s scrutiny. He tucks a shred of blond hair back and it falls again, no ear to hold it, just a vestigial acoustic flower.

Lazur says, “Isn’t there some kind of reconstructive…”

“This is the reconstruction.” The uncanny acoustics of that laugh. “Some parts of me, the best they could do is make a container for my organs. Such as they are. I take a lot of meds.”

“You could get, you know, a face or something.” The shredded mask of Rubicon’s surviving facial skin is surrounded by a patchwork of synthetic grafts faded to different colors around ridges of bone and shrapnel. Lazur has the idle thought of picking at that skin and peeling it away until there’s nothing to contradict the monstrous reality. How long would Rubicon’s sense of humor last under his nails? Tugging at a corner of it like a vicious child’s earlobe—

“I thought about trying radical surgery. But it wouldn’t go on clean. Bad CG. Play-do. I. I wouldn’t look like myself.” Rubicon’s labored breathing fills the silence. “Sometimes I wake up thinking I still look the way I did. The other half of the time, I can’t remember being any other way.”

The slow bomb grows in the background, lighting his face with cold and hot light, shadows draining across the extreme waste of his scars. He sucks mucus back into his labyrinthine sinuses. “Aren’t you hungry?”

Lazur hesitates.

“Come on. If I wanted to kill you. Well. You know.”

Lazur peeks under the napkin on his plate. “It’s not some kind of bomb food?”

“Don’t give me ideas.”

Under the napkins: pierogi, pickled beets, and an amber glass of kvass, hyper-real in the bomb-light. Pan from Lazur’s picture-perfect plate, pierogi glistening with oil, beets brilliantly amaranthine, to Rubicon’s side, his skeletal fingers gripping a cup of beige sludge swirled with purple.

How fucking nice, to see your enemy punished by an inalienable doom of their anatomy. “How do you feel knowing everything you eat will have to be blended like baby food for the rest of your life?” Lazur forks a pierogi into his mouth, chewing it blatantly.

Rubicon stares into his sludge. “You’re really doing the psychowhatsit, aren’t you?” He licks his fragile teeth which can’t chew without breaking. “What does it taste like?”

“You have a cup right there.”

Rubicon scratches his melted face. “You don’t get the texture when it’s blended together. It’s just not the same.”

“The texture…” Lazur takes another bite of pierogi. “Kind of gummy. Bland, comforting carb breaks apart, warm meat on the inside.”

Rubicon listens, chin propped on his hand. He’s probably not aware of the drool leaking through the hole in the corner of his mouth, those salivary vents webbing his cheek. Or he just doesn’t care anymore.

Lazur tries the horseradish and pickled beets. “The ćwikła burns. I don’t know how to describe it. Pure. Stinging. Wet. Kind of sweet. It’s good, a little nasty, it’s like someone’s mother made it and doesn’t give a fuck.”

“I didn’t think you’d tell me. Thanks.”

“It’s not really the best pierogi. Over-boiled, under-seasoned.” He chews impassively, then swallows. “I never thought about it much. But maybe I come here because. If a place like this can stick around, even if it’s not the best, and the food is hit or miss, and the service isn’t friendly, but people keep coming anyway, then maybe…” He looks away. “It’s like. Some days you’re the only one in here and it’s dark and quiet and it feels like it belongs to you.”

“Yes,” Rubicon says. “I understand.”

The slow explosion crackles like gravel waterfalls or icebergs breaking apart.

Lazur says, “Why do you do it?”

Rubicon picks at his burnt hand. “You know I love the third degree.”

“I’m serious. Deterministic games only. Perfect information.”

Rubicon leans over the table, dress sagging, flat chest spiraling stitches into darkness. “Okay, Laz. I got a gold star and I never looked back. Everyone is like that, right? You do something and you’re rewarded for it so you keep doing it. Zap. Zap. My dopamine, your dopamine. We’re two people who are good at our jobs and it screwed us together like, two worms eating toward the core of an apple.”

“Or a bomb.”

The burnt skin stretches at the corner of Rubicon’s mouth. “Bomb for teacher.”

“It can’t be that simple. Not with you.”

“You’re stable. I’m volatile. It has a timeless cosmic, uh, resonance archetype kinda thing.”

“That’s the TV version. You didn’t always know me.”

“I—”

“I’m talking. It didn’t have to be bombs. It’s a transferable skill—”

“But not a transferable emotion.”

“What gave you that emotion?”

Rubicon swirls the straw, staring into the vortex of pureed pierogi. “My dad, I guess. It felt good having my own thing. Really really good. And then it was money, lots of money, money my dad didn’t control. It’s money, you know? It means you’re doing something right.”

Lazur sucks pierogi off his fork, exposing the gleaming metal. He considers the effect those tines would have on the inviting, vulnerable mucous membranes across from him.

“So one fine summer day, I stopped needing my dad.”

Lazur looks up. “I thought his jet had a malfunction.”

“It sure did. And the pieces are still washing up.”

“Sounds cathartic.”

“The feeling didn’t stick.”

“It never does. You can die chasing it. You almost did. So stop.”

“Haha. I don’t know if I can.”

“Why not?”

Rubicon swirls his sludge with the straw. “It’s, uh. It’s kind of getting out of control.” Nervous laugh. “Don’t look at me. This is your fault.”

“What?”

“You sabotaged my shipments. My deals. I had to cooperate with other people.”

“Not getting along with your friends?”

“Call it artistic differences.”

In that dress, you can see the cable management of Rubicon’s body, surgically streamlined just enough to survive. A pair of wire cutters could disable it in two snips. Lazur peels his eyes away. “You have to stop.”

“You can’t stop being a terrorist. Because if you’re not the terrorist, you’re just…terrified.”

Lazur sips his kvass, cold and sweet with a tender bite. He understands the impossibility of what he asked. Because he’s the same, from the other side. “You have to keep an eye on the terror.”

“See? You’re the same. You’re hooked on this bomb pussy.”

“I wouldn’t use those exact words.”

“What words would you use?”

Lazur doesn’t respond. He can’t do this, not with him.

Tick tick tick.

Rubicon cranes his head, just scar tissue from this angle. “I never heard you make that sound before.”

“What sound?”

“Tick tick tick. My mouth is the wrong shape, that’s not right. What do you call that. Plosive. That’s perfect, Laz. You’re ex-plosive.”

“Just a habit.”

A skully smile from Rubicon. “Tic seems more appropriate.”

“Very funny.”

“Tic tic tic. You sound like a little clock.”

Lazur catches himself making the sound again and forces his teeth apart, hot breath jetting through.

“So, Laz. What makes you tick?”

Lazur’s throat clicks.

“Ever talk to a therapist?”

“My trauma is classified.”

“Tell me, then.”

“Why would I do that?”

Rubicon sags in his wheelchair, looking dizzy from the act of speaking so long, but unable to stop himself. “Because you can tell me your stupid feelings and you won’t get in trouble.”

“You really want to hear about my boring, shitty life?”

“Better hurry before your little ticker runs out.”

Lazur rubs his dark hair, silver threads coming loose through his fingers. He knows the alcohol is lowering his inhibitions, but if he doesn’t get the words out, he never will. “I feel as aimless as I was in my early 20s. I sit around and eat, or sit around and don’t eat. The TV is on but I don’t remember a thing I saw in the last six months. I check my phone for no reason. Maybe I had a reason when I was picking it up, but nothing ever happens, so I don’t know what it could be.” He takes a sip of kvass, then another, but the dryness in his mouth won’t leave. “I can’t play my favorite games anymore. All those explosions. I try playing games without explosions. The numbers keep counting down. I drink and it feels bad. I try my favorite snacks and it’s like I’m eating cardboard. Nothing does it for me anymore. It’s like being in my early twenties again but I can’t enjoy anything. Nothing to look forward to. And my job. My stupid career. I’m not fixing anything. I’m just making shit fall apart more slowly.”

Rubicon smiles in delight. “You’re so depressing. You have these sick lines in the corners of your eyes like someone tried to cut them open.”

“It’s the anticipation. It’s killing me.”

“Don’t make me jealous.” Rubicon tries to suck liquefied pierogi through his straw and can’t get enough suction, it drains back down, leaving a sticky mess on his chin. “How does it feel, being old?”

“I’m not that old, you were just raised on anime where 40 year olds look like children.”

“Jeez, Laz. I never needed those bombs to make you blow up.”

Lazur realizes the question was asked with genuine curiosity, and feels kind of bad. “I used to think 20 was the cutoff. Like a lot of stupid kids. Then I thought 30. It had to be 30. But nothing happened. Okay. 40. That’s the cutoff. But I don’t feel any different. That’s the thing about getting older. It happens so slowly. You have time to get used to it. It’s a mercy.”

Something changes in the air. Discomfort. Awkward silence.

“But you didn’t. One second you were young, hot, had the whole world ahead of you. Then,” he snaps his fingers and Rubicon twitches. “You were like this.”

Rubicon stiffens with rage, then his lips stretch in a smile, eyes a little too wide. “That’s right, baby. I’m the human sunk cost fallacy.” He touches his blast-sculpted face with the stumps of his fingers. “And it’s not like it was an act of God. I did it to myself. Right? Poetic justice.” He waves his mutilated hand and the elbow bends hypermobile, loose as a puppet. “This is all anyone will ever see. So why should I bother being anything different?”

“You don’t look human. So you don’t feel human.”

“Yeah.” Rubicon stares at the bomb, death-light filling the gutters of his face.

Lazur is uncomfortable with this uncharacteristic silence, it fills with ticking tinnitus. “I had this dream once, I was a black smear on a concrete floor. From an explosion that happened before the dream even started. I thought that was it for me. Until I woke up. And if you wake up like this every day…”

Rubicon stares off, ear hole facing the man across the table.

“But I think you felt deformed before that bomb ever hit you.”

Rubicon’s head dips forward. “Heheh. Heheheh.” He looks up, the light glazing his eyes white as a deep sea fish. “You got me. I’m ugly as shit. Inside out.”

“Did I say that?”

“It’s true, though. It’s your job to look at a box and know what’s in it. What cutting this wire will do, even if you can’t see what it connects to.” The slow bomb shines in his shattered pupil. “You want perfect information, Lazur? My nostrils, burnt. My eardrums burst. I can’t feel through half my fingers. I’m numb all over, or itching like crazy. Insane in the mucous membrane.” Scratch scratch scratch, fast like a dog. “There’s nothing to contradict what my mind tells me, even if it’s delusional.” The slow explosion grows like a concrete crowning sun, illuminating the membrane and vein of Rubicon’s eyes, taut from fluid pressure, blue rings floating in blood, irises collapsed, darkness flowing from behind, corectopic avulsions of black, pupil warped like a crushed olive. “There’s no release.” He chokes on saliva, leaning forward to spit on the floor. His lips shine, a fractured gloss. He pants as if caged inside his own skull. “Do you get it yet?”

A scent of ash escapes the tight temporal core of the bomb. Lazur’s nostril twitches.

Rubicon’s leg tilts to the side, a lazy motion that exposes darkness cupped by the skirt, held safe from the bomb-light. His underwear is smooth and tight. The only thing inside that black strip is the spinal outline of a catheter tube. Lazur can’t even swallow, bits of food in his teeth like surgical dregs.

“So I watch you from this ruined body. Jerking you off like a walking dick. Getting your shoulders rock hard. Milking your adrenal gland like a prostate.”

He tilts his hand back, fingers splayed cuntily, the delicate phalanges looking unnaturally long in contrast to the crude stumps of his missing digits, like a grove of half-cut aspens. “All that stuff I told you. Money. My dad. I think it was true. Even if I was trying to impress you a little. But the only thing that matters is. I’m incredibly smart and incredibly bored and you’re going to pay for it. So why haven’t you tried to kill me yet?”

Lazur’s eyes flick away for a millisecond. “Because your guys are back there. And they’re going to shoot me.”

“You think I’d let some thugs watch us?”

“You obviously have an assurance of some kind.”

Rubicon’s smile is hard to read in the tug of scar tissue, lips stuck like bubble gum to the scar mask of his face. This close, Lazur can hear the sucking of saliva, the whistle of that lung. Like a machine he wants to fix because of an annoying sound, or at least percussively maintain. He gets a flash of his dad’s hand slapping the side of an air conditioner.

Rubicon says, “Are you going to kill me?”

The kvass fills Lazur with subtle alcoholic heat, a warmth mild enough to slip under his defenses. “I have a moral obligation to snap your neck.”

Rubicon’s tongue flicks between his lips, wet and pink through the dry scar tissue. “Is that how you wanna do it?”

“I don’t want a drop of you on me when it happens. I just want you to disappear.”

“Come on. I humiliated you in front of the world. Then I put a stick of dynamite up your ass. And you don’t know how you’re going to kill me? You seriously never—”

Lazur stands up so fast everything on the table rattles. He kicks it and it hits the glacial explosion, freezing in the air as if stuck on translucent glue. There is nothing between them except slow heat, Rubicon’s skeletal form exposed in the wheelchair, a single lung working overtime, and Lazur tall, one hand in his jacket, the other clenched at his side. “It’s hard to pick, when you’re brittle like a twig all over. You know the kind? You see it on the trail path and you snap it without a single thought.”

Rubicon’s chest swells lopsided under the black dress with the exertion of his breathing. “That’s not your style. You like to put things back together.” A plate fragments, ceramic shards flying in formation. “But there’s a mess coming even you can’t clean up.” Skeletal smile. “That’s what scares you, doesn’t it? Knowing even when hope is gone, you’ll be out there counting grains of sand.”

“Stop fucking with me.”

“What else can I do? My brain is on fire and I don’t have a fucking body—”

Lazur grabs his arm and Rubicon gasps, his stringy arm burning like barbecue, this unexpected, electric fire touch from disgusting peasant fingers. He licks his lips, tongue caught in the divots of his burst mouth. He still holds the straw from his flung cup, beige slime dripping from the tip, splatting on Lazur’s dark boot which weighs on the wheelchair footrest, keeping it immobile, until the man starts to apply pressure and the wheelchair skids back an inch, into the heat from the bomb, crawling waves of thermal energy, each pore caressed in slow motion. Most of Rubicon’s sweat glands were burnt off, but a patch of face still shines, a dripping crescent moon. Lazur is inches away, no expression, just his heavy lids and the jut of his lip, clinical as if he was inspecting a bomb.

Rubicon stammers, “What, what are you doing?”

A surprised look. “The thing about missing a bunch of nerves, is you can’t tell I’ve had a gun pressed to your knee for about five seconds.”

Rubicon swallows, a loud wetness through his deformed sinuses. Then he laughs and it’s like his face is swimming up through a sea of gore.

“What?”

“You’re shaking. Are you excited?” He bites his lip, studying the man with the gun against him. “Or…scared?”

A drop of sweat lands on the barrel of the gun. “It’s a trick.”

Inscrutable scar-gaze. “Maybe. If you could kill me with zero repercussions, would you?”

Lazur doesn’t respond.

“You never killed someone before, did you?”

“I don’t want to kill anyone, ever.”

“Lazur the super-pacifist.”

He never thought of himself in those terms before. He had aggressive fantasies and behaved aggressively with other men in the institutions that preceded this slow bomb Slavic restaurant encounter. But Rubicon’s hideous violence seems to have a polarizing effect that makes certain details of his past stand out, the same as when he figured out he liked guys. Perhaps pacifism is a sexuality, or a sub-category, top or bottom, detonate or defuse.

He looks through the frozen icicles of chemical flame, into the unknowable violent core of combustion. In this still frame, it looks unreal, like a bad effect, a cheap and ugly rip in the world. “I just want to protect people. And that protection can’t be partial. Once you make an exception, something is broken.”

The kneecap under his gun listens.

“There has to be someone who cares. I used to work at—you know. And when I was assigned overseas, sitting around with the guys, you hear them talk, and. If you’re an EMT, nurse, agent, life or death, someone trying to fix this, this damage, you have a responsibility to, you know, no matter how stupid they are, no matter what they did, even if they killed someone—you’re where the killing stops, and anything else can even be possible. I can’t stop just because it’s ugly or no one wants to do it. It’s…”

“It’s a dirty bomb but someone has to defuse it.”

Lazur pulls the gun back, looking disgusted. “All that clever shit and smiling and being ironic. I was that way at your age too. I didn’t understand it meant no one could have a simple conversation with me.”

Rubicon sits there, burning with embarrassment. “I—I don’t want you to think I’m not a serious person.”

“Why do you even care what I think?”

Rubicon shifts in his seat like his bony ass doesn’t have enough padding to sit comfortably. Lazur catches the gleam of a catheter bag. Rubicon stares at him with a hard fury, as if to say, look at the least humiliating most in control parts of me, get skewered on these eyes. “I was the best. My whole life. Then you showed up. Older than me. The only one who can stop me.”

Rubicon breathes hard through his nose, lips pressed tight and trembling, sinuses sawing like catgut. “My talent is the only reason anyone takes me seriously. So when you make me look replaceable…” Some kind of liquid shines through the holes of his face, tears or sweat or saliva or both. “If I’m not the best, I’m just a freak in a wheelchair.”

The explosion looms, eating through debris with blinding fangs.

“And the worst part was, it didn’t even seem like you cared. I was a crossword puzzle to you.” The white of his eyes warm with delicate pink, like heated metal.

Lazur’s heart beats fast and tight. “What makes you think you deserve my attention?”

“If you were smart, you’d know that’s gasoline you’re spilling.”

“Congrats. You put your self-esteem in the hands of a man who wakes up and stares at the ceiling for two hours.”

“You sound like you’re going to shoot yourself, not me.”

Lazur’s arm drops to his side, gun flashing in the light. “It’s my birthday and the only person who showed up is the guy trying to reduce me to my individual atomic parts.”

Rubicon points at himself. “Haha. That’s me.”

Lazur stands up, silhouetted by the blast, gun still clenched in his fist. Metal warps, glass sings itself to death, the floor cracks under his boots, his stomach hurts, he sweats like summer. All he has to do is stand here a little longer, and then he won’t have to worry ever again.

Rubicon looks at him with concern. “Hey.”

“What?”

“Make a wish.”

“A wish?”

“It’s your birthday. Make a wish.”

“I wish for the principle of combustion to be erased from the universe.”

Rubicon’s voice pitches up, pleased. “You talk like I’m some kind of, entity. Yes, I brought fire to earth, I’m Bombetheus—”

“You’re an amoral little boy.”

“Wow. Okay.” Rubicon sucks quickly on his straw. “Make another wish. Be realistic.”

“I want you to stop using me as a scratching post for your massive ego.”

“I said realistic. Try again.”

“I want…” If he keeps talking he’s going to lose it. Part of him wants to pull the trigger and blow the contents of his own skull into the slow explosion. Deprive the brat of his toy. Hands cover his face, tired breathing into the palms, gun rubbing through the dark hair like a caress, like he could just turn it a little and trick himself into—

“How about you hold onto that wish. Keep it in your back pocket.”

The shockwave curdles the edges of their hearing, the vibration accelerating. “Rubicon.”

“Yeah?”

“That thing you said. Things getting out of control. Tell me.”

Rubicon smiles like he’s going to laugh it off but it just colors his voice brittle and unsteady. “Well, Laz. I don’t wanna give you nightmares.”

Lazur recoils as if the boy’s whisper contains a respiratory virus. “You need to stop it.”

Rubicon straightens up, and it’s clear it takes effort to keep his spine erect and his head high. “I hate when you use that tone of voice on me. You all think I’m this crazy little cripple. A deep-fried delinquent. But one day. Your agency. My colleagues. The whole world. They’ll see I was always the best. That there will never be anything like me again. Because I’m going to break you. Cameras live. Timer running down. Worst six hours of your life. They’re going to see every single part of you day one unboxed. And then, uh. Then I’ll kill you!”

Lazur’s palm is so sweaty the gun feels like it’s sliding. He switches to his other hand. Rubicon watches the black hole of the barrel bob up and down, gaunt fingers gripping the sides of his wheelchair. “But until then. You’re staying alive.”

The barrel steadies, then drifts again as Lazur wipes sweat from his eyes. Rubicon inspects him seriously. “You know what I like about you? You get scared, but you don’t get surprised. You’re so fucked up you accept every horrible new reality coming your way. Some people, I can’t talk to them without every little fact of my existence being a cause of spectacular, conversation-killing pity.”

The gun rises and falls at the rate of shallow breathing, Lazur’s lips pressed tight, eyes fragile. “Mmhm.”

“Bye, Laz.”

“Thanks for dinner.”

“My treat, baby.”

Rubicon pulls on his joystick and the wheelchair rolls back through the visual distortion of the sharpening shockwave, particles of tephratic floor pinging off his wheels.

Lazur stands there with his hand wrapped around the gun like a claw, knowing he should end this with a single bullet. But he can’t decide which direction to pull the trigger.

Tktktktktk.

10 grubs honk balefully on “Cunt Toward Enemy[4] The Birthday Effect

  1. oh i am chewing on this like a dog…..the barely-contained mutual fixation…..a slow-mo explosion surging to consume them both…..mmmchwah. many compliments 2 the chef

  2. “There’s nothing to contradict what my mind tells me, even if it’s delusional.”

    Ugh. I don’t know if I’ve ever related to anything so much. And even though Rubicon says it I think it’s as true of Lazur.

    I can’t wait for the next one 💣💥💚❤️‍🔥

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