Midnight Pub

Frames Of Reference- Chapter 11


Horrible dream. As with all the bad ones, you feel as if you’ve had it before.

Verwus stands tall and gaunt like an emperor skeleton over a table of implements, jagged metal which flashes in some kind of strobe display, mist is circling around him, clouds of smoke rise from the floor, his arms are outstretched toward his sides and he’s breathing heavily, you can feel the unhinged mania raining off him.

His eyes are absent, in their place are only the thick impenetrable lenses, held together by their usual wire apparatus, he’s perspiring heavily and looks to be in a great deal of stress. Euphoric, though, because the green is blaring all around him, pulsing, bathing him in obfuscatory shadow and then in brilliant high resolution, alternatively. A monolith of fury and menace, resilient and calculating.

With a deep tone, a spotlight cascades onto his shoulders, a light from some higher power which has designated him the resident surgeon, and he raises his arms high and accepts the position without hesitation. He is to perform a twisted procedure indeed.

He stands over me, I’ve taken some of the hickory stuff and my consciousness is caught in the form of a beetle, a frail jade-winged creature with a tangible exoskeleton. I rub my feelers together, click away madly at him, beg him to stop what he’s doing, to regain his senses and stop the procedure, even if the intent of the procedure is very much to create a beetle human hybrid and nothing will stop it. He picks up a steel awl from the counter and turns it over about six times, the green flashes glinting off its jagged point.

Sheila is there, she’s screaming at him to stop, to let me go, hair matted and flashing alongside the omnipresent pulsing strobe, but her screams are muffled by the thickness of the air. I open my mandibles in turn, and it’s all the more awful that a human voice comes out, impossibly, from the insect diaphragm.

“Stop it! Stop it!”

The collector stands above me, arms poised in serene contemplation of his work. He exercises a degree of absolute control and understanding over his immediate surroundings which I cannot hope to match. This is his country, and I am unwelcome here.

He sets the awl down while Sheila stands behind an invisible pane of glass, hammering and crying for him to let me out of this corporeal prison. He doesn’t relent. He picks up a ragged sewing kit, plucks out one pin, grins as the green clouds of smoke whisper over my abdomen. He douses the pin in a vigorous solution of isopropyl alcohol and formaldehyde.

I clatter around the wooden surface, some kind of workshop furniture, splintered and rotting in places. I can’t make my way out because he’s erected several towers of cheap paperbacks and I’m flightless. My legs carry my bloated body forward but I’m not agile enough to escape. Six legs, organs and pheromonal capacities I’ve never had previously, which disorient me further. I flip onto my back, raise my frail beetle head up about a centimeter. My segmented thorax gleams in the hot jungle mists.

He inserts the pin.