The Gateway of the Unholy Synod

Talking Heads,
yapping Dreadnoughts of Doom,
gloom and naysayers,
egoistic purveyors of pain,
the game remains the same,
but time gives way to change,
nobody ever gets out alive,
striving and diving through the depths,
steps taken forward
more words lead to bodies falling back,
the deck stacked by the Powers That Be,
or Were,
who knows the true order,
the first murder by Cain,
brother Abel was the same one that
curried favor with God,
the steps of the Pyramid the path
to the Gateway of the Unholy Synod,
material world wealth,
mass deception and genocide by stealth,
these are the days of underground caves,
of Reptilians and Greys,
of multidimensional ascension
versus those who choose to stay,
dreams of infinite existence,
nightmares of eternal penitence,
thoughts, words and deeds reveal our ways,
we’ve fought wars in need to heal and pray,
observing foul intentions on full
and complete display
the idiot box molds our minds as
darkest night turns into brightest day,
who is to say what is right and what is wrong,
who is to play the orchestral hymns,
the heavenly songs,
it’s not the ones with the loudest voices
or the ones with the most choices
they say the meek shall inherit the Earth
and bear witness to the rebirth
of the Cool,
mama ain’t raised no fool,
this right here is straight out of the Old Skool,
pay attention and listen to the voice
beyond the words,
beyond the herds of people,
beyond the masses of sheeple,
beyond the churches and steeples,
beyond the need to entertain greed
or bloviate by proxy, those Talking Heads
stealing your moxy,
toxic vermin gnawing souls to pieces,
rh negative blood types
rhesus monkey genes,
most of our birthrights,
people are people but some of us ain’t,
the taint of the tares,
the wheat rustling in the air,
pre-adamic monstrosities,
psychopaths and sociopaths running free,
ruling the world,
while we castin’ pearls before swine,
everyone is intertwined
ain’t no difference in the End,
Talking Heads, spittin’ spin,
but we see you, yes we do,
at least that much
will always be true.

Bugman’s Burden ~ Conclusion

9th Interlude
The war was over.

Night had fallen upon us like a veil and the Beasties howled in ecstatic hunger, anticipating the flesh of their victory. The harsh strobes of the settlement cast a dim glow over the graveyard and the Beasties advanced, ghoul-like. The hulking form of Sloogon rose above them like an avatar of death.

His crime had been cannibalism. He had killed and eaten his entire family, including cousins, distant relatives and even a few unfortunate neighbors who had been in the vicinity when his terrible hunger had reached its crescendo. Sloogon had been on Purgatory for fifteen years, the longest surviving prisoner in the history of the planet. The Administrators above had made that little factoid available to me before sending me down to meet him in the flesh, so to speak.

I shivered again, afraid in spite of myself. Ranae had left my side and moved to the stone wall, where she crouched, her arms wrapped around her knees. The others were also silent; each lost in their own nightmarish conception of what the immediate future would bring.

A new sound rose from the graveyard and I shuddered as I recognized it. The hoots and hollers of the Beasties had been replaced by a purposeful cadence. They were chanting.

““Fok it! Eat it! Food an sex!””

Over and over again, they chanted. Sloogon’’s bad habits were in tune with those of his chosen companions. Perhaps as a direct result of his lengthy incarceration or more probably as a result of the morbid dementia that afflicted us all in this hellish place. Ranae’s voice was a hollow croak.

““There will be no stopping the Beasties tonight. They will take us all. I know it.””

She was right. Ranae cowered in the mud, staring at me wildly. Her eyes were orbs of white in the faint light. I had no response for her. Could barely think, let alone speak.

But it didn’’t matter. The hopelessness of our situation was beyond discussion. Around us, the other Talkers were moaning fearfully as the reality of our imminent deaths marched nearer.

Suddenly, Kahaki was there. He was covered in mud. Only his eyes were visible, flaring with excitement and madness.

He stared at us both, his usually vacant expression replaced by a feral hatred. Still, in the depths of his eyes, I could detect a yearning for love, for the love of Ranae. He spit at me and pointed at Ranae accusingly.

“”I’’m leaving you, mama. You love the Bugman more than you love me. I’m gonna be a Beastie now. Sloogon says I can.””

Ranae looked at him; her mouth working futilely as she tried to respond. A dull croak was the only sound she could make. I watched the little monster with grudging admiration, appreciating the extent of his hatred.

To join the ranks of Sloogon’’s Beasties was to align oneself with the dregs of depravity and no salvation was possible from those stygian depths. Kahaki looked at me once more but I did not meet his eyes. Instead, I shrugged and concentrated on Ranae, who stared at Kahaki, despair dripping from her eyes. When I looked back, he was gone.

The Beasties had reached mid-field and their cries were louder now as they sensed our desperation. Sloogon had moved to the front of the assembled Beasties and I could see a dirty cloth twisted around his thick neck, soaked in his own blood. I put my arm around Ranae and she drew closer to me, unresisting in her stupor.

From the ranks of the Beasties, a familiar voice rose, a child’’s voice. ““Mama, help me! They’re gonna eat me, Mama! Help me!””

Ranae tensed and called out, her voice quavering. Her will had returned at a most inopportune time.
““My darling boy! Kahaki! Mama’’s coming! I’ll save you!””

She sprang into action. She pulled away from my weak grasp, drew a flesh-encrusted thighbone from the mud nearby and jumped over the wall, her naked form reflecting the wan light of the settlement’s glow-orbs.

““Ranae, no! Come back, they’’ll eat you too!”” I cried, reaching out for her. I was too late.

The dancing Beasties howled and closed in, quickly overcoming her with their numbers. Her screams blended with Kahaki’s as they both reaped the consequences of their pro-activity, becoming an early-evening feast for the ravening Beasties.

I turned away then and began preparing myself for my death, which surely would not be long in coming. The cache of supplies lay nearby.

A collection of silvery cases, bound together with thermoplast ropes. Some of them had been opened and in the darkness between the crates of dehydrated food and medical supplies, I could see small, beady eyes staring back at me.

I smiled to myself, in spite of the pain eating away at me.

The cycle never ends. Birth, death and rebirth. With the passing of each life, somewhere, another begins. We are promised nothing in this life except pain. Pain, and the promise of death, hence the cessation of pain.

Along the way, the choices we make determine the course of our lives for better or for worse. The Beasties had made their choice and the agonized screams of my fellow Talkers announced the hellish result. Shadows abounded and moist, horrific slavering sounded close by.

I shuddered, awaiting my own call to judgment.

Ranae had been right. The Beasties were showing no mercy. Come morning, there would be no Talkers left in the settlement west of Hell’s Gate. A shadow covered me, obscuring the faint light of the settlement’s strobes.

It was Sloogon.

The Beastie stared down at me in triumph, his immense body soaked in blood and gore. As his minions surrounded me and began to grasp at my body, I could hear Sloogon’s breath whistling through the hole in his throat. How he gathered enough air to speak, I’ll never know.

““How’’s dat, Bugman? Yo kill alla peeple an now yo die in Hell wit yo bitch! How’s dat, Bugman? Yo be notin, in dis place! Sloogon rules in Hell!””

The pain caressed me like a long-lost lover and I welcomed her final embrace. I flew into the forever-night, my soul diaphanous upon the breath of the solar winds.

~

The choices we make stay with us eternally. Never are we allowed surcease from the pain we cause others, nor the pain we inflict upon ourselves. My last conscious emotion as a creature of the physical plane was regret.

Regret, tinged with sadness. Regret for the choices that I had made, the life I had not led, the love that I had hoarded jealously, for myself alone.

Last but certainly not least, regret for infecting the rodents aboard the space station with the virus. The rodents that had accompanied me to Purgatory 7, hidden within the silvery boxes that contained the supply shipment. I felt regret for sharing my virus-tainted bodily fluids with them on the station, for knowing the equation’s answer before the formula was written.

Soon, every living being upon this planet, as well as those who had been aboard the station, would be dead, God willing. This time, there would be no cure and the virus would spread throughout human space until all of Man’s works vanished, subject to the ravishes of time.

Ancient of Days, I pray that my Will become the Alter of your Judgment. Let my utter abdication of pro-activity provide atonement for my unforgivable sins against your Creation. Thy Will be done.

Let the church say, Amen-Ra.

 

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Bugman’s Burden ~ 8th Interlude

8th Interlude
My physical descent into purgatory mirrored my soul’s fall from grace. Euphoric weightlessness within a womb-like cavity followed soon after by crushing gravitational forces beyond my control exemplified the shift into micro-dimensional space. The stasis-field that held me bound did nothing to assuage the intense pain of molecular restructuring brought on by re-entry into normal space.

The space station orbiting Purgatory 7 only served to reinforce the sensation of isolation. Cold, gray walls, Technicians and Administrators clad in silver bodysuits. They gathered around me curiously, studying for themselves both the mental and physical profiles of the most hated man in the galaxy.

In turn, I observed them. In them, I saw myself. Or rather, myself as I used to be. Supposedly objective and clad in the regalia of their stations, imperious in thought and attitude. Physician, heal thyself.

““Are you sure that’’s him?”” One said, doubtful.

““Of course I’’m sure, dolt. Look at his coloration, his eyes, and the size of his head. He’s Black. If you look closely, you can even see the remnants of the Enhancer’s probes. See?””

The other replied, imperiously knowing.

““I don’t know. Doesn’’t look like him to me.””

“”Nobody ever looks like they do in the holovids, don’’t you know that by now?””

““Yes, but I thought he’’d be taller.””

““Stupid fok.””

When I was younger, I had believed that humanity’’s inheritance was the stars, that the only limit to our technological sophistication was the boundless expanse of God’’s Creation. The purity of my innocence astounds me in retrospect. My naivete was boundless.

The extremes of outer space can only be explored by the fearless navigation of inner space and to follow that chain of thought too deeply threatens the very foundations of human achievement as well as our individual grasp upon sanity’s diaphanous fringes.

In the dark corners of the space station, beyond the inclination of the Technicians and Administrators sight, lay the chaotic vestiges of true reality. I could see clearly from my vantage point beyond their version of reality as they pontificated, irrationally secure in the implicit knowledge of their own willful blindness. While they pronounced judgment, produced documentation and observed stimuli, chaos stole away the foundation of their Truth.

It’s quite simple, really. Chaos is the common denominator that underlies the entirety of Creation. In any ordered system, events tend towards disorganization leading to eventual reorganization on a larger, more coherent scale, after a certain indeterminate point.

Black, beady eyes kept me company in my silence. Brown, gray and black bodies whispered through the stainless corridors, attuned to the cleaning cycles, the robot-drones and the occasional stray eye. Somehow, these creatures survived, and in surviving, thrived. Watching them, the full realization of my doom churned and roiled within me, finally heaving forth without apology.

I vomited profusely and tears coursed down my face as the rodents accepted my offering. To my reasoning, the purging of my stomach symbolized my acceptance of personal responsibility for my crimes, while simultaneously representing my denial of ultimate culpability. Society must play some role in the vagaries of human expression, regardless of the extremity of that selfsame expression.

My moment of epiphany was accompanied by the realization that beneath the surface perfection of our their reality lay a heart of darkness, a fetid abomination of death and decay. I reveled in that knowledge and the chorus of my insanity was born aloft by my shrill laughter, which echoed throughout the station in loops of forlorn despair. Let the church say Amen-Ra.

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Bugman’s Burden ~ 7th Interlude

7th Interlude
The red dwarf sun was setting on the eastern horizon; its wan light approaching purple. The stars glimmered coldly above the desperate battleground and our souls lay in the balance, forfeit to the Eater of Worlds. I gazed upon their beauty and the torturous cries of the wounded and dying assailed my ears unceasingly.

The surreal atmosphere was heightened only by the stark hopelessness of my situation. My chest ached with a searing pain that banished all thought of surcease. But that was not important. The battle had proceeded from mid-morning and would end with the final setting of the crimson sun.

In the center of the graveyard, scattered body parts lay – half-covered by mud – the odd limb grotesquely poking from the dark, combat-churned soil. These pitiful remnants would be gathered later by the losers and provide them with the only sustenance they would receive outside of each other until the supply ship returned.

I was told that the months on Purgatory 7 were short, three quarters Earth-time. The planet’’s retrograde orbit around the red dwarf skewed all natural perception of time and the years might seem to last forever to one damned, as had this single day of blood and death.

The few of us left standing watched the final battles silently, waiting for the now inevitable outcome. There had been thirteen deaths thus far, nine of them Talkers. Our side was losing.

““Where is Kahaki, Bugman?”” asked Ranae, her breath harsh in my ears.

She was sweating profusely, her eyes wild and darting. Dried and caked mud was her only clothing. She had lost her thin garments, as well as her dignity, in her earlier battle with Sloogon. Her hair was torn and she sported numerous bruises and cuts on her arms and legs. Blood ran down the interior of her thighs, evidence of her earlier ambiguous victory.

Kahaki was nowhere to be seen.

Sloogon had manhandled her aggressively, using his massive strength to subdue her. A sudden blow to the head had knocked Ranae from her feet. He had thrown off his loincloth, his bulging stomach protruding grossly over his trunk-like thighs. His penis was barely visible, its considerable length and breadth superseded by the girth of his belly.

Sloogon had advanced upon her, goaded on by the raucous cries of his minions. He knelt before her torn and bleeding form and his immense bulk sank into the mud. Her body disappeared beneath him, only the rabbit-like thrusting of his cellulite-encased ass giving evidence of her violation.

Suddenly, Sloogon had bellowed with pain and rolled to the side, releasing her, blood running from a gaping wound in his throat.

Ranae had bitten him savagely, releasing a copious amount of blood that fountained from his neck like rain, running down her body in a crimson flood. Sloogon rolled away from her and staggered to his feet, stumbling back to the edge of the graveyard, blood spurting through his clasped fingers. Ranae crawled slowly back to the wall and dragged herself over it, collapsing next to me, her captive lover. Gore and grime combined, her too-bright eyes shining sullenly behind the hellish mask.

The shocked silence had been broken only by a high keening, coming from Kahaki, who had watched the entire battle from his perch on the stone wall. Ranae ignored him, for some reason preferring to nurse her wounds by my side. She was incoherent and I held her protectively, taking short, whooping breaths while cherishing the stolen moment of tenderness.

Kahaki hooted again, staring at us both. I couldn’t tell if it was pain or anger that the little demon was expressing at the time, although now, I rather suspect it was a little of both. Whichever it was, that was the last I had seen of him.

““Did you hear what I said?””

Ranae slapped me on the side of my head, awakening me from my musings.

“”I don’t know where he is, Ranae. The last time I saw him he was sitting on the wall, watching you, uh, cavorting with Sloogon.””

She shot a look of disgust at me. ““Watch your mouth, Bugman. You still belong to me, or have you forgotten that little fact? We haven’t lost this war yet.””

I refrained from comment, deciding that my last foray into insubordination had used up what little good will Ranae had left, considering the way the day had been going. Win or lose, my lot in life could only get worse. Not that it mattered now.

The pain had spread from my chest to encompass my whole body and I coughed, my body beset by spasms. I closed my eyes and began praying. The oncoming night was accompanied by a chill wind and I shivered uncontrollably.

Whatever outcome the gods had ordained would be upon us soon, for the onset of night signaled the end of the war. Whichever side could field the most survivors would win the day and from the rising tide of noise coming from across the muddy graveyard, the Beasties, at least, were under the impression that for all intents and purposes, we belonged to them.

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Bugman’s Burden ~ 6th Interlude

6th Interlude
The trial had been quick and painless. The absolute obliteration of my life was complete.

To the five-dimensional world of the holovids, my soul was laid bare, my most base truths exposed for the world to ogle and dissect. I experienced the total gamut of human emotion, driven to Truth mercilessly by the organomech Psychic Enhancer’s cold urgings. Delirious ecstasy flirted with visions of the Inferno, twisted by a demented muse. My guilty conscious allowed me no respite from the gnawing realization of my utter damnation.

Eighty million plus people had died from the effects of a virus recombined by my labs.
My test subjects – released on their own recognizance – had been readmitted to unsuspecting populations. I can still hear the grim reports of the viruses’ progress, the mounting death tolls, reported nightly on the holovid news shows.

I had watched it all from the austere heights of my crystalline research labs. The eyes of my technicians had been coldly speculative above the sky-blue facial masks. Their voices haunted me as their physical presence declined, leaving me alone, exiled to my sterile labs.

My last moments as a god were spent staring at a vial of clear liquid, closely related to the one that had brought about my own personal destruction as well as the destruction of millions of innocent lives. Although I could not see them with my naked eyes, living seeds of destruction gyrated within, recombined yet again, capable of decimating the Human population of the entire galaxy without fear of a vaccine.

Undetectable and sublime, their forms were truly perfect, representing the epitome of my skill. Twisting, spiraling madly, their very existence negated the entirety of God’s creation, in my mind.

Thought became action and my Will was done. My body became the receptacle of the world’s sins and

I gave of myself that we all might be saved. May the Lord have mercy upon my soul.

Ancient of Days, I pray that my Will become the Alter of your Judgment. Let my utter abdication of pro-activity provide atonement for my unforgivable sins against your Creation.

My damnation hovered ominously on the event horizon of possibility. True knowledge is ever preceded by sweet, blissful ignorance. I know this now, for my sentence to Purgatory had only just begun.

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Bugman’s Burden ~ 5th Interlude

5th Interlude
“Mama! Whatcha gon’ do with Bugman, huh? Can I play with him before you kill him? Huh? Huh?”

The child-like voice actually came from a child, and a quite dirty child at that. He squatted frog-like on the low stone wall, wearing only a loincloth of undeterminable color. His pale body was barely visible beneath his protective dirt encasement. His eyes were huge and seemed to take up the entire breadth of his face. I swatted at him futilely. He had positioned himself just beyond my reach.

Ranae tugged my leash, causing me to gag and fall back into the mud again. The child’s name was Kahaki and his laughter was louder and lasted longer than anyone else’s did. He hated me passionately and I returned his affections as well as I was able. Before I had arrived, he had been Ranae’s plaything and I hesitate to speculate on their relationship. Accordingly, he took every opportunity to humiliate me that came his way.

“Kahaki, my sweet. Come to mama. That’s a good boy.”

The little demon jumped nimbly from the wall and landed in Ranae’s arms, snuggling deep into her bosom, all the while staring at me, his wide eyes blank and expressionless.

Sterilization of prisoners was mandatory upon assignment to Purgatory 7. He had not been born here. Rather, he was a convicted inmate like the rest of us. His crime, murder.

At the age of four, he had poisoned every child in his nursery by spiking their nutri-milk with industrial strength rat poison. Afterwards, he had displayed no remorse and his family had shunned him, leaving the young sociopath to face the Galactic Tribunal alone.

His case had made the holovid networks of every planet in the Triquad and his sentence of life imprisonment on Purgatory 7 had been greeted by calls of clemency and a renewed scrutiny of the ages old Criminal Justice Code. The viscera-spattered wheels of justice had revolved ponderously and soon after his incarceration upon the prison planet, the furor had died down and everyone had forgotten about poor little Kahaki.

Now here I was, stuck with the little demon for the rest of my natural life.

“My Bugman is special, Kahaki. You cannot have him. I will give you a Beastie later, if you’re a good boy.”

He looked up at her adoringly, snuggling even closer. His little hands were lost in the folds of her clothes and by her expression, I could tell he was caressing her nipples.

I almost gagged, I was so furious. Before I could stop myself I spoke, my voice dripping with spite.

“Surely you’re joking, Ranae. You’re actually going to give that little Beastie-in-training a living person? Why don’t you just let him enter the field of battle? He’s definitely got the killer instinct, even if he hasn’t got the strength to back it up, yet.”

They both stared at me; surprised by my daring. I could sense Ranae toying with the idea of jerking my chain again, but she didn’t, preferring to punish me in a more subtle fashion.

“Hmmm, interesting idea, Gaitan. Kahaki, what do you think of that? Would you like to participate in the battle this cycle?”

Kahaki’s eyes never left me, nor did they lose their blankness, but his voice seemed weak and even more child-like when he answered.

“The Bugman don’t like me, mama. He want me to die so he can have you his self.”

I cursed his wily ways silently. He knew how to work Ranae’s emotions and I knew what would happen next.

“Don’t worry, Kahaki. The Bugman will never have me all to himself, baby. When the night falls, perhaps I shall give him to you after all. What do you think of that?”

“I would like that, mama. Oh, I would like that.”

Sure enough, I found myself face down in the muck once more, subject to the derision of the others. I wanted to remain blind, my awareness limited by the womb-like darkness of my mud encasing, but life summoned me, its final act whispering seductively from the nether regions of Purgatory 7.

When I pulled myself back to a kneeling position I was no longer the object of attention. The others were focused upon the muddy graveyard and the first two combatants trudging across it to meet in its center.

The war had begun. I hung back, preferring to enjoy the brief respite. Briefly, a stab of pain shot through my chest and I bent double with the force of it. The night couldn’t arrive soon enough for me.

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Bugman’s Burden ~ 4th Interlude

4th Interlude
“If we win, we get all yo’ food an yo’ give up de Bugman, too, less we get im inna fightin’, kay?” The giant said, his voice deep and rumbling. A woman’s voice, equally powerful, answered.

“Whatever, Sloogon. The rules haven’t changed; they’re the same as always. The winner gets the losers food supply and five members of the winner’s party. That’s it. Now get the fok out of my face.”

“Yah, right. Hah! You fokers will lose fo’ sho’, den! Foken tokkas!”

Sloogon was a whale of a man, standing seven feet tall and almost as wide. His pasty white complexion glowed pinkly in the forever-bloody twilight of Purgatory 7’s red dwarf sun.

We stood facing each other over a rough stone wall; beyond which lay the muddy graveyard that separated our two camps. His followers were across the field, shouting and hooting their derision, their grayish-brown forms alternately wallowing in the mud and jumping up and down in feverish excitement.

He had called us Talkers. In the heavy dialect of Class 4, it sounded like a curse and, in fact, it was.
On the prison world of Purgatory 7, the social hierarchy mirrored that of the Triquad: the galactic society from whence we had all been culled.

Those of similar class status gravitated towards each other in what must be some universal rule of like attracting like. Settlements were scattered all over the planet, the distance between them prohibitive, making travel improbable given the limited amount of rations available to us. There were no guards or administrators on this world, nor were there social conventions other than those imposed by the stronger over the weaker.

Once a month, an automatic shuttle descended from the orbiting station and landed on selected drop sites across the planet: here in the far north, that point was an unscaleable mesa called Hell’s Gate by the denizens of this world, for obvious reasons. It deposited its cargo of prisoners, a small cache of extra supplies and retreated, leaving them to their unenviable fate.

Each prisoner was issued a change of clothes and a pair of shoes as well as a week’s ration of organotabs. We were also given a single-use parachute and indifferent instructions to jump only from the western edge of the mesa, where the ever-present easterlies would presumably carry us to the safety of the ground below. Safety, in this context, meaning only the prolonged agony of living in Hell’s waiting room. There was no safe place on Purgatory 7, least of all in the settlement lying beyond the western rim of the mesa.

“Shall we get started then, Sloogon? Your people seem quite hungry, jumping about like that.”

Sloogon stared Ranae Millar, our leader. She was almost as tall as he was. She was an amazon priestess of deadly proportions.

When I had arrived, she had taken me under her proverbial wing, introducing me to the more sublime pleasures of life on Purgatory 7. News of my arrival had preceded me and her curiosity about the nefarious Bugman had thus far guaranteed my safety from all but her.

Sloogon rumbled deep in his chest, a sound that seemed to well up from the roots of the planet itself. He trembled slightly as he looked at her, his lust obvious.

He knew better than to attack her. Ranae’s fighting skills were well known. Still, his instincts almost overcame his better sense and I tensed, preparing for another scene of senseless violence, one of many that I had witnessed during my short sojourn on the planet. But he held himself in check, just barely.

“We git it on den, woman. Bring yo bes’, we come widdit. And den, yo an’ me, we tok, eh? Mebbe fok, kay?”

His laughter was gelatinous and bubbles of snot burst from his nose and lips, mixing with the grime that covered his body.

Ranae sniffed and glanced sidelong at me. She reached down and caressed the side of my head, her fingers lingering on my lips. She knew that jealousy lay just beneath my surface calm and she loved to drive me crazy.

“We’ll talk then, Sloogon. If you’re still alive, that is.”

Sloogon laughed again, glancing down at me and heaving a thunderous fart. He scratched at his groin, a motion that produced a cloud of dried dust particles and small creatures that hovered and buzzed in the air around him, upset at being disturbed. Sloogon turned and stalked away, his immense bulk causing his feet to sink deep into the mud surface of the field, leaving footprints that quickly filled with pestilent water in his wake.

Ranae watched him walk away, disgust marring her otherwise-perfect features. Then she turned to me, pulling on my leash. I jerked irritably, still seething with unreasonable jealousy.

“Well, my big-headed, little man. It seems that Sloogon wants you for himself. I wonder what he thinks you can do?”

I didn’t answer her rhetorical question, preferring to let her words stand without response. It was petty, I know, but I was allowed few victories in this life.

Of course, she didn’t allow me this one either. Moments later I tasted the foul mud of Purgatory 7 and the laughter of the other Talkers nearby filled my ears. My face burned with shame as I sat up and wiped the putrid mud from my eyes.

“Didn’t you hear me, Bugman? I asked you a question!”

“I do not know the answer, Ranae.”

I spat mud from my mouth. “Why would anyone on this godforsaken planet want me? I am worse than useless, here.”

Ranae knelt beside me, her voluptuous body barely covered by the thin layer of insulated cloth she wore. From my vantage – stuck in the mud – I could look straight down the front of her shirt and her pink nipples were rigid, causing my sex to rise in response. She noted my gaze and smiled, raising her hand to caress my filthy cheek once more.

“Ah, my little Bugman. Don’t you know your worth, here? Status, my darling, status. To have a master of destruction such as you under my control does wonders for my reputation. The Beasties are just insane with envy.”

Her gaze left me and I contented myself with staring at her heaving bosom as she reveled in her primacy.

The crime that had gotten her sentenced to Purgatory was murder in the first degree. The premeditated and cold-blooded murder of eight men and four women, to be exact.
Her modus operandi was simple. She would proposition them with sex and then decapitate them while in the throes of passion. A perfect black widow, except, of course, for her pale skin coloration.

From my own personal experience, I can attest to her sheer sexual potency and vast knowledge of orgasm-inducing exercises. I lived every day in a state of wonderment, alternately delirious and dumbfounded at my continued presence amongst the land of the living.

From across the field, a blood-curdling cacophony greeted Sloogon’s return as his minions shouted and danced about. His thunderous bass rumbled throughout the noise as he taunted and cursed us, whipping the genetic misfits into a berserker’s frenzy.

Around me, the rest of our group watched in silence, preparing – as far as they were able – for the bloodbath that was sure to follow.

The rules of the engagement were simple. Every month, a day or two after the supply ship dropped off new prisoners and a small cache of food and clothing, the two sides would meet on opposite ends of the mud-covered graveyard and do battle in a little game they called War.

Each side would send a single warrior to the field to fight. The winner of the battle was determined by whichever person emerged from the muddy graveyard victorious. The winners of the individual engagements were allowed to keep the personal belongings of their opponent if the battle resulted in death.

Most often, the two combatants would stumble and drag themselves, crippled, back to the relative safety of their respective sides after hacking each other into a bloody standoff. The life spans of these individuals were barely longer than that of the losers, access to foodstuffs being what it was on Purgatory 7.

I was not chosen to fight, being one of the prizes.

At the end of the day, whichever side had won the most individual battles got to choose five members of the survivor’s party with whom they would do what they wished. They also gained possession of the entire month’s cache of supplies. There were no prisoners taken during the game of War.

Only meals.

BB Series Interludes

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9th Interlude