When Hanna comes to she’s on her back and moving. Dazed and confused. Ceiling tiles flow like a river above her, opulent, pure gold, deco engraved. Chandeliers every ten feet and thick crown molding made of precious metals.
She struggles, kicks her feet, but her hands are zip-tied, gripped by the behemoth who pulls her down the long hallway into the penthouse. His robe flaps behind him.
They pass an open door and Hanna looks into the room to see several bodies hanging upside, blood draining from them into buckets.
She panics, screams, “Let me go!”, but is ignored.
The behemoth opens a door and pulls her through it. He sits her on a tall-backed, plexiglas chair which he slides under a rich, dark, oak table.
Vera sits across from her, unconscious, head slumped forward. Blood pools around her right arm and Hanna sees a screwdriver driven through the palm of her hand, all five fingers splayed out.
The behemoth wheezes, electro-crunchy, and stalks out of the room.
Hanna whispers, “Vera! Vera!” and the older woman’s eyes twitch, but she doesn’t wake.
Hanna scans the room for something – any way to escape. There’s nothing but a large wooden crate, leather covered, riveted in gold, in the corner of the room. Her eyes linger on it, but then Vera wakes up and sees the screwdriver in her hand they’re both screaming.
The behemoth stalks back into the room and Vera freaks out.
“I need to go to the hospital, man!” she says. Please, this really hurts!”
The wooden crate rattles in the corner and the girls stop screaming.
It stops shaking and Vera whispers, “What the fuck is that?”
“What is that, man?” Vera says to the behemoth. “What are you doing? What do you want?”
The man says, “Who sent you?”
Vera shakes her head and says, “Nobody. Nobody sent us, I swear.”
Hanna says, “It was just a game! It was just a stupid game.”
They jump when he slams the revolver down onto the table.
“Look man, we’re sorry, okay? We didn’t know it was loaded, okay?”
He lets the remaining three bullets dribble out of his fingers and onto the table and wheezes, “So, you want to play a game.”
Vera says, “No.”
Hanna shakes her head.
The man slides a single bullet into the chamber, slams it shut, spins it and it glows blue.
He says, “Let’s play,” and slides the gun across the table where it stops in front of Hanna.
Gripping Vera’s wrist, he says, “Five chances, five fingers,” and pulls a large carving knife from the pocket of his robe.
Vera screams, “Shoot him!”
Hanna raises the gun and pulls the trigger.
The man says, “That’s one,” and brings the knife down, chopping off one of
Vera’s fingers. It separates from her hand, squirting dark blood across the rich oak.
Hanna screams, “I’m sorry!” and points the gun at the man again.
Vera waves her free hand and yells, “No!”, because she doesn’t want him to cut her again.
The man just laughs and picks up the finger off the table, careful not to let any of the blood drip onto him. Moving to the leather covered crate, he slides a little door open on the top of it and drops the finger inside. The crate shakes and rattles and growls fill the room. He turns back and says, “Four chances, four fingers,” calmly. Then looking at Hanna he says, “You can both survive, or you will die, and she will live.”
Hanna hangs her head, whimpers, “I won’t do it.”
The man shrugs. “Then I slit your throats,” he says, shuffling on Geta sandals across the floor and opening a cupboard when he finds an egg timer and brings it to the table. He cranks it and says, “You have thirty seconds.”
The timer ticks as it counts down.
Hanna looks at Vera, color draining from her face from losing blood.
The crate rattles in the corner.
She looks back at the time and Vera says, “Just do it.”
Shaking, Hanna brings the revolver up to her temple. She lets it fall to the table, the metal banging against the oak.
Vera screams, “Coward! Just do it and get us out of here!”
Tears form in Hanna’s eyes as she raises the gun and presses the muzzle to her temple. She closes them and breathes in-an-out quickly.
The egg time is almost out of ticks.
Vera screams, “Do it!”
Hanna pulls the trigger.
The knife comes down, severing another of Vera’s fingers. She screams and spits at the behemoth, but the man only laughs and drops the finger into the wooden crate. Then he winds the egg timer back and slams it onto the table.
“Three chances,” he says coldly.
Vera is losing it, passing out.
Hanna wishes she could hold her, shake her away, but she says, “Stay awake Vera. We can do this.” Without hesitating, she puts the gun to her temple, closes her eyes, screams and pulls the trigger.
Hanna laughs and screams, “Fuck you! You see that, you disgusting, sick fuck? How do you like that?”
The man steadies himself before lobbing off another finger and tossing it into the crate which rocks wildly back and forth again, gurgling and moaning erupting from within it.
Saliva drains from Vera’s mouth and she gurgles quietly, semi-conscious.
Hanna narrows her eyes, sets her mouth in a determined line and says, “I’m gonna kill you,” nearly to herself. Then, to the man, she says, “You hear me? I’m going to rip your head off!” Then to Vera she says, “Vera! Stay with me. We can win! We can win and get out of here; out of the city for good! Just stay awake and we can win!”
Vera chuckles through thick blood. “Stupid girl. We were never going to leave the city.”
“I was going to swipe your share and sell you to Dimitry’s boys tonight. You were just easy money. And an easy lay.”
The behemoth winds the timer and slams it down.
Hanna cries, unmoving, as the timer ticks away, the only sound filling the first true silence since the nightmare began. “But why? Why are you telling me this?” she asks through thick sobs.
Vera shrugs, eyes fluttering. “I like you. You deserve to know the truth.”
Hanna hangs her head and mutters softly. “Kill you…” she whispers. “Kill you.”
The man pulls Hanna’s face up and comes in close. “Don’t you get it,” he says “You can’t kill me.”
For the first time, Hanna notices the half of his face that was blown away has stopped bleeding, nearly healed.
He grabs her hand and presses the gun to her head, saying, “There you go. Almost done.”
Hanna mutters, “Kill you…”
The man screams, “Do it!”
Hanna springs to life, screams, “I’ll kill you!”, points the gun at Vera, pulls the trigger and sends a bullet through her skull.
Hanna rushes the behemoth, dropping the gun on the table and grabbing for his throat.
The man overpowers her easily and slams her onto the table where they grapple and exchange blows.
Hanna rolls and falls onto the floor. The knife clatters beside her and she grabs it, jumps up and slashes the man across the arm.
Unfazed, the man grabs her by the collar of her coat and pulls her to her feet.
Hanna plunges the knife into the man’s protruding belly, then rips it out, sending blood raining to the floor, but the man is alive and he’s laughing and Hanna panics so she sinks the knife through his golden silk robe and into his heart and his laughing stops and he slumps over against the crate in the corner of the room, panting as though trying to catch his breath.
He looks at her with wild, unbelieving eyes and the little speaker in his throat makes a sound like a radio tuned to a dead channel.
Hanna hesitates, thinking of running, but instead she kneels down and reaches into the man’s pockets and finds a bullet and stuffs it into the revolver and points it at his head.
His speaker says, “Save it for yourself,” all electro-crunchy and he unlatches the crate, releasing its front panel which falls to the floor with a whump.
Then he dies and some kind of mangled, mutant thing, a genetic monstrosity, scampers out of the crate on four long, humanoid limbs and screeches.
Hanna raises the revolver and pulls the trigger.
Hanna screams, “Shit!” and turns and runs, first out of the kitchen, then down the hallway lined with chandeliers, past the room with the hanging bodies dripping blood, until she reaches the penthouse door lined with sheet metal.
Pulling the latch, she finds it locked and turns, pressing her back to it and raising the revolver and pointing at the mutant thing that’s scurrying towards her. She pulls the trigger twice fast.
The thing is closer now.
She puts the muzzle under her own chin and pulls the trigger.
The mutant thing bares its teeth, two canines hanging down longer than the others, saliva dripping from all of them. It lunges, jumping at Hanna who pulls the trigger one last time.
A bullet rips through the mutant thing’s chest and it gasps and falls to the floor and flails and contotors so hard that Hanna hears bones crack. Then the thing stops moving, a final gasp of air blowing from its mouth as its lungs empty and its heart stops beating.
Her own heart pounding, Hanna slides down the door and sits against it, staring at the creature, overwhelmed, like she’s waking from a nightmare but it won’t end.
Rising slowly, she steps carefully over the mutant thing, and walks back down the hallway, past the kill room and into the kitchen.
The behemoth’s body is still on the floor, blood draining quickly, Vera’s is slumped, lifeless, over the rich, oak table.
Hanna sucks in a stuttering breath and wanders on rubber legs through the massive penthouse looking for a key to the door, a bazooka, anything to get her out of there. The place is a maze of opulent hallways, each a different colour, adorned in fine art and glossy wallpaper.
She finds a set of keys on a small, marble-topped table near the behemoth’s gargantuan bedroom. Next to them sits what looks like the man’s employee ident card.
“Hideki Tanaka,” Hanna whispers, reading the name under a small hologram of his massive head. “Engineer.” She flips the card over to see it’s from the Miyamoto Corporation.
Vera’s shoulder bag lies next to the table and she puts it on, feeling the weight of the Soviet General’s briefcase they’d found in the bunker inside.
A lifetime ago.
She stuffs the revolver and the ident card into the bag along with the case and then zips it up.
Winding back through the penthouse, Hanna avoids the kitchen and aims directly for the exit.
She kicks something and looks down. Her peaked, Soviet service cap sits on the floor, flipped on end like a trapped turtle.
She reaches down and picks the hat up and puts it on her head and tips it back and to the side they way she likes it. Then she drifts to the metal door, shoves the key in the lock and turns it clockwise and walks to the elevator, never once looking back, and takes it down to the lobby, where she ignores the rantings of an urchin, and steps outside into the hot Slime City air and finds the buggy and smiles as the engine roars to life and the nightmare of New Order Tower Mega-Estate disappears into her rearview. And she hopes, as she turns on pirate radio and hears Sektor Sliz singing Blitzkrieg Bop and feels its energy infect her, that Dimitry will still be waiting to meet them at the arcade and that he won’t be surprised to hear that Vera Ivanov is dead and that she’ll be taking the bitch’s cut.
The following short story was taken from the forthcoming cyberpunk anthology “Future/Punks”.
For information on the series, or to submit a story for consideration, contact us using the contact for on this site.
Christopher Webster is the author of many books including The Enrollment Series published by StoryFix Media.
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