Brutal Peas #0
Brutal Peas (Version 0.0)
He awoke quietly, by himself, in the sullen amber gloom of Cavern Red and refocused his mouth-lens. Light slowly filled the quaintly-puckered orifice that occupied the lower part of his head-stem, forming a blurred image at the back of his throat. He fiddled with the complex arrangement of tiny glass disks until the room around him finally came into focus.
He had been dozing. In his dreams, past lives had rotated past each other in slow-motion, overlapping as if seen through cracked-ice and then reforming to create terrifying new permutations. He shuddered and glanced carefully around the aluminium-lined walls of his private Cubicle. The light was muddy and uncertain, tinged with the colour of medicine bottles or old urine.
The bed-table creaked as he shifted his weight and slid down onto the floor, leaving the varnished antique wood behind him wet with rings of corrosive perspiration. The Cubicle's light-alloy lining had been hammered with marking-pins to achieve a subtle crinkling-effect that was both tasteful and relaxing in the smoky, bronze-coloured light.
In one corner, a decorative sand-box buzzed quietly to itself. If you listened long enough, its gentle reflective hum seemed to swell into a vast atonal insect-choir. It shrieked when he crushed it.
Outside, in The Lobby, he passed other versions of himself as they shuffled past the huge wrinkled colonnades of limestone. Lately, his species had began to change: Younger members of his Clan sported huge fibrous abdomens patterned with bifurcating networks of xylem. To him, they appeared vulgar and almost alien as they filtered listlessly in and out of the Lobby's complex twin-stream traffic-system. They ignored him, preferring instead to spew steaming jets of waxy yellow resin at each other. It was some novel form of greeting, he supposed.
Above, high in the shadow-smeared depths of the cavern's roof, something small and vaguely furry caught his attention for a moment as it flapped and squeaked amongst the obscene-looking stalactites.
He made his way down to the next level in a communal travel-cage, a monstrous iron cube that was cleverly propelled by differences in water-pressure. Century-old hydraulics clanked and groaned and hissed as the cold metal box slid down its track. Outside, the dark, wine-coloured cliff-face rattled past like a roll of badly-painted trick-scenery and the air grew chill despite the wisps of steam that swirled and circled beyond the thick glass porthole.
The elevator car levelled out, rotated on one axis and ground its way along the side of a cathedral-sized sub-chamber. He passed the time by reading an illustrated-song that some older version of himself had welded onto one wall of the car. This series of scorched three-dimensional hieroglyphics told an epic story of needless heroics and dismal triumph in
"Into Twilight Rock came mammal-poet, First Amongst His Bunch," read the carbon-smudged visual-lyrics. "He saw, not with mouth, but with..." The next pictogram was indecipherable: Something to do with face-organs that let in the light. The meaning escaped him, so he moved on. "Fur covered his head-top. He was mammal and a poet..." The elevator-car juddered to a halt and its heavy iron doors swung open. He had read the song many times; he already knew how it ended.
On this level, The Cavern housed a huge natural amphitheatre, an enormous sloping hemisphere known as KoooK-Kah-kkaN¬¬ that disappeared into the endless arc of its own darkness. From a distance, it appeared as if a vast multi-levelled incline of rice-terraces had been smoothly hewn from an unknown acreage of glassy brick-red lava. Temporarily graceful, he slid down to his regular booth; one of hundreds which sat, perched on the edge of potential disaster, in identical rows on that cruel and frictionless slope.
He made himself comfortable on the crude wooden scoop-shaped palate and altered his mouth to get a better view. He was placed about one third down KoooK-Kah-kkaN and slightly to the left. If he had been able to smell, he would have been reassured by the warm, fruity and familiar odour of rot which stained his favourite vantage-point. Three booths across and one level down, a slightly older version of himself had squeezed into a similar booth. Under a dirty reddish light that resembled the glow of a cigarette-end, his counterpart took on the texture of old rope as he twitched in time to the brittle rhythms of the Stick Orchestra that capered on the stage far below them.
He had long since forgotten why this unlikely combo still played here. For months on end, these skeletal zebroids had plied their tricky percussives to a disinterested audience and now their origin was lost in some damp hidey-hole in his memory. He listened uneasily as they scraped and tapped at their ancestor-sticks and rattled old animal skulls full of tiny tuned pebbles. They cavorted like a troupe of skinless minstrels, leering and grinning, their tattooed jaw-bones stretched into a grotesque caricature of mirth by a framework of piano-wire and decorative wooden g-clamps.
He extruded a series of malleable digits, pulled open a vertical drawer built into the palate-chair and from one of the shelves inside removed an old iron pipe stamped with the hexagonal emblem of his Clan. The pipe was a simple affair, scorched and rusty from centuries of use. He squirted some pollen inside it and lit the Bunsen.
Fire aroused a distant and secret fear for him, as it did for most his race. The thought of burning raised a nightmarrrrrrre¬¬¬¬¬rre¬¬`>e--rrre¬¬¬}}