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K [nuova serie] n. 5.1
Aperiodic pubblication of narrative
copyright (c) 2015 Kipple Officina Libraria
I epub/mobipocket edition: 1.0 november 2015
This edition: 1.2 february 2017
cover: Photo by LBK
Kipple Officina Libraria
via Ignazio Canale, 5/2
16029 Torriglia (Ge)
She could see women hanging by their nails, and a flame of
fire came out of their mouths, devouring them, and beasts of every species accosted them (…).
Then the Holy-One wept and asked the angel Michael “Who are they and what are their sins?”
And the angel replied “Oh Holy-One these are the wives of priests who when the priests died married anew,
this is why they are being punished in this way.”
Anonymous, Greek Apocalypse of the Virgin, 9th Century.
Kumiko is better now, she is asleep in her harness. She is so pretty; her vital signs are at their minimum and I am here, where I live with her safe in this cube.
Only five minutes ago I was pattering along, going against the multitudinous flow of bodies in the city aboveglass. My mood was as low as the ground and I was feeling weak, chasing after that warm pleasure with an icy name, Kumiko pushing my legs forward one step after the other, my time measured out by other people's hurried steps all around me. The crowd rippled and veered, disappearing into the dark mist lurking in the shadows of the vertical architecture.
Only a few faces, serial expressions. Rats, fat birds, and enormous insects, genetically immune, darted through the spaces between legs and like jackals rushed at any solid leftovers that had been accidentally dropped. They call the transparent floor of New City glass, but it is actually made of panels of polymethylmethacrylate, a very strong, patented rigid polymer called altulglas.
Broadcast voices thunder out dark orders, the signals overlay each other melting the meanings together. A little higher up, where my gaze rarely reaches, crazy air vehicles race, looking as if they are playing and about to crash into each other. Still higher up the buildings come to an end and an open blue space unfolds, but I only know this because I have been told it is so.
At the moment I'm not too interested. Kumiko controls my interest, she is the one who regulates my willpower. Kumiko, small and cute in her harness, is the one who calculates and decides. When we need Ice all other priorities are erased. I have to take Ice to warm myself up, otherwise my Kumiko will die, and I with her. My reserves of Ice run out by the time my shift in the mine is over and I don't have much time. I have to get underglass and wait in my dark cube for my tutor, he delivers my ration of food and water and the phial of Ice that we have earned.
Kumiko is resting now, I can almost see her with her half open eyes and a small smirk of pleasure on her lips. Kumiko is dreaming, and I am too. We are in our cube, four bare walls. I see my body without surprise. My flesh has the same texture as sodden wood, my skin is tough and worn, I am really skinny and my breasts are non-existent, nipples stuck directly to my ribs.
But there is warmth in my heart, Ice flowing through my veins, I can feel it, I close my eyes and see the crystals so lovingly dosed by Kumiko dissolving in the plasma.
Liala the working girl has come in and is here next to me. We have become friends because despite having very different bodies, inside we are similar. When her other friends see us together they just about manage not to make derisory gestures at us. Her nails are long and polished, her heavy breasts cheer people up. When I try to hug her I can't even make my finger-tips touch behind the flesh of her waist. Sometimes I help her put on her makeup, and she playfully puts a bit of mascara on me, but my skin is brown and not suitable for cosmetics.
Liala works with lots of men. She told me they penetrate her, come, then swipe their credit chips over the reader and go. Some prefer oral sex, and she gets fetishists and sadomasochists too. When Kumiko and I are in our bubble of happiness at the end of a long work shift we tell Liala about the adventures of our day. Her stories are much more interesting. When she talks her big red lips move and she looks at me through her eyelashes, long and straight like optic fibres. She talks to me about penises, sperm, and spanking, she tells me what men are like and then she lets me squeeze her boobs to show me what those men do. My bones sink into her softness and I like it.
I, on the other hand, tell her about probing and lubrication, bores and pumps. I explain the difference between minerals and stones, and instead of getting bored Liala laughs or whispers to me that she is like a mine and knows about probing, boring, and lubrication.
Liala has changed her clothes and settled down near me like she always does in the darkness of our cube.
"Izumi, darling," she slips her hand around me and holds me in her arms. Her nails like sweet blades. I rest my head between her breasts as Kumiko half opens one eye.
"What has my little slag digger been up to today then?" She smiles. She frequently plays around with the innuendo of words shared by my and her professions. I smile back at her.
"Are you tired?" She asks me. I don't answer. She knows how much I have been longing for this moment. I look at her, I know she likes my grey eyes. We lie back on our camp bed and she takes Ice too. Like everyone down here does.
"A few slaps," she says unconcernedly. I lift my head, she has a red mark on her face. Slaps received, not given. I caress her, she pouts her large lips and starts to purr. She falls asleep and I will be asleep soon too. The last coloured vapours will be consumed, the last voices take their leave, and the vague starbursts will fade. The whole world will close down around us, like a television switching off, reality will fade out until it is just a glowing dot dissolving with the heat of our bodies.
When I tune back into the channel of real life I cannot immediately tell pleasure and pain apart. Sometimes I think I prefer white noise, really.
Kumiko is always in the harness attached to my shoulders, our nervous and circulatory systems are joined; at the moment she is worried, she is analysing our plasma and predicts we will have to hunt for Ice within a few hours. I am awake, the exit is thrown open with a loud fanfare and all our comrades hurry to go back to the city, aboveglass.
Liala has gone, already at work in some club. Echoes of voices bounce from the walls in the dark. The endorphins are not enough, and if I look at Kumiko she isn't cute any more, she looks horrible, a jumble of rust. A jumble of rust on a trunk of sick wood. I stand up on my bony legs, a glare of light shines on my worn face. Kumiko is agitated, she has sensed the presence of another person. It is our tutor.
I hunker down in a corner, it's easy for my fleshless bones to fold up and fit in a few square feet. A gloomy voice is calling me, calling out the name of a woman that is me. The footsteps hesitate, a light shines around the room, a momentary flash carves into my retinas. The tutor appears not to see us, he turns and goes away. Then Kumiko pushes on my willpower. Our symbiotic rapport strengthens. I get up on my bony legs and move towards the shadowy figure. He turns, dazzling me with his torch, then recognising me lowers it and hands me the phial.
Kumiko is very excited. New Ice on its way to us. New substances and more endorphins. Our symbiosis shudders. I clutch the double syringe in my fingers, it delivers both a flesh and vein injection contemporaneously. I load the syringe with Ice, warm up the pressure phial then open the valve and the liquefied Ice flows into the barrel of the syringe: it looks reassuring, phosphorescent, an undefinable mauve, maybe it's only what they use to cut it. I take off the safety catch, aim the two needles at an appropriate area where I can still find a vein, then I watch the intravenous needle struggle to pierce my tough skin, the second needle, behind the first, encounters the same trouble. I push on the automatic plunger and the substance enters my body.
Now the Ice is inside us. It’s the only thing from the outside world we let penetrate us. Kumiko is better again, she looks prettier than before, lying in her harness.
The road to the work area goes underglass and reaches the roadblock, then it goes aboveglass into the chaos of the city. The mine, now surrounded by the metropolis, is not far, just a few sets of traffic lights and underpasses away. When I get there I put on my overalls, helmet, ear and eye protectors, and I wriggle into the cracks only I can squeeze into. I have to reach the drill heads and check they are in good condition, I have to lubricate some of the underground machinery, sometimes I have to move the material and load it on to conveyor belts, but I’m not really strong enough to be any good at this.
Today Kumiko is more euphoric than usual, I try to look at her, to understand if our bubble is intact, but my shoulder hurts. I slip into a tunnel alongside the drill, there is a torch on my helmet to light my way. Apart from the whiff of sulphur it is like being in my cube. Liala's warmth is missing though. I push on my bony legs and move ahead.
Suddenly I feel a sharp pain, there is a strangled yell and the smell of blood; my helmet falls off. I am trying to understand, I huddle up, the drill moved. A slightly dense liquid is running down my shoulder. Kumiko is hurt! I shoot back the way I came, I no longer have my helmet with its light, but my instinct leads me up.
When I get out of the tunnel I throw the pile of bones that is my body on the clay ground. Someone grabs me and places me on a white sheet, I can already see the dark marks made by my blood. Kumiko communicates pain and desperation. Then nothing.
I open my eyes. I am alive. In the dark. I recognise my cube by the smell. A strange sensation I have never felt before. I search for Liala but can't find her. Then I realise I can no longer feel Kumiko. I reach out to her with the palm of my hand, I have never done this before, I have never needed to before, we have always communicated internally. She is still in the harness but she has a large open wound, her heart is still beating, but slowly, she is unconscious. There are no signs of her having been medicated.
I try to get up but I don't have enough strength. I feel panic, then anger, I want to react.
"Liala, help! I am angry! I am...yes, I want to be free...help me, please!" But she can't hear me. That desire for freedom someone had told us about while we slept Cheshire catlike in our bubble of pleasure, well now I can feel it! They had talked to us about an Afterlife, of an appearance behind things, of a metaphysical world. All the things we comrades associated with the bubble Ice gave us but that wasn't it. A different thing. Less pleasurable maybe, but stronger, as strong as the willpower Kumiko gave me. A strength of will that could make me get up and run hard, but I couldn't now.
A light: my tutor. He comes in, the tapping of vinyl soles, a shaft of light on my face.
"Tutor, tutor! Help me!"
It is impossible to see his face with the light pointing at me. He puts down the torch and bends down. His hands run through some wrappings and pull out a phial.
"Ice?" I ask. It's the first time I do this, it's the first time I don’t feel the need, at least for the moment. My tutor doesn't answer. He holds it out to me, takes the torch, turns and leaves.
I look at the colour of the phial: it isn't phosphorescent, in the darkness it looks dark grey. It is not Ice, it is Euthanasin, what they give to the comrades who have to die. Die, be switched off, stop labouring, to reach a definitive happy bubble. A substance everyone ends up taking with pleasure, as if it were Ice. At the moment of being given the phial their symbiotic partners wipe out the desire to live necessary for working. But my Kumiko is unconscious, and I don't want to die.
I wait in silence. I don't know what will happen to me. I look at the Euthanasin, its solid grey reminds me of dust, what I will become if I take the contents of the phial. I rub my arms, my hands going up and down, fingers circling the humerus, I am shivering.
"Liala! Liala!" I can just see her sequins sparkling in what little light is left. When I call her she rushes towards me.
"What's happened to you?" She puts her arms around me, then she jumps, "You're hurt!"
The blood seems to be almost congealed, but there is still a huge gash between my shoulder and Kumiko. Pus is seeping out of it. Liala tries to clean the wound. Her strong hands move without hesitation over the viscous liquids. I tell her what I know as she touches Kumiko to make sure she is still alive. Then I tell her about the Euthanasin, and she stops. I can't see the expression on her face but I can imagine it.
"Izumi? Do we have to say goodbye?"
I grab her hand with all ten of my fingers. "There is a problem," I tell her, scared, "I… I don't want to die!"
Liala caresses me. She seems to be surprised and says nothing. I can feel her respect for me.
"I feel I want to be free, Liala. Really..."
Liala doesn't answer and we stay as we are, holding each other in silence for a few hours. I let my bones sink into the softness of her muscles, we both get pleasure from this position.
The exit opens again, maybe it is night time in the city because there doesn't seem to be much light coming in. It's our tutor. I pull away from Liala with a jump and my heart starts beating wildly like a mad metronome. The man comes over to me with heavy steps, no hurry, he is wearing a raincoat. I open my eyes wide trying to make out his face, but under his grey hat I can only see a shadowy blur. He reaches me and bends down. He finds the phial, still untouched.
I realise I am shaking. The man grabs the phial and straightens up. For a moment I think Kumiko has woken up again because I feel an irrepressible desire to act. It is not coming from her though.
"Tutor, tutor, I ...I don't want to die."
The man bends down again and a gleam of light shows me his ordinary face, his long elegant nose and prominent chin. I feel an impulse of attraction I have never felt before but for the moment I hardly notice.
He is smiling at me, then he lets out a fatherly laugh.
"I don't know, but I don't want to vanish, I want to carry on working!"
The tutor gets up before I have finished speaking, he doesn't seem to be listening to me. He snorts. Then he takes out a weapon.
I quickly huddle down in a corner, begging, "Don't kill me tutor, I don't want to die!" He loads the phial into the weapon. "Please, let me live! I'm begging you!" He points the dark device at me.
I try to get away but the cube is so small and dark I cannot go far. Then I hear the shot. He has hit me. He leaves me lying on the floor as cold as my flesh.
I hear footsteps going away from me, then the sound of the exit closing.
Liala is holding my body against hers and squeezing. All the heat I am losing is coming back to me from her. I feel weak.
"Wake up my little baby. It's time to wake up!" Her voice sounds like an accordion the buskers aboveglass use. I would be content to die like this, my will to live is wavering.
"He hit Kumiko, she is dying..."
This means my symbiotic partner will be dead soon, dragging me with her after another couple of hours. Breathing is becoming an effort. I am terminal.
"You know Liala, I know it's impossible," my heartbeat has slowed down, "but I want to stay alive, even without Kumiko. With you."
Another long silence. I can feel Liala stroking my bones as if they were sticks of porcelain, then she says to me, "My darling, I've had an idea."
I let her talk, more for the sweet sound of her voice than for what she is about to suggest.
"I have a client who is a surgeon...he could cut you away from Kumiko for good. You are still in time, only she will die...!"
Even though I have no strength left I manage to sit up a bit. I am evaluating how much will to live I can still muster. I find some drive inside me.
"If I have enough strength to get there it means I am doing the right thing!"
Liala helps me get up. I stagger but just manage to walk.
"It must be nearly dawn. When it is, the exit will open but you won't go to the workface. Instead you will look for Doctor Borg."
As she explains to me how to get there and insists I do my best to remember the way, she massages what flesh I have left between my skin and bones. I try to touch Kumiko, and find the pus has dried. After another hour her heart stops beating.
Goodbye Kumiko, now you are in the eternal bubble.
When the exit clicks open and the fanfare starts sounding, my heart begins to beat again, almost as if I have been reborn. This is my chance. Liala reminds me of this and gives me all the courage she possesses.
"Have courage my love, you could earn your freedom! Freedom! Then you can explain to me how it feels," and then she prepares her double injector for her daily dose.
I say goodbye and leave before my tutor comes back to collect my body. I get past the barrier and I am up amongst the pattering shoes of the crowd again. This time I go in a new direction. The pigeons are watching me suspiciously, as if I am potential carrion - basically I have a small corpse on my shoulders - then they seem to think my flesh worth too little and fly away to look for some other putrid thing. I carry on carefully following Liala's directions. An automatic door allows me into an elegant carpeted atrium; on the right I can see the door for Doctor Borg. I follow the instructions. I ring. A video entryphone comes on.
"I don't have an appointment, but it is an emergency, I'm a friend of Liala."
The door opens.
I can see a woman with a number of telephones. "Come in, I'll just notify the doctor." She has me sit on an armchair as soft as Liala's boobs, then Doctor Borg comes in and starts pulling his hair as soon as he sees me.
"My symbiotic partner is dying. I want to live." Simple but effective words. The surgeon calls a nurse, they lay me on a trolley bed and wheel me into a room full of surgical equipment. The pillow is stained with a coagulating liquid with white and scarlet lumps. I guess from Liala's description that this must be the operating theatre. I hear a woman doctor say that they'll only need a very small amount. That was the anaesthetist.
A needle in my vein and then nothing.
I open my eyes and the room swirls around me. I am in the grip of a strange euphoria. Then I realise Kumiko is no longer there: in her place there is a large bandage. In front of me the nurse’s inquisitive stare is worrying me. I have a drip stuck in my arm.
"How do you feel?"
I can feel, and that's it.
I make an effort but I still don't understand the meaning of freedom. I will wait until I get my strength back.
Towards the evening I can walk on my own skinny legs again. Doctor Borg hands me something, a kind of bill. I hand him the note Liala gave me. It has her credit chip number on it. I say goodbye and leave.
I am at large in the metropolis again. It no longer seems so hostile. The sounds make a nice untidy little concert, the voices from the gigantic speakers spout fatherly advice. I look upwards. I want to see the sky but above my head walls and windows rise into a grey mist. Light drops of water dampen my face. It hardly ever rains here in the city: people pull up their hoods and the birds fly low.
I wander the transparent footpaths looking for freedom, but anxiety is starting to rush through me, ripping at my stomach. People's face are hostile again, the diffused light dims, streams of water wet my feet. I feel the need to hurry. I am starting to sweat even though I am cold. I feel like I am in a bubble: not warm like the Ice bubble, but enclosed by terrible walls erasing me from the world. Palpitations. Menstrual pain. Weakness. My eyes begin to roll.
Now, like when Kumiko was here, an alien will takes me over and pushes my legs to take one step after another, driving my tiny insubstantial body towards my cube. Hunting for Ice.
I move frenetically, staggering, I am underglass again, darkness is all - again. I reach the portal and look for my tutor with sunken eyes. He seems to be waiting for me. He is wearing his usual raincoat and hat.
"You ran away Izumi," he says nonchalantly, without looking at me, fiddling with something.
"I need ...Ice." It seems like he hasn’t heard me. He takes out the weapon.
"Don't kill me, please! Kumiko is dead, I want to live...and work."
No reaction. The weapon is loaded with Euthanasin.
"Why don't you get it?!" I shout.
Finally the man stops. He looks annoyed. He is handsome, I am attracted by his face. I shiver.
"Why do you insist on causing me trouble?" He asks me simply. "I can't let you live. You know that." He takes aim, but I turn and try to run.
"Don't make trouble for me, please. It will be over quickly."
"Let me go, no one will ever know." I look around me to show him no one is watching us.
"Do you really think I should lose my job for an insignificant heap of bones like you?" He laughs, still pointing the weapon at me.
"I am a living being and even if I disgust you I am a woman," this word makes the man laugh loudly. He stops suddenly, almost having second thoughts. I move closer to him.
"Let me go," I smile at him and he takes a step or two back, but I follow. With a jump he points the weapon at my temple.
"Enough! Keep away from me!"
I grab the barrel of the weapon and rub it like Liala taught me. Men have a flesh one between their legs. Then I put the barrel in my mouth and look at my tutor with imploring eyes. "Shoot!"
My tutor looks at my lost grey eyes.
"Get out of this city!" He orders in the end.
I don't remember when, but someone once told me about the moon: the most incredible thing I had ever heard! I never found out if the tall buildings really did have a top at some point, but I discovered the city did have limits and that beyond them the sky is blue and when the sun goes down it leaves room for a darkness sprinkled with diamonds and a painted beacon I had thought only existed in fairy tales and poetry.
Original title: Ghiaccio mauve
Written in September 1999
I feel that now is the moment to confess by telling my story in relation to the incidents of 20th July 2001 in Genoa during what was supposed to be the G8, a summit of the most industrialised countries.
Perhaps it is because tomorrow I will be elected senator, an objective that personally makes me happier than the capture of Bin Laden last year. Public opinion did not get its body to vent on like it did with Mussolini, and this is not how my city's recent history ended.
I am borrowing the diary pages dedicated of this social network, not to describe the images the whole world saw on an obsessive loop, but to disclose what I did before and after in the years that followed