The Lorelei Signal
Caryatid and Dog
Written by Douglas J. Ogurek / Artwork by Marge Simon
“On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I in you.” – John 14:20
The pool is complete, and I remain motionless. For the first time, the sculptor of lizards has lied to me.
The pool reflects the purple and green orbs that move through the Grape Stem building on the other side of the wall. How blatantly those orbs contrast with the misery beneath me.
Even if they could see over the wall that bars them from the HAV Region, these derelicts, bound by their addictions and their histories, would not care about the Grape Stem building, or the reflecting pool.
Distractedly the lizard sculptor, clutching his dovence slab and terrarium, wanders into the dilapidated square. The dog he calls Girly, her muscles rippling, lumbers after him.
The derelicts stir. Their eyes glisten with disappointment and the gray of their skin reveals their addictions to the padlock drug.
Girly sits by my sandals. She smells, listens, and watches these defeated men as if they had some significance.
Though they urinate on the folds of my robe, and they vomit on my sandals, I remain. Though they hurl at me the emptied vials of the fluids that control them, I remain.
The sculptor sets his slab and terrarium on a concrete platform on which technologies once glimmered, and musicians once roared. Girly goes to him, then rolls onto her back. He rubs her belly and her muscles swell as she stretches and grunts.
Havguards, their lashes dangling severely from their hips, hover above the wall, beyond which a breeze quivers the creeping purple and green reflections in the pool.
When construction of the pool began three months ago, the sculptor touched my feet. His lips did not move, but I heard him. “When the pool is complete, you will obtain mobility. You will have one minute to leave this place.”
Girly trots around the square. Some of the derelicts pet her, some growl. Some ignore her and talk to themselves. Some scream at her, or throw things at her.
The sculptor looks up at me, squints, and then nods.
Why does he keep returning? Why go through all the effort to give these derelicts such a transient experience?
The derelict with the reptilian tattoo on his neck inhales from his padlock-shaped instrument. He is the grayest of them.
Two havguards descend from the wall, then land in the plaza. They’ve come to see his lizards.
Beyond the wall glow the glass tubes of the Grape Stem building. Lavishly the green and purple orbs waft within it. What is that building’s function? Impress, and make money, probably.
If I had motion, I would leave. I would scale that wall. Instead, I remain. For two hundred years, I have remained, bearing this roof and watching the area below me transform from a nucleus of knowledge and technology to a hub in which musicians reached the apex of power and beauty, and then devolve into this den of iniquity.
The lizard sculptor sets up the small canopy around his display and the derelicts start to gather.
The one with the reptilian tattoo shuffles up to Girly. Her tail resembles the hair of the musicians who once galvanized the square. They played powerfully, slowly, and they played majestically, and mournfully. Guitars, tuned low, churned and entranced. Vocalists roared with the power of creatures that could not fit beneath this roof.
Now there is no music. The derelict offers Girly something in a bag. She sniffs it. He cuffs her and she yelps. He smiles. Briefly.
Long before these useless men were born, I had a use. Now I do not. He lied to me.
One of the havguards swipes at a fly, then looks up at me. “She’s too beautiful to be wasted here with these nothings.”
The other agrees. “They should refurbish her, move her to the HAV Region.” There, the green and purple orbs gleam. Here heap the odors of urine and sweat and surrender.
Ten derelicts shuffle and twitch and sway around the sculptor’s makeshift tent. The one with the tattoo remains alone. He picks at his gray hands.
Girly has returned to my feet. Her coat shines potently. When the sculptor first granted me sentience two centuries ago, my own dovence shone like her fur, and I stood at the center of the Digiagora.
The havguard swipes again. He takes off his lash. “End fly.” The weapon lunges out of his hand, pulls back, and then snaps forward. It falls on the concrete. The havguard no longer swipes.
One of the derelicts slurs, “He almost ready.”
The havguards join the group. The one has forgotten to retrieve his lash.
The grayest derelict ignores the activity. He screams and lunges at Girly. She patters away, but continues to show interest in him. I wish I could tell her what I’ve learned after two hundred years of observation: that these humans, despite all their ideals, are incapable of a selfless act.
The sculptor removes the canvas. From the shards and the stains and the stagnation erupts laughter. The havguards laugh, and the derelicts laugh. They nod at one another and laugh.
Girly wags her tail and circulates among the observers. Once this square was as vigorous as her body.
This time, he has the lizards posed as bakers on the dovence slab. Since he granted me sentience, he’s had them pose as waiters and fishermen, farmers and tech scholars. Even as musicians. Every time he unveils his lizards, his audience laughs.
The grayest derelict approaches the niche where the forgotten lash sits.
The lizards wear white aprons and floppy hats. One holds a tiny rolling pin. Another holds a wafer-size tray with something that looks like bread. They give the sculptor so little resistance.
How long will I remain here and bear this roof for those who have elected to squander the gift of mobility?
The group starts to disassemble. Soon they will return to their recesses, where they will sleep and scrounge, and squabble. And scream and sleep.
The derelict with the reptilian tattoo picks up the lash. He brings the weapon to his cheek and watches the sculptor.
The sculptor talks to the havguards, while his lizards remain motionless. I have seen him pet them and feed them. But shouldn’t they want to explore the crevices, frolic in the tufts of vegetation? Climb the wall?
The derelict, concealing the lash, stumbles toward the sculptor. The creature on his tattoo flicks a forked tongue. His skin resembles stone. It is hard to feel anything for stone. He probably is not aware that the pulsing purple and green orbs exist.
When this was The Maiden’s Lair and I radiated at its core, the lizard sculptor promised me the ability to feel and smell. Then the musicians came. When they played, their technical prowess tingled my skin imperially, and I could smell the strength and belief that clutched the square.
The grayest derelict mumbles, “End lizard” then releases the lash. The weapon hovers, and the havguard who left it yells, “No.”
But the lash does not attack the sculptor’s lizards. Instead, it draws back, then slashes. At the derelict’s neck. At his reptilian tattoo. He jerks back, brings his hand to his bleeding neck.
Girly charges toward him. The lash draws back again, and she leaps. Her blocky head rises to the derelict’s neck. Just before the lash reaches the derelict’s neck, Girly bites it.
As Girly descends, the lash jerks beside her and she yelps. She crashes onto the concrete. The lash falls beside her, twitches, and then stops moving.
Girly remains on her side.
The sculptor kneels beside her. “Girly, you saved him. Good, good girl.”
She breathes quickly and blood crawls from beneath her.
The derelict responsible—his neck has stopped bleeding—backs into a dark corner.
Girly’s breathing slows and the sculptor strokes her chest. A havguard says, “How the hell?”
Girly makes deep grating sounds.
The others gather around the sculptor and his dog. I feel my arm move.
The blood expands and the grating grows louder, and deeper.
The sculptor strokes her chest. Her eyes are open and she begins to wheeze. I bend my right knee. The blood reaches the sculptor’s feet. Girly inhales deeply and then, for the last time, exhales.
The sculptor falls back on his hands. “That’s my girl. That’s my girl.”
He puts his arm over his face and weeps. I twist.
Stumblingly a derelict with brown hands approaches the sculptor, then crouches beside him. The sculptor, surrounded by blood, rubs his face and looks up at me. The pool is complete.
I bend my legs.
The green and purple orbs blaze.
The derelict puts his brown hand on the sculptor’s back.
I lift my foot from the pedestal. There is a scent. Something sweet, and a bird flits from under the roof. Perhaps for Girly, gray glowed just as vividly as purple and green.
I return my foot to the pedestal.
Originally published in Daughters of Icarus from Pink Narcissus Press
Douglas J. Ogurek is the pseudonym for a writer living somewhere on Earth. Though banned on Mars, his fiction appears in more than fifty Earth publications. Ogurek founded the controversial literary subgenre known as unsplatterpunk, which uses splatterpunk conventions (e.g., extreme violence, gore, taboo subject matter) to deliver a positive message. He guest-edited the UNSPLATTERPUNK! trilogy, published by Theaker’s
Quarterly Fiction. Ogurek reviews films at that same magazine. Recent longer works include young adult novel Branch Turner vs the Currants (World Castle Publishing) and horror/suspense novella Encounter at an Abandoned Church (Scarlet Leaf Publishing).
More at www.douglasjogurek.weebly.com. Twitter: @unsplatter