Monday 29 July 2019

Dark Fiction - Golden Glow

Dark Fiction - Golden Glow

By Casey Douglass

Golden Glow

Zep watched the sunlight bloom over the megalopolis that passed as London these days.

‘Eighty-seven floors up and I can still only see about a mile!’ he muttered, trying to ignore the loops his heart was tracing in his chest. He squinted into the murky golden smog that sparkled between the scrapers. He looked down over the edge of his balcony, letting his gaze slide down the smooth walls to the thicker fog below. He wondered what it would feel like to jump, to feel his stomach lurch as he plummeted into the dirty yellow marshmallow cloud below. He almost felt ready to try.

The doorbell farted behind him, the batteries on their last legs.

‘Shit! Who’s this now?’ Zep hissed. He twisted away from the balcony rail in a most unusual movement. His upper body was facing back into the flat a good second or more before his groin and legs followed suit. His spine augment buzzed like an angry insect against his lower vertebrae. He blew out a gust of charged particles from his mouth, golden fireflies dancing in the air.

‘Fucking thing!’

He knew he shouldn't put pressure on it like that, but in a few days, he’d cease caring. The doorbell sounded again as he plodded through his small apartment. He stared through the peep-hole in the door and gaped. He unlocked the door and threw his arms around the man waiting outside, yelling ‘Mo!’

‘Hiya Zep! Long time and all that!’

‘I thought you were down for some prison time?’

‘I was and I did! They let me out early when I cut a deal for some experimental therapy shit. Anyway, you going to let me in or not?’

‘Sorry, come in!’

Zep watched Mo swagger into the room, his trademark holographic tats sliding over his bald head, changing from a Roman helmet to Medusa snakes and onto other more abstract, sometimes pornographic designs.

‘They let you keep the tats then?’

‘Yeah, but I had to turn them off inside. Even now I have to keep to a list of pre-approved images.’

‘The one that just passed, with the woman grinding her crotch along your nose... was approved?’

‘I didn’t say I’d stick to it! You know me, always the agent provoker!’


‘Same diff. So what have you been up to? Looks like you still haven't been out of here for awhile?’

Zep threw himself onto the sofa and waved for Mo to sit too. ‘No, I still can’t get out.’

‘The phobia stuff?’

‘Yes, and other crap.’

‘That's partly why I’m here. That therapy thing I had, I thought of you, that it might be worth a shot for you!’

‘Oh? What is it?’


‘Fuck Mo! The brainwashing thing? Why’d you let them do that to you!’

‘It’s not brainwashing, that’s just the snowflake media’s slant mate!’

‘It’s left people vegetables!’

‘Tell me a treatment that hasn’t. Real life leaves some people like vegetables too, if you stop to think about it!’

‘They curdle your brain!’

‘They change the attribution of stuff. Don’t be hysterical! Don’t tell me you wouldn’t wanna try something if you thought it’d cure your mental stuff!’

Zep studied Mo, wondering if he could see any sign of things being “not-Mo”.

‘So what did they tackle with you Mo?’

‘They chose to Re-Attribute the thrill I get from thieving... to eating veg!’

‘You what?’

‘I fucking hated veg mate. Loathed it. Now I gorge on carrots and peas like a fatty on doughnuts. If I even think about lifting a new implant from the shops, I feel like I’m going to throw up!’

‘Sounds like Clockwork Orange to me... You know, the film where the guy is treated to overcome his violent tendencies? With his eyes propped open staring at shit on a cinema screen?’

‘Oh yeah, good film! No, it was nothing like that, and it isn’t. Get that out of your brain mate!’

‘Is that all they changed?’


‘You sure?’

‘As sure as I can be!’

Zep watched Mo fidget. ‘You don’t look that sure to me!’

‘Oh I’m pretty sure about them not poking around where they shouldn't have, it’s just... there is the risk of a hole.’

A hole?’

‘Yeah. You know how Re-Attribution works right?’

‘Kind of.’

‘It’s like those old-fashioned pigeon holes that offices used to have. The holes are our emotions. The labels are our triggering events. They swap them around, but sometimes it’s like a clumsy idiot has done it, and has knocked some of the labels off and let them fall to the floor.’


‘Yeah. One day you are doing something you've always done, and you feel a vastly different emotion than usual. If it’s something mundane like putting out the rubbish though, who cares... but there’s always the chance that you'll feel different about your wife, family, job or whatever. It can change you.’

‘Sounds horrible.’

‘I guess. I don't know what my hole is yet, if I even have one, so it’s kind of like waiting for a party balloon to go bang. It might, or it might not.’

‘I hope it’s nothing important, if you do have one.’

‘Well I don't really have anyone in my life, and I had a wank straight after they did the procedure, and it was all good!’ Mo roared with laughter.

Zep smiled and looked at the sunlight as it tried to pierce his window. It bathed the room in what he often thought of as a starship glow, a radiance that you might see on a starship diving into the Sun. He felt his stomach drop, his smile followed.

‘You thinking it wouldn't work for you?’ Mo asked.

‘I wasn't thinking to be honest, just feeling. As far as me giving it a go, I wouldn't be able to afford it.’

‘You could always commit a crime! Get it for free then! Bit like the old duffers who don't have any money left and no pension. Find a crime you can do that you can live with, get caught, and get free room and board for a few months, plus a tens of thousands credits procedure, done for nothing!’

‘I can barely stand on my own balcony! What crime could I commit here, with no witnesses!’

‘Network fraud? Hacking something? All you need is to do enough to be a pest, then make a mistake and let them catch you. You were always good with the ol’ gadget stuff. Remember when you hacked the entry pad for the women’s locker room at college? We went in and had a good rummage didn’t we!’

‘I remember.’

Mo nodded, his grin widening. ‘Actually, I have exactly the kind of place in mind where you could start!’


‘One of the places I turned over, had a back-room off-the-books type business going on, encryption keys or something.’


‘If I got inside again, I could patch you in, to do your own rummaging.’

‘I’d want the police to catch me, not some mobster who wants to knee-cap me!’

‘But that’s just it! It’s a spook setup!’

‘Jesus! It’ll be more than a bit secure then!’

‘Not with me inside!’

Zep looked at Mo’s zeal. The metaphorical penny didn't just drop, it plummeted to the ground, cleaving a metaphorical businessman who was metaphorically strolling beneath it in two. Zep eyed Mo. ‘How do you feel?’

‘Great mate!’

‘Hmm. Well it was nice to see you, but you can fuck off now. Best do it before I punch you!’

Mo’s face fell. ‘Woah! What’s going on?’

‘This isn't about helping me is it! It’s just you need me to help you with a job you have your eyes on. I’m guessing by the fact you aren't puking everywhere while you’re planning this shit with me, that you never had Re-Attribution either!’

‘I did!’

Zep watched another gratuitous tat spasm across Mo’s head.

‘And there’s no way in hell they would let you keep those porno tats!’

‘I told you that...’

‘Cons get sub-dermal shit like that fried and blocked from reactivation! I remember now, I’ve seen enough shitty daytime TV to know what happens.’

Mo stood, his face turning red. ‘You’re making a mistake!’

‘Well it wouldn't be my first!’

‘Alright I’m going! Shit man, just relax!’ In one quick movement, Mo bent, snatched up Zep’s idling laptop and raced for the door.

Zep flew at Mo but his fingers only grazed the back of Mo’s shirt as he wiggled out of the door. It slammed shut inches from his nose. An angry buzz came from Zep’s spine as his back locked and he fell onto his stomach. 

He coughed, golden particles floated up, his spine augment vibrating and jolting like a hornet. He managed to roll onto his back and laid panting, staring at the ceiling.

For the second time that day, Zep didn't think, he just felt. And it was awful.