FOUR IS ME! WITH SQUEEEEEE! (AND LOLER)

by on Aug 15, 2010 in Short Fiction | 0 comments

By Nick Mamatas

She wasn’t my grandma, but grandpa junior’s eighteenth or nineteenth wife, and I couldn’t help her. “Your computer belongs to the Internet now, Grandma,” I said, as I removed my hands from the seething slit of rotting sweetmeats and quivering nerves she kept on what used to be a nice oak side table. The computer wheezed and shuddered with all the viruses she had downloaded, and then there were the eyebuds; even as I tried to explain to grandma that she’d just need to go down to the butcher and get a new computer, a few of the buds grew into fully prehensile eyestalks and started looking around. Spyware, malware (it was growing claws now), lolware, diseased pustules blooming into firm tits with suckling mouths for nipples, and now the whole mass jerked back and forth as competing scripts demanded that it jump off the desk and kill me, and stay where it was and kill itself. Really squalid and moving, this computer was, because grandma had opened every letter she ever got from her spammy correspondent, the lifelike Percocet G. Viagra. (An ancient name that brings to mind quaint taffy pulls and cellular phones and dying of old age.) I reached back to signal grandma to hand me the rifle–”You’ll need to store pictures of Quint on a whiteskin rug somewhere else,” I told her–but grandma was already dead, probably from some horrible and entirely fictional disorder she’d read about. I had to burn the whole house down, but the computer would crawl forth from the wreckage and haunt me for the rest of my near-infinity of days as the least famous member of the most famous family in the whole wide world.

Little girls in wonderful little dresses loved to follow me around, whistling and squeaking in tones only members of my family could hear thanks to the same set of mutations that make us all perfectly irresistible and lucky and virtually immortal besides. When I made my first billion at age sixteen I was only aiming for one hundred million, and was doomed to pay through the nose–literally, the feds wanted the precious fluids of my pineal gland–in taxes, but then Sergeant X, my IV-great grandson, recently hatched and ready to rule, toppled the government. That, plus the fact that my name was Ivy and he was my IV, made him a favorite. Today he marched across the planet in his mighty Ideological State Apparatus, with its octopus legs and blazing death-ray cannons. The only thing he couldn’t kill or tame was that damned computer, which haunted me in the nights like the disease of delirium. The girls he could mow down with impunity and with the greatest of compassion; there were always more where they came from. And indeed that was the locus of my great4grandbaby’s compassion–Make room! Make room!

One of the girls, whose brainpan suggested a bit more development than the usual, came up to me to squee one early evening. “Squee squee,” she said, as they do, but then she looked up at me with her brown eyes and asked if we couldn’t begin a life-changing correspondence that spanned generations and would allow her to fully understand existence before she grew old enough to simply accept her lot.

“Why me?” I asked her. “And not someone closer to your own age, like my grandson Se–”

“Sex, no,” she said, “lolol.” Lolol because she got the double-meaning of the boy’s name. “He never struck me as very intelligent. Once, he threw a bottle of whiskey through my auntie’s window. The window was open, mind you, which made the action a total waste. There was no flaming rag, no explosion, nothing. Does that sound very intelligent to you?” I had to admit that it did not. “You’re the smart one of your multigenerational litter,” she told me, “which is why you are not as well-liked as either your ancestors or your descendants.”

“What about Non?” I asked. X’s father, Non, had been stuffed full of quantum explosives and sent on a European vacation to end the menace of socialism forever. It worked too, but solely against the benign sort of socialism that allowed children to drink themselves to death in a Parisian McDonald’s only to be sparked back to life during the next lightning storm.

“He’s a martyr,” she told me. “A hero. Wiped utterly from existence–a real negation of the negation. Who couldn’t get behind that, except for everybody, amirite?”

“Lol,” I said.

“Lol,” she said, and the deal was struck. Little did I know that she, too, was a tool of the menacing Percocet G. Viagra, but in fairness neither did she. That was how the world worked: in one corner there was fourth-generation me and my family, in the other, ol’ Viagra. The planet and everything in it were only so many tiddlywinks for us to flick at one another. Her betrayal and Viagra’s master plan took years to come to fruition, but in those years our correspondence was fruitful and tearful. The little girl was a genius beyond measure, like a pocket full of antimatter. I found her terribly cold and would cheer and strut for days whenever I managed to get an enthusiastic, rather than formal, “squeeeeee!” out of her. And she’d squee like a born fangirl, loud enough and long enough to make my teeth melt on those rare occasions, and in my heart I would swear to remember her forever.

We were in Japan, Sergeant X and I. There were holdouts in the mountains of the snowy north–sensuous and compelling robot schoolgirls with magic wands and kneesocks who muttlaughed with their shoulders and covered their glowing pink mouths when they did. And worse, when they did laugh, their vocal circuits articulated an entirely different onomatopœiac phoneme from the kind we liked–“JISMJISMJISM” instead, “SHNEESHNEESHNEE.” I mean, what the hell? We had to melt their cities to sand and then fuse the sand into a sea of glass and then sculpt the glass into the glorious and translucent image of my father Tripp posing with the decanter from which I had sprung, his arms stretched toward heaven. X’s Ideological State Apparatus was good at the melting and fusing and sculpting; I was mostly there to issue press releases and win hearts and minds. Generally at cards, which I still played with cards because I enjoyed being fanciful.

Percocet G. Viagra had nothing in his hand and I was pleased to tell him once again to “Go fist,” and he did. His wrists and fingers were stained with all sorts of terrible fluids; his knuckles were rubbed raw. Lolol. He told me to keep laughing, and then he called me laughing boy. I told him I fully planned to keep laughing. Then he mentioned that he had killed Seppie and Octo, my great and great-great grandsons. Lololol. Bored, I stuck out my tongue–an appendage of startling length–and offered him a glorious tribute to the world he and I had worked so hard to make.

“That reminds me,” Percocet G. Viagra said, “when I skipped over here from the States, I found a smoldering island full of your fans. Tiny animals, every one of them. I’m amazed you haven’t had them all melted into fertilizer. They squeed at me endlessly, like hungry mice, and one passed me a letter to give to you.”

“That’s how you killed my grandma,” I reminded him. “Surely you don’t expect the same trick to work twice.” One of the hydraulic legs of the Ideological State Apparatus smashed through the ceiling and slammed to a stop mere feet away from us like a period, only to bring down much of the rest of the roof as it withdrew to take another step, much like an ellipsis.

“Oh,” Percocet said, “this is a real letter. Like these are real cards resting in real orifices. She said she wanted to be fancy like you, so she’d arranged for a bit of deforestation.” And he slid me a piece of paper in an actual paper envelope across the back of the people we were using for a table. I gave Percocet G. Viagra all my money and power for a moment in the hopes that he’d gorge himself and choke on a wayward if carefully placed bananafish bone, and read the letter.

17, ———— CRATER

SMOLDERING ISLAND, PACIFICA

DEAR IVY (MAY I CALL YOU IVY, OR DO YOU TRULY PREFER IV?)

I hope you will forgive this resolute and expeditious betrayal of our correspondence, but I have been extremely busy, having undergone streptococcus of the throat and nearly perishing, which of course led to me being saddled with all sorts of responsibilities among my people, girlkind. While I do have fond memories of the time we spent together and the many words that have passed between us like self-destructive ideas (i.e., alcoholism, capitalism, religion, and individualism), I am compelled by my new responsibilities to stop bleating and whistling like some sort of simpleton and finally take an action. Indeed, I have taken two actions.

Please find enclosed a lock of my hair, which I remember from the era in which hair was a precious and finite resource to be the sort of gift a young woman might offer to an older man on the eve of a lengthy separation so that he might be able to reproduce her body from the hair’s genetic material and create some sort of doll for the release of certain physiological tensions. That is my first action.

My second action is to hand over my pen and this piece of paper to the shapeless congeries of protoplasmic bubbles, faintly self-luminous, and with myriads of temporary vaginal slits forming and un-forming as pustules of greenish light that has born down upon me here in my refuge and has expressed its wish to add a few words. In addition it claims to have known your grandmother, which suggests to me that this letter will not end well, and it told me that it would find a man who could actually deliver this missive to you, and would even offer Mr. Viagra its back as a faithful mount. Anyhoo, here it is:

HELLO HELLO HELLO HELLO HELLO HELLO HELLO HELLO HELLO HELLO LOVE AND KISSES SHOGOT

It was a long time before I was able to set aside the note, and indeed by the time I had, Percocet G. Viagra had died of old age, as had my little great-great-great-great grandbaby, the brave and merciless Sergeant X. The Ideological State Apparatus lay in ruins and squatting atop it, pseudopodia writhing and whipping at the dirt, was grandma’s old computer, which belonged to the Internet, was of the Internet, and thus had always been beyond my reach. What else could I do, a miserable creature stripped of power, name, and even my number–what good is it to be IV if there are no V through Xs to lord over?–but hold my hand to my eye and with my forefinger and thumb pretend to crush the monster’s gelatinous form into the crevasses of my very fingertips? And that I did. Then I fled into the mountains I had so thoroughly ruined, with no possessions save a lock of my favorite girl’s hair, which I thought I might one day train to squee again. The computer lifted itself up into a city-high cone that occluded the sun and I was suddenly, ecstatically happy. Everything I had was gone, which meant that I had a world to win again without friends or allies, one conveniently sized hole at a time. This time I’d take New Hampshire. Ta!

You take a really happy man–lolol–and he always stands a chance of becoming an ambitious and bloodthirsty man again. A man who can make you chirp and dance and flush red and expire just by being li’l ol’ me. And that’s spelled es kew ewe ee ee.

Nick Mamatas is the author of three novels, including the forthcoming Sensation (PM Press, Jan 2011), and dozens of short stories, many of which were collected in You Might Sleep… (Prime Books, April 2009). With Ellen Datlow, he co-edited the anthology of retold regional ghost stories, Haunted Legends (Tor, Sept 2010) and five days a week he edits Japanese science fiction and fantasy in translation for the new imprint Haikasoru (www.haikasoru.com). A native New Yorker, Nick now lives in the California Bay Area. His website is the cleverly named http://www.nick-mamatas.com.

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