Drabblecast 383 – SUN MOON CAT MAN


  •  Feature:  SUN MOON CAT MAN  by  Julia Reynolds
  •  Genre:  Drabblecast  Sci-Fi

Monday, September 5th, 2016

Drabblecast cover for Sun Moon Cat Man by The Littlest Finch“What have we got, Sergeant Kelley?” I ask, tired and bored from a long day of doing very little. I was just about to go home to my empty flat. These days it’s not so different from the police station.

On my speaker-phone Kelley’s voice says, “Patrol has a perp for you to interview. He’s in Interrogation Room 1, ma’am.”

Of course he’s in Room 1, I think as I walk down the hallway. We don’t even use the other rooms anymore except for storage. One benefit of our new Masters, crime is practically nonexistent.

 

SUN MOON CAT MAN
by Julia Reynolds

“What have we got, Sergeant Kelley?” I ask, tired and bored from a long day of doing very little. I was just about to go home to my empty flat. These days it’s not so different from the police station.
On my speaker-phone Kelley’s voice says, “Patrol has a perp for you to interview. He’s in Interrogation Room 1, ma’am.”
Of course he’s in Room 1, I think as I walk down the hallway. We don’t even use the other rooms anymore except for storage. One benefit of our new Masters, crime is practically nonexistent.
Sergeant Kelley meets me outside the interrogation room. He hands me a computer tablet and a paper folder.

“Lieutenant, we’re to find out if he has any accomplices and then take him downstairs. He has a Summary Judgment.”
I look up at Kelley and see he is serious.
“Summary Judgment, for the sake of the Masters, what did he do?”
Kelley grimaces. “Graffiti,” he says, opening the door and stepping aside so I can enter.
I think about the case he must mean, our only outstanding graffiti case. Ugly pictures in subways. We’ve been looking for the vandal for months, but the crime doesn’t merit death. Re-education and relocation, certainly, but not death.
A middle-aged man sits cuffed to the other side of the table. He’s slightly built with graying hair at the temples, and is wearing a lime-green City Services coverall. A street cleaner, then. The man’s ident appears on the tablet, his name: Jameson Hewitt.
“Mr. Hewitt. You’re our subway graffiti artist, is that right?”
Hewitt attempts a crooked smile but says nothing. He looks exhausted and his handcuffs rattle when he shifts in his chair.
“We’ve got him on video in the 45th street station. Those new cameras caught him in the act.”
As Kelley says this, he touches the tablet and pops open a video. We watch as Hewitt sweeps a line of red spray paint across a white tile wall.
“Mr. Hewitt, the evidence is clear,” I say. “Do you acknowledge your crime?”
Hewitt looks at me and shrugs.
“Who are your accomplices, Mr. Hewitt? Where did you get the paint? Who helped you hide for so long?”
“I’m afraid I can’t discuss that.” Hewitt speaks softly with a faint accent.
“Get a Truth Kit, Kelley,” I say over my shoulder. I pull the paper folder from under the tablet and open it.
“We can’t use a Truth Kit on this one, Lieutenant. No #Language# receptors in his brain. He’s a Wild.” Kelley’s matter-of-fact voice rings loudly in the interrogation room.
A Wild. I stare at Jameson Hewitt. He’s not smiling now. He looks calmly at me, waiting for my reaction.
I catch a whiff of his aftershave, something pleasant and old-fashioned. I remember that we used to wear aftershave, perfume, makeup. We used to adorn ourselves. #Language# took away that primitive desire. Now we all blend together, in service to each other and the Masters.
“I was immune to their virus. I had to learn their language the hard way.” Hewitt speaks softly, but now that I know to listen for it, his accent is easy to recognize.
I swipe through Hewitt’s record. He spent 18 months in re-education treatment after Landing Day, for “psychological reconditioning” and “immersive #Language# training”. Before the Masters arrived, he was a university professor. English Literature.
I’m shaken. Someone from Before, someone unmodified by the Masters. It’s like finding myself speaking to a dinosaur.
To cover my nerves, I look down at the folder. It’s full of photo printouts of Hewitt’s graffiti. Each painting is meticulously annotated with date, time, and location. In the bottom corner, a tiny map of the subway line has an X marking the graffiti location.
The first picture is of the sun, a cheery orange and yellow ball. Below the painting are some uneven symbols and below that, a phonetic transcription in #Language#: SS-UN
The next painting is adjacent to the sun on the same subway wall, a green and blue planet and a gray moon. Beneath the planet are more symbols and the #Language# transcription: ER-th
The pictures are obviously the work of a simple mind. I look at Hewitt, slumped in his chair. Seeing my glance, he attempts to smile again, saying, “It’s just a bit of a hobby.”
A fatal hobby, but I can’t say that. I’m supposed to get information from Hewitt before we implement the Summary Judgment. Before we kill him for our Masters, I correct myself.
The next photo shows a crude stick drawing of a cat. The cat sits grooming one paw, its tail long and arching. Below the painting, as I have come to expect, more obscure symbols, and below that, a #Language# sound-a-like: K-AT
The same cat appears again in the next photo, but this time it stands astride a dead Master’s mangled corpse. The cat grins, its fangs dripping with purplish Masters’ blood.
Hence the Summary Judgment. It’s just a crude cartoon, but the gaping wound in the graffiti-Master’s neck horrifies me. The clause from the Masters’ Lawbook comes unbidden, “Any discussion or depiction of injury or death to a Master is punishable by immediate Summary Judgment.”
I start sweating and my pulse races. I know I’m experiencing an emotional response triggered by the #Language# matrix inside my brain because my instant reaction is too strong to be natural, like an overdose of cold medicine. I breathe deeply and close my eyes for a moment to clear the image from my mind.
“One of my best works, don’t you think?” Hewitt sounds tired but undeniably pleased with himself.
I look at Hewitt for a long moment, studying his unassuming features and the neatly trimmed goatee. I would never notice him on the street, but here he’s shown me the most seditious thing I’ve seen in years of policing. So this is a Wild. I have no idea how to get him to talk, but the Masters must be served.
I flip to the last photo in the stack. In the drawing, a woman and a man are holding hands. As before, underneath the woman’s picture are more of the symbols and a #Language# transcription. The man in the picture has blocky shoulders and a mustache. Under his picture is a short cluster of symbols and then the #Language# sounds: M-AN
I’m desperate to get Hewitt talking. Say something about the picture, I think, so I blurt out anything. My words surprise me.
“I knew a man named Malik,” I say. “He wore aftershave like yours.”
I’ve spoken the truth. I open up the memory as if it were a folded map I’d been storing in a drawer. I have a flash of large hands, gentle against my face. Then the memory fades, as I’ve become accustomed to when something from Before happens to surface, especially some recollection tinged with emotion. Something that occurred before the Masters’ #Language# virus re-wired my brain along with everyone else’s on the planet. They civilized us, improved us.
Old passions dissipated, replaced by peace and order. And willing submission to the Masters. The outline of memory is there, but any emotion drains away. I’m left with something like a footnote in an academic paper. There once was a man in my life. I recall his face faintly, dark eyes and brown skin. His name was Malik.
“You knew a MAN?” Hewitt asks, startled.
I realize I’ve used his nonsense word from the graffiti. Hewitt lunges forward and Kelley steps toward him, but Hewitt already has the photo of the male figure and he pushes it across the table.
“Malik was a MAN”, Hewitt says emphatically, almost shouting at me and struggling against the cuffs to point at the photo.
I look down at the picture and study the symbols. I repeat Hewitt’s sound aloud, “MAN”, and as I trace my finger along the jagged lines, the faint smell of Hewitt’s aftershave reaches me again, vanilla and leather.
I focus on the flat memory of Malik’s face and I repeat the sound again, “MAN”. In that moment the symbols sharpen into letters. The letters make a word, “Man”, and a hundred dormant memories blossom. Memories of Before, love and longing and then terror when the Masters landed. Malik telling me to lock the door and saying he would be right back, watching him join the protesters moving through the streets. The night sky blazed with beams of light and silent explosions as the Masters took the city.
Kelley taps me on the shoulder. “Lieutenant, they want him downstairs.”
I nod and rise at once. The Masters must be served. When we walk Hewitt downstairs, my legs move woodenly, as if I were a remote controlled toy. I try to stop, but I stumble, and a cramp twists the muscles in my calf. I’m used to a numb feeling, a sign of #Language# induced reactions when I’m doing something against my nature to serve them. But now I feel everything.
I stand in the back of the Judgment Chamber while Kelley and the other officers prepare Hewitt.
“You’re the ranking officer, Lieutenant,” Kelley says, offering me the pad that controls the injectors.
I shake my head, waving a hand to refuse. I can’t seem to say anything. Kelley looks at me for a long moment and then shrugs. He and the others set up the Summary Judgement flawlessly, just as they were trained to do by our Masters.
There are six officers, I count them, between me and Hewitt. If only I had a handgun I could shoot our way out, I imagine wildly. But even if I had such a relic, what could I do? Murder my colleagues who I’ve known for decades and run away with the prisoner? Ridiculous. They are not the enemy, and I can’t move, anyway.
I can only watch, my mind grinding on with half-formed plans to save him and myself. To escape, to fight against the Masters – in the end, I stand helpless, my eyes on Hewitt’s.
Just as he was during interrogation, Jameson Hewitt goes to his death quietly. But as they slip the needles into his arm he looks at me.
“GOODBYE LIEUTENANT” he says, awkward sounding words that make no sense to #Language#-tuned ears.
They make sense to me, though.
“GOODBYE DOCTOR HEWITT,” I answer.
Kelley turns and stares at me, shocked to hear the strange old words come from my mouth.
Hewitt stiffens as the drugs hit his bloodstream.
“OTHERS HAVE SEEN MY WORK, JUST LIKE YOU,” he says.
Hewitt beams at me, his eyes delighted and proud. But as I watch, never taking my gaze away from his, those eyes dim and then close.
Hewitt’s body droops against the restraints. I study his corpse, already growing pale. He’s dead, killed by the Masters while I stood mute and motionless. The pain of it sears my chest, PAIN, I remember that word now; and shame, SHAME, raw and merciless, rolls over me. Then another forgotten emotion erupts: RAGE. I nurse this feeling with intent and it boils inside me.
Numb no longer, I step away and up the stairs. In the evidence room, Hewitt’s kit is still on the table, a black backpack with cans of paint sticking out of the pockets. I slip one of the cans into my briefcase and another one up my sleeve. The Mid-town train station is on my way home and it’s almost deserted at this hour. Some of the new cameras will be there, and I’m already planning how to avoid them as I walk out the door into the night.

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Produced by Adam Praght
Episode Art:  Littlest Finch
Read by:  Veronica Gigure


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