While writing this most recent chapter it has occured to me that many of the things I pile into this novella might seem utterly unsystematic or random. Indeed many of the events that haven taken place have been very strange.
In all honesty, when I started Twist, I did not know where I wanted it to go. I had only a very remote idea of what the central plot may be, but this idea was entirely vague and featureless. In fact, I do not remember what my original idea was - Only that it did exist.
Needless to say things have become much more solid with each chapter. I now know exactly where I want this novella to go and exactly what events shall be taking place. Everything is being fit together, as (though the term may be cliché) pieces of a puzzle might.
Everything is here for a reason. I promise you that.
An elevator ground languidly up its shaft. At a high elevation it halted. For a moment it paused, as an old man might before recollecting a word - And then its doors, with the sound of a soft wind, smoothly opened, and an indicating tone resonated throughout its heart.
Two people, darkly clad. Not so much in the color of their clothing, but in the grim aura which they held. The wet soles of their feet came slowly from within the elevator. One step outward, and then both figures stopped, as though waiting for further direction from some master presence.
A guard shifted uncomfortably, eyeing them both. He approached, his middle-aged face twisted under a fake warmness of greeting (distorted beneath an apparent confusion). Stifly he stood, and allowed a silence before speaking, so that the air seemed to become thick. "Welcome to VersaLife... May I be of assistance?"
The words crawled.
Dominic shook his head, and then turned quickly, and approached a small set of steps.
The lobby was quite lavish. Tiled floors welled and reflected distorted shapes, so that creatures of abnormality seemed to dwell within them. The ceiling reached as high as the topmost floor - An extraordinarily tall window ascended a wall just beside the principal stairway, which itself groped up a perpendicular wall. Bright lights beamed from places above. It was a very richly sterile atmosphere.
There was a front desk, in the shape of a doughnut. Within its center sat a young woman in a dress. Her attention quickly fixed on the visitors.
The woman shaped her mouth as though to begin speaking, but Jess approached the counter and placed her palms firmly down upon it. Leaning forward, with a curious expression of familiarity, she asked, quite softly: "May we tour your offices?"
--- --- --- ---
On the top floor, a mouth opened; Its elevator was the only route to the churning belly of VersaLife. Its doors were locked and watched through the unfailing eye of a security camera. And even if someone were to take it without proper authorization, all the way down to the massive lobby at its feet, a security pass would be required, and the numerous guards would be nearly unescapable.
Dominic knew he had to get into those labs. He knew his objective but not his method, and though he did not consider himself to be an educated man, he was not at all stupid. The direct approach would be a thorough waste of time.
No, he had to get a pass from someone in those three floors of offices, from one of those underlit, absurdly identical cubicles (which seemed as though the people who worked within them would shed all visible differences upon their entrance).
Most of the cubicles were empty. What few were occupied contained single individuals, all of which were pale-faced, concentrated, and some sweating. They appeared to have no more authority than corpses.
But there was one man, walking about as though he had nothing better to do (which was probably not so far from the truth), swimming in the boundless infinity of his own ego. He was a man of power, and blatantly so.
Dominic approached this man - Hundly was his name - and stopped before him. Suddenly there appeared to be an electronic interruption across Bishop's body; A dark folding of presence, so that there was a brief duplication, one disconnected from reality... And then it dissipated with frozen luminescence in the air so that it appeared as a final shape of contrasting light would as it momentarily lingered on a deactivated screen.
Hundly stepped backward.
"Can I help you?" he asked before swallowing. He was nervous. His false charisma had been disturbed.
For a moment, Dominic smiled softly. He stated, with complete certainty: "We are going to get passes to your labs."
Hundly stared at him with confusion. Sweat gathered in his thick, black moustache, and he slicked back his hair with one hand. "Oh? You are?"
"And how will you do this?"
"You will give them to me."
Hundly made a dissmissive gesture. "That is absurd..."
Dominic, in an unexpectedly swift movement, stepped forward, and grabbed the swaggering fool by the front of his suit jacket; Hundly made a frantic attempt to push himself loose, but Bishop pinned him against the wall. Then they were still. Hundly again squirmed in an attempt to shake himself loose, which was an awkward failure, and he swore. Again they were still.
Hundly found it necessary to laugh. "Is this some kind of threat?"
"No, I'm not going to kill you," Dominic said, shaking his head with amusement. "Or even hurt you. I don't have any reason to hurt you. That doesn't mean I couldn't. In fact, I could level this entire building. I see by the disgusting look on your face that you don't care, or that you think you're going to call security in a few moments, and have this idiot before you removed. I can assure you that's not going to happen."
He drew a knife. It shimmered cleanly. For a moment Hundly watched it fixedly, and then Dom handed it to him. He stared at it stupidly.
"Stab me with that," Dominic commanded. "Go on. There's no one on this level." Indeed there was not. Each dark cubicle lacked its occupant. The two men were hidden from view of the lower floor. Jess stood in a doorway several yards away; For a moment Hundly's existence seemed to dwell in the distorted reflections of the tiles beneath his feet.
When Hundly did nothing, Dominic grabbed his wrist and thrust it towards his own chest. The knife buried itself in flesh; Dominic made no sound, but Hundly released convulsive breath.
"Again," Dominic said, and repeated the motion. His shirt darkened.
The knife was removed and replaced in its sheath. Hundly shrunk in a disturbed manner. He looked as though he were ready to collapse.
Dom straightened him on his feet. "Now I have been stabbed twice. Do you see me wailing in pain? Am I rushing to a hospital? No." He violently swung the man before him so that his head impacted the wall. Hundly flinched. "This is above you. This is above your money. This is above your job. This is above whatever the fuck you think is important." The electronic disturbance returned. Dominic appeared to spread outwards with a dead expansion - There was a dark twitching, and things distorted, flickering in an electronic way. Hundly pressed his free hand against Dominic's face... It was forced to the wall and clamped. Hundly shook. He refused to look directly at Dom. He shrunk again, letting his knees collapse. Dominic let him collapse. The man of so much false power sat against the wall.
No threat had been made.
--- --- --- ---
Jock descended a set of metallic stairs. He entered a room. It was very long, and one wall held several floor-to-ceiling windows. He had seen them from the other side. They were only mirrors from out there.
In the middle of the room was a large conference table. Its marble top had been recently polished.
The rest of the room was red, and so were the men who occupied it.
They were a members of the Red Arrow triad. Jock was the only caucasian man in the room. Several of them looked at him as he entered. A few of those several reached for their weapons.
Jock raised his hand to stop them, and said, "Jesus Christ, we just had a massacre out there, we don't need another one in here." And with his other hand he drew the Dragon's Tooth, which shone with its blue radiance. One of the men allowed his jaw to drop open with obfuscated amazement. Others merely frowned.
In moments Jock was before Max Chen, a thick man with eyebrows that pointed upwards in such a way that made him appear malicious. His clothing was lavish; He was a man of power, and capably so.
Jock approached over a thin bridge that spanned several small pools of crystalline water. Fish swam within, lazily and hungrily, oblivious to their own beauty. The ceiling was high, the air cool, and smoke lingered.
Chen sat in a chair before a marble desk, flanked on each side by bodyguards, who held automatic shotguns and said nothing.
Chen narrowed his eyes so that they became slits. He saw what Jock held in his hand. It was, of course, the Dragon's Tooth, and somewhere within Max Chen, a well of pain tightened, so that he was forced to shift in his chair.
"How did you get this?" he demanded (in english), his frustration apparent, as though Jock had violated some universal law.
"The Luminous Path was not responsible for the sword's disappearance, Chen. They're dead now anyway. All of them. You know that already. Tong is dead." He paused, and removed his sunglasses, which he had forgotten he was wearing. His eyes were tired and deep within his face. "Maggie Chow had the Dragon's Tooth. That is where it was found. MJ12 had it the whole Goddamn time. And you and everybody else have been at each other's throats for it. Classic. Absolutely classic."
Chen allowed a degree of shame to creep onto his face, but it vanished immediately. He straightened and frowned.
"And now there's just you and this bar and your gang," Jock continued, and threw the sword down on the desk before him. It appeared forlorn, as though its luminous presence was a complete waste. "Congratulations."
"We had nothing to do with-"
"I know, you're not responsible for that slaughter. It's going to take them months to clean that up. Jesus. It's going to take months to wash up all the blood."
Out in the club, there were only mirrors, and people were drunk and blissful, and they danced, looking into the glass and seeing only themselves.
--- --- --- ---
There was a man in a tan suit. His demeanor hardly differed from that of Mr. Hundly.
"Welcome to the VersaLife laboratories," he said, and his voice carried arrogance. "You may tour them but do not stay long. Our labs are a sensitive matter. Do not violate any security rules. Do not doubt that you will be watched. The lower levels are inaccessible to your level of clearance. Do not try to enter them."
He turned and stiffly retreated to some other place ideal for such arrogant people as himself.
Dominic and Jess exited the small crevice allocated for the elevator and stepped into the biggest corridor they'd ever been in. The ceiling spanned so far above their heads that it seemed impossibly high, as though it should be cutting into the floors above, protruding above the earth. The expanse was illuminated with red, red reflecting from the floors, red draping along the walls. Dark spines of metal climbed opposing sides of the corridor and met at the top in archs. And the most unsual part of all stood at the opposite end, on the floor: A massive, marble statue of a hand, twisting its fingers about a rotating globe, as though it were ready to crush it with ease.
There were two guards patrolling the hall. One of them was a man in simple armor. The other seemed more metal than flesh. His body was coated with thickish chunks of metal, robotics lining his legs and torso, electronic masses of nothing, grinding and weighing no more than a feather to the man buried somewhere beneath all that alloy and fakery.
The man looked as Dom and Jess passed. The machine did nothing and said nothing, and it occured to Dominic that there might not have been a man within the shell at all.
Jess looked up. Somewhere at the top of the corridor there was a frame of darkness. Within it stood a pinkish figure, suited in black.
They were, of course, being watched.
--- --- --- ---
Walking into VersaLife with weaponry of many categories had been easy enough. The elevator upwards had been unguarded; It required only a combination that had been provided by Jock.
There had been security in the lobby, in the offices, and there was security in the labs. But they did not expect a man, or an existence somewhere beyond a man, to acquire lab passes through explicit fear. There had been security cameras and guards. There had been locks and combinations. There had not been a single weapons check or search.
Their fault was in their assumptions.
Jess knew that somewhere within the belly of the labs was their goal. She knew that beyond all the security and protection and armaments was where they had to be.
She stood now in a concrete hallway that had a glass floor. Through it could be seen the lower labs, though whatever experiments were being performed there were undeterminable.
And then, somewhere high above, Mr. Hundly, who had just before come very close to urinating his pants, realized what shame had been put upon him, and it angered him.
An alarm went off.
Jess looked up from the glass. They had seperated. Dominic had gone elsewhere. She didn't know where he was.
She began to jog back to the hallway with the hand statue.
There would be guards. The entire place would begin swarming with guards.
She went back to the glass floor.
There was an elevator at the end of the hallway. It was ascending. It held occupants.
Behind Jess, around a corner, there were footsteps.
She drew a shotgun from within her jacket and pointed it straight downwards. There was a glass hallway immediately below her.
There was no other place to go.
She fired. The end of the shotgun erupted so loudly that the walls shook. The glass beneath her was so thick that it did not immediately shatter.
Again she fired.
And began to fall.
For a moment she was suspended in air filled with delicate shards of glass, or shards of glass filled with delicate pockets of air - She found herself in a place of complete disarray, debris constantly rearranging itself at random as it does, and then a thick pane of glass seemed to leap at her face, and it struck, so that she was no longer falling.
For a moment she was still. Then guards above her found the hole she had created and began firing down it.
Jess sprang up and ran - So fast that each footfall proved capable of blowing the glass out from beneath her - And then she leaped, and fired downwards again, and fell in such a way that she landed inside the corridor at its end, upon metallic floor.
She bled. Her flesh proved not so durable as Dominic's.
--- --- --- ---
Men rose out of a hole in the floor - Dominic saw that it was a panel before the statue which had opened. Stairs descended from it.
Somewhere, he heard a shotgun blast - Then a second, and the shattering of glass.
He rose. Running for the hole in the floor, he leaped towards its stairs.
A rocket sliced the air above him - So close that he felt the rush upon his head - And then it impacted stone, and exploded with such force that fine, piercing shards lodged themselves deep in the flesh of Dominic's back and shoulders. He collapsed, striking the floor before him, crumpling into a ball. He shouted between tighly closed teeth.
Pain was no less real than it had ever been. He had maintained that much.
Rising and turning simultaneously he drew his knife and threw it. It lodged itself in the mechanical man's neck. Blood oozed through the cracks in the metal and glass, organs spilling through bone, rotten core pouring through the healthy outer shell of a fruit. Indeed there was a man somewhere in there, and he was dying.