Aphelion Issue 245, Volume 23
November 2019
 
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Night of the Jaguar

by Rekha Valliappan




"Ant swarming City

City full of dreams

Where in broad day

The specter tugs your sleeve"


--Charles Baudelaire



*****



The night-boat from Hellise Island was how one arrived into New Catty Corner if one was a buried head. Buddi Jobule knew. He had counted. Heads. But that was before the catastrophe that had rubbished the old island, a thin strip of land of fabulous value hugging the grey oceans and the enveloping rivers. It had taken phenomenal rebuilding to step by step recreate the grandiose New Catty Corner which it had become, a marathon task only Buddi could have accomplished--remodeling it to exactitude from the dead ashes of the old. Post-apocalyptic magnitude? Who could say? Buddi's architectural skills were world renowned and unparalleled. And now this had happened.

A sinkhole. The gumboil that wouldn't go away.

The watershed moment for Buddi? Or a mere blip on his timeline? Because who could live forever? A teasing worry all the same. In essence he thought of dealing with it swiftly and flicking it away like those parasites troubling his biceps and forceps. Buddi under stress was a work of art.

Buddi Jobule had all the human heads that were needed to resuscitate the project --dead practices of ancient Javaro that followed him like a dog's tick. Some of the creepy heads had refused to shrink. But after the sinkhole had opened a stretch the size of seven football fields you could build a boeing hangar out of, the fate of the museums on the Upper Yeast Side had been all but sealed. Only one last head was needed. The all- important head.

The world is watching us! The world is watching us!

No way out of this hole. None.

Make the connection man.

The head of the Jaguar of Javaro!

--no way! city must stay united--however reckless about procedure one wished to be.

City is collapsing you moron! . . . under its own weight . . . they're concealing the sinkhole!

. . . the best kept secret eh?

You betcha!

No, there was no other head more suitable to the purpose. But the jaguar was elusive, the one on the seal. It had been used periodically in other parts of the world and vast structures had gone up and stayed up--all the way from Dubaiti to Monskreal. The jaguar had no secrets. And Buddi had no secrets to share either.

We hear the secrets that you keep, When you keep talking in your sleep.

The tricky punch line eleven hours into the disaster. The legitimacy of ancient practices going current and concurrent.

Bring in the heads! Bring in the heads!

Without the burial of heads at construction site the uncertainty of reconstruction under the museums in its final days was virtually nonexistent. Unimaginably difficult. It would surely fail. People would panic. That was the norm.

Normal?

Norm.

Damn!

Buddi had no choice. But the Mysterium had since long ago put an end to these vile practices of burying shrunken heads. No more human heads. Not after toniest parks for the wealthy, grand supermarkets, bodegas, hotels, public squares, children's playgrounds, garbage dumps, university campuses, government buildings, businesses, opera houses, hospitals, asylums, asphalt, fountains, roadways, markets, aristocratic dwellings and famed avenues to lure the wealthiest, had sophisticatedly emerged filling every square inch of space, building upon and beyond strata upon strata over plot loads of long forgotten decomposing corpses below, of the featureless city that refused to die.

Enough said of those who were already mingled in the bedrock, soil and filth; encroaching potters' fields suffocating with improperly emptied out loose cannons, epidemic victims, paupers, criminals, gangsters, bad apples, penniless, revolutionaries, zealots , entertainers and spiritualists, from the outers edges of forgotten worlds like stacked up city catacombs filled with waves of putrefying and rotting matter--enough to give New Catty Corner the blue haunting for thousands of years more.

Go on man, spit it out,

what's the question?

Is there something you trying to articulate?

Nah.

More fresh corpses?

Only heads.

We're all going to die!

Are you mad?

The homeless get picked first, don't you know?

At some point you have to decide what's in the best interest of the City and its people, at least to the characters who are left, standing besides you.

That should be interesting.

You mean as a public servant?

What else? Whatever!

But by golly! we're talking human heads!

why you worry? they come from far out east . . . other side of the world.


Without the heads the fate of the museums hung in the balance--twenty vast structures housing every artifact saved after the rubble had been sifted. And even with the heads, if they were mere ordinary heads the fate of the reconstruction was still unsure. Deep in a far off jungle a mutated jaguar with the elongated head and cranium filled with occipital extras on the prowl of megalithic stone temples would stir letting out a low ominous growl.

None but THAT!

No shit!


Enjoy it when you get there, while you can.

Clash of cultures in city of cultures?

Of course not!

The culture of the church abideth.


Zombie apocalypse then?

Let the ruling elite rule.

Apocryphal!

Flet victus, victor interiit.

Well, I found a thigh bone only a week ago! And it wasn't the mummy's foot of Giza. My colleagues routinely keep finding same human remains . They protrude from the earth, under buskers rapping for coins from crowds seizing quick pizza lunches, falafels, and samosas reeking of chutney...

Gruesome! Jettison the lot then.

Below the surface much lurked. The marbles from the cemeteries had festooned the museums enriching the flooring and walls. Buddi Jobule was not taking chances. He had authorized through portal outreach for the new batch of heads to be delivered without further delays. Most would make it in through the portal of the small figurine of the little girl standing with the lute at the base of the free-standing Humpiro Stamp Building. They would only be the lucky ones--the ones who would somehow manage to escape, fleeing on foot through the tunnels and bridges over to the other side. Most did not make it in that way. Most were needed for the booming construction going every which way which had smothered every square inch of space.

Rat-a-tat-tat the incessant sound of drills--Buddi felt blown away. How the cosmos had shifted when the city breathed puking torrid stain from deep within its buried bedrock. His work was mostly below these days, less time for the above. It stank. His ears burned. The city's heartbeats chaotically registered the sounds--office workers and bank clerks glancing at their wristwatches and clocks, actors and extras working the grind, students and rioters protesting their cause, poets and pamphleteers crooning their bohemian songs to junkie-dom, anxious subway operators and train passengers spilling over and under signage and spillage, quizzical faces, rancid minds hurtling down the corridors of venture and power in anarchic fashion forming haphazard lurches of rushing movement and more rushing movement. The city never stilled--cubic rabbit holes upon cubic rabbit holes without end.

Because without these the city would simply fall apart. Because without the jungle there was no city. Because although New Catty Corner was a mere strip of a land- locked island of sorts, with not a tree in sight, surrounded by waters which you couldn't see, it was still primeval jungle, the homeliness that he knew only too well--densely covered by tall, square, round and flat steel and glass spires of every shape and size to swing on and into and then disappear from as they snaked sideways and angularly and upwards dominating the grim skyline.

Piles upon piles upon piles upon piles upon piles upon piles. Rat-a-tat-tat! Drill man drill! Acknowledge the city without end.

What city? This!

Yes, same city--

acknowledge the city . . . ha-ha-ha!

by way of 'pillars of Hercules'

Man Herculez? my hero--that muscle dude!

By way of the civilizations of Atlantis and Utopia and Hera.

. . . and Javaro . . .

And Javaro!

Antediluvian.

Oh yeah? How the proud may be fed!

Yeah! Yeah! How the weak may be shed!

You don't say! . . . and take you my head!

He must have that head to hang. Buddi felt the might flowing through his veins, gorged on gloat, glowing in the mantle of success--the Poseidon of his hellenic journey. At the speed he was going soon it would be time when his tribe of Jobules could be safely sent for, no longer vassals. Mama Jobule and Little Eydie and devout Marrar with the strength and craft of a thousand Athenas whom he thought of often when the pain seized him and he grew restless for want of her fevered touch.

Above ground saturation point had been reached. All new works were now decreed for below ground only, deep into the bowels of the everlasting abyss, where the ocean waters had no limits. Where the decapitated heads were needed most. City ordinance. Buddi Jobule breathed a sigh of relief. He had won. He had to tread cautiously. That's all. No point wakening the suckers. The Mysterium were still in charge of the full above-ground spaces, including that between the famous Avenue of the Catty Corners and all of Dark and 5th Avenues, prime property fallen in the hands of that viper Chairman Zobo and his pitbull acolyte Buckmeister Faro, the only two visible faces representing the monarchic aspects of government who Jobule had not gotten the hang of.

The jaguar head it was however fraught with danger. The mounted head on the face of the museum. Not a moment to lose. Decision had been taken.

To Chairman Zobo his architect's strange insistence for the jaguar head was the last straw. Buddi had grown unpredictable of late. A mere mail train driver young whippersnapper of a boy when he had first arrived Zobo had put him through the hoops, out of which Buddi had arisen. Was he paying the price? Besides Zobo was looking to retire. A doomed marriage and cage-fighting with Keirta for possession of their five strapping sons had taken the life out of him. She had kicked him out. Some would shed crocodile tears. Others would not. Let them. Time to move on. Time to reach the spaces between the Two Moons. Time to take the night-boat out.

Zobo had grown tired and old in this torrid business with no end. The line of duty. Ruling Mysterium was no malarkey. His axiom of exaggerations--when the course of reality becomes so unreal the best way to understand unreality is by piling on more reality--which had inspired millions and millions and the steep rise of other similar New Catty Corners nationwide and worldwide, was in tatters. Piling and drilling. And piling and more drilling. Always. It's how New Catty Corner had taken off.

But Zobo was no shrinking violet. A firm believer in the rule of law and order, he was of the old guard. It rankled when his ethical parlor committee of enforcement and hackneyed re-enforcement had turned virtually nonexistent. How to cope? The population of combined New Catty Corners worldwide had grown nineteen billion strong--maximum damage, fuelled by bumble-beans who refused to take the ethical birth control pills prescribed five times a day. Many New Catty Corners were in danger of shutting down entirely. Some already had, drowned in their own pilings. They had held out too long. Too many runaway heads, smoky and dense, escaping the underground burials, some with the cowboy lassos still intact dangling from their necks or girdled around their upper torsos. Untuckit! Soon they would be altogether delegitimized.

Look on the bright side.

What bright side?

Many new heads worldwide to decapitate.

Now there's a story!

The night-boat snuck into view, promptly on time, portly as a Victorian queen decked in flounces and trims. On a sultry night only the two moons and a crowd of rabid underground dwellers would view her landing, sailing into port somewhat weather-beaten and battened down after the long crossing. With makeshift repairs visible to its fore and aft, it resembled a giant sampan that had lost its way than an actual cruise line. By morning not a trace of the night-boat would be found. It was the way, always the same, like a Faustian cocktail with a twist. The skies would turn green, the spotty cobble-stoned clouds would grow insular, moving like flamingo dancers of the sky sounding their bizarre castanets clickety-click-click-click, the night-boat would stretch into a mile long dotty pebbled coastline. And voila it would be gone.

Buddi Jobule felt the shaky shaky roar along his thick scaly outer skin--feeling the tremor rattle through the underground rather than hear it. He had long ago been assured by the Mysterium of these legitimate noises of the city, that only the unseen and extreme were what kept the city alive--nothing more than that. Nothing to be afeard of. No unknown ghostly autumnal winds which blew the sienna leaves in gusty whirlpools. The city had none. Although Brooklinen in autumn was easily worth the watch, sitting behind the orchestra pit--like a black and white celluloid film, only performed on stage, with theatre dialogue, as Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers danced cheek to cheek, effortlessly, seamlessly. No earthquake roll which shuddered the stretching structures screeching to the skies. The city had no fault lines. Just constant seepage of shake rattle and roll from deep within the bowels of the underground.

Buddi Jobule did not need to learn more. He had gotten used to the inconstant hums and hisses, despite his hair standing on end when the pitbull rankly breathed, fumes of rancid whale oil frittering the air. He could differentiate the sounds. He could tell the deep whoosh of the subway lines, from the spitting roar of the gas lines, the ear-shattering piercing of sirens from the dull pounding of a million feet, the scampering of millions more of nocturnal night creatures from the scattering of a billion more. He was not paranoid. New Catty Corner was a complicated plague pit of parasites and roaches and rodents competing for space, spilling in cesspools, bumping and grinding with many more legions of grandaunts and uncles and cousins. A feast of a precious empire.

But only possible to preserve with the jaguar head.

No head, no city.

Hey, ease up! You mischaracterize!

The deepening rift with Zobo created with the widening sinkhole, which had made Buddi Jobule very wary of the Mysterium and all inter-agency processes, especially Buckmeister Faro, had also made him King. There was no worthy successor. Buddi was clearly at the peak of his form. A former simian who still retained batwing arms from a distant blood-sucking relative of long ago he had once single-handedly scaled the five hundred and five floors high Humpiro Stamp Building, a feat none had attempted since. Or dared to.

All he needed was a decapitated head from that corner in the far east for underground construction to commence of a planned behemoth ten thousand steel structure, city within a city within a city--billed to be the largest in the post ruined world, which would permanently fortify the museums, south of the 90th Streets and repair the damage caused by the sinkhole. Without the heads he was sunk. Without the jaguar head he was double sunk. Nothing would move. The city would be flattened. Construction and repair would fail. The burial of the heads was an imperative dogma practice handed down from eons, for architectural construction to auspiciously begin. Without the head there were no tools. Time had run out.

Zobo knew how to stand his ground well. No more heads. It was the City Ordinance carved in stone. Find other ways! You are the architect. You tell me! The Mysterium had slyly succeeded in subverting all night-boats sailing into City harbor. Buddi knew the old trick and what he was up against if he wanted to succeed. Ball was in his court. Make no mistake. He had to move quickly. No moral high ground here.

Potentially it came in the form not of ancient Chairman Zobo too old and spent to care any more, having lived out his time. It came in the form of his reckless demon side- kick. The Sub-Boss--Buckmeister Faro with nothing to lose and everything to gain--a pitbull of a snarling attack dog going for the kill with greedy ambitions of taking over Zobo and after Zobo. He had no intention of faithfully following the Chairman to the space between the Two Moons. But Zobo did not know that. Or if he knew he pretended not to care. He believed Buckmeister to be loyal to the core. He had no way of knowing that his Buckmeister was clean--having expunged himself from all New Catty Corner filth and sores in a specially prepared chemical bath soap ointment which although designed to cleanse and kill certain parasites infesting his outer layers of skin excluding those in subcutaneous tissues, had made him also lose all sense of smell and loyalty.

Buddi had the answer to tackle the pitbull. It was contained in the night-boat which had just made landfall. He had to hurry. His men had been working in shifts. No knowing what the Mysterium were up to this time around. He had been expecting fireworks to light up the night sky like the Hattyfax Harbor explosions when two vessels had collided. His men had been prepared with gas masks. But there were none. Not a sound boiling over the usual humming dread. Not even of blisters exploding, or yellow pus and gas bursting through the city vents--blending with the odors of hotdogs from the stands and soft pretzels steaming up a dust. Sensory overload. No, none of these. Only the cool warmth from a velvet sky had poured from the spaces between the Two Moons, webbing New Catty Corner in striations of weird misty swirls and silver light. Frustrating.

Kicking the hollowed out obsidian rock he had been laying in wait behind, the seconds ticked into eternity. His men squirmed uncomfortably. Nothing. Buddi Jobule climbed down hanging mid-air like an experienced hang-glider.

Then he saw.

There! he managed through gritted teeth.

They were moving lock step in some sort of weird formation, corrugated sounds of bugle and bagpipe from nearby marchers lending the airwaves haunting though glorious sound. An obstreperous howl arched across the city,waterways and railroads. It sounded doleful snagging his ears. The anguish of the jaguar. His body hair rose. They were all made in Ramus's obscure image moving like fuzzy caterpillars on the prowl to better blend in with the crowds that were now swarming past the colorful night markets of Han Jin, up B-Roadway and the historical crowded theater districts towards Tomes Square brilliantly lit with bright LED white and fluorescent orange, red, blue and green lighting in ultra blinding shades. Mercurial. Despite the camouflage they could no longer stay hidden. The streetlights and billboards clearly showed them up.

Not a crime man.

You go buddy!

Up and down.

Yeah man up and down!


One fuzzy caterpillar hopped on another's back, flying into the night sky and landing as a winged mothman. The crawl had turned brisk matching the teeming crowds streaming below. They were no longer buzzing. Buddi almost missed the interchange going blind following their strides. Seven more had twinned into towers straggling the entire length of 5th Avenue, overflowing with opulence and wealth. His gaze was failing. He was struggling to pinpoint the Jaguar slinking sinuously among the moving moths, subdued caracals, steam devils and fox heads. Jaguar had been marking time. Buddi's eyes felt on fire boring holes into the midnight streets as he brought keen gaze to bear on the yellow furred creature covered in black rosettes muscular haunches exploding into fevered fray.

The devil's bargain.

Then he spotted the shape. Jaguar was emerging in a series of shapes making vicious sounds. Something or someone had broken its rhythm. In an alpha wolf glide jaguar was assiduously racing. Past 47th Street. Past 54th. Brute stamina had taken over. A spine-tingling wolf howl rent the air.

Why?

Run! Buddi Run!

Why?

Something else just as temperamental tore into the crowds, pushing through the throngs of people milling the avenues. Pitbull?! The pitbull grimaced making strangling noises. Buckmeister? Tosa! He had known it all along. Buckmeister was upon the wolf- like creature in a flash, tearing at its throat, proclaiming his victory in a loud yowl, jaws glistening with dripping blood as he dismantled the ball of brindled fur into shreds within seconds. Crowds bulged taking selfies to document the melodramatic moments of the mad dog chase. Some cheered.

More triumphant chokeholds?

Buddi Jobule didn't wait. He was too late.

Slow down!

Like a caterpillar?!


Where's your neutrality?

Save the internet philosophy.

He raced in trepidation, swinging high as he climbed and leapt towards Tomes Square, where he saw the shadow of the crepuscular creature using night vision change direction and plummet downtown along 7th Avenue before racing along 45th Street to intercept 5th Avenue where he made the sudden U-turn into the nether regions of uptown, towards the sinkhole at the museums.

Phew! Close call.

At the Humpiro Stamp Building Buddi crawled into the underground. The quicker route. But the museums were over on the other side. Looking the other way. Nooo! He was turning into a canyon. But he needed his strong arms. It was the only means by which he would reach in time. He descended tearing past train passengers in tumult. He tore into the fast approaching zooming subway, treading on many toes. He would go down swinging. Truly a crime that he would atone for. The route he had chosen to follow was a destructive path. No time to lose.

He was headed for Museum Mile. Not for him the darkened alleyways like those in Sarajevo. Or Javaro.

Now think of the good side my friend.

I've thought, these days all I do is nothing but think . . . it elongates my head, its coming out of my ear flaps . . . my cranial cavity!

. . . that's the kind I mean, see? no algae count here, because no pools of stagnant water, good eh?

and no pools of stagnant water because no thin ice to pull out dead stiffs from, eh?

what's that you say?

what's what?

disappointing . . .

on the contrary we're privileged my friend . . .

if you live in a big city just think, no rusty monstrous RVs here negotiating overgrown dirt roads . . .

yeah that . . . I get it!

no starving alligators either chomping someone's arm and leg . . .

only sinkholes . . .

sinkholes??

yeah that's what I said . . . here's the rub--sinkholes . . .


don't you read? . . . all covered by insurance for two thousand years . . .

ok settle down, settle down!

Buddi Jobule thought of the meat packing district. He should have taken the freight line or the outer harbor which would have delivered him faster to the behemoth Hudstone Yard Project where he could have raced faster along the prefabricated geometric structures made in Italina standing like giant pyramids pointing to the sky.

No matter. Call me Quasimodo. Buddi was literally sweating his face off. Nothing new. Several subway lines had flown like tinderboxes destroying power lines in their wake. His trademark whenever he rode the subs, which he didn't. What had he become? Paper tigers on a plate drinking from golden straws taking wealth to a whole new level. He was immune. Don't drink the kool-aid. How often had he seen hobos drooping on the boardwalk waterfront like sagging hippo testicles. They were all museum pieces, every one of them. Nothing less, nothing more.

Buddi saw him coming, almost colliding into him like an asteroid. Slinking gracefully, the jaguar had arrived, easily traveling the length of seven football fields through the smoky darkness swallowing itself into the pitch blackness of its own erudite intensity. Green eyes hard as emeralds glittered in the abyss of the underground. Blinding. A faint barking roar filled the inner sides followed by a snarling howl which penetrated through the outer edges of the vast sinkhole, rising upwards to shatter the walls of the humungous museums. The arrival of Buckmeister Tosa. Well timed. It would be a fight to the finish Buddi knew. Both were seeking the jaguar's elongated head. But for different outcomes.

Not too far away way up high in the late evening skyline with excellent views of a flotilla of boats sailing down the Yeast river, and a cascade of shimmering lights reflecting off the sluggish waters dividing the many islands, in an elegant luxury penthouse lost to view from the ground below, Chairman Zobo was giving a small dinner party to his favorite friends. There was braised lamb and peking duck with fresh ginger; there was filet of sole and beluga caviar; and to top it escargot prepped in garlic and fragrant basmati rice; washed down by the choicest brandies and wines money could buy.

Buckmeister was missing and he wondered about it although he never showed it, as guests sipped shirley temples, mojitos and tequilas out of gold rimmed crystal ware and fluted champagne glasses and cheered Zobo's well executed retirement plan to the space between the Two Moons, while being entertained by the operatic arias of world famous soprano Venchi Ramata, her powerful voice bouncing off the tops of the tall girders and Romanesque rooftops, agitating the under ground combatants in the sinkhole below. Chairman Zobo smirked in glee. He could feel the throbs. He could hear the plaintive howls. He never for a moment doubted the outcome. There was no man alive who was a match for Buckmeister when he avatared into The Tosa! The Jaguar of Javarno had painted himself into a corner this time around.

Let them howl! Let them scream!

The Head! The Head!

We'll get the heads! We'll get two heads!

Victory to the Mysterium!

There was a healthy sprinkling of celebrities clinging to their evian pret-a-porters like a fashion sign. Some of the ladies dressed to the nines in haute couture designer creations from the latest establishments all the mode were arriving in tulles and silks, baring oodles of skin, drenched to their waists in diamonds, some with their favorite french poodles and king charles spaniels in tow. Designer dogs, all the craze. Kicking off their jimminey choo-choos shoes they were retiring to distant corners to dance the night away.

One hauled a grinning albino python, struggling under its girth and weight, which became all the rage, a crowd gushing after the heartily drunk and over-fed creature which scarcely moved enjoying the excitement. It's bubbly side. And another had brought to the party an exotic cheetah. Such a delight! A favorite of Buckmeister in fact, but he was still missing. Hadn't he put away the jaguar yet?

What a pity. Handling the leopard was proving harder than he had thought it seemed. A couple of other well heeled and delicious women had brought their grey peccaries, their lovely fur all shorn, which gave them an extraordinary bald look, designed to please. Dahling, how divine! It quickly turned quite the popular fad creating another bigger diversion among almost all the ladies present. Between the screams floating from the party and the screams emanating from below none could say which were the mightier. They drowned each other out.

Chairman Zobo after attempting a lengthy farewell speech, whereby he had wept, hugged, kissed and groped everyone present was concluding his celebratory self- congratulatory diatribe, blurry eyed through the entire ordeal with the quantity of liquors he had steadily consumed all evening to keep his corresponding mounting anxiety contained. Fait accompli. No turning back. But where was Buckmeister when he needed him? He was ready to pass on the baton. Hadn't his second in command executed the deed?

When Buddi Joboule strode in moments later, suave and charming, eyes glittering hard like green emeralds, raw magnetism on the prowl like a beast of prey, dressed in a smart tuxedo which made the ladies drool and coalesce around him within seconds, Zobo choked on his own fuzzy tongue bringing up green bile. Dry mouth, someone said jocularly pushing another gin and tonic in his nerveless grasp. The glass shattered and Zobo's fit of coughing did not subside. Buddi patiently waited, strategically flirting outrageously with the ladies while he did, till Zobo recovered.

"What was the outcome?"

" . . . as you see all taken care of."

"Buckmeister . . . ?"

"Buried. Underground."

Another fit of convulsive coughing resumed. This bout worse than the first. Chairman Zobo grew purple red in face and looked like he might pass out right then and there without ever reaching the space between the Two Moons. A blue green sea foam spilled out of his open mouth. He dare not ask about the jaguar. The fundamental question. But he knew he had to.

"Why his?"

"Reserve head. He decimated the caracal."

"And Jaguar ?"

"Well settled."

"Where?"

''The museum wall. New exhibit."

This time Chairman Zobo collapsed in dead earnest. He would not make it. Not this time. Nurses and orderlies swiftly arrived to wheel him away.

Pity, thought Buddi Jobule ruthlessly, emerald eyes flashing, we could have used another head. Long live the city!

Eleven thousand heads were buried that day as more night-boats freely arrived unencumbered.

Piles of bones?

Nah. Pilings . . .


Bones that were buried, got buried deeper, and those that were fresher pushed the old deeper still. Layered foundation for the city to move its slow thighs. It was once said long ago when the hot bed of miasmata eerily arose as it once did from deep within the barfing underground it caused a creepy blue vapor to appear, which sometimes drifted as mists; sometimes carnival-like, the city's life-breath, conditioned to energize and revitalize. permanently hung like a pall--grim and heavy. The vibrancy of the city could not die. That sickly blue mist could never extinguish. It still swirls, hanging in unusual and strange motifs--visible for always.


THE END


2019 Rekha Valliappan

Bio: Rekha Valliappan is a multi-genre writer of short fiction and poetry. Her horror, fantasy, scifi, clifi short stories have featured in international magazines including Lackington’s Magazine, Thrice Fiction Magazine, Across The Margin, Third Flatiron, Eastern Iowa Review, Theme of Absence, Intellectual Refuge, ColdNoon Journal, The Punch Magazine, Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, Rabid Oak, Friday Flash Fiction, Mercurial Stories, Queen Mob’s Teahouse, Five:2:One Magazine, Coffin Bell Journal, Boston Accent Lit where she won the Accent Prize, and elsewhere. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee 2018.

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