Black Petals Issue #99, Spring, 2022

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Are You Full? Fiction by James Kompany
Bunker-Fiction by Ron Capshaw
Buy Here, Pay Here-Fiction by Kim Bonner
The Church of the Coyotes Who Would be Wolves-Fiction by Roy Dorman
Elm Mills-Fiction by Mack Severns
Hearts in the Gutter-Fiction by Lamont Turner
Midnight Espresso-Fiction by David Starobin
Spider Bite-Fiction by N. G. Leonetti
Test Tube Babies-Fiction by Kilmo
Witches' Jubilee-Fiction by Hillary Lyon
Biter: A Love Story-Flash Fiction by Harris Coverley
New Mail-Flash Fiction by Eddie D. Moore
Reasons Not to Wake Up a Sleeping Beggar in the Morning-Flash Fiction by Marcelo Medone
While I was Frozen-Flash Fiction by K. A. Williams
Woodshop for Werewolves-Flash Fiction by Mark Jabaut
Bruja-Flash Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
First Light-Poem by Jeffrey Park
Soul Music-Poem by Jeffrey Park
Stalker-Poem by Jeffrey Park
Zombies in Space-Poem by Jeffrey Park
Bleeding Senses-Poem by Jess Boaden
I'd Like to Speak to the Manager-Poem by Carl E. Reed
The Woods (Behind My House)-Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
Nocturnal Mode-Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
When I Find You-Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
Ethereal-Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
Fall-Poem by Mike Edele
Death-Poem by Mike Edele
Where Will You Be-Poem by Mike Edele
Giant Cockroach-Poem by Richard Stevenson
The Allegewi-Poem by Richard Stevenson
Tokoloshe-Poem by Richard Stevenson
The Ghoul-Poem by Richard Stevenson

Kilmo: Test Tube Babies

bp_99_testtubebabies_kjhannah.jpg
Art by KJ Hannah Greenberg 2022

Test Tube Babies

 

by Kilmo

 

 

The gas was everywhere worming its burning fingers through the pale girl’s lungs.

“You ready Penelope?” said Chimera tucking the figure in her arms closer against her body armour.

She winced as her sister croaked back.

“You should be running whilst you can. They’ll be here soon.”

“I’ll decide what to do with my time.”

She stared into her frail sibling’s soft rose-coloured eyes. They were growing misty now, the light in them finally fading into darkness.

Penelope’s fingers traced the taught, bony, face above her.

“Always the stubborn one. Even when they were trying to teach us. No need to hand them the whole group dead.”

She looked like she wanted to say more, but you could see what it was taking her to talk at all. Chimera brushed a single white hair off her cheek where sweat had plastered it flat. They were different in so many respects. But their pigmentation, or lack of it, was one thing they shared. The scientists had never got that right.

“Just breathe … please? For me?”

Tears began to stream down Chimera’s face as the scarlet beam of gunsights cut through the smoke. But her sister was right. Already the bodies around them were twitching as rounds slammed into their sides. It looked like it was a straightforward job then, no prisoners, no survivors, everything the wrong end of a gunsight destined for a body bag. Chimera nodded grimly. She was used to that; nobody had much room for loving the products of where she came from.

“Come on, we have to leave.”

“I will after … ,” Chimera closed her eyes as her sister’s words were lost in a bout of coughing. When Penelope could speak again her voice was small and weak like a new-born still wet from bio bag fluid.  “You got any more of the good stuff?” Penelope gestured weakly at the med kit her sister was clutching. “I don’t think I can do it else.”

For a moment Chimera thought of the other option, the one she could feel dragging at her hip as she watched her sister’s ruined body.

“I haven’t sis, I’m sorry. I used the last syrette trying to help the others.” Chimera’s breath hitched in her throat. She looked away. “Then you got shot.”

She was still staring at the corpses trying to ignore the shadows she saw growing in their eyes when Penelope made her choice. Her sister would try to remember that when she was alone, and the night wrapped itself about her until it was hard to breathe. She’d fail. It was her fault, always would be. The gun was out of her waist band and in Penelope’s mouth before she could react. Chimera never forgot the look on her sibling’s face as the bullet took the back of her head away.

There was one name on Chimera’s lips when she let what was left of Penelope fall to the floor.

“Garret.”

 

***

 

Chimera finished listening to the echoes of her story bounce around the deserted building site’s canteen. It still hurt, it probably always would. From the facility she and her siblings had been grown in, to the pain of losing the only person she’d ever really loved, her life seemed to be one long shout of agony.

“Is that why you came to me?”

Rings glittered in the weak light from the single obsolete filament bulb before they were hidden again in the owner’s pockets.

“Don’t hog her, she came to … .”

“ … us,” said the second of the overweight twins in shiny blue tracksuits.

“ … obviously.”

Chimera decided to interrupt, “It is, they found the lot. All our support, all our safe houses, and resources. The whole thing’s got Garett’s fingerprints on it. I think they’d been at it for a while, gathering information, sniffing round the survivors of that lab they had us in.”

“I don’t know what you expect us to do. Under normal circumstances it would be easy. But someone with your … .”

“Condition.”

“Thank you, ‘condition,’ is going to stand out a mile no matter what we do.”

“I’m surprised you weren’t caught years back,” said Terrance. At least Chimera thought it was Terrance. She’d never been able to work out which was which.

“I’m too good, that’s why. My ‘condition’ as you call it, has its bonuses.”

In the gloom Chimera’s eyes glowed red as she tossed her long white hair over one shoulder.

“Oh, don’t worry too much over whether we can … .’

“ … see your point of view.”

“You’re a paying customer, and the customer is always … .”

“ … right.”

The twins chuckled.

“You have to admit she’d be doing us a favour, Solomon,” said Terrance with a glance at his brother.

“A good point. The authorities have been sniffing far too close to us recently. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if your operation to release your friends isn’t the reason for us still being at large.”

“’At large?’ I like it Solomon.”

“Thought you might, Terrance.” The twins returned their attention to their visitor. “You’ve taken the heat off, for a little while at least. I think they thought our kind were all … .”

“ … dead.”

“That’s right Terrance. Dead.”

Chimera waited for the twins to finish laughing, but there was still a look on their fat boiled faces that said that despite their good humour anyone that made them angry would regret it.

“You’ll help then?”

“We’ll help.”

“It’ll be fun watching you get massacred again. You know he’s killed everyone who’s tried to end him.”

“That’s because Garret’s more vicious than a hanging judge, and twice as corrupt,” said Chimera.

“Not as mean as me and …  .”

“… my brother.”

“When we’re in the mood … .”

“ … of course.”

“Which is a lot. We’ll get you up and running, and when you have him we want his head. That’s the deal. He’s caused us more than a few little problems in life. His head should make up for that.”

Wind howled round the isolated porta cabin chasing empty lunch wrappers across the floor.

“You’ll give me what I need to do it with then?”

“Everything, we’ll even put you up.”

A month and Chimera had it worked out. She had a team, a plan, and enough firepower to obliterate an army.

Now she just needed to find her target.

***

   

Garret leant back and spread his arms.

“Aaaaaahh.”

Sun, sea, and lager. He’d timed it perfectly. The last little band of failed experiments had been wiped out just before he was due some serious rest and recreation.

The government’s best Counter Terrorism Officer watched an attractive blonde stroll past.

“Where’s that book?”

He fumbled through the bags at his feet.

“How’d it go? Oh yeah … hola guappa.”

The blonde looked over one graceful shoulder, and slowly extended her middle finger.

“Cheeky bitch, probably a dyke.”

Garret eased his sunburnt carcass back into his chair. Maybe that was the problem. He’d fallen asleep beneath the veranda on the first day out and even with the fake tan he’d plastered over himself the stripes were still visible.

He gave the crowd a contemplative look and tried to relax. The weekend was going to be over too quick.

“Back to the missus and kids. You can’t keep telling her you’re doing undercover work.”

Garret sighed. It was getting harder and harder to return to Belinda. She’d been a looker once, but these days. Well, it didn’t bear thinking about. Particularly when the world was so full of gems like that little blonde tart.

“Just gagging for a bit of Metropolitan, aren’t you?”

He gave the girl a wave where she’d sat down with her friends and tried not to imagine Britain in the rain. He was doing a pretty good job too right up until his phone rang.

“Yes? You know these little breaks are special to me. I was told I was going to be left in peace.”

Garret had instantly recognised the number flashing on the screen. There was only ever one reason why they called him from that department.

“We would have done, sir. But you’re going to want to hear this.”

“What is it then?”

“There’s no easy way to say it so I’ll give it to you straight. Your father’s dead. Someone kicked him out of a moving car in the middle of rush hour. He’d been strangled.”

Garret had heard his colleagues talk about loss and how it felt. Of course, he didn’t have any real friends, so it hadn’t meant much. His breed of unpleasantness made empathy difficult. But now he began to understand as a vast empty space unrolled inside him.

“Who’d they think did it?”

“Garret, I’m sorry, but with the amount of enemies you have it could be anyone couldn’t it?”

“Get me on the next flight back.”

“Already done, you’re leaving first thing tomorrow.”

Garret put the phone down and stared at the horizon. He was still staring as night drew in.

*** 

Chimera had enjoyed killing the cop’s father. She’d taken her time savouring the feel of his windpipe collapsing beneath the garrotte’s fist, and the frightened look in the face that was so like his son’s. But this was even better. She leaned closer to the two-way mirror and watched the shadows her breath made cloud its surface.

“Are we getting worried yet? I think we are, aren’t we Doctor?”

The man in the observation room wore a white jacket and thin wire specs that he could have been born with. She peered closer before stretching out a hand for the microphone. For a moment she’d thought she’d seen the track of old scars on his wrists.

“Doctor? I need to talk to you. Stay seated, please.”

The man jumped nervously, glancing at the mirror. When Chimera entered he didn’t waste time.

“Please phone this number,” he said with an admirable attempt at staying calm. “The person on the other end will tell you who I am, and that I’m to be released.”

Chimera let the sliver of paper hang in the air until he dropped his arm. She was still wearing the same grim smile, the one that hadn’t left her since she’d first entered the room.

“Where do you think you are Doctor?”

“I don’t know some containment unit for another department, I expect. People are always getting their wires crossed, aren’t they? You know, stepping on each other’s toes. You’ve got this all wrong. I work for the company too.”

“What if I told you that didn’t matter seeing as we’re nothing to do with your superiors, and haven’t been for a long while?”

She watched his shoulders sag.

“Then who are you?”

When she told him she watched the rest of the colour drain from his face.

“The experiments? A survivor? That can’t be … there was an operation.”

“They got all of us, except me.”

His face grew a little paler. Considering some of the stuff he and his friends had produced for the conflict she’d been created to end he wasn’t surprised. Corpses had been just the tip of the iceberg.

“Imagine how I feel about that Doctor.”

“But it was all shut down years ago.”

The room slid into darkness as Chimera leant forwards with both arms on the table.

“You already know what I see Doctor; what I was designed to spread. But have you ever experienced it yourself?”

The gloom had become so thick the Doctor’s face floated in it like the belly of a dead fish. Only Chimera’s eye’s provided illumination as they began to blaze red.

“B-b-but the decision was overturned. There was no telling how f-far something like that could spread. People need hope o-or the whole system crumbles.”

He reminded Chimera of a plague victim now, sitting their sweating as he waited for the verdict on his life.

“They still sent us though, didn’t they Doctor? Just like they said they would, and we did our job very well.”

“But you were the ones that were supposed to … .”

“Yes?”

“ … to infect the enemy’s children. You were supposed to be the clean alternative to a virus. The final answer to the region’s problems. If even one of you were to let loose what’s hidden inside you in a major population centre, that’s it.” He clapped his hands together and the sound was loud and final in the tiny room. “The fight ends when the next generation are so full of despair they can’t lift a finger. If you bring what we spliced into you to an island as small as this everyone will be affected."

“I’ve already brought it though haven’t I Doctor? It’s in me, isn’t it? And I see it every day. For me the world is an unfriendly place.”

“L-look, just let me go, please? I’ll give you money. They paid me well, all I want is to be gone when it starts to spread. They’ll kill me for this.”

“That’s if I don’t.”

***

 

Garret felt the cold rush of air before drizzle slapped him in the face and the airport’s doors closed behind him.

“Welcome to Britain,” he muttered and for a moment he felt like turning and heading back inside. They’d taken his wife last night. Some uniforms had gone round to see why she wasn’t answering the phone and found her hanging from the bannisters by her neck.

“Didn’t even use her handwriting in the note,” spat Garret. “Some fucker’s going to pay for this.”

“Sir?”

“Nothing, what resources have we got?”

“They’ve made it a level one breach after they found what was in that girl’s blood at the massacre they’re trying to pull off as a success story. We’re still in possession of the body, barely scratched the other one though.”

“Who was?”

“Sorry sir, she’s one of the early variants. The ones whose alteration shows.”

“I thought they’d been destroyed?”

“So did everyone, it was the previous administration as usual sir, a doctor got involved with the dead girl. He left a door open so to speak.”

“Where is he now?”

“Disappeared.”

“God almighty how did that happen? It was supposed to be a secure facility.”

“Does it matter, sir? It’s too late now.”

“It better not be too late. We’ve got a lunatic after my family, or what’s left of them.”

The PC gave him a commiserating look as he opened his car door and handed Garret a printout.

‘From the PM, sir.’

Garret barely needed to glance at it to know what it was.

“The arch lunatic of them all’s final bloody solution. I knew that mad witch should have been put out of her misery before she won another term. I expect she’ll want to evacuate if it gets out of hand, and the killing spreads.”

“Ours is not to reason why, ey sir?”

“Leave the humour for your own time officer. I need to get to my mother’s. I want to check she’s still breathing.”

*** 

When the screams started Chimera briefly entertained the notion that she should feel pity. It didn’t last long. Once you peeled the laminate from these people’s ID’s and got inside their heads they were all the same.

“Should have known you’d have to pay eventually, Doctor. We aren’t all nice.”

The noise of her sister’s former lover and some of the programs earliest creations getting acquainted grew louder. When it finally died away a man with tattoos over his face and eyes that had been sewed shut stepped from the shadows.

“That copper you want? He’s gone to see what’s left of his family.”

“Good, about time he turned up. Let’s go explain to him the error of his ways,” said Chimera.

The journey only took a few hours; the curfew the current administration had imposed as they began to suspect what was really at stake began at ten and lasted until dawn. That meant empty roads, empty that is except for the burnt-out wrecks of those stupid enough to try and break out.

“You see anybody you don’t wait, car, or cop. Shoot first and we’ll worry about the consequences later.”

Chimera could smell the sea before she saw it. There was nothing like that back where she’d been fighting just dust, sand, and the scuttling things that lived there.

“You sure this is the right place?”

“There’s no other port nearby left open. We took them out last month. They still haven’t recovered.”

“Stop the car then.”

Chimera got out grimacing into the wind and blinking sudden stubborn tears away. The lights from the inflatable looked about five minutes out.

“Plenty of time,” muttered Chimera.

Of course, she’d seen his photograph before. But he still came as a shock. Chimera had been expecting a Godzilla, every day since her sister’s death and Garret had grown. But what stepped from the vessel’s side was a wreck, a failed throwback to the status quo Chimera and her kind were busy dismantling.

She watched as he took a drag on a cigarette that dissolved into coughing and cocked her gun.

Her first shot hit his escort between the eyes, and she watched with satisfaction as he dropped.

“Kill the rest,” Chimera didn’t bother to hide the blood lust in her voice.

“No problem.”

The tattooed man smiled as he pulled the trigger. They’d paid him well, but this he’d do for free.

“How are your parents Garret?” called Chimera. “You enjoyed your visit with them?”

“You know how they are bitch.”

The target was rolling, flying, spitting out bullets that hit her companion in the shoulder and face. Chimera stepped across his body and calmly finished the skipper first before he could radio for help.

“You love your country don’t you Garret? You’d do anything to protect it, I expect.”

“I’ll kill you that’s for sure, just like your sister.”

Chimera let him take a good look at the machine pistol in her hand as he fumbled bullets into his gun.

“Then take this as a favour. You won’t live to see what we’ll do to it.”

“You’re mad.”

“Of course, mad as hell Garret.”

Chimera let loose, chewing through the soil with her bullets, but the cop was quick. The soles of his feet disappeared over the dockside faster than she could draw a bead.

“That’s not going to work Garret. I’ll hunt you till I hear you scream.”

Chimera tasted blood from the lip she’d bitten in her excitement as distant splashing reached her ears.

*** 

She found him eventually, although it took her a year. He’d run to America like most of the countries ex-administration once fires and looting had broken out back home.

“Bingo,” said Chimera quietly.

The reg she’d been given matched the car on the service station forecourt.

“Best money I ever spent. Looks like I’ve got you, doesn’t it copper?”

Garret had appeared from the station mini mart’s depths. Outlined in the white neon light spilling from the windows he looked as skinny as a wraith. Both his hands were full of bags and bottles.

“No room for a gun then, good. I don’t want you getting confused about how dead you are.”

The car door clicked shut behind her and Chimera let her voice carry, “You didn’t swim far enough Garret.”

The ex-cop busily searching for his keys looked up, shock written all over his face.

“You.”

She took his hands from him first. Then she made his legs follow suite, smiling as he crumpled to the ground. He was screaming when she got the rope out of the car. Evidently the shock hadn’t been enough to take the pain away.

“For you Penelope.”

If Chimera had bothered to pay attention there were probably words in the garbled sounds coming from the policeman’s mouth. But the tape soon shut that up before she began to saw.

She made sure to pack her trophy up tight before she let the car do the hoisting.

“At least you’ll be useful up there Garret: vultures always need feeding.”

Chimera glanced at the station’s sign where it sat like a searchlight scything through the night. The body spread-eagled across it reminded her of an icon in a church.

“I hope you enjoy the experience.”

She gunned the car’s engine. It would have been better if the rear-view mirror had been bigger. She wanted to enjoy the sight a lot longer than the time it had taken to finish her work.

“There’s always more of you I suppose. The world doesn’t have any shortage of bastards.”

As Garret disappeared behind the red flare of her tail-lights Chimera began to dial the twin’s number.

 

END

 

 

Kilmo writes. He brought it from squatting in Bristol, to a pub car park, to Dark Fire Magazine, CC&D Magazine, Feed Your Monster Magazine, Blood Moon Rising, Aphelion, The Wyrd, Sirens Call, and The Chamber Magazine. He also has a story published in the anthology One Hundred Voices entitled 'Closest'.

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