by Antoine Valot
I liked it because of the crunch, but also because it becomes spongy when you chew it. Chalky at first, but then chewy too. Like marshmallows used to feel.
Rog and Del found the stash in an old train car. Bones from hundreds of old peeps, dead mortals, stuffed in there. From the time before, obviously.
Rog is old. He remembers a lot about the time before, when things were so complicated. Del forgot, like me, because we jack-up a lot. But Rog is weird, he almost never jacks. He talks a lot, he’s sad a lot. But he remembers a lot of things.
We were out playing train-up with guns and lazes, blowing buildings up, and looking for ammo in the city ruins. But mostly playing train-up, no teams. Rog had norside, Del was wesside, I had the park. I was winning good, I had found Rog from behind and pumped a dozen rounds in his back, and I was cutting his arms off with laze when Del got me. She popped me right in the head, blew my brains out. I didn’t even see it coming.
By the time I fixed it was night. I saw my old braincase on the grass in front of me, so that’s how I knew how she got me. I called for Rog and Del but they’d gone back. So I went back too. I wanted to jack-up because I was mad. Del just pops me all the time, right in the head. What’s the fun in that?
But when I got there Rog had hauled back that big train car, with the stash of old mortal bones. Del was ripping him up, putting the old dead bones inside him in place of his nano ones. They were laughing like mad. Del was making a mess of it, crushing the bones sometimes while she put them in, and they didn’t fix, so once Rog’s skin was closed up, and he lifted his arm, the end of it was just flopping down. I said “Hey Rog your hand’s a limp dick!” and we all started laughing real hard. Del grabbed Rog’s other arm and squeezed, and we heard the dead bone inside crack and crush, and then he had both arms flopping and Del was calling him “double dicky.”
I’m the one who had the idea to chew on some of the bones. I’m the one who always likes to eat things. I picked a long one, and it splintered a lot and cut my cheeks a little, so the chalkiness soaked up my nanoblood and that’s when I found out it was chewy too.
I haven’t tasted anything since the time before, when I was a kid, and of course I couldn’t taste the flavor of the bone. But the feel of it in my mouth, it brought something back. I remembered something from before. I remembered marshmallows. Back when I lived in a house, and we had clothes, and we had pain and lots of things were dangerous. I had my mom, who was an old mortal, she was complicated. She was nice to me, gave me marshmallows. They tasted fantastic. Sugar. Sugar was like buzzing.
The feel of the chewy bones made my mouth wet. I remembered shoes. I had shoes with color spots under them, on the soles. One was red and the other was another color. It was so I could tell which one went on which foot, but I never could tell which color meant what anyway. I remembered the backyard, with the short little brick wall. I used to walk on it, with my arms out. There was a sand pit too. I remembered my mom patting the sand off my pants.
I had feelings then, before. Sometimes I was afraid. Tall people, angry at me. My mom didn’t get angry though. I would put my hand in her hand and stand next to her. I remember her hand was very warm.
I kept chewing and chewing and there was more water in my mouth, it was spilling out my lips, and my nose, and my eyes. I couldn’t swallow because my throat was stuck so I spit out the wet bones, and wiped my face with my hands.
Then I got tired and I wanted to jack-up, and Del too. Rog didn’t want to, he asked us to cut off his limp dick arms before we jacked, so I lazed them off for him, and Del ripped out some old bone ribs she’d put in him. He had to stop breathing for a while, so he was out. We finished cleaning up his insides, and we left him opened up, to fix, while we jacked-up.
I was very hyper, so it was good to jack-up. I pushed the dial to the top, and buzzed hard. I must have been out for days. When I came back there was no more bones in the train car. Rog and Del had crushed them, for fun. I tried to remember again, but I couldn’t. Not the feelings. I put on a powersuit and crushed the train car. Then I jacked-up for a minute, and we went off to play train-up.
This story was inspired by People of Sand and Slag by Paolo Bacigalupi.
Antoine Valot does software, performing arts, and fiction. He crafts experiences that empower and delight.