Happy Monday! After a weekend of surviving family get-togethers and sinful chocolate, why not enjoy a moment of sin where survival isn’t as certain?
I’m pleased to present a new Greylands submission by Colin F. Barnes
She waited in the dark corner of the private gallery like a funnel-web spider. Her hot breath condensed on her face mask as she slowed her breathing. Wedged above wooden curio cabinets and into the corner of the ceiling, Geisha focussed her gaze on a Ming Dynasty vase. It stood in a glass case in the centre of the opulent room.
Greedy bastards, the lot of them. That one vase could feed the entire city for a year. And yet the owners kept it enshrined in glass while others suffered.
Regardless, she would enjoy this assignment: her fifth in a row. A new record in the Sisterhood. And what sweet chaos would ensue with his departure. The other mega-corporations would waste no time in positioning themselves to take advantage. Hence the contract.
She briefly considered stealing the vase, but quickly reminded herself of her commitment to the contract. Footsteps echoed from beyond the room.
That must be him…
She had followed her quarry from the upper floor of the mansion. Moving through the shadows and the air ducts she tracked him here.
Any second now.
The studded oak door to the gallery opened and her target walked into view. Her heart rate jumped. Muscles tensed, their intensively-trained memory anticipating action. She flexed her fingers against the hardwood handle of the garrote. Just three more steps, come to Geisha…
The wire twanged softly under the tension. She trembled, anticipated her prey’s shock, the sweet struggle. The beautiful realisation that it was the end, and she was the one that brought it.
She considered if this one would put up a fight. It always made it better. More satisfying. Unlike her last hit who just laid there in bed, waiting for her stiletto to pierce his heart. Anticlimactic, like a premature ejaculation.
Elroy Masters Snr, head of the wealthiest private corporation in the sector, stopped just inches from the precious vase. The only light in the room came from the small amber bulb inside the case. It seemed as if he glowed in the centre of a universe of darkness. A single wealthy body within a galaxy of poverty.
The low light caused deep shadows in his pock-marked and scarred skin.
His facial scars weren’t from the streets, like hers, but rising through the ranks of his family. There’d be few relatives who’d mourn for him. They’d fight to claim the power like starved, feral cats over a mouse.
Geisha clenched her jaw. Swallowed the rising anger. She tried to focus, remembering her training. Be patient. Wait. Let him come to you. And yet he just stood there, twirling his black moustache. Come on you bastard, just a few more feet.
Straining to remain calm, her entire muscle system seemed to urge her forwards.
But he remained in place, admiring his wealth. He took an apple from his silk jacket and just munched, and admired, and munched. And she fell, unable to wait any longer, giving in to her lust.
He twisted his head round at the soft thud, his eyes wide, searching.
Geisha sprawled out her limbs, her breasts pressed against the lush carpet, embodying the spirit of the spider.
Low, she remained under his eyeline. And then she sprung, all the pent-up kinetic energy powering her attack. He didn’t know where she came from as she looped the wire over his head and pulled.
The garrote bit into his neck and he choked, spitting out the half-chewed apple pieces against the glass case.
Geisha clenched her fists and pulled. The razor wire cut through his oesophagus, prevented any screams. He kicked back, but her spread stance allowed his thrashing to pass through her open legs. Losing his balance, he fell face first to the floor.
Stuck against his back like a leech, her head bowed down between his shoulder blades, his arms flailed uselessly behind him. She continued to pull the wire through the meat and bone of his neck, slicing with a push-pull motion.
With one more powerful tug, the razor wire severed the head. It rolled off his neck and bumped against the marble column holding the vase case. Soon, his head bobbed in a gushing pool of blood. Like a rising island in a red pond. Like the ponds back home in Fuji, with their floating water plants. She sighed, suddenly realising where she was, realising what she had left at home: her parents, her daughter, her sanity.
Geisha stepped back from the expanding pool, and dusted down her black, fabric catsuit.
It was done. Her fifth successful consecutive hit. A thrill rippled through her body as she anticipated the rewards when she returned to the Sisterhood.
A shrill, hysterical alarm broke her fantasy. Swirling red lights from out in the corridor swamped the room with flickering light. It reminded her of the raves back home, before the troubles, before she was shipped off to the Greylands. Before she became a killer. This was her new drug now, and the endorphins flooded her system.
Footsteps, heavy boots, clanking of personal armour and the tell-tale metallic clicks of firearms having their safeties removed sent bolts of urgency through her legs and arms, and she began to work again, remembering her priorities. Grab the head, get out alive!
She took a plastic bag from her form-fitting backpack, wrapped the head and placed it into her pack. She dashed across the room and vaulted up the cabinets, heading for the air-con vent that had she crawled in through.
“Hey, stop!” A deep guttural voice called out. She didn’t look back as she flipped the grating up and levered herself into the metal box-section. She pushed her bag ahead of her now that it was too bulky to wear.
The urgent voices echoed up from the room and she pulled herself up further until she reached a horizontal section that lead to the outer wall of the mansion complex.
Just one more pull and she would be clear, but her muscles were aching, losing power as the lactic acid started to flow.
More voices shouted, and then banging: loud and ringing. Then she realised it was gunshot.
Bastards! So much for the idea that the family and their security forces wouldn’t be bothered with his death, perhaps that’d come later.
A bullet ricocheted and sliced through her rubberised fabric armour. The sheared skin seethed with the heat of the round and she cursed as her skin reeled against the burning metal. She squeezed her eyes shut and breathed in, trying to ignore the floating red bubbles in her vision as the wave of pain flooded her system.
One desperate heave, and she pulled herself into the horizontal section. She scrambled on elbows and knees not caring about noise, or protecting herself, she just had to get out of there. Get some silence from the constant ringing of bullets against metal ducting.
Another bullet exploded, this time it rebounded off the hilt of her stiletto strapped across her back and buzzed just fractions past her face.
“God damn it!” With a burst of energy, she propelled herself to a grating. With a strong palm thrust, she knocked it clean off the wall and it tumbled into the pebbles of a zen garden. All tranquility now smashed into a cacophony of noise.
The cool air wafted in from outside. It smelled of marsh gas and sewers and grim reality.
It wouldn’t be long before the plush wealthy interior of the mansion would disappear from her memory and she’d be knee deep in shit again.
She ran across the grounds, ducking into the shadows of willow trees and hedges. She snuck a look behind her, two burly security guards rounded the corner, guns to their shoulders. They wouldn’t see her now, darting through the shadows. She was as good as home.
Geisha let out a long breath, and dared to stretch a secret smile. Number five. In the bag.
Geisha vaulted the last small hedge and jogged out in the street. Within a single block, the opulence had transformed to squallor. Burning oil drums, and fingerless glove-wearing tramps huddled together, creating a pockets of dirty humanity. Broken, and left to rot, their wet coughs signalling they had contracted the New Plague.
Despite her facemask, Geisha held her breath as she fleet-footed her way down the road. Up ahead, a burnt out factory dominated the skyline with its dead chimneys piercing the night sky, and its sloping triangular roof that played host to angry pigeons — carriers of disease and despair.
Just one more alleyway and she’d be at the hidden Sisterhood entrance. Just a few more minutes and she could finally rest, enjoy her hard-earned hot rations. The thought of steaming noodles made her salivate.
As she approached the alley something shifted in the blackness like a greasy cat. Instantly she stepped back. Too late.
Something struck her chest, and she found herself breathing in ragged gasps. Looking down she saw the hilt of a throwing dagger sticking out from her leather breastplate. Her vision flipped somersaults and her knees violently collapsed sending her crashing to the floor on her side, one hand clutching the hilt.
A sickly heat spread from her chest, flowed through her like powerful saki. From the wound, a black slime oozed. It smelled like liquorice mixed with diesel.
Even through the burning pain she recognised it: it stunk like the tramps. Like death. Like the New Plague.
Staring at her from the ground was the head of Elroy Master Snr, it had rolled out from her backpack, and sneered as if having the last laugh. She saw her reflection in its glassy eyes. Her form distorted grotesquely behind the plastic.
Geisha closed her eyes and hoped her death would be quick.