Rounding off the main phase of the “first week” of SFSwap @dmv501 brings us a gritty tale of futuristic gang warfare. Even though it’s only a short story there’s some top notch world building to be had here.
STORY NUMBER: 61
PROMPT PROVIDER: @gmehn
TITLE: “Tomorrow at noon, the Fireflies will rise”.
Greg’s eyes slide from Grazzo’s face, looks out from the booth and scans the bar. Apart from a crumpled blonde adjusting her gauzy wings over her gaudy wiggle skirt by the jukebox, a pair of broken nosed sports fans propping up the bar and arguing the merits of a world championship of fifty years gone, the only other in the dank room is the barman; an ape of a man, he wipes a grubby cloth across one spot of the bar, his collapsed, resigned face accepting no talker and promising a stone ear to any who tried.
Greg turns his attention back to the whey-faced man and sighs, “The Birds won’t stand for it”.
“Itching for a rumble”, Grazzo sneers. “Monique has a point, Pierszinski, nothing about last night was right and the ‘flies want blood”. The sneer in his voice is replaced with anger, and Greg, despite himself is impressed.
‘How can this ragtag bunch of Fifties rejects command passion from a rat like this’, he thinks. His frown is noticed. Grazzo plunges on.
“This means change. That bastard Barrabas and his ‘flappers’, their days are over, we’ve been too long under their boot and it’s time they were knocked off their perch” Grazzo smiles at his joke.
“Under their wing”
“For fuck’s sake, Pierszinski, aren’t you listening? The Birds are going down and you better be sure you’re on the right side, you know? It don’t matter your a cripple”.
Greg rises awkwardly, his shoulders reflexively shaking out absent wings and shuffles out.
The rain-soaked streets always calms Greg, something about the scattered sheen of multi-coloured neon soothes him. He can see the lights of the suicide booths, beckoning with warm purples. He fights back the tears of shame, of pity. Curling his hand into a fist he strikes himself on the nose. The pain is electric, a flash of searing light that wipes the pity from his heart. Through his tears he laughs.
The Birds flock together, wheeling in the sky, their twists and perturbations a reminder that terrible things are to occur today. The clock tower overlooking the mighty storm drains of the city mark the time: 11.52.
Blue skies, striated with high cloud, are reflected in the water dribbling the central runnels. With their rigid wings and painted feathers, Birds glide and swoop in preparation. The sharp edges of the wings shine and flash in the vapid sunlight. Grins and shouts are passed between the brightly coloured fliers, their faces painted for war. Some stand on the upper slopes of the concrete, preening headdresses, swapping jokes and laughing raucously, ravens, eagles, buzzards of every hue.
As the clock in the tower tolls for noon a high pitched whine splits the air and the Birds are silent, dropping from the sky like stones, lining up on the lip of the storm drain. Bejewelled faces looks up. A grey cloud gathers on the horizon, the hum rising as the cloud thickens. A stream of greyness, highlighted with sparking flashes teases out from the cloud and the Birds’ voices begin a susurration of mutterings as the Fireflies fall to the opposite lip. Delicate, long bodies, light shimmering wings, each face slashed with stripes of red. The eyes are black stones. The Birds’ mutterings rise to a grumbling, to a roar. A clang of metal on concrete and silence falls again as the Fireflies land.
Greg races through the tunnel entrance of the storm drain; panting he thrusts through the crowds of Groundies, ignoring the fetid stench of their bodies; slipping and sliding down the wet slope to the centre runnel he shouts as he raises his arms, “STOP!”
Above him, Barrabas. A head taller than the Birds, he flexes his massive shoulders, tilts his head.
“What do you want, cripple? PEACE!” The roar from the Birds drowns Greg. He stands, voiceless. Across the drain, a shimmering light rises above the other Fireflies and hovers. Hands over his eyes, Greg makes out Monique.
“Greg, it is too late for parley. Those Birds…” Monique pauses, raises a pink eyebrow at Barrabas. “Deserve only annihilation!” The roar from both sides is deafening. A rush of Birds down the slope prompts the battle, Birds and Fireflies meet with slashing blades, clubs swinging. As the blood flows, Birds and Fireflies on the opposite lips rise. The rush of wings fills the air with bloody winds as ‘flies and Birds crash and slash into each other. Broken bodies strew the floor, their moaning and crying mixes with the grunts and thuds of combat. The air is thick with pain, fear and fury.
Greg stands. He gathers himself, bowed in, head down. As he rises out and up into the air, he screams. The sound is a high pitched, screeching through every ear. Grabbing at their heads trying to block out the all encompassing sound, soldiers on both sides vomit, bent double, blood flowing from ears, noses, eyes. With a crunching, shrieking sound bodies begin to collapse in, bones squeeze and organs compresses. Birds and ‘flies merge screaming into each other, terrified eyes look out from heads fleshed within backs, mouths wail from shoulders as legs and arms stumble in the attempt to flee the piercing, melting, excoriating shrill.
As quickly as it started, it stops. Greg falls crumpled to the floor amid the moans of the injured. The blood flows down the runnel, washing all in red.
Staggering to his feet, Barrabas surveys the carnage. A sea of bodies, warped and mangled lies across the floor of the drain. On one slope he can see the lifeless body of Monique, her wings shattered, her body a twisted joke. At the centre, the kneeling Greg hangs his head.
Slowly he rises to survey the scene. The tears flow unheeded. He limps up the slope to the tunnel exit. He turns briefly, catches the eye of Barrabas. Greg’s face is a stone.
PROMPT: "Tomorrow at noon, the fireflies will rise, but the birds won't stand for it."