Breakfast Serial x.10

This is it.

This is also it.

This is the archive.

The massive mound barreled through three streetlights — tearing steel from concrete, shattering glass, severing wire — before rolling to a stop.

Black and blue and gray burbled beneath a translucent tan shell. A shell that had cracked, leaving a streak of slime across the evening pavement to mark its trail.

Fastened to the fissured hide with gelatinous ribbon was a parcel. Black and white and cooing a lullaby. A soothing sonnet to pacify. The parcel slipped to the sidewalk, landing on two battered feet. She rested a gentle hand across the shell. “You saved me.”

But, the mound was unresponsive.

His emotional display was fractured and vacant.

Dammit!” The Ten-Second Rule, decked in his AFTA Black uniform, killed his call with the snap of his cell. “Mr. Popular’s line is still busy.”

“And, Grasshopper 1’s homing device is offline.” Deadlift, wearing the same, twisted the dials next to the air conditioning vent with her left hand and steered with her right. “I can’t find a signal.”

“Set a course for Adams’ Orchard.” Gregor perched himself atop the dashboard, his glowing eyes scanning the night sky. “And call Caduceus.”

The torpedo skidded across asphalt. Face first.

Skin peeled back. Cartilage ground down. Muscle melted. Bone scraped.

Until all that remained was a solid scab.

“And, just what is so important that I had to interrupt my replenishing ritual?” The girl with strawberry blonde hair in a messy bun wiped avocado from her cheeks with a damp cloth, as she joined the crowd convened outside the garage.

“Only matters of life and death, TouchUp.” The black bearded physician pocketed his phone in the red-and-white coat of his medical mission uniform. “There’s a blaze in progress in the heart of downtown and a car crash to the north. Which means we’re stretched to the breaking point. ColdPress–” He threw a set of keys at the shivering boy with the blue lips in the center of the gathered students. “You’re lead on the fire. Take Suture, Tourniquet, and Butterfly Needle to Manly Boulevard and King’s Crossing.”

The goose-bumped teen raced into the carport, followed closely by the girl with footlong eyelashes, the boy with ropey skin, and the girl with spiky hair of an unnatural sheen.

“Little Blue Pill, TouchUp, 10-Blade — you’re with me.” Caduceus headed for the entrance.

The strawberry blonde glanced at the ogre to her left and the nervous wreck to her right, turned up her nose, and stomped toward the garage.

“Save the holier-than-thou routine for the pageant stage.” The doctor tweaked his half-oval glasses, while using his back to prop open the door for his pupils. “We don’t have time for tantrums.”

Twin vines snaked through broken glass to ensnare the hood of the overturned vehicle.

With a guttural moan, the stalk pulled his trunk over the engine block that sat where his lap should be. Twisting to his stomach, he crawled to the street.

And left his stems behind.

The overweight girl — a ball of lard, sweat, and warts — was the last one into the cabin of the white van with red pluses on its flanks. She spied the nearest available chair — next to the snooty strawberry blonde — and waddled toward it.

TouchUp threw her med-kit on the cushion. “This seat is reserved for someone who doesn’t resemble living flatulence.”

The Little Blue Pill sat down anyway.

The pretzel untwisted. One unnatural loop at a time.

Shoulders and hips popped back into sockets. Knees and elbows straightened. The spine elongated to sit upright. On the unforgiving road. Below stalactite seats that threatened to drop at any moment.

Safety belts swung freely, ripped from their roof mounts. He reached for an undulating strap, to pull himself up, but his wrists were bent backwards, his hands paralyzed against the tops of his muscular forearms.

His fingers were pudding.

Mr. Popular dislodged the helmet from the underside of the Postal Service’s drop-box. The visor was still intact, but the black stripes and white finish had been sanded off in erratic strips, displaying the hard plastic dome undereath.

He lowered his hood and slipped the mask over his head. A hint of lilac gave way to citrus. Spatter over DeathGrip.

Engaging night vision, he headed toward the wreckage.

“Arson?” Deadlift was taken aback by the blistering heat of the ferocious flames, as they poured out and over the apartment complex.

“Gas leak on a romantic evening.” The chief of the local fire company stood beside the second of five trucks, walky-talky in hand. “My guys found damn near a dozen votive candles in a third floor apartment. Surrounded by rose petals. But, that ain’t love in the air. We’ve still got four floors to evacuate, and the flames aren’t abating. No matter how much water we pour on. Any manpower you can spare would be mighty appreciated.”

“Turn the hose on me.” Gregor darted between the gym instructor and the head of the fire company to address the probie controlling the nozzle. “I need to get wet.”

Skepticism smacked the new recruit’s face. A cat asking to get blasted? A cat asking anything at all? “Boss…?”

The chief gave a protracted shrug. “Do what the man says.”

“And hurry.” The Ten-Second Rule screwed a portable oxygen tank onto the front of his mask. “We’ve got about eight minutes ’til that building collapses.”

“All right…” The probie spun the hose and nailed the talking feline. Black fur flew off in sheets. Pink skin grayed and cracked. Claws retracted. Fangs dulled. Bones doubled, tripled, quadrupled in size. Eyes dimmed.

Gregor stood. A golem.

The kite was caught in a verdant prison. Quizzical branches poked an prodded her tender sides. Her gloved hands busted through prickly restraints. Patted her uniformed body. Found everything in place. In one piece.

Her helmeted head, aching from impact, arched to search for an exit. The arms of her captor were rigid and densely woven, but, with a little luck and a lot of shimmying, she could make it to the grass below.

The final branch gave way under the weight of her boot, and she tumbled ten feet into sod. Spinning onto her back, she found a lump. An arm’s length away. Imbedded in the earth. Black and white and wide.

She stumbled to her feet and examined her peer. His knees were bent. His ass in the air. His head in the dirt. Bracing his neck with both hands, she slowly, carefully, painstakingly rolled him over.

His visor jutted from his face at a dozen different angles. His forehead was a gushing gash, blanketing his eyes in a crimson waterfall.

Ripping off her mask, she leaned toward his parted mouth. His breathing was shallow but audible. A soft pant. She unzipped his jacket and slid two fingers over his neck, hoping to feel a pulse through the fabric of her gloves. A gentle throb contented her.

The gaping head wound did not. She laced one hand over the other and applied pressure directly to his forehead, attempting to stem the tide. What she felt was foreign. Soft. Supple. Wet. Waxy.


Blood gurgled, as it sifted through her fingers. Skin puckered and bloated beneath her touch.

Her gloves were split.

A stone fist turned a pinewood door into kindling that the fire was all too eager to consume. Granite digits swung through flames and crumbled into vapor. Gregor pulled back the hand of a ghost. “Can’t hold this shape much longer…”

“Prop up the ceiling.” The Ten-Second Rule dashed past the twelve-foot-tall founder and into the open, seventh story apartment. “We’ll make this quick.”

Golden rays blackened. From root to tip. Onyx locks cascaded down her back. To skim the street.

Her irises inverted. White saucers in pools of midnight.

Her pale skin faded further. Until clear.

She stepped through her clothes. And out of the world.

She was a silhouette. She was nothingness.

Unggh!” The Ten-Second Rule doubled over on the stairs, nearly losing his grasp on the toddlers that clung to his chest.

In one swift motion, Deadlift flipped a grandfather onto her shoulder and grabbed her lover by the back of his coat, before he could tumble down the steps. “All you all right? Ten…? Ten?!”

Wavelength rested his head against the pavement. His blue eyes welled.

“Give me your hand.” The voice was filtered but familiar. The hoodied arm he recognized immediately.

“Wish I had one to give, Pop.” The muscular teen flung his arm past his masked face, toward the origin of the voice. His liquid hand flopped against the road where the roof should’ve resided.

Mr. Popular gripped the boy by the bicep and pulled him through the busted window of the overturned van.

“Thanks, man.” Wavelength got to his knees, then his feet. “Appreciate it.”

“I’m not sure you should be standing.” The media sensation kept his hands at the ready, in case his fellow student toppled.

“We’ll let them decide.” The faux-hawked teen nodded his helmet toward the white van that dove from the sky.

“No. God. No. Please. No.” LiveFeed dragged himself, one arm at a time, across the street. Over flayed skin and powdered bone. To the motionless body.

He turned over her torso and saw the scab where her face should be.

“No… Please…”

He clawed at the cauterized wound. But, his fingers were useless. It was too tough. Too thick.

A med-kit clinked to the ground next to Spatter’s limp legs. A boy — his face covered in flop sweat, his body in a red-and-white reflection of the seniors’ uniforms — knelt beside LiveFeed and rested a bare hand on the lanky teen’s shoulder. “I think I can secure an airway.”

“Do whatever you can,” the French-Creole teen implored through his mask.

10-Blade flipped open his kit, retrieved a valve, and unzipped the girl’s collar to her bust. “Here goes…” The fore and middle fingers of his left hand merged into a metallic edge. He spun open a bottle of alcohol with his free digits, dipped the manmade scalpel to sanitize, and sliced open Spatter’s trachea. The valve dropped into the slit, right as it began to cicatrize.

The med student fastened a hand pump onto the port and handed it to the legless teen to his left. “Field intubator. Squeeze and release every couple of seconds.” 10-Blade studied the dense crust above the girl’s neck, then the blade that comprised a quarter of his shaky hand. “That’s the best I can do for now.”

“Sorry. I’m so sorry.” DeathGrip continued to press against Tantric’s spurting forehead. If she moved her hands, he could bleed out. If she didn’t, he would contract melanoma, leukemia, osteosarcoma.

“You did the right thing,” Caduceus assured, as he rested his kit beside the girl. He placed a hand on both of hers and gently removed them. “I’ll take it from here. You go get checked out.”

The Argentinean stuffed her hands into the pockets of her jacket. “No. I’ll stay. I — I need to make sure he survives.”

“Fine, then. Step back.” The doctor unfastened his coat and lifted his hirsute chin to reveal a surprisingly bare neck. That began to bulge. Until slits formed along either side of his Adam’s apple. The heads of two snakes — one copper, one gold — shot forth. Hissing.

“This one will provide local anesthetic,” the physician felt the need to explain, before the gold adder sunk its fangs into the unconscious teen’s brow.

“This one will provide suction.” The copper reptile clamped down on the wound.

DeathGrip could only stare. Wide eyed.

“This is repugnant.” TouchUp was armpit deep in Cortex’s perineal port. Her manicured fingers grazed his bruised gray matter and immediately reduced the swelling.

“This is a human being.” Wireframe, helmet resting against her hip, glared at the girl with the strawberry blonde bun. “And, you will treat him with respect.”

“Looks pretty bad.” The Little Blue Pill flexed the floppy phalanges of Wavelength’s right hand.

“No kidding.” The patient peered at the night sky, so the plump girl examining his hand couldn’t see the tears once again clouding his vision.

“I’m going to have to set both wrists.” She gripped the sides of his palm and forced the bones back into place with a slick crack.

Wavelength winced.

The Little Blue Pill kissed her left index finger and slid it up her patient’s arm. An indigo bubble sprouted along the path and swallowed the appendage, from nail to elbow.

“The hell…?” Mr. Popular strained to delineate the form from the darkness around it. He tapped the side of the helmet he recovered, flipping through every available spectrum. But, the results were always the same. An outline. A contour line drawing. Devoid of features. Devoid of bone. Devoid of heat. Filled with only darkness.

A human-shaped hole in the world.

He inched closer, kicking up gravel, until his feet met resistance. He looked down to find a pile of clothes. Shifting the items with his boot, he found a jacket and picked it up. A long, blonde hair was coiled below the tag. “DoubleVision?”

He grabbed the closest pebble he could find and chucked it at the human-shaped hole. The student-shaped hole. Instead of ricocheting off the surface, the rock sailed inside.

Doffing his hoodie, Mr. Popular slid on the girl’s jacket and scanned his surroundings. For a case. Long and lean and durable.

He fished it from a bush and flipped it open. Along the lining of the lid was an array of maglites, each one larger than the last. Nestled in the bottom of the container were canisters marked “02”. He grabbed one of each.

Affixing the oxygen to his mask, he took a deep breath to steel his nerves. Turned on the flashlight.

And stepped into the void.

The limousine steered a narrow path between makeshift medical stations and automotive carnage, coming to a stop next to the bushy bearded man hunched on a thatch of grass. The tinted window on the driver’s side rolled down, and Selina stuck her head out. “I can take anyone who’s not on a stretcher.”

Caduceus turned his head to address the woman, his hands still busy wrapping bandages around the nubs that were all that remained of LiveFeed’s legs. “That would be a great help. As would high beams.”

“Whatever you need.” The chauffeur boosted her lights, offering nearly double the output of the white van half a block behind.

Harsh light flooded the subbasement, as Micah finally found the desired feed.

“My thanks to you, Madam Governor,” he spoke into the phone in his left hand.

“I just hope they’re all okay,” Hazel’s voice filtered through the speaker, her concern sounding genuine to the founder’s ears.

“As do I.” Micah leaned forward, his eyes scrutinizing the screens. He zoomed in as far as the limousine’s mirror-mounted camera would allow and focused on the northern most edge. Where light was sucked into a seeming abyss. “I must let you go.” He hung up before the governor had a chance to reply.

Striking his cane against cement, he struggled to his feet and hobbled toward the viewing wall.

His eyes were orbs of fear. Dismay. And recognition.

His thumb held down “0” on his phone, and the line picked up without ringing.

Micah cleared his throat. “This is the Voice of the Nation.”

The tip of his cane traced the silhouette on the monitors above. “Pinnacle Project, Batch One-Nine-Nine-One, is corrupt.”

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