Sympathy for Saint Petersburg

(Part 4 of six day series)

It’s a lot to take in. We stand outside the factory building and look around. M whistles. The Saint Petersburg we’ve become accustomed to is gone. Buildings flattened under a sky that had finally grown too heavy to bear. Old bricks, full of memories, scattered about, forgotten.

A dancer; old, disgraced, and dead; still wearing her shoes.

N lights a cigarette.

“So,”

Slick stands with us.

“I’ve never seen this city as it should have been,” he says. I look at him. I look away. Now that I know his face, I can’t un-see it.

“Is the whole world like this?” N asks.

“Yes,” Slick says, “some parts are better, the warm parts. It is where we send the true-borns. They are raised in a protected place. No harm will come to them. Soon, all the original copies will die and there will be no more danger.”

A mental movie starts playing of two teams of child-Hitlers playing T-ball against each other. Laughing, rough housing, eating a snow-cones, going home to write an essay on Machiavelli for homework.

“So, what am I supposed to do?” I ask, suddenly disgusted and angry, pointing at my midsection.

Slick looks apprehensive. I reach out to grab him. He takes a step back.

“Okay, look, we brought you here because, well, there were special circumstances regarding your pregnancy.”

M stifles a laugh.

I sigh. “What, exactly, is so special?”

Slick smiles, “it’s a girl.”

None of say anything. M doesn’t even laugh. I am not even in my own head. I’m sitting back, warm and safe, watching a movie of myself. Myself turns to Slick, he grabs Slick by the collar.

“What the fuck does that have to do with anything?” myself asks. N and M pull me away from him.

Slick takes a breath, backing off. I step back behind my own eyes and wait.

“We couldn’t risk an interdimensional delivery. It is too risky. We had to bring you here so it can be done with more,” Slick pauses, “care,” he decides.

I light a cigarette. Slick looks at it disapprovingly but doesn’t protest.

“And what does that mean, precisely?” I ask.

Slick frowns, “a natural birth. We copy you, and transplant the child into the copy, and the copy will give birth to the child and you can go home.”

I take a drag of my cigarette. Then, uncontrollably, I begin laughing. It hurts. I choke on my cigarette smoke. The laughter subsides with the coughing. I catch my breath. I flick the cigarette away.

“Screw it,” I tell Slick.

I turn to him. He isn’t looking at me. He is looking fearfully out at the broken city. I follow his gaze. Something moves.

“Inside, now!” He says, suddenly. He grabs me by the arm. Something starts moving fast across the ground. It screams.

I don’t think. I turn. I run. M and N are close behind. Slick slams the door to the building. He bolts it, a heavy bolt. He takes a breath.

“What the shit was that?” N asks.

Slick turns, slowly, “Golem,” he says.

Something heavy slams into the door.

TO BE CONTINUED…

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