Girl in the Glass Planet is an aural cyberpunk fantasy where the Pied Piper meets Franz Kafka in a labyrinth of glass tunnels and grotesque alien insects. Follow Cyberia (the girl in the glass planet) as she joins Darko, Basho, and the Shinkai in hunting down Zatoichi (a god-like creature known as “the speaker-man) after he destroyed their homes and left a swarm of insectoid cyborites in his wake. His sound drives them beyond the point of madness. They’re hunting for revenge, hoping they can reach the silence at the end of the tunnel. A fast-paced surreal sci-fi thriller from the author of The Orphanarium.
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by S.T. Cartledge
A grown man shouldn’t cry while he’s sinking with his horse into the grey-blue quicksand of the Plutonian desert.
Yet here I am with neon green teardrops leaking down my face while my horse thrashes about like somehow that’s going to do something. The back of his head, his hard skull bucking back, has bashed into my face at least twenty times since falling into this quicksand. Hence the tears. And the blue-black bruises on my face and the brown-purple blood that’s everywhere.
My nose is a punched tomato and my eyes are shiny bloodshot pearls with swollen clam-meat closing in around them. My feet are locked into the stirrups and the quicksand is up to my knees. My mouth is all swollen gums and broken teeth, bits of bone-splinters cutting the walls and roof of my mouth and my tongue. It is salty copper, and each mouthful of blood swallows with the texture of a razor wire milkshake.
And the Plutonian sand worms have crawled inside my boots and begun working their way beneath my skin. The sky is black with streaks of orange clouds, white vultures circling overhead or perching on the corkscrew cacti that surround this desert. They call to each other, a back and forth song of sorrow and despair, their voices like radios tuned to the static behind a single guitar poorly tuned and playing a long, slow, wailing solo. The vultures overlap each other in a competition to be the most tragically forlorn beast in the flock.
The sand worms grind my flesh and bones to pulp, to bone-dust, with their diamond-grade teeth, hollowing me out through holes made between my toes, turning my feet into writhing potato sacks. The horse is already halfway hollowed out. The sad white vultures remain at a distance, watching us sink with their deep red eyes that vanish to black like a gunshot wound being sucked into a black hole.
The quicksand is up to my waist as the sand worms work their way up my legs, consuming everything beneath my skin, leaving a trail of human soup in their wake. Blood drains out the bottom of me, drains out my bashed-in face until I’m bleach-white, no blood left behind my skin.
My nerve endings scream like an orchestra of table saws grinding through the hard-rock shell of a giant Plutonian turtle. That’s what it feels like, and hammers made from their shells beating mercilessly against my skull, and all I can think to distract from this feeling is How did I get here How did I get here How did I get here?
It’s a long story, but I don’t have the time for everything. The quicksand presses against my ribs now, and it’s moments before the sand worms take those away from me and take away my lungs, my heart. My brain will have turned to a grey brown slush before the final sand worms consume my skull and burrow out through my deflated scalp like play-doh hair.
Here’s the abridged version: How I got here. There was a farm house burned down and a child stolen from her bed by a man without teeth, and a gang of thieves with guns that shoot vampire bats instead of bullets. I was sleeping in caves, burning chunks of my own hair for heat and warmth, surviving off the stringy flesh of the blue-striped centipedes I found in the caves, and the wolf-fish I reeled in from the acid lakes. It was going to be a revenge story that would finally make me the hero, but somewhere between the burning farm house and now (might have been something I ate, or maybe the water I drank. I might have been bitten by something, I don’t know) I fell into a delirium, and my better judgement was hazed by fever. I focused all my energy on staying atop the horse, keeping her trotting forward, keeping the last wolf-fish meal in my stomach. That’s when I fell into the quicksand.
It’s inching up my throat and in moments I will be reduced to a hollow human-shaped skin and dragged down to rest with all the other human and animal skins at the bottom of this goddamn sinking pit.
S.T. Cartledge was born in Esperance, Western Australia, at the age of zero. Moments later, he learned to breathe and he liked it so much he has kept it up right to this very day. He is the author of House Hunter. His blog can be found here: https://themanifold.wordpress.com/
by S.T. Cartledge
There is a man who lives on a hill in a village not far from where I live, and he lives in a house that is shaped like John Hurt. It doesn’t look intentional (the design) but that’s the way it turned out. He sits out the front of his John Hurt house, and he’s got a banjo and a harmonica and from the moment the sun comes up, he is playing and singing songs about John Hurt. Because living in the John Hurt house has shaped him that way.
They’re not bad, his John Hurt songs, but every time he plays one, his wife gets a little bigger. Of course he didn’t realize right away. He only noticed when she was finally too big to fit through the front door. But the thing was, by this time, he couldn’t stop playing his John Hurt songs, and she kept getting bigger. The wind from his harmonica and the words from his mouth were inflating her like a balloon.
When she couldn’t fit through the door, she took to spending her time by the kitchen window. With a hose attached to the kitchen sink, she watered the grass where she could reach, and tended to her John Hurt garden of fruits and vegetables and roses.
Before long, her fingers became too inflated to turn the tap. By this time, the fruits and vegetables and roses were getting pretty massive themselves. With her forehead pressed against the kitchen ceiling, she asked her husband to put his banjo and harmonica and take all her John Hurt fruits and vegetables and roses to market.
This is when I meet the man from the John Hurt house. He sells all the fruit and vegetables and roses from his wife’s John Hurt garden, and he begins singing his John Hurt songs in town. His voice carries down the main street, where the village gathers around to listen and chomp down on his John Hurt apples and peaches and plums and carrots and potatoes and corn. The village, in turn, takes to building their own John Hurt homes. writing and playing their own John Hurt songs, and growing their own John Hurt gardens and
They don’t realize what they’re doing at first. They just look up on the hill and build what they see and sing what they hear and eat what they grow.
The men all play their banjos and harmonicas and the women all water their gardens from the kitchen as they gradually inflate. And then the woman on the hill bursts all over the John Hurt walls, and the man puts his banjo on the ground and puts his harmonica down beside it. The sun goes down and casts its shadows over the face of the John Hurt house and the man goes away and leaves the village singing and gardening and inflating.
He returns with a shovel and he digs into the hill, digging late into the night, the quiet night with the John Hurt moon gazing down at him. He takes off his shirt and wipes the sweat off his face and brushes the dirt off John Hurt’s shoulders.
In the morning, the village gathers around the hill and watches him dig. They have listened to his John Hurt songs for so long that his silence pulls them in. Before noon they are all digging with him. All the men out on the John Hurt hill digging while the inflated women sit in the kitchen in their quiet little John Hurt town. All morning the men are digging, and all afternoon the men are digging, and at the end of the day, the John Hurt house on the hill has been liberated.
At the end of the day — sitting in a wide, uneven field of dirt — is a giant John Hurt, naked as the day he was born. He stands up then kneels down to get a good look at everyone who has set him free. He wipes dirt from his body. The man slaps John Hurt on his bum with a shovel and sends him on his John Hurt way.
S.T. Cartledge is amazing.