Locusts in your Froyo (Part 1)

Story 1 Penelope at the fridge ( for email )

You could go outside when the dusters weren’t spraying, but Penelope wouldn’t be going out. Not today.

Peeling the covers from her face, she grimaced resentfully as shards of light stabbed through the slits between the sunblockers. She sat up, too quickly, the bedroom lurching forward in concert with her stomach. Her cranium howled, its innards throbbing, molten.

Spilling herself onto the floor, Penelope army-crawled to the toilet. She flipped the lid and braced the tank, making a pistol with her right hand, jamming the barrel down her throat and pulling the trigger. After hunching over the receptacle for several cathartic heaves, she collapsed onto the cool tile of the bathroom floor, undulating waves of blood coursing ecstatically beneath her sweaty forehead.

“Fuck,” said Penelope.

She whipped her hand in the direction of the door, using the momentum to flop onto her stomach. After slithering a few feet, she evolved from shamed salamander to downtrodden dog, propping herself up on all fours and padding the rest of the way to the kitchen. She yanked the door to the inter-fridge, a threatened cat now, hissing as fluorescent light screamed out at her. Squinting to make out shapes, she finally saw it. A glint of something. Yes. Bright orange. That’s it. Glorious. Hope.

“Oh, thank god,” said Penelope. She seized the bottle of Crush Orange and slapped the fridge closed. It bleeped, addressing her:

‘Weather: 99 Degrees Fahrenheit! Air Quality: Poor! Vapor Clouds: Moderate! Nano Clouds: Moderate! Locust Clouds: Prohibitive! Dustings will occur today {June 4th, 2057} between {9:00 am and 11:00 am} and again between {3:00 pm and 5:00 pm}! Calories extracted: 1,083.884 for {Crush Orange Soda, Two Liter Bottle}! Say ‘More Information’ for further nutritional information, or push the green Info button!’

“Shut up, fridge,” said Penelope. She tore off the cap and jammed the nozzle down her throat, suckling the cold soda greedily. Sliding down the side of the fridge, she nursed a few more minutes on the floor. Satiated, she slammed the restorative down triumphantly, wiping orange fluid from her chin. She raised a fist into the air.

“I say goddamn that’s good!” Penelope announced, to no one in particular. A rush of faux-energy permeated the cells of her body.

She squeezed her tongue between thumb and pointer finger, pinching off a wee-bot. A pipsqueak drone. One of the larger varieties, despite its name. At least you can see the damn thing. She flicked the wee-bot across the room, where it came to life just before hitting the floor, barely audible as it hovered purposelessly. Levitating too close to the ventilator, the wee-bot was sucked inside. Penelope could swear she heard a tiny robotic yelp.

Suddenly, Penelope felt ravenous. Grasping the edge of the kitchen island, she pulled herself to her feet and launched her upper body back into the fridge, scrounging frenziedly. Retreating from the fray, she transferred her rations to the kitchen island.

Calories extracted: 865.54 for: {Hot Dogs, Beef}, {Tomatoes, Cherry}, {Cheese, String}, {Bread, Wheat} —

“Don’t care right now, fridge!” she said. The fridge blooped, dejected.

Penelope slipped two hot dogs from slimy packaging and slammed them on top of a piece of wheat bread, then commenced stripping countless spindles of string cheese on top of the hot dogs.

“Come on, come on,” Penelope urged the string cheese. Finally, there was enough.

She passed on slicing the cherry tomatoes, the crucible of the string cheese having been so profound. She fisted a bunch onto the sandwich. Several petered to the end of the island and fell to the floor, sheep off a cliff. She mashed the top piece of bread down on the dubious structure to stop further roll-off, realizing, too late, that she hadn’t cooked the hot dogs.

Penelope allowed herself only a nanosecond to consider the morbid piece of work before punching it into her mouth. She shut off all thoughts, gorging. In under a minute the sandwich, if you could call it that, was within her.

“That was good,” said Penelope, still chewing, breathing heavily.

“It’s a good idea to eat,” she opined. She swallowed the last piece of sandwich, clenching her throat to force it down.

“I’m feeling better,” she announced. “That was a good idea.” She nodded gravely.

“I’m feeling better,” Penelope repeated. She steadied herself against the kitchen island, squeezing her eyes closed, giving off the air of one in a state of deep contemplation who has just come to a profoundly tragic conclusion.

“Trash!” she shouted. A receptacle shot out from the island with a triumphant trumpet call, where a deconstructed version of the uncooked-hot-dog, string cheese and cherry tomato sandwich projected from her mouth propelled by a torrent of orange soda. After several exquisite convulsions, Penelope found herself back on the floor.

“Ok,” said Penelope, staring at the ceiling of her sliver. “That wasn’t good. That was a stupid fucking idea.”

She pulled herself up. Opening the freezer, she rescued a bottle of vodka from the center of an encroaching crust of freezer ice. She dumped a few fingers of vodka into a glass and mixed it with more orange soda. Bracing the edge of the island, she swallowed a large gulp, shivering with nauseous ecstasy as the alcohol warmed her viscera.

“If that’s how it’s gotta be,” said Penelope, “then that’s how it’s gotta be.” She shuffled to the couch with her restorative, a biped now, though still shamed. She collapsed onto the couch, managing to stay upright, mostly.

“Television,” said Penelope in monotone. Nothing happened.

“TV!” she shouted. The telescreen came to life. A Tyrannosaurus Rex came bounding toward her. Penelope cowered, cradling her drink like mother-shielding-child. “3D off!” she screamed. The T-Rex receded into the screen. Penelope checked her drink, caressing the glass gently for a few moments before putting it to her mouth and taking another generous swallow.

“Channel up,” said Penelope. News. She stared at the talking head dully. Promontory rolling out enhanced version of the pheromone today…dusters spraying two troublesome nano-clouds in south city…new pheromone makes nanos even more irresistible to locusts…Promontory hopeful that nano-clouds significantly reduced in upcoming weeks…

“…Yada yada yada,” said Penelope. “Channel.”

Pimp Your Shelter.

“Channel.”

Low-Cal Low-Cost Locust with Laura-Lee.

“Channel.”

Doomsday Gloaters.

Penelope fingered the lip of her glass. She took another gulp. The benevolent glow of self-esteem was gratifying. She felt almost human again.

“Channel…channel…channel…channel…channel…”

The Bachelorette.

“TV off!” said Penelope.

The TV blooped, rejected.

Penelope sighed. In her periphery, the soft glow of the holo-room still beckoned from the night before. For the first time that day, Penelope smiled. She gathered herself up from the couch and puttered to the holo-room to shut it down. After taking a step inside, she leapt out with a shrill screech, pressing her back against the opposite wall.

“Really?” she said.

She darted her head back into the holo-room. A man was splayed on the floor, prostrate. Rather, the image of a man. Richard. Or was it Rich? Dick? She couldn’t believe she had forgotten. He strongly preferred one of them, she remembered that much. Did he actually prefer Dick?

Richard/Rich/Dick scintillated on the floor of Receiving, surrounded by flickering images from last night’s holo-debauche. His Casting room was littered with snack miscellany, the cushions from his Casting couch scattered to-and-fro around the room, a few lying on top of him. A bag of Newman’s Own Choco-Gourmet Grasshopper Grahams was spilled all over his couch. He must have kept partying after I left, thought Penelope. Those weren’t on the date supply list.

Several cans of Amstel orbited the man’s head, and an outstretched hand clutched an empty bottle of Glenlivet. The gentlemanly-looking glass he had been teetering flirtatiously the night before was smashed a few feet away, and his hair was matted with chocolate sauce.

“Wow, what a mess,” said Penelope. She giggled, casting her mind back. “What an amazing date,” she said with an uncharacteristic lack of sarcasm.

Penelope tiptoed into her Casting room. A glass-encased mini-bar held the remnants of her own bacchanal consumption — a few Amstels and a fifth of Glenlivet, hers only a quarter gone. She had nibbled, apparently, on crackers, cheese and strawberries, but didn’t particularly remember that. Richard/Rich/Dick had the same spread in Receiving. HoloGreet recommended that couples coordinate identical food in Casting and Receiving to make it feel more like a real date. For hetero holo-dates, it was customary for the man to send a package with the date supplies a few days prior, but with the nano-clouds increasingly prohibitive, city postal was more and more unreliable. ‘Neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow, nor hail, nor nano-storm, nor locust swarm shall keep us from our appointed rounds!’ But they weren’t living up. These days, it was common for each side to pick up date supplies from their own complex.

Penelope walked to the control panel and switched on Audio. The Semplica Girls were still blasting on his side. She had been blown away when Richard/Rich/Dick said he had heard of her favorite Cloud Wave group, much less that it was his favorite band. The Semplica Girls were not for everyone, to put it mildly. Post-originalist gothic neo-punk. But he sang along (passionately!) with every lyric of Tami Xay’s scorched-lung wail as it cut above Gwen Maksimenko’s sinister synths.

How the hell is he sleeping through this? she thought. Audio controls were shared, so she killed the music from her end.

“Toodles, whatever your name is!” said Penelope. She pressed the Visual button, but it was jammed. A grey goo of fixbots had embedded themselves in the crevice around the button in a vain attempt to repair something, anything. There must have been tens of thousands of them to make a goo this thick.

“Damn it!” said Penelope. Nanos were always getting through the complex ventilators, far afield of their fabrication plants and workshops, which had been closed for decades now anyway — ever since The Big Fuckup of 2026. The management of Complex Acrididae claimed they were working on the nano-filtering problem, but it only seemed to get worse.

Penelope snatched a knife from the cheese plate and started scraping off the fix-bot goo, but it wasn’t happening — they kept whirring off the knife back into the crevice. She gave up, tossing the knife across the room in frustration.

For a few minutes, she stared fondly at the image of Richard/Rich/Dick sleeping peacefully on the floor of Receiving. What a great guy. He was a Strategic Foresight grad student, whatever that meant. Brownish-blonde hair, with piercing blue eyes and a distinguished mustache. She was usually distrustful of men with mustaches, assuming they were likely pedophiles and/or serial killers, but Richard/Rich/Dick really made it work.

Penelope clicked Audio back on.

“Richard?” she said. “Wake up, morning rose!” He didn’t stir. She would have flung a couch cushion at him if he was actually in the room.

“Rich!” she shouted. “Wake up, locust-breath! The date’s way over, dumpling!”

She cranked the music until it was blaring on his side. The Semplica Girls were killin’ it in his sliver, wherever it was. Richard/Rich/Dick didn’t move.

“Oh, I got it,” said Penelope. He had assented to scent control, and the permissions were still active. Penelope’s manicured fingers danced across the Scent Pad, sending him a myriad assortment: vanilla, cinnamon, honeysuckle, sage, lavender. Apple pie baking. Bacon cooking. Coffee brewing.

“Coffee’s on!” said Penelope. “Bacon cooking, man!” Penelope could see the mist seeping into his Casting room, but he was sleeping through all of it. HoloGreet did provide an assortment of disgusting scents, for fetishists. Penelope’s brow furrowed. She shook her head. She didn’t have the heart.

“DICK!” yelled Penelope. She fell back onto her Casting couch. “Tell you what, I’m just gonna lie here with you, handsome.” She smiled at the man lying there with chocolate sauce smeared all over the side of his head. “Although, buddy, you could seriously use a shower.”

She reached over and plucked a strawberry from the bowl, still half full on her end. She went to dip the strawberry in her chocolate sauce, but couldn’t find it. Oh, yeah, she remembered. Not on the date menu.

At that moment, a seed that had been slowly germinating suddenly breached the surface. Penelope shot up.

“Chocolate sauce?”

She burst from the couch, ran into her Receiving area and knelt by the image of Richard/Rich/Dick.

“Oh my god,” said Penelope.

She flew to the kitchen. Yes, she had a bag of Choco-Gourmet Grasshopper Grahams. Racing back to the holo-room, she shook the cookies onto her Casting couch. She sprinted to the control panel, adjusting color settings, looking from his Casting room to hers, matching the color of the cookies on her Casting couch to the image of the ones on his. When the browns were consistent between Casting and Receiving, she looked back at Richard/Rich/Dick’s head, his hair caked with fluid.

Not brown, thought Penelope desperately. Not chocolate sauce.

Red.

Blood.

<<<End Part 1. Read Part 2 HERE!>>>

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2 thoughts on “Locusts in your Froyo (Part 1)

  1. Carole Rex says:

    I love it!!  Better writing overall.  As I got into the second part of the chapter, it was as if your words had come to you more freely.  There was more of an ease about it/the feeling of too much intentional descriptiveness?? was relieved.  Your futuristic ideas are innovative and fun!  I want to read more! Oh, I don’t know how to read the “On slicing the cherry tomatoes…” sentence.  I’m missing the meaning.  The painting is great.  A book?????  Good work! Love you, Mart.

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