Cheeks

Dear Neville,

I hope our Lord is keeping you safe in these most trying of times. I have tried to contact you through more conventional means but the network has been down for some time in Manhattan and now my batteries have died. I have resorted to the old-fashioned methods our ancient brethren used, in the days before the technophiles and idolators seduced us with their global networks and their internet pornography (although I must admit that I find myself missing the satellite feed and Prayer Line that funds our ministry. Praise the Lord, who turns the Devil’s own tools to such righteous ends!).

Our Mission here in Manhattan continues to make good progress, although perhaps more slowly than I would have hoped. New York was full of wickedness even before the End Days began, which is of course why Satan chose it as his first stronghold (though I admit I would have expected him to start with Los Angeles or Fergus). Communists and sodomites are almost as thick upon the ground here as demons, and while recent events have caused many of the locals to repent, others even now resist our attempts to lead them to salvation (none so blind as those who will not see, as our Lord said). Those damnable Anglicans, sensing an opportunity to spread their particular brand of liberalism, have also set up shop on the other side of the borough; many survivors encounter them first, and desperate for even the appearance of redemption, are fooled by their use of Christian props. I hear that even the ragheads have regrouped at a mosque over in Hamilton Heights! Fortunately they are wasting their time by launching jihad against Satan’s armies instead of converting souls (they know the easier enemy to beat, ha ha!), and we have had no direct encounters with them so far.

Our greatest enemy, of course, is Satan Himself. You may have heard mention of “The Rapture” on the mainstream feeds; do not be fooled. It is anything but. I have seen these so-called “Raptured” with my own eyes. They are infested, brother. They seek the light, but it is not the light of our Lord (you may remember that “Lucifer” means “bringer of light”). Some kind of demonic fungus grows in their eyes, in their mouths, in their open wounds. It steals away their souls. They are already saved, they say. They have already found redemption. And they are gripped by some evil wanderlust that draws them to wherever Satan’s spawn gathers in the greatest numbers.

And there is something else, Neville, something new. You have heard of the pingers and the grunts and the other abominations that stalk these streets, preying on sinners and saved alike. I have seen them with my own eyes; they are half flesh and half machine and not remotely human. But just today I saw something that looked and moved like a man, yet was as depraved as any demon. I saw a ghoul, feeding on the flesh of the dead.

It was the color of stone, or clay. For a few moments I thought it might be one of those golems the Jews go on about — as you know the Jews figure prominently in Revelation, even though they have spurned Christ — but it had metal seams and joints, and a head like a great stone. And its body, Neville, it had such muscles, they shone and rippled and flexed with every movement. I swear, were it not the color of slate it might almost have been you standing there, in the shower at the seminary after practise. But it acted nothing like you, Neville. It was crouched over a pile of corpses and it fed on them through some kind of appendage, some kind of thick nozzle or needle. I did not get close enough to see the details, but those penetrated bodies — they shrivelled up as I watched. This monster sucked them dry and left nothing but husks of skin draped over bone.

I was transfixed. And before I could recover my wits, this thing turned and looked straight at me. Its face— the air was full of smoke and there was maybe half a city block between us, but I could see that it had red eyes, or maybe just a single great eye. It stood up, still facing me; it must have been nine or ten feet tall. It took a step towards me. I held up my Bible, Neville, I was terrified but I had faith in Our Lord, I held up the Bible to this abomination and it stopped! It just stood there for a moment, watching me, and then—

And then it laughed.

It had the strangest laugh, Neville. It didn’t sound anything like a real voice, it sounded like some kind of primitive machine from the last century: Ho … ho … ho ...

And it began to move again, towards me.

I confess my faith failed me then. I turned and fled. I must have run for blocks, and when I finally stopped and looked behind me it was nowhere to be seen.

Perhaps it was a golem after all. Perhaps it was the Beast Himself that I saw, feasting on fallen souls. I do not know. But it had the shape of a man and the aspect of the Enemy; and while I’ve seen the Devil’s other soldiers wreak much greater destruction, there was something especially intimate about the evil this thing wrought in the streets of this accursed place. Don’t ask me how I know, but I feel in my soul that this ghoul was the most wicked, the most evil of all the Satanic forces I have seen here. I pray I never encounter its like again.

But enough darkness! There is so much comfort to be had even in the face of these abominations — for they prove, once and for all, that we were right and the liberal atheists were wrong. The Devil’s minions are everywhere, just as the Scriptures foretold. It is truly a joyous time (perhaps not for the abortionists and the unbelievers — who’s laughing now, Dr. Myers? ha ha!) The coming of our Lord is at hand.

One of Blackstaff’s Christian soldiers has promised to scan this letter to you as soon as he is able. God bless Blackstaff; they are truly doing the Lord’s work. Perhaps once they vanquish the Devil’s Armies they can do something about the homosexuals, ha ha!

Be well, and rejoice. If I do not see you at the convention next month, I’ve no doubt we will meet again in the presence of Our Lord.

Yours in Christ,
Franklin

This entry was written by Peter Watts , posted on Monday July 26 2010at 08:07 am , filed under fiblet . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

63 Responses to “Cheeks”

  1. I saw the title and then assumed it was a continuation of the below “bodyparts postings”, but after reading the first paragraph, I thought, is this a fiblet, and so it is…

  2. Thanks for that. I was just about to leave town for a week and thought I’d fire up the ol’interweb one last time, and found this waiting for me. Wonderful surprise!

  3. Er… huh.

    That’s awesomeness without context. I guess at some point we had to get around to some fundie’s response to a Wattsian apocalypse. (Sort of the polar opposite to that other short with electromagnetic faith, I suppose.)

  4. Peter’s writings said: “It was crouched over a pile of corpses and it fed on them through some kind of appendage, some kind of thick nozzle or needle. I did not get close enough to see the details, but those penetrated bodies — they shrivelled up as I watched. This monster sucked them dry and left nothing but husks of skin draped over bone.”

    Hmm, waiting for the decay and inevitable conversion of flesh into putrified liquids, then the “it thing” drains the former living dry like an insect feasting…no tasty soylent green snacks…or recycling the “resources”…or collecting the end result of the incubated “fungus” aftermath that will be a new bioweapon…or to make a cure for the infection sweeping the populace?

    Peter’s writings also reavealed: “It had the strangest laugh, Neville. It didn’t sound anything like a real voice, it sounded like some kind of primitive machine from the last century: Ho … ho … ho …”

    Like an old fashioned animatronic Disney-esque Santa Claus bringing gifts for the naughty believers…

  5. I read the opening salutation as ‘Dear Miéville’, which *thoroughly* confused me for the first paragraph.

  6. “It was the color of stone, or clay. For a few moments I thought it might be one of those golems …….It was crouched over a pile of corpses and it fed on them through some kind of appendage…..I could see that it had red eyes, or maybe just a single great eye…….but I feel in my soul that this ghoul was the most wicked, the most evil of all the Satanic forces I have seen here. I pray I never encounter its like again.”

    *sigh*. Is it just me or is everyone else getting bored of Dick Cheney fan fiction?

  7. to some fundie’s response to a Wattsian apocalypse.

    What does fundie mean by now? The diction reads like someone from a denomination with a scholastic tradition, like Catholicism. could be a fundamentalist version of that.

    To me a fundie would be someone from a non-scholastic tradition. Does fundie imply evangelical? The voice is very different from something like The Screwtape Letters. Not to say that this is like those.

  8. Think more of how Jimmy Swagart spoke. You do get some weird scholastic language going on because the bible is the literal word of god, so they’d want to research it as much as possible. You have people going to the original languages and drawing conclusions from them entirely out of context.

  9. That ho ho ho fellow reminds me of what I just read from a book about the larva of the water-beetle Dystiscus.

    The wide, flat head bears an enormous, pincer-shaped pair of jaws which are hollow and serve not only as syringes for injecting poison, but also as orifices of ingestion. […]

    These bettle larvae are among the few animals which digest “out of doors”. The glandular secretion that they inject, through their hollow forceps, into their prey, dissolves the entire inside of the latter into a liquid soup which is then sucked in through the same channel by the attacker. Even large victims, such as fat tadpoles or dragon-fly larvae, which have been bitten by a Dystiscus larva, stiffen after a few defensive movements, and their inside, which as in most water animals, is more or less transparent, becomes opaque as though fixed by formalin. The animal swells up first, then gradually shrinks to a limp bundle of skin which hangs from the deadly jaws, and is finally allowed to drop.

    — King Solomon’s Ring, Konrad Lorenz

  10. Looks like being locked in the girls’ restroom supply closet is paying off.

  11. Were you hanging out in Fergus, north of Guelph, sometime?

    Peter’s writing revealed: “It is truly a joyous time (perhaps not for the abortionists and the unbelievers — who’s laughing now, Dr. Meyers? ha ha!)”

    Dr. Meyers,…as in Dr. Stephen C. Meyers, Ph.D and IDM founder?

    Is this what you were working on, sleep deprived, in that women’s washroom bedroom with the wonky lighting system and revealing sound effects?

  12. I would read the shit out of a book with this kind of theme, color and writing.

    Hint, hint, nudge, nudge., say no more.

  13. Or perhaps P. Z. Myers, evolutionary biologist and scourge of the religious (especially creationists), whose name the fundies can *never* spell (normally they add an ‘e’, but sometimes the distortions are much more peculiar).

    I must say, reading this fiblet in the middle of reading _The Salvation War_ is a most peculiar experience: these demons are *not* being squashed by the power of the modern military, assuming they are demons at all and this fundie is not misinterpreting everything he sees. (And this fiblet is much better written, but then _The Salvation War_ is, in effect, a first novel written on a web forum. You have to have some understanding for the poor sod: using such unsuitable technology it’s amazing he managed to get anything written at all.)

  14. I’m a bit confused. Reading this I get the feeling I should recognize the monsters – the descriptions are very specific. Since I don’t, I can only assume this is from some video game I’ve never played (I left the gaming world back in 2003). Is it from some game or am I just imagining things?

  15. The Screwtape Letters with a twist. . .

  16. So… can we look forward to this short story undergoing metamorphosis à la the manner by which “A Niche” became “Starfish”?

  17. I, for one, look forward to the coming of our benevolent robot overlords.

  18. Do I have to read a bible to understand some of this? I have never read one, yet…

  19. This made my morning. Is it destined for the pages of “State of Grace” by any chance?

  20. I thought you were adamant you weren’t working on Crysis 2?

  21. That was just fantastic. Are you pseudonymously lurking among the horde at Pharyngula, sir?

  22. I’ll settle for “god-botherer’s take on the rapture of the geeks..”..

  23. Ah, fundies. Even fictionalized, you amuse me. Rock on, Peter.

  24. @keanani–nobody’s really read that thing. Not even the people who have looked at every page.

  25. @vodkaferret:

    AHAHAHAHAHHAHHAAAAAAAA! Ah, you made my morning.

    I never tire of Cheney fanfic, and I especially love Cheney/Cthulu slash. Some of the Cheney/Limbaugh slashfic, is interesting, too, although how much imagination do you actually need to write Mr. Limbaugh into a hot gay sex scene?

  26. I’ll settle for “god-botherer’s take on the rapture of the geeks..”..

    I read it like the guy is living in a Wattsian apocalypse like Greyjoy says above and everything is mixed up with symptoms of the apocalypse. run away infections, bioengineering, infrastructure collapse, rioting…

    Maybe some nerds went for an attempt at the singularity and got lost in infection. singularity zombies. Maybe some baptists got some nanites in their temporal lobes and are living their version of the rapture.

    Maybe this fiblet is a stat of State of Grace. If we see another fiblet from this guy or his pal we can see if they have any consistent and true results from their uninfected but type I brains.

    aside:
    the homoerotic shower scene was laying on the homophobic hypocrisy a bit thick, I thought. needs more subtlety! I am guessing in a longer fiblet mr author would have more time to spread that characterisation out.

    ps. I react a lot to this due to once being a religious nutjob. keep up the Good Works.

  27. Ps. someone needs to help me with the title. my slow brain not get it.

  28. So far only one of you is right.

  29. ‘s me.

    It takes no imagination to write a Limbaugh/Cheney slashfic; no one disputes this.

  30. So far only one of you is right.

    Dick Cheney fan fiction wins. right?

  31. What’s with the cheeky title? :)

  32. I’m pretty sure its me, Pingers was just too specific a term and the location and descriptions fit.

  33. Crysis!

    Sweet mother of Cthulhu! Peter, you are still involved with game industry somehow (BTW, a solid chunk of Russian blogosphere still thinks you are a prominent computer game writer…you can thank the Internets for that :) )?

    That makes me l…*coughcoughcough*…l…l-l..lo….look forward to Crysis so much more.

    Hope one day you will actually write for a game proper. The industry is long overdue for a writer like you.

  34. In English, the book of the Bible is called “Revelation,” not “Revelations.” No character who knows the Bible would call it “Revelations.” I know it’s a nitpick, but I see this everywhere, and it grates on me.

  35. IMO, it doesn’t have to do anything with SoG. No vampires, or am I being thick?

  36. @Lawful Neutral: Fixed. Thank you.

    @ sheila & keanani: C’mon, guys. Cheeks. It works two ways — as in, “Turn the other”, and that whole naked shower reference…

    @Nix: misspelled PZ’s surname. Thanks for the catch (yes, I am a Pharyngula fan).

    @Jason & RandomJ: It is our policy to neither confirm nor deny unsubstantiated rumors at this time.

  37. @pw:

    In my defense, those cheeks are too cute to be juxtaposed with with a proboscis of slurping death. naturally my brain protected me from the dissonance.

    so, what about transubstantiated rumors?

  38. Hmmm… I assume that “Mahatton” (Second Paragragh, First Line, Fifth Word) is supposed to have an “n”?

  39. well shit… “MahattAn”

    MI just does the dying…

  40. the homoerotic shower scene was laying on the homophobic hypocrisy a bit thick, I thought.
    ditto

    In general quite amusing, excellent voice. Sort of pseudo-19th centiry feeling.

  41. Homophobic hypocrisy cannot be laid on too thick. Seriously. Go watch some of those creepy Ted Haggart videos.

    But then, stuff regularly happens in the real world that people would reject in fiction.

  42. I was convinced that “Dr. Meyer” was an intentional touch of authenticity (nobody seems to be able to spell it right after all).

    Loved it.

  43. Homophobic hypocrisy cannot be laid on too thick. Seriously. Go watch some of those creepy Ted Haggart videos.

    Those guys are definitely over the top hypocrites. …but I’m not sure they’d talk to each other like this, and it’s easy to ‘lol fundies’. hence danger of laying it on too thick. need more context and character development for it not to seem like that. …or maybe work on the voice more so that we don’t need more context. or something.

    …this isn’t my favorite fiblet. since I usually do like the fiblets and resulting stories, I trust that if this is going to develop in to something that I’ll like.

    and there will be other fiblets I hope. soon? since he is at a writers retreat.

    But then, stuff regularly happens in the real world that people would reject in fiction.

    point taken.

    (did you see the io9 (maybe?) post about the ww2 writers needing work?)

  44. Peter said: “@ sheila & keanani: C’mon, guys. Cheeks. It works two ways — as in, “Turn the other”, and that whole naked shower reference…”

    But of course. Turn the other was soooo obvious, and the shower revelation was nakedly revealing as well, but there must be another unseen underlying reason for those cheeks…hmm, not a third reason why? That whole trifecta, Father-Son-Holy Ghost stuff, Godfollowers-Devilfollowers-Peopleeaters threesome….

    What’s the scoops on Neville & Franklin?

  45. @Flanders who said : “@keanani–nobody’s really read that thing. Not even the people who have looked at every page.” :)

    I know people who say that they have…I made a Jesus decoupage once, in a one time Sunday School class…and I admit that I’ve cracked that book open, but…I learned some biblical stuff from that Mel Brooks movie ~The History of the World Part I…

  46. Wow! I liked the style. (Didn’t know about Cheney fan fiction)
    Thanks for sharing it, Peter.

  47. From The Onion newspaper, 29 July, 2010:

    PITTSBURGH – Announcing a crucial break-through in the effort to create machines that accurately simulate human behavior, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University said Monday they had build the first robot with the capacity to suppress its emotions.

    “This is the holy grail of artificial intelligence,” said project director Kate Tillman, explaining that the robot instantly performs millions of computations to ensure feelings fo unresolved anger and simmering resentment remain deeply buried within its complex circuitry.

    “We felt we were right on track when we brought up a personal shortcoming and it paced aroundthe lab muttering, but when it started breaking eye contact and changing the subject, we knew we had accomplished something revolutionary.”

    Tillman added that with its superior processing power, the robot could apply for clerical work and settle for the nearest available partner 10,000 times faster than a human being.

    ***

  48. re: Crysis 2, and anything else Watts, etc, write.
    (Without assuming that the above IS for a video game, but imagining that it is, for the sake of argument.)

    Can good writing make a game worth playing, or will it be shoved into an awkward format, discarded, or edited until it’s the same drivel available in most games.

    I’m kind of reluctant to jump on the excitement bandwagon there, games seem an awful lot like Hollywood films. Crap, even when they ARE particularly glamorous, even briefly enjoyable crap.

    Although reading about scripts that try to break the format is fun too:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2009/may/06/nick-cave-rejected-gladiator-script

  49. Very nice. Of course, I have to think that Neville is a direct reference to Robert Neville in Matheson’s influential apocalyptic novel, I AM LEGEND (and the many movies based on it).

    The “golem” reminds me of the proposed war machine that used the raw materials of corpses on the battlefield to maintain itself http://static.howstuffworks.com/gif/superman-vs.gandalf.jpg

  50. Okay, hopefully I’m not beating my dead horse, but after discussion here on who the character may have been referring to as Meyers this thing suddenly was reframed to me as a continuation of a writing voice that comes from someone who blogs… versus a writing voice coming from someone who mainly preaches or is a congregation member who mostly talks instead of writes.

    In that case, the voice of the letter writer is not as off as I thought.

  51. Was that the picture you meant to post, John? 😉

  52. Appropo of nothing, 45 seconds of Police Brutality in Sweden:

    http://www.nerdcore.de/wp/2010/07/30/police-brutality-in-sweden/

    (but it seems to last longer.)

  53. Great. Scarred for life again.

    I really should stop coming to this website, after the “Keifer Sutherland and my penis” debacle.

  54. again with the mystery short story work publish in a collection of stories. Anyone know the title of the work published by Watts in “the year’s best science fiction 15?”

  55. The same one that’s been burning up the charts all year: “The Island.”

    http://www.kathryncramer.com/kathryn_cramer/2010/02/years-best-sf-15-table-of-contents.html

    @Hljóðlegur: What gets me about that video is that he maintains Serious Cop Face throughout. It’s like he’s saying “From the neck down I am a boogie machine, but from the neck up I AM ALL COP.”

  56. @Flanders – YES. I am inspired – before I die, I must learn this dance of civil responsibility.

    How may I submit my resume to the Royal Swedish Police Academy?

  57. more apropos of nothing, flying squid!

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=can-squid-fly

  58. Flyin’ squid? Freaky! You know I was watching some show last night in which Anthony Bourdain the chef-turned-writer was being interviewed, and he was wearing a jacket, but a black tee shirt with a white print of a squid on it. I mean, you see this things everywhere.

    If I now go turn on the tv and see a show about a dancing Swedish chef serving squid to a gay missionary, my foray into Repo Man style coincidences will be complete.

    Squid. Plate. Plate of Squid.

  59. Goddam squiddies need to stay in the ocean THE WAY GOD AND ANDY JACKSON INTENDED IT.

    @Hljóðlegur: Bork! Bork! Bork!

  60. @Flanders: Bork! Bork! Bork!

    Hey, loogitthat – calamari!

    Also, this made me feel right at home:

    http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/crime/article/834739–man-hit-by-stray-bullet-at-violence-prevention-event

    ‘Cause this sounds like DC. The community BBQ. The gratuitous flying lead. Here it would have been sponsored by the AME, but close enough.

  61. and he was wearing a jacket, but a black tee shirt with a white print of a squid on it. I mean, you see this things everywhere.

    oh that sounds pretty. was it an embroidery of the outlines of a squid? that could be elegant done right.

    they are pretty trendy these days. what started it? I notice ‘friday squid blogging’ at Bruce Schneier’s blog, for example. There is a new blog that just popped up called ‘cephalove’ .

    it’s like bacon or cats.

    I am embarrassed. a while back I reserved codersquid.com thinking that I might use that as a home. it’s like a code monkey, ninja, or cowboy. expect squid.

    If I now go turn on the tv and see a show about a dancing Swedish chef serving squid to a gay missionary, my foray into Repo Man style coincidences will be complete.

    with bullets thudding down to the earth from july 4th parties (is that a common event in DC?)

    if this is the apropos nil post, I found omfg the coolest science post today!!

    http://blogs.physicstoday.org/update/2010/08/watching-bubbles-puncture-a-ce.html

    omfg cavitation!

    do you guys know of the clicking shrimp that make noise with cavitation? shrimp delivery method. for medication.

  62. I was unaware of shrimp cavitation, in fact, I am disturbed to find that shrimp make any noise at all, given the number I have eaten. I’ll bite – haha – Why do the shrimp make the noise?

    OMfG, cavitation!!! Remember the bruhaha 10 or so years ago when a chemist was cavitating deuterated acetone, and you know how you can get flashes of light when the bubbles collapse? This guy was getting more energy out of the process than was going in! He was so excited that he published on the theory that the pressure waves were so intense and focused that fusion was occurring at that low temp. I felt so bad for him, but I enjoyed the idea of cavitation fusion, and I want there to be a parallel universe where that worked.

    Shrimp with cavitation fusion ability would be a bad thing, of course. We can just leave out shrimp from that universe.

  63. They do it to kill or stun their prey.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alpheidae

    hop down to ‘click’ in the page to read about the noise. and the next paragraph talks about the light flash and temp.

    now, given the physicstoday post on the cavitating bubbles being used to punch through a cancer cell membrane, we naturally make the leap to using shrimp as a delivery mechanism for medicines. I was trying to work fast food delivery in as a joke, but failed.