ENTER CELL by David Sprehe

K-17 was hairless, with eyes watery milky like his skin, eyes which rolled slimy and seemingly useless in their sockets. Saclike flesh tumours dangled from his skin. His shrivelled body lay in a pink fleshy split open pod floating within a haze generated from the cell floor and ceiling. His body was covered in thin support webs of red, red wisps rooted in the pod. Two men approached. A younger crewcut chubby man in a collared dark blue polo t shirt, fitted khaki pants and Nike tennis shoes and an older caterpillar moustached gentleman in a crisp plaid brown business suit, light brown slacks and faded crimson dress sneakers. The older man was tall and lanky and stark bald top of his head. 

He nodded once in greeting. “K-17. The [clears throat] husk has arrived.”

“A cross dresser,” the younger man said. “In black face.”

“Dr Haflinger is overseeing the implantation now,” the older man said. 

K-17 gave a small smile. “I understand. Good.” His smile trembled. K-17 convulsed in coughing and spit up strings of white mucus. “Death,” he choked. The corners of his mouth twitched. “...”

The cell began to hum. 

Two pitch black assistants strapped John Striker into place. Dr Haflinger paced. He wore a long white lab coat and black leather gloves and had small round rimless glasses perched on his hooked vulture nose. His goatee was trimmed close and thin and his long black hair was pulled back in a ponytail. 

“K-17 is the butthole,” Striker said. “Join me to plug this turd.” 

The assistants put a glittering skull cap onto Striker’s head. The assistants distorted then abruptly melted into the shadows.

Haflinger pressed the button on his handheld computer. 

A man awoke in a motel room. A three bladed ceiling fan twirled slowly overhead. The man sat up and rubbed his head. He was naked and rose to find some clothes. In the motel closet was a white wife beater sleeveless shirt and a faded blue jean jacket with a pair of dark blue blue jeans folded around the hanger. He took them out and turned to the bed. On the bed were boxer shorts and socks. Also, a thin black belt and pocket knife. He dressed. On the dresser was a wallet. In the wallet was $500, all one hundred dollar bills. An ID card said his name was Striker, John. He did not know if this was true. He had no firm grasp on who he was. He saw people milling about shop windows on a rural town street. Resources harvested from a giant egg shaped object, dark swirled emerald and black in colour, resting on a debris covered beach like a doomed whale, the materials removed in antlike procession by strange contorted machines, rodent and insectoid in concept, disturbingly efficient in design. He felt a subtle intimacy, like a dull ache in his belly. Childhood was a stack of rotted lumber, a small black and white kitten, and a clouded sunset over a wheat field. 

“I can accept Striker John,” he said, looking into the mirror. He nodded in salute to himself and went to the door. He needed to know where he was. Near the door was pair of well-worn cowboy boots. He put them on. 

“He never once looked at the Wall. No indications that K-17 is aware who he is,” younger Walter Lemmy said concerning John Striker’s activities in the motel room. Harold Jonas grunted and suckled his coffee pouch. He was viewing news videos in his right eyeball. The video which played at this time was of the mutilation of seven paedophiles in the Capital.

Jonas: “So what’s the poop on this Striker?”

Lemmy shrugged. “No file. I couldn’t find one.”

Jonas rose from his chair. “What did you say?”

“There isn’t anything there.”

Jonas checked the records. He pointed out the door. “And Dr Haflinger put K-17 into that?”

Lemmy nodded. 

Jonas sat down. “You’ve started a file.”

“Yeah. Jeez. I’m not a kid.”

Jonas raised his eyebrows. “Don’t give me dick. I know your type. Your type do too many drugs. In my type we do one drug and know how to handle it.”

“I don’t do drugs,” Lemmy laughed. “You’re an idiot.”

Jonas shook his head. “If this goes bad, we’ll get the borf.”

The small rural town gave off subdued but peaceful vibes. The inhabitants nodded to Striker and gave him gentle vocal acknowledgement or a smile when they passed by. A red ’56 Ford pickup drove by with its windows down, playing Carlos Chavez’s Toccata for Percussion through the radio. The truck pulled into a diner parking lot. Striker walked into the small, busy diner and found himself a table. Just behind him sat two high school girls. 

“She says and she says she says,” the blonde said. She laughed and snorted and the brunette joined in, infected by her companion’s happiness. Striker noted the sugar packets. He studied them intently.

“Good morning, dear. What do you want for breakfast this morning?” 

Striker bumped his booth, startled. He frowned at the waitress who looked off at something on the wall. Her eyes slowly tracked to meet his and she smiled.

“Coffee,” Striker said. “And an ice water. Do you have cream?”

“Yes, I do. Anything else you want?” She eyed Striker. Striker itched his nose. 

“Toast. Thank you,” he said and returned to his sugar packets. The waitress left and came back and he had spilt the sugar packet on the counter. 

“It reaches for chaos,” he said to her. “Why?”

“Honey, if you don’t clean that up before you leave, I am not going to be happy. Here’s your coffee and your ice water and toast and cream is on the way. Coffee needs time to cool.” She laid a red straw wrapped in plastic on the table, touched his arm, and went away. Striker looked at the straw and at the pile of sugar. He grimaced.

“She they we me toad deep,” the blonde said behind him. He lifted his coffee and poured it on top of her head. She screamed. John Striker rose.

“I have come to liberate you from oppression.”

The waitress rushed over to the blonde. Brunette was hysterical.

“Why would you do this?” the waitress asked. She cradled the blonde in her arms and poured ice water over her head. Blondie nuzzled against her shoulder and moaned in pain.

Striker scanned his gaze over the café patrons. “I am come to establish a new order. Who will join me?”

He was accosted immediately. Striker clawed at his assailant’s face and struggled violently but was subdued. He was struck into unconsciousness, and awoke handcuffed. The police escorted him to jail. 

“I challenge god,” K-17 coughed. “My world is without evil. I am all good. Measure suits me. I obtain the eternal. Disagree, I ask you.” 

K-17 glared at Jonas and Lemmy who shook their heads and hung them. K-17 snorted and fell back to rest from sitting forward for too long.

“Did you personally select the subject which received your scan?” Jonas said.

K-17 laughed hoarsely. “My scan. Ha! That scan is worthless. Corruption. Dr Haflinger waited too long. He is fallible.” 

Lemmy rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “What is John Striker?”

K-17 looked at him sharply. His eyes widened. “The Virus.”

Lemmy turned to Jonas. “What’s the Virus?”

“It’s uh… I don’t fully understand it. It’s basically an aberrant form, an anomaly of illness in an otherwise healthy system. The form takes on material, it can turn out be a lot of different things, but when it develops a sort of idea of itself…” 

“It’s a nuisance,” K-17 said and laid back. “A terrible nuisance.” The pod began to close. K-17 sighed. “To abandon yet another…” The pod sealed.

Lemmy and Jonas turned from the cell and stepped into the white wall. The wall when solid had the texture of eggshell. As the wall was pressed into, the eggshell turned to warm goopy pudding. Even though Lemmy and Jonas were clothed, they felt the warm goopy pudding flow and touch over their skin as if they were naked. They were deposited into their workspace like stepping over a door’s threshold. 

“Do you think we should be worried?” Lemmy asked Jonas. 

Jonas frowned and shook his head. “I figure just centralize, then let deteriorate.” He sat down in his chair. “No big deal.”

“You think K-17 might be losing his marbs? Striker’s in jail, by the way.” Lemmy smirked. 

Jonas waved him off. “Yeah, K-17 is breaking down. Slowly. His brain is much stronger but is subject to falling apart same as ours. Dr Haflinger is guesswork when it comes to brains.”

“You think he might have sped up the deterioration by copying his brain?”

Jonas shrugged. 

Lemmy took a seat. He scanned a minute, seemingly aimlessly. Came back. “What do we do?” 

“Capture Striker,” Jonas said. “Maybe we can meld the minds.”

“Absolutely,” said Dr Haflinger. He exited the conference with Jonas. He rubbed his nose. “Meld them.” He felt dizzy and touched his hand against the eggshell wall to steady. The wall conformed gently to his impression. A thin grey worm sharp as a barb poked through the wall between his ring and middle finger and burrowed through the top of his hand and into his body. He swore and tried to pull away. The wall clutched. Many more silver worms, each wire thin segmented and spine like, sprouted from the wall between his fingers and burrowed inside him. His moans ceased; his grimace blanked. He blinked rapidly and rolled his eyes. Opened his mouth and collapsed to the floor. 

“How did John Striker escape?” Jonas asked the policeman. Lemmy rubbed his brow.

The policeman shrugged. “I can’t rightly tell you, sir. Really, we typically only handle drunks who are about passed out anyway. Give ’em a place to sleep it off. Sometimes they’re up and we play cards. Officer Bradley was watching him and honestly watched him walk right through the back wall.”

Officer Bradley nodded vigorously. “Like the wall was fake.”

“Hmmm,” Jonas said. He patted the policeman’s shoulder and smiled. “Contact us if anything else happens concerning this man. Do your best to detain him. Here is my personal card.” Jonas handed him a small card. The card suggested he was a member of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The FBI badge in his jacket pocket, which he had presented to the police officer upon arriving at the station, backed up this impression.

“You think he’ll remain in this county?” Officer Bradley asked.

“Yes,” Jonas said. “He has a special relationship to this area. I fear for your citizens’ lives.”

“Lives?” the policeman asked, alarmed.

Jonas nodded. “His actions were prelude to disembowelling. Luckily, he had lost further contact with reality and believed he was doing in private what he was actually doing in public. Thus, he was able to be apprehended before further horrors could be perpetrated.”

“Good Lord,” said Officer Bradley. 

Jonas and Lemmy left the office space and entered the lobby of the small sheriff’s station. The dispatcher, a pretty Cherokee, smiled sweetly at them. Jonas and Lemmy exited to the parking lot. 

Jonas kicked a small pebble. “What do you think is when this all goes away?”

Lemmy shrugged and got in the car. “Be probably what was before, really.”

Jonas got in. “How can there be nothing on Striker? He is aged at least thirty years.”

Lemmy turned the key in the ignition. “I was thinking maybe shape shifter. This Virus nonsense, it would’ve had to been in the system in some form.”

Jonas nodded. “Yeah. I don’t know. Think he might be a type, like us?”

Lemmy looked at him. “Sheesh. I mean we’ve been in here since the End. Who knows what’s in with us, or what haunts outside these caverns,” then backed out of the parking space. 

John Striker pulled up to Becky’s house in a blood red Buick Skylark and honked the horn. Becky came running out the door wearing a yellow dress and yellow shoes and carrying a small white clutch purse. She had a yellow bow in her hair. Her skin was very tan. She got in and lit a cigarette. Striker drove off.

“My god,” Becky said. “At work today this guy poured hot coffee on Chesapeake’s head.” 

“Too bad I wasn’t there,” Striker said. “I’d have kicked his ass. Did he hurt you?”

“No. Thank god.” Becky smoked long menthol cigarettes. She looked out the window at the passing trees. “I can’t wait to leave.”

“Yeah?” Striker said.

Becky nodded. She looked through his cd case. “Get the fuck out of here.” She put the cd into the radio. 

They passed the pipe back and forth in a gravel parking lot a ways into the forest park. 

“Wanna get out or something?” Becky said and got out of the car. 

“Sure,” Striker said and got out of the car. 

“Kind of cold.”

“Feels fine to me. Want my work jacket?”

“No. Hold me under the blanket.”

Striker got the blanket from the back of the Buick and held her close under it. The two went down a winding grassy path to the lake in the deep of the woods. In this place it was warmer. The warmth lay heavy. 

“Here,” Becky said and indicated the picnic tables. “On one of these again.” 

She wiggled out of her panties and laid the blanket on the sturdiest looking one. She sat on the blanket, spread her legs, and held out her arms to him. Striker approached swiftly and put his hand over her mouth, cutting up her clothes and sticking her like a pig with his pocket knife. He held her down and let her bleed out then gutted her to find her ovaries. He squirted his fluids where the eggs formed. It was a good shot because many matured at once and fertilized and burst from her, growing quickly into miniature John Strikers. The clones stumbled to the grass and scampered into the woods. John Striker left the picnic area and made it back to his Buick. Paused at the doorhandle, vomited, straightened up and got inside the car where he took a long drink of watered down fountain cola and then lit one of Becky’s cigarettes. One of his babies came running in from the brush, cut by briar bushes and bloody. It slapped against the window and cried to be let in. It began to rain. And rain heavy. Another clone leapt onto his hood. Striker sped out of there quickly. The one on the hood was cast off and another clone got clipped backing up. One stood in the roadway out. Striker floored the accelerator. 

Officer Bradley leaned over and puked. 

“Goddammit. Hold it together, Bradley,” Officer Travis said. He gripped Bradley’s shoulder, and held it. 

“I should have shot him,” Bradley muttered. Soon as I saw him. He stood up straight and composed himself.

“I know what you mean,” Travis said and patted his back before heading over to the two feds. 

Jonas and Lemmy stared at the girl. “I was not intending to be truthful when I claimed he was hyperviolent,” Jonas said quietly. 

Lemmy crouched closer for a look at her crudely flayed abdomen. “This is certainly off book behaviour. Has anything like this happened before?”

“No,” said Jonas solemnly.

Officer Travis approached. “Becky Corman was her name. She was a waitress working the diner where we picked up Striker. Boyfriend hasn’t turned up yet. Boyfriend’s name is Nick Bert. The tyre tracks around Striker are from his Skylark, I’m certain of that, especially with Becky here,” He gestured at her and shook his head, “goddamn almost drives me to prayer,” tears started up in his eyes, he choked up and turned away. “Sorry, gentlemen. Have to say I’m not quite used to something like this.”

“Nor should you be,” said Jonas. “Officer, if you please. Thank you. We have all we need here.”

Jonas and Lemmy walked the path back to the Striker body.

“Haflinger believes he bred with her,” Jonas said to Lemmy when they were alone. 

“So that run over Striker in the road is one of his babies? It registered several feet taller than Striker. Not to mention the bodily distortions,” Lemmy replied.

“Most likely it may have deformed after being run over, continued growth like many plants are known to do when broken. I have no other explanation. That one certainly isn’t Striker. Hours old. John Striker is still out there.”

Officer Bradley shouted and fired his gun repeatedly. Shots were heard at the Striker body site. Neither Jonas or Lemmy had weapons. They were surrounded. 

John Striker knocked quietly and repeatedly on the window of Stacey Wordsworth’s bedroom. After a spell Stacey opened the window and peered out.

“Nick? Wtf?” she whispered. Stacey wore pink pyjama pants with unicorns and rainbows on them, and nothing else.

“Can you come talk?” John asked.

“…,” she said. “One minute.” She slipped on a black hoodie, pocketed supplies, and grabbed her red black and white Vans skater shoes. She crawled fluidly through the open window and put her shoes on in the alley way. The Wordsworths did not have a fence but the neighbour did. The fence was wooden and pointed at the top and always seemed wet. 

The two walked to the street and walked in silence for several hours near to the public swimming pool and park. 

“Becky is starting in on harder stuff,” Striker said, “Pills.”

Stacey lit a cigarette. She smoked long menthol cigarettes. She didn’t say anything.

“I really like her. I love her. Just I don’t know if I can handle that, being replaced by a chemical.”

“Isn’t everything chemicals anyway?” Stacey said, the cigarette held in her lips while she adjusted the hood over her head and made sure her bangs hung right.

“I guess so. So now it’s like she’s cheating on me.”

Stacey grinned.

The two came to a pavilion. Under the pavilion were three rows of picnic tables, all of them painted blue. Stacey sat on the table part and let her legs dangle off the end. Nick leaned against a concrete pillar. He looked down at her shoes and pulled at his lip.

“Can I have one of those?” he asked. He looked up at Stacey’s face.

“Sure,” she opened the packet lid and held it out to him. He took a cigarette. Stacey put the cigarette packet into her hoodie pocket and replaced it with a red Bic lighter which she lighted and allowed him to light up, leaning in close to her. 

The motion was quick. The razorblade opened his jugular. Stacey’s heart fluttered and she wished to eat the air around her. He gripped his throat and collapsed into her. She held him close and stroked his hair.

“It’s okay,” she said. “You got them for me anyhow, right? And we fall in love and fuck right here on the picnic table.”

She got up and turned him to lay him gently back onto the picnic table. She crawled over him and came to look into his face, contorted, burbling and paling by the moment in the sickly pavilion parking lot light. Her eyes seemed to sparkle in with his, arranging in the little black here appearing squares jumbling around from her pupil to his iris specific patterns and shifting iris blooms and smiling warm and gentle while he choked. Jolts of electricity shot through him and he jerked and flopped his limbs. She stroked along his cheek with her thumb and peered closer and closer. When their noses nearly touched, she started to vomit, splattering his mouth, chin and bloody hand holding his neck wound. Fleshy cords grew from her throat and pierced Nick’s head, ripping up his face. She smiled, body convulsing, giving in completely. John reached into her pyjama bottoms and put his finger in her cunt. The other fingers and thumb wiggled in and pressed up together and the whole hand fused and became malleable like clay. The quickly forming appendage sloughed off before Nick’s body drained of sufficient blood. The appendage grew into Stacey’s womb and doused her insides in excretions. Her lining grew worms which fed on their mother’s body. 

Dr Haflinger hissed and gurgled from the bulging speaker which the spine worms had formed along his throat. Above his head, attached to his skull and rooted in his brain, writhed, much like gorgon’s snakes, percept sensors the worms had developed into Dr Haflinger’s mind. These cobra like sensors, the tips of which were like glowing red embers, flowed back into the brain then back out in veinlike tendrils down through the flesh and bone of Haflinger’s face, exiting where the upper teeth had fallen out and trailing into the node bundle in Haflinger’s throat, and from this node into the rest of the body. Haflinger stood. 

“The propagator is dead.” 

He lifted his hand and the sensors roamed playfully along his palm. Within a large glasslike cylinder grown into the floor and ceiling floated a fiery haze swirled into an orb. He reached out toward the alien interface at the cylindrical midsection. Long silver worms sprouted from his hands and began piecing together symbols. Dr Haflinger’s mouth hung open and garble sputtered from his throat speaker. 

Lemmy and Jonas knelt in a wooden frame cage. Their fingers curled around the chicken wire which enclosed them. Three nine foot John Strikers crouched in the near rotted shack set deep in the woods. The Strikers watched Lemmy and Jonas. 

“What is it you want from us?” Lemmy said. “Why have you brought us here and put us in this cage?”

The middle John Striker spoke. “We rescued you but we do not yet trust you.”

The left John Striker spoke. “I wish we could have saved more.”

The right John Striker grimaced. “I hold sympathy with my brothers. Tell us your purpose.” He said this last part to Jonas and Lemmy.

Lemmy touched his breast and said, “Well, I’m Lemmy.” He then indicated Jonas and said, “and this is my friend, Jonas.”

“Are you sympathetic to K-17?” Jonas asked right Striker.

“I do not know K-17,” said right Striker. “I know my mother my father and my brothers. I do not know either of you.”

“But you saved us,” said Lemmy.

“We wish to safe everything,” said left Striker. Middle Striker nodded in assent. 

Jonas swallowed. “K-17 is creator of this world. Your father has sped up the process of his deterioration. He is going to die real bad.”

Lemmy nodded.

Left Striker turned to middle Striker then looked to right Striker. Right Striker did not turn to see him. 

“I will unite with K-17,” left Striker said. “I can reverse the deterioration.”

“John Striker and his children must be destroyed,” said middle Striker. He turned to right Striker. “This includes us. What say you?”

“Perhaps you will fail,” said right Striker.

Left Striker leaned toward right Striker and said, “I will safe everything. Dare you cast doubt?”

“Why should we have to die? We are not like the others. Let us live in your world.”

“We shall discuss this after John Striker and his other children have been killed,” said middle Striker.

“Agreed,” said left Striker. 

“Of these two?” said middle Striker. 

Right Striker stood and tore the shack to pieces. Lemmy and Jonas were covered in cuts, splinters and bruises, but escaped. The three Strikers laughed and made fun of them.

Jonas and Lemmy, when sufficiently far enough into the brush from the three Strikers, seemed to fall forward into an outline of cream oozing it seemed from the air and stepped in Dr Haflinger’s quarters. Dr Haflinger looked to them from his interface.

“Nice,” Lemmy said, nodding at Haflinger’s head cobras. “Old school.”

“Only school,” Jonas said. Jonas was bloody, sore and tired. He sat down and sneezed.

“I am committed, yes,” said Dr Haflinger. He turned to Jonas. “The original John Striker is dead. It gave birth to maggots. The maggots seek his corpse.”

“How do you know that?” Jonas asked and rubbed his nose.

“The maggots did not eat their mother quickly. I had several hours to observe.”

“Where is the corpse?” Jonas sneezed again and apologized.

“In the morgue,” Lemmy said smacking the back of Jonas’s head lightly, “stupid.” Lemmy chuckled and bobbed his head. The floor enveloped Lemmy’s and Jonas’ feet and grew up the back of their legs and tapped quickly up their spines to the tops of their heads flowing into their bodies.

Dr Haflinger stepped before them and touched their wounds. Each winced. Haflinger patted them. “We’ll have no more of that.”

Lemmy and Jonas were back in the woods. This time they were projections into the minds of supple little robotoid girls capable of forming long, pointed fingers. 

John Strikers stood within the morgue, spilling out into the hospital hallways the lobby and gathering in the parking lot. All of them were three feet tall. The ones in the morgue closest to the body of Nick Bert cradled in their arms bodies of small dead John Strikers killed by the cops. The unwieldy one slain by the Lord’s Buick Skylark had been burned where it rested. Some small John Strikers pulled the sheet from Nick Bert’s body. The dead ones were then draped over it. Maggots sprouted from the dead ones, wiggled out to find their Lord. All the Strikers collapsed to their knees and groaned, feeling phantom maggots burrowing through their bodies, seized when the maggots squashed and rooted, then fell forward in prostration. John Striker awoke upon the gurney. The dead bodies were removed. John Striker sat up and outstretched his arms. “I’m risen. Go forth.” The small John Strikers scattered in every direction. 

Lemmy stabbed down with a long pointed finger into the body of a Striker worm. The worm coiled around his finger and ejected a steaming fluid. The stream seared into and through Lemmy’s body. Flicking a razor sharpened finger, he removed the worm’s end. Already his supple body had begun to heal the wound in his side. Jonas lunged quick behind a trash can. 

“I think that’s the last of these,” he said. He flicked off the end. His body was pocketed in slow shrinking wounds.

“There really weren’t very many of them,” Lemmy said. 

Jonas nodded. He looked down the gravel alley overgrown with grass and walled in by small houses, trailers and trash cans. A ways down a line of trees, then the forest leading on to drive paths to homes and tiny communities within the wooded hills. The sky overhead the trees were lighted in morning as the sun appeared just behind the trees. 

“Where are the Strikers?” he asked. He blinked back into Dr Haflinger’s chamber. From where he stood clasped in the floor tendrils, he attempted repeatedly to access the feed but was denied. 

“Why has K-17 initiated a blackout?” he asked, scanning through feeds, receiving nothing. “Lemmy can you get Striker? Anything?” he said.

Lemmy returned to the chamber. He blinked a bit. “No,” he said. “What’s this mean?”

One of Dr Haflinger’s mechanical head cobras turned back from the obelisk interface to look at Lemmy and Jonas. 

“Free us,” Jonas demanded.

Dr Haflinger’s throat speaker crackled. “I’m afraid that’s unwise.” His flesh face stared attentively at the interface. 

Jonas: “What is K-17’s status?”

“I am blacked out as well,” Dr Haflinger replied. 

Jonas swore. 

“Is K-17 deteriorating further?” Lemmy said.

“He has frustration with the Striker phenomenon,” Dr Haflinger said. “And perhaps believes it an affront our desire to patch his missing pieces with sections of the copy mind within Striker. He sees it as sacrilege.” 

Jonas nodded. “The giant Striker child claimed a desire to heal K-17.”

Dr Haflinger sputtered white noise. “Yes.”

“What do we do?” Lemmy asked. “If K-17 dies we are going to be critiqued on how we handle this. When we apply for reassignment.”

Jonas grimaced. “I have never heard of reassignment. We stick to our plan.”

“I say we use the other Striker instead of John Striker,” Lemmy put forth. “And just kill John Striker,” he added.

“Agreed,” said Jonas. Both fell back into their girly slaughter bodies. 

Dr Haflinger’s cobra turned back to the interface. Through his fingers, Dr Haflinger felt his consciousness flow entirely into the interface. Dr Haflinger awoke in the body of a small Striker. He was one among a group of many terrorizing the town. Small John Haflinger blinked and Dr Haflinger returned to the chamber. He returned Jonas and Lemmy to their bodies and told them to meet him in the town square. 

Lemmy and Jonas approached the town square. The streets and sidewalks were littered with mutilated corpses and three foot Striker bodies. Only a single, blood covered and heavily wounded small Striker remained sitting on a curb next to a large bloodstained chuck of concrete. This Striker approached with a grin and greeted them as Dr Haflinger. This was not the original body Dr Haflinger had entered. During the slaughter, Dr Haflinger had jumped from small Striker to small Striker, as the body he occupied was killed, until only one remained. Lemmy stabbed a worm, and brought it up to remove its head. 

“This is not all of them,” Striker Haflinger said with a flourish of his hand to indicate the slaughter. “But, it is quite a few. The two of you clean up the worms.”

Haflinger swallowed his fist and died. 

Right Striker came down from the tree.

“I see the town,” he told his brothers. “I see a tower of smoke.” 

“The people will all be dead before we arrive,” Middle Striker said. 

Left Striker was quiet.

Right Striker touched his shoulder. “Will we kill John Striker. You will save K-17. We will start over.”

“We are of our father,” Left Striker said.

“But our mother,” middle Striker interceded, “she was of K-17.”

“Is K-17 good?” demanded right Striker. Middle Striker shrugged.

Left Striker now touched right Striker as they passed through tangles of forest plants. “John Striker was our father.”

“But his soul was K-17!” middle Striker exclaimed. He strolled a few steps behind his brothers. With their long legs the three brothers covered ground very quickly. Certainly, they would attack this night. 

Right Striker laughed and turned back to middle Striker. He clasped middle Striker’s hand and beckoned left Striker take his other. The three came together and right Striker grasped his two brothers close to his chest.

“We are K-17!” He threw left Striker to the ground and put his hands around middle Striker’s throat. Left Striker attempted to stand but right Striker kicked him back down. With a few swift moves he was behind middle Striker and punched down his back, shattering his spine with every hit. Right Striker stomped Middle Striker’s pelvis to pieces. Left Striker stood. Right Striker reached out to him.

“Wait,” Right Striker said.

Left Striker: “I demand you explain yourself.”

Right Striker smiled. “You are right. I want to help you.” He approached left Striker and caressed his face. With his hand he turned Left Striker’s face away from the body of Middle Striker, sprouting roots and already growing according to its new pattern, and made left Striker’s gaze reflect his own. “I will help you. In town there are two girly slaughter bodies. These bodies will take you to K-17.”

“John Striker,” Left Striker said.

“Leave John Striker to me. Find the women.” Right Striker ripped off his testicles and bled at the feet of Left Striker. 

K-17 opened his eyes. He was curled up on a bench looking out to the sea. There was a cackling and heat near him. “Lanello,” K-17 said. K-17 sat up. Lanello helped him. Lanello had dapper hair and a thin moustache. Lanello wore a white long sleeve dress shirt and had a purple vest with thin vertical black stripes. His suit pants were also this pattern and he had a large red bowtie.

“Apologies,” said Lanello. He lighted a Virginia Super Slim cigarette. His body glowed in a membrane of gold pulsing in powdery dustings of brick red and meat. Prolonged touching would result in death and despair for miles around as the energies turned poison.

“Don’t not apologies,” said K-17, scooting away from Lanello. He also had begun to glow and the membranes had started to interact. “It is terrible to be back here. This is not your fault.” 

John Striker shed this stupid flesh and rose from the bench and ran into the sea. He walked the sea bottom for decades. He changed in adaption to the pressure as he walked deeper and farther. He merged with plastics and plants and small bacteria bugs (crabs) and even a weird shark to learn from. He grew large. He walked the deepest trenches. When he rose, he was the size of the largest brachiosaur in height. Bullets and explosives were stupid against his rubber newflesh. The breaking and meltings in his rubber flesh would patch instantly with incredibly more flexible and less and less penetrable fleshide. 

The humans killed him within three days. The skeleton sprouted and crawled to the trenches, incorporating the machines the humans sent to try and stop the movement to the deep. He arose a near six decades later and this time it took eleven days to kill him. He was tall as the Sears Tower and he ate trains and walked through buildings. He shot lasers from his eyeballs and set shit on fire. When he was near death, he fell off a cliff into the ocean. He quickly sloughed off his dying parts and propelled like an octopus into the deep. The humans obtained his dead pieces for study. The UN gave permission to nuke. No direct strike successful, but the radioactivity sprinkled down upon him in the trenches. 

Striker was in a room. The carpet was red. The bed was also red and laced with gold frills. A mirror ran through the centre of all four walls, bending sharply at the corners but all one piece. The walls were tan with lightly printed tiny seashell patterns tinted with crimson that seemed like thin braided columns from the centre of the room. Striker lay on the floor at the foot of the bed. He turned over to see the high white ceiling. The room was lit by a single square fluorescent lamp in the ceiling centre. 

He stood by a fire place with K-17. K-17 fired a small hand pistol. The bullet struck into John Striker’s skull and rolled around his brain. K-17’s collar was undone. K-17 rubbed his throat. His throat was bruised. He stood over John Striker’s body, kicked him over to reveal his chest. K-17 put a bullet in John Striker’s heart. 

The telephone rang. K-17 lifted the receiver. A tinny voice.

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