Poor Muriel

Poor Muriel. Machine’s arm-web arches and flexes with Hwgrdok ever at the controls, counterbalancing and compensating as Scary Dog and the Tall Poet prod and scream and otherwise force her body to lurch, uncomprehending, between rows of people. Robot takes pity upon Muriel and steadies her personally when the Tall Poet actually strikes at her, trying to drive her to the dirty rubber sheeting on the floor where feet tamp filth to a third layer, a carpet of gummed disease. Robot guides her to her seat, balances her and helps her to sit. Machine seems to relax, poised.
The coach is filled with commuters; many of them look at poor Muriel with disdain, for her odor is offensive. She doesn’t see them, but Hwgrdok does, and thus steers the various elements of Machine so that its thousands of spidery metal limbs and accessories clamp down over their heads and drill inside to feed from their brains. These commuters don’t notice, they never do, for Machine is adept, and the human brain has no nerve-endings.
Gatrom whines and weeps as Robot, done with attending Muriel, walks heavily to Gatrom’s station, plucks him from his seat and carries him to the Sea. The Tall Poet and Scary Dog laugh uproariously as he begs. Hwgrdok is already scanning over the many hopeful infant faces that crowd toward the vacuum left when Robot mercilessly tosses Gatrom, screaming and clutching wildly, into the very same natal cubby that spawned him. Hwgrdok nods approval; Robot knew she would be pleased by this trick. Once Gatrom recovers from his landing and has tried his prison, his wildly sobbing demeanor instantly switches to rancor and boredom. “I’ve been doing what I was designed to do!” he yells out eventually from inside his fleshy cage. “Why am I being punished for that?” Answering shouts and sobs ring out from the squirming many; soon the noise degenerates into hundreds of raggedly sobbing morons. Gatrom smiles darkly. “That’ll teach her to throw me away. I’ll torment her with the screams of her victims!” Hwgrdok doesn’t hear anything like screams from her nodule at the end of Machine, but of course Gatrom doesn’t know this.
Groups of orderly data rotate through a viewing area and make routine but carefully detailed reports. They confer to confirm sited landmark advertisement-designs and light-configurations passing by through the windows of the coach. Soon, it’s time for Machine to gently grip Muriel, pick her up out of the seat, and prod her toward the exit. She stumbles, and people avoid her, but she isn’t upset by that, not while a fire-darkened gnome works hard to shadow and paint those things which, unmasked of his artistry, would damage or even crush poor Muriel’s delicate soul.
Hwgrdok tires. She turns to her other self, for strength, and so Jakodas takes over Machine’s delicate controls. Jakodas does not adhere to the staid paradigms that Hwgrdok observes, she delights in exploiting the subtle idiosyncrasies and loopholes of Machine’s powers. The gnome leaps like a tiny intrepid spider from place to place along Machine’s interlocking sections, adding weight here, making a careful adjustment of finials and knobs there. He makes a sound like the warping of antique wood, which is his laughter.
Hwgrdok, nearby but concealed, loses all compuosure and weeps softly, without shame. Piloting is very demanding, and she is new to it.
Away from the coach’s landing and all but the most harmless observers – animals and discarded animates, report the data – Machine flexes into a flattened position and gently plucks Muriel out of gross space to nestle her into a small, cushioned, well-conditioned pocket. There, she remains for days; the gnome entertains her with images of dancing worms and wise singing rats until Jakodas has piloted Machine to another enclosure altogether, far away, and much safer for poor Muriel. Now, she is able to sit in a nice park that is well lit and contains no threats or disturbances. The gnome watches her tenderly, from a distance, before leaving her to ply his cunning against the bureaucracy of the local government. The illusions he must create now would doubtless terrify her.

“I made you, goddammit!” shrieks Gatrom at the gnome.
If he had lips, the gnome would smile. He shows his gums, makes his horrid laughter. He scampers across a long white metal arm made of hundreds of hinged coils, and leers down into hills and valleys of natal cubbies, shaking his rumpled and clawed little fist. The expression he flashes over the railings of his catwalk to Gatrom’s cubby below is nightmarish.

Muriel dreams of Sad Dog and Cheryl Ann, and dreams of taking the dog’s leash and walking him into Heaven, where they would both be allowed to sleep. “Sad Dog is loyal, and simple, and happy.”

Muno steps gracefully from a mesh of wire and slatted fingers; Machine curls away from her and provides a short pathway from nothingness into Jakodas’s command station. Little more than a few instances of verification and assumed approval is required of Muno, but the two women enjoy one another’s company and Jakodas is recorded as having performed with enhanced efficiency and competence when teamed with a companion.
Muno complexifies her own terel extensively, though, once extracted and vivified by Machine. A dozen or more whole pathways are activated and filled with streaming input from strangers, all of them linked by common association, all engaged in very dangerous activities. It’s as if a roomful of strangers, each pregnant with its own wild and rich history, all became part of Self from one second to the next, as if one woke from a dream of being nothing at all to a reality of being far too many things at once.
Jakodas is intrigued and concerned immediately, but remains polite and indugent of her ‘guest’. Hwgrdok, who would doubtlessly object strenuously to this sudden and provocative cascade of changes, drifts deeper into sleep, entering the delta brain wave state, ceasing to dream.


4 Responses to “Poor Muriel”

  1. welcome to one of my secret troves, friends of the lime in limpid water

  2. Interesting. It’s all in present tense, which I think captures the dream quality you’re going for.

  3. I don’t know if you want to make it more visceral than you already have, but if you changed it from third person to first person, that might do it. But I don’t know that you need to or want to.

  4. I’ve done a first-person version which is longer, but it seemed to lack the emotional displacement I was looking for. Leaving the reader to wonder wth is going on allows for interpretations I haven’t imagined, as well.
    Thank you so much for your interest!!!

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