The Projection Room

Flash-fiction by Kyle Hemmings

Hemmings

Photo Credit: Kyle Hemmings

Me and my childhood buddy, Lemon, (ever so long ago, covering for each other when one played hooky from school, or passing cheat notes on Algebra exams) were trapped in a dune about five miles from Skull Abdullah. The voices around us, full of starving-dog shrieks & taunting misnomers, such as “your mother’s twin cunts,” or “you Willy-boy eunuchs,” grew closer, more nefarious. & perhaps I was seeing things the way one always sees things in the desert, but I swore that several rebels from their scattered dug-outs were holding cameras, as if filming videos of us. Perhaps to show future prisoners of war, to break their will, to make them leak. Perhaps they would post these on Channel D’s late-night Freak Out! which escaped most censorship, a site loved by both porn hackers & viral infiltrators.

Lemon fired off another round from his semi-automatic ramo-rama. I grabbed his arm & whispered to save his ammo for when they started their death-charge. Still, he boasted that he downed three of them, but I only saw shadows, bouncing, receding, folding at their edges. Floating over us. Maybe even smiling. Imagine that. Shadows smiling. As if. . . As if what?

Besides the occasional whizzing of a sonic bullet, sharp stones were tossed over us, some hitting us on our supposedly resilient helmets, issued with pride by supporters of General Tsu’s Down Brigade, the strongest branch of the New Coalition. When the rebels of Ark hit us full blast, rushing at us from all angles, Lemon & I crouched at opposite sides of the dune & fired until we were out of ammo. A blast of bullets hit Lemon in the face, & I, for an insane moment, tried to see my own reflection in his blood forming thick rivulets in the sand, denying the deception of doing so. The rebels descended hooting & laughing & one hit me with the butt of his Do’om 78 long shooter, a sturdy import from the Northern Quadrangle.

In the second before I blacked out, the desert seemed to close upon me. Or perhaps the dune had swallowed everything. Even the shadows.

I woke up in a dark room, a light streaming over my head. On the far wall was now a blurred image of a dune, perhaps the very one where Lemon & I had taken cover. A voice boomed, the sound of its ugly monotone surrounding me as if there were several speakers situated on each wall. Then, the image became more focused. There was a close-up of our faces, Lemon’s and mine, staring into the camera,  scared, confused.

That image faded & what took its place was the trademark Ark rebel monogram: black mask covering the entire face, holes for eyes & nose, the white bold letter A stitched at the forehead. The ubiquitous voice spoke.

“What were you trying to do there, eunuch?”

“Do there?”

“Yes. What were you trying to accomplish?”

I squeezed my eyes several times. Badly damaged trains ran through my head.

“I…we…were trying to erase you.”

“Erase me? Is that possible?”

I struggled to rise & felt cold metal pressing against my inner thigh. I ran a hand through my fatigues. I found a concealed pistol that either the rebels had failed to confiscate or perhaps had planted to give false hope for escape. Did it shoot only blanks? Perhaps one of them, a soldier who had lost his family during the Nomad Purge, had turned against the Float of Ark, the rebels’ great shape shifting deity that could elude all human attempt to categorize & contain.

As I stood, I could feel the interrogator’s breathing upon me, the way one always feels the desert even after one has long made way out of it.

I aimed at the projection machine & blindly fired at the projectionist. There was a shattering & the light went out. I ran towards the back wall, searching for doors & handles, & after fleeing the room, I killed two rebels, one smoking a Tallulah, & took his Hun smart-gun, a sophisticated rifle with semi-artificial intelligence, although this one was a more primitive version.

After exchanging fire with several guards of the stockade, I made my way back into the heart of the desert, not noticing at first, the blood running down one leg. I collapsed into the same dune where the rebels had us pinned down. Lemon’s blood was still there, only now drying as if becoming one with the sand. I kept thinking of the interrogator’s words–Erase me?

The sky turned to a shade of gray and a wind blew over the desert. Flashes of sun broke through as if some kind of semaphore code. Then the clouds drifted over. Low fluffy clouds turning to the shapes of faces & human figures. What now floated above me were images of Lemon & me in the dune. Lemon & I regressing to the physical bodies of children playing leapfrog in the old neighborhood or diving into a heap of leaves when they still could change colors.  In my old house on Spring street, we were sleeping side by side in the attic or were dead. I couldn’t tell. Who killed us? Who put us to sleep? Where were our mothers? & as if to bring the clouds down to earth, or maybe for no reason whatsoever, I fired my pistol at the sky. It began to rain sand.

 

Kyle Hemmings lives and works in New Jersey. He has been published in Your Impossible Voice, Night Train, Toad, Matchbox and elsewhere. His latest eBook is Father Dunne’s School for Wayward Boys at Amazon.com. He blogs here.

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