“Heaven’s Fire” by Paul Jessup

Heaven’s Fire

by Paul Jessup
to the sound of “Love Her Madly” by the Doors…

This story appears in Sybil’s Garage No. 6.


ME AND JAZZ waved at the Goodbye Girl as it flew overhead, the gold and blue gossamer wings like butterfly beats, the silver cockpit shimmering in the afternoon light with tiny silver threads looping down and around it. We saw the paint we had splashed on earlier in a drugged out mania, the orange and blue and the bright burning red — making it into star shapes and star patterns. Just so my gal Mary Mary May could find her way home across the many patterns of glowing suns.

Jazz sat against the tree, woomph, eyes lit up and his hand rubbing his bare chest. “Man, that Mary Mary May is some girl.”

I pulled out a joint and lit it. The smell was sweet, like flowers. “Yeah, you could say that. She’s not going to be back for another twenty or so years. And then we’ll be old, and she’ll still be young. But at least she’ll be safe. Those fucking molts will have purged her from the datamines by then, and she’ll be safe.”

“So it goes,” said Jazz, “So it goes. I’ll miss her madly.”

“We both will,” I said and watched as she hit the stratosphere, the last of the paint peeling and crackling in the heat of exit.

###

Bear was back in the station, not paying attention to us, his face buried in the guts of a robotic body. Spent vacuum tubes lay scattered across the floor in a circle, ringing around a pile of filthy sparkplugs.

He turned his bushy head round to see us. “Couldn’t convince her to stay, eh?”

Jazz kicked a rusted mechanical hand across the floor. “Nope. The molts have a scent on her code, man. You know how it goes. Once they sniff ya, it’s over on this planet.”

Bear put his head back into the machine. “Yeah, fuck. Why are we still here, then? They snuffed our code out ages ago, and now we can’t sleep in the same place twice without being hunted. Why do we keep on fighting on? Why can’t we go to Zappa, or Firebell, or even Skydew? Any of those stations are better than this. They say they share all, no greed, no law, no fucking molts. You know? Why can’t we have that?”

I reached over and grabbed the microwave rifle from the wall, feeling the power and weight of it in my hands. It was beat down, old and angry. Just like me. Just like Bear and Jazz. “Someone has to do this. Someone needs to stop the molts. We keep running into the stars, Bear — we keep running into the stars and they will move out after us, take the war away from those alien worlds and focus it on the stations. They will take their hands and squish the rings of moons, smash down the other stars. Those peaceful communes won’t last, not when the molts land and start opening up. Consider what we do a diversion, a sacrifice for their existence.”

Bear threw a wrench at the ground; it clanged and sparkled as it spun, sucking in the light. “Fuck. I know you’re right, right? I know you’re speaking good stuff. But — why does it have to be us? I’m sick of fighting. I’m sick of being revived. I’m sick of all this shit. Why can’t we just lay back and live on one of those stars? With Mary Mary May, or Silver Kitty, or Dopeling? Let some kids do our work for us.”

Jazz walked forward, his eyes on a poster on the back wall. Dylan in bright blues, Dylan holding a rally, and underneath it written in brilliantly curving balloon letters: Take Hold of Freedom.

“Because of Dylan, that’s why.”

Bear was quiet. The name of our patron saint, the king of the Weathermen — Dylan. He who died for our cause so many years ago, back when the first wave of molts came in and war was announced, before we stole the gene base and the revita chambers from the military compounds. We were the first to fight back, the first to say no to the molts, say no to the war. We won’t go and rape the alien planets, we won’t kill ourselves on the soil of relic worlds for the molts to pillage, we won’t play their games, live their lies.

We were the Weathermen. And Dylan was our leader, guitar in one hand and pipe bomb in the other. We blew holes in their buildings, had our heads knocked about by the molts and their machines. But in the end there are more of us, growing each day.

Bear didn’t say anything. He just went back inside the guts of that machine and tinkered about, the sparks of his soldering shooting out blue and leaving the air tasting like sweet ozone.

###

It didn’t take long for the molt dogs to sniff out our code and hunt us down in the ratted ruins of a bus station we had called home for the past week or so. We had to run that night Mary Mary May left, leaving our old home behind us, the metallic barking under the light of the full moon, the sound of pistons and steam wooshing into the forest winds. We each had a backpack slung over our shoulders, microwave rifles in hand.

Bear was the biggest and hung in the back, firing at the molts that ran us into the dark of the woods. The sound of the bolts from the rifle burst our ears, leaving them ringing for hours on end, the ping ping pinging of the metallic molt dogs piercing in even further than the bolt firings.

Bear was mad and yelling and hooting, his half finished baby robot Sunshine hung on his shoulders like a koala to a tree. “Come on you fuckers! You can’t kill us, you can’t cut us down! We are the fucking underground, and we will come up from all corners and smother you! The revolution is now!”

Blue lights of fissuring fire shot past us from the molt dog guns, burning the sides of my cheek and my face stinging from the pain. If I hadn’t bit some dream berries an hour ago, that would be a fuckload of hurt, but right now it was just warm and blistering and distant. Like it was all happening to someone else.

Eventually the molt dogs either all died or left us running because the blasts stopped coming at us and the barking died out until there was no sound at all. We ended up on a beach near the main lake, the lake that was larger than the moons that orbited around us. The night was gone and the sun was just beginning to rise up, painting the world in a cold blue that was both beautiful and haunting at the same time.

Cliffs lined the beach to either side, forests like a pine army lining the top of it. I saw a huge mansion on the top of the highest cliff looking dead and run down with haunted eyes. No lights, no star ships, no cars, nothing.

Above it we saw the glimmering stars that trailed the sky, disappearing with the light of day. Bear clamped his hand on mine, it was sweaty and dirty, Sunshine bot over his shoulder smiling the painted on smile, her little light eyes glowing blue. Her AI was half finished, just like her body, but she still had life, somehow. Even if it was mostly broken and artificial.

Bear laughed, heartily. “Now, that. I forgot about how much fun that could be. We were too complacent, man. Too stone still. I had forgotten about how much fun the fight is. I’m going to stay here and fight forever.”

Jazz was near the crashing waves, leaned over and panting. “We need a place guys. Need some pad to lay our heads, right?”

“Right on, right on,” I said, “You guys see what I see? Right up there. Now that’s a joint I could get used to.”

Bear shrugged. Sunshine bot mewled on his shoulders, making the only noise she knew how, blowing hot steam out of her back while the vacuum tubes that lined her shoulders flickered a soft blue and amber light. Black tubes lined her shoulders and back, clockwork gears twisting and turning the wiring. “Yeah, could do. At least until we get hunted again. Damn. You sure it’s empty though? I mean, it looks empty…”

Jazz stood up, his breathing more slow and regular, his body outlined by the grey and blue of the polluted lake. Over his shoulders was a bead blanket, keeping the bitter lake wind from biting his bare chest. “Like, looks can be deceiving though. We all know that.”

From the sky we saw a brilliant flash of light and then stars streaming down blue and gold. I felt like I was covered in honey, prickling, warm, bee filled honey. I felt the bee feet dance on my skin and I smiled. After the flash of light we saw some silver and gold object come skating down, off, behind the cliff and into the woods.

“Damn,” Bear said, “Fuck me if that ain’t a sign.”

I grinned, big pumpkin grin. “Question is — of what? Is that some moldy probe sent to kill us? Is it like some alien ship stranded down among us? Or is it some satellite that just happened to be hit and get knocked down? Could be a bad sign. Could be our death sign.”

Jazz laughed. “To hell with your astrology, man. I say it’s a sign we go and check out what it is, dig? And then we take that pad for our own. If someone lives there, it’s probably some old cat we can coerce into letting us crash. Cool?”

Bear nodded, Sunshine bot smiled and said, “Gooeygahmoo!”

I walked up the path towards the cliff, pushed my hands on the rocky face and felt a trellis of tree roots along the side like sandpaper against my palm. I grabbed it, pulled and yanked. Seemed sturdy enough for climbing. “All right, you bearded crazies. Let’s go. But I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”

###

Trees bent out like broken ballet dancers, crushed under the weight of metal and heat. Circle of ash. I held my breath, because  I recognized the ship pieces, shattered, gossamer wings caught and ripped and torn in bare branches, the knotted fingers grasping through.

I called out, no — screamed, rushed forward. The air vibrated, and I saw the lean hungry shadows of Bear and Jazz run with me, pulling off piles wreckage, sorting through the debris. It was Mary Mary May’s ship — we all saw that. Memories of painting it fluttered through my mind, scattered scar thoughts of Bear building it, claiming the ship sky worthy, that the bounds of this sub earth could not hold The Goodbye Girl in the clutches of its gravity.

“Bear!” I screamed, “Bear!”  I hit him as we pulled out pieces of shrapnel and scattered metal pieces. He didn’t hit me back, he just pushed me and kept on searching through the wreckage. Sunshine bot on his back shot me a dirty look, said something to me in its clicking baby tongue that I’m sure was an insult, its illuminated eyes glaring through tin skull.

“BEAR!” I screamed, and howled, and punched my fists into the ground, dirt and rock breaking the skin of my knuckles.

I loved Mary Mary May. We all did, but I loved her moreso, loved her fingers against stomach, loved her lips on shoulders, loved her teeth running against my back. Loved her thrust and howl, loved her whole and shaking, coming and burning. I still felt her, like a ghost against me. Rocking.

Jazz called me out — yelled at me to come and help. He found her leg — the rest of her buried beneath some plastic chair that was torn to shreds with loose puffs of stuffing come loose and floating like clouds. I ran over and helped, whispering prayers to gods I thought long since dead and buried, hoping that she was alive underneath all of that junk.

We pulled her out, her body slid against the ground, pulling the hunks of metal and plastic off. She breathed — beautiful chest rising up and down, orange skirt frayed and torn but still there, the beads around her neck broken and scattered along the chair like tiny, colorful stars.

I held her in my arms. She was bruised, but in one piece. Nothing pierced through, nothing shattered. “She’ll be all right, yeah?”

Jazz grunted. “Won’t know, man. Not out here. Need to plug the equipment in.”

I nodded and ignored Bear, whose long lean body was sorting through the wreckage, scratching at his beard and making thinking noises as he did it. He sucked on his tooth as me and Jazz carried her off, towards the house to get some juice for Jazz’s equipment.

I was going to say something rude and thought against it. Better Bear stay out here, amongst the scraps of this tin can that he strapped a rocket to. Safe my ass. He sent her up to die.

“Hey guys,” he called back, not turning his head, “She was shot down.”

And we said nothing. I knew he was right. He followed behind as we head up to that old mansion. We felt something igniting in the air — a feeling of being watched. The molts watched us. In the trees, in the sky. Somehow, the molts watched us, using their damned molt technology.

###

That was a spooky old place, definitely one that had gone up and given the ghost. Nobody had stayed in that pad in ages — the wallpapers were all from the early century, the clocks and furniture were covered in dust and cobwebs. We heard the noisy feet of spiders scurrying in the shadows, and tried to pay it no mind when the ancient clock chimed out the angry hours.

“Damn,” Jazz said as we laid her body flat against the floorboards, “I’ll be lucky if there’s any juice left in this old place.”

He pulled open his backpack and rummaged around inside. The sound of gears cranking and mechanical whirring tasted the air as his nimble fingers moved about, searching for the device.  He pulled out it with no great flair, all of us on edge. I held her body, close, that soft velvet skin of Mary Mary May, hoping she would be fine, good, cuddle close and still breathing.

Bear said nothing. He only peeked with cautious eyes out of the windows, microwave rifle in hand, joint in mouth with smoke pluming around his head. “They watching, I think.” He said in his big bear voice, “They shot her down right here, and they’ll be here to get her. That’s why they stopped chasing us, man. We’re in for a big bang of a brawl.”

Sunshine bot clung to Bear’s shoulders, mechanical arms and legs wrapped around tight and making low whirring noises, like a small broken wristwatch. Bear petted Sunshine bot and the thing cooed and mewed in pleasure, tin head arcing up beneath the stroking fingers.

Jazz pushed aside an old table and chair, shoving a tiffany lamp to the floor and followed its mouse eaten cord back to the wall. “Ancient, ancient. This is ancient. But it should have enough juice. Enough sparkly sparkle for what we need it to do.”

He plugged the machine in. Hummmm.

Glitter glow of tiny tesla coils, arching strange light, snickering, snickering. Then the soft illumination of the vacuum tubes, and the tiny green screen in front of him, with glowing radioactive letters. “Give me a sec, boys. I need to calibrate it to her life waves. Focus in, get her signs. See if her chi’s in alignment.”

It sounded like a radio tuning in some ghost frequency — voices from dead stars, dead cities echoing about in the old mansion room. This device always gave me a bad feeling, like something inside of me had gone sour and spoiled my bones.

“Kay, kay, kay. Got it, man. Got it. She seems fine, doing okay. But what’s this? She’s pregnant.”

I tried to speak, but all I got was muttered half words. Was it mine? Was it theirs? It was hers, I knew that, but whose was it? And was it okay after an impact like that?

More tuning, weak sounds like banging, ancient music. Bear pulled red curtain back, pushed his body flat against the boards, fingering the tip of his rifle. “Something’s outside. Like, something walking the beach. Ain’t ever seen anything like it. Fuck me, we are in trouble, boys. We are in trouble.

“Ok. She’s got a minor imbalance here. Just need to change the flow of the chi, correct the balance with a few things. Baby is fine, kicking a little even. I doubt she knows she even has it.”

He turned some knobs, right, left. I sat by, watching, holding my breath. I want to go and look at the window, to see what Bear sees. But she needs me here, by her side. That’s my baby in there. That’s my girl, half dead from a blast from space, knocking her bird down to earth.

Her arms moved as she shook violently, her eyes flipping open, spasming. Jazz turned the knobs another direction, muttering something beneath his breath, tried to focus harder, his knuckles white, his eyebrow twitching. She sat up, gasping for air, holding her stomach and close to screaming, tears rolling down her face as butterflies flew out of her mouth. They flapped in the air for a moment, and then dissipated like colored smoke.

I grabbed her and hugged her, pushing her close to my body. I didn’t ever want her to go again, don’t ever want her to leave again. Even if the molts come directly for us, their dogs growling and bone hungry. I had wanted to set her free, to let her escape, to let her live in peace. I realized now that was just as selfish as keeping her near.

She shook, finally gained composure to talk. “Where am I? Oh, Captain Heart, you’re still here. Hold me for a moment. I fell from the sky, like a falling star. I can feel it — something shot me down. A bird with an arrow in its breast. How did I survive? My whole body feels twisted and wind-smashed.”

Jazz waved at her and smiled. “Got it done with a little help from my friend here. Just made sure the life forces were flowing properly. And — congratulations.”

I held her tight, knowing this might be the first moment she hears the news — our news. “Congratulations?” she whispers in an out of tune voice.

“Yeah, you’re pregnant.”

She shoved me away, I fall back and hit the floor skidding across. Not the response I expected, not the response I wanted. I’m hesitant, unsure, and must admit a little scared.

“Oh no,” she said, “Oh fuck no. I can’t raise a baby here — not in this world! Not in this — this hell. Those damn molts will eat the poor kid up, turn her into a machine…no, no I can’t do this.”

I reached out to hold her, reached out to comfort her. We heard a noise coming from outside, on the beach. It sounded like metal eating metal, machine devouring machine. “Mary Mary May — we can raise her underground — out of the way of the eating world. We can keep our baby safe from the molts — safe!”

She shook her head as Bear pulled out his rifle and aimed it outside, aimed it at something on the dark beach. “It hasn’t seen us yet,” Bear muttered, “And it’s not going to get a chance to, either.”

“Our baby? Our baby? What? You fuck me a few times and think you own this flesh? This is my baby, idiot, and I’m not raising her in a warzone while you and your buddies play revolution.”

I was hurt, I was broken. Bear fired out the window, the loud shots from the microwave rifle making our ears ring, the smell of ozone once again tinting our senses. “This is my baby too, right? It’s partly mine, right?”

Mary Mary May said nothing, she just ran, ran with her beautiful legs out the door and outside, into that forest where the molts wandered, laser cannons ready to hunt us down and take us out.

Jazz shrugged and unplugged his tool and then popped it back into his backpack. He then unslung his microwave rifle and started the charge, getting it ready to blast some metal to welded scrap. “No thanks, eh? Well, I don’t expect you to thank me for her, man. That’s just how it goes.”

I nodded at him. “Thanks man,” and gave him a quick hug. Our arms beat our backs and we parted for a moment. His beard was ragged, twice as long as mine and covered in tiny beads and braids. “I’ve got to go after her,” and I took out my own rifle, testing the scope, making sure the old battered-down beast of a gun still worked.

“Is cool. Don’t worry, you know? Go after her. I have a feeling this pad might be a good hangout for some time.”

Bear turned around, his face was twisted, his eyes mad with the feeling of a fight. Sunshine bot bounced up and down his shoulders, happily making baby bot noises in joy. “It’s getting closer, closer, closer. You best get her back here, before that damn thing gets to us.”

I took a look outside of the window, saw the beach beyond. Patches of the sand had been blasted into glass, the waves rushing about and crashing beneath the newborn sun. Birds darted over the lake, outlining the lone monster of a gigantic bipedal bot that stood about the size of a house. It was covered in molt designs — complex patterns made of intricate mathematical functions. It was rusty and old, and coughed smoke and smog out of giant tubes lining the head.

It had a tail that oozed out toxic sludge, probably some byproduct of its weaponry. Two arms on either side were lined with large cannons, firing a silent plasmatic bolt in the air, aiming for the cliff, not knowing we were in the house on the hill. It shook the ground, creating small landslides of sand and dirt and tree.

In the center of the biped was a molt. Clean shaven head, clean shaven face, thick black military glasses perched on the nose. Out of its mouth dangled a pipe coughing tar colored smoke in shadows around his head. A grey sweater vest accented his chest, a tie around his neck neatly tied and black pleated pants unwrinkled even in combat. He grinned with each shot, sussing out exactly where the weathermen were hiding.

Bear leaned back out, fired off two bolts just to the left of the machine. The molt swung his head around, trying to follow the trajectory with his eyes, tracing it back and discover the origin of the blast.

Jazz got his rifle ready, scope pointed out. “You missed him,” Jazz scolded.

“Naw,” Bear said, “I’m toying with him.”

Jazz looked back at me and shoved me with the palm of his hand. “Whatta ya doing here, gawking? Like, get out there and grab the girl. Make sure she’s safe, even though she’s fucking nuts.”

###

I found her sobbing in the wreckage, pushing around the broken parts of the space ship around, her skirt torn and almost a thin thread, her makeup running down her face as she sobbed.

“It’s OK,” I say as I walk up to her, “It will be all right. Everything’s cool.”

She sifted smashed wires between her fingers, looking at the glinting fibers in the palm of her hand. I walked up cautiously, listening to the sounds of the woods around me, rifle at the ready, knowing that with one molt here the rest should be coming round soon, sniffing out of code and swallowing us whole.

“I almost was out there — you know? Almost out to the Heaven’s Fire. My brother went there a few years ago, been sending me vtcards through the post. He can’t say much, but he’s so happy, you know? And they don’t have any of this there. None of it. They all live together, grow food together, take care of each other’s kids. It’s so beautiful. Why can’t we have that? Why can’t I have that?”

I got down at the balls of my feet. Ignoring my instincts to run and fight and kill. I put a hand on her shoulder, and her tear stained eyes look up at me, pleading. “We can have that. I — I don’t want to give up the cause, you know? Like, this fight is important. Because once the molts are done fighting on the foreign worlds and the alien nations, they’re going to target the communes next. And we’ve got to stop them before they start, cool?”

“I don’t care! I want to raise my girl in a place that’s safe. I want to be happy! Why can’t I be happy?”

And I leaned in and I held her close, and I knew, at that moment, that I was going to give it all up. Give up the war, the fight, the Weathermen, give it all up for what she wanted.

“It’s ok,” I said, “We’ve got enough martyrs here. If you want, I’ll help you. I’ll come with you. We’ll make it to Heaven’s Fire. If you’ll let me.”

She didn’t say anything. She just sobbed on my shoulder. We sat there, still in the wreckage for a moment, and then heard explosions and running feet. I moved to stand up, but she pulled me down, pulled me close, shielding her.

From out of the house I saw pillars of smoke, pillars of fire rising up and engulfing the sun. And running towards us, guns out and ready are Jazz and Bear. “I guess it’s not such a sturdy building after all,” Bear called out, Sunshine bot bopping on his back, “One blast from that molt and it was toast. Whoohee! Come on boys and girls, it’s time to run and keep running.”

They stopped in front of us, Jazz panting, holding out his hand. “Come on,” he said, “I don’t care where we go. We just can’t stay here.”

And I reached out, and he grabbed my wrist, and he pulled me up, and I pull Mary Mary May up with me. And she looked at me, and we heard the sound of explosions, and then saw the giant biped come up over the cliff, right towards us. “I’m scared,” she said, holding her stomach.

Bear laughed. “Join the crowd. Come on kids, let’s get moving.”

And then we run. We run through trees and woods, the molts chasing after us, we fire back, fire true, and over our heads we hear their mechanical birds flying, dropping down flames and fire and burning holes in the ground. And we go and keep going, running, running. Because the revolution is made to run. We are made to run. To fly. To keep on fighting.

<END>

© Copyright 2009 Paul Jessup & Senses Five Press