Dissections logo scissors body by Deena Warner

 


Dissections logo pterodactyl by Deena Warner


Dissections logo pterodactyl by Deena Warner

 

 

 


Art Untitled by Will Jacques
Artwork: Untitled by Will Jacques

Ambergris

Mark Warnes

Amber woke that morning, rubbing at a sore spot on her tummy. She looked down and saw a small raised, red bump. Ah, she thought, I’ve been bitten again. Faint dream traces tickled the edge of her memory but these ephemeral images evaporated quickly as Amber struggled to back to consciousness.

‘I really must sort out a dream diary,’ she mumbled to herself.

Amber got up and went to the bathroom. Her dishevelled mirror face peered back at her as she rubbed her eyes and tried to focus on the forthcoming day. Her tousled, golden bed-hair traced fractal patterns around her red-rimmed eyes. The tired sacks under her eyes offered testament to the lateness of the previous night’s debauchery. And on a ‘school night’ as well! She smiled at Andy’s schoolboy humour.

She splashed water on her face and turned to lean over the bath to turn on the shower.

A sharp abdominal pain caused her to pause. She clutched at herself, feeling woozy with the pain. An involuntary gasp slipped from her mouth as she gripped the side of the bath for support. What the hell did I eat last night? she wondered as she swiftly flipped up the toilet seat and dropped onto it, just in time.

Having finished her morning toilet routine, Amber wandered back into her bedroom, flicking on the TV on the way to her wardrobe. The set flickered into life, still tuned to last night’s channel. The talking head gave way to an ocean scene, whales broke the surface, blowing, with their tails the last to disappear as they dove back to the deeps. Amber didn’t listen as the voice-over droned about some ancient history of whaling. That’s not to say that Amber wasn’t concerned about whales but Save-the-Whales was a distant memory now – hadn’t whaling been illegal since the mid-80s?

Amber switched the TV over to catch the weather – how else could she decide on appropriate clothing? She just caught the end of the local news and the weather – mostly cloudy with sunny intervals, max temp 210C, min temp 140C. So much for summer, she thought as she reached for a cardigan.

Dressed, Amber started down the stairs. Bugger, she thought, and returned to the bedroom. There, on her bedside cabinet, stood her most prized possession, a bottle of Chanel No. 5. An expensive indulgence but so what, everyone deserves a little something.

The morning’s work drifted by in a haze of e-mails and phone calls. Lunch time appeared almost obscenely quickly and Amber barely had time to grab her bag and coat before running, literally, out of the door and down to the café.

Andy was already there, tapping his watch with mock frustration. ‘What kept you,’ in his dead-pan, I-might-be-joking-and-then-again-I-might-not, tone of voice.

‘Sorry,’ flushed Amber, as she took her seat opposite him. ‘I don’t know where the morning went. One minute I was just sitting down and the next it was lunch time.’ She smiled coyly, ‘I did run, you know.’

‘I can tell,’ replied Andy. ‘Good job you’ve got your posh perfume on or you’d stink like a week-old kipper.’

‘Well, thank you!’ Amber snapped. They looked at each other then laughed at the banter, unable to take themselves seriously any more.

‘So, what’s happening with you today, then?’ Andy asked, taking a sip from his coffee (‘large filter, please’). ‘I’ve been assigned the thrilling task of researching alien abductions,’ he continued, without waiting for an answer. ‘Should be loads of fun: endless stories about complete numpties selling their acid-trip fairy-tales, in the hope of grabbing their fifteen minutes of fame.’

‘I think you only get five minutes now,’ Amber suggested. ‘Seeing as there’s more people now than when Warhol first said that. And more TV channels.’

Andy looked puzzled. ‘Anyway…’ he started.

‘Besides,’ Amber interrupted. ‘Who’s to say they don’t happen? Why can’t there be aliens anyway? If we exist then it’s perfectly reasonable to assume that life exists on other planets.’ She put her coffee down on the table (‘Moccachino, please. Chocolate sprinkle? Yes, please.’)

‘True,’ Andy conceded. ‘But it can’t be intelligent or it wouldn’t want anything to do with a backwards planet like this.’

‘What do you mean?’ asked Amber.

‘Well, look,’ Andy continued. ‘If an alien race has managed to develop interstellar travel, why would they want to drop in on this planet, in the middle of nowhere, just to scare some peasant?’ He took another sip of his coffee and looked straight into Amber’s eyes. ‘I mean, what could we possibly have that they could want?’

That night Amber went to bed early. She switched the TV on and flicked through the channels. Nothing on, she groaned, inwardly. I don’t know about thirteen channels of shit on the TV to choose from, she thought, recalling the Pink Floyd song, more like two hundred. Finally she decided on a medical drama and, having programmed the TV to switch to stand-by after an hour, she settled down to watch.

The scene flashed – she was in an operating theatre. Looping tubes entered her body, snaking across from wildly bleeping and flashing machines, while medical personnel flitted about in the background. Indistinct chatter, on the edge of hearing… can’t quite make it out. A pole descended from the ceiling towards her abdomen. A spike telescoped from the end. Claws opened, teeth spun. Amber shot up in bed, screaming. The room was black, the TV silent. Something rustled in the shadows.

Sweating, Amber groped for the bedside light. The light flared the room, banishing shadows, and sharpening familiar shapes. Amber sat, panting, heart thumping, eyes flashing around the room. Satisfied that the room was free from boogiemen, she gingerly felt her stomach: nothing. She gently pulled up her pyjama top and examined her belly: nothing.

Her brow wrinkled in perplexity. It was only a dream, she thought. But it had felt real; more real than a normal dream. She’d really been there, she was sure. She could still feel the mask on her face, the straps holding down her wrists. The faint smell of the disinfectant lingered on her skin. It must have been real.

She shook her head. It was only a dream.

Amber lay back down in bed. Dream or no dream, the light was staying on tonight! She closed her eyes and rolled onto her side.

The pain hit her abdomen like a Tyson punch, dragging her into a foetal ball. The cramps were excruciating, slowly she slipped away into darkness.


Beige. The world was beige. Amber could see it flowing smoothly, vertically, before her slitted eyes. The beige blur was interrupted here and there with black lines and white circles that flowed up and over her, disappearing from view. Suddenly a balloon caricature of a face slid into view wearing a worried half smile. Amber’s orientation shifted; she was lying on a gurney being pushed along a hospital corridor looking up at the ceiling.

‘Hi,’ the balloon face said, ‘good to have you back.’

The gurney turned left, banging through double doors. Machinery was wheeled across the room and positioned around her. The blinking lights and noises of the machines reminded her of the scene in Monty Python’s Meaning of Life with the machine that goes ‘ping’ and she drifted into the black.

‘Well,’ the doctor said, sitting next to Amber as she sat up in bed. ‘And how are we today?’ ‘I don’t know about you but I’m feeling rather tender around here,’ Amber replied, indicating her stomach.

‘Yes, I’m not surprised,’ the doctor smiled. ‘Why have you had so many operations?’

‘Operations?’ Amber queried. ‘I haven’t had any operations.’

‘Oh yes you have,’ the doctor replied. ‘Several, in fact. It’s difficult to tell as the same entry point has been used on a number of occasions. I was tempted to put you down as having Munchausen’s syndrome.’

‘You’ve got to be kidding – the very idea petrifies me. What kind of operations? What’s missing?’

‘Well that’s the curious thing: nothing’s missing. Everything’s fine, except…’

‘Except what?’


----------------------------

‘Hello, darling, I’m home.’ Splunge slid across the highly polished vexen flooring and puddled down next to his wife, Spronthe. ‘I got you that perfume you’ve been after,’ he said, placing an exquisitely wrapped package on his wife’s tendrils.

‘Ooh,’ she squeaked. ‘Thank you so much! Is this the one with the genuine extract of human bile?’




 
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