War. It sounded like war, Glenn decided. The deafening "whoo-whoo-whoo-whoo" of the corporate hovercopter overhead. The engines pulsating, sucking in air and forcing it out downwards, to obtain lift. Glenn could imagine invading soldier's abseiling down a rope from the chopper, fully equipped with infrared vision contact lenses, spider silk bulletproof vests, and spray guns blazing as they kicked in the front door. Glenn went and stood by the weary wooden door, waiting for the scenario to play out. But the only person who came in was Uncle Pete. It was like that game show when you get to choose a mystery date from behind a door, "Who's behind door number 2?" they would say. 'A dud' thought Glenn.
His mother came in from the kitchen and gave Uncle Pete an encompassing hug. Glenn didn't like how low down Uncle Pete's hands were as he hugged her back, like fat white spiders, crawling their way down to the curve of her arse, into his father's territory. Glenn imagined harder that the soldiers were coming, and that maybe they would take Uncle Pete away with them, but that chance decreased with the sound of the receding chopper; that amazing Doppler Effect.
Glenn's father's work relationships had always stayed that; work relationships. But Uncle Pete had somehow transversed into Glenn's home life. His was an invasive presence. You could always tell when Uncle Pete was in the house; perhaps it was his large frame, disturbing the air and having a Butterfly Effect on Glenn's personal space.
Another nuisance was his relationship with Glenn's mother; a man's friends should never befriend his lover, nor hers with him. It was an unwritten rule between spouses, a way to keep separate lives and sanity while towing the proverbial ball and chain. Not only did Uncle Pete often come around unannounced, but Glenn's mother didn't even try to keep him on the doorstep or entertain him with a cup of HappiCuppa. She brought him in and allowed him into rooms other than the essentials of the kitchen and the bathroom.
Glenn's father seemed unfazed by his wife's emotional affair. Glenn thought that he was being lenient because he himself spent so little time at home, allowing her affair as repentance for his affair with his work. But with his father at the lab, and his mother infatuated with Uncle Pete, where did that leave Glenn?
"Take me with you" Glenn would ask oh-so-pathetically every morning as his father was leaving the house, pleading with his young emerald eyes into his father's duplicate pair. It wasn't so much to spend more time together with him, but to spend less time with 'fat, spider, man-hands'.
"I'm sorry chief", he would say, or "maybe next time sport". One morning he just sighed wearily and said "Glenn, this is just too big for you." He turned down the front path to his electric jeep. "It's too big for me". Glenn's father started the Hummerbird and sped away with a grand "whoosh".
So where did that leave Glenn every morning? A 12 year old boy with no friends, buddies, or cronies? No pals or drooges or mates or chums with their painful waffle about girls and football? Well; in books. Minds encompassed in high grade pigoon leather. They taught without condescending tones, they invited you into a world and equipped you with tools to deal with the problems present. Uncle Pete couldn't steal those from him with his creeping hands, and his father couldn't drive them away with his electric 'whoosh'.
Glenn could only just hear his mother's sordid affair in progress in the lounge. Screams and spray guns on the holoprojector were drowning out their low voices. Glenn crept closer to the lounge doorway, focusing on their private little mime show. His mother's ashen face was worried, Uncle Pete's was reserved; he was always in control. Glenn decided that his mother had terminal cancer, and Doctor Uncle Pete was trying to break the news. The anchor for the pirate news channel appeared on the screen. She wore a crisp suit like the regulated-news presenters, but had no attempts at a fake smile or false understanding.
"No I don't think it's like that," Doctor Uncle Pete reassured, "he's a smart guy, he'll be fine". Another one? How many guys could his mother hold down? Glenn decided he'd heard enough, he ambled down to his room wondering if when you were in lust, or 'in love', you really would rather share 'your woman' like a fraction, then give her up.
Glenn's room was silent. The projected clock on his wall ticked over soundlessly. Here Glenn could create the barrier between his world and the 'rest'. The empty cube room was dominated by a large bookshelf bowing under the weight of some of the greatest literary works of science of all time. "A Brief History of Time" and "The Origin of Species" sat beside "A Journey to the Centre of the Earth" and "The Lost World". A combination of hard fact and possibility. All that possibility. Simply mind-bending.
Glenn's mother screamed. It wasn't like when Glenn hid in her closet waiting for her to fetch her jacket. Nor was it like the time when his father got a promotion.
"Turn it off! Off! Get it off! NOW!" She was hysterical. Probably Doctor Uncle Pete giving her a disgusting strip tease that she felt obliged to participate in. Or her other lover was being shown on the news for god-knows-what-reason. He never though his mother would be into a crude, heartless, field journalist. Glenn played with a small remote and the projected clock disappeared, replaced by an image of a weary woman reporter on scene by a motorway. Well, as far as he knew his mother wasn't into women. The image of Uncle Pete's strip made him squirm.
The reporter belonged to the same pirate news as the anchor woman he saw in the lounge. The channel was called 'Hear&say', the most prolific in uncensored news channels. The government liked their citizens to receive only nice news; "Fireman saves stray rakunk from tree tops", "Rising seas good for ducks", that sort of thing, but Hear&say provided coverage on the secret war raging between the establishments and 'the people'.
The reporter was finishing up her speel on a car crash, no, a ped. Vs car. It looked like the guy took a dive off of a pleebland overpass. Images of peak hour traffic splattered with bits of his tragic life. A tragic leg here, a tragic palm on a windscreen. A tragic cracked skull in the wildflowers on the roadside. A familiar tragic face.
Glenn almost smiled at the irony; the beautiful scented flowers, the mangled bloody face. Bees beside flies. Glenn's mind was racing. The flowers caked in fish-smelling blood. The torn meat dotted with yellow pollen. He could imagine butterflies licking his father's green eyes with their curly little tongues. Glenn blacked out.
There was shaking. In the dark he could feel it. It's his mother waking him up to tell him he'll be late for school. Glenn opened his eyes, the reporter was at a beach holding a thermometer in the sand; Global warming progression check. His mother wasn't there. Not at the beach or in his room. 'Good', Glenn was calm, focused, he didn't need her hysteria flooding his room. So was he shaking? His mind flashed up the picture of his father's face in all it's gory glory. It was a beautiful pale grey colour, with a scientist's trademark 'too-busy-to-care' stubble. His clouded jade eyes looking, just looking. No questions, no anger, no crying, but no peace either. Of all men, Glenn's father was not one to get emotional, and if he decided to end his life he did it very rationally. Not that he had had any issues for which this was the sole solution.
Is that what his father did all day in the lab? Just crunch numbers then eventually come across an equation which came out with the answer; 'x=a/b (kill yourself) ²'?
Glenn switched the holoprojector off, creeping into the hallway. His mother was still in the lounge, sobbing pitifully. A noise like a sad excuse for a waterfall was,
Glenn supposed, Uncle Pete 'ssh'-ing her as mildly as he could. That man was not built for comfort in any sense.
Glenn didn't know how to feel. He knew he should be sad, crying like his mother maybe, or was that only for women? Maybe he should go and look depressed by the front door, like a wolvog awaiting it's master. No, if he kept out of the way then people would think he was a suffer-in-silence type and leave him be. That was best. Best for him.
Glenn wasn't suffering at all however, he was excited. This was something different, this changed his stagnant life. It didn't seem like a good change, but it was moving on, moving forward: progress. Glenn had a foul taste in his mouth: stagnant rainy nights discussing the most disgusting animal splices with his father, long before his promotion; and the luke warm Happicuppa the man always reeked of. The loose ends of progress.
Glenn slunk into the kitchen, being wary not to alert The Uncle Pete. His mother was semi-unconscious with grief. But for Glenn's father, or for the loss of her secure little lifestyle? Glenn didn't care.
"Blood or Roses?" his father's computer screen would ask him when he wanted to play. Glenn didn't care which side he was. Was there ever a right side of a fight? As long as he won. Glenn always won. What you won was the same anyway; a wasteland not worth winning. Not worth the effort, but Glenn won it anyway. He didn't care.
A silhouette of Uncle Pete was attaching Raspberri dots to his jawbones. The dots picked up the minute grates and rasps caused by the cheek muscles during the formation of words. They then sent these noises to the receiver where they could be heard as words. This device was supposed to allow private conversations in which your voice box and lips are not needed. But just as there are lip readers, Glenn had learnt to read the rippling muscles under Uncle Pete's fat jowls. In fact, the fat amplified the movements, and even the silhouette was easy to read. It was about something businessy, there were a lot of 'Sir's and talk about completion of a deal, or confirmation of something. It was a little confusing. The conversation was being conducted with a lot of obvious metaphors and stupid questions. It was like watching marionettes trying to dance Swan Lake.
Glenn opened the fridge door a crack and searched around for a Vervekick soda. He drained the can in one go and hoped he wouldn't burp. Washing away his father with $3 fizzy. Somehow it seemed adequate. He scuttled back to his room with his tongue buzzing. His father's computer blinking from the study down the hall, halting Glenn at his door. How about one more game for old time's sake? At any rate the computer would need to be turned off, before Uncle Pete decided he wanted more of his late friend's property than just his wife. Uncle Pete, the human cuckoo, taking over some other poor bird's nest when he flew the coop for his bird office each day. If only his dad had been as interested in birds as Glenn, he would've known. Maybe he did. Only Glenn's father had the password to start up the old, hard drive computer, and Glenn was sure as hellfire to be the last person to use it.
Glenn sat in the dark in front of the glaring screen. A flying winged pigoon giggled at him from a wallpaper of rare blue sky. The Blu-ray 1280×720 pixilation was a curse on his eyes. Glenn opened the 'Waterhound' internet explorer, then the favourites folder. His father bookmarked games for him as a babysitter;
"I'm kinda busy mate, tell you what, why don't you go play Extinctathon?". Like it was a great treat. Good parenting skills, 'dad'. Why always Extinctathon?
Yeah, Extinctathon was here. Right under Kwiktime Osama, and Barbarian Stomp. There were a bunch of sciency websites, a job application site, some porn sites too, but Glenn wanted Blood and Roses. It was right near the bottom of the long list. Glenn clicked it and up popped the familiar site with a border of alternate flowers and swords. He entered his father's play-name, 'Caribbean Monk Seal' and password. He clicked on flowers; he'd seen enough blood tonight.
'Error. Page unrevognized'
'Wow, the computer is so old it makes it's own typos.' thought Glenn. 'Blood it is'. He went back to the main page and clicked 'Blood'
The screen went a gruesome red. Glenn's stomach churned. Some yellow text began spreading on the page.
"I'm sorry I couldn't prepare you for what happened, but I couldn't risk your safety."
I'm sorry? Someone knew he was online and was writing him about…about…
"Before you click on this I want you to know…"
Only his father and himself knew the password for this username…
"…that I'm okay,…"
DAD? He's okay? He's okay!
"…that I was ready for what happened, but that's what you need to expect if you go through with this."
Hang on. Of course. That was stupid, Glenn saw it himself. There was no denying the inertia of his father. Glenn felt ashamed of his foolish momentary joy for familiarity.
"Keep your enemies close,…and beware your friends."
Beware…Uncle Pete? What other friends did his father have?
"There is something wrong with the world and I tried to change it. I failed."
Understatement; people who succeed retain their limbs.
"I was wrong. Don't be wrong Glenn, change the world."
Glenn was bitter. Being left out of the loop all this time then asked to "change the world, Glenn." So casual. Cool as a cucumnana.
"Follow me into the future, into the past of mankind."
Thanks for clearing things up dad.
A purple button appeared on the page.
"This is my work."
His father's work. Did he want this? This was Glenn's ultimate enemy; the 'other' family when parents divorce.
This slutty purple button, drawing his father out every morning so that Uncle Pete could come into Glenn's life like a hurricane.
This button was the child that his father preferred; the strapping boy who got to play virtual catch with his 'part-time' father; the little girl who was read stories by his bloody father.
His father who cared enough to bookmark websites and write a posthumously read letter, but not enough to be around to say goodnight, or spare an hour for horse play, even a card game.
Glenn's father used to talk about sacrifice for progress. His favourite example was "Jesus-Gsus-GeSiS". It was a double entendre; a false worship, and a destruction of the holy name. It worked on the principle of man's changing devotion; first to religion (the demi-god Jesus), secondly to art (the guitar chord G sustained), and lastly to science (the elemental symbols for Germanium, Silicon, and Sulfur).
Sciency humour and philosophy in one sentence. Glenn's father had been very proud of it. The man had sure followed it to a 'T': Glenn was jealous of a button. Sacrifice…
"Follow me into the future,..."
Jesus Christ sacrificed himself for the progress of man, and man sacrificed Jesus for the progress of themselves.
"…into the past of mankind."
So, the future is the past, how far back did that need to go? Back to Jesus? Farther? The Garden of Eden?
Glenn's father knew he would play Blood and Roses, he knew he would. But he wasn't sure which side Glenn would play, so set up a brick wall to channel him into 'Blood'.
My father is channeling me into blood. He trusts me to know how far back to set this 'future' for mankind, but doesn't know if I will play the nice side or the not so nice side.
There was never a right side to a fight.
He wants Blood.
Glenn's father's death.
'Blood or Roses?' Well, it was both wasn't it? The tragic face in the wildflowers. The blood on the roses. You must have both, otherwise there was no game. Bees beside flies.
'Which do you want to play; Blood or Roses?'
Glenn didn't care. He always won.
"This is my work."
"Hell no" thought Glenn. He clicked the button.