This weeks flash fiction challenge from Chuck Wendig was a subgenre twist: we were to pick 2 subgenres from a list of 20 and mash them up. I got Time Traveling and Shapeshifters. This is my submission at 1750 words.
Disclaimer 1: I know nothing about such subgenres as shape shifters but I do love a good time travel story. Therefore, I don’t know if I portrayed either in a passable way
Warning 1: This is graphic and profane. Sorry, it just came out that way. It went weird. Or maybe a shape shifting Poe from the past possessed me. Anyway, be warned.
The bawdy houses of 1920’s Vancouver were always co-opted with the Chinese opium dens. It wasn’t as much the criminal influence as it was … economical. The war had robbed the country of its young A dearth of young men meant those women left behind outnumbered the remaining men who often were old, or maimed. A dearth of young men meant immigration from other countries doubled, and until the government passed the Chinese Immigration Exclusion Act in 1923, there was a glut of oriental workers and merchants, all vying for dollars with the Swedes and Brits. Stevedores and lumberjacks, fishermen and railway workers all had funneled into the port city searching for work.
Tangerine Dream popped into this timeline to escape.
Not his real name of course.
Tang Zheng-Ryu Diem was.
He liked the moniker, though; it provided anonymity in virtual worlds. Could be harder to track him when he used his real name.
Here he was just another heathen. He could fit in. He had viewed up. He was even ready for the abuse. Welcomed it, actually. Everything was so pablum-ated and vanilla yogurted to death in his home line. Progressive they called it. Boring, Tangerine called it.
Hey! Big dumb Polak, call me Chink! Go ahead! I’ll make you pay!
He wanted to scream it out at someone. Couldn’t wait to get into a dock-clearing brawl like those he had viewed in TimeBook.
Couldn’t wait to get into some of the female pleasures, too. White whores—woo!
So let’s see: Brothel … good! Opium … good! Mayhem … good! Timeline—all good!
But first, he had to let the side effects of the time displacement dissipate.
You would think with all the technology, with all the beneficent, non-judgmental, sincere minds working together collaboratively in ScienceBook they could find a way to stop time travel from altering your DNA at the same time.
Something about the Universe not letting you accidentally interfere in the timeline, change the future, and so on and so out. RumourBook claimed that ‘the Universe’ was actually the government behind the scenes, controlling things, all the while placing the blame on nature. RumourBook also said ‘the Universe’ sent agents to find you. Bring you back. But that was RumourBook.
Tangerine didn’t get it, everyone knew you just created another timeline when you interfered, and so what was the big deal? There were a million of them. Why the fuck did the Universe have to go and make a dumb rule like that? You had to wait three hours to acclimatize, like a fucking fish in a fucking plastic bag in a fucking aquarium? Plus you had to occupy an existing body first, of all the goddam stupid …
Geez, I’m getting really pissed here!
He felt gorge rising up in his throat—he was furious!
It feels good, but …
Tangerine looked around.
First thing he noticed was the leash. Leading up to a hand. A big white hand with freckles sprayed all over. Then he looked down.
He squiggled around and saw a sleek white flank, with black spots on it, a tiny stub of a tail that, he realized, he was wagging furiously.
“Stop yer fookin’ fidgeting, Briney! Lookee, lookee Chop Suey, the beast’s getting’ riled up somethin’ fierce. Sit Briney!”
Tangerine felt a tremendous yank on his neck. Pain constricted his throat. He squinted up at the owner of the big hand and decided to oblige his command, sitting pretty while stealing furtive glances around.
Get the lay of the land for when I change back.
Tangerine hadn’t really formed a plan for that. Hadn’t thought that far ahead. Wasn’t sure how Fookin’ Briney was going to get away to a quiet place to enter Tangerine Dreamland again. Hadn’t paid attention to the chapter of the instruction booklet titled “Smoothing your Timeline Transition”. Thought it was more vanilla pudding stuff. Not dangerous, not exciting, not … Tangerine … enough.
Now this … this certainly was exciting!
His apparent …um … owner was a big fella; Tangerine could see that even without Briney-perspective. No use trying to get away with this guy holding on.
Big Fella was saying something to the owner of a shop that Briney Dream had just noticed was right in front of him.
“Now look, Chop Suey, yez know the law. It’s me. I’m the law, d’ya see? Me and Fookin’ Briney here. Do yez know where we’re off to this fine fookin’ day?”
Tangerine couldn’t hear any reply but assumed whoever Chop Suey was had shaken his head, because Big Fella carried on.
“We’z off to the fights. Briney here is going to rip the throat out of some poor cockers mutt. Then it will be after that we’re comin’ back here to collect my legal fee. Or mebbe rip yer throat out … if you decide not to come forth wi’it.”
Tangerine felt his tongue loll out and he began to pant. Was he hot? Angry? Happy? Briney might know. Tangerine didn’t.
He did begin to feel … something, though.
Is it the change already? It hasn’t been long enough!
Tangerine Dream began to panic, when Big Fella yarded him up and let out a guffaw.
“Har! Lookit Briney’s boner! Oh, he’s got a hankerin’ for yez, Chop Suey! It’ll be twice that size when he’s won his fight—mebbe I’ll let him have a go at yez that way first … before he rips yer throat out!”
Briney Tangerine Dream thought he heard a strangled whimper coming from the shop doorway. Laughing, Big Fella pulled him along with another fierce tug and they walked together down a boardwalk that Briney enjoyed sniffing and licking at various spots.
Tangerine had to admit; he was feeling pretty strange—kinda liking the bombardment of smells, the feeling of raw animal power in his chest legs, and loins. He felt as if his heart would burst. That was the Briney bit. The Tangerine Dream bit was woozy, disoriented and having trouble focusing on the task at hand—namely getting his Asian ass out of Briney and back on track. Back on the plan. The plan to disappear into a tangle of naked body parts in a haze of opium.
Then to kill them all.
That was the violence part of the plan.
Put ’em all in DeadBook. Definite timeline interference. With malice aforethought.
Big Fella was whistling now—some lame old Irish tune—as he sauntered towards what Tangerine Briney Dream knew was the centre of town. They were just crossing the mouth of an alley when Briney Dream’s senses jangled on full alert. Tangerine heard a high pitched whistling sound then a solid sickening CRACK! Briney narrowly avoided being crushed as Big Fella hit the boardwalk beside him. The blow had split Big Fella’s forehead open like a tomato cut with a blunt knife, blood gouting onto the grimy wood and dripping down through the cracks. Briney gave the blood a tentative lick, but he must have seen disapproval in Big Fella’s dead fish eyes—or maybe it was the sudden pain he felt in his back end—because he scuttled back and ran off down the alley. Tangerine heard a stream of Chinese epithets behind him. Something about a salty dog’s penis and someone’s ass.
A stroke of luck!
Tangerine was exhilarated. He was free! Free to roam the streets, looking for dogs to screw, cats to kill … wait … no, that was Briney. Tangerine knew what to do now.
Lay low for another hour or so. Then …
Tangerine Dream forced Briney to cower under a wagon in a stable. Briney thought in pictures of rending large dogs throats to bloody red ribbons, hammering his Briney boner into submissive young bitches, and lying in the sun.
It made Tangerine ache to get on with his plan.
C’mon, fookin’ change!
When it happened, it felt as if his Briney-skin was unzippering. But the zipper was made of razor-sharp saw teeth cutting, biting bit-by-bit, slicing snick-by-snick in a thousand places all over his body. His mouth. His underarms. His anus. TimeBook had not mentioned that! Or maybe Tangerine had just skimmed over it. He imagined bloody red ribbons of his flesh—much like Briney had pictured doggy throats earlier—peeling away like a huge scarlet banana. Tangerine heard an ungodly wail and realized from a dim corner that it had probably come from him. Briney howled in doggie harmony.
Pain, fookin’ pain!
Then … it was over.
One second, agony. One second, not.
Kinda like giving birth.
Freed of his Briney body, Tangerine felt philosophical. It was a rebirth of sorts.
He saw with his Tangerine Dream eyes a stocky white and black-spotted Pit bull, racing away down the alley, its massive ballsack and rod bouncing gaily along.
Tangerine was surprised to see that he actually had his traveling clothes on and there wasn’t a trace of gore to be found. He felt his skin cautiously. No damage at all.
Good ol’ Universe.
It was time to check out the local talent, get wasted and tasted.
Tangerine Dream smoked a little opium next door before lugging himself up the stairs to the madam’s parlour. He struggled with the Cantonese spoken by the proprietors of both dens and finally made the transactions in English. Tangerine had viewed on TimeBook a version of sex that involved a little sadism—play-hurting—and reviewed the protocols with Madam Yang. Even a stupid safety word. It was complicated role-play but sounded like fun to Brine …Tangerine.
By the time he was lying on silk sheets in a dark blue room upstairs, the opium had really kicked in …
Gleaming body, beautiful face silver-limned by shining moon, she floated towards the bed. Naked, he shivered.
Chittering insects nested in his guts.
Must be the drugs …
The game began.
“I await your pleasure,” Tangerine recited. House protocol.
“Love.” Dark syrupy voice.
The insects shrilled.
Um …“Does your Craft not demand pleasure?” Tangerine improvised, feeling proud.
She slithered onto the bed. Moon-bleached smile. Pointed teeth—sharp as her nipple piercings.
“Fuck the Craft!” She seized the obvious target.
The safety word was ‘Shark’.
Tangerine screamed “Fook!” instead and grappled with her.
Through a fog, he glimpsed dazzling silver razors embedded along her spine. Hands became bloody strips—he wrestled. She bit.
In his red rage Tangerine’s last thought was that RumourBook had been right.
Fookin’ Agents of the Universe…
The insects thundered.