Sunday, November 20, 2022


This was written in 2004, which only makes it nearly 20 years ago. It was just before I got my shit together, but I still feel Lipstick Shit sometimes.

    One two three, one two three.....


     "It all fell down at the end. We thought we'd made it, we thought we'd won, but it was all just another one of his fucking illusions. We can't be blamed for that. It's not our fault. I mean, if he controls our perception, how can he not be a magician? How could we handle that? How could we be expected to handle that?"

     "No. It wasn't good enough."

     "We did our best."

     "Not good enough."





     He doesn't really stand a chance and he knows it, but he doesn't want to die. Not just yet. He's still got so much to do and he's damned if he's going down to these bastards.
    But here, standing on the roof of the Car With No Name, (currently running a little over twice the speed limit through the deserted city streets), Doctor Skin is having a little trouble staying on his feet. He knows he needs to regain his balance if he really does want to survive the next few seconds, and he's not sure he's up for it.

     "I can't die now," he moans as the first ninja leaps onto the roof beside him. "I haven't seen the new 'Star Wars' film yet."

     The assassin facing off against him takes no notice of the inane babbling like the consummate professional he is. He doesn't hesitate in going for Skin's eyes, irreparable damage on the agenda.

     Skin's having none of that, and kicks the fucker in the bollocks. The ninja's eyes roll up into his skull and he falls off the car, coming to rest in the gutter, lying among fresh vomit and old McDonalds wrappers.

     "Bloody hell!" cries Skin as the car takes a corner at high speed, missing an extraordinarily well placed telephone pole by centimetres. Skin nearly comes off the roof himself, and only remains by lying flat and gripping the windows with fierce terror. "Take it easy, baby!"

     "Sorry," says Katherine, putting both hands back on the wheel. Her fingers are still greasy from the KFC she's trying to eat, and she braces the steering wheel against her knees and licks her hands clean, tossing the remains of her meal out the window. Chicken bones and cold fries scatter the landscape, and a colony of extremely nasty fire ants living by a fire hydrant dine on the scraps for weeks.
    Life goes on, in the most unexpected ways.

    "You're not taking this seriously enough," says Lipstick Shit, sitting in the passenger seat, her body language screaming disgust and infamy. "You still think this is a game, don't you?"

     "Fuck off," snarls Katherine, removing the Shit from the world with a complicated series of belief/denial mind strategies. She takes her eyes off the road for an instant to rummage around inside the glove department. Determined not to conform to stereotypes she suppresses a natural squeal of delight when she finds what she's looking for and passes it out the window to her partner on the roof.

     "What the hell?" he moans, holding the staple gun up. "What am I supposed to do with this?"

     "It's full of adamantium staples," yells Katherine, reaching over to turn the volume on the stereo all the way up. "It's the best I can do, and I can do no more."

     He's got a witty retort saved up for this very moment, but he doesn't get the chance to use it, with the explosion of noise coming from the speakers. The music is one of Katherine's mixes, an amalgamation of the hardest tunes in their sizeable LP collection. AC/DC, Iron Maiden, Sticky Filth, Andrew WK, some Sabbath, a little Led Zep and some early Iggy, it's all here, all at the same time. It's not good, but it is very, very noisy.

     Skin shrugs, grateful all the same, and he staples his left boot to the roof of the car. It ruins the leather, but centres him, and he's ready for anything now.

     Luck is still going his way, as Skin finishes just in time to see ninjas falling from the sky like a Frank Miller wet dream. Doctor Skin lifts his chin, whispers an old prayer to the setting sun, and stands his ground.

     The first ninja lands, and his eagerness is his undoing. With seconds to go until the mass is upon him Skin takes his time with this one, stapling his hands and feet together and tossing him into a passing mailbox. It's all too easy and Skin throws the staple gun away, ready to fight fairly.

     The ninjas fall on him, and Skin fights back with hands, head and one foot, kicking, punching and headbutting anything in range. Katherine starts swaying the car from side to side, and while Skin isn't sure if she's trying to help or not, he uses it to his full advantage, throwing ninjas off onto the pavement with a bare minimum of effort.

     And then the deluge stops, and the car speeds quietly through the city street, the broken bodies of the last assassins receding away into the distance. Skin scowls as he sees the small tear in the sleeve of his jacket, but is pleased to discover he got through it with no more than cuts and bruises.

     Skin squats down into the lotus position and nearly snaps his foot off before remembering the stapled footwear. Taking his boot off and finally getting comfortable, he closes his eyes and takes a deep breath. He'd like to think he's through the worst of it, but a lifetime of TV, film, comics and video games have taught him to expect some kind of climax.

     And when it comes, he isn't surprised by how sexy it is.


     "So I had this dream the other night where DC rang me up and told me they wanted me to write 'Planetary'. I don't know why, I've only read the first trade, but they wanted me to write it, all the same. So I thought I better prove myself, and I started to write a short story about The Drummer, but then I found myself in that story, and The Drummer was driving a purple Mitsubishi Evo 7 along this dark highway, and he turned to me and said 'Stranger every year'. Then he started going on about how fantasising was related to head space, but it didn't make any sense, so I woke up. What do you suppose that means?"

     "Uh huh.."

     "Yeah? What do you think?"

    "What the fuck is a Planetary?" 



   It begins as a swarm of large, fat, aerodynamically unsound bumble bees, hovering directly above the car, keeping up the pace. There's millions of the little swine, and Skin gets to his feet, wishing he'd remembered to pack the insect repellent.

     But as the bees dive down towards the car, they transform, altering in the blink of an eye. A cloud of extremely long daggers with esoteric handles fall towards Skin, who waits patently, sure that this isn't the final form.

     He's right again as the daggers fuse together with a flash of purple light. Skin blinks once and looks at the woman standing beside him, her hairstyle, (short, black, bright red streaks), clothes, (leather, plastic, oddly placed metal) and body language, (sullen, sultry, sexy) biting at Skin's soul. The woman smiles and steps toward him, her eyes blazing red.

     "Enter Agent L.O.V.E.," she says, her voice reminding Skin of a rainy Sunday afternoon. She slaps her hands together, and takes a sidestep across the roof of the car. Skin circles with her, leaving nothing to chance, leaving no front exposed.

     "What do you want?" he asks, knowing he probably won't like the answer.

     "Let me in!" cries Agent L.O.V.E., stepping forward suddenly and slamming the flat of her palm against his chest, driving the breath from his body. Skin crumbles to his knees and struggles for air. Agent L.O.V.E. stands over him and grabs him by the throat, pulling him back to his feet. Holding his face to hers, she smiles sweetly. "Let me in. Open your heart and let me in."

     "No entry," says Doctor Skin, his eyes hardening, smashing his elbow into her throat. She drops him, but recovers in an instant, trying to hold onto his arms. He drops b"What is he doing up there?"

     Lipstick Shit is back, different gender, but same sparkling personality, and he laughs at her, cruelly. "Stupid cunt. Don't you recognise the sound of cheating?"

     Katherine screams at full volume, drowning out the imaginary voice of the imaginary person sitting next to her. The Shit departs again, but leaves behind the sick aroma of his presence. Gagging on the smell, Katherine grabs onto the handbrake and pulls up hard.

     The Car With No Name squeals to a halt, spinning around twice and leaving half its tread on the road below. Doctor Skin and Agent L.O.V.E. don't stand a chance, flying off the roof, they tumble onto the road. Skin rolls and eventually lands on his feet, coming to no harm. Agent L.O.V.E. just stops in mid air, and floats around until she's approximately standing straight.

     She drifts towards Skin, holding her hands out in front of her, one curled up into a fist, the other flexing unconsciously. "I don't want to hurt you. I just want in."

     "Who are you?"

     Agent L.O.V.E. looks almost hurt, but quickly covers the expression with another lovely smile. "I'm everything that's good in the world, Jakob."

     "Yeah?" laughs Skin, standing his ground as she drifts closer. "I thought you'd be taller."

    She's nearly reached him now, and Agent L.O.V.E. reaches out for him, only to hurriedly draw back as the air between them is suddenly filled with extremely nasty high calibre bullets.

     "Back off, baby," snarls Katherine, leaning on the bonnet of the car, her gun hanging loosely in her hand, but definitely pointed directly at Agent L.O.V.E. "Or the next one is going right through those perfectly balanced tits of yours."

     Skin looks between the two women, and knows what he has to do. Stepping directly into the line of fire, he holds his hands up. "It's okay, Katherine. It's all right. You mean no harm, yeah?"

     "Yeah," sighs Agent L.O.V.E., a little unnerved by the size of the barrel she's staring down. "Sorry about the antagonism at the start there. It was just foreplay."

     "I know," says Skin.

     "Oh yeah?" says an unsatisfied Katherine. "Then what about the sodding ninjas?"

     Agent L.O.V.E. shrugs, the effect oddly comical when you're floating three feet off the ground. "They weren't mine. I don't know who sent them."

     "I think I do," says Skin darkly, before turning back to his girlfriend. "Katherine. Put the gun away."

     "Oh, for fuck's sake," moans Katherine, leaning further back on the car, hiding the gun in the folds of her jacket and lighting a joint with the other hand in one smooth move. "Make up your bloody mind."

     "I have," whispers Skin. He turns to Agent L.O.V.E. "I'll do what you want."

     "You'll open your heart to me?"

     "Why not?" says the good Doctor.

     "You know how to?"

     "Does he?" snorts Katherine. "He opens his heart for 'Coronation Street'. The poor bastard is always in tears by the end credits."

     Doctor Skin inhales deeply, breathing in Katherine's words and the sentiments and history hiding beneath. He blinks three times, clearing his eyes, and stares up into the sky. The sun is finally setting over the city, the shadows deepening, twilight's vanguard. He closes his eyes and feels the slight breeze on his face and the sly rumble of the city settling down for the night. It's an old situationist trick, but Skin can't be bothered thinking of anything new. Finally opening his eyes, he turns to Agent L.O.V.E. and winks. "Ready when you are."

     Returning the wink, Agent L.O.V.E. dissipates into golden mist and disappears up Skin's nose, the most obvious route through to the soul, fast along the meat highway. Slipping into the cracks in his psyche, she passes the emotional defenses of irony & sarcasm, ignores the mind completely and heads straight for the heart.

     Riding in on his aura, surfing on yellow & purple waves, she approaches the core of Skin's being. Here in the murky and dubious realm between the real world and everything else, Skin's heart beats a million times a second, the golden light filling Agent L.O.V.E.'s view. All that he is, all that he has to offer, all that he'll ever be is stretched out before her. Without a moments hesitation, she dives right in.

     Dissipating even further, breaking herself down to the lowest common denominator, she really is what she said she was. Everything that's good in the world, everything that makes you laugh and smile, everything that makes life worth living. Agent L.O.V.E. becomes the living personification of it all. All the good people, all the beautiful music, all the wonderful sights, all the dumb stories that still breed affection, the whole f**king lot.

     And then it all goes horribly wrong.


"What if it doesn't mean anything? Jesus, what if it was never meant to mean anything?" 


     "Better than crank!" laughs Doctor Skin, rubbing his nose, the nostrils already red-raw. He's about to say something else when he sneezes suddenly, spraying green mucus and gold dust. The dust rapidly reforms into Agent L.O.V.E., but Katherine doesn't bat an eyelid. She's seen worse.

     "Oh wow," moans Agent L.O.V.E., holding her head in her hands. Skin can't help but notice that her hair has grown six inches in the time she's been gone, but he's too polite to mention it. Besides, Agent L.O.V.E. discourages any conversation with her babbling. "Toooooo fucking much, man. It was so damn dense, it had a gravity all of its own. The bastard nearly had me."

     She tops and looks up at Skin, shaking her head in admiration. "Far out," she continues. "I tried to help you out, Doctor, but I couldn't. Your heart is all full up."

     "Really?" says Skin, genuinely surprised.

     "Yeah. It shouldn't be possible. I've never seen it before. Everybody has an infinite capacity in their hearts, but you've got no more room in there."

     "What can I say?" shrugs Skin, liking the sound of this more and more, and already beginning to see the possibilities. "I love the infinite too."

     "Heh. Well, I know when I'm not needed." Agent L.O.V.E. smiles and turns to Katherine. "See you later, Katie."

     Katherine stares back coldly. "My name is not Katie."

     "I know," says Agent L.O.V.E., turning back to Skin, gives him the thumbs up and nods back towards Katherine. "She takes up the most room. Surprised?"

     "No," says Doctor Skin.

     And then Agent L.O.V.E. vanishes in a cloud of sweet-smelling purple smoke. Skin doesn't see her disappear, but has a vague sensation of something falling, and then she's gone, her last words hanging in the empty air.

     "See you in the Citadel, Jake."

     "Not if I can help it," says Skin through gritted teeth. He walks back towards the car, not surprised to see Katherine already behind the wheel, drumming her fingernails along the top of it. He steps up to the open window and leans in. He's hoping for something a little more continental, but all he gets is a kiss on the cheek.

     "Aw, c'mon," he moans pathetically. "It was strictly platonic, baby."

     Katherine looks up and him, and he nearly loses it when he sees the look in her eyes. "It's okay, Jakob. I know I can trust you. But we haven't got any time."

     She nods back down the dark street, and Skin can see them coming, slipping between the shadows, avoiding the street lights. Ninjas. Hundreds of them and they're coming for Skin.

     "All right," he says with a smile, returning Katherine's quick kiss and jumping up on the roof of the Car With No Name, the engine kicking into life. His adversaries are nearly on them, and Skin steps into the first defensive stance he can remember, his hands already clenched into fists. "Come on then! Come on!"

     They don't stand a chance.


* This has been a Mad Wish presentation. Go away now.

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