So. In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve been doing Chuck Wendig’s flash fiction challenges of late. This week, Wendig decreed we should take a classic fairy tale and remix it with a random genre from his list.
I chose Grimms’ fairy tale “Brüderchen und Schwesterchen” — “Little Brother and Little Sister” — because it was one of my favorites when I was a kid. The whole girl-gets-boiled-alive-in-bath was just deliciously horrible and creepy. (Seriously — what was wrong with those guys?!) The bath part didn’t make it into my remix, but it did inspire the element of weird.
A random number generator gave me the genre cyberpunk.
I’ve never written cyberpunk before. So be gentle and all that. ; )
Without further ado or adon’t….
BRÜDERCHEN UND SCHWESTERCHEN;
or: LI’L SYSBRO ON THE HUNT
by Courtney Cantrell
She stalked through bright green interspersed with patches of wet, grimy darkness. Her clicking oculars acquired the target at the center of the neon-lit Circle. She held supremacy, but she would relinquish control to him soon enough. She’d promised him the kill.
High above her antlers, the massive, lurid purple umbrella blocked acid rain. Later, she would abandon this protection, twisting metal limbs and flattening fleshy parts to squirm into the darkness, the only hiding place left. Spattering raindrops would pit her mech, burn her skin.
Of course, she wouldn’t feel the pain; he would. Control would remain his throughout their escape. He would shield her from the agony. He always did.
“Dude! Nice mech!”
Leaving one ocular trained on her prey, she turned the other upon the intruder. Long-limbed and striped, it possessed a tail of interlocking steel plates. Its face was still mostly flesh, except for the prehensile whiskers and the grin revealing pointy, silvery teeth. It looked her up and down as though wondering where to bite first.
A mechimal, like her. Presumably a volunteer.
“What’s your skin?” it asked.
“Deer,” she replied.
“Transcendent.” Its voice sounded male. “Never even heard of that. Mine’s cat.”
She nodded, then turned her second ocular back toward the Circle’s center. There, onstage, the false Queen waved at the crowd. They undulated at her feet, writhing in rhythm with the music. It slammed out of hundreds of floating hoverspeaks. Their projections of the Queen’s single, yellow eye made them seem like fireflies.
Dead insects from a dead era. Just like the deer. Soft, pretty creatures had no place here anymore.
“You a big fan?”
Catboy again. Her proximity sensors tingled as he sidled up on all fours. “Ever since the Queen stole my life,” she said.
“Man, she does that.” Catboy slid a foreleg closer, touched a paw to her front hoof. “I thought I had a life, ’til I heard her music.”
“It isn’t hers.”
The false Queen danced, and the crowd groaned with pleasure. Triumph was at hand.
Catboy poked a part of her that was still flesh and female. “What’s your name?”
“Sysbro. Look, you should go.”
“Yeah, let’s get in there! I wanna see her eye up close.”
“No, you don’t. Her eye paralyzes you while she takes you and your brother and mechs you up into some thing that’s two people and an animal in one body. And then she takes your place, steals your life, casts you out into the darkness, all because the man she wanted fell in love with you instead. And you can but dream of your King’s palace with its pure, white light. You can but long for your child — your real, fully human child in this horrible, flesh-and-machine-fused place we call a world. You can yearn and ache and it doesn’t matter, because the Queen’s Eye captured you, and she changed you forever, and you can’t ever be a real person ever again.”
Neon green and purple washed over Catboy’s face as he stared with dilated, oval pupils. He gave Sysbro a vapid smile. “That’s like poetry, baby. From the Queen’s new album?”
Sysbro smashed a metal hoof through the center of his chest. Short-circuiting, he dropped at her hindfeet. He’d repair in a few minutes. He didn’t even bleed.
Onstage, the Queen addressed her adoring subjects. It was time. Sysbro lunged, pushing her way through the crowd. Some of them were mechimals, some still mostly flesh. All came in reds, blues, golds, silvers, lavenders of manipulated genes. Sysbro’s hooves shoved them aside. When she reached the edge of the stage, her face wore a mask of reverence.
Except for the one yellow eye in the center of her forehead, the false Queen still looked human. Her hair was black. Her skin was a pale bronze the color of Sysbro’s deerplates. In robes of white befitting one who lived with the King, the Queen raised her hands in blessing. Her laughter tinkled out over her worshipers from a thousand hoverspeaks.
Sysbro retreated, and her brother ascended.
Brosys moved fast. One moment, he knelt with the others at the foot of the stage. The next, he leapt high, plunged, and slammed both front hooves into the Queen’s midsection. She hit the stage, two gaping wounds in her soft belly. Crimson spilled down billowy white fabric. Brosys straddled her and dug his knees into her guts.
“Remember, Your Majesty?” He felt the clammy skin of her cheek against his metal muzzle. “I warned you that I’d come for you. My sister is the mind that plots and the heart that feels, but I am the hand that strikes. I am fulfillment of promise. I am vengeance made flesh.”
The crowd screamed. The Queen put on such a transcendent show. Concerned frowns were few. Brosys’s ocular implants heated up as he glared into the Queen’s eye.
“You do her dirty work, Little Brother.” The Queen gasped another gurgling chuckle. “She’s weak. She was always weak. You hear, Little Sister? How will you nurse that mewling infant the way you want to? You don’t even have breasts anymore.”
Brosys lashed out with a hoof, aiming for the yellow eye. But at the last instant, his foreleg halted.
“I heard you,” said Sysbro.
The Queen’s upper lip curled. “You won’t let him kill me.”
Brosys frowned. “Sister?”
“Wait,” she said.
The Queen shook her head. “Dual-core freak.”
Sysbro retracted the oculars and looked upon the Queen with her real eyes. The vision was less clear but more honest. And she could still see the woman’s fear-sweat.
“I know about the microchip,” she told the Queen. “Embedded in your chest. Every night that I’ve sneaked into the Palace to watch over my child, I’ve scanned you. I know the chip contains our reverse-engineering codes. I’ll nurse my baby with my own breasts. Not as Sysbro, but as a human mother. And the world will watch me.”
Realization, hatred, and terror widened the false Queen’s single, yellow eye. Sysbro pressed a hoof into that eye, crushing it, pressing slowly but hard until she penetrated the skull and ground the brainmeats within it into bloody, gray mush. A few slashes with her metal muzzle, and she held the microchip between her teeth.
“Let’s go home now,” said Brosys.
Sysbro agreed. They slipped through the now panicked crowd, into the shadows, and out into life.