Hell to Pay

Riazi sat on the rustic hardwood floor with her back against the foot of the couch and her knees drawn up to her chest. The ashtray on the floor beside her was overflowing with butts and ash. She lit up another cigarette anyway. It was frivolous, but it helped her feel human. Which, of course, she wasn’t.

She looked at her knees, at her hands, felt her scuffed elbows and scraped shins. The skin was missing in ragged patches like ripped jeans, exposing the shiny U-carbon frame beneath. Riazi took a deep drag and, as she held the smoke in her sub-trachesophagul tank, she brushed wayward strands of bourbon hair away from her eyes. Her fingers grazed her right cheekbone, and she felt coarse coolness there, too. The damage was extensive, but mostly cosmetic. Still, it would need to be addressed. She exhaled slowly, taking pleasure from the chaos of the smoke whorls riding microcurrents through the air.

Across the room, Dreb’s fingers twitched desperately at the end of his severed arm as if he was trying to play his own requiem on an unseen ghost piano. He was thoroughly smashed to inoperable pieces, but that was the problem with decentralized intelligences: they were almost impossible to kill. They just kept fragmenting into smaller, less coherent versions of themselves. When they did die, they did so many, many times. A fractal death.

Riazi delicately snubbed her cigarette atop the graveyard of those that came before it and then got to her feet. She still had the image of Dreb playing a piano in her mind and she turned it into macabre inspiration. She’d seen an old upright piano earlier, standing dusty and unused just around the corner. She went to it, lifted it easily, and raised it high in an overhead press motion. As she walked to Dreb’s fractured body, the piano’s strings and hammers boomed and tinkled like a demented wind chime with every step. She stood over his twitching fingers and allowed gravity to do her bidding.

There’d be hell to pay in the morning.

Notes: I used an image as a writing prompt for this piece. You may be able to find the image on the artist’s ArtStation page. Image by Vicki Leversedge (Saidge42), used with permission.

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