Home > BZRK (BZRK #1)(11)

BZRK (BZRK #1)(11)
Michael Grant

There were five people at that table and the target—Liselotte Osborne—was not the richest or most powerful, so she didn’t sit at the head, she sat halfway down on one side, with her back to Vincent.

Nevertheless, Vincent had an excellent view of her eye. The left one.

A part of Vincent’s mind was in the room, hearing without focusing on conversation punctuated by sudden bursts of laughter, seeing the reflection of yellow overhead lights in standard restaurant-grade wineglasses, wondering abstractedly about the choice of art on the papered walls.

Another part of Vincent’s mind was across the room, perched on Liselotte Osborne’s left lower eyelid. From that vantage point Vincent saw thick-trunked trees that grew in impossibly long curves from spongy, damp pink tissue. These trees had no branches; they were like rough-barked brown palm trees, bending away to disappear out of view behind him. The bark was then glopped in uneven patches by a black tarry substance, like someone had thrown big handfuls of tar at the lashes.

Eyelashes.

Eyelashes with mascara.

Vincent’s spidery legs stepped over a pair of demodex, like crocodiles with the blank faces of soulless felines. Reptilian tails of demodex babies protruded from the base of the eyelash. They wiggled.

From his perch between two rough-barked, gooey, drooping eyelashes Vincent saw the vast, wet plain of white stretched out to the horizon, a sea of milk beneath a taut wet membrane. Within that milky sea were jagged red rivers. When he tuned his eyes to look close, he could make out the surge and pause, surge and pause of Frisbee-shaped red blood cells and the occasional spongy lymphocyte.

He was looking out across the white of Liselotte’s eyeball—an eyeball shot through with the red capillaries of a woman who’d had too little sleep, rimmed with black tar, home to microfauna he could see and of course a multitude of life-forms too small even for a biot to make out.

Vincent felt a rush of wind and saw a barrier rushing toward him at terrifying speed. It was an endless, faintly curved wall of pink-gray that appeared to be maybe ten feet tall. It came rushing across the eyeball like a storm front, swift, irresistible. Jutting far out from that pink-gray wall were more of the dark brown palm trunks, curving upward and extending beyond the range of Vincent’s sight. Like a wall festooned with ridiculously curved pikes.

Liselotte was blinking.

Vincent said, “Sparkling, please,” in response to the waiter’s question about what sort of water he would prefer.

“And are you ready to order?”

“What’s the speciality of the house? Never mind—whatever it is, I’ll have it. Extra spicy.” He handed the menu to the waiter, who insisted on telling him the special, anyway.

It did not matter to Vincent. Food generally did not matter much to Vincent. It was just one of many pleasures to which he was indifferent, although highly spicy foods created a sensation that was something related perhaps to pleasure.

Vincent—his real name was Michael Ford—suffered from a rare disorder called anhedonia, an inability to experience pleasure. It’s usually a symptom of long-term drug use. Or schizophrenia. But Vincent was neither a junkie nor crazy.

Well, not crazy in the clinical sense.

Yet.

The biot with the functional and not very clever name of V2, tensed its six legs and timed the onrushing eyelid. When it was just a few dozen feet away micro-subjective or “m-sub”—less than a few millimeters macro-actual or “mack”—the biot leapt.

It flew through the air. It spread short, stubby wings that helped it avoid tumbling. It also spread its legs wide in flex position to take the shock. Then it scraped down the side of an eyelash, picked up a smear of mascara, landed, and jabbed six sharp-tipped legs into flesh. The ends of the legs split to become barbs, locking the biot in place.

Always dangerous to use the barbs because if you had the bad luck to be too near a nerve ending the target just might feel the faintest irritation. And just might decide to scratch the itch. Which wouldn’t crush the biot but could sure as hell relocate it and waste valuable time.

The fast-moving upper lid slammed violently into the lower lid. The giant lashes wobbled and vibrated overhead, a sparse forest of palm. It was an earthquake there on the eyelid, but with barbs deployed, V2 was fine.

Sticky liquid squeezed up between the lids and then, when the top lid began to pull away, stretched like chewed gum until it snapped.

Tears.

Vincent had been through a crying jag on another mission and had ended up with his biot all the way down the face and trapped in running snot.

But these weren’t weeping tears, just lubrication.

The upper lid receded, zooming across the icy white and then over the iris. Vincent would have found it exhilarating if he were the sort of person who did exhilaration.

There were many parts of the human body that were disturbing up close. But few more surprisingly so than a human iris. What looked like blue ice from a distance was an eye-of-Jupiter storm up close. Right at the outer edges Vincent saw blue, or at least a gray that was like blue. But it was not smooth; rather it was a twisted, fibrous mess, thousands of strands of raw muscle, all aimed inward toward the pupil, all with the job of expanding or contracting the iris to let in more or less light.

Close up—and it was impossible to get any more close up than V2, perched on the very edge of the lid—the iris looked a bit like layer upon layer of gray-and-orange worms, thinner at the outer edge of the iris, stronger at the rim of the pupil.

The pupil itself swept by below, a terrible, deep, black-in-black hole, a pit. But then if you looked straight down and caught just the right light, you could actually see to the bottom of that pit, down to the random blood vessels and the juncture that was the attachment point for the optic nerve.

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