Walking with Hemlock

Walking with Hemlock
Image created in Adobe Photoshop using its generative Ai fill for the roller coaster

This is the first "Continue?" story for paid subscribers. I'm currently leaning toward turning it into part of The MagicLand Chronicles, but so far, that is not its role in life. An astute reader who is familiar with MagicLand and the MagicLand Chronicles may be able to guess the delta points around which this story could possibly blend itself into the MagicLand timeline.

Who knows? Maybe a subscriber will even play a role in what that delta point might be, and how it will happen.

This story is unfinished and very rough. Further refinements and even finishing the story both depend on a question I ask my paid subscribers: Should I continue?

Walking with Hemlock

Annie was next in line. She stared at the backs of four men standing at the urinals who were taking care of their business. She appreciated the intricate weaves, loops, and patterns of the filtration systems that adorned their backs, but she also loathed them because they represented dependence and the planet’s scorn. Each system possessed a unique artistic vision with dozens of thin tubes attached to the filter in each man’s backpack. The tubes were threaded by patient hands into carefully crafted displays of independence.

They were meticulously crafted because the importance of the filters to the lives of Mall citizens had given birth to an ongoing community art contest with no winners aside from the congratulatory nods of fellow contestants. Each filtration system contained thin hoses woven into an intricate nest of tubing that represented the gift of life, because without it, breathing was ultimately fatal. Pipes and hoses and valves and penstocks, all as vital as blood and water, were rendered into individual flexible sculptures by each wearer.

One of the men finished and walked past Annie, so she ambled up to his abandoned urinal, unzipped her printed metallic pants, pulled everything down to her knees, and squatted so that she could pee. One of the next people in line was a boy, probably about eight or nine. She stuck her tongue out at him as she peed. He giggled. When she finished, she stood up and gave the boy the finger as she walked past him. He giggled again and scrambled to the urinal.

Hemlock was waiting for her at the entrance with his long machete, sheathed like always in decorative stiff black leather, holding its handle menacingly, his thick arching black eyebrows sending unmistakable warnings to anyone with ideas. His dark, tattooed arms, which looked like oak barrels etched with ink illustrations of barbed wire, a hawk, and the beautiful face and long dark hair of a woman from long ago, flexed and twitched under a tight black tee shirt.