Monday, 6 October 2008

After the Earthquake But Before the War

By Feathers Knox

It was the anniversary.

Motma was lying in a plastic tent in an open field, where he had been tugging at himself all day beneath his thin cotton bedclothes. His PDA lay on a pillow of wadded rags. He had been watching his newest downloads, and now bathed in a post-coital glow.

A client came online.

“Hi, I’d like a tour.”

Motma climbed to his feet and strapped on the camera.


“Crushed bodies, poisoned aquifers, that sort of thing.”

Motma secured the tent and set off across the lot, sweeping his head from side to side. He was careful to keep his head and neck panning in a smooth, jitter-free arc.

“Slower, please.”

Last year’s earthquake had never been cleaned up.

Collapsed parking garages, office buildings, shopping malls and apartment complexes stretched out in every direction. Cement and rebar, bricks and shattered windows: it was all covered under a film of beige dust. The sky was a brilliant blue.

“Wow,” said the client.

“So this was Denver,” said Motma. He was walking downhill now, towards the old downtown. It looked like piles of chunky snow.

“Are we going to a grave site?”


Motma turned left at what he guessed had been Broadway.

A pit had been dug in the middle of Congress Park, in front of the Capitol. Bodies had been thrown in and burned. When the workers ran out of fuel, the bodies were just tossed in and covered with rubble. One could still see arm bones.

Motma could hear the client’s breath become heavier, quicker as he came to the northern edge of the pit.

“Shall I walk around it?”

“Yes… but slowly!”

The average client required about 20 minutes to cum, depending on the extent of the wreckage. Two weeks ago, a man in China had requested to see the Tumor Mill. The government had sealed it up after the ‘quake was triggered, but Motma broke in with a length of pipe and a sharpened rock. Bloated bodies hung from meathooks: Motma was careful to keep the neoplasms in focus as he highlighted them with his flashlight.

“Whoah, that is sweet,” said the client. paid Motma 3 RU an hour for 60 hours of work a week. It was enough to buy him a few moldy ears of corn at the Work/Aid station. By saving 10% of each payment transfer, he would be able to afford a spot in the cargo hold of the service bus when it made its trip through the Midwest next winter.

Motma climbed down into the pit for a better view. There was a skull lying out in the open, a small woman’s skull with a dent in the left temple and a large, spidery crack on the forehead. The client moaned in delight. The skull still had red hair.

* * *

“You left more porn on the desktop.”

Motma was silent. It was hard to remember she used his computer.

“Did you hear me?”

He heard her. He always heard her. He just never did anything about it.

"Motma, you know I care for you…"

The conversations always began like this. She even sat across from him at the table, like last time.

“…but this isn’t fair! I worked at the office all day long, I went to the gym to work out, I went shopping, and I just cleaned the bathroom. What did you do today?”

“I looked for a job on Craigslist and did some videos.”

“And you watched porn!”

“Maybe one or two clips.”

She stormed out of the kitchen. He followed her with his eyes, then saw the figure she’d scrawled on the dry erase board by the front door a few weeks ago.

“Motma owes: $72,000.”

He thought about his videos. They had not been shot yet: they were in script form. The script lay in a notebook on the coffee table. A bag of weed and a pipe rested on a page opened to a description for the opening scene for the second video.

“Hero is standing on a platform. Music starts. Hero walks from left to right. A first level Death Drone comes in from the right and walks towards him. Hero raises his Spree Shooter and pulls the trigger. The Death Drone is dissolved in a spray of blood.”

She came back in the room.

“You’re 27. Do something with your life or I am leaving you.”

The earthquake hit a day later.

* * *

The client had asked for a second tour after getting a glass of water.

“More skulls?” asked Motma.

“No. I’d rather see one of the office buildings up close. Can you show me the Wells Fargo Building?”


Motma’s neck was cramped. The soles of his Sauconys were getting thin: every pebble he stepped on sent a flicker of pain shooting up leg.

The Wells Fargo once stood halfway up the hill to Five Points. When the quake hit it had shifted to the right, and then to the left, and then toppled down the hill as a single, salmon-colored unit, like a tree falling with thousands of screaming secretaries inside. It was the one video that made it out of Colorado that day.

The client was already panting as the Fargo’s pink stones came into view.

“Oh wow!”

Motma was careful to scan the entire corpse of the tower as he approached.

“Can I see into the windows? Are any of the offices intact?”

Somehow, there were. Motma shuffled up the cragged surface of the dead building, and paused to peer over the edge into a ravine that had formed where a storm sewer was uprooted. Two rats were licking the bones of a dog that died months before.


The client was panting harder. The lube made a soft sucking sound in the background.

Motma continued up the building. A hallowed-out cave of broken glass and cement sat towards the top of one of the piles, at what would have been the 6th or 7th floor. Inside there was a desk, and a woman was pinned between it and the wall. She was clutching a Post-It note. It was a list:

• buy bread
• call mom
• fire brad

Motma remembered when they found Wenda, his girlfriend. She was working overtime that night, hoping to earn him a lien on his loan before it defaulted. Her cubicle was on the 28th floor of the Qwest building, the one that caught fire. She didn’t look that bad: some burned skin, a gash on her neck, a broken arm bone.

“Can you lift the woman’s arm?” asked the client, nearly breathless. didn’t like it when Motma touched the corpses – they had another contractor to do that for NecroPussy – but the client had paid for a double, and Motma was feeling generous. He tried to lift the woman’s arm by the wrist but it wouldn’t budge.

“Too stiff.”

“How about her head?”

Things were shifting in the background. The client was close.

Motma leaned over, placing both hands on either side of the woman’s head and forcing it into view with a few crunching noises. The left eye was missing; the rest was intact.

"Ohhhhhh!" said the client. The sucking sound in the background had increased in pace, and then stopped.

Motma thought about his unfinished videos, sitting in a notebook under the 30 feet of rubble that had once been his apartment complex. It would have only taken a few days to hire the actors, shoot the footage, edit it all down or upload it to the Internet. Now it lay in a tomb of pulverized concrete, twisted steel, and decayed human beings.

And this was before the war started.

Bio: Feathers Knox works in the service industry in a suburb of Bloomington, Indiana.


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