Holocene Section 1.5

For Edwardo and Isaac, the relief that early autumn brought from the Utah desert summer's relentless heat was generally a jubilant bookend to the Canyonlands National Park's slow season. This year was entirely different, and unease hung on the trails, canyons, in their throats. As the days slanted shorter and the sun south-ward, the RVs, tourists, and teenage visitors trickled to almost nothing—though they’d only been a fraction of the crowds that usually descended upon the park this season.

Soon after the horrific murders inside the park boundaries became more numerous, then began occurring simultaneously at Mesa Verde, Capitol Reef, Grand Canyon, and Zion National Parks, a joint task force between Amazon Armed Initiatives and Facebook Capital Crimes mounted an investigation and manhunt sprawling three states and millions of square miles. Local law enforcement was stripped of involvement as the investigation progressed, and very little information was being shared with the park rangers any longer. They had been instructed to “keep the tone light and the trails cleared” by park officials.

The first body found decimated, eaten, and decapitated (in which order unknown) in Canyonlands National Park was identified as a Caucasian male in his early twenties. Rangers Edwardo and Isaac began to suspect that what or whomever had killed the man was still inside the park boundaries, had in fact, never left. While the bodies continued to accrue in similar fashion at other Four Corners parks—headless, mutilated white men—there were subtle variations in the nature of their killings, enough to distinguish an improbable single predator hopping between hundreds of miles of wilderness. Amazon in particular had the largest vested interest in keeping the details of these men’s demise under wraps, given their partnership with the National Park system. Both had raked in hundreds of millions in their increasingly profitable construction of Prime Camps for the wealthiest visitors to enjoy plush accommodations, replete with immersive holographic “Native Experiences,” affording visitors the thrill of witnessing a completely lifelike Anasazi village go about their daily programmed routines of hunting, collecting pine nuts, and telling their young loin-clothed children origin stories over the crackle of simulated fires—in English, Spanish, Mandarin, or seven other selectable languages. Prime campers didn’t even have to fiddle with annoyances like Isobutane backpacking stoves or a rainy night destroying a family’s experience; full meals, sunscreen, better hiking boots—all of these could be delivered via lifelike bird drones within an hour. Amazon had even donated a publicly viewable holo-mersive “Petroglyph Creation Native Experience” at no charge to park visitors, where visitors were treated to a historically-inspired recreation of the park’s most famous petroglyph, Newspaper Rock. It became so popular that “Glyph Bagging” became a whole new semi-adventure hobby, likely inspired by nearby Colorado’s mountain climbing neighbors, who can be heard bragging of “bagging fourteeners” in casual conversation.

There are hundreds of known petroglyphs carved onto the sandstone rock faces throughout the park, spanning thousands of years of human habitation and migration. Only around twenty of these rock carvings are labeled on the park’s maps, primarily those within a mile of trailheads, to thwart vandalism or theft. The majority of the petroglyphs preserved are unseen by park visitors.

“Four months, five bodies,” Isaac says as they climb into their sand-caked rangers’ pickup near the Needles outpost.

“Thinking we’re due for another soon.” Edwardo tips his cap down to cover his eyes from the intense morning sun as they begin climbing the 4WD access road to Horseshoe Canyon. They had been expressly forbidden from independently investigating the sites of the murders they had found over the summer. Isaac slowed the truck as the road climbed up the canyon rim. Today they plan to repair several worn trail markers before any early snow makes the upper portion of the road impassable.

“New moon tonight,” Edwardo raises the rim of his hat to the eastern sky. He continues the conversation without words, Isaac feeling his partner’s words drift into his mind with the usual soft tone Ed begins their shifts with. Most days it comes in clear and bright as a cut diamond. But today Isaac feels some sort of interference. He can hear Ed saying something about the new moons, how he’d just pieced together the significance of the petroglyph they had found on an overhang of sandstone at the bottom of a hillside a couple miles up this road. That more welcome discovery had occurred the winter before, they had been returning down the same jeep trail they, Ed had motioned he needed to piss and they’d pulled over near a lonesome gnarled Pinyon tree.

As Ed was relieving himself, watching the steam from his urine rise from the boulder, a pattern on the rock some hundred yards down the hill caught his eye. He’d pulled his monocular out and tried to steady his hand and focus on the most unnatural of shapes out among the endlessly amorphous rock formations in this millions-of-years ago seabed: neat geometric lines. As he’d swept the monocular right, then left, back again, he had realized this petroglyph was larger than any they’d ever encountered. Ed formed the thought, along with the image he saw, and beckoned Isaac from the idling truck above him.

“Ed, this better be good, it’s colder’n hell out!” Isaac descended down towards his partner. “Need me to hold it for you?” But as he had seen Ed’s posture, poised in the brown sage and steadying himself against the swirling, staccato gusts of wind while staring intently below, Isaac understood his fellow ranger’s psychic insistence; he’d discovered another petroglyph. The two had spent the rest of that day’s light surveying the strangest rock carving they had ever found in the Needles district: nearly 20 yards wide, half as tall, the glyph depicted three human forms near the center, antennae rising from the sides of their heads, above which supported identical floating heads, their antennae rendered in lightning bolt zig-zag. At the base of the glyph a the shape of a diamond-skinned serpent extended it’s forked tongue into a sprawling maze.

What is that in the center of the maze, a tooth?” Isaac hears Ed grinning next to him.

They sketched the petroglyph, documented their position, and had agreed that day to keep their finding private, in hope that it would remain undisturbed and unmolested.


II.

The interior walls of the jail were entirely transparent. As she is escorted from her cell to be processed into the custody of the recovery center, Abigail feels taunted by dozens of pairs of eyes in the cell block. Bodies lying in bunks, some reading, some playing solitaire, several sitting on toilets, trying to cover their face and groin simultaneously, defecating. The only privacy available, as she had quickly learned, was from repeatedly breathing hot air onto the surface of the clear polyethylene walls to create a momentary fog that could obscure the view from the guards and cameras.

“You are what you eat, bastard!” sounded from a chuckhole. An inmate crouching near the door to her cell flung a brown-green lump of feces from the meal-tray slot of the door at the guard, landing it on the crisp crease of her uniformed pant leg. Without missing a beat, the guard turns towards the grinning inmate, places her palm on the bio-rhythm sensor pad, releasing the locked door.

“Backup needed in Block A Cell Niner,” the guard barks into the radio, arcs her head back to Abigail and shouts “You, stay put.” The inmate begins backing up, reaching her hand back towards the bunk in the corner of the cell, uselessly trying to wrap her thin arm around the bunk’s frame before she gets walled. Inmates have four thin rare-earth metal restraints, fashioned to resemble antique chainlinked ‘handcuffs,’ one on each wrist and one on each ankle. The polarity of the bands can be immediately reversed by any correctional officer with an RE switch, causing an immediate powerful magnetic attraction that binds wrist to wrist, ankle to ankle, or both, binding the inmate into submission. All inmates jailed for felonies, from possession of Untaxable Euphoric Agents (like Abigail) to more extreme violations of legally binding Terms of Agreement, like Intentional Removal of Prime Citizenry, are issued rare earth restraints for their own safety and the safety of others. At the rear of each felony detention cell are four reciprocal metal lengths. A ‘V’ shape for the upper torso wrist bands and an ‘A shape’ for the leg bands. The guards referred to the inmates Walled as the “AV club.”

The guard asks the woman cowering, trying ot keep one arm wrapped around the bunk to keep from being Walled by the rare earth bands “Are you what you eat, hon?” as she activates the RE switch, cackling as the inmate is pulled against the wall, her arms and legs at impossible angles as she resists her bands making solid contact with the metal restraint bars.

“’Cause if you are, chiclet, you’re about to be a liquid IV bag.”

As black-clad guards with electric-tissue prods shove past Abigail into the Walled shit-flinger’s cell, she nearly loses consciousness, uncoordinated and sedate from the post-plea-agreement administered Lorazepam/Ketamine/Demerol injections she’d been given before the judge-ordered surgical removal of her eggs.

Abigail decides it would be best to just, sit down on the corrugated metal gangway. Just rest her head and let...time..pass.

The guards encircle the walled


There were over twenty other women in the recovery center when Abigail arrived.

Abigail approached the nurse's station, groggy and reeling from a dream that still burned around the edge of her vision. The color red. There had been a massive creature made wholly of teeth and nails, its somewhat human shape robed in pristine, pleated crimson curtain. It wanted to eat her in the dream; she had not run, nor cowered. She stared bemused directly into the endless darkness of its eye sockets—and it returned her gaze with a soundless phrase, with some throbbing psychic possession of her awareness, the trespasser shared its thought:

"A new violator carries a red costume for the whole family." And in a coordinated chatter of concentric teeth and nail movement, rid itself of her dream body in a slow, pestilent coil, and recessed into whatever grotesque domain it had arrived from. The dream was diffused as the women's dormitory at Hallmark-Oprah Recovery Center sounded the morning wakeup call.

Abigail's turn in the nurse's medication line came, and she shook off the dream's awful hold, and took the three pastel-colored pills from their paper cup, then the Dixie cup of water from the tray and threw her head back, swallowed, then opened her mouth wide for Nurse Linda, lifting her tongue for inspection to show she had not resisted ingesting her meds.

"That's a girl," Nurse Linda deadpanned, notating the nurse's log with her initials and date.

The cafeteria only served decaf coffee. Abigail ranked this squarely at the top of sins.


III.

Exactly how many weeks he had been violating her during high-frequency somatic hypnosis sessions, she was not positive. When she had inadvertently awoke in the previous week’s session, a remote server power disruption suddenly silencing the Amazon Neuro-Hamony headset’s audio hypnotherapy program, Abigail saw him fastening his pants, kneeled over her.

“How do you feel about that, motherfucker?” Abigail watches the outline of Counselor James’ bobbing head and pulls her tongue to the back to her throat, the sound emanating from her mouth agape hissing like highway traffic passing.

She had hit unknown bone with the chef’s knife, lodged somewhere in the counselor’s stooped, arrogant chest. Ribcage, then some rounded bone.

She kisses him on the cheek, then, with the strength of a full orchestra, heaved the blade upward, leveraging her own weight against his resistance and tore through layers of neatly arranged pockets of tendon, tissue, and bone, till the hilt of the knife was at the base of his neck. Just below where his small gold crucifix necklace hung.

There are 5 liters of blood in the human body, or roughly 1 and one-quarter gallons. The pangea-shaped puddle below the chair began to spread nearly to the wall.

“Do you still want me? Do you want to turn me over that couch and fuck me? Huh? ‘Oh, yes baby, baby, God, yes’ – is that what you’d say inside me?” She let the question hang in the dim office.

“Please,” he protested wetly, losing balance against the maroon airport-carpet patterned padded swivel chair she had him pressed against.

“Please, oh, God, yes baby, please,” she purred into his ear, pushing him down on the chair.

With one cursive gesture she pulled the knife from his chest and plunged it so deep in his throat that she felt his tonsils’ warmth against the base of her wrist, and mechanically pushed in and out. So little left of his breath. But his eyes fixed with the quiver of the quick, and she retracted the knife, tracing his eyebrows gingerly with the blade as his gaze stuttered to her own.

She let the knife drop to his lap, the counselor’s gaze follows it. But as it slides from his lap to the floor, his wide-eyed shock stiffens, then freezes.

For the first time since she had entered his office, she began to fell extremely ill. The sight of him was too much.

She surveyed the counselor’s office one last time.


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