Izzy Izzard Dystopian Thrillers

Loads of Trouble

1/

Dougal’s Dead

 

 

 

It was cold and dark, mizzle wetting my hair.

Mizzle? That’s not a word.

‘It is,’ I said. ‘It’s a combination of mist and drizzle.’

Elliot scoffed at my explanation but didn’t argue.

I was wet. I’d been wet before. Neon’s flashed, causing me to blink, and shield my eyes. They lit the street, the purples, and reds shining in the puddles. Headlights flashed on the wet, twisted plastic police tape. It was a childish barrier, like a parent saying No to a child in tantrum mode. I stood outside my brother’s apartment staring at a copper with his fingers all twitchy and resting on the butt of a gun. He wore a peaked copper cap. Its dark blue trim dripped water onto the wet pavement.  Pig eyes watched me with a bulldog grumpiness. He possessed a snarl, and snapping teeth, worn and rotten to the gums.

‘Is bad,’ I said to Elliot. My bones shivered in the frigid night, my breath a thick vapor.

Not good, Izzy, Elliot agreed.

‘So, what do I do?’ It was ten pm, and I was kitty wet, lost scraggy dog miserable, and wanted to know why my brother had a sad, old beat-up copper guarding his door.

‘You can’t be arguing with a copper,’ Elliot said. ‘Not when his fingers are caressing the trigger of a gun.’

I agreed with Elliot. The coppers in Ostere town had lost their manners and liked to shoot. I blamed the army. They stalked our town with rifles, shooting creatures not deserving of a bullet. Coppers used to investigate and protect, but with soldiers shooting stuff, they felt a need to shed lead.

‘But there’s no harm in asking a question.’

Elliot agreed. But he thought I should be polite. Izzy, he said, don’t be hot-headed, don’t be stroppy, and play nice.

I’m Izzy. I’m almost eighteen and, according to the state, certifiably crackers. I like crackers. There are a lot of words that describe my condition, but crackers sits well with me. The irritating voice you heard a minute ago is my dead brother. And I don’t mean my older brother with the grumpy cop guarding his door, but my dead twin brother; Elliot. He died a few years ago, but he haunts me day and night. He’s mostly good to have around, but he can get irritating.

‘Excuse me, sir,’ I said. And I smiled. I don’t do smiling, ever. And I found it remarkably difficult to hold. It didn’t seem natural. That upward tilt of the lips needed effort. So, I asked my question. ‘Is Dougal receiving visitors.’

Elliot thought that was classy. I was impressed. It brought no response from the old dog guarding Dougal’s door. He hitched at his utility belt, shuffling it high, but it flopped back down beneath his fat gut.

‘Piss off you miserable street urchin. You parentless gutter goblin.’

Goblin, Elliot echoed.

I was shocked. The copper’s words hurt. ‘You can’t speak to me like that. I’ll have you know, some of the finest fuckers I know thrive without parental support.’

Tell him he’s a fat fucker, Elliot said.

I was drawing a crowd. A mother, umbrella in hand, child under her wing pushed past me, her hand covering her child’s ear. The copper’s hand flicked the catch holding his gun in place.

He’s going to shoot, Elliot said.

I backed off, bumping into a couple cowering beneath an umbrella. People walked the street, covering me as I retreated toward the gutter. The copper sneered and rolled a toothpick in his mouth like he was tough. Hard. Dangerous even. It didn’t impress me. Elliot laughed. He’s a loser. Look at him. His jowls flop when he breathes and his belly jiggles each time his heart pumps.

‘What happened?’ I asked him

Elliot answered. He’s standing guard because he’s not trusted anymore. He’s an old boy, Izzy girl, used up, and he betrayed his partner, right?

‘He asked you to watch his back,’ I said. ‘Didn’t he? But you were watching your own back, right?’

The copper spat the toothpick at my chest. I fell backward clutching at my breast, pretending I’d taken a bullet to my heart. I performed an elegant pirouette, stumped back, then forward. ‘I'm shot, Elliot,’ I sobbed. ‘I’ve taken the lead to my chest. Help me, Elliot. Hold my hand.’

Elliot was laughing, but the copper wasn’t.

‘Piss off, or I’ll shoot ya.’

I should be telling you something else about me, me and Elliot, and our ability to hear stuff. We’re clever, Elliot and me. We knew what that copper’s problem was, from the moment we spied him standing guard. He was washed up, beaten, and thinking of the 0.99 shekels worth of food waiting to be zapped, obliterated and inhaled before he fell asleep with a gut full of beer washing the tasteless platter of food down into his arse.

I retreated, stepping into the gutter lining Fitzroy Street, giving up on my charade. Folk strutted the gap, casting secretive glances at the copper and me, whispering behind hands, hurrying to get off the streets.

‘He’s dead because of you,’ I said.

You tell him, girl, Elliot said.

 A car blared, and a voice yelled at me. The copper stepped forward, wanting to touch me. He didn’t like what I was telling him. ‘But you got to get over it, right?

‘Piss off yer bum. Why don’t you do some begging away from here, and then shoot your ill-gotten funds up your skinny veins until you stop breathing.’

Again, he touched his gun. I needed to leave. Antagonizing a copper wasn’t necessary, not with Arundel Asylum looking for my sorry arse. The good folk at Arundel Asylum liked people who were crackers. Pretty girls like me got the white suits hard happy, and they liked to hold me down, whisper hateful nothings in my ear as they found an inappropriate area to hurt. The doctors feigned indifference, but I’ve never received so many cuddles as I did at Arundel from the doctors. And once they converted a crackpot, like me, they wanted to keep us, nurture our madness, and display us like trophies. My brother broke me out, promised to care for me, and make sure I kept taking their medication. Right, like that was going to happen. All their meds did was make me sleep, slow me down, and make me stupid.

More stupid, Elliot said.

I retreated to the opposite pavement and sat on the wet wooden seat by the tram stop.

Have a pill, Izzy, Elliot said.

I was shaking, and I could feel my heart bouncing hard against my chest. I had the little blue pill in my hand. An elaborate M stenciled into the round tablet.

Take it; it always helps, he said. Makes us smart, those tablets do.

Elliot was right, unlike the meds from Arundel, these little blue pills with their pretty M did sharpen my wits.

I popped the pill, washed it down with a sip from my small bottle of Slotvak Wodka, and lit a half butt of weed. An army patrol crossed the street, loud and bloody proud, looking stupid in their wet ponchos. The purple lights from the A-Rab shop shone on their backs. Car headlights dazzled as their slick material redirected their beams. Two T-Birds skirted the soldiers, stopping at the door to my brother’s apartment, hoping the copper might let them play with his truncheon.

‘Where is he?’ I asked Elliot.

A girl in a wheelchair rolled to a stop beside me. She wore a short school skirt with her white blouse unbuttoned and tied beneath her breasts. Her bare stomach was pale and frozen, slick and shiny. The tie was fat and well short and the nipples solid beneath her blouse. The glasses sat low on her nose. Long blondish hair was tied in pigtails.

‘You spare a puff?’ She spoke well, with a posh educated accent. Elliot thought she was cute.

I passed her the cigarette and watched her inhale. She was pretty. I thought the skirt was strange because her legs were well skinny and tucked beneath the chair. She needed a rug, I reckoned, because it wasn’t warm, but then maybe she wasn’t feeling the cold down there.

She took another drag and handed it back to me. ‘What’s going on over at Dougal’s?’

Good start, I thought. ‘You know my brother?’

‘Dougal, yeah everyone knows Dougal.’

‘The copper ain’t talking. He’s doing a lot of snarling, gnashing of canine's but not a lot else. He’s got an itchy finger. I got the feeling he’d like to be shooting something sometime soon.’

‘They’ve been there all day. I came past early this morning when the ambulance first arrived. The copper, a younger one, not the old grunt standing there now, told me trouble, loads of it, kicked off earlier this morning. Neighbors heard shots, shouting, and then quiet. I was coming down for a coffee when I saw the ambulance drive down toward the esplanade. That was a few hours ago.’

Dead right? Elliot said.

I shuddered at the thought, but I’d been thinking the worst.

‘I’m guessing dead,’ she said. ‘The ambulance was in no damn hurry, and it kept the lights off. If there’s a pulse, you get to hear the siren and see the reds flashing.’

That copper, Elliot said.

‘What about him?’

‘Who?’ the girl in the chair said.

He thinks all queers should be dead.

That didn’t surprise me, but I didn’t hear those words. ‘The copper,’ I said to the girl. My brother thinks he’s homophobic.’

‘Who isn’t. And that copper is an arse. If he could shoot straight, he’d be dangerous.’

‘My brother was gay,’ I said. ‘And the copper doesn’t care that he’s dead. He thinks it’s justified and he’s happy with my brother’s death.’

‘How do you figure?’

‘Elliot, my twin brother, heard him venting hate on the gays soiling our streets.’ Elliot confirmed my words. ‘Soiling.’

She puffed some more before handing the butt to me. Across the road, folk in white suits exited the building. They carried shoulder bags, briefcases, and toolboxes. The pushed hoods off their heads and removed white booties before stepping onto the pavement.

‘My brother gets forensics? A gay death gets full treatment?’

‘Why not. Since the curfew came into effect, there’s little else for forensics to do. The country is in lockdown, robbers, rapscallions, and murderers live in fear of their lives. You can get shot for crossing against the red man in Albion Minor these days. And the Generals need the forensics for this case because they’ll be looking for a reason to put your brother’s name to shame. They don’t like different these days.’

I liked the girl and her talk. Nobody liked different in Albion Minor. I held out my hand. ‘My name’s Izzy.’

‘I’m Hannah, but you can call me Roller Girl.’

She gave a quick shove on the wheels and flipped herself back so that she could spin on the spot. All the time, she watched me, smiling at my reaction to her skill. Her movements were automatic.

‘Nice to meet you Roller Girl. I have no talents, well …’

‘Well, what? Give it to me. I don’t care if it's not as impressive as balancing a wheelchair.’

‘My brother told me to shut it, like a thousand times. And my other brother, Elliot, doesn’t like me telling either, not if I’m to stay out of Arundel. The Asylum likes girls like me, and they pump me full of drugs hourly to keep me in the land of nuff-nuff where nuffing matters, except breathing in and exhaling. Elliot hates that. And Dougal says I need to behave. Be good Izzy, he says.’

‘Big brother’s do that. You can’t do anything without their say so.’

‘Yeah, but fair do’s, he’s found me and saved me, sort of.’

‘But your talent. It wasn’t escapism if you got locked up in the Arundel.’

‘No one gets out of the Arundel. That place is creepy. That place is sinister. Guards walk around in white suits armed with pepper spray, tasers, and hypodermic syringes full of nuff-nuff juice. Doors are locked, key padded and chained, and the windows are barred and reinforced. And you’re right; no one gets out of the Arundel. Not unless you pay for a pine box, like.’

‘So, what’s your talent. I mean my talent is giving good head. I make a shit load. But your brother’s gone. You don’t need to behave. What’s your talent?’

Elliot said no, but I liked the girl in the chair. We needed to make a friend tonight because the streets were wet and cold, and the army didn’t approve of vagrants with breath in their lungs. As I turned to Roller Girl, adopting a serious, even grave pout, I noticed a small girl, my age, kitten wet, a scarf covering her hair, watching Dougal’s apartment. I hesitated, wondering, wanting to say hi, but she caught my eye, smiled, and walked into the dark wet night.

Curious, Elliot said.

And I agreed.

‘So,’ Roller Girl said. ‘Is it a state secret?’

I returned my attention to the grand reveal. Elliot was humming, pretending not to listen. But we had to share. We needed an ally tonight. Otherwise, we’d be back in Arundel Asylum by the morning. I took a deep breath and spoke.

‘I can read minds.’