by John Shirley


Story Copyright (C) 2010, John Shirley.
Images Copyright (C) 2010, Rudy Rucker.
2,700 Words.


Statement by suspect 14587, Garrison Reginald Prince, DL N5489882466, July 15 2028. Recorded by SFPD Det. JW Berman, Sarah Gertz, witnessing recorder, video 149998097. Suspect has been read his rights, and repeatedly offered a public defender, has repeatedly declined legal counsel in favor of defending self. Officer’s remarks are not transcribed.

...Is that thing rolling? First of all, I want to say all I’m doing out there on the streets is...well, it’s a public service. These people are dangerous. They’re going to go boo-zerker, sooner or later, almost all of them do. So people like me, we get the zerkers out of the mix before they kill or at least before they kill again. I save lives, that’s how I see it, when I distill one of these people. Me being a neurobitters addict—that’s it’s own punishment, too. I mean, you know what the crash is like? I’ve been here for days and it’s getting bad, man, the withdrawal is chewing its way up my ass. I risk going zerker my...

[question by Officer Berman]

What? No, I don’t want a lawyer, I don’t trust lawyers. You got to question their DNA, hode. No. I’m gonna fucking defend myself. I mean, you got the whole thing on vidfly so what I got to do is explain myself. I know how it is, you can’t just let people kill other people, all on their own, and let them walk away, but I think a jury will understand.

You got to put yourself out there, on that night with me, to really get it. A hot night in the Castro. The gays are cruising each other. The high school kids are looking for somebody to beat up. The college students are looking to, like, digitize somebody beating somebody up for the VirTube. The Snap Gangs are out. People are cruising with booms—when the whole fucking car’s one resonating speaker you feel that in your bones, it’s like it’s talking to you, says Go for it.

Funny thing is, the air seems pretty clean, out there, compared to when I was a kid—I mean, most of the cars are electric, or natural gas, hydrogen, factories are scrubbed. But it doesn’t matter. The greening came too late. The stuff soaked in, in the 1980s and 90s and on through into the 21st. Fish dying off, the deformed amphibians—shoulda been a sign. I had three years of biochemistry, man, before I went into dealing distills and stuff. It was an eye opener.

So yeah I’m sliding along on the edge of the crowd, avoiding eye contact, staying away from the smash-clusters, not even getting close enough to those tight little groups that I’m going to slip in the blood, and I see a guy shove all blundery out of a cluster, hands flailing, people scattering to get out of his way. He runs into an alley, talking to himself. He’s not Bluetooth-talking, he’s got that desperate urgency in his voice, and that loop, that tells me he’s in a bitters state, see, it’s so distinctive. Kind of young guy, maybe twentyfour, six years younger than me, wifi reactive clingsuit showing random bits of channels across him, the whole thing. He’s stalking along and I’m in his slipstream just close enough to smell him, to pick out the bitters reek over his aftershave and sweat and the fresh blood on his fists—yeah, yeah!, there it is, fuck yeah—

[remark by Officer Berman]

Take it easy, officer dick, I’m not losing control. I’m just, you know, nostalgic. So I’m really on this guy, just two strides behind in the alley, and he’s jabbering away, [approximate transcription]


Like that, over and over. Well that’s a total giveaway, that kind of neurological tapeloop, means the envirotoxins are in the speech and organizational centers, which is right next to the center that controls impulse, and that’s so typical of a bitters, so what with that and the smell and the blood on his fists I know he’s a legit target. Don’t forget, he just came from beating a meth-whore to death for the entertainment of a bunch of lazy douchewads on the street. So what’s he going to do next? He’s going to attack someone else. He’s in full zerker mode.

Now you’re thinking: “That being the case how come you’re following him into a dark alley because if he’s really a boo-zerker, he’s going to notice you and kill your ass dead?”



Right. Good question. But that’s part of the frisson, hode, that’s part of what gets a man off. Back when I used to do old fashioned speedballs, I had to go into the bad neighborhoods to cop the shit, and that was part of the kick, taking those chances. Dodging the junkie hawks and the cops. Part of the game, part of the life.

But of course, I’ve got an edge too. I mean this guy, this sleek young hodey boy, he’s leaning forward, jabbering along, and scanning—but always ahead. Sometimes they’ll suddenly spin around on you. But most of the time the zerkers are like sharks, always moving forward.

The other edge is the syringe cannon. The best available Co2 condensed gas shooter.

Mine, it’s half as long as a pool cue, about the same width, goes under that long duster I’m wearing. It’s goth cammo, that duster, too hot for it but no one questions the long coat on a San Francisco Saturday night anytime. And it’s custom sewn with a holster for the cannon.

I’ve already got the coat open, see, as I’m slipping up behind him, I’m glancing around, looking for videoflys or whatever. I do see two guys fucking standing up in a back doorway. Pants down around their ankles. And you know what? I save their lives! I admit, it’s not what I’m there for, but it’s what happened.

They’re grunting and buggering away and the zerker’s spotted them, he’s hissing to himself and veering toward them with his clutching hands reaching out and I’ve seen it before, when they’ve got the final stages neurotoxin load like that, they’re going to go for eye gouging. They just do. It’s like a guy ODing on PCP.

The zerker’s foaming at the mouth and running at these guys—and I raise the syringe cannon and fire off two quick ones, zip zoop. One of them misses him and hits the buggerer right in a naked butt cheek and the bugger squawks and goes oh fuck yeah baby, and starts spazzing out—the trank must’ve worked out for his orgasm—and then he collapses. The other guy pulls up his pants and runs off, stumbling around, trying to get his ass covered.

The second syringe round zips into the zerker, back of the left shoulder. Good solid hit.

The zerker spins around and comes at me takes three steps and he’s almost in reach and then boom, he’s down. Still twitching, still dangerous, but for a full three minutes, not ambulatory. And of course in three minutes he’ll be dead.

Now these tranks are precisely calibrated, they’ll clamp down on his nervous system, along the peripherals, but they’ll break down fast. By the time they get to me through his wetstuff, they’re already broken up, see. I figure you were wondering that, right? No?

So he’s trying to drag himself across the ground to me, his face all contorted and snapping like a rabid dog, and I’m calmly putting my cannon away, in my coat, and getting out my distiller from the other side. I circle behind him, give him a wide berth, see—

[A question from Officer Berman]

No, I told you before, I don’t need a lawyer, I’m gonna defend myself. Where was I...I give him a wide berth, staying out of grabbing reach—one of them grabbed my ankle one time, took a bite, still got a big scar there, so I’m careful, ‘cause I mean that shit hurt—and I step up behind him, kneel down with my left knee on the middle of his back, press the distiller to the back of his head...and this is tricky, because they don’t keep their damn heads still. He can still move his head and hands and some of his arms...and I press hard, really hard, and squeeze the trigger and the drill springs and hammers home, goes right through the skull, half a second and it’s in, and soon as the node senses the cerebrospinal fluid it signals ‘in reverse’ and the drill starts going the other way, the suction starts, and the nanothreads pick out the neurotoxins from his blood stream, all bonded just right by his liver, and I get excited because some of them are leaking out around the drill and I can smell them as they drip over the back of my hand—

First of all, I’m never wrong about who’s full of bitters. Environmental neurotoxins are in everyfuckingbody, including you, officer detective chief captain whatever you are, but they accumulate more in some than others and that’s why all those insane kid started up around 2009, more and more guys randomly shooting people dead, in schools. But see, when it gets to that zerker concentration, I can smell it clear as a hot apple pie. The benzene and hexane and the copper-bonded pesticides and the cadmium and the phthalates and the mercurysulfate and the polychlorinated biphenyls, and toluene and the cyclohexanone and atrazine and—well shit, we’ve got generations of build up of the neurotoxins and a zillion others in water tables and in our food from pesticides and household chemicals and flame retardants and breakdown of plastic debris in the ocean and, you know, it gets so you can smell it in their blood. Especially if you’re addicted to the bitters. See, drug addicts—they can smell cocaine or heroin sooner than a drug-sniffing German Shepherd. And the Z23 cocktail is my drug of choice, so yeah I can smell it. Hell if you test any one of those bodies you found in that dumpster, every single one will have the Z23 synergism compound that comes from just being in certain urban places, you know, living an ordinary lifestyle, genetic tendencies making them accumulate faster in some than others, and they’ll all be the ones that—once it’s processed by the cocktail’s liver—it’ll give that incredible fuck-everything high.



What’s up with that look, officer—you give me the dirty eye because I’m calling them cocktails? I’m telling you, they’re no longer human when I get to them. When you’re that toxic you’re not human anymore. I mean me, I use half a dozen blood cleansers after I suck one up, but they don’t work completely and I don’t know how much humanity I have left—specially with you guys keeping me locked up here—and I swear I’m not going to whine about it when my time comes to be a cocktail for somebody like me. I don’t think so, no.

You got to have some existential integrity, and shit.

And I do, but I’m also totally addicted to this shit, so that night, I’ve got the zerker down, and with my left hand I open the drinktube on the back of the distiller and jam it into my nose, right into my sinuses—hey officer your girl there looks like she’s going to be sick, she need a minute? She going to be okay? Whatever.

So I’m sucking this zerker’s stuff into my sinuses and the high is building up and out on the buzzing edge of my mind I’m aware that there’s a flickering in my peripheral vision, little metal and glass streak, and some part of me knows it’s a videofly and I’m probably being recorded but I do have my quickface on, so I’m hoping it’s going to cover me up enough but then the rush really hits me, the cocktail of neurotoxins with that zerker bitters aftertaste that just kicks it into the fucking ozone...and ain’t it funny how neurotoxins can feel so good, like meth and MDMA and a lot of others, people sniffing glue; funny how taking your own brain apart can feel good, can feel pleasurable. And some part of me knows that it’s going to kill me eventually, one of these nights, but see, the impulse to self destruction comes out of self loathing, hode, and it’s not like I’m short on the self loathing, I’m fully charged with it, ask my old man about that, so I ignore the videofly and boom, I get a big driving slam-it-home, thinking: Do what you have to but just get off. And I do get off, what a rush, like a stroke of lightning fucking a stroke of lightning and coming a burst of electrified plasma, and I’m rollicking on this guy like a rodeo cowboy on a bull, and the spasm makes me jerk down forward—that’s a risk, when you lose control like that. I’m flopping down and suddenly he’s reaching behind his head to claw at me and he gets my face with his right hand. And those claw fingers of his rip off the quickface, that living face of real human skin I paid a good three hundred WD for, and peels it off, its blood spits out, and there's my face as exposed as that buggering guy’s ass. And what do I see but the police surveillance vidfly hovering in front of me getting a nice long shot of my face as I suck up this guy’s brains into my nose...

Okay, so, what do the Brits say, “it’s a fair cop”, and your facial recognition program Ids Garrison Reginald Prince, DL N5489882466, and I’m not home twenty minutes before the drone’s thumping at the door, flying guns around the windows amping out, You have thirty seconds!—and here I am.

But you get the point, here—that I knew this guy was a zerker. I had seen him taking somebody down, and I saw him going for two more victims, and—

Okay, well, that whole dumpster thing, those bodies, that wasn’t necessarily me—

[remark by Officer Berman]

I did? Can you play that part back? Maybe I should’ve had a lawyer.

You can say the law is the law but all those cocktails were pure boo-zerker bitter. They were either zerkers or about to be. Anyhow one of them was a neurobitter suck like me, but he was about to go zerker, too, I could smell it, and you know, and I’m feeling like I can’t hold on much longer in this place, Officer, I was told when I was arrested I could get some kind of withdrawal help, here, I’ve been here for three days and at this stage, the last stage, it’s as far as I can go, man, without another fix, or some kind of smoother, and you know what’s left—

[remark by Officer Berman]

Well I can’t fucking wait another twentyfour hours, officer, just send the doctor over and—

[remark by officer Berman]

I don’t care, you know damn well what my blood tests are gonna say, I can’t wait another night and day, I can smell the stuff and it’s making me crazy, it’s accumulated and I smell it—no, no, not in the other prisoners, it’s not at that level of concentration in them, it’s in me, I smell it in me, and if you can’t get it to me I’m going for it, right now—

Well fuck you, then. You enjoy this.

Bang, how you like that! Wham, how you like that! Crack my fucking head open on the desk—keep back, keep back, I’ve busted my own skull open, keep the fuck back, I’m shoving my fingers in the crack! You think a man can’t eat his own brains? Well just watch, just—



About the Author

John Shirley's new novel is Bleak History from Simon & Schuster. His new story collection is In Extremis: The Most Extreme Short Stories of John Shirley coming from Underlands Press. eReads will be bringing out 11 of his books, including, quite soon, a new edition of his novel Wetbones.

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