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MAPLE & GOO by Anith Mukherjee

The Orb glowed, the room shook, pink slime dripped from the ceiling. The Orb shuddered. The Orb split open. Gestating ultraviolet flesh. Flesh appendages reached out and grabbed Maple by the neck, they pulled her into The Orb’s living centre. She felt blood circulating around her, absorbing her. She faded and dissolved. She did not scream. It felt like a kiss.

*

Town Nouvelle Vague is a paranoid city. Steeped in irony and sarcasm. Sincerity was outlawed. No one knew what anyone was really thinking. There was a constant underlying analysis of meaning. The paranoia fed into the general theme of contempt. Everyone disregarded everyone. There were no real friendships. Relationships revolved around sex and sarcasm. Non smokers were exiled. Emphysema was the town’s leading cause of death. Jazz blared from giant speakers scattered throughout the city. Your life must be soundtracked to Mingus, Coltrane, Ellington, this was not a choice. Everyone had nervous ticks, stress induced neurosis, underlying anxiety. None if it ever showed. Everyone adhered to the strict code of style. Style was essential, mandatory by law. Maple watched all this, wandering the streets, calm and invisible.  

*

She had decided to burn her past. Fizzle it out of existence. She was starting fresh, unburdened by old mistakes. She did this by sitting on her bed, systematically flowing through her memories. They came to her, one by one, from early childhood to yesterday’s conversations. She quietly removed the ones that were painful, awkward, pointless. She categorised each negative memory and burned the synaptic flash that held them in her brain. She was tired of being this person. She was going to create a curated and stylised narrative for her identity. Nouveau Maple.  

*

Goo was a mixture of a lunar eclipse and a radioactive sunrise. Her tattoos writhed and mutated across her skin. She had ultraviolet fingers, melting neon eyes, liquid hair. She would pull out her eyeballs with the tip of her switchblade, the black holes in her head absorbing nutrients from the sun. She carried a snub nose revolver with her always, strapped to her ankle. She seduced businessmen, and as they took off their clothes she would gently place the revolver by the side of their skull, stripping them of their cash. She enjoyed the work, and felt no moral remorse.   

*

Maple had been watching Goo for days. Something about her made her the perfect subject. Some electric quality, a tangible mystery. Maple knew she was hiding something, some underground section of her life. She followed her into cafes, walking the streets, she watched Goo carefully watch others. Maple wondered if she had found someone else like her, someone with a similar gift. She watched Goo flirt with strange men, before following them back to a house or apartment. She never saw what happened inside.

*

It was late at night, there was no moon, the streets were empty. Maple had followed Goo down some back street and lost her. She walked around, searching for Goo’s figure in the dark. Electricity ran down her spine. She heard the click of a revolver’s hammer.

She heard someone whisper,

“So what do you want?”

*

Maple and Goo sat in a midnight cafe. Around them were insomniac loners and jittery winos. Maple told Goo that she just liked to watch. Everyone. She liked to watch and see what happened. That she wasn’t interested in them personally, just in how they behaved.

Goo said,

“That’s very strange.”

Maple shrugged. She lit a cigarette, she coughed, she put the cigarette out.

*

Maple and Goo would work together at night. Maple would watch, observe closely, finding men who seemed rich and foolish. She would find their routine, their patterns. She would tell Goo where and when was best to find them. Goo would either seduce them, or, on lazy nights, simply lead them down some blind alley and point a gun at their head. They split the money. Iridescent in cash and crime. Afterwards they smoked and drank black coffee.

*

His name was Johnny. He knocked on Maple’s door in the early morning. The sun hadn’t risen, the stars seemed jittery and frightened. She did not open the door. He knocked again, louder. Maple silently walked to her kitchen and pulled out a knife. He knocked again.

He shouted,

“Police.”

She put the knife down. She nudged open the door. He stood tall and shimmering, an ultraviolet shadow.

He flashed his badge and card.

Johnny.

There was something about him.

He walked inside.

He said,

“We have an offer for you.”

*

Goo had found a new man. He was affluent and ungraceful. He was new to Town Nouvelle Vague. He did not suit the style of the place. His hair was too clean, his suit too fresh. She wanted to get him before he was exiled. She wanted to get inside his apartment, to rob it clean. He was easy to seduce. He lost himself to her gaze instantly. He unlocked the door. He walked inside. Goo followed. Maple stood, gun drawn, pointed at Goo’s chest. Goo, with a reflex she didn’t know she had, immediately reached for her revolver. Maple fired. There was no scream. Goo fell. Crimson ripples staining the floor. The town shivered.

*

Johnny sat in Maple’s apartment. A dead and silent night. He gave her a new set of clothes. He said to trash everything she owned, to become unrecognisable.

He said,

“We’ve transferred the money to this account.”

He handed her a card.

*

And she dreamt of a night she once spent with an ultraviolet girl. They sat high in a treehouse overlooking the city. The girl lit a joint, held it up to the sky, and said,

“We’re double high.”

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