Richard returns with a remarkable revisit to the brilliantly bizarre... Laughing City...
Battle for the Laughing City
I fed them on heads and severed limbs. And I starved them of the meat they craved as the battle drew near. I had a supplier at the Ravaged Depot, a storehouse for the mutilated corpses of renegades. He’d hand me the meat, lumps of flesh on ice housed in plastic. I’d slice them open and the bags would hiss and I’d let my army work its fangs into it. I wanted them savage and ravenous when the time came. I catered to their primal desire for murder and knew by their eyes that these men were the most extreme band of killers anyone had gathered together in the name of a military unit.
Ever since I blew his father’s brains out Simeon Baw had threatened revenge against me. He was a spoilt daddy’s boy and I took his rumblings as seriously as I did the threat of a broken nose from a pansy. He’d made a lot of money and ripped a lot of people off. Now he’d crawled out of the sewer smelling of shit and he’d set up his army with the intention of removing me. But I was ahead of him. I was going to take the Laughing City. First I was going to crush his army and hang every head of every man who served him from the ravaged poles that lined Tryton Avenue.
It had been named after the new chemical weapon developed by Panacea Drugs. The renegades had got hold of it and been dropping it from the sky. It caused instant madness and genital mutations. As a result we had a new breed of mutant on our hands. The side effect of Tryton was it gave those who survived it extreme physical strength. Monsters with ambiguous genders strolled the streets looking for food.
I saw one that morning as I met with my army. He ripped the head off a passing citizen, tearing it from the neck bone and crunching the skull in his mouth like a piece of chicken. The poles of Tryton Avenue were placed there as motifs of conquest. They resembled Roman spears and stood in the ground pointing towards the Laughing City.
I met my men in a charred field beyond the town and told them what to do.
‘We’re taking the Laughing City’, I said, ‘but first I have an old enemy who wants a fight.’
I looked at them.
They were as hungry as sharks for blood and as indifferent to who they fought.
‘Simeon Baw has an army and I want it destroyed’, I said. ‘I’ve worked too many jobs for too many users and now I want my time, we’re taking over.’
Bertolino was my captain. He was a renegade mercenary who’d killed more men than you could count. He was adept with all weapons. He stood there as the distant sun caught the scars on his face and said, ‘Do you want us to capture him?’
‘No. Kill him, decimate his men, burn their bodies and we go to the Laughing City.’
We headed out to the quarters owned my Baw, passing the house he used to breed a race of warriors. They held prostitutes with the right DNA he’d investigated for his purposes and the women were routinely fucked by his breeders, mutants with oversized genitals breeding replicants for his army. The surgery his women needed made any efforts by me to maim someone look lame.
I could hear one of them screaming as we headed down the street in our weapons carrier.
Rape and imprisonment were justified methods to Baw.
We passed office after office bearing the Baw name. He had the money all right. I doubted his expertise when it came to organising soldiers.
We searched all afternoon for him and found out he’d gone. He’d taken his men up to the Laughing City before us. And so we headed after him.
The laughter was insane now. I could taste Baw’s blood in my mouth as we landed. There’d been a few changes since the last time. A supernova had imploded near the Laughing City and Crystallus Carvex, the android warrior who’d invaded many towns, had passed through the event horizon to another galaxy. It was rumoured there were now two of him and he was operating a stealth campaign from his new star, Duplex Android, and waging war in the parallel universe we inhabited. So as far as I was concerned he was parallel to me and if I saw him I’d burn his fucking body.
The Laughing City was full of fighting factions, most of them mercenaries from other planets who in passing through had got addicted to Drip 02. They’d fucked a few whores and started hallucinating. They hung on for the drug and the illusion they were taking over a planet, one of the side effects of addiction. In reality they were having fights in bars and lying in the shit stained streets while they dreamed of glories. Panacea Drugs had improved Drip 02. Now it not only gave you the most extreme hallucinations known to man or mutant it also left you with a ravenous hunger for raw meat. The addicts would routinely eat the tourists. I saw
one attacked by a rabid band of them as they set their rotten fangs in their flesh and stripped them to the bone. Hence the shit stained streets.
And then there was the laughter. It was at maximum volume all the time and sounded like Bedlam. A cacophony of wails and shrieks, guffaws and chuckles broke across the frozen wind that hissed at you as you stepped out of your vehicle. It was impossible to shut out. Even if you plugged in your personal music console the laughter was programmed to override it. Within the chortling, snickering, giggling howls of merriment we passed into the Laughing City.
The Silver Crows and Lizard Dogs were out. I saw a Crow rip the head off a dog who wandered about showering the place with blood.
I had a building I owned which housed weapons. We headed there through the burning streets. Mercury rained from the sky and what little vegetation remained blazed in the smoke filled neon air. Mutant plants blazed like Roman Candles in the ravaged landscape, like some last hope of growth burning in a deranged world. The air was sulphurous, as light refused to yield to darkness and every shape and person had a spectral glow to them as if they were walking underwater in a floodlit swimming pool.
We got to my building and took what we needed. We armed ourselves to the teeth. I watched my men walk out with every conceivable method of killing at their disposal. They had rocket launchers, flame throwers and snibe shots. These were metallium guns that fired a small deadly hole in the target that released an acid that could burn through a man’s flesh in two seconds. They had multi shots, which fired so many rounds they could take out an army. They had razor knives and the incendiary golf balls I’d designed. Throw one of them at someone after you pull the pin and they’ll lose their head, which is what I guess it takes to play golf in the first place.
We headed out into the carnival streets where the Silver Cows were chewing on the Lizard Dogs’ flesh as they scattered and came again at them, mouths open and fangs dripping. Fragments of fur and meat lay scattered everywhere.
And the laughter was obsessive, incessant, like the manic roar of a madman at your shoulder. It sounded like the pathological ecstasies of the deranged.
Down at the River Ha Ha’s end, where the stewed foetuses floated and bobbed, Baw’s army was assembling to take over. We saw them walk towards the citadel which was ruined by the explosions that rocked the Laughing City. We passed along the edge of the water with the sight of the bloated heads lying on the black surface. And we followed them to the citadel.
The Mayor of the Laughing City, an obese pervert with two heads, was eating fruit from a fork held to his mouth by a mutant prostitute as she squirted milk from one of her tits into his other mouth as we entered the decaying building. Baw’s army got there before us and we heard the rapid gunfire as they opened up.
By the time we got there the Mayor was splattered all over the ceiling and the whore’s tits had exploded. Nipples and skin lay embedded in the chandelier that swung above our heads dripping blood. The Laughing City’s slogan loomed over us in neon: ‘No breeding, just whores’. It was part of the promotion of the city as a hot spot for tourists. They’d pass through, fuck the women and leave, taking new diseases with them.
Baw’s army saw us and opened fire. I launched several golf bombs in their direction.
Limbs and heads flew through the air. They moved in, throwing fire, and we retreated to the back of the citadel where the skins of rival politicians stretched across the walls like some tapestry of hate. Whores ran out of rooms clutching at their mutant bodies. The citadel had been turned into a brothel.
They came after us and I let rip with one of the bigger bombs. We sheltered against the fire as the blast halved his army. Then we fired round after round on them. I found Baw hiding in a room and I scalped him, running my knife around his head as he stared at me with dazed eyes. I blew his head off and stuck his scalp to the wall of skin.
I took my men to the nearest Fuck House and they ate and cavorted with the women.
As we sat there I received news that Crystallus Carvex had landed.
He wanted a war and I was ready for him.
Richard Godwin is the author of the critically acclaimed novel, Apostle Rising.
His renowned series of author interviews, 'Chin Wag at the Slaughterhouse', are on his blog here.