Naked City is a monthly live literary event held at the Goat Farm in Atlanta. Each month, the hosts reveal the theme for the next month and people sign up for the privelege of getting five minutes to speak, sing, or do whatever on the subject of the theme. Go over your five minutes? Then you must spin the Wheel of Consequences!
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Starting in February, I began a writing challenge for myself: A crowd-influenced serial called Noir in the Naked City where, at the end of each episode, the protagonist would be faced with a choice. The audience would make the decision for the character, and then the next episode would be written with that choice in mind AND on the next month’s theme.
Episode Eight: Revolution
“You’re an idiot,” Abigail said. It was tough to argue with her. We both sat tied up in chairs in a large room. Heavy wooden beams held the high ceiling up. Some kind of old warehouse, I supposed. In the room with us were the Nazi dame, a couple of her goons, an old man with a cat in his lap, and a third man, also tied up, who looked familiar even though I had no idea who he was.
“Now, now,” the Nazi dame said condescendingly. “No need for that kind of talk. Our good detective is going to help us usher in a new age of civility and prosperity.”
“Which none of the existing people are going to get to enjoy,” Abigail said.
“Details, details. It’s all for the greater good! You have to think on a species-level plane, my dear, and don’t let yourself get bogged down with simple individuality.”
That was the cat talking. Which was unexpected. The dame had identified the cat as her employer and the old man as the cat’s caretaker, but she hadn’t mentioned that it could talk. This was getting weirder by the minute, and coming from me that was an extremely bold statement.
“Species-level plane?” Abigail shot back.
“Gag her,” the cat said, idly bathing its tail. “She bores me.”
“You’re a cat,” the Nazi dame said. “Everything bores you.”
The cat glared at her briefly, then resumed its bath.
“Now,” the Nazi dame continued as the goons put tape over Abigail’s mouth, “to business. As you can see, detective, I am no liar. I give you your brother.”
“That’s not my brother,” I replied, matter of factly. I was still trying to figure out that damn cat. I was also trying to figure out how these idiots could be this stupid. They knew who I was and they still tied me to a chair?
“Of course it is,” the dame said smugly. “There are a few minor variations, but he’s your brother. Genetically.”
“Oh. How long did it take you to grow him?” I asked.
“We’ve perfected a new technique,” she said in answer. “It only took a few weeks to get him to this size. Yours may take a little longer, for obvious reasons.”
So this was the plan. This was how they were going to create their master race. Their plan was to clone me, and my special situation was going to give the new group some distinct advantages. The next step was obvious. Exterminate the inferior species.
I locked eyes with the thing they were trying to pass off as my brother and saw the reason he was tied up. He wasn’t a prisoner. The ropes were there for everyone else’s protection. I saw rage, ferocity, delusion, and a demented sensibility that showed no remorse. But worst of all was the fact that he wasn’t struggling. He was showing patience. And when the time was right, he might turn out to be a master race all by himself.
“What’s up with him?” I asked. “Your special technique have a few side effects?”
“Oh, no,” she gloated. “Our technique is flawless.”
I reflected on that statement. Flawless implied that they achieved their goal. It made me wonder if I had the right idea on who the murderer was who’d ripped that guy’s throat out. It also made me wonder if I’d just glimpsed how the inferior species was going to be exterminated. And lastly, I wondered if these folks had any idea how they were going to remain in charge of this weapon.
“So what next?”
A smile graced the face of my captor. It was simultaneously stereotypically beautiful and horribly frightening at the same time.
“Now, detective, we pick up where we left off before you were so ungraciously removed from our presence.”
That was enough for me. Silently thanking what few lucky stars I had left I twisted my wrists and my extra flexibility allowed me to slip right out of them. I quickly pushed my sleeve up on my right arm exposing a serrated barb that grew out of my forearm and used it to slash at the ropes around my feet. By that point the goons were heading my way. I dropped to the ground and watched them clumsily collide right where I’d been a moment ago.
I reached out and cut the ropes from Abigail’s feet and rolled so I could reach her hands. Her nails were painted a fiery red and her fingers, while looking delicate, also showed a great deal of strength. I stared at them for a moment, fascinated, but quickly came to my senses as I heard the cat howling in anger.
“Get outta here, Abigail,” I said. She didn’t reply, but instead bolted from the room, leaving the door open for me. Polite of her. I looked up and saw that they had untied my brother’s clone and that he was now standing.
Powerful. Muscular. And grinning with a mouthful of sharp, jagged teeth. I gritted my own teeth and used the chair to heave myself upright, my right arm now held out in front of me. The goons were back on their feet and there was a clear path to the door, but I wasn’t sure I could outrun all of them.
“Detective,” the cat said calmly. “You haven’t even heard my offer.”
“He doesn’t need to hear it,” another voice said. I turned and saw my brother, my real brother, standing there with his own set of jagged teeth bared. “Now we’re going to go,” he said, “and you’re not going to follow us.”
“It’s a tasty offer, detective,” the cat said calmly. It was sitting up now, its bath over, and no more leisure time. Cats make me nervous for obvious reasons.
“How many times do they have to lie to you, Meyeni?” my brother asked.
“Don’t call me that,” I spat back. I remembered now why I had quit talking to him.
“Their offer will be to take what they need and then kill you. Abigail needs you. Hear it later when they aren’t surrounding the building. We need to go now.”
Choice: Retreat to safety or stay and hear the cat’s offer?
Audience opts to retreat to safety.