Mechanically Separated Chicken.

Wednesday, April 17, 2002


Off. On. The light blinked at him through his closed eyelids.

Off. It took a few minutes for him to open his eyes and even then he couldn't be sure if they were really open. They felt sticky, as though smeared with jam, and it was dark everywhere; the same colour outside his head as in. Pitch black.

Well, except for that fucking green LCD blinking overhead. At least it looked like an LCD, from what he remembered of them. Bellow supposed it could have been a retrofit of some kind like those old coldcan trectors sometimes had, but it looked pretty 2D. It was too far away to read, but he thought he saw numbers.

And goddamn, his head hurt.

An electrical cord brushed against his face and, panicked, he swatted it out of the way with a drunken, uncoordinated kung-fu move that even in his half-conscious state he felt vaguely ashamed of. He tried to get up and succeeded only in filling his body with a sickening white-hot pain that originated at his elbows; after gritting his teeth in silence for a few seconds he checked them with his hands and found them wet. Gingerly, he ran his palms over the rest of himself. Arms, face, chest, stomach.

And it was at this point that he realised that he had no legs.

No. Fucking. Legs.

A sound went off inside his head like a siren or a chorus of shrieking slaughterhouse pigs and he began to hyperventilate. His neck went rigid and a series of images of shredded meat flashed though his mind; almost involuntarily, he began thumping his fists against the floor.

Gradually he became aware that he was moving. Although his sense of direction was shot and it felt like he was lost in zero-grav, he could feel his head grating slowly against the broken concrete or whatever it was he was lying on. In increments, he was being dragged in the direction his feet should have been in.

Bellow began to cry. He tried to turn on his side and struck out impotently, hoping to hit something; a snout maybe, or a face. But the struggling did him no good, and whatever was pulling him started to pull faster. He tried to grab onto the cord but it slid away from him, or he from it, faster than his fingers could react.

And all of a sudden he lost his grip on everything, as in a single quick, slippery movement he slid downwards through a hole in the floor, into an entirely different room.

He had legs after all -- a trickle of moonlight from a broken window above his head showed him that -- but he couldn't feel them, much less move them. That didn't matter though; just the fact that he was whole and could see his surroundings was enough for now. Looking up, he saw the hole in the ceiling he must have been stuck in at the waist before gravity brought him crashing down. There was an upturned table to his left and an old fashioned plasmaboard smooshed against the far doorway with its screen half-melted. It was covered in black dust and there seemed to be something drawn on it. A gylph, or a child's picture.

He squinted and spent the next four hours trying to work it out. Eventually, morning arrived and the dull early sunlight puddled through the window and allowed him to read it clearly:


The words looked like they'd been etched in the soot with a finger, and underneath them ran two columns of numbers and a diagram that looked a bit like a jumble of triangles but more like a badly-drawn tortoise. The light also revealed that although the plasmaboard was jammed in the doorway pretty tight, there was a good two feet left clear between it and the ground.

"Great," said Bellow aloud, "Really, really great," and wincing, began to drag himself across the floor towards it with his crippled arms.