Jul 2011 15

by Mur Lafferty

SuicdeGirls presents the sixteenth installment of our Fiction Friday sci-fi series, Marco and the Red Granny, which is brought to you by SG columnist Mighty Mur a.k.a. cyber commentator Mur Lafferty.

Marco and the Red Granny is set in a not-so-distant future where an alien species, the Li-Jun, has transformed the moon into the new artistic center of the universe, where the Sally Ride Lunar Base soon gains the nickname “Mollywood.” These aliens can do amazing things with art and the senses, allowing a painting, for example, to stimulate senses other than sight. However, humans remain suspicious of the Li-Jun’s emotion-imbued goods, so while their entertainment can be beamed back to earth, a trade embargo prevents anything from being physically imported to the planet.

In the previous installments, Marco, a writer whose career has long been in the doldrums, gets a surprise call from an agent he thought he no longer had informing him that he has received an offer from Mollywood for a much coveted Li-Jun patronage. Keen to catch up career-wise with his ex-GF Penelope, who’d unceremoniously dumped him after being recruited by the Li-Jun two years earlier, Marco hastily jumps on the next shuttle to the moon. Once aboard, he finds himself sitting next to a seemingly unassuming old lady called Heather, who turns out to be The Red Granny, a legend in Li-Jun’s reality show world for being a three-time champion of The Most Dangerous Game (which requires contestants to sign away the rights to their life).

After settling into his new accommodations at House Blue, Marco has a brief meeting with his new patron, a Li-Jun called Thirteen. It’s only then that Marco realizes he’s never been shown the terms of his employment, and a sense of unease sets in. That evening, Marco is taken on a trip to see The Red Granny in action in The Most Dangerous Game. After a bloody battle, the senior reality TV star is again victorious. The viciousness of the game leaves The Red Granny unconscious, and Marco shocked, disturbed, and in need of a stiff drink. Unfortunately stiff drinks are frowned upon by the Li-Jun, so Marco settles for an early night

The next day, Marco learns first hand about the process that enables the Li-Jun to put taste into paintings, music into pie, and stories into (nonalcoholic) beverages. Having had his deepest and most depraved memories dredged and thoroughly probed by the aliens so they can be monitored and recorded, Marco finally sees the terms of his contract. He ultimately accepts the Li-Jun’s too-good-to-refuse offer, and embarks on his new life at House Blue. However, though he’s been handed everything he ever wanted, somehow the reality of it is hollow.

Twenty thousand words into his new graphic novel, with his first deadline looming, Marco suffers from a severe case of writers block, and searches for inspiration in the bottom of a glass that’s actually had something worth drinking in it. To this end, he stumbles across an illicit drinking establishment on the seedier side of the moon which turns out to be run by a collective of folks who are strictly persona non grata as far as the Li-Jun are concerned – The Alcoholic’s Guild. There Marco has an uneasy encounter with a glass or three of gin, his ex-GF Penelope, who is now going by the name Knowledge, and her AG sponsor, Defect. After downing one too many drinks, Marco begins to get a sense of exactly how severe of an infraction the Li-Jun consider the consumption of alcohol to be.

While attempting to conceal his inebriation as he sneaks back into House Blue, Marco is caught red handed by his Li-Jun keeper Seven (it was probably his spontaneous vomiting that gave him away). The punishment is a second bout of mind raping/mapping. Afterwards, with his patronage in jeopardy, Heather gives him a ‘special’ necklace to calm his nerves and promises to plead his case with Thirteen.

The following morning, Heather takes Marco on a behind-the-scenes tour of the secret areas of House Blue where the Li-Jun infuse emotion into art. The Red Granny also reveals that everything created in Mollywood will soon be permitted to be legally imported back to earth. Duly inspired and placated, Marco is allowed to resume his patronage…However, that was before he got kidnapped twice in one day. The first time by Penelope/Knowledge and Defect of The Alcoholic’s Guild, who made him realize the Li-Jun had brainwashed him into compliance, and the second time by the Li-Jun, who were rather upset about the fact he’d just been fraternizing with said Alcoholic’s Guild – albeit initially unwillingly. Marco’s punishment for this infraction? He was to be a contestant in The Most Dangerous Game. Having selected his weapon of choice, with a little help from Heather, we join Marco as he prepares for his first bout in the arena – armed with nothing more than a bad case of nerves/abject terror and a seemingly unassuming knife.

Marco and the Red Granny – Part 16
Marco had nothing but the wall clock to look at. He thought about slashing the chairs up with his knife, but figured that was pretty childish. A part of his brain suggested he kill himself before he died in front of billions, but he resisted. Some small survival instinct insisted that he had a tiny chance to make it through this.

He looked at the knife again, taking it from its sheath. It wasn’t even pretty; it had no ornate designs or curlicues. It was just a knife. Heather could have been lying, about its extra abilities, of course. He would like to know what the Li-Jun modification was. He thumbed the blade experimentally, testing the edge. It was very sharp, and the skin on his thumb split, just the first few layers of epidermis.

The rough, raw, hormone-fueled anger he’d felt in high school when Peter Garrison had pushed him down, the shame he’d felt as others had laughed, the horror that Joanne Smith had seen it all, and the vow to get even. His left hand tightened around the knife, and every person that slipped into his mind were nothing but slow manikins of vulnerable points to hit.

He gasped and dropped the knife. Heather had been right, it was rage, but why did she give him that? Was he meant to shorten his own life expectancy?

The realization hit him, and he stared, slack jawed, at the wall, as the memories returned.

We are not that dissimilar. We’re just going about our paths in a different way.

Was she on his side? Was she working against the Li-Jun in her own covert way? Why hadn’t she told him?

He had to believe the Li-Jun had constant surveillance on them, especially since he proved himself not to be trusted. She had to be subtle and only hope he could stop being self-absorbed for a moment to get her meaning.

“Holy shit.” He looked at the knife and wondered what he was supposed to do with it. Cut himself? How deep? When?

There was a knock at the door and a House Orange Li-Jun entered, carrying a tray with a teapot on it. “Each of the contestants get a final beverage,” he said cheerily. “The Red Granny herself sent this with her compliments.”

Marco accepted the tray mutely and the Li-Jun wished him luck and left the room. He put the tray on the floor and looked for a note. There was nothing. He poured himself a cup of tea and inhaled the fragrance. Jasmine, an excellent blend, and one that had always inspired him. He took a sip and became immediately intoxicated with a creative rush. The desire to paint, to draw, to write, had never been stronger.

Why had she done this? Was she trying to confuse him? Marco shook his head, confused. The door opened, another Li-Jun was there, saying it was time.

If she were screwing with him, he’d die for sure out there. If she weren’t, he’d still probably die for sure out there. He needed to hold onto whatever hope he could at this point. He gulped the tea and dropped the mug to shatter on the floor. Then he took the knife and ran it quickly along his palm, too fast to worry about the consequences. He sheathed the knife and slid the bloody hand into his bulky gloves. He took his staff and approached the alien, it taking every ounce of willpower not to bash in its head. Blood roared in his ears. It was time.

Excerpt from the Marco and the Red Granny, published by Restless Brain Media at Smashwords. Copyright 2010 Mur Lafferty.

Mur Lafferty is an author and podcast producer. She has released several works via audio podcast, including her novel Playing For Keeps, the novellas in the Heaven series, the audio drama The Takeover, and many others. She’s won the Parsec Award and the Podcast Peer award. Her published works include Playing For Keeps (Swarm), Nanovor: Hacked (Running Press Kids), and Tricks of the Podcasting Masters (Que), not to mention several short stories. She is the host of I Should Be Writing and the Angry Robot podcasts, as well as the editor of Escape Pod, the sci-fi audio magazine. Marco and the Red Granny was originally published as the premier podcast serial at Hub Magazine, and is available for Kindle via Amazon.

Mur lives in Durham, NC with her husband, Jim Van Verth, their daughter, and two dogs. You can find her in the Murverse, at Smashwords and on Twitter.

Catch Up With Marco and the Red Granny:

Fiction Friday: Marco and the Red Granny – Part 1
Fiction Friday: Marco and the Red Granny – Part 2
Fiction Friday: Marco and the Red Granny – Part 3
Fiction Friday: Marco and the Red Granny – Part 4
Fiction Friday: Marco and the Red Granny – Part 5
Fiction Friday: Marco and the Red Granny – Part 6
Fiction Friday: Marco and the Red Granny – Part 7
Fiction Friday: Marco and the Red Granny – Part 8
Fiction Friday: Marco and the Red Granny – Part 9
Fiction Friday: Marco and the Red Granny – Part 10
Fiction Friday: Marco and the Red Granny – Part 11
Fiction Friday: Marco and the Red Granny – Part 12
Fiction Friday: Marco and the Red Granny – Part 13
Fiction Friday: Marco and the Red Granny – Part 14
Fiction Friday: Marco and the Red Granny – Part 15


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