This is a first draft so expect some errors. There is adult language and humour, in this segment. Thanks for reading!
Alex waited all morning, then all afternoon, then all evening for a call that he’d suspected from the start would never come. The interviewee, whose name, oddly enough, was Tony Danza, had been sacked after five troubled years on the job with The Duke’s Own Police Department.
While the Duke’s Own hadn’t publicly given any reason for his dismissal, it was an open secret that Tony had been tossed out only when the most recent in a long line of female co-workers grew tired of waking up to discover photographs of his penis in her inbox.
Tony was a part of that segment of the male population who’d never come to grips with the concept that their genitalia was not universally admired. This was a group to whom it was unthinkable that, upon sharing pictures of their most favourite appendage, they should not be showered in dick-related compliments, high-fives—or better yet, pictures of the recipient’s own genitals in the spirit of giving and reciprocity.
They weren’t delusional creeps with an over-inflated opinion of their penises, they were dick-pic Santa Clauses, bringing joy to the world, one .jpg file at a time. That the rest of the world couldn’t recognize this self-evident fact was a tragedy on the scale of the Hindenburg.
Alex was thankful in an odd sort of way, the urge to record one’s genitals, be they in the form of dick-pics or sex tapes, was a phenomenon transcended time, class, political affiliation, and space. Even in the polarised environment of political writing, it was only a matter of time until someone on the other side dropped trou in an effort to answer the age-old question: at what camera angle was the essence of their penis really best captured? Without men so blindly enamoured of their trouser-tackle, whole battalions of writers, himself included, would have to find other things to write about for an additional two months out of the year.
Alex spent most of his day engaged in online time-wasting, not really feeling motivated enough to begin anything new while waiting for the call from penis photography’s answer to Ansel Adams. He’d taken several different quizzes, and as a result now knew that his makeup bag should include winter colours, that his vocabulary was in the top point zero five percentile, and that his spirit vegetable was the self-reliant squash.
He imagined he could hear the cries of his brain cells as they slowly committed ritual suicide as he answered each new question. He was ready to do something else, anything else, as long as it would get him out of the office.
He put a stub of a cigarette to his lips and inhaled. Waiting for the call from the dick pic guy had been part of the effort to put the last touches on a story he’d been working on for the last few days. Another in the long line of articles addressing The Duke’s fading influence and mismanagement of Senak. It wasn’t the kind of story people read to learn anything new, it was the kind of story that let people soak up the warm glow of righteous moral outrage. It was the kind of article that let people feel superior for having the same opinion as the writer. It would win no awards, would crush his flattened beer can of soul just a tiny fraction thinner, and would pay his bills for another month.
He stared out his apartment window, in the distance, he could just make out the pin-prick sparks of Abeam and Windward as they swam serenely over The Wandering Market. Maybe he should call it a day and grab a coffee at Da Vinci’s. The Wandering Market was unusually close, and waiting for an interview with a man whose one claim to fame was sending unsolicited images of his manly bits via the Internet, didn’t seem like any better use of his time. Maybe a walk and some caffeine would shake some inspiration loose.
Being a freelance journalist let him set his own hours, but articles didn’t write themselves, and the hours pissed away drinking coffee and doing online quizzes would still need to be made up later. He crushed out his cigarette on his plate from lunch.
He rose from his desk and picked up a tan overcoat from where he’d left it draped across the back of his couch half-way across his studio apartment. He shrugged it on and jumped involuntarily as his door made a loud metallic crunch. His doorknob fell off, bounced, and rocked drunkenly on the floor. The door silently swung open to reveal Mister Bone, still gripping the matching outer doorknob in his massive fist. Behind him, Alex could just see Madame Rag peering around the edge of her gargantuan spouse.
“Whoops,” said Mister Bone, deadpan. Alex wasn’t sure, but he thought the giant looked slightly more homicidal around the eyes today than usual. There was a tire mark on his shoulder.
“Who the fuck is going to pay for that?” Alex yelled pointing a finger at the knob. Alex knew enough not to show weakness around these two. Admittedly, being strong hadn’t ever helped much in the past, but at least this way he got to yell as he was being slapped around.
Bone ducked his head and turned to fit his shoulders through the doorframe, Rag followed close behind.
“We come bearing gifts, just like Father Christmas come early,” Rag exclaimed in her high, girlish voice.
“Like Greeks,” Bone added. Rag’s smile went slightly stale.
“Aren’t I the lucky one,” Alex said warily.
“You are,” she agreed, smiling at him so he could see the shape of her skull. “The biggest story of the past five decades and we’re dropping it right in your lap. All you need do is type it up. The work of a mere hour.”
“And what will it cost me?”
“Why nothing, we’re simply doing our part to keep the community safe.”
If Alex didn’t completely understand what cognitive dissonance meant before, he most certainly did now. “Uh huh. So you guys are suddenly on the side of the angels?”
Rag ignored him. “There is a Necromancer in Vancouver,” she said, as though she’d just told him the location of the Venus Di Milo’s wristwatch. Alex tapped out a fresh cigarette and lit it. To be fair, it would have been earth-shattering news if not for the fact that there were nightclubs and bars crammed full of “Necromancers” all throughout Vancouver and Senak.
The Necro subculture was merely the latest evolution in the endless line of movements created by the youth to horrify their parents. For much of the last decade you could have set your calendar to the release of some outraged article in the media on the topic of the lost youth of the Necro subculture. Alex had even penned a few himself. There was nothing like cashing in on the rabid moral outrage over the excesses of youth to bring the page hits flowing in.
From what he could tell, there hadn’t been a legitimate Necromancer anywhere in the Aether for over eighty years. Being a Necromancer these days meant you held seances in your parent's basement, got an hourglass and crossbones tattoo, and wore a lot of black.
When he was younger he’d embraced fluorescent colours and acid wash. His most prized piece of wardrobe had been an eye-molesting pink and yellow jacket which he’d worn for over a year. Based on that decision alone, he’d long since decided that he lacked the moral authority to judge how the youth should dress.
As for the other part, sure, sometimes the seances worked and they managed to snag some poor, clueless ghost, but so what? Claiming that they were necromancers was like saying, fish had two eyes, the Necro kids had two eyes, therefore the Necro kids must be fish.
“What? Did some kid buy a tricked Ouija board? I don’t have time to write an opinion piece, I’m waiting on an important call.”
“Don’t become too familiar, my dear Alex. We do in fact bite,” said Madame Rag, slowly stepping toward him.
“We bite, we chew, and then we swallow,” clarified Mister Bone.
Alex felt the back of his thighs hit the arm of his couch. It always came to this. Ever since he agreed to write articles for "The Sentinel," an online news site with strangely deep pockets, Rag and Bone had become semi-regular visitors with suggestions on what his next article should be.
Rag stepped in close enough that he could smell the reek of formalin on her clothes. She reached up and dragged a fingernail roughly down his unshaven cheek. “I don’t speak of some callow child play-acting. I speak of the real thing. You should know me well enough to know that I do not mess about. I’ll give you the details and you’ll have something out on your little gossip site in the next hour.” Rag pulled out a folded sheet of printed computer paper and handed it to him.
“This will be buried,” Alex said skimming the paper, “There’s nothing to back any of this up, it’s unfounded speculation.”
“That might be true if you were the only person we visited this evening. We all know that if one news site reports it, it’s fluff. If two sites report on it, it’s a story. If ten report it, and enough of the right people spread it around, well, that’s news, and news is the truth.”
Alex glanced back down at the paper and what was written there. Almost against his will, his brain began massaging the information into the shape of a story. He couldn’t really blame it, the poor thing, it was what he’d trained it to do, after all.
“Oh dear, will you look at the time slipping away from you and your, as yet, uneaten fingers!” Rag exclaimed, looking at the non-existent watch on her wrist in mock surprise. “I do hope you fail to have the story written up in time. I have to admit to being a wee bit peckish. I’ve hardly had a thing to eat today. Fifty-nine minutes,” Rag sang out.
“Tick tock. Crunch, crunch.” Mister Bone added.
Alex took off his overcoat and sat back down at his desk. His fingers felt uncomfortably sensitive on the keys as they hopscotched over his keyboard and words began to appear on his monitor.