Today I welcome the interesting writing duo of BLA and GB Gabbler. Please enjoy this excerpt from their book The Automation.
The Annotated Manuscript: The Automation: BOOK ONE
Vol. 1 of the Circo del Herrero series
By B.L.A., the Narrator, Storyteller, Omnipresent One
And G.B. Gabbler, the Editor, Annotator, Reason This Is Seeing the Light of Day…
Stanza: The Yellow Brick Road is symbolic and will only lead to more metaphors.
Odissa remained silent as they drove to the river. She didn’t open her mouth. Words couldn’t help her.
She had remained silent when Dorian had come back from the bathroom. She had remained silent as the two men stuffed their faces with sweets in the stolen cop car. She had remained silent when they’d arrived at the river front.
“Might I see your purse, Odissa?” Dorian asked, putting out his hand.
“What? Why?” she stammered, thrown off. Her fingers fell from the strand of hair she had been twirling.
“Let me see your purse. Please.”
She scooted it to him. She watched as he dove into the bottomless thing. What did his fingers search for? He pulled out her cigarettes. “Here, you need one of these.” He retrieved one, as well as her lighter.
With trembling hands, she smoked.
“No need to fret, dear,” Dorian said. He turned his face to the window, as if he could see out of it. “We have to do this.”
“What—what exactly are we doing?” the smoke trailed from her lips brokenly, just like her shaky voice. “Why are you doing this to me?”
“We’re saving your life by killing you off.”
“Does Odys know about this?”
“By now? Probably,” he said, taking her wallet out. He’d pass it to Fletcher later, to plant at the “crime scene” they were about to half-ass.
The river was shallow, with little pebble island-patches. They’d been in want of a good rain. Fletcher had opened Dorian’s door for him, in case he needed out. The back cop-car doors don’t open from the inside, you see. There weren’t even handles to try.
Fletcher closed the trunk and walked into the wooded thicket, the body bag over his shoulder. A carton of the cop’s for-emergencies gasoline swung at his side. They’d filled it before leaving the gas station.
Dorian propped his foot upon the door’s bottom frame, resting his arm upon his knee. You shall not pass, Odissa. Don’t even think about it.
She finished her cigarette. “Can you toss this out, for me?” she asked. “It’s my cigarette.”
She placed it gently between his fingers.
She scolded herself after she passed it to him. She should have used it to burn him, distract him. Maybe she could have squeezed passed him. But she wasn’t that creative or courageous.
Not knowing what came over her (but perhaps wanting to distract herself from what Fletcher was doing to the corpse in the woods), “So, are you two, like, together?”
“You and—and Fletcher.”
“What makes you think so?”
“Well, I’m not so sure I think it at all, that’s why I’m asking,” there was a nervous quaver to her voice that tried to pass as wittiness. “Though it’s not every day a man sleeps on top of another naked if they’re not together.”
“Ah, that’s right. You did see that, didn’t you?” He nodded to himself, but said no more.
“Am I what?”
“What would it matter to you?”
She built up all the meanness she could, and stated, “He sure fancied that female cop, last night. Kept staring at her. And the fact that you would fool around on a job—”
“Any other discrepancies in our sexuality you’d like to address?” Dorian said through his undaunted smirk.
“Are you gay or not?” It wasn’t right for him to flirt with girls, if so—pick a side!
“I’ve sucked enough cocks to know it’s not a simple yes or no, dear.”
“Why’s it such a hard question?”
He shrugged. “For a kiss, you can find out.”
Her face turned paper-white. Perhaps she’d gone too far. “Excuse me?”
“Was it not a good enough offer? Well then, perhaps I’ll make it worth your while.” He scratched his chin, considering something outlandish. “How about a ten second head start, out the door? Real-time. For a kiss, we can see how far you get in this cop car when I step out to blindly chase you and you step back in to drive away. Notice, Fletcher left the keys.”
Her eyes saw them.
“Yes, this is a set-up. You don’t know what I’m planning when I give you this option. Will you even be safer in your own hands? Will we do something to your brother if you leave? What? I’ll outright admit it. Maybe I’ve started to feel sorry for you, Odissa. Maybe I want you to get away. But, like my sexuality, you won’t know until you kiss me, right?”
No response. Odissa was horrified, frozen like a rabbit.
“Ah, hard to make up your mind, is it? Well, like my head start, my offer also has a ten-second expiration. One. Two. Three…”
Odissa snatched up her purse, scooted closer to him, put a hand on the chain wall blocking the front from the back seat, and paused.
He put his knee and arm higher, blocking her from the open door. She knew he was playing with her, but she was willing to let him believe she was stupid—maybe then they’d relax and slip up. Testing his rules, she began to climb over him.
He grabbed her arm and pulled her back down. He’d not simply let her go. PAY THE TROLL TOLL. He smiled, “Eight.”
Sucking in a bracing breath, she forced her face into his. He stopped counting. He lowered his leg as she continued crawl over him in his seat, but he wouldn’t release her. She tried to draw her mouth away from the bubble-gum flavored lips, but he dragged her back to him. He didn’t fight for dominance—only for her to stay put.
She had half her body out of the car, one foot touched the ground—
With his other hand, he grabbed her neck—she was pushing against him now. He stood up with her when she was finally out of the car, grabbing her other arm—he was doing the kissing now. She dropped her purse as she tried to pull away—she didn’t need it anyways.
He closed the car door with his foot gracelessly and led her backwards to the car. She pressed herself against it, to get away from him. He took the sides of her face, as if to kiss her again. But he didn’t. He merely held her face before releasing her.
He shrugged. “I’d say I’d let you fuck me.” Before he stepped back, she gave him a good slap, to go along with that kiss. It knocked his glasses off.
Holding his face, eyes closed, he started counting. “One! Two!”
She dashed away and went to the driver’s door, slamming it behind her. She started the car—cursing under her breath. She slammed on the gas to get away—but to where? She hadn’t planned on getting this far. She thought Dorian would have wrapped up this game by now. But no, she was winning.
The tires screeched as the dirt flew up behind her. She was just yards away from the main road before—WAH-WHAM.
Something hit her diagonally—something that had pushed the car’s nose into a nearby tree. And that something had been Fletcher.
Not sure if she believed her own eyes, the only thing she could reasonably assume was… She had hit Fletcher.
But how was he alive?!
She crawled out of the crumpled car, panting as heavily as Fletcher. He’d rushed from the woods just to stop her. In the blink of an eye, he had her wrist and was dragging her back to Dorian. Dorian was kicking rocks around with his foot, humming. Very pleased with himself.
Fletcher set the girl down on a camper’s log (the area was a favorite public outdoor site). Odissa obeyed, studying Fletcher. She shook from shock, not from the cold. Had she, or had she not, just hit him with a car?
“What the fuck were you thinking?” the Automaton confronted his Master. “You had me run all the goddamn way for this?” He pointed at Odissa.
“Ah! You know very well I was not thinking.”
“Yes, yes, Fletcher. It was certainly spur-of-the-moment, but how are they to find out? Do they even have to know that I slipped up accidentally?”
“Accidentally?” Fletcher repeated, hands on his non-existent hips. “What’re we going to do? What if they ask how she found out about me?”
“Well, look on the bright side. Now she knows, and we don’t have to pretend anymore. At least, not as much. But please, continue to scold me. It’s helping us work out this scenario.”
(It really was, actually. That’s why Fletcher was doing it).
“Jesus Christ, Dorian, Mother’s going to be pissed. She’ll know you did it on purpose. She probably heard the whole thing on your phone!”
“Yes, yes—if she’s not busy right now with Mr. Messyhair. Pero, even so, you must admit it was pretty crafty.” He walked over to Odissa, still wide-eyed with shock.
Bending down to her he said, “You won’t tell anyone I gave you the idea now, will you, girl? It was all your idea, right? You tried to get out when I offended you—nay, scared you, if anyone asks. And as I held you back, you assaulted me, you distracted me—with that kiss. That yummy kiss. That clear?”
Odissa didn’t know if she nodded or not. She certainly didn’t say anything aloud.
“By God, if you want to see your brother again, it should be. Now come here, you’re on lock down.” He presented his hand—so sweetly Odissa thought him bipolar.
She lurched back from it. “What the fuck are you people? Some type government experiments or something?” Is that why they’d been interested in her father’s work?
“Fletcher, go finish up the job and then see if the car will still run. If not, maybe you can fix it.” Dorian put his hands in his jacket pockets, chewing his gum.
“Are you—you some sort of mutant?” She felt so stupid asking it.
Mutant? Superhero? Alien?
Almost any answer would have satisfied, really—anything to make her feel less crazy.
“No,” Dorian snorted. “I’m just the love-struck girl who wants to have your children, apparently.”
“Stop playing with me. What does my brother have to do with you?”
“The better question is what do you—not your brother—have to do with me?” He let that sink in. “Perhaps I don’t give a fuck about your brother?”
Fletcher eventually pulled up the accordion-nosed car. Only one headlight worked. It blazed through the cloudy day.
Dorian opened the door for her. “I’m going to state it plainly. A god—Vulcan himself—has given you to me. You’re mine. That is who you are, Odissa. You read the signs yourself.”
…What, was she dealing with two demigods now?
“You’re mine and I have a mind to make you like it. We’re going to be happy together. Now, if you don’t mind,”—he gestured to the inside of the crumpled car—“Follow the yellow brick road, my Dorothy.”
The capital-A Automatons of Greco-Roman myth aren’t clockwork. Their design is much more divine. They’re more intricate than robots or androids or anything else mortal humans could invent. Their windup keys are their human Masters. They aren’t mindless; they have infinite storage space. And, because they have more than one form, they’re more versatile and portable than, say, your cell phone—and much more useful too. The only thing these god-forged beings share in common with those lowercase-A automatons is their pre-programmed existence. They have a function—a function their creator put into place—a function that was questionable from the start…
Odys (no, not short for Odysseus, thank you) finds his hermetic lifestyle falling apart after a stranger commits suicide to free his soul-attached Automaton slave. The humanoid Automaton uses Odys’s soul to “reactivate” herself. Odys must learn to accept that the female Automaton is an extension of his body—that they are the same person—and that her creator-god is forging a new purpose for all with Automatons…
The novel calls itself a “Prose Epic” because of its subject matter, but is otherwise a purposeful implosion of literary gimmicks: A Narrator and an Editor (named Gabbler) frame the novel. Gabbler’s pompous commentary (as footnotes) on the nameless Narrator’s story grounds the novel in reality. Gabbler is a stereotypical academic who likes the story only for its so-called “literary” qualities, but otherwise contradicts the Narrator’s claim that the story is true.
About the Authors
BLA and GB Gabbler [a pen name] are the Narrator and Editor of The Circo del Herrero series. Their debut novel is The Automation, Vol 1.