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Gerald Kenny, 47, is eternally irate. He plays landlord to three buildings: Building A, 6505 St. Hubert; a crumbling warehouse in St. Henri; and Building C, 6501 St. Hubert. Grinding his teeth, he arrives at his third investment, home to his favourite object. He wrenches open the front door to Building C, and pulls it closed tightly behind him. He fails to acknowledge Sophia Penisula of #3 and her baby in a stroller behind him, and leaves them to open the door for themselves. He does notice 3 bicycles in the hallway, and starts shouting. This is his routine check-in with his tenants. He yells about the bicycles, unconcerned about safety, threatens that he's going to sell the lot if it's not clear by tomorrow because they, his tenants, are renting apartments; he still owns the hallway, and anything in it he can do what he wants with. Also he'll be raising the rent. Gerald Kenny kicks a bicycle, and in the basement, the dryer vent dislodges. The dingy room, filled with his shit to the rafters, nestling the tiniest possible washer and dryer combo, plumes with laundry steam. He yanks open that door and stumbles through the steam directly into the path of a 573lb anvil (a gift Kenny claimed to be from Lincoln himself) sliding from the rotting rafters. He is squashed vertically, mostly from the ribcage down. Tracey Artois, #5, after hearing his screams and discerning that "they were actually for help and not petty sexist remarks or complaints," finds him dead. Four out of the five tenants are home at the time of the death, and two, including Artois and Penisula, are present during the investigation. The other claims to still be sleeping, considering the case not worthy of pursuit. The police mostly agree: it was obviously a freak accident; the guy wasn't the most cautious, really, having the anvil up there in the rafters. But Detective Ester Auerbach, through the grime and cobwebs in the hallway, spots a shiny new pulley strung with nylon rope, fastened to the peeling roof with shiny new screws. She boosts herself up on one of the bikes littering the hallway, balancing with her other foot on the facing wall. She takes a screwdriver from her pocket and unfastens the pulley, then hopping down, pulls at its trail. She hears something shift in the basement: the dryer vent. The dryer had shut off by the time she arrived but Artois had informed Auerbach about the vent coming loose. The Detective finds another pulley-system attached to the basement door. She follows the rope to another pulley, fastened in the roof at an acute angle, tied to the rotting rafter where the anvil was wedged. She sighs and motions to her coworkers. "This was not an accident. What we have is murder, or at least something sinister and pre-meditated. Talk to all the tenants again: try to snoop around a bit while you talk to them, looking for nylon rope, new screws, hardware store receipts. If you have to, ask them if they've bought any of these items recently, but try to do it before you mention it could be murder." They go off, and Auerbach works at unfastening the other pulley. This had to do with Kenny being a landlord: the pulley-system meant that someone had access to the building including the basement, at least long enough to put the system up, know about the anvil, and have it in for Kenny. So far, according to Artois and Penisula, Kenny was a slumlord: he charged incredible rent for what little he actually gave his tenants, was terrible at fixing things, ignored calls and 'left the country' regularly, and he claimed that Lincoln gave him not just anything, but an anvil? Her coworkers return, with reports that the tenants claimed no such purchases had been made, that they "didn't exactly like the guy, but they would never kill someone, or conspire to, and what did they have to do now that their landlord was dead? Was the apartment theirs now?" Artois, however, had noticed some recent purchases on her debit card that were not hers--she offers to forward Auerbach her records. After finishing up at the crime scene, Detective Auerbach sits with a coffee and checks her phone. Her feed reads babies, deaths, federal judge ruling the continuation of the Dakota Access Pipeline, nuclear reactor waste still leaking from 2011, may leak again, spam; and then secure work emails, confidential, re: case xyz, bank transactions from t.artois@yahoo.com. She opens the email; Artois lists two paypass transactions she didn't do, dated the previous week: 07/09/16, 2:19PM: $19.95 at Don's Hobby Hardware Shop Inc. 07/09/16, 4:21PM: $6.59 at Arby's Artois assures Auerbach in the email that she hasn't visited an Arby's in over ten years, and has never even heard of the hardware shop. She was at work during the transactions, and is worried someone stole her card temporarily, maybe even made a copy? Or could someone have bumped into her on the metro, and stolen her info that way? The next day Detective Auerbach visits Don's Hobby Hardware Shop Inc, and asks to see their security footage. They inform her that the footage is cleared every night and is more for show than reference. However, they do sell the same pulley at their shop, in a pack of 4 for $19.95 including tax. And the nylon rope, but it's pretty common among most hardware stores. Auerbach decides to consult the other tenants of Building C, and see if they also had suspicious activity on their cards. She starts with apartment #1: Tyronium Ingles doesn't have paypass, and hasn't noticed any suspicious activity, but takes Auerbach's number just in case. Murad Smith of #2 has paypass and did notice a strange transaction: $16.20 at Meg's Yarn Barn. He found it ironic as he is allergic to wool. Auerbach asks him to forward his records and thanks him for his cooperation. Sophia Penisula of #3 mostly deals with cash, and only uses her credit card for large purchases. She does not have paypass. She wonders why anyone would want to make it easier to be a consumer. Zoari Bensato of #4 has paypass, sees it as a natural step in the right direction ("it allows accessibility to the disabled and elderly"), uses it constantly, and forwards their records to Auerbach on the spot. Two transactions are suspicious: $10 at Don's Hardware Hobby Shop Inc., and $6.59 at Arby's. They note that this was during the two hours they lost their debit card. They also haven't visited an Arby's in years. Detective Auerbach is sure these transactions have to do with the murder: but are the tenants lying? Did Artois and Bensato actually plot to kill Kenny over a couple of beef n' cheddar s? Or are they being framed by another, others? Motive is obvious--Kenny wasn't widely liked, and had lots of enemies; his record is full of misdemeanours and filed complaints. He definitely won't be missed. But these are regular people, these tenants, have no previous records with the police; why would they jeopardize their freedom, and their homes? Auerbach is inclined by Kenny's other behaviour to guess that he probably does not own in full any of his buildings, which means they'll be re-possessed by the banks and made profitable somehow. The Detective stops at Arby's on her way back to the hardware store. She has a feeling that the make and size of Velcro she found stuck to the top edge of the front door will match one sold at Don's. Surprisingly, Arby's has amazing security footage. Two cameras with a time stamp are continually running, using facial recognition software to predict and pre-prepare the client's orders. The feed from 4:21Pm on 07/09/16 shows a 20-something blond male, around 5'8", wearing bright yellow boots, who will most likely get 3 orders of curly fries and 1 coke. Auerbach watches 15 minutes before and after to verify that Artois wasn't in or around Arby's at that time. The Detective then finds the feed for Bensato's transaction and sees a 30-something brunette female (2 beef n' cheddars, 1 crispy fish and 1 sprite) with knitting needles protruding from her bag. At Meg's Yarn Barn, Auerbach asks about the woman at Arby's, showing the employees a screenshot of the footage. They identify her as Caroline Rodriguez, a loyal long-time customer of the shop. She had been in that day, and insisted on paying with paypass. She purchased two spools of yarn: one of low quality, and one of high. Auerbach takes note of Rodriguez's address on file: 6505 St. Hubert: Building A, owned by Gerald Kenny. Staking out Building A, the Detective sees Caroline Rodriguez exit the building, and 17 minutes later, the man with bright yellow boots enters with a key. Auerbach calls her team, and tells them to start writing their case reports: she's about to solve it. The Detective, knocking on Caroline Rodriguez's door, feels a twinge of guilt: so many houses and jobs in this city are just facets of a bigger exploitation system; it's hard not to feel bitter, or lose respect for other people. Rodriguez answers with a smile, which fades as Auerbach introduces herself. The Detective hears scuffling, and sees a flash of yellow scurry by the door. "There's no point, I know you did it, just let me come in so you can explain why. This doesn't have to be difficult, I am unarmed: let's talk. He can stay too, he is involved." She points to the curtain: it is quivering and trying to stifle a cough. The curtain coughs and gives birth to a blond young man. "Hi...I'm Yahama Frantz. I live in #3, in this building. Don't just put this on Caroline, it was a group effort: and it wasn't so much supposed to kill him as really scare him into maybe giving a shit about our buildings, other people, maybe be a bit nicer, not kick everything..." Auerbach learns what she already knew, but is still surprised she's right. "So you, the tenants from Building A, decided to implicate the tenants in Building C, because they are regular people--" "And we, also regular people, don't give a rat's ass about them," continues Frantz, "because at this point it's a Hobbesian god eat god world and at this point everyone has a bad side or at least it's more obvious, the bad side; it bares its teeth more." So Rodriguez copied the master key from Gerald Kenny for Building C, and with the help of Frantz and Bella Tanziu, their neighbour upstairs, entered and borrowed bank cards with paypass from the tenants in Building A, either when the tenants were working, or sleeping: "4-5AM is the best time for infiltration," pipes in Frantz. "We thought we wouldn't be found out, and if it was, it'd be pinned on them, or dismissed in court due to lack of evidence 'cause we used paypass. It's like untraceable, and I heard it doesn't even show up on some records." "I don't think you know how paypass works." Auerbach shrugs. "To be completely untraceable, you should have used cash, and not stopped by the Arby's; their highly advanced security footage led me to you." "Are you fucking kidding me?" "What about the multiple pulley-systems? The dryer vent I get, but the front door and the basement door rigged to the same function? Why two?" "Well, the first was to see whether he would hold open the door for the lady and her stroller," Frantz explains. "The Velcro on the top would have caught the wool if he had held the door completely open, and stopped the reaction." "But why the reserve pulley-system in the basement?" Auerbach is genuinely curious. "Why give him a chance if it was just in vain?" "Because holding open a door lets you think you're a decent person; it doesn't make you one," says Rodriguez. As she arrests Tanziu, Frantz, and Rodriguez, they remind her that although he did die and that was bad and not what they intended, "you gotta admit, the world is a better place without the likes of him." Auerbach doesn't know whether she agrees, but murder is what she investigates for work, and if people stopped killing each other, she'd be out of a job.

As soon as Sam said it, he knew it was a mistake. It seems anything you say after you come is awkward, is misplaced, even if it's praising your or your partner's performance. "I knew becoming an astronaut would get me laid more." Her face contorted, she scoffed at him, grabbed her sleek one piece and was out of his shuttle-pod before he could say Neil Armstrong. "Fuck her," he repeats after her scuttling image; "fuck her, even though I already did. Well, if that's how they fuck at least." You can't be sure, especially with all those tentacles coming out from her armpits. Was he supposed to suck them tenderly? She became more excited when we tangled his phalanges in them and pulled hard. And those claws! Like a crab. He had to remember to get his guide fixed soon. Or maybe he'd jumble up his translator more when the action started to get heavy, just to avoid things like this happening again. And it's not like he was lying when he said it. He was being perfectly honest, elated with his hypothesis becoming empirical evidence. He had set out, just as everyone else who sets out into this abyss, this ever-expanding void of universes, to explore all this shit floating about, including tiny planets which life-forms populate. His exploration was mostly research based, but of a different kind than most scientists; he is in search of the perfect mouth. Or orifice, he has to remember that mouths weren't always available, or could be multi-use for some species. Sam's real problem with space exploration was the lack of terminology--is political correctness even important? Even applicable? In translating his culture to another species, would anything actually stick? Would what he calls his mouth and what he calls a kiss be applicable to, say a Jupiter-born krokildil with four mouths and no eyes to speak of? And genitalia, that was a whole other asteroid game. Even with these obstacles, Sam had been doing alright. He had exchanged sexual favours, or at least what he interpreted as sexual favours, with over 665 species. But he had yet to find it: the perfect mouth. One that could encompass his entire manhood with one suckling intake and hold him there until, as they said back home, worlds collided. These worlds, he assumed, were his semen and the back of whatever throat or throat-like organ the species giving him fellatio had. Sam had never really understood such adages, like that one about chickens and counting their hatchlings. He had never even seen a chicken, only their desecrated flesh in vacuum-sealed packets. That was enough for him, and delicious when paired with the vacuum-sealed 'peas' from his stores. As he prepares the aforementioned meal, Sam consults his video records. As separate evaluation of the fellatio he'd received was a bit foggy by memory alone, he makes video and scent recordings for every one. The video is obvious, but the scent recordings, first patented back in 4.2..333 SD by Fenny Bankfrin, are the most important memory aids. He had already forgotten how his last conquest had smelt--but thanks to Bankfrin, his shuttle is flooded with her sickly sweet aroma: a touch of gingery racimbole, with top notes of fermented citrus and a base note which struck him deeply. It was a subtle, soiled aroma, probably the combination of her deep-purple genital juices and his salty human sweat. Sam has seen himself come so many times that any embarrassment he felt in response to his facial expressions had morphed into strange pride. He anticipates his twitching, his panting, more than he anticipates his partner's. He attributes this to commitment--he isn't out here searching for their reactions, but for someone to give him a reason to react differently, to react perfectly. What was it they called it back home? Oh yes, a 'blowjob'. What a quaint human word, he thinks. As his thrusters power up against the orange sand of the planet Translamda, he sets his course further outwards towards the edge of the Beginzam galaxy. He has heard wonderful things about the genitalia there, that it lights up and emitted radio waves when excited--and it was rumoured that a colony of boucheriatia lived out there! A whole species whose physique resembled the human mouth. Sam shudders as he imagines their capabilities--maybe this time he would be able to fit his whole body into them. 061213

for Jyotsana Singh At first, the smell is unbearable: hundreds of thousands of human musks co-mingling and clinging to the circulated, recycled air, permeating even the slick plastic benches, to then seep into your coat and stay there with you, like a ghost conglomerate. But, with repeated exposure, it became comforting proof that you are never as alone as you think you are, even in a population that has dwindled drastically since 2018. Humanity had given up on sight as a major sense since greenhouse gases clouded the atmosphere and substantially limited the amount of sunlight illuminating the earth's crust. Soon after a Northern and Southern Beep were installed in each hemisphere to aid in navigation. Whether travelling underground or street level, the view through tempered UV-resistant window is the same: yellowish-black smudge rubbing its back on your focus, blandly indistinguishable from the grey-yellow of the train car's interior. The pings of their stop cut Xerxes' attempts to make out the edges of the window from the blurred mass. They follow the pings to the interior of the station. The sky, filtered through filthy window, is a veil of yellow-grey smog. The station leads to escalators leads to Rockland, the shopping centre of Those Who the Light Hath Spared. A left turn at smell of roasting meat, another left at sounds of cursing and glass breaking, and a third to follow the whistling of a bar. The tune is polyrhythmic, and differs to advertise the specials of the week. Triplets over duplets means stock is running low. Xerxes locates the bar and whistles back the first movement of Mozart's twelfth sonata: they want tequila, two vials, but will take gin if necessary. The bar feels Xerxes' face with her hands and squeezes their earlobes to affirm the transaction. She then runs her hands over her bandolier, fingering the empty spots and remaining droppers, locates two, whistles that she has tequila and will contact Xerxes with an invoice. The bar deposits the droppers in Xerxes' outstretched hands and continues whistling the specials, the tune fading with distance. Xerxes sniffs for urine and garbage, and gropes toward a small niche between Vandelay Industries and an audiobook store. Squatting, they bring the dropper to their tongue, letting three drops fester, resisting the urge to salivate and thus dilute. The intense flavours of fermented agave and citrus notes followed by those of bile are borderline overwhelming, but this is one of the hedonistic pleasures left in 2030, so Xerxes really tries to prolong and savour it. Sufficiently tipsy, Xerxes uses the shopping mall sounds to navigate home before the forced attendance of tonight's ceremony. The audio book on the government conspiring against producing more oxygen in favour of profit has some very compelling evidence, and Xerxes is so very thirsty for proof that their current reality isn't the only one available. Ever since the Great Receding, after oxygen levels dropped to an all-time low, and after the Great Cleansing, when thousands deemed sub-human were sacrificed to the Ultimate Power, Xerxes had been studying. The government forces all citizens to worship the Ultimate Power through nightly ceremonies--as the sun's dying rays are refracted in the overly-polluted atmosphere, the visual effects are astounding explosions of violent oranges, purples, greens. So vivid that the average citizen, whose life other than during these two minutes every day, is completely void of any colours other than yellow and grey compounding into a confusing 2D hue, experiences an autonomous sensory response that they are coerced into believing is a spiritual experience, connecting them with the Ultimate Power. Xerxes had been aware of this coercion before listening to the audiobook. They had also figured that the government was using this "Ultimate Power" as fuel for profit. What else would explain clinging to office despite multiple coup attempts? And why not produce more oxygen, something that all humans, regardless of class or race, need to survive? A mere 109 steps away from their dwelling, Xerxes is frozen by the reverberation of LRADs announcing: COME WORSHIP AND BE CLEANSED OF YOUR SINS BY THE ULTIMATE POWER--TO IT WE OWE OUR LIVES, OUR HISTORY, AND OUR FUTURE! Masked riot squads saunter in through the residential aisles, lazily holding their shields and weapons. The squads' presence is enough: no longer does the populace actively resist, after witnessing countless others massacred for putting up a fight. The only way to avoid the ceremony is to hide in one of the many piles of garbage lying around and hold your breath until it begins. But today, I am equipped to resist and learn, thinks Xerxes,--I will not hide from the truth, but seek it carefully and with an open, relaxed and inebriated mind. Xerxes joins the grey throng of citizens being funnelled toward the Sanctuary for Those Who the Light Hath Spared. Every district has its own Sanctuary, the nearest neighbours being Those Who Are Meek and Therefore the Most Important to the east of the Northern Beep, and Those Who Serve None But the Ultimate to the west. Xerxes lags within the throng, peering desperately in the blank faces of citizens around them. The squads don't even seem to actively watch the citizens: their expressions are also blank, their lifeless eyes and earplugged noses seemingly floating on a pallid backdrop of skin and uniformed flesh, obscured by blast-proof plastic--just another day on the job, the complacent bliss of assuefaction. Upon entering the Sanctuary, the throng erupts in sighs and ahhhs; the room reeks with the most alluring scent known: two parts petrichor, one part new car smell. Xerxes remembers their earplugs, and stoops down to insert them into their nostrils. Immediately the Sanctuary transforms into a cold, uninviting place. Despite the plugs, Xerxes can taste the pungency of burning plastic on their tongue. They had previously attributed this sensation to intense pleasure. They also notice the guards arguing loudly over the throng. "EVERY DAY IS THE BLOODY SAME, SAL! IS TODAY THE DAY WE KILL THE LOT OF THEM AND SEND THEM TO THE CARBON HARVESTERS?" Xerxes becomes aware of a repetitive creaking and whooshing coming from above. "NAH, YOU FOOL, THAT'S TOMORROW. SHUT UP ALREADY, I HATE THE TASTE OF THIS PLACE ENOUGH TO KEEP MY MOUTH SHUT!" "THEY DON'T SEEM TO MIND, OR EVEN HEAR US..." "THAT'S CAUSE THEY'RE DRUGGED BY SMELL, YOU NEOPHYTE! NOW GET BACK TO WORK, IN SILENCE!" Xerxes feels something swoosh near their head, and ducks to dodge a swinging fleshy lump. Squinting and trying to time the next one to touch it, Xerxes begins to make out the movement of thousands of severed hands attached to giant ceiling fans. Lifeless fingers skim the heads of the throng. Xerxes is appalled: I always wondered what that tingling sensation on my scalp was stimulated by--how physical and disgusting. The burning sensation on their tongue increases as green light floods the sanctuary. The entire place is dead silent, the lifeless hands hanging limp, camouflaged in the green blur of everything. Xerxes closes their eyes. The delicate pattern of veins flashes yellow, green, orange, purple, so intense, that Xerxes second-guesses themself: are my eyes actually closed? Do my eyelids even exist?? And what is that buzzing?! A super-high frequency, swelling as if trapped in a feedback loop, blankets the Sanctuary. The room vibrates with this frequency, and although Xerxes is resisting, their heart vibrates to join its surroundings. It is so violent a sensation, and Xerxes worries: it feels as if my heart will ricochet up my chest, throat, and force itself through the gaps in my gritted teeth! Agh, I must resist! During situations like this, Xerxes finds it best to focus on hopes for the future: citizens running through fields of flowers, waterfalls, climbing trees, laughing, sharing, everything bathed in bright light, the pleasure of seeing clearly, choosing to watch the sunset instead of being forced into this charade. Focusing hard enough, Xerxes can cancel out everything else but these thoughts, and sometimes manages to smile, although their teeth are still clenched. The swooshing starts up again, and the frequency decreases in intensity as the LRADs announce: NOW YOU ARE FULFILLED GO AND BE GOOD CITIZENS THE ULTIMATE POWER BLESSES YOU and the throng is funnelled out of the Sanctuary back to the residential aisles. Xerxes lags behind the majority of the throng to remove and hide their plugs. The residential aisles' mixed bag of smells and sounds is comforting in contrast to the Sanctuary, and Xerxes is flooded with a need to preserve and celebrate humanity--I cannot give up on them, and I cannot let them give up on themselves, Xerxes reflects. Not if, but when my vision of the future happens, I will not need thanking, because it will be a return to the normalcy of proper human experience. Xerxes feels the way to their dwelling. It is bare, save for a small styrofoam cot, kerosene lamp, and a tape player. The audiobook on government conspiracy, acquired on the heliotrope market, will have to wait until tomorrow; Xerxes is exhausted. As they try to calm their body, still experiencing after-shock vibrations, Xerxes whispers to themself the last thing their best friend, Qfwfq, said before being sacrificed after his aboriginal heritage was uncovered. Xerxes has found that repeating it is comforting enough to bring upon the blankness of sleep. Do not give up, Xerxes: until the pursuit of happiness and the pursuit of truth are reconciled, we are all trapped. Do not give up, Xerxes: until the pursuit of happiness and the pursuit of truth are reconciled, we are all trapped. Do not give up, Xerxes: until the pursuit of happiness and the pursuit of truth are reconciled, we are all trapped. Do not give up, Xerxes: until the pursuit of happiness and the pursuit of truth are reconciled, we are all trapped. Do not give up, Xerxes: until the pursuit of happiness and the pursuit of truth are reconciled, we are all trapped. Do not give up, Xerxes: until the pursuit of happiness and the pursuit of truth are reconciled, we are all trapped. Do not give up, Xerxes: until the pursuit of happiness and the pursuit of truth are reconciled, we are all trapped. Do not give up, Xerxes: until the pursuit of happiness and the pursuit of truth are reconciled, we are all trapped. Do not give up, Xerxes: until the pursuit of happiness and the pursuit of truth are reconciled, we are all trapped. Do not give up, Xerxes: until the pursuit of happiness and the pursuit of truth are reconciled, we are all trapped. Do not give up, Xerxes: until the pursuit of happiness and the pursuit of truth are reconciled, we are all trapped. Do not give up, Xerxes: until the pursuit of happiness and the pursuit of truth are reconciled, we are all trapped.Do not give up, Xerxes: until the pursuit of happiness and the pursuit of truth are reconciled, we are all trapped. Do not give up, Xerxes: until the pursuit of happiness and the pursuit of truth are reconciled, we are all trapped.Do not give up, Xerxes: until the pursuit of happiness and the pursuit of truth are reconciled, we are all trapped. Do not give up, Xerxes: until the pursuit of happiness and the

i/ Phil's life was dull, and Mary's was sad. Together, they formed a happy household wrought with domesticity and mutual respect. A long time ago, Mary had cheated on Phil with their chess coach. Phil, unaware to Mary, had uncovered this secret months after, and forgave Mary without a second thought. Later that day, he was mowed down by a semi. ii/ Ivanhoe takes care not to bump into anyone in the crowded isles of the grocery store. He lets the old portuguese woman ahead of him in line, and spots the person behind him .35$ Outside, he stops to pet the yorkshire terrier barking for wont of attention, and makes sure to scratch beneath the leather collar, caressing with love the dewy and distressed dogs' nape. Ivanhoe resolves to start volunteering at the local shelter--he is so fufilled by giving animals love and attention. Later that day, after taking his wheelchair-ridden brother suffering from advanced celebral palsy out for their daily walk, Ivanhoe turns down a well-lit alley and is beaten to death with the heel of his shoe and robbed.