It was Egon plus two, the second day after the glorsting of Egon Turow, and the city state of Oolong Morblock was running as normal, millions of bars of soap sliding over millions of naked bodies, millions of bowls of red pepper chili cornflakes being consumed, millions of toilets flushing. Millions of biological filtering devices, known as lungs, were hard at work, busy removing industrial wastes from the air. Millions of shoes clad in millions of socks were warming up inside millions of shoes, already sweating slightly.
It was going to be a hot day.
On Chamberpot Street in North Gorleth, the Bad Breaths, a street gang, ages thirteen and up, set on little Bogen Prince, age twelve, who was making the mistake of going to school. Distressed by this anomalous behavior, the Bad Breaths went to work on him with claw hammers, punching twenty-seven holes in his body before they left him for dead. This did not make the news. "Gorleth takes care of Gorleth," to quote a phrase.
Up in the north of Conflux, President Olive Valise was up and about. She was indulging herself in the pleasures of Nozomi, the multi-jet shower which her predecessor, Jorbel Eagle, had organized for the Presidential Suite in Hexagon, the presidential palace which formed part of the federal campus known as Tespetty. Water, unlimited water, hot water -- she reveled in it, shamelessly.
All through her life, water had been an issue. She had grown up with water shortages. Want to flush the toilet? No problem. The ocean gets piped all the way to the lavatory expressly for that purpose. Flush freely. Share with the jellyfish that which is properly theirs in the first place. But try to have a shower and, inside of a minute, you're hearing, "Girl! What do you think you're doing? Do you think we're made of money? That's a money waterfall, darling, we don't have the lolly cash for that."
All her life she had grown up with the knowledge that they were not the rich Valises, the deodorant kings, no, they were the poor Valises, and had been so ever since their branch of the family got screwed in the game of hardball that got played after Uncle Triffin died intestate. They got so poor that, in the end, they had to give up the helicopter, and she had to say goodbye to her pony, her beloved Zupiter.
But now she was President, and that meant she could run the taps until Hell's casserole was cooked. A daily impost on the taxpayers, not part of her formal compensation package but a perk.
When showered and dried, Olive applied talcum powder to her armpits -- she never used roll-on deodorant because that always reminded her that she was not one of the deodorant Valises. Then she began getting dressed, starting with her merkin, the violet one which her life coach, Helen Gobster, had advised her to wear to help her "sex power the maggots into the ground". It seemed to be working. Olive was getting the impression that the maggots she worked with were finally starting to show her some of the respect she deserved.
As Olive was titivating herself, a man was heading for Tespetty. A strange man, someone she had never met in her entire life. Someone whose existence she did not suspect. A man who was capable of breaking her jaw with a single blow, of setting her hair on fire, of suing her for the aesthetic contamination she caused when she showed up in public with her lipstick on crooked.
While the man was capable of doing all those things, and more, he had no such thought in mind. Nor did he have a history of doing such things, either. He had lived a blameless life working in the charity field, and was currently CEO of Cagebird Lifebelt, a charity which specialized in pressuring governments around the planet to legislate for better captivity conditions for cage birds.
His name? Well, he wouldn't be needing it for much longer, but, for the record, his name was Kuro Effigy, and he was a tourist from far-off Yam. He was staying in the Red Stockings Hotel, part of the International Chastity Hotels chain, at Bencoolen.
Kuro had risen extremely early, and had gone adventuring, leaving his wife asleep. In Kuro's opinion, their marriage was heading for a divorce, and one of the reasons he wanted to be alone was to think about that.
Taking his pet with him, Kuro had traveled by subway all the way to Inadazutsumi Station, from where he had hiked the considerable distance to Tespetty, meaning to get a taxi back. Walking such a long distance was eccentric, but, technically, not yet illegal -- although OSH was working on some regulations designed to guard against over-exertion, these had not yet come into effect.
Kuro Effigy had brought along his digital camera but he had left his wallet and passport in the hotel, just bringing his coin purse and enough cash for his subway rides and his projected taxi fare. The same guide book which had recommended Tespetty as a "must see" sight had also warned about street crime.
Still feeling fresh at the end of his long walk from Inadazutsumi Station -- relaxed, happy and smiling -- Kuro Effigy approached the security cordon which had been established outside Tespetty, a cordon which was not mentioned in his guide book because it had only been set up the day before.
Most of the cops who were supposed to be manning and womaning the security cordon were off on a donut break, leaving only two to hold the fort, Monk Tide and Erminoda Ying.
Monk Tide, a stalwart twenty-year veteran of the Conflux Constabulary, saw this guy coming, a dreamy expression on his face. The guy was doing something aberrant, something nobody ever did at Tespetty in the morning. He was smiling. And there was some kind of animal sitting on his shoulder, almost like a monkey, but not quite, a weird animal, a kind of mutant, a familiar, obviously.
With twenty years of police experience under his belt, Monk knew danger when he saw it. Here was an astral drifting dreamily towards his suicide point, smiling with an inner ecstasy that he felt no need to explain to the world, his familiar sitting on his shoulder, along for the ride, the terminal ride.
And Monk's handgun, which he had never had occasion to draw before, not in all his years of service, was in his hand, and he unloaded one, two, three, four, five shots, aiming for the head, vital to hit the head, got to take this guy down before he glorsts. Do or die!
One shot went wild, two hit the guy in the shoulder, but three found the head, then it was speedloader time. Gun loaded, Monk crouched down by the guy and made sure, four in the head and then one for the familiar, maybe those things can blow themselves up, too.
Then it was done, and Monk was panting, flushed, and there was a huge squeezing pain in his chest, and a shooting pain in his arm, and he realized he was having a heart attack, he was going down, he was going to die.
Saw before him the man he had killed, and the mutant animal, the cute eyes no longer cute, the nasty bundle of fur kicked into a dirty rag of broken flesh.
And he knew he had done his duty.
And would have died happy, except there was no room in the universe for happiness. There was no room for anything except the pain, the crushing pain that was intensifying, that was squeezing his name out of existence.
First his name, then his life.
So died Monk Tide, a hero of law enforcement, selflessly sacrificing his own life in the battle against astral terror, the war on the suicide bombers.