The Case of the Flaming SerpentsΒ 


I’m a robot detective. My name, in places where time runs forward, is Trey Taylor. My first name becomes trev when time runs backwards, and in the realms beyond death, I need no name, for what need is there of names when everyone you meet is filled with overwhelming awe at the discovery of their continued existence? 
There have been murders. Flaming serpents have been used to disembowel human targets. I’ve yet to find what links the attacks. The serpents attack the mouth, replace the intestines, and either slowly kill by interfering with the digestion process, like a parasite, or immediately, by disembowelling. 
I’m called to a home where flaming serpents are suspected. I enter through the open door. Inside, a servant wrestles with a serpent. It burns her face, splitting her head in two, but she continually heals, and the flaming serpents strike again. 
I realise there was no link between the previous targets. Someone was randomly targeting the population to see what resistance it offered, if any. Like an evolving species, adapting to the limits of a new environment. 
I talk to the servant, our flow interrupted by the melting and reforming of her head. She tells me she has something inside her, that regenerates her. The Cohort, she calls it. It counteracts the effects of the flaming serpents. They can’t kill her, merely inconvenience her for a while before she kills them. 
Someone is controlling the serpents. They’re the real enemy. I return to the training ground. I need a weapon to kill these serpents. I train with a chainsaw, using it as a weapon, practicing with my officer in a sand pit. 
The perspective changes. It’s a later time. I’m in an isolation camp. Everything I described was in a tv show. Old robots don’t retire, they end up here, isolated, in case my faultless memory reveals an unwelcome truth. The TV set flickers off. I walk across the grass. Larger robots come in, and grab any robot like me, I’m the last of my kind. This triggers a memory. Something I’d hidden. They are looking for me still. I changed my markings and serial number, swapped personalities with another robot. His life has not been so eventful. Programmed to serve, he was happy to help. The memories flood back. The case of the Flaming Serpents. I have to escape this involuntary retirement, there’s work to be done. 
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Violence, Sufis and Hippos


I’m sharing a bedroom in a hotel . The other guy comes in, I’m in the wrong bed. We swap. I sleep. 
I wake up in the morning. Sleeping across our beds, and on the floor, are a group of Sufi saints, and two baby hippos. I pat one of the hippos. It’s tail wags like a dog. I get up, pass robes to the sufis and explore the building. There’s a boy with a gun. A real gun. He fires wildly. I confiscate his guns, both toy and real, and all the ammunition he has. He has a tantrum. I explain how dangerous violence is, that he must learn to express himself in other ways. I throw away the guns and ammunition, outside in the snow. We are near Winnipeg. 
J joins me, with two others. I have a flashback of a Turkish film we watched together, detectives in an old house searching for a missing, murdered family. 
I discuss with J what supplies we have, to get out of this place. We talk of friends we can stay with elsewhere. I throw her packs of cigarettes, as I don’t smoke. I spill soya mix on to the gravelly snow. As I bend to eat it, a man shouts a warning that its poisonous. 
I’m with a group of friends, in an apartment, waiting for someone to bring round Hawkwind’s ‘Sonic Attack’ for us to listen to. One of the group is the now-grown-up boy with the gun. He gets each of us alone, and beats and torture us. 
Back together in the same room, we jump him. I smash a bottle into his face repeatedly. We leave him unconscious in the hallway. I suggest to my friends that listening to Sonic Attack is probably a bad idea given our mental state from being tortured. In the hallway, the torturer has vanished. We search the building. He’s left. 
I go outside in the snow to work, clambering down blue steel constructions. I arrive at a large warehouse. R is there. He supervises people moving rugs, carpets, and bric-a-brac. There’s a room full of beautifully carved old wooden furniture. I worry about the torturer coming back. I check the entrances. He’s not there. I worry he will gain access under a false name. I walk around on the grass outside, always looking over my shoulder. I see hungover employees dozing on the grass, sleeping off the effects of St Patrick’s day. 
I think about going back to sleep, in the wrong bed. 
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