SNOW BLACK AND THE SEVEN DWARFS
PERFORMING HERE TONIGHT
flashed the red and yellow neon marquee/holograph, hovering above the squat, and darkened building in Sydney’s far western suburbs. Over its door, a smaller sign flickered dark red:
It was about two hours until show time.
Bored, Chops, and Smolley slumped lazily on their low-slung go-bikes parked nearby.
Chops, petting his laser, grumbled: “Matee, I dunno about yer, but I didn’t sign on with Salo and his Convict Nation team to be a bloody club security guard… “Yawning, he stretched his artificial legs; his real ones had been blown off at the Battle of Broome just before the surrender of Australia to the invading Indo-Chinese military. Gawd, Chops murmured, shaking his head. That was a bloody five years ago!
Squinting at the paper delivered to them earlier by a Salo messenger, Smolley nervously replied, “Chopo, yer know da Salo oft means more that he sez… Suppoz dat der messenger had gotten caught with dis,” he motioned toward the paper, “we’ee be boiled in hot beer by the bloody Force if it exposed the real story.” Smolley then reread the message’s text:
Great new shipment of toys arriving tonight after 7 p.m. Go to 1031 Devlin Place and get your jollies as the guards. See the manager there for further details.
“So you really dink it means more than it sez?” Chops asked.
Smolley nodded: “Bloody A, mate, Salo always duz. We just have to wait… “
A car door slammed: a short man, with a long, well-groomed beard and nattily attired in a white leisure suit, and sparkling dancing shoes, bounded gracefully from a rusty Holden sedan a few feet from them. Smolley nudged Chops, and whispered “Da manager, I bet”.
Smolley, gripping his concealed laser, scurried toward the man, who, frightened at Smolley’s sudden approach, loudly farted.
“Not a nice way to greet some mates,” Smolley joked.
“If you want to rob me, I ‘ave no cash,” stuttered the manager.
“No, mate, we are here becuz of dis,” said Smolley, pushing the message paper into the man’s face.
“What’s your ID?” mumbled the manager neutrally, worried about the police.
Straining mightily, Smolley hooked his stumpy wrist in front of the manager’s eyes, flashing a helix-shaped tattoo. The manager touched his heart, nodded, and whispered, “All praise to Salo. Follow me then if you want to get your jollies.” They quietly moved toward the club’s premises, Chops’ artificial legs humming peacefully in the dark.
The manager, who identified himself as Mullet Blackstone, flicked a pocket-held unit as they approached the entrance; the door unlocked automatically while the interior was instantly bathed in whirls of darkish-silvery shapes radiating from a massive, spinning disco ball—a retro-crafted shrine to the traditionally popular 1970s party scene. The manager led Smolley and Chops across the squeaky dance floor, littered with streamers and trash, past the bar, into a dingy, rear receiving area.
“So what ‘new toys’ are goin’ to give us ‘jollies”?” asked Smolley amid the smells of musty boxes, oily machinery, and rat bait.
“Too right,” assented Chops, still irritated at running mere admin errands better assigned, he thought, to one of Salo’s sex slaves.
Mullet frowned, waved one hand, missing three fingers—Smolley duly noted—and said: “Your new ‘toys’ are a top-secret shipment of killer Involuntary Transgenders arriving in about an hour from the Western Deserts.”
Chops whistled softly. Smolley’s little eyes simply went wide.
“Yeah, nobody thinks ITs,” Mullet went on smugly, “can lift a freakin’ butter knife, let alone a gun, to the Occupation. But the bloomin’ IC fascists are about to face a new enemy. ITs can always get service jobs inside their headquarters or domestic positions in the mansions of the fat-cat IC arse-lickers, because the Force thinks they don’t have a violent gene in their entire body. But the Great Salo is about to prove their cruddy science wrong, by God!”
Chops and Smolley simply stared, mouths gaping stupidly.
“Yes, our mighty Salo is opening a new chapter of liberation,” Mullet’s beard bobbed with such frenzy that it seemed madly alive, “in the history of the persecuted transgenders’ valiant struggle against our repressive IC invaders. Even ITs are now being empowered to destroy the evildoers through the genius of Salo the Magnifico.” Now Mullet’s entire body violently shook as if controlled by aggressive, loud music: Another CN True Believer was ranting, thought Chops wearily.
Finally, Smolley weakly stammered, “How da we know dis will work?”
Bristling and swelling so proudly that his hunched back seemed to engorge itself in itself, Mullet gleefully declared, “Have you not, my mates, heard of the Col Wallop story ?”
Smolley and Chops allowed that they vaguely remembered seeing something on the tellie a few years ago, but Mullet waved his two-fingered hand dismissively. “Bugger that, mate; you know we can’t rely on Occupation-run media for the straight dope. Let me tell you the real story: Convict Nation’s street intel learned that Col Wallop, a drinking pal of some IC Force hotshots, had a sexual hang-up about ITs. In fact, in disguise, he used to cruise pubs and bars like Club Big looking for ‘action’. He’d pay ITs for sex and take ‘em home.”
“When Salo learned of this, well, he was so happy he creamed his jeans. During the war, a resistance brigade stole a DNA Reconversion Systems Kit from an Old Gov lab, and later the brigade’s chief sold the package to Convict Nation for a pile of cash. The Occupation has never known that Salo has built some super gene recode labs. You know, you’d be bloody well amazed at the smart scientific arses he has on his team… “
“Ok, Ok mate, get to the bloomin’ moral of da story,” Chops pleaded, his eyes glazed with boredom.
“Salo had been looking for a ‘test’ case, so to speak. So boy, did he jump on the Col Wallop chance. He ordered his mob to kidnap an IT and recode the thing to kill: they kept the bugger hold up in a retraining camp until it was screamin’ for blood. Then they sent the IT to Club Big to pick up Col Wallop… well, the rest is history; after sex on the floor in a storage room, the IT ran a butcher knife through old Col’s gullet and then chopped him up like sausage… “
Faintly queasy in his stomach, Smolley squeaked, “What happen’ to da IT?”
Mullet indifferently clicked his tongue. “The poor bugger later went crackers; Salo had it shot and ground up at that dog food processing plant Salo and the CN manage on the sly.”
As Chops and Smolley goggled their eyes, Mullet glowered darkly, his beard thrusting like a sword: “You keep this info secret, mate, or that is where you will end up: as a bloody dog’s breakfast.”
Mullet suddenly cocked his head. “Someone’s outside. Cover me”.
Flanked by Smolley and Chops, their hand lasers pulled, Mullet furtively slid up to the service door and breathed gruffly through his teeth: “Solo, Salo, me, Oh my-Oh.” The melodious voice outside rang out like a bell, in reply: “Salo, Salo, my Oh, my-Oh.“
Mullet nodded. “We’re golden; the shipment is here.” He flicked the security alarm off and opened the door. A pair of drooping, fleshly jowls molded themselves into a bold smile. Sully O’Sullivan, Certified DNA Lab Tech for the Force’s Forensic Section and the secret team captain of the killer IT consignment, had arrived. Bowing gracefully, his shapely hands folded into a prayerful greeting.
Sully was feeling very pleased with himself. Earlier, a security agent for the Force had enlisted his confidential assistance in an effort to rat out traitors to the Force within their ranks. Jwan, the agent, had even paid for the beer.
However, little did he know—Sully’s bold smile got even more brazen–that it was actually Sully who was the traitor, not only leaking useful information on Force staff sexual-hormonal problems to Salo but also deeply involved in the Killer IT Project.
If Salo wanted to use genetics to subvert the IC Force’s Occupation, Salo needed Sully’s help. Data on the sexual lives of Force staff, especially those who were undergoing natural, involuntary sex changes or a secondary puberty (Midlife Reversal), was invaluable to Salo.
Drastically mutating hormones, Sully well knew, meant unstable, angry emotions and (usually) unstable, malleable DNA. Emerging changelings were perfect targets for genetic conversion into assassins and subversives working against the hated occupiers.
Moreover, they would liberate themselves and their communities—via the Sully-Salo team—from threats to their future posed by the occupying bullies. However, Sully was not only helping persecuted changelings help themselves but also serving his own ambitions.
The “team of Sully and Salo”—yeah, that had a nice sound—but even better, Salo was a bit of an old geezer now, while Sully was much spunkier, younger. Hell, he could even be the top bloke in Convict Nation’s insurgency in a few years if he played his cards right… Get rid of the religious nutters, maybe… go more mainstream, become legit… Maybe Salo was not so important after all. Sully’s eyes were dreamy as he fantasized of great power.
“Well, don’t just stand there blocking the bleedin’ doorway,” snapped Mullet humorously.
Sully bitterly detested this worm, Mullet Blackstone. It was well known in Convict Nation/insurgent circles that Mullet was currently one of the most active of Salo’s sexual partners. What was it about some bloody CN nutters that made them so sexually randy and politically aggressive?
“I am trying to keep the rain from blowing on your beard,” replied Sully sarcastically.
The manager coldly chuckled. “You’re a real mate.”
Sully bowed again, slightly. “At your service,” he said coolly.
Chops interrupted: “Hey, we didn’t come here fer a lovefest or tea-time chat. Where’s da IT meat?
“Well, Matees, Sully replied, “we have a little problem with that. All four of our new killer trainees got road sick coming back from the West. They have been throwing up like ill babies for the last five hours. Agro, their driver/handler, has taken them to a safe house where somebody is feeding them weak soup and honey…” Sully shrugged apologetically.
Mullet’s face reddened. “Ain’t that a kick in the head?” Then he whined, “Gawd tonight is our special half-price night for Force/IC Occupation staff. They’ll just show their ID and get a deal on the cover charge plus some free drinks… ITs could have picked up some top Occupation blokes and snuffed them good… Salo had it all planned… Hell, we even had some top brass-level officers who had made reservations…”
“Well, I guess the perverts in the Occupation will have to wait to get their bit of IT arse another night,” joked Sully.
“Mate, it’s not funny,” replied Mullet, his beard bristling.
“I can’t do a thing about it; you want me to bring a gang of ITs here to projectile vomit all over your dance floor—and on your high-flying customers’ fancy threads?” demanded Sully, peeved by Mullet’s amazing stupidity. Gawd, does Salo know what a fool this clown is?
“Dis is getting too heavy, mates; dare is no reason we can’t still party,” Chops said, suddenly laughing, twisting and spinning on his artificial legs, his toothless mouth drooling. “I am freakin’ tired of all dis IT/Salo sex stuff.” Smolley, with a little smile, did a few mincing steps in agreement.
Mullet wagged his deformed hand again: “OK, stick around, but you gotta pay a full cover charge. No concessions, even for Salo’s team. Sorry, mate, I run a business.”
All Sully could think as he turned to leave was, “What a wanker!
* * *
A towering 6’7″ mutant with massive biceps, a ghostly complexion, and flaming orange-red hair was both the bouncer and ticket collector. Chops and Smolley, wearing party masks to conceal their identities, lingered in the lobby shadows, watching curiously, as patrons drifted into Club Big.
Most of them wore costumes. Because of this club’s risqué reputation, discretion here was the better part of decorum, so it was often impossible to tell a human from a changeling. A tallish person strutted in in high heels, with a grizzled chin, lipstick, heavily caked make-up, and a frilly dress—a man in drag or a transgender?
There were swarms of obvious mini-mutants, though some of the taller ones may have been just short humans, while some of the hunched changelings were actually stout persons with prosthetic humps stuffed in their blouses and shirts.
Then followed a sudden, noisy rush of customers garbed in a wild assortment of fake “deformities”—flabby noses, gaping nostrils, twisted chins, lazy eyes, flapping ear lobes, club feet, mottled skin—a parade of clubbing fanatics masquerading as Street Wilders. Tonight was the night for Multigenetic Chic, real or make-believe.
Mullet Blackstone, rocking on his heels, stood by the entrance, acknowledging with fawning smiles those who flashed Occupation or Force ID badges while merely grunting at those (Salo True Believers) who did not. After the stream of customers had seemingly ended, Mullet, wanting to lock up before the show began, peered out the door for any latecomers.
Stepping briskly around the corner came a figure in a hood, cloak, and billowing robe, face behind a black visor that vaguely reminded Mullet of that character out of the old “Star Wars” films. Not speaking, the figure scuttled quickly through the lobby and paid full price admission. Followed by the towering bouncer’s odd looks, the strange patron strode aggressively into the bar area, clearly on a mission.
Mullet slipped over to Chops and Smolley, and whispered, “Make yourself useful. Follow that strange bloke around, but keep your distance.”
Chops replied, “Then, mate, giv’ us free admission. We take orders only frum da Salo. We don’t work fer you; besides, we’re off duty.”
Snorting disgustedly, Mullet waved for them to pass.
Sheets of Narco-Cig smoke were starting to fog in the bar. Barely able to breathe, let alone see, Chops and Smolley, choking, crept slowly between the tangled knots of chattering, costumed bodies. The weird, hooded customer was nowhere to be seen. Perhaps, they thought, he/it/she had popped into the toilet.
A grotesquely obese, mottled-faced woman, swathed in furs and sequins and giggling hysterically, blocked their way. She was chatting with an impassive, thin man in tight blue trousers who exhaled Narco-Cig smoke in shreds from a mouth without lips.
“Did you hear the one about the IT who wanted to make love to a dwarf?” The big woman wheezed, tears of mirth pouring from her piggish eyes.
Thundering cheers and applause went up from the crowd, drowning out the women’s joke. Above, swimming around the massive disco ball, was a writhing, techno-colored stream of faces, mouths, torsos, and intricate sexual organs.
These holographic images then exploded into a kaleidoscopic whirlpool of copulating humans, ITs, dwarfs, and hunchbacks, each morphing into the other, often in mid-act. Almost simultaneously, the ancient disco hit “Stayin’ Alive” blared out, and couples — sometimes multiples — rushed the dance floor, where they too became a confusion of sweaty, violently pumping bodies.
Bursting from a side door, behind the dancers, were seven dwarfs in pleated cheerleader skirts, followed by a galloping drag queen, pseudo-tits flopping, and regal in an elegant black nightgown and pink slippers: This, the featured act, Snow Black and The Seven Dwarfs, was greeted with another thunderous ovation. The performers started swaying wildly, moving their lips to the lyrics.
Just then Chops and Smolley saw the masked figure lurking in the now near-empty bar area occupied by only a few malingering ITs, guzzling from shot glasses, and the large mottled-face woman alone, but still bouncing and shrieking with laughter at her own jokes.
From his robe, the strange figure pulled a laser pistol and fired at the woman; the weapon’s green streak drilled a tidy hole in her forehead. Almost as if deflated, the woman shriveled on her bar stool, lumbered backward, and crashed on the floor. Her last breath sounded like a drunken giggle.
Ripping off his mask and hood, the killer glared triumphantly around the hushed dance floor with his bloody, pulsating eyes. Salo had avenged the Convict Nation against one Ms. Mabis Mallow, who, though supposedly a CN True Believer, had actually been an informant for the Force and, as such, was responsible for the capture, torture, and murder of her lover, the elderly insurgency recruitment agent Ian Crumpet. Salo enjoyed a hands-on snuff job occasionally, rather than always sending his hit team. Tonight, however, due to cock-ups by his staff, he had had no real choice but to do it himself.
Doing this in front of some Force-employed patrons was admittedly very audacious, he thought. However, most of them, on the Convict Nation bribe anyway, had already compromised themselves by being in this joint–a place widely suspected as being an insurgency meeting joint. They would never report the murder; that would mean revealing where they were partying. And that could lead to a nasty investigation for possibly consorting with subversives — these days, an act of high treason is subject to immediate execution. Salo smiled at his own cleverness.
Moreover, he had learned through his top spies within the Force that Ms. Mallow had become a burden and embarrassment: she was demanding sex with both female and male Force staffers, including the powerful Sub-Commander June Soon, as a condition for her continued employment—a prospect that was revolting, to say the least.
Further, he had learned that Force management felt that her lavish stipend was not really worth the quality of information she was providing, which, despite the Ian Crumpet success, had been rather scanty. In short, he had actually done the Force—and himself—a favor by exterminating this greedy parasite. He was now their hero.
Of course, he had originally planned for one of his new killer recodes to do the job. But then that was why he knew he was not only respected, but also revered: his powers of creative management allowed him to overcome the miserable failures of minions, such as that bungler Agro, who had failed properly to care for his IT cargo.
(Speaking of a need to get rid of dead wood, maybe he would have the Killer ITs snuff Agro once they were feeling better. No great loss; the fool should’ve taken a basic medicine kit on the processing trip to Fort Helix. Didn’t he know that all IT recodes were notorious for vomiting unpredictably? In truth, there were many in his ranks that should be ground up into dog food. Yes, indeed, next week he had to start a major personnel review.)
Haloed by virtual freaking, the disco ball, like a pseudo-star, still glittered cheaply.” “Stayin’ Alive” blared anew. Ignoring the dead woman’s body, Club Big’s customers, Force staff, and CN True Believers alike, were getting down and dirty again. Salo‘s eyes, softening to a gentle pink, watched cheerfully as Snow Black and the Seven Dwarfs whipped the dancers into even higher frenzies. The Great Salo, the father of the insurgent Convict Nation, had won another cosmic victory over conscience and the Force. Mouths gaping, Smolley and Chops gazed in wonder.
This story first appeared in Bewildering Stories.
Thomas White has a triple identity: speculative fiction writer, poet, and essayist. He blends horror, noir, and sci-fi with philosophical and theological themes. A Belgium-based magazine, the Sci-Phi Journal, honored by the European Science Fiction Society with its Hall of Fame Award for Best SF Magazine, recently accepted one of Mr. White’s stories.
His other poems, fiction, and essays have appeared in online and print literary journals and magazines including Australia, the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. He is also a Wiley-Blackwell Journal author who has contributed essays to various nonliterary journals on topics ranging from atheism, the meaning of evil, Elon Musk, Plato, The Matrix, and reality as a computer simulation. In addition, he has presented his essays to the West Chester University Poetry Conference (West Chester, Pennsylvania), as well as read his poetry on Australian radio.
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