Many classic fairy tales are much darker stories in their original form than the ones we know (Little Red Riding Hood is a very bleak warning, to young girls of sexual predators). The story below is one of my own fairy tales, brought into a more modern world and with a bit of surrealism thrown in.
The original (longer) version is in my anthology. I’ve dragged the story out of the basement, only because it came up in conversation with someone today. As I pulled her up the steps (and after I’d read her Solum Oculos Claude, my most recent horror post), she asked me what the nastiest story I’ve written is. We use the word in the same way we do when we watch films, we both like video nasties.
The question was subjective. I’ve written what was called a “twistedly idiosyncratic” Nativity; There was the writer at The Unfinished Literary Agency, writing the story of his own first-person character committing a murder, after a pleasant stroll around Bermondsey with the reader; and then there was COGS.
When I first wrote it, I was looking to shock, I was finding my feet. Later, I found my way more in science fiction, and now I’m writing my brief history of a family book (while spending too much time distracted, mainly by myself). But just as my musical roots lie in Ska, so my writing started with horror (from where I was at the time). And I’ve been taking two pieces of advice from a friend, which have been serving me well: Don’t be afraid to be proud; and, If you feel the need to censor yourself, then you’re letting your readers down. Only they can be the judge of that, and whether other people are up me, or I’m up myself.
This one prompted one reader to say of its original incarnation, “It’s utterly wrong, but beautifully written,” probably because it contains suggestions of wholly wrong sexual deviancy. But it’s also a comment on consumerism, possibly in a world post-humanism, and a bit Gothic steam punk, with some poetic revenge and liberation thrown in. Like much of my horror, there’s a heart in it somewhere. All that, in 565 words apparently, pared down, so that some of the imagination of the unwritten words is transferred to the readers who will judge.
So, fuck it. This is COGS…
1. a plural of automaton
noun (pl) -tons, -ta (-tə)
1. a mechanical device operating under its own hidden power; robot
2. a person who acts mechanically or leads a routine monotonous life
What for the man who has everything yet has nothing? A man who wants for nothing, can have anything, but has nothing? Hans Der Leibhaftige had all he’d ever wanted, but for the one thing he desired. Everything and everyone has a price, including unconditional love.
Life allowed perverted sexual gratification, cash from needy families. It bought him pets: canine companions whose love needn’t be returned. But the humans grew beyond their best before dates, disposable people. Apart from his current companion, who may see his master die.
Cogs was an automaton, a mechanical animal, a robot. But if Hans weren’t to furnish visitors with this information, they would be oblivious. Cogs ate, slept and breathed, just like a real companion. His creator was Angra Mainyu, a long-term, symbiotic associate of Hans. Former lovers, latterly sexual partners of convenience, sex was merely functional, an outlet for their mutual loathing, in consensual sadomasochism, torture, trauma and rape. Fucking to a climax of fluid hate in red love.
Angra was a necromancer, making automata so fine that the single person able to afford them was her sole client. Her creations were pure mechanical clockwork, barren of electronics.
An early commission was a chicken, which hatched from an egg, then laid an egg of its own. Then it would nest on that egg as the outer eggshell closed, in silent mechanical motion. Later those movements could be perpetual, as Angra honed her art; living, sentient, self-determining beings, financed by Hans. Infinite wealth could buy eternal life.
There was a snake, given perpetuity by manipulation. He was someone in control of a deadly serpent to all who watched, oblivious to its inner workings, lacking a fatal bite by Angra’s design.
She could create Hans’ desire, of a companion, which was naked and with no clear means of operation by human intervention.
The creation was born of a note to Angra:
I’m not in love. I would only fuck you and others until something better came along. I would like you to make me a daughter.
“I am Lilith. I was born to you by Doctor Mainyu. May I come in?”
She sat on the sofa and said nothing further, switched off. Hans looked over the girl staring blankly ahead, dressed lightly in the heat, her legs slightly agape as she slept. Her underwear was the same colour as her skin. He needed to touch her, to see if she was warm.
The automaton flesh was soft and smooth. For all to see, they were comfortable in a shared blanket. He explored the paralysed girl, with more intimacy, seeking something which might make her recoil.
The fluidity of movement and the perpetuity of pleasure were to be found in Lilith, in her lips, where he tasted fresh life, while the girl slept, owned.
Lilith only opened her eyes when she was one with Hans.
“Love me master. Fill me with your wisdom, so that I may be as wealthy as you. Your daughter needs to come from your blood.”
A sound, like a winding clock, came from Lilith’s tightened thighs.
“Red love daddy.”
© Steve Laker, 2015 & 2017