In my sci-fi series Upon Stilted Cities, there is an occasional horror element. In the following scene, a Senator by the name of Tera Reevas has a surreal and horrifying experience. The events of this moment later come back to haunt her and trigger a series of events that lead to disaster for the entire city.
The piece of artwork featured here is my rendition of what the Senator sees.
Excerpt From Chapter 4 of Upon Stilted Cities: Book 1: The Winds of Change
Tera turned and headed for the exit to her chambers. The door opened. What she saw startled her. A poster, one of the standard propaganda poster that hung throughout the city, had been hung right outside her door. She had mistaken the poster for a person. It was remarkably lifelike and was almost life-sized.
She exhaled, blinked a few times and stared.
On it, a man stood with a sledgehammer slung over his shoulder. He was grinning widely, teeth showing. She counted them. Even his eyes smiled. In the background of the poster was the simple gray brick of a sky rise apartment building.
Tera could imagine the kinds of people that would live in the empty boxed patios that jutted out from the building. She could see parents yelling at their children not to play too close to the railing. A woman hanging laundry out to dry. Teenagers themselves against that railing and chatting about who was dating who. A man, after a long day of work taking slow drags of a cigarette; only the small circle of fire and a hint of a peppered mustache visible in the evening light. Somehow the artist had captured all this without showing a single person in the background. She could feel it, all of it. Electrifying.
Her attention turned back to the man in the foreground and she gasped all over again. Gods, the man in the poster was so real. Tera could swear he was breathing. It was a well-drawn piece of propaganda and Tera thought that the artist should be commended for their skill. Still, it had no business being here, just outside of her quarters. A Senator hardly needed to be reminded of her duties.
She thought hard for a moment and wondered when it must have been hung. It had not been there last night, at least she didn’t remember seeing it.
The poster itself was benign until she read the phrase just above the smiling face. It opened her like a knife would open her flesh. It started with a chill. Then, violence. She began shaking from head to toe. The words read: “You Must Do Your Part,” the same words she had heard from the Recycled Runner down in the docks. The words were followed at the bottom of the poster by “If We Want To Keep Our City In Working Order,” but Tera hardly noticed those words. Her eyes locked on the poster. She could not unhinge them.
The poster began to change. The man’s nose rotted off. His eyes began to glow red and strange black tree-like limbs grew up behind him and merged with some of his skin. Blood began to bloom in the background and the leering smile of his overly white teeth seemed to widen.
“You Must Do Your Part,” he seemed to whisper. But the mouth did not move. The smile did not change. Electric. A putrid rotting smell began to fill Tera’s nostrils. It seeped from the poster.
Again the words were uttered, “You Must Do Your Part.” The voice echoed and rang in chorus until it seemed that a thousand people were speaking the phrase over and over again. Shrieks and whispers.
Then, Tera caught the eyes of the man in the poster and she felt him lock his gaze on her. She knew those eyes. Those eyes belonged to the half-dead recycled Runner. They possessed her and try as she might, she could not look away. Something began to brew inside of her. Something was coming apart.
Thump Thump… her heart began to pound. Chest heaving.
Thump Thump…she felt her blood rising and bubbling inside her. She could feel every single blood cell as it worked its way through her body.
Thump Thump… She felt her terror turning into rage and then into hate. There was so much hate that it began to bubble over like a cauldron overflowing.
Thump Thump… She felt every inch of her twitching, her heart pounded in her temples. The pressure mounted.
Thump Thump… Her head would explode, leaving nothing left but a bloody stump where her neck and skull joined.
Thump Thump…The agony was growing, the eyes… oh, those horrible eyes. Her heart beating so fiercely it would burst at any second.
Thump Thump… Rising, screaming… oh, what a fantastic horrible madness. It was taking her, taking her to the edge. She opened her mouth to scream, to give into the complete and utter insanity that had possessed her. She felt herself falling over the edge and…
“Senator? Senator, are you alright?”