By James Flynn
The vast hall was completely silent, apart from the final death squeals of the monkey writhing around on the floor down below. A thousand eyes stared down at this spectacle from the stands, each one black and unblinking, taking in every agonising twitch and spasm of the fallen animal on the arena battleground.
The faces of the spectators, if they could be called faces, were as still as a windless Sahara landscape, utterly void of any kind of animation or expression. On and on they stared, surveying the scene with their synthetic lenses, relishing the picture of blood-soaked fur and pierced skin.
The contraption down below, a purpose-built fighting machine, took hold of each of the dying monkey’s ankles with its two vice-like arms and yanked them apart, ripping the creature in two with a cracking of bone and a tearing of fur and flesh. The show was now over, the performance completed, and the hordes of mute onlookers slid down the aisles towards the exits without making a sound.
These beings were not completely void of feeling. Somewhere inside them, in some area or compartment behind their ever-watching eyes, a bundle of nerves and neurons twitched and tingled with biological impulses. In their own language, no longer spoken vocally, they went by the name ※≈≈※. Translated into English, this would be something like: Acute Ones. Their roots couldn’t be described as mammalian, nor could they be described as reptilian, but they weren’t altogether dissimilar, either.
They’d emigrated from their home planet eons ago, taking on a nomadic lifestyle in their fleet of entertainment ships, cruising through the cosmos with the leisure and style of a bunch of wealthy aristocrats. And, in many ways, they were. They had relaxation, peace, entertainment, and an indefinite lifespan. You could say that they’d achieved utopia, with an endless amount of time to enjoy it. But an endless amount of time comes at a price, however, and that price is monotony.
Leisurely activities satisfy us the most when we’ve earned them, and the Acute Ones lived in an environment where everything was on tap. Reading, stargazing, exquisite cuisine tasted through specialised software; these things were all done in excess, over and over again each day. After a certain amount of millennia has passed, and with this kind of excessive consumption, any kind of enjoyment is bound to grow stale.
Their entertainment ships were spectacular feats of engineering and design brilliance. The observation decks would’ve taken anyone’s breath away, the digital libraries held more knowledge than everything on the World Wide Web combined, and the arenas made the Roman colosseums look like puppet theatres. And they also had their synthetic bodies. Specially-designed software enabled them to taste their favourite dishes as though it were the real thing, and separate software programs allowed them to experience the intense sensations of sex-induced orgasms just as they remembered them. But still, even with all of this luxury and joy, the ghostly hand of boredom haunted most of their days.
Their very existence turned into one big search for new thrills, a quest to find more and more intense forms of entertainment. They explored new corners of the universe, observed spectacular planets and nebulae through the transparent glass of the observation deck windows, concocted new tastes and sensations to install into their software, and became more creative with their arena-based shows.
It started off harmless enough. Specialised robots were built to fight and destroy each other for the thrill seeking population, hammering and sawing themselves to shreds and tatters in front of the unblinking eyes up in the stands, but of course this could only excite and enthrall the immortal beings for so long. They inevitably grew tired of the robot massacres. The artificial, painless duels became bland and dull, failing to satiate the cruel bloodlust that was brewing within them.
But luck was on their side. Just as boredom was starting to grip them all yet again, they stumbled upon a magnificent find.
It was first noticed outside the main observation decks, although initially nobody had the faintest idea what it was. It appeared as a distant speck on the astronomical landscape, a mere twinkle in the sky, but as the days and weeks passed by it grew in size and intensity. When the thing finally came into clear focus, the Acute Ones couldn’t believe what they were seeing.
They’d crossed paths with a huge vessel, a great glowing bubble sailing through the void, and the sheer sight of it was an experience in itself. The top section of the craft consisted of a transparent casing revealing a green habitat inside, and after some intense study and discussion it was concluded that the mystery vessel must’ve been some kind of generation ship.
For a long time, they watched the huge craft from a distance, keeping pace with it and flying parallel to its navigational path, and once it was established that there was no kind of threat from anyone onboard they began to arrange a reconnaissance mission.
To say they were shocked would be an understatement.
Odd-looking flora flourished and sprouted from the ground of the artificial habitat, tall trees rose up towards the glass-domed roof, and colourful flowers with pink and blue petals blossomed across the vast fields. The long vessel was like a microcosm of some planetary habitat, an imitation of an ecosystem somewhere far and beyond, but the origin of it all remained a mystery.
And then there were the animals.
Strange, peculiar-looking creatures pottered, roamed and flew across the grassy interior of the mammoth ship, all of varying shapes and sizes. Some of them vaguely resembled some of the primitive life forms on the Acute Ones’ home planet, but these were far more extravagant. Names were devised for these exotic creatures, constructed in the Acute Ones’ dialect, but to an English-speaking observer they would be known as zebras, parrots, lemurs, monkeys, and horses, to name but a few.
To the Acute Ones’ immortal, bored, warped, synthetic eyes, the animals represented one thing and one thing only: entertainment. And of course, it wasn’t entertainment of a benign nature that was on their minds by this point, it was entertainment of a sadistic nature. And so, after transferring the live cargo of animals over to the fleet of entertainment ships, a new show was born and their problems fizzled away again. The robotic battles now had an added layer of intensity and allure to them, an element of blood, pain, suffering and cruelty that tapped into their sick lust in a way that the old battles hadn’t.
Every night a full house of Acute Ones filled the arena stands, their spherical glass eyes peering silently down towards the floor where roosters kicked and pecked at each other’s feathers, starved monkeys gauged at each other’s faces, and bloated cows dropped to their knees after taking a flurry of hammer blows from one of the specialised gladiatorial robots. Breeding pens were added to the lower floors of the entertainment vessels, something resembling battery farms, and new generations of animals were thrust onto the bloody arena floor on a regular basis.
Satisfaction and fulfilment among the population of Acute Ones had been restored, and life seemed rosy and pleasant once more. They had something to look forward to after their nightly seven hour standbys, something that ignited the ball of cells inside the centre of their chromium head casings.
But, as the decades wore on, even the piercing screams of dying animals began to lose its potency. They gradually became desensitised to some of the organic bloodbaths, some more than others, and the bludgeoning of certain species became no more enthralling to them than reading a book from the digital library for the hundredth time.
Every animal was different. Each one seemed to have a certain shelf life, a longevity in terms of entertainment value, and once that shelf life expired the species became like an ageing rock star who’d had his day, or a stand-up comedian who’d run out of jokes. Over time it failed to excite, its pained noises as flat and dull as TV static, and when that time came there was no further use for the gene pool.
The sheep had been the first ones to lose their appeal. They’d put up no kind of fight against the robots, no kind of show, just a pathetic buckling under the blows and attacks. With their entertainment value exhausted, the whole entire batch had been blasted out of the ship’s dump hatch, out into the airless void of space.
Several other species had suffered the same fate since then.
The latest solution to the problem was to get more creative with the gladiatorial robots. Ghastly-looking machines were created to add a little spice to the evening festivities, including The Spinner: a circular robot on wheels equipped with a spinning mace that span at two-hundred revolutions per minute, shattering the kneecaps of zebras and deer upon impact; The Spike: a tracked vehicle with a five-foot retractable sword built into its front end for impaling rib cages and skulls; The Scolder: an horrendously cruel contraption which followed scurrying animals around the arena floor using a multitude of sensors, spraying molten-hot oil out of a nozzle that clung to their fur and melted their skin; and, as seen in the latest gladiatorial battle, The Splitter: a tracked vehicle equipped with two vice-like claws, primarily used for wrenching limbs apart and tearing various creatures’ anatomies in two using a set of internal hydraulic cylinders.
But the Acute Ones’ hunger for tainted pleasure knew no bounds, and even with these newly-devised killing machines to play with, their carnival of horror was losing its edge.
Once the last spectator had left, and the monkey’s split carcass had been brushed and swept away through the big sliding door of the arena, a meeting was held to discuss a possible new plan.
The flight path of the huge generation ship had been studied and assessed, and it’d been concluded that the giant vessel had come from a corner of a galaxy known as Ѻ ¤ Ѻ. Translated into English, this would be something like: The Milky Way. It was widely agreed that there was a high chance of finding other, more-exotic creatures at this location, not only because the making of the ship was beyond the capabilities of the live animals on board, but also because some unknown fossils were also found scattered across the terrain of the ship.
It didn’t take long for the new plan to be given the go ahead—they would launch an expedition to this mysterious corner of the cosmos, and harvest whatever gladiatorial fodder they could find there.
The residents on the housing estate weren’t too shocked when they saw the glowing orb up in the night sky. Ships and shuttles entering and exiting Earth’s atmosphere was a fairly common sight, and the piercing light appeared to be just another vessel of that kind. It was only when it got closer that puzzled looks became present on their faces, the smiles dropping from the teenagers’ puss-filled cheeks as they loitered by the bins, and the over-confident grins slipping away from the lip-sticked mouths of the mothers as they pushed their prams across the littered pathways.
The craft’s design was completely unfamiliar, unlike the usual corporate rockets and shuttles that they were used to seeing. A few of them tried to discern which corporation the strange thing belonged to as it lowered itself down towards ground level. The Universal Mining Agency? Astro X? Lunar Incorporated? There were so many of them now, everyone had lost track. What was this thing, though? Some kind of prototype?
The bewildered musings didn’t last for long. As it got closer and closer, descending towards the tarmac with its seamless underbelly reflecting the orange street lamps, a sense of panic and doom fell over them all. Curtains were twitching across the many windows of the high-rise blocks, silhouettes peering out from dingy apartments, figures appearing from alleyways and doorways. Before long a sizeable crowd had gathered, watching open-mouthed as this wide, rectilinear craft touched down upon their home turf.
Vents and holes peppered the sides of the craft, like some kind of grating system, and as the hordes of baffled onlookers took in the sight before them, checking their beer cans and coffee cups for signs of spiking, they were suddenly aware of a gust of wind blowing towards them.
At least, they thought it was wind.
Had it come from the sky? Had it come from the vents? Why did it smell funny? These were the questions that bounced around their heads moments before everything went black.
One by one, they began to wake. Sore heads and confused stares filled the gloomy room, groans rising up from dry, parched throats. Lines of strangers looked across at each other as they slouched on the hard steel floor, their pasty flesh exposed for all to see. All kinds of people were stuffed together in the locked room, and everybody reacted in a slightly different way when they realised they’d woken up naked in a cold dark chamber. The young women panicked, covering their breasts with their manicured hands whilst scanning the room for reassurance; the old men were bleary and passive, gazing across at the assortment of faces with their pot bellies wedged between their knees; the young men paced around in befuddlement, pounding the walls with their muscled arms with little concern about their naked display; and the older women huddled together in the shadows, vocalising their discomfort and pain.
Some people recognised each other, some didn’t. It was more awkward for the ones who did. Old boys who usually nodded to each other on the way to the local convenience store could now see each other’s wrinkled anatomies for all they were worth, nineteen-year-old girls who passed each other cigarettes in the car park of the block could now see each others’ pubes and nipples. Certain acquaintances were sitting within the close vicinity of one another, semi-familiar faces peering out of the gloom, but for the most part the dimly-lit area was filled with a bunch of unconnected, dazed and disgruntled citizens who had no clue as to the identity of the people surrounding them.
When a door opened over in the far corner, there was a collective gasp amongst them all. Grey light shone into the dusty chamber, and the array of puckered flesh was exposed even more. The focus was no longer on each other, though, it was now on the peculiar figure who lingered by the open doorway. The word lingered probably wasn’t quite accurate, mind you. The word hovered would be much more appropriate, for that was exactly what this strange being was doing. There was a clear gap between its torso and the floor, and when it finally came into the room it did so in a smooth, soundless motion.
Its speech was no less enigmatic than its bodily movements. Words emanated from its head somewhere, somehow, and reached the ears of the fearful captives like invisible linguistic snow. But despite the graceful, elegant delivery of the speech, the content of the words was much blunter and more direct.
A certain task was required of them all, a performance of sorts, and refusal was not an option.
Pink, goose bumped flesh covered the entire arena floor, with bodies of all shapes and sizes standing nervously in front of each other like soldiers in some bizarre sex platoon. Intense rays of light from the high ceiling highlighted the anatomical crevices of each specimen in a merciless fashion, drawing attention to the bulging muscles and sagging flesh in an equal manner.
Curled hair sprouted from the well-toned pectoral muscles of forty-year-old builders; firm breasts with perfect nipples stood to attention under the necks of twenty-year-old secretaries; two-foot-long sagging breasts dangled from the chests of female OAPs; and skinny, withered legs trembled under the liver-spotted abdomens of grey-haired male accountants.
But it wasn’t just the bodily displays that made the scene what it was, there was also the crazed, wild expressions that the individuals projected from their unwashed, unshaven faces. Fear and apprehension were by far the most prevalent, embarrassment and humiliation a close second, but spread across the features of some of the participants was the unmistakable grin of excitement.
This projection of emotion and feeling was at a complete contrast to the rows of spectators watching from above, of course. The faces up high showed no such warmth or vulnerability, no features that were readable in any way, there was only the still, unmoving presence of their digital lenses.
Everyone understood their orders, everyone knew what they had to do, they were simply waiting for the cue to jolt them out of their nervous shuffling and into the action.
And then it came.
A bell chimed, resonating around the arena like the growl of some awoken beast, putting the wheels of the evening’s events into motion. The crowd converged and became one, the bodies forming clusters of legs, buttocks, thighs and torsos that writhed and pulsed against each other in a heated frenzy.
Tongues lapped and sucked nipples, frantic hands groped bouncing breasts, fingers probed vaginas and testicles, and mouths gobbled up rising cocks. Within minutes complete strangers were thrusting themselves into each other and pulling each other’s hair, whilst unseen hands caressed their erogenous zones from places out of sight. Neighbours from various council estates who’d exchanged “hellos” on stairwells pumped each other like mating bonobos, and enemies who’d previously bickered over parking spaces tickled each other’s anuses whilst simultaneously sucking erect penises.
The entire floor space seemed to heat up with sweat and passion. Back muscles rippled and dripped as young men craned themselves over two or three women at once, bloated beer bellies jiggled as young starlets bounced and rode middle-aged men, and powerful calves flexed and tightened as people were hoisted up into acrobatic positions and fucked in the air.
All inhibitions were lost in the manic, petrified heat of the moment, all social norms and sensitivities eradicated and forgotten. Middle-aged housewives bounced back and forth between fresh-faced twenty-something males while their husbands were brought to orgasm by a group of women nearby, and stunning platinum blondes lay on the ground as scores of fingers ran over every square inch of their bodies.
And from above, the spectacle was even more stunning.
The Acute Ones stared down at the spasmodic specimens with focused, contained wonder. This semi-advanced race, the new addition to their collection, interlocked and inter-weaved with each other like bundles of knotted rope. The arena floor was a slippery pink sea with muscle and sweat undulating across its surface waves, the wails and grunts punctuating the passionate current. The tide came in with the bouncing of ass cheeks and flabby stomachs, the tide went out with the powerful pumps of hips and thighs.
Over time the cacophony of groans and squeals grew louder and more intense, and the bodily movements rippling across the fray of skin grew more frantic and hurried. Guttural howls echoed around the lofty arena as balls were emptied and vaginas were filled, and legs could be seen buckling as jerking movements gave way to paroxysms of climax.
A height had been reached, a crescendo achieved, and now bodies could be seen rolling off of one another and tumbling to the ground in exhaustion. It’d been a glorious show, perhaps even the greatest one yet, and…the best was still to come.
The assortment of captives lay, knelt, and paced around the arena floor, fatigued and, for some, satiated. Scratch marks zig-zagged across the backs of some of the males, orgasmic war wounds inflicted with manicured fingernails, and those who weren’t streaked with grazes simply lay panting like dogs left in a car on a hot summer’s day.
The women clutched themselves, sore and bruised from the onslaught of thrusting pelvises, and like the men they were now ready to leave this strange, warped place. The job had been done, the erotic demand had been fulfilled, and now they wanted the freedom that they’d been promised.
A silent expectation hung over the throng of spent individuals, an uneasy wait that felt as though it would last forever.
A loud click sounded off from somewhere behind them.
Every head turned towards the big sliding door of the arena. A sense of relief washed over everyone as it appeared that their hosts were following through on their promise, and they prepared themselves to exit.
After being separated into two groups, with men on one side and women on the other, the women were led out of the huge room first. The men waited patiently in line, their limbs and nether regions aching and heavy, but as the last female disappeared out into the corridor the big door suddenly slid shut. Confusion and panic returned with a vengeance. Some of them looked up at the silent spectators in the stands, some of them pounded their fists on the door to try and get it open again, but it was no use—they were trapped.
The neat lines of eyes stared and stared, waiting patiently for the second part of the evening’s performance. The gaping, polished apertures surveyed and recorded non-stop, taking in every whimper and cry of the captives as they pottered about like dazed circus animals.
Another loud click sounded off.
Hurried, erratic reflections dashed across the lenses of the ever-watchful eyes. Warped, elongated images of steel contraptions dashed back and forth, dots of flesh landing on the shiny tips. What an encore, what a grand finale. The Spinner, The Spike, The Splitter and The Scorcher, all in one show. How they watched and watched; silent voyeurs in the lofty shadows.
If only the thrill could last forever.
As the sound of organised barbarism rang through the innards of the ship, noises that would make the death screams from a back alley abattoir seem like the happy chirps of sparrows, the female captives were back in the dinge of the holding cell, their bodies sticky with dried sweat and semen. They’d been duped and tricked, and the grim reality of the situation was slowly sinking in to their weary minds.
They were now carrying the next generation of cannon fodder, the next wave of meat to be thrown into the grinder, and they themselves had been reduced to little more than fertile livestock.
There was really only one hope, one tenuous, pitiful hope. Perhaps the Acute Ones would soon grow bored or desensitised to the slaying of Homo sapiens, arriving at a conclusion that slaughtering a human is no different than slaughtering a zebra or a bird. If a conclusion like that was reached, maybe they would be granted the same fate as some of the others: ejection into the unforgiving void of space, a push into oblivion.
Sitting in the darkness, their bellies set to swell from insemination, they could only hope.
James Flynn grew up in the suburbs of South East London. His work has appeared in Black Petals Magazine, Yellow Mama Magazine, The Scare Room Podcast, and the short story anthology Local Haunts. His two books, Conservation and The Edge of Insanity, are available to purchase on Amazon.