The Cruise

Oskar Johanson's first fiction submission to The Larrikin Post, this is a short story about architecture. A man armed only with a cocktail is stranded on a cruise. His company: the Fourteen Agonies of Zoning Law.

Moondecker stands upon the bridge to face a heaving sea. Sea of pure program. Gunmetal and unforgiving and churned by a thousand unseen swizzlesticks held from space. Moondecker consults a cocktail. He returns to the ballroom.

Here, small discarded ideas from the repertoire of the Average Suburban Architect shuffle in time to the hacks and gerrymanderers of Local Planning Legislation, hand in hand, on a cramped and crepuscular dancefloor. Four bars fill perfectly the list of the vessel from port to starboard, four bars fill perfectly the list back again. Moondecker is unsure how he made it into this nightmare vision.

Three men stand to attention at the bar, in silver sequin jackets with sharp red caps on their heads. Trengove's Tributary emblazoned on their breast pocket in red and gold. Endless Manhattans are aligned in a grid on the table, 12 by 155. Premixing goes against protocol, but the client insisted. A barrel of olives sits at the far end of the table. Pickled spleens in a greasy humour.

Moondecker feels the effect of the drink. He waits for the vessel to reach the apex of a portside list before walking downhill to a tufted leather bar stool. Immediately he catches sight of a woman in a safari blue number with a dangerously underwritten hemline and a sock puppet escort.

The ballroom slows its march of catastrophe as on stage appear the Fourteen Agonies of Zoning Law. The Emcee has a face like a lava lamp long gone cold and grins mercilessly into the gloom.

A man joins Moondecker with his back to the bar. A Gallic figure with cliffs like a Brittany coast in a fine woolen suit. A double agent. A French Bond.

Moondecker cannot bear the production. It is a cerebral masterpiece but a structural nightmare. The wrong firm has been consulted by the right people. He longs to escape with the woman, to throw his coat around her, dive into an escape pod and escape the cruise. To hell with the destination. To hell with the ship and its nuclear heart and its waltzing cargo of wrecked souls. To hell with their sublime solution to the Problem of the City.

But the weather is bad. The waves are high and steep. They could expect to last only a few hours before being swamped in the churn of oblivion. The sea of pure program needs no invitation, it is a poor friend to have. It spares no thing. It allows no further challenge, it offers no position at which to make a stand. Moondecker knows to leave the ship for the water is to commit himself to a fate more perverse than death. To slip below the surface is to be dismantled. Atomised and swept up in the Great Transatlantic Discursive Current. A piece sent to every corner of the globe, one to wash up at Queenhithe, another on Coney Island, another at Fairy Bower. Consigned to Total Relativity.

Moondecker steadies himself. French Bond is clapping a measured beat. The Agonies are bowing having discarded their costumes entirely. White tits and cocks jiggle without hope of escape. Moondecker begins to clap as well.

The End.

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