WM2K 2019 Winner! Hubot Perfection LTD by Francis Cowper

Hubot Perfection Ltd

Orkney Islands 3019

There was much nodding of heads, and approving hmms when a now forgotten singer photographed her cellulite 1,000 years ago to combat the ever growing wave of body shame. However many of these same cheerleaders would later find themselves in front of their mirrors, comparing their pale overlapping criss cross of unwanted natural lines and jagged edges to hers. Now 1,000 years later the story is heralded as a brave, but ultimately irrelevant attempt to change the course of society’s preoccupations. New solutions have been sought out and found for perceived imperfections of the body. They are painful, but the solution assured. If you desire it, you can go full trans-human with full metallic modifications. Few want this however, and anyone who gets robotic limbs is generally considered to be fairly counter culture.

Hubot Perfection Ltd is  one of the more renowned companies of the ‘make your body blemish free’ ilk. They have a particular famed premises on the Orkney Islands. This includes a very large yacht fifteen miles off the coast which guarantees privacy and anonymity. Security is tight, if mechanical. However, Hubot  have unfortunately suffered an image problem recently (a turn of phrase relished by various reporters and journalists) there was a mass slaying with many dead, and one almost drowned on their boat. Perhaps the most mystifying of all circumstances was the combination of primitive and unknown technology. No one really believed the crazy wounded one.

 I am what  the collective consciousness steeped in popular culture have dubbed the final girl.  I’m lead to understand it’s a thousand years old plus term. This is my story.

Like many others, I’ve grappled with this incessant preoccupation with bodily perfection,  and confess I fell  prey to the need to fix myself to happiness because of the unceasing bombardment of lurid images, and advertisements. Due to a particularly successful partner choice, I could have the best of the best.

There were ten of us in total. Once a year , the company closes the boat off to a small group and raises the prices through a bidding war for a week. I won.  I planned to sear off  my cellulite and maybe correct a pock mark or two from teenage acne. I hadn’t done sooner is that life, as it is often wont to do, got in the way. 

I vividly remember Claire. She was blonde, tall with a lithe frame, and had piercing beautiful blue eyes. Also Freya with her obscenely white teeth, who was more small and petite than Claire. There were others such as Kim, Georgia and Jane. The rest of the names I never knew or have forgotten. Anyway I’ve come to learn the naming of the dead isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. The dead stay dead, and what do they care about their legacy?

I had just had my first surgery to remove my cellulite. I was happy, but limping. The speakers broadcast a message  declaring that we would be moving further from the island given that some desperate hacks wanted to board the boat. Many news outlets would pay dearly for our information. Five minutes later we stopped abruptly. The reason for this, it emerged, was that inexplicably the depth of the sea had changed and we had grounded the boat. This seemed absurd to me.

The next thing I remember was the alarm paired with an inappropriately dulcet toned robot claiming there was an intruder. I confess to being slightly panicked, but only for fear that my identity would be comprised and I would be plastered on the front page. Retrospectively I realise how self  important I was. 

The scream chilled me to the core. It came from  Freya’s room. I left mine, and padded barefoot towards her room. The blood that streaked across the sterile white surfaces of the corridor walls was the first thing I noticed. I stumbled over something realising it was the body of Jane her glassy eyes staring straight up at me. Her throat was missing, there were deep defensive wounds on her arms and her hair was inexplicably wet and bunched together as if she’d  been thrown overboard and fished out again. 

I resisted the urge to be sick, and rather sensibly (at least I thought so at the time) moved in the opposite direction away from the scream. It cut out abruptly, and  I ran softly across the floor and collided with someone. I pushed my tongue up to the roof of my mouth to stop my screaming, and found myself confronted with the bottomless blue eyes of Claire. We’d become close over the two days we’d spent here. She looked as bad as I felt. She stared blankly at me. We were both broken from this gaze by the soft whoosh of a door opening and one of the doctors  stumbled out, soaking wet gasping for air. Suddenly he collapsed and fell to the ground and we  saw that the previously obscured half of his face had been torn completely off. While machines were the mainstay for these types of surgeries there is still a  premium market for the human touch. There were no robots on this boat save ones whose only function was to assist the surgeons. Security was minimal the idea being that the boats turrets and defences would act as adequate repellents.

Then we saw the source of all this chaos. Turning towards a noise to the left of us we saw Freya, her short legs pumping, carrying her as fast as they possibly could.  Looming behind her, and pacing slowly was a tall figure, with long blonde hair, with pointed ears sticking up through it, and a long scar that started at his left temple and curved down to meet his upper lip on the same side. He wore a content smirk, and wielded an old fashioned sword (I’ve only read about them) which glowed a dull blue in the sterile light of the corridor. Impossibly, he must have swum over to the boat somehow because he was dripping from head to toe. I took a quick look backwards and saw that Freya had fallen over. It wasn’t her fault she’d become a horror movie cliché. The floor around her looked slick and shone with the reflection of the above light, and was entirely slippery. Having trod down the corridor to get to Claire, I hadn’t noticed that before.

She begged for us to wait. While I regret not indulging her request, doing so would’ve been fatal. Lest I end up like Lot’s wife, I turned away and headed down the corridor towards the deck smashing the glass and taking the emergency axe with me. All I had to do was press a button and a strong laser outline of an axe would appear from the long handle. It felt good to have a weapon. I heard Freya threaten him. He told her that he lived underwater, invisible to the human eye, and having been on the point of execution for his desire to take revenge on humans he was glad to be free. Her next remark was punctuated by disgusting squelching sounds, the pattering of liquid drops on the floor, and the choking and gagging of someone struggling like they were trying to breathe through water. 

On the deck I noticed that there were five girls. I only recognised Kim and Georgia. They were also joined by one of the guards, who was remarkable in appearance because of his high functioning robotic arm with high tensile strength. He said that he had a key for the trapdoor at the end of the boat which would lead downwards to the life boats. 

We ran over to where they were standing, and the door behind us flew off it’s hinges as the strangely dressed strange eared killer roamed towards us, his gaze unflinching, eyes full of malice. Looking back I realise that he was Elvish in appearance. My brother told me about them from his books. 

The group screamed at us to both hurry, and the remaining 100m felt like forever to cover. Inexplicably, the sea become more violent, and a huge wave, tsunami like in appearance towered above the boat,  and came crashing down. The effect was ear shattering as the wooden deck splintered,  and the force of the wave launched them in the air, suspended in frothy liquid, and then over the edge of the boat. The ocean’s roar blotted out the screams. One didn’t go overboard. The guard had used his arm to hold fast to the railing of the boat edge. He was lucky. Almost. You could tell the force had heavily affected his body, as his other arm was dangling off at an unnatural angle, and his neck had twisted 360 degrees, a small knot near where his shoulders began, and the lopsided angle of his now unsupported head were markers of the permanent damage done. 

I might have screamed.  The creature continued to walk towards us, and his unmuted expression turned into one of deranged happiness. I distinctly remember shouting at him, asking what the fuck he was, not who.

He replied that his race have  cohabited this planet for millions of years. He seemed to relish the chance to tell this tale. “However, our realities have always remained distinct from one another. We exist in the molecular structure of water, and I have taken this form because I am informed it is a regular sight for humans.  I could be wrong, but we don’t much care for closely following your culture. If I wanted to find out I could.”

I decided not to tell him no one wrote about Elves much less read about them. Apart from my brother. “While we exist on a level which even your most powerful microscope cannot see,” he continued, “we are able to join this world and assume a recognisable form. We don’t, because no matter what epoch we have picked you always disgust us. So we gave up close observation, occasionally checking in and we hid from you. But one of my family was picked up by what you call the water cycle and moved into open waters. Normally we stay far down where we are unaffected by man or natural processes from above. But they wanted to explore. Your nets evaporated the seaweed they were attached to as it can’t be sold as much as other things. Now you shifted your boat, and the seismic waves this created in our city, gave me the opportunity to escape, assume this form and take my revenge. Good thing too. They were going to execute me for my repeated attempts to escape to your world.”

I felt I’d heard enough and so, pressing the button on the axe, I lunged forward, the piercing sound of the exhaust firing up, louder than I anticipated. The ocean had become tranquil. I made contact with his arm, and there was a loud hissing sound and steam emerged from my blade which rushed into my eyes making me recoil covering my face. Claire screamed, and as I recovered I realised that his forearm was still attached. He took in my shock, and laughed telling us “I am water. Did you really think you could just chop me down like one of those many trees you relentlessly fell?”

I tried to distract him. “I get it. That explains the wet patch that Freya slipped on in the corridor. It explains the strange fluctuations in the temperance of the ocean, and…”

“I know what you’re thinking,” he said. “It’s true. I manipulated the ocean to suspend you there and give your captain that sensation of the earth meeting him. Don’t worry about him, he didn’t die ignorant. All other aqua displays stem from me too. I’m flattered though. You’re the only one who seemed to realise what’s happening, and take an interest.”

I couldn’t believe it. All I wanted was perfection,  social acceptance and hopefully keep my partner interested in me. Now I was set to lose everything. 

I confess I’d completely forgotten about Claire, she ran and headed for the dead guard’s body, to get the boat key. He smirked, raising his ears, and I watched, helpless to intervene as he summoned a grey cloud which laid down some heavy rain, and I was mortified to notice that her beautiful skin, and tall figure became shapeless, as chunks of pink fat, and red fell off her now skeletal frame. She tried to scream but opening her mouth allowed acid in which started it’s corrosive work on her tongue.  He took his blue sword throwing it directly at her chest with brute force. It whistled through the air and hit its target. The sword started to vibrate and then an explosive sound occurred, and what looked like a geyser emanated from inside her lungs splitting her in two, sending chunks of putrid, sizzling flesh across the deck. The sword slid along the floor towards him again. 

“I felt impatient. You never did slow down with the polluting did you?” he mused. I’d heard acid rain was bad in some parts of the world, and I guess now I had visual proof.

I previously felt like I, the plucky heroine, would find my way out of this. I  asked his name. He didn’t respond, and made his way towards me. He told me that he knew  all sorts of famous companies were actually in turn owned by one major company. He gave Hubot Perfection as an example. They were owned by a larger company called Botman Ltd who had businesses in cybernetic arms (in direct competition with their surgery) and also a monopoly on fishing in the UK. He overheard this on the bridge, and knew who to target. The boat coming was a happy coincidence.

He  noted my despair. “I won’t kill you. I need a messenger don’t I?” He then outlined his message, and I felt my throat constrict. It felt blocked. I knew the sensation having experienced it before in my youth. Drowning.The bastard had lied to me. 

The water brought the darkness in, and I felt it’s comfortable embrace envelop me. Before everything disappeared I saw him mount a pallid blue horse which took shape from an upward spiral of water that was churning turning next to him.

I woke up spluttering. There was no one around. So I lay there.

Then they found me. I don’t know how much time had passed. Night had descended again or it was still dark. Two fisherman spotted the seemingly abandoned boat drifting lazily towards land.  They brought me ashore. Now I’m doing as I was asked. This is my story, and my warning. 

He said soon we would come to know his name. 

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