Things were no longer as they are, but not yet what they were going to be. Diane sped west down the cryptic line of the 101 in her Watford, along the cobwebbing, deep in the warm zone through Downing and Los Angeles, the sky a dying yellow, surrounded by the boys."I could drive," said Alex, rewedging the gray rubber under his sneaker into the corner where the glass met Diane's dash, as confident and restless in the passenger seat as someone eight or nine, rotating into a stage yawn that left his bearded head just on the edge of what you might call Diane's aura if you believed in auras which nobody did. He'd almost said "…if you're tired," but had decided against it because he was smart."Driving keeps my hands busy. I could use a burrito though."Meanwhile Dean and Chad were bantering about something in the backseat—Diane had no clue what about just now, but she knew you could dip in and out of it, like a show. Alphonso, next to Chad, brooded abstractedly as flylight ran across the worn line of his collar and across his puzzled, impressive face. About eight months ago he'd mastered looking moody in a way you took seriously but not personally."This is a fucked place," he said, features widening to shape his accent around it, as Diane brought the Watford into the fenced lot.Chad: "Are we going?"Dean: "Yeah."No, they weren't. It was good, though, that Chad had asked and that Dean had assumed they would with such protective finality. Alex gave a last-chance look, almost daddish in its generosity and willingness to be refused.
She came toward the sound of machines generating old light and air-conditioning. The code was 509, the buttons were beige and polypropylene and room-temperature. The holes in the intercom box spit out feedback and then an amused girl's voice going "Yo?" Trypophobia was fear of holes—Dean had told her that. There was a dog out in the dark somewhere.Diane, who hated this place, said her own name.Only the security was good: a reverse-crushing sound of magnets slackening signaled Diane to push three thick doors deep into the mouth of the looming unit.There were cells on both sides, stacked fourteen high, smells in the halls, and a lot of sounds not muffled by the thin carpet. There were elevators she needed to use, ringed round glass fronting a drained pool. The old-style machine light caught everything steel at angles, showing smears and prints on the knobs, doors, all over the elevator buttons. She'd touched all of it and looked at what she was touching, but it was either that or look left and right, which she refused to do. Diane had been curious her first time in a Batch but wasn't anymore. Every cell was the same. Not for the first or last time, she got to 509 without seeing anyone.On the far side of the perforated plexi sat an immense male figure: wallowing, bloated, feet in Asics, eczemic and uneven skin gone the clotted color of caucasians in selfies from the teens, his fat propagating with a corpulence of smoothly interlocking roundnesses interrupting one another like a stack of riverstone punctured by the flexible tube of a TPN feed above a weathered left nipple, sitting on a vinyled chair and covered in sluts.
Diane said Hello but Marvin couldn't hear her because he was eating so much pussy. The blonde Sexinurse on his face, though—whose name was Natasha—noticed and politely waved."Diane's here, Marvin," she said, and switched to rubbing her crotch on Marvin's neck. A girl named Clarissa started fucking him."Oh hey Diane," Marvin said, now boning the slut, "How are you? You want to come in?" His voice was very deep."No, thanks. I'm alright, I guess," There was a comfortable visitors' chair near the clear wall and Diane got in it."Oh my fucking god this fucking cock," Clarissa said."What's up?" said Marvin, opening kind green eyes at Diane and wincing as he pudgily fucked.
"Is it ok if I ask you to stop fucking while we talk?"
"So like the 'evil of Spain' is people talk too much I guess?" Dean, with the satanic eyebrows, was saying to Alex.Chad was apart, leaning on the hood of the Watford when Diane got out of the Batch. He swiveled alertly and smiled at Diane, moving, she thought, like a very kind piece of construction equipment. She smiled back."I dunno, VS Pritchett kinda gets past me," Alex said to Dean, "or else it's just guys talking? I dunno," then to Diane "All done?""Yup.""Thank god we can get out of this place," said Alphonso, "I hate all parking lots."A BulbFly landed on the windshield, walked in a semicircle, went away again.
"I've had fun in parking lots," said Dean. They argued in an ignorable way.Chad asked Diane if she was alright and Alex said of course she was, she looked fine, this was whatever easy. They'd gotten her a burrito. The dark was everywhere now, and they began to drive away."Has Stacey told you she wants a Raptor for her birthday?" Alex asked.Diane had a brief awful image of her only child on a white and gold-striped Raptor with rhinestoned teeth, wearing a Marshmallow Fucks jacket, doing crimes. "I don't know, like, she fell off her Diplo twice and that thing has four legs. You think?""Well she's getting to that age where Diplos are considered kind of slow and boring and for babies…"
"He was her oldest bespoke, a Zouave 3"
This dispatch is part of Terraform, our home for future fiction. Art by Jed McGowan.