Terrible Opening Lines Challenge

After a long day at the Porn-O-Matic shop, the LittleGuy was tired. He stood, his shoulders and chest just visible over the counter and his palms flat against it’s polished steel surface. His face was still but his eyes followed Barb as she walked the edges of the shop, checking the cabinets and display cases, locking the wire mesh shutters and switching off the rotating displays. She was about to lock the shop’s entrance when the room filled with a blast of grinding static.

“Alright, alright,” Barb called out.

She went to the counter, dropping the keys onto the steel with a clatter as she lifted the flap. The LittleGuy leaned forward to allow Barb behind while continuing to emit a crackling, atonal buzz.

“It’s alright,” Barb cooed, “it’s been a big day for you, my darling. You’ve been quite the draw, haven’t you?”

The LittleGuy turned his head and smiled.

“I’m wiped,” his low growl buried in the blare of modulating, static.

“That’s a poor choice of words, dear,” Barb said, frowning, “now look straight ahead for me.”

She began to work her fingers through the bristly black hairs at the base of his skull. After feeling the round outline of the catch, she gripped his neck and pressed her thumbs into the soft tissue there and then lifted her hands away as the LittleGuy’s head split along the hairline. The back of his head opened, delorian-like, displaying a tangle of translucent, pulsing red wires over clusters of flickering golden lights.

“I’ll just pop you on a little snooze cycle, dear, let you get yourself together.”

She turned a dial, pressed a button and then closed up the LittleGuy’s head. He fell slowly forward, coming to rest on the counter top as the static wound down to a low, almost unnoticeable drone. Barb stepped out from behind the counter and picked up the keys as the bell above the shop’s entrance rang. Two men, one short, one tall, both in neat, black suits, walked in from the street. The tall man moved with a smooth liquidity, his upper body a gliding statue, while his legs flowed beneath. The short man shuffled and stooped, pressing his hands together, stroking and squeezing his plump fingers, as if working them though a series of permutations.

“I’m sorry gents but we’re closed,” Barb said.

“Closed?” The short man looked at his watch, frowning, “so early? Well, miss, let me assure you, we shall be but a minute.”

He moved towards Barb, while his tall friend turned away, bending over to inspect the glass cabinets of bondage pieces along the back wall.

“I was just saying to my friend here what a singular establishment this is,” he said, massaging his hands as he spoke, “my friend mused that it should take quite the specialist to work in such a niche boutique. Isn’t that right, sir?” he called to the tall man while winking at Barb.

“Yeah, real special,” the tall man said without turning.

Barb threw up a pained smile, “I am the proprietor of this establishment, Mr..?”

The short man held up his hands in exaggerated apology.

“Oh! I’m so very sorry, Miss. Allow me-“

“It’s Ms,” Barb corrected, “Ms Garrett. And again, who are you gentlemen?”

“Of course, of course. I,” the short man squashed himself into a bow, holding one hand to his chest, “am Mr Quick-“

“I’m sure you are,” Barb interrupted, “and your compatriot?”

“Oh!” Quick smiled wide, displaying neat rows of small, yellow teeth, “compatriot! Very fine. Very fine indeed. Well? Do introduce yourself, sir!”

The tall man straightened stiffly, as if hinged at the waist; pivoting away from the cabinet in a graceful arc as he rose.

“I’m Sharp, me. Mr Sharp.”

He spun away again, folding over as he did.

“There you are Mzzz Garrett. Now, as I was saying, it must take someone very…” he paused, pursing his lips, “ah, affable to work in such a specialised market, yes?”

With his face pressed against the glass of the display, Sharp let out a low, rhythmic chuckle.

“Gentlemen,” Barb sighed, “I collect and sell historical objects of a sexual nature. These pieces,” she gestured to the cabinets and displays, “have facilitated generations of sexual activity, ensuring the perpetuation of our species,” she looked from Quick to Sharp and back again, “and not only through simple reproduction. They have allowed people to satisfy compulsions and desires that may have otherwise driven them to who-knows-what. People who, thanks to such works, have been able to live rich, full lives.”

“Indeed, indeed, very admirable,” Quick chimed, his hands wrestling one another all the while.

“The history of sex is the history of the most powerful drive in humanity,” Barb continued. “This is a repository of antique sexual objects, not some pink-neon, kink-tech emporium. My collections capture the interest of many an upstanding and distinguished-“

“Oh, I don’t doubt it Mzzz Garrett,” Quick interrupted, flashing his yellow smile, “it’s all very impressive.”

“Quite,” Barb seethed, “now, as I have said. Repeatedly. We. Are. Closed. You gentlemen will have to come back another time.”

We?” Quick, shot back, “we are closed? Do you have some compatriot of your own hidden away somewhere?

“That really is none of your-“

“Or perhaps you include the little gent behind the counter, there?” Quick said, stretching out to look over Barb’s shoulder.

“LittleGuy,” Barb corrected.

“What?” Sharp spat, spinning around once more to face Barb.

“That,” Barb pointed a finger over her shoulder, “is a LittleGuy. It’s a one-on-one fuckbot of diminutive stature with a substantial penis,” she paused relishing the men’s discomfort. “A LittleGent is a statuesque model with, I’m afraid, rather lacklustre equipment. LittleGents are designed for straight, cis couples experimenting with multiple partners,” her voice fell to a slow whisper, “men tend not to want the guest-star to show them up.”

“That’s it! You kink-tech fuck,” Quick shouted, reaching into his jacket.

Barb flinched, squeezing her eyes shut while turning and dropping into a crouch. But instead of a gunshot she heard a series of loud clicks, layered over one another, followed by a high pitched, persistent whine. She eased open one eye and turned her head to see Sharp bent over, almost double. His one hand flopped to the floor, while the other laid still cradled in his jacket. His head nodded jerkily and as Barb stared, it began to smoke. Black curls seeped from his ears gradually pouring out into greater flapping ribbons. As the smoke began to billow upwards, Sharp’s head creaked open, the back falling forward with a clunk to reveal the charred remnants of an artificial brain.

The sound of a cough dragged Barb’s attention to the left and she saw Quick standing with his fidgeting hands raised above his head, folds of black smoke wrapping about him. His face was turned away from Sharp, his eyes screwed shut as he juddered and shook, letting out blunt, rattling coughs, expelling the smouldering mind of his late partner.

Barb turned to the counter, surprise stretching the length of her face. The LittleGuy stood with his right arm extended ahead of him. The hand hung, dismantled; fingers dangling elongate, the palm split along the metacarpals to the wrist, revealing a gleaming, chrome cannon. A red glow pulsed at the point where the weapon emerged from the LittleGuy’s arm and crackling blue sparks arced over it’s barrel. Barb noticed the sharp tang of ozone in the air behind the smoke. The LittleGuy ran his still-assembled hand through his hair and scratched at his neck. He turned slightly towards Barb while keeping his eyes fixed on Quick.

“I’m so very sorry about all this Barb,” he said, in his pleasant low growl.

“Well aren’t you just full of surprises.” Barb cooed.

Notes From an Early Reconnaissance Prior to The First Celestial Conflict

The workings of the machine, if you could call it that, were intricate to the point of being maddening. It was made up, not of physical parts, but of what seemed to be translucent, ghostly shards, each one, a single three -dimensional edge or fractal facet of some ethereal, vaporous matter. They shimmered and flickered as they moved, collapsing, shattering and coalescing as they each worked to dismantle the recent dead, striping away their guilt, their shame and indeed their very selves, in order to fuel and people this horrific contraption. It was a terrible mockery of an afterlife promised from pulpits, an amalgam of heaven and hell, of peace and annihilation, this industrialised, postmortem punishment/purifier. Taking in the whole of it, I had the realisation that, on my previous visits, I had been deposited somewhere inside the swarming iterations of the thing itself. This time, however, the amygdalial inhibitor had thankfully worked as planed and had caused me to unfold at some external vantage point, able to survey, as best I could, the immense heaven/hell machine.

I was somehow able to view the continental, perhaps even planetary, engine as a complete whole. The sight of it, along with the crushing strain that its size and complexity placed on my transient from, was almost debilitating. I was awestruck, not only with the intricacy and delicacy of it, but also its compete lack of scale. I struggled to take in the extra-dimensional vastness of it, the colossal thing somehow twisting and compressing perspective, causing my gaze to splinter and multiply and blend. I saw in kaleidoscopic visions that shifted and folded throughout and around and inside that sprawling soul-machine, giving me a total yet incomprehensible sensory experience of its structure, its instrumentation, and its processes. 

All at once, I could witness any and every facet of its jagged, soul-spalling mechanisms, I could see into its deepest components and ingredients and products. It was as if my awareness of it was not one of a passive viewer, but that I was, myself, a part of of it, while also set apart from it. Spread around, and diluted throughout, the whole of that immense, etherial and diabolical engine. I was somehow intrinsically vital to the impossible contraption's ability to function, as if, for it to operate while I viewed it, the machine had to amalgamate my senses into itself. I realised then that the fleeting glimpses gleaned on previous expeditions had not been cut short due to improper dosages or imperfect regression as we had first thought, but that my presence there had been dismantled, eviscerated even, by the engine's undulating, gyrating and unfolding mechanisms. As they had stripped away the sins and selves of the unlucky dead, they also unraveled my own, transient ghost and sent me out and off and down, back to our own lower order of being. 

But now, having finally arrived outside of it, this time I could stay, I could see, and I could study.

It Will Help if the Presentation Feels Somewhat Familiar to Them

So Carl wants us to go through some of the lingo again, this vocabulary here, just so that we’ll be as comfortable with it as possible. It’s got to be slick on the day so let’s use English the whole time, ok?

-No problem.

Great. So, first things first, there have been a few changes.

-Changes?

Yes. Not too many though, mostly cosmetic. The meat of the destabilisation is essentially the same, they’re just changing up some specific words. See here? We’ve got to call the humans earthlings now, plus they’ve changed the names for most of our gear, our ship, our home and a bunch of other little things.

-What things?

Well, like this. We’ve got to call our phones communicators now.

-Why?

Carl just said that it’s what they’ll think we’ll call them. We’re all high-tech and futuristic to them, remember. Phone will sound too mundane apparently, sends the wrong message.

-But our phones aren’t futuristic, they’re just like theirs. Theirs were even better until we saw them and decided to put that immersive display on ours. We didn’t even think to have a screen until we started checking theirs out. It’s stuff like their phone ideas that we want the humans for, right?

Earthlings, remember, and I know but Carl said communicators is just better. As it turns out, they dreamt up these future phones years ago, ones kind of like they have now, in stories and stuff, and in those stories they called them communicators, so that’s what they’ll think we would call ours.

-That’s bollocks. They’ve actually got these communicators now, don’t they? They all do, they’re on them all the time. They’re probably even better than whatever each of them imagined when they were younger and they’ve all decided to keep calling them phones, haven’t they? They don’t go around all day on communicators saying hello fellow earthling, do they?

I know it sounds stupid but, I’m telling you, it’s what Carl said they’ll be expecting.

-What do you mean expecting? The humans? No one else has tried a full disclosure manipulation before, right? They’ve not been approached by anyone else?

Earthlings, remember, and no.

-Well there you go, no expectations then, surely.

You’d think so but the weird thing is Carl says they’ve been sort of fantasising together about meeting people from other planets for ages.

-So? Everyone does. Happens all the time. There’s all these crazy ideas they have and then we pull the reveal and they’re all Oh! Er, you’re just like us then, I guess, and we have a good laugh while they tell each other the odd things they’ve been dreaming up. Then we get to business.

Well that’s the thing, you see, they all kind of dream things up together. Carl tried to explain it to me and it’s like, well, remember when we were first learning English and we thought it was a bit odd, it being so full of all the esoteric poetic imagery, those historical and literary references and what have you?

-Yes, bloody nightmare!

Well, Carl says it’s like that because they all sort of decide to have their imaginations agree on certain things.

-How do you mean they all agree? There’s a fair few of them, aren’t there? They can’t all agree. We’re counting on a bit of confusion, aren’t we?

And there will be, Carl’s sure of it. There’s just this general consensus, apparently, on certain concepts anyway, without them even realising it sometimes. There’s these certain things that just become standard for them. Archetypes, Carl said. They share all these ideas, you see, and then the good ones just kinda become the way whatever it is, well, is.

-What? And they all just go along with it?

Mostly. Look, it’s like this: Someone thinks something up, like a story, you know? And everyone thinks it’s a good story so it sticks with them and they all sort of keep it in mind. Then, if they think up any stories of their own, like a new story but along similar lines as that first one, that story they all liked, then they copy the bits they liked from that first one and mix them about with a bunch of stuff they’ve added themselves. Even if they change something big, it just ends up getting defined by the way it’s different from what was decided on before by this collective imagination. Then the whole thing, it all sort of compounds and crystallises as things go along, so that you end up with this sort of general agreement on, say, what a thief looks and sounds like, or a hero, or what the afterlife is, or what little bearded guys living underground might be like, even people from other planets. It’s got something to do with why they’re so inventive, like an organic growth of ideas, you know? The big stuff building up over time. Upstairs think that if we go along with these expectations, at the start at least, we’ll get a good foothold nice and early that we can exploit later. Get it?

-Not really.

Look, it doesn’t really matter why. This is just something that Carl says he and the boffins upstairs have decided on. He says that the huma- sorry, earthlings. The earthlings will take this all a lot better if it fits in with the stuff they’ve decided on already, the stuff in their stories, that’s all.

-It just seems a bit inefficient to me, is all, us spending so much time getting good at English and then having to relearn a bunch of stuff just because they all go around copying one another’s dreams, just because they’ve got these plagiarist imaginations.

I know, I know but like I said, it’s the way Carl and the higher-ups want it, so we’re just going to have to go along with it. Ok?

-Ok, fine. Whatever. So humanity is a bunch of earthlings now, great, and we phone each other on our communicators. Totally normal. What else?

Payback

Dear Ms Elizabeth H. Tannen (circa 2019, timeline ref#8658grqx1),

We at Philanthropic Trans-Temporal are very happy to inform you that you have received an inheritance from one of your possible future selves!
We appreciate that this may be hard to believe, but if you check your bank account (******65) you will see that funds totalling $209,680, left to you by Ms Tannen (circa 2087 Timeline ref#8658gqrx0), have indeed been deposited into your account from the future! *

Please read through the pamphlet enclosed for a full explanation of the PTT Pay-It-Back Donation and Self-Inheritance system.**

We hope you enjoy the lifestyle and peace-of-mind that such a substantial windfall affords you and please be sure to keep Philanthropic Trans-Temporal in mind for any future payments or transfers to the past.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Amanda Dane

CEO and Founder
Philanthropic Trans-Temporal

*If funds are not present, please contact PTT client support on 0800 555 1984.
— We regret that this number is only active AFTER 10-21-19. If your inquiry occurs before the above date, please leave a voicemail message with Abe's Fishin' Tackle & Tobacco on 555 1623 814 (be sure to state the date and time to avoid any mental fragmentation due to causal-reverberation triggered by pre-event resolution) and PTT will get in touch as soon as our customer support centre is up and running.

**PTT strongly urges all clients to make themselves familiar with the 'What Next' section of the enclosed pamphlet so as to be fully prepared for the physical effects and/or mental strains caused by any retrotemporal branchings, annihilatory convergences, extradimentional geneses and/or any other such paradox-like complications, known or otherwise, that the client may experience due to this temporal fiscal redistribution in their timeline.***

***All clients should be aware that a client's future agreement to any services of PTT or its subsidiaries is retroactively binding under the Temporal Trade, Transfers and Communications act of 2020. As such, PTT cannot be held legally responsible for any injuries, ailments, psychoses, or other effects resulting from PTT's retro-temporal vector-shift of information within a client's timeline, on that client's future-self's behalf.