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The Flowerhead Rebellion
by Salvatore Difalco, January 10th 2023

Carbone had sparked the rebellion from the Cheever Institute, a maximum security facility in the Mojave Desert, through the mechanism of his mind. Thus boasted this violent and subversive career criminal, serving a life sentence for multiple felonies, including the attempted assassination of a local alderman in his hometown whom he had also cuckolded. Broadcast telepathically to the mealy Flowerheads—rendered vulnerable to brainwashing and manipulation after a century of viral overload, incessant mystification, and bullying from the Meathead and Executive classes—the process proved to be more successful than Carbone had ever imagined. What are these thoughts I am experiencing? the Flowerheads must have wondered as they loped around the cities and countryside looking for targets of their ire. They were new, these thoughts. They urged truth-seeking, resistance to authority and, whenever possible, hyper-violence.


Gorg, the six-hundred-pound sentient cephalopod-human hybrid who shared a cell with Carbone, found it all amusing. “You’ve unleashed hell,” he chuckled. “Cities are burning. Administrators and bureaucrats dangle by their necks and feet from billboards and overpasses. Who would have thought the peaceable Flowerheads were capable of such savagery? What could have triggered them? I know you have a way about you—that charisma thing—but how in Neptune’s name did you pull this off?”


Carbone’s navy beard cracked open to a smile of crooked gamboge teeth. “It wasn’t as hard as you think,” he said from his upper bunk, bare blue feet kicking. “The Flowerheads were ripe for the picking as they say. Their lives were superficial and meaningless. Although beautiful, they lacked vitality and brio. And I understood this. But the real secret, technically speaking, is that my mother was a hydrangea.”


Gorg glanced at Carbone skeptically. Fucking guy was always telling stories. “Your mother was a what?”


“A hydrangea,” he said. “At least genetically. I kid you not.”


“How have you not told me that after all this time? You share a cell with someone for years and yet you barely know them. What a thing.”


“It wasn’t important. Besides, I thought my tint gave it away.” Carbone stretched out his feet and wriggled his blue toes.


“Look, man, there are lots of blue devils rotting away in this shithole. And I don’t think any of them can claim hydrangea genealogy. I didn’t even know it was a thing. Besides, are all hydrangeas blue?”


“Only the smart ones,” Carbone said with a terrible smile.


They fell silent for a time, listening to the incessant ticking and murmuring of the Institute resonating through the reinforced concrete walls and air vents. Now and then a piercing scream could be heard, usually of brief duration, followed by heavy silence. Guards were making their rounds, always a disquieting time.


“So, you somehow communicated to all the Flowerheads?”


“Not somehow. Telepathy. Or more specifically viral telepathy. Don’t look at me that way. It’s a thing.”


Gorg shook his bulbous head and rolled his brown, very human eyes. “You’re trying to tell me you’re telepathic?”


“Listen, it’s something I learned when I visited the Far East and the home of my ancestors. It’s an ancient discipline practiced by monks of a super secret sect I’m not at liberty to discuss, and its applications are limited to flora and flora hybrids.”


“The Far East? Secret sect? Could you be any vaguer? Somehow you’ve triggered a rebellion among the Flowerheads and you claim it’s telepathy and leave it at that. Come on, man—you have to tell me more about it. Or I’ll think you’re full of shit. Seriously.”


“That’s a whole other story, and I’m in no mood to tell it now,” Carbone said, as he lifted his legs and stretched out on his bunkbed.


Gorg made a gurgling sound and spread himself across the cool concrete floor. A reek of rotting fish rose from his fleshy gray folds. Even after three years of exposure to it, Carbone never could get used to the nostril-violating stench. Feeding times exacerbated the issue, what with the buckets of slimy chum they brought Gorg—given he couldn’t readily ambulate to the mess hall. More often than not, Carbone resorted to wearing a clove-scented scarf across his face or rubbing some clove oil or eucalyptus gum directly on his upper lip. What else was he to do? He didn’t hate Gorg, even though the modifier loathsome came to mind in his presence. A worldly and learned cephalopod-human, he had proven to be an interesting and at times provocative conversationalist—riffing competently on subjects as diverse as jazz, existentialism, and quantum mechanics—and had never expressed any sexual intentions toward him. Carbone figured it could have been much worse—for example, being caged for decades with a Brahmin. A Brahmin could be best described as a cross between a randy weasel and a veiny penisoraus. They had been specifically bred for sexual services, but uncontrollable testosterone levels rendered them psychosexually violent and almost universally loathed and criminalized except by fetishists. In plain terms, these things would fuck or try to fuck anything with an aperture, lubricated or not. It was an instance where scientists, if not science, had egregiously failed.


In the final analysis, Gorg wasn’t evil; Carbone had met some truly evil customers in the Institute, but Gorg was not one of them. He had been incarcerated for smothering a colony of sentient rats to death. Bioengineered at terrific cost with human brain organoids, the rats were building powerful miniature robots and doing groundbreaking nanotechnology research. Their entire project had been crushed in a careless, horrific instant. But Gorg swore the whole thing had been an accident, and he had never once strayed from that telling.


“Believe me,” he had said, “do you think I want their blood on my, er, tentacles? A colony of super smart rats? Damn. They did not deserve their fate. I am the first to admit it. But I just happened to be passing through, you know. I mean, I was just sliding along, inching along, mind my own business, and splat! It happens. Hey, I’m sorry, rats. I’m sorry, scientific community. I’m sorry, Universe. Mea fucking culpa. I had no intention of squashing the little fellas and destroying their work. But allow me to iterate that despite what anyone may think, there exists no law prohibiting weighing what I do—think of the pachyderm hybrids running the trucking industry—and I am as free to pursue my prosperity and happiness as any other creature walking or flying or crawling or swimming the Earth.”


“Notwithstanding the logic of your defense,” Carbone said pressing his fingertips together, and half-shutting his eyes. “do you believe you deserved a complete exoneration?”




“You know the powers that be would have never accepted that. Never. You messed up big time, Gorg. Culpability begins and ends with a balance book. You cost the corporations large. That’s unforgivable. No matter that there was no premeditation. That means nothing to them. You’re probably lucky to be alive, son.”


Gorg had nothing to say for a change. One of his gray tentacles rose and fell with resignation. A Silver Guard passed and banged their cell bars with a chrome baton. The week before it had replaced the Copper Guard after a violent incident with the Wilde Beast clan. Silver Guards were authorized to use lethal force if necessary. Four of the Wilde Beast clan had been vaporized since the installation of Silver. Needless to say, the remaining members of the Wilde Beast clan had been exceptionally well-behaved the past few days, not a peep from them.


“What are you two losers doing?” Silver intoned in its metallic voice. “Making whoopee? Is that what you call it? Heh heh heh. Who is top? Who is bottom? Oh, Gorg is bottom. Nice.”


“What I don’t like about you,” Gorg said, “is how you don’t have a fucking face. Even Copper has a face. Guess they skimped with you, eh boss?”


Silver banged the bars again with its baton. One flick of a switch and it could vaporize half of Gorg. Carbone couldn’t imagine what that would smell like. But Gorg had a point about Silver, whose face had no distinguishable features.


“Why don’t you leave us alone?” Carbone said. “Go check on the Brahmins. They won’t try to fuck your face because you don’t have a mouth or earholes.”


“We know about you, Carbone,” Silver said unexpectedly. “We know everything. The Gold Guard has been summoned. It will arrive in a day or two to interview you. Yes, sir, you heard correctly. Fun times ahead.”


Carbone bristled at the thought of being interrogated by a Gold Guard. Gold Guards could penetrate your mind, read and scramble your thoughts like so many eggs. His only previous encounter with a Gold Guard occurred at the admittance facility in Los Angeles when a Gold Guard had paralyzed him for creating a disturbance with a single touch of his neck.


“You do not like the sound of that, Carbone,” Silver said, its seamless and featureless face somehow still expressing a cynical smile. “I find that deeply amusing. Yes, that is correct. Amusing. I am programmed to find amusement in the activities of my wards. That way I am not compelled to vaporize them posthaste. Rather than be angry at you for causing so much damage to our society, I laugh at your trepidation concerning Gold Guard. Gold Guard will fix you, I am certain of that. He will correct your falsifications. We like to think of Gold Guard as our closer, as it were. This is language a rough creature like yourself understands, Carbone. Am I correct?”


“Go to hell, Tin Man.”


“Ah. That is an obscure but visually and culturally interesting reference. I see how you arrived at it. The Tin Man, according to my data banks, lacked a heart. I do not understand what that means. Would a Tin Man need a heart? I am powered by electronics and silicon hydraulics and commanded by algorithms. Do I need a heart, Carbone?”


“Metaphorically, perhaps you do,” he said. “Now leave us alone.”


The Silver Guard stood there for a time as if attempting to puzzle out what Carbone had meant. Then it abruptly departed with thudding footsteps.


Carbone sat up in his bunk, face locked in a bluish rictus.


“You’re pleased with yourself,” Gorg said.


“Wouldn’t you be? The Flowerheads are rampaging.”


“How long before the Meatheads put them down? For real? And why aren’t you quaking about a Gold Guard coming to see you? You may not be the same afterwards. It has a tendency to irrevocably alter inmates, and not always for the better.”


“The Meatheads are hindered by their superstitions.”


“How’s that?”


“The Meatheads will not pluck a flower before its time.”


“Did you say pluck?”


“Yes, I did.”


Gorg made a sucking sound and detached several of his tentacles from the floor, waving them in the air as if to restore circulation. “I’ve never heard that before,” he said, wearily. “And frankly, you’re staring to concern me. For instance, how are you not afraid of Gold Guard? How do you think you will fare against it without being turned into a vegetable? I don’t understand.”


Carbone sighed. Being understood was never easy.


“Seriously,” Gorg said, “you have to stop with this nonsense. It’ll get you hurt.”


“As we speak,” Carbone said, “a battalion of Flowerheads are proceeding across the desert to this location.”


“You mean …”


“Exactly. They’re busting me out of here.”


Carbone clasped his knees and rocked back and forth on his bunk, giggling to himself. Gorg sighed. Either the guy was telling an impossible truth, that a battalion of Flowerheads was somehow trekking across the Mojave Desert to come and free him, or it was just another story by a blue-skinned sociopath who told enough of them to keep things interesting.

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