Weng-Li worked his worn knuckles along the knotted RJ45 cable stapled to the altar. The stereo played today’s freshest animantras through a sun-shot fog of Nag Champa and cheap Afghani hashish; Weng-Li altered the cadence of his chant slightly, modulating it to incorporate and celebrate the roar and clatter of the train as it passed over the shanty. All must be included in the One.
Weng-Li didn’t need to look behind him to know his client was kneeling patiently on the packed dirt in the corner of his shack as instructed. His reputation spoke for itself, and a client with sincerity would know not to disobey; just like the old gods, the new ones were not to be disrespected.
Weng-Li closed his eyes one last time, slowly lowering the mantra to a looping drone as the shafts of sun drew mandalas through his lids. The last clangorous chord of the tinny temple music faded away, replaced by the muted rattle and chatter of the shanty market in full swing. Weng-Li opened his eyes, looked down at the altar in front of him â€” at the small pile of grubby used dollar bills resting on a cracked china plate, and at the eviscerated circuit board of the broken DVR. His mind was clear; the paths were plain.
Still holding the holy note in his throat, Weng-Li stretched out his hand and reached into his toolbox.
[ With apologies to Jeff Noon for the blatant theft of the title … but then again, it’s his fault I write sf anyway, so there’s your divine justice, I guess. 🙂
This is a tweaked and polished version of the sketch I produced during our Friday Flash Fiction workshop at Eastercon, in case you were wondering. More of a vignette than a story, I guess, but there you go.]