Any Colour You Like
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The sky was stained with metallic ash that eclipsed the sun.

A sickly yellow vapor settled into the trenches, coating each surface with a slick and corrosive grease. This substance slowly ate its way through lead, iron, and meat. Corpses littered the battlefield like the casings of so many expended bullets. Some resembled men. Others did not.

Here was a soldier with all the wrong proportions — one arm too long, the other too short. Three of his fingers extended several meters out, unfurled like loose folds of pink ribbon. His head was bulbous and bloated on the left side. Even his uniform was squashed and stretched, as if he fell through the wrong side of a fun-house mirror.

Here were over a dozen petrified hands that emerged from a patch of undisturbed soil — as if their owners sank into the earth even as they clung to the sky. Every so often, one twitched and convulsed, clawing desperately at the ground around it. This had gone on for several days. It would continue for several more.

Here was a heap of bodies burned beyond recognition, wisps of smoke rising from the pile. Their faces were blackened and charred — twisted into silent screams. Their teeth were exposed, leaving them with horrific grins. Their perforated chests continued to expand and collapse, heaving for breaths they could no longer contain.

A small group of scientists picked their way through this hellish landscape, surveying what their leader's impossible weapon had wrought. Each man was clean-shaven and sharply dressed; each wore a rubber gas-mask that obscured their features. One walked ahead of the rest. He kept a brass canister latched to his hip, providing his own mask with a supply of air.

Among the charred bodies, one towered over all others. Though fire had seared away the sídhe's ethereal beauty, his silver hair remained untouched. It swelled beneath his tall, scorched frame like a mattress of woven silk.

The others fell back. The man in front approached alone. Suddenly, he recalled a time when he had sat beside the sídhe, braiding pink-mauve daisy chains in his hair. Now, he reached for the iron knife sheathed at his side.

The sídhe gasped.

"Is it you?" His voice was choked with smoke and soot. He expelled smoldering cinders from his throat; dark flecks clung to his teeth.

The man hesitated. His chest constricted. He realized that he was not ready for this.

The sídhe spoke again: "Is it you, my love?"

He said nothing. The man sank to one knee and brandished the blade. The brass canister at his hip produced a delicate 'tsss'.

At the sound, the sídhe's arm — charred to the bone — flew up. Skeletal fingers grasped his mask and pulled it free. The young man's face, handsome and terrified, was bared. The gas singed his skin.

The sídhe sighed with understanding. Or was it relief? The young man could not tell.

"I'm sorry." His voice quaked. "I — "


"— had no choice. You — "


" — gave me no choice. It was us — "


" — or you," he whispered. The young man drew in a shuddering, trembling breath. The corrosive vapor filled his chest. He could feel it burning through his lungs.

The sídhe's hands fell back to his bed of hair. "To you, I will give one last, terrible gift. I will give you precisely what it is your poisoned heart desires."

The young man gripped the hilt in both palms.

"You shall live a long and victorious life, never knowing defeat or remorse. Not until you stand side-by-side with a marquee of the Fae — on ground forbidden to you both. Only then, you will see what you have sacrificed. Only then, you will taste the bitter fruit of regret. And only then, you will find your way eclipsed by the sun."

The young man lifted the knife. It shook in his hands.

"This is my final blessing and my dying curse. For you, my love."

Blinded by tears — his lungs filled with burning ash — Mendel Mercer drove the blade into the sídhe's chest: "No more fairy tales."

His heart was cleaved in twain.

Machine-Head snaps awake with a jolt.

It is sitting in the back-seat of a 1979 Chevrolet Monte Carlo parked in a Maryland gas station. Seph is sleeping on the floor, where he has exploited his cartilage-based skeletal system to pack himself into a comfortably tight space. Alex is outside, operating the gas pump. Sunny is missing — probably inside the store picking up snacks.

The dream is puzzling. Approximately 95% of Machine-Head's occupants do not know what to make of it. The remaining 5% have theories, all of which vary in plausibility.

Next: Brain Damage


Jacob ConwellJacob Conwell researcher-conwell-s-personnel-file SCP-3060

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