This was a flash fiction I wrote when fleshing out the original idea for The Biomass Conflux series, back in 2015. If you've read the series, you'll see some differences and similarities in this piece. Differences in how the technology and society is structures, but similarities in the sense of body horror, and the ideas for the biomass.
I hope you enjoy!
Conversations about the Weather
As Chuck fell in beside me, I noticed his new hat. It sat high atop his head of spare, sandy hair; a large fedora, black with a little red slip of material on the rim. We spoke of trivialities as we entered Landing Strip Lane, squelching across wet plascrete and avoiding puddles. He would walk to the Chemical Countermeasures Department, me to the Weather Control Bureau, where I planned to correct our recent spate of rainfall.
Then I noticed Chuck held another hat in his hands; a bowler hat, brown, with a bit of green ribbon tied around it.
"Care for a hat?" he asked. "I'm planning on giving this one to my brother, but you're free to try it out if you wish. It'll keep the weather off." He checked his own hat, for maybe the fifth time, as he spoke. It was not the fashion here, to wear headgear. Not in such usually temperate weather. A bare head was a friendly head.
It had rained every day the last week—a miscalculation in the calibration of the rainsats, I was certain—leaving the streets coated with a sheen of unevaporated water. Yet this hardly called for such a drastic change of fashion.
"No thanks." I waved him away and changed the subject. He began to talk of last night's dinner party as we rode along the slipway on First Construction Boulevard.
"And how long before we can open the new colony radian?" I asked, cutting into his recounting. Chuck had met several new friends at the dinner, gaming at recboards long into the night, and I was sorry I missed the outing, on account of my fiddling with the errant rainsats.
"Hard to push the local biomass back," Chuck said. "It's resisting every chemical. No herbicides kill it. It renders most poisons inert, as if it has a mind of its own." He reached up to adjust his fedora again, sitting higher on his crown than one might think normal, and a flap of something thicker and clammier than skin was exposed. I nearly stumbled. Had it moved? Surely I was mistaken.
"I'm sure this rain doesn't help your job," I said. "Has anyone been out recently with colds or infections? Strange allergies?" I tried to keep my eyes away from his hat as he glanced toward me. We waited for the cross-slip belt to take us across the intersection teeming with personal scooters and morning busses.
"No—what makes you ask?" Chuck waved at a woman stalking toward us. "Morning, Jiune." I did not know her.
She was in a sheer suit and had a large red hat high on her head, its brim jagging up and down every time one of her heels touched the plascrete. Just as she passed us, a crosswind from a speeding scooter raised the brim enough for me to see her hairline, uneven as it was with growth. My eyebrows jerked in surprise, yet I tried to keep the emotion from my friend.
"Is she someone from last night?" I asked, dragging my eyes back from what Jiune attempted to hide. I watched the streets around us, people walking to their places of business with covered heads. Hats were back in fashion, it seemed. I yearned even more to correct my rainsats—to desiccate this rain-soaked landscape with bright sunshine.
"No. Someone else I know."
"Where from?" I was familiar with most of Chuck's friends. We frequented the same recpads and game lounges.
"Just around." Chuck continued to prattle and I strove to keep my answers civil, lest he suspect something amiss. But I let my steps grow shorter, falling behind him a little to observe. My hand rose, almost of its own accord, to tip his hat up just so, to see what the high-seated hat hid. I felt eyes on me, shaded by various states of haberdashery.
At once, I felt a gentle shove behind me, urging me to increase my pace. I found Jiune had returned from the brief errand that had taken her past us. The wind was against us now, and a gust blew the brim up again as I craned my neck. In response, my gaze flicked to the ever-present fields of peculiar flora this world boasted, just visible through the gaps in the buildings.
"It's best not to look," Chuck said, clamping a hand down on his own fedora. "We have a stop to make today, at your weather bureau. Fair weather and sun next week just won't do. My friends and I like it a bit damper and we want your help."
Jiune's digit trailed a single line from the base of my skull to the bottom of my neck, leaving what residue I knew not, though it was damp and cold. I shivered violently, and the spot began to tingle, like little spiders crawling up into my hair. My eyes were drawn back to Chuck's lack of hairline, just visible under his hat. I tried to brush the invasion off, but it stuck, rooting firmly into my body, leaving my movements jerky.
After a few moments, I turned down Reactor Boulevard with my new friends. I felt stronger, more at ease. Chuck handed me the spare bowler hat he held in store for his brother.