I wrote this story some time around the turn of the millennium. I lost it, but I liked the idea. The true part of the story is that my brother Larry told me the whole thing, just as I wrote it. I am not so sure about the name Zorgo. The real name might not be pronounceable to humans.
I sold a story with the same name to Tyree for Aoife’s kiss, but that was a version that I recreated from memory and it had a different ending. Recently, I was cleaning out a briefcase that I used at that time and found a backup CD that I thought that I had lost. The CD had the original versions of four stories that I later rewrote. This one is good enough that I include it here.
The Hand of Zorgo
By Keith P. Graham
I went down to Chinatown last summer with my brother Larry looking for a guitar store that he’d heard about. We parked by the Hudson River and we were walking east along Canal Street when we passed a large dumpster outside of an old gutted apartment building. West Canal Street is in an old and rundown area of New York where the sidewalks are irregular and the buildings all sag and tilt in different directions. There are large lofts where crazy artists used to live practically for free and now rich uptown executives pay millions of dollars for rent. We never did find the guitar store, but the dumpster was a temptation too inviting to pass by. It was full to the brim with the remains of the contents of six apartments.
In my family there is no one who can pass a garage sale without stopping or drive by a roadside pile of junk without slowing down. Finding gold in other people’s trash is in our blood. I once had to pull my 75 year old mother away from an interesting pile of boxes while walking to church early one Sunday morning. Before you could say “recycle” we were both up over the side of the dumpster, hip deep in the discarded treasures of several families.
I don’t remember all of what we found, but I got a box of vacuum tubes and Larry got a bag of 45′s from 1960′s. There were some mostly unused cans of spray paint and small carton of crazy glue. There was other stuff, too, because we went back to the station wagon a couple of times with our arms full.
When we had exhausted the supply of anything valuable from the dumpster we jumped down decided to head towards Mulberry Street where there were some good, inexpensive Chinese restaurants. Larry had a strange bunch of metal and wires that he was inspecting. I looked closer to see what it was. It looked like a medieval gauntlet or iron glove that a knight might wear with his suit of armor but with tubes and cables sticking out the wrist.
“Cool”, I said, “a robot hand.”
“Maybe it’s an Astronaut glove.” He speculated.
“Nope,” I said, “you can’t put your hand into it. It’s some sort of prosthesis.”
Larry pressed a dimple on the side and the fingers flexed and relaxed one after another. “Hey!” he exclaimed “The batteries are still good.”
“Cool. Let me see it.” I begged.
He handed it over to me and I looked closely at it. I had to tilt up my glasses to get a close view because the detail on the hand was amazing. There were thousands of small threads that looked like fiber optic cables that raggedly stuck out at the wrist as well as smaller plastic rods that were broken or chopped off. If you moved one of the rods they would articulate a finger. If you twisted the rod it would move the corresponding finger from side to side. The surface of the hand looked like a dull gray metal like pewter, finely etched with thousands of small scratches, yet it was flexible and felt warm and yielding like rubber.
“I know what it is.” Larry said snatching it back from me.
“What?” I asked. Larry is the musician in the family. I’m the one with the engineering and technical background. I didn’t have a clue as to what the hand could be and I was sure that Larry didn’t either.
“I can see it all. I know all about this thing. It’s a threat and mystery. I can see it all.” Larry made no sense. Musician’s smoke too much marijuana.
“Tell me about it. I think it’s a prototype for some kind of robotic arm. It probably never worked and the guy who made it threw it out.”
“No,” Larry said gravely, “It’s old… It’s millions of years old. It has come here from across space and time to fall here in this dumpster. We should destroy it before it destroys us!”
“You’ve been reading Bob’s comic books again.” I said. Bob is another guitar player who collects lurid ‘adult’ comics, space opera and sci-fi videos.
“I can see it.” Larry said with a faraway look in his eyes. “I know the whole story. It came to me in a flash – maybe telepathically transmitted.”
I could see that I was in for it. We were on the west side of Canal Street; almost to the river. There was more than a mile to the lunch place on Mulberry where we were heading. There was nothing to do but let him tell his tale. I kept my comments to a minimum and looked forward to eating some sesame chicken.
This is the story that Larry told:
* * *
The name of the creature was Zorgo. He lived, if you can call it a living thing, many millions of years ago at the edge of this galaxy. Zorgo was conceived as the perfect killing machine. He was born and designed, built and nourished, educated and programmed before mankind was a twinkle in a prehistoric rat’s eye. He was part machine and part organic. He was the inscrutable weapon of an ancient race. He was a weapon that its enemies could never understand. He was given a dark and secret purpose. This purpose drove him to massacre his enemies and eventually destroy all who stood in his way. He and an army of creatures like him made up an unstoppable wave of conquest that wiped out any who opposed or even protested their progress.
There were powers in those days that fought eye to eye in battlefields that are long gone. Armadas of ships powered by supernovas sent beams of energy that are still echoing through the universe and which even now will explode an unlucky sun every few million years. There were battles fought with pure power and others fought with thought only and we will never know or even be able to understand what was at stake. Yet Zorgo continued with a purpose that even those who had created him had long forgotten.
After a time, more than a thousand of our puny years, but less than a million, things changed. The armies changed, the weapons changed but the race of Zorgo didn’t change. Countermeasures proved difficult, partly because the secret desires and motivations of the ultimate protagonist could never be fully understood. How can the maxim “Know Your Enemy” apply to such as Zorgo? Weapons and defenses invariable proved useless against Zorgo and his kin.
But all things are part of the great wheel of life and there came an enemy with a purpose as secret as that of Zorgo and a power just a little greater. At an empty field of space, light years from the nearest star, a silent battle took place. The light of this battle bathed the earth many millions of years ago and our own primeval ancestors look up in wonder at the violence of energies that could rival thousands of suns – dimmed only by the uncounted miles.
The two opposing forces broke upon each other destroying and being destroyed. The battle raged for millenia and in the end there were no winners. The power and might of Zorgo and his brothers had been stopped, but there was no evidence of this except metallic vapor and dust with a few larger chunks of debris. There was no one to witness because the races that had started the war had been wiped out eons before.
There was nothing except….
The dismembered hand of Zorgo sped through space at a sizable percentage of the speed of light. He clutched at emptiness and formed a fist and then spread his fingers wide. He absorbed energy from the light of distant stars and collected dust from space to fuse into metal and repair itself. The terrible purpose of Zorgo lived on. The purpose was in every part of the mighty machine. Each fiber of his being contained the secretly encoded reason for his existence.
Zorgo waited patiently as he sped through space. He moved his fingers and subtly changed his path, careening around a sun here, approaching a gas giant there. He collected molecules of hydrogen, oxygen and carbon as they passed near. Some he used for repair, others he saved as reactant for small maneuvering jets he built from the chance molecules of iron and other metals that he found.
With a spurt of superheated ions Zorgo made course corrections as he neared solar systems. He slowed as the constant winds of space buffeted him. He made constant repairs as cosmic radiation weakened his structure. His memory filled with the eons of contemplations as he passed through the void. He wiped his memory and started again. Zorgo no longer remembered where he came from or how he had come to be a hand drifting through space. All that remained was his terrible purpose.
A small blue planet came into view after a long lonely wait. Zorgo felt the stirring of his purpose. The planet teamed with life and nascent technology. He adjusted his path and started a slow decent. He spread his fingers and entered the atmosphere, skimming lightly over the air of this world like a stone on pond, bleeding off his kinetic energy.
Zorgo fell into the city and landed in a dumpster. His small rockets, so painstakingly built over millions of years had been stripped off by the heat of his descent. He lay, almost drained of energy, cooling in the damp atmosphere. He was surrounded by strange artifacts. He rested. The filtered light of the nearby sun moved over him, slowly charging his energy cells. Zorgo healed.
Two small creatures crawled in to the dumpster and found him. They were of low intelligence and found the hand to be of little value. They discarded their find in a refuse basket after a short discussion.
Zorgo waited until dark. He needed to build himself back up if he were going to fulfill his purpose. He crawled out of the basket and found his way down through a crack into an old cellar. He discovered papers with glyphs on them and after a few seconds was able to decode the simple language used by the native animals. He found a broken electronic audio device and robbed it of many valuable materials. He found currency in the sewers as the hand roamed on its fingers through the smoggy nights.
He read the back of Popular Science magazine and before long was able to send for Edmund’s Scientific Catalog, the plans for an anti-gravity device and a box to decode cable TV (This later proved useless). He collected scraps of metal and was able to tap into the local power grid for energy. Strange packages were left on the building’s doorstep and were quickly whisked away by a scurrying unseen hand.
Zorgo found a computer and was able to reverse engineer the network connection and after a few days he was surfing the web. He took it all in; eCommerce, Stock trading, Porn and vanity sites. He learned what he could about this strange planet where he had landed.
As Zorgo slowly rebuilt himself, he knew that here – on Earth – he could fulfill his secret and all encompassing purpose. Here on earth he could satisfy the aching need that drove him onward.
There came a day when Zorgo’s body was complete. He had lost the memory of what his body had originally looked like and found it convenient to mirror the flaccid and puny bodies of the local fauna. He appeared, on the surface, to be a large muscular man with dark skin and rippling muscles. He found some discarded clothes that fit him and began to wander the city.
Zorgo passed the crowds of people. They instinctively avoided his path – perhaps they sensed their danger. He looked into their faces with glowing metallic eyes, but they did not return his gaze. He planned and explored, waiting for the day he could realize his destiny.
Zorgo went out one night. His plan was complete. His body was working well. It was a thousand times stronger than any man. He had the stored energy of a small star stored beneath his rippling muscles. He was dressed in a mode that disguised his alien nature from those around him.
Two brothers returned to the city around that time. They were discussing guitars and Blues Music and preparing to go the Tribecca Grill where a good band was playing. As they passed the corner where they had discarded the hand, one brother remembered it and mentioned it to his brother.
“What could such a creature want from us?” one asked.
The other answered: “How can we understand the wants and needs of an alien race? On what level can we understand the secret desires of a creature that arose so far from earth?”
“No,” the first brother answered. “There are universal truths that can, in time, be understood by all. There is a commonality to the condition of life which we all share. I don’t care how alien you are.”
“I don’t know about that.” The first answered. “What one thing can all creatures want? What universal truth is there to know? What is it that our innermost souls all need?”
At that moment they passed by an old abandoned apartment building, but there was glow coming from a basement window. The brother called ‘Larry’ bent down low and looked through the grimy pain of glass. He saw there a large powerfully black man, naked and sitting back in an old chair. There was a large ‘Z’ tattooed on his chest. On the bed next to him was a pretty woman, her nakedness hardly covered by a dirty blanket. She had the look of profound satisfaction on her face. The black man had a beer and one hand and was holding a lit cigarette with the other. The hand holding the cigarette was wearing what looked like a metallic glove. He had a smirk on his face and his eyes were half closed. Larry thought he could hear him chuckling.
Larry stood up, thought for moment and said “I guess,” he said, “Everybody wants the same thing.”
“Everybody,” he said looking back at the glow coming from the cellar window, “just wants to get laid.”
* * *
By the time Larry had finished his story, I had stopped listening. When he gets on one of these kicks, you have to just nod your head and say “far out” once in a while. You have to let him get it out of his system. When we stopped at the corner to cross Mulberry Street, Larry tossed the hand into a trash basket (but not without checking first to see if was anything interesting in the basket first). As the light changed we started off again towards the restaurant.
“It just came to me.” Larry said, but I was thinking about Sesame Chicken.
I looked back and I thought I saw some movement in the trash basket.