The Tale of Piotr Rabinski
A helicopter-like creature hovered overhead in the ashen, smog-impregnated sky. The orange glow of its searchlight projecting through the grimy atmosphere evoked terror in the minds of the urchins scrambling for cover.
Piotr, naked, hurled himself galumphingly into a garbage dumpster.
To his surprise, the dumpster was filled to the brim with filthy, garbage-encrusted water. Splash!
Bugger, thought Piotr. His unclad skin was now at least cloaked in opaque filth, so he didn't feel quite so naked, but hoped not to catch a nasty infection.
Through two solitary teeth, a withered old man whistled a tune that sounded oddly familiar to Piotr. Something about rabbits running? And why was he not afraid? Too insane to care?
A well-built guard kitted out in black commando gear stealthily shimmied down a rope dangling from the helicopter-creature. He landed towards the edge of the street, sheltered by skyscrapers, away from sight.
Simmering in this soiled soup, Piotr was unaware of the sweat seething from his every pore. It was sufficiently filthy that he may not even have noticed if he had lost control of his bowels from fear.
More machines whizzed about above him, projecting colourful lights which pierced their way through the filth-sodden atmosphere.
In conditions like these, one could never say with complete certainty whether it was day or night. The bright city lights partially penetrating the soupy sky ironically lightened the mood of any night. The impending weightiness of the borscht-like atmosphere which hung above them, combined with the constant thundering of gunfire, darkened any day.
That morning, Piotr had woken up in his family home just like any other day. His mother, an archetype of matriarchy, prepared a hearty beetroot soup and grilled sausages with sauerkraut to fill the bellies of her boys to go to work in the fields that day. Florian, Metody and Celestyn had slurped and gulped down their breakfast with great ferocity and dutifully set off for work with a 'thanks Mama' and a whistle.
Piotr had other ideas.
A stone's throw from their bucolic existence sat a burgeoning concrete monster. The Mrotek Corporation's metropolis spewed industrial waste forth in every direction, usurping the territory of their idyllic blue skies. It was as if the skies were engaged in a battle for territory and the side dressed in brilliant blue was losing ground on the Eastern front to the side dressed in drab grey rags.
This was no Warsaw, Kraków, or any other post-communist industrial city you might have heard of. The city popped up overnight when the farmers were all tucked snugly into their beds and grew in what they recalled to be a matter of only days.
Using technology from what seemed like another world to the peasants of Wieś, the city was an imposing menace. The villagers chose to simply ignore its existence and go on with their lives out of fear of what it might do to them otherwise.
Suitably warned by their mother's cautionary tale of what had happened to their father after he took on the Mrotek monster head on, Florian, Metody and Celestyn dared not venture beyond the city gates.
Piotr, on the other hand, was made of more adventurous stuff, and possessed a burning curiosity to learn what was behind those city gates, emblazoned with the words: Warning! Mrotek personnel only may pass this point!
He also could not stand to let the loss of his father go idly by without justice being wrought. Could the rumours of cannibalism be true? Piotr wondered as he thought about what might have happened to his father. His thumping heartbeat said 'maybe'.
Then old Mrs Rabinski took a basket and her umbrella and went through the woods to the bakers. She bought a loaf of brown bread and five currant buns, completely unaware of what her Piotr was up to.
Piotr slithered under the city gates; his face agog at the panoply of supplies. He collected machine guns and grenades, trip wires and switch blades, coal and kerosene into his wheelbarrow, and left it just inside the gates. How could they all just be lying here? he wondered. The city was not guarded as well as legend had him believe it was.
Or so he thought.
Piotr found himself being chased by a guard carrying a contraption that to Piotr's rural mind appeared like a giant rake. That was up until it started spraying laser beams in his general direction. Piotr ran and ran and ran some more: around skyscrapers; leaping toxic puddles; and shimmying down drainpipes in menacing alleyways. A part of him was excited by the thrill of the adventure. Another part of him was more rightly shitting himself, not literally.
Finally he had lost the stooge, but kept running anyway, no longer even looking where he was going, just running, running to the beat of his pounding heart.
And then whoosh! A giant net ensnared Piotr. His blue jacket with brass buttons was completely caught up, and before he had finally freed himself from the net, he was utterly naked and sobbing uncontrollably.
It was at this point that he encountered an urchin who comforted Piotr and encouraged him to keep running. 'These guards are not very clever. The Mrotek Corporation haven't recruited the sharpest tools in the shed. If you can just keep your wits about you, you can defeat them. Just run first!' the urchin had told him. The urchin then began to sing in English:
Run rabbit - run rabbit - Run! Run! Run!
Don't give the farmer his fun! Fun! Fun!
He'll get by
Without his rabbit pie
So run rabbit - run rabbit - Run! Run! Run!
And so Piotr did just that, drying his tears with the speed of his gait, before looking for a place to hide. This was fortunate, as a Mrotek Corporation helicopter-creature was now overhead, and he had only just identified a suitable-looking garbage dumpster.
Piotr sneezed at something in the filthy soup he now found himself an ingredient of that did not agree with his sensibilities. Achoo!
Hearing this, the guard, who had been looking for him amongst the piles of rubble, rotated his head three quarters of the way around in Piotr's direction. How did he do that? questioned Piotr, and why didn't he just turn it one quarter of the way in the other direction? Perhaps the urchin was right.
Just as the guard was about to uncover Piotr's dumpster-lid, he leapt out of the dumpster and began to run through the streets, naked and dripping goo, desperate and crying once again.
His tears etched channels through the grime on his face, leaving a web of whiskers in their path.
He asked an urchin the way to the city gates, but the urchin couldn't speak through a mouthful of dead rat. Piotr was in too much of a hurry to wait for a response and kept running, suppressing his disgust at witnessing such an act by a young child.
Still crying and naked, Piotr finally encountered his first adult within the city limits who did not appear to be a guard, sitting still and stalking a cat for his supper with a samurai sword held above his head. The cat, in turn, was stalking a goldfish that was swimming about frantically in a silvery puddle. People inside the city were desperate enough to eat anything and a cat was quite a feast compared to the other alternatives.
Piotr was too afraid to speak to the man, and instead climbed onto a pile of rubble. It was not long before he discovered that this was no rubble, but rather a pile of corpses. Human faces and hands. Eyes looking up at him, pleading for their lives back. Was that his father? The bodies were too mutilated to really tell.
Piotr felt as if he had exhausted his supply of emotions and this time opted for numbness.
He spied the guard, but more importantly, the city gates. He could also see that the guard had put Piotr's blue coat and shoes on a dead man's body with a switchblade sticking into his throat, hanging as an effigy to warn other rebels of the consequences of bravery.
He caught a second look and noticed the guard had lost a leg, just below the knee. Dangling from the knee socket were electrical cables giving off sparks which dissipated in the grimy puddles below.
What is this unnatural creature? thought Piotr to himself, Is he born of God or from some other realm? Could it really be considered cannibalism for such a creature to consume a human? Surely it was no human itself! Piotr always had ideas beyond what was needed to be a farmer. He was a philosopher out of water.
Before he could further assess the creature's attributes or origins, dangerous lights were being showered in his general direction, originating from a weapon embedded in the creature's arm.
Piotr slunk under the gates and ran home, too desperate to fetch his umbrella, care about his nakedness, or wish to get to the bottom of the source of this foreign urban sprawl. He now understood why his people simply chose to ignore its presence and get on with their daily lives as if it did not exist.
Piotr's mother put him to bed with nothing more than a cup of camomile tea, while Florian, Metody and Celestyn feasted on pierogies, kielbasa and vegetable stew.
Mrs Rabinski shook her head, clucked her tongue, and whispered under her breath: 'What mischief has my Piotr been up to this time? He's as bad as his father!'
Piotr shivered and spoke in tongues in his sleep, but never told his family what had happened that day in the city that spread ever-outwards and stole their perfect azure skies.
AN - this story was written as an exercise from a workshop at which we had to choose a children's story that still resonated with us, pull a genre and out of a hat, and rewrite it as an adult story in that genre.
edit: Ioga guessed correctly, it was based on the tale of Peter Rabbit, in the genre of cyberpunk, set in Poland.