A Thimble Full of Sanity

A Thimble Full of Sanity

A Story by Matt Perrington

In a dystopian future, a young woman is faced with an apocalyptic choice, whilst an army of wayward Popes attempt to stop her.


A Thimble Full of Sanity


“Oh, just a thimble full,” she said as she argued testily over her cereal, her illusory Opposer silently denying her the satisfaction of an answer.  Across the hall the grunting remains of death screams gave a counterpoint to the steady drone of traffic outside; the neighbours often killed their visitors, food was expensive here unless you took a job, but such time consuming activities were dull.  Raising her glass to her voluminous shelf of books, her mind followed her eyes, which were searching for inspiration. Her anger dissipated, as did the arguee, back to the recesses of her own mind, where it waited for her next internal dilemma.  Her own needs were monetarily seen to through the good fortune of a long dead relative, who had the sense to trust only the underside of his mattress with his hard earned coin, and through this family wealth, her imagination had broadened due to an extensive, expensive education.  This imagination enabled her to supplement this fortune with a small but reasonably steady income, and, unbeknownst to the young man, it was to see her creations that she had been invited to tonight.


The blind pope fumbled in the recesses of his robe, itching shamelessly, as the wine was ceremoniously passed his way, steam still rising from the amphora.  Taking his sip, Benedict XVIII raised his blind eyes to the ruined dome of St Peter’s and searched for god. 

Light filtered through the holes in the dome, illuminating the ancient cracks in the ornate marble where the dust and debris had been cleared.

“I think I’ve found her” called Pope John XX, angling his computer screen so they could all see.  Some other wayward child, he thought, soon to inevitably repent once subjected to the confessional booth.  


The theatre was dark, small and exclusively private, a strict guest list was enforced through an unnaturally large male in red and white stripes, which did not make him look jolly, and of course the ridiculously priced tickets.  She could have entered for free of course, but it paid to keep her work, and its little privileges, private; there were still some, mostly religious, that believed what she was doing was wrong.  The monster at the door winked at her, he was one of her best sellers. 

Jonda, The unrespected gentleman who had asked her here, was piteously naïve, but not totally without charm, though his single-minded eye humorously cancelled any attempt at platonic conversation.  They took their red velvet seats in the centre of the curved auditorium, looking down on a dark black stage, deep red curtain drawn.  It was customary to obscure the face at these events, and she had chosen a black mask to cover her eyes, blood red details matching her lips, and her heels.  The dress was black.

Around the room the masks gave the impression of a masquerade, and she enjoyed the party atmosphere.  Complimentary drinks loosened tongues while they waited, and she invented a fantastic back-story to occupy her gentleman when asked about her life, her best yet.

The Circus began in traditional style, everything as expected, but it was the second act, after interval, that they were here for: the grotesquery.


Is this what we’ve been reduced to? Chasing after women who had lost their way? Thought Benedict XVIII, as the communion of Popes watched their comrades on the monitor closing in on the theatre.

At some point lost in memory, most religions had blended together under the common theist agenda, and had attempted a war against the godless.  This had inevitably turned into ongoing, low-level terrorist action as their numbers reduced until only a few pockets of the faithful remained.


Genetically modified humanoid (the audience loved humanoid) beings, kept alive through copious medicines and drugs.  For the audience there was a fascinating disgust with the terrific horrors before them, a fixation, wanting to look away but wanting even more to see.  And this was her trade. 

She had studied biology, human genome sequencing, genetic diseases, computer programming and a great many other disciplines, and found she had a flair for artistic bioengineering. 

These poor souls on the stage were the result.  It was amazing what a biological glitch could create.  A new creature entered, dragging herself along on a wheeled cart with the stump of a deformed limb, her oversized internal organs following in a glass box.  She realised more of her pity and disgust was directed at the audience themselves, the horrified and enthralled people who chose to lavish rare cash on entrance to this exclusive brothel of disease and deformity, to take this treat willingly was surly more deformed than this girl before them?


Huddled outside the theatre, Pope Gregory pulled hard on his reverential cigarette and passed the hip-flask to Pope Antony. 

“Done?” he enquired of Pope Pontian.

“Done” he confirmed. 

The explosives were timed to the grand finale of the heretical show inside, destroying the circus of abominations, along with its creator, in a single efficient cleansing.  


A large plate of fantastically coloured food and drink was brought on stage so that the effects may be observed as they passed through the various organs. This entertainment did not entertain her, and so her mind wandered.

A message had arrived that morning, through the usual discreet channels, a client looking for a creation, as they always were.

On stage the intestine was pulsing, a red spotlight matching tempo, accentuating the effect with the pseudo magic of theatre.

The message was overly specific, and she did not doubt the client had the knowledge to perform the task themselves, which disturbed her more than it ought.  Up to now, all client’s demands followed the same pattern; ‘three arms and as many eyes as possible’, or, more often; ‘young, beautiful and a lust for fat old men or women’.  There were obvious limits to what could be achieved, and the amount of money offered indicated the time she would spend reaching a solution. 

The disembodied rectum on stage now began spewing multicoloured faeces to a spattering of applause, her burden a cheap party trick.

This message, however, gave the exact genetic programming solution; all she was asked to do was to nurture and grow the creation until further notice.  A huge deposit of money had entered her account, with the note ‘to help you consider.’


Leaving before the grand finale, and alone, from the theatre; the transparent charms of Jonda wearing thin as the wine wore down his patience, she noticed a thistle forcing its way up from a drain.  Life had not yet been eradicated! She rejoiced, this wilting weed a beacon of hope, she winked at the innocent blemish in the concrete world.  “The apocalypse is coming” she whispered conspiratorially, and changed direction from home to bar, her mood lifted.

This place was the eternal city, named for its permanence through history, but its moniker had taken an ironic meaning these last couple of centuries.  Now, eternal meant never ending, for this city encircled the globe, broken only by the blackness of the oceans, where all food must now be sourced, farmed, regulated, and increased to unnatural and unsustainable proportions.  She had never considered the wildlife, pushed to extinction by the monotonous and inevitable expansion of concrete, brick and iron, but here it was, buried but not dead, life other than human.


Pope Benedict XVIII listened inattentively to the outrage of Pope Sebastian.  It would appear the young lady has escaped.  It would appear Sebastian was unhappy about it.  It was then, late as usual, that Pope Pontian shuffled up and took his place on the pew, gnawing on the stubby remains of his fingernails. 

“And what have you to say?” Sebastian Demanded.

“I followed her” the young man replied meekly, “I have her address.”


A message flashed on her computer, the only light in an otherwise darkened room.  Her head constricted, she had stayed too long at the bar, and an empty wine bottle rolled on the floor.  The flashing persisted through closed eyelids and synchronised with the pulsing in her temples. 

When she awoke again the insistent alarm continued, even when she politely appealed to her silent abstract lodger, who made no attempt to acknowledge her pleas to the empty room.  Dragging herself painfully across the floor, the heavy duvet sashaying to the floor from around her naked waist, she made her way to the eternal message.  From the same alias as her new client, three words: ‘It’s your choice’.  Finding no hangover cure hidden in the message she let herself slip off the chair and curled back to sleep.

She took a walk that evening, ‘of course it was her choice’ she spoke to the space where the trees used to be, ‘why wake me for that?’  But the whole situation gnawed her mind, and she could think of none other.  The creation the client had asked for was a parasite.  A parasite that would infect a human brain, lay eggs, and then eat the body from the inside, leaving a highly contagious husk for whoever might find it. 

Her walk took her past the ‘Relaxation Zone’, a beautiful garden of plastic trees, where people would sit and shade themselves from the fluorescent light hanging above.

It would be easy to create; she had the facilities in her own room. For larger specimens she would usually create the embryo and send it away to be developed, but the parasite could be created from her bed. 

This cryptic message that had disturbed her alcohol dreams and for the first time made her question a clients motives.  “And this bloody garden” she complained to no one.  Even the water was cleaned and filtered in case someone tried to drink it.  The only thing she had questioned before was the price.


‘This divine plan has become excruciatingly distorted’ The blind pope muttered to the retreating backs of the congregation, their intentions scrupulously planned so as to allow no mistakes this time.  He suspected the lines between interpretation and invention were becoming blurred, and almost hoped this was true, for his god to ask this would be sacrilege itself, but perhaps this was the road to redemption, for when you stray this far from the path, the route to return was not always straight and narrow. 


“But could not I be the goddess of destruction?” she whispered upon returning to her empty room, “as the blind follow the blind into the ocean?” She studied the wine, swirling the parasitic job through her mind. The idea interested her.  She believed she could see the intention in the mysterious plan of this client, this hero of apocryphal salvation, and the choice was hers.  Refilling her glass she began to work.

Propped up in bed, duvet tight around her neck, the code took shape, she had made a few adjustments to the original script, but on the whole, it was just copying the information from one program to another.  Quite tedious, for such a terrible formula, and her mind wandered around, loosely feeling the boundaries of her room, and tried to answer the clients question; ‘it’s your choice.’

It was past midnight when she pressed send, the information was transmitted to the incubator, where it would be processed and converted to real matter. This done, she slumped over her laptop and slept.


The thistle! She remembered on waking, and grabbing a glass of water she rushed out to nurture this green amongst the grey, and found the poor shoot had been squashed, snapped near in half.  “You shall return,” she whispered, angrily searching the street for the murderer.  Resolute, she returned home, her choice had been made, she injected the parasite into her arm, this end of humanity, her body will cultivate the downfall of the eternal city, for once this parasite begins to spread, nothing could stop it, and with humanity gone, life could push up undisturbed through the cracks in the ground, and soon nothing will be left but green. 


Pope Gregory forced his way into the room with his shoulder, gun raised to find the lifeless body of Ms Lucy. 

“Check it” he barked at Pope Linus, as he and Pontian wandered through the rest of the small but chaotically cluttered room, wading through papers and books and empty wine bottles.  Linus edged warily towards the dehydrated corpse.  The skin was pulled tight across the bones, wrinkled like oak bark, weeping with sores.  


He nudged the abdomen with his boot, and a hole started to tear, small at first, but then rapidly ripping apart the stomach, spurting a yellowy gas as the body deflated.  He coughed, inhaling a foul breath of contaminated air.

© 2016 Matt Perrington

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Solemnly Swear
An action-packed suspense thriller that explores the fragile balance between justice and self-preservation.


Added on July 29, 2016
Last Updated on July 29, 2016
Tags: Short Story, Fantasy, Future, Pope, Popes, Monster, Deformed, Wine


Matt Perrington
Matt Perrington

United Kingdom