>G18[accomplish_mission]

Surreality.

I ran downstairs to find a box stacked on one of the couches. I overturned it, throwing out the pile there of old clothes onto the floor, and put the cat, coat and all, inside. With the top flaps of cardboard folded over each other, I looked to my bike.

The cardboard would melt in my lap as I drove.

I had a second coat as I usually did, waterproofed as well. I slipped out of it and wrapped it over the box. Just a black tee covering me now, my arms burned on the air.

Man, I loved winter.

Couldn’t think about that now. My bike groaned to life with the rustling cat-box snug in my lap. I could manage this. No light, low fuel, bare skin on the frozen rain. I would be fine.

I rolled until the front door was in my path. Then, I rocketed out.

Let’s make it fast. I was going home.

//////////

After a few miles of rain and road, I slowed down in front of the apartments.

They had cleaned up since I lived here. The homeless had been run out from near the apartment entrance, I noticed. As I pulled in and parked, I made a dizzy dismount. The automatic space lowered my bike into the asphalt behind me. With the box in my hand I approached the locked rotating gate.

I swiped my card and received a loud buzzer.

“You are not permitted to enter this building, Frode,” the Smiler replied. His little face appeared on the card reader. Continue reading

>F16[salty_rain]

Sometimes you can’t do nothing. Even if it’s meaningless, anything will placate more than nothing.

Conflict was the blind God’s left, stronger hand.

I had awoken before sunrise again. But today was different. Miserably special.

My nightmare had been more real. It warned me with a vague feeling of uneasiness that Saturdays were no excuse to throw away my life. But there was a very witty rhetorical response to that hesitation for what I was about to do. It stayed on the forefront of mind.

We’re not done yet, the words came back to me. He’s watching.

I was unharvested capital, yet. Valuable in a way I didn’t want.

Damn the consequences. I had made up my mind.

I put on my rain boots, grabbing a black helmet off the counter top as I stood. The keys around my neck came off to lock the apartment behind me. As I was tucking them back into my shirt, throwing up my hood, I passed by one of my neighbors in the hall. At least I thought I recognized him.

Proximity meant nothing, though.

“Fuck off!” I shouted at his back.

He closed his door and I heard the bolt slide on. Not even a glance.

He didn’t want to know.

It’s not like I was a threat. Cameras dotted the ceiling, their rows carried on out of sight.

I went on my way.

The hollow eyes of my reflection looked back in the glass doors as I descended in the elevator to ground floor. They slid open and I stepped out into the concrete underbelly. It was a right from there into the garage, a short walk.

Everything was optimized for the least effort possible.

I slid my ID card over the black vault in front of me, bringing the inner machinery to life. I could hear the pistons and motors churning. Like a giant goddamn vending machine, my vehicle came to me. Continue reading

>D12[uglier_thoughts]

The stairs flew under my feet.

I was still bleeding from my head. I remembered now how it had happened, and I hadn’t been moving half this fast at the time.

The storm outside was penetrating the condemnable Orpheum, water running down every surface around me. I could hear it in the walls.

My head was aching, the kool-aid burning off into a black mental char.

As I busted through the bottom floor door it smashed into the wall and jumped its hinges, crashing down. Stumbling into the hall past so many of my staring peers, the distant music was my only guide.

“Skrimp!” I shouted. “Where are you?!”

//////////

The heart monitor was my only distraction.

The pain in my shoulder was buried in meds. It wasn’t something I’d ever experienced before.

Uriel,” I called, barely above a whisper.

My hospital room was blurry. I had smelled warm grass and hot garbage before, but not this mix of cleaner and cold saline in my veins.

I tried to turn my head over to see the ruined stump of my right shoulder, the gnarled skin and collapsed ribs around it. My breathing was one-lunged, panic shallow.

That was when I heard my room’s door open.  Continue reading

>C09[blue_koolaid]

One thing I’ve noticed? Even when we think we are, no one is quite playing the same game. The motivation is never one. That’s the rule.

Zoomin’ along.

I could swear I’d seen a body. In a glimpse, moving fast, it had passed in a blink. The fires and strange lights of the marsh cast every form in shadow. And the figure had been no different. Hairs stood up on the back of my neck.

But now, the light had appeared up ahead, blackened for moments by the shifting rider in front of me.

The stagnate stench was quickly passing.

I tried not to think about the depth of poverty under my feet at any one time. The zombies shambled in the cinder, I guessed. But it was bad business to roll this way. Stay above ground. We’d had one or two make a run at us already. People got violent across divides. Moreso if the gulf was high and low.

That was their game to play. Mine was to dodge.

Hundreds drowned down here every time it overpoured.

The flood control channel opened out into the air again suddenly and we were up the incline, smoothly. Onto the ridge of concrete before the slope.

My eyes were darting, right lung still struggling to expand.

I’m gonna be pissed if there’s nerve receptor damage.

I can’t afford a mechanic.

I pushed my mind to someplace else. The Orpheum and a wicked smile. Continue reading

>C08[lizard_brain]

Acceleration brought instability, pushing the limit.

I was trying to glance back as often as possible, but with the blood rush, I needed to keep a tighter grip than ever, eyes peeled. It was like every car had become violently loose, every change in the asphalt threatening to rip control, every shift in the position of vehicles calling on deadly precise corrections.

Wally turned around to shout at me, his helmet’s expression grave.

I couldn’t make out the heads up, but I knew what it meant as they started.

Move.

We cut between a semi and a bus, moving into the middle of the next two lanes over. We had to bide our time till the next off ramp.

This wasn’t normal. Butchers weren’t daft enough to do this.

Not at these speeds.

There’d be nothing to fucking take.

Hold your breath and peek like it’s naughty.

They had moved onto our lane. The frontman dared to shift aside, inches from fiery death by the next car over, to allow the one behind to move up. Two riders, now.

Look forward. Wally was straining to see without throwing Skrimp off or losing his hold. The wind was salty and acidic, and as we continued acceleration, tore at the skin.

There was nothing we could do but drive.

It has to be schizos. Loons. Chiller thrill killers.

I turned back and saw the second rider of the front bike aiming off his friend’s shoulder, a cold steel barrel barely visible between the blinding highway lights. Continue reading

>C07[faster_fast]

When I was younger I would sleepwalk, back before there was nowhere to go.

Life is a game of going faster, slower. Yet I go slowly, fast, and I don’t know.

I almost tripped, putting my focus on my feet.

The bells sounded to set us alight from school steps. Off we go!

Meandering in the crowd of others.

We were dodging the bus today. Getting out in the real world. Stretching our legs. All the things good boys do.

Fun, of the good ole American variety. Evil as she was.

Happy fucking Friday.

I had zoned through school, putting that blur behind me. Further, as we broke out of the crowd through the playground. Now, we were picking up our pace as the school lot ended up ahead in a barbed wire fence.

Wally’s firehouse coat flew up over the top and we climbed.

Most dangers weren’t frightening on countless confrontations, and I couldn’t remember the last time I’d cut myself on this fence. Almost two years of that.

The same amount of time I’d known my friends.

That’s what they are. Not a motley crew, more like four white guys.

We could be dull together. 

Coming over the fence, this time, I hit the ground running.

Four sets fell into tandem footfalls.

Behind the school was a dead zone. Old roads that were only occasionally ridden by AI-driven sentries. Black eyes were still on every corner as we crossed the street.

I made sure to flash a smile up.

Passing under the scaffolding of an unfinished building, we hurdled the lip of a paneless storefront window.

Chained to the raw concrete pillars inside which jutted up from the linoleum were three bikes. Three beautiful petrol and electric powered bikes. Waiting.

Skrimp clapped his hands together. “Hey now, baby!”

Wally’s eyes adjusted on me as I looked back. He quirked an eyebrow.

“Who you ridin’ with?” I asked.

“He’s with me,” Skrimp grinned. “I drive the carefullest.”

“Like hell you do,” Dag said. He pulled the keychain from his black jacket pocket and sorted through them, stripping keys off one at a time.

He tossed mine. Continue reading

>B06[two_certainties]

You know what’s bullshit? How hard it is to find an office supply store.

Office supplies? Ha.

Ha!

Who prints things?

This guy.

Elevator jazz played softly as I got off with a ding.

Approaching in the dim, I came to stand in front of a monstrous yellowed machine, somewhere in the underground of my building. A cube whose face was marked with the ridges of unopenable panels. The limp torso of an android extended up from one such panel which protruded from the thing. But it had long been defunct.

One black inset marked the otherwise weathered white. A dead screen.

“Hello?” I said. My head was pounding.

Nothing at all.

My phone in hand, I could see the listing for the machine registering as active. It wasn’t outdated. It was live and pinging.

I pressed ‘order online.’

“HELLO SIR!” The marionette motion of the android jittered to life with a grinding jolt.

I startled only a little.

“Goddammit!” I cried. “I’m not up for this! You get it, clanky?”

“YES SIR!”

“I’m running around, being chased. Like, it was fucked up, okay?”

“OKAY.”

“So listen, I just need you to print some flyers. Can do?”

“CAN DO! WE SUPPLY ALL YOUR OFFICE NEEDS, ABOMINATION.”

I pulled out my phone. “Thank God.” I rubbed my eyes, compulsively checked a watchless wrist yet again. Pay attention. “I’ve got the flyer design here, okay?” Continue reading

>A02[numb_hand]

Heaven poured out its angels.

With eyes screwed shut, inky shapes in thought stretched out to stranger perspectives. They were impression buried beneath reality, like memory. My free hand burned then as I clenched it.

I inhaled.

Blackened oil roiled in my mind, the sight of it washing pink flesh, permeating and staining it sallow in the dark contractions of my lungs. I really should quit, I thought.

My eyes opened.

Cold breath appeared on a plume of smoke. Heat and moist air came against the frigid breeze and distant light in a drifting fog. I took another intake, the rain pattering lightly around me. The plastic umbrella over my head was propped against my shoulder, my leg pulled up against my chest to brace it as I sat.

The midday gloom was hanging low, flowing overhead between the concrete heights of the school. The thirty-foot tall red sign for spicy noodles blazed across the street. The playground was only just around the corner from where the buses were loading. From the top of the slide, I had an eye on them.

Only a moment more to breathe.

I had one more drag before dropping it, strangling a cough as I did. That last exhale sputtered out. I picked up my legs and slid, the wet slide soaking me on the short ride to a quick stop.

“You look stupid.” Continue reading