>H22[lonely_bread]

My vision was captured by what I was being shown, but I could feel, as if I were a blind man, Dag’s hand grabbing mine, keeping me stable.

“Don’t give it anything. Don’t think about anything,” he warned me. “It can’t see your memories if you don’t access them.”

What I saw was a grey landscape. The dead bodies piled up, the broken machinery strewn across miles of land, all of it the sight of war.

Michael guided me, stepping over corpses. That was its name, I knew.

The dark clouds overhead rumbled. Sheet lightning flashed.

“A slaughter,” he said. “But you had your revenge.

“What revenge?” I asked.

This isn’t real.

But the data was. Normal people, their eyes could be fooled by computer-generated imagery. With my mind, though, I had learned a long time ago to distinguish even perfect replications. It wasn’t easy, sometimes lies walked a thin line of amalgamated truths. But I knew BCI input from my own organs.

But this was raw. Clarity increased wherever the shadow scanned its head, and I could tell he had walked here before. This was the AI’s memory.

Oh, Christ.

The soil was stained with blood and oil under my bare toes. Continue reading

>H21[furthest_place]

The reason I hated electric dreams was always that I was too good for them. I might have said I could be happy as a Sleeper. Watch porn, sit on imaginary hilltops at the end of the world. But I would always be thinking. I could have given myself permission to fade, but that was something we looked for externally. The knowledge it was okay to let go. But I could never be bound to that place because I could never bring myself to choose something so comfortable.

My anxious indecision was a blessing, in a screwy way.

The strongest chains are those fitted for the weak. Lies were exactly that.

I recognized the illusion as it came to me. The rawness of false and artificial data input.

I stood above the Earth, now. The atmosphere was a blue haze at my feet and the void was lit in a trillion-star mosaic. I saw the moon in the distance, a pure white circle. The scale of it all was ecstatic.

Suddenly an eclipsing movement came. It grew to hide the moon.

A black orb moved between us, a negative space in my view, like a pit in reality. It was the dead god. It hovered close, far closer than any other object to me. Only the slightest shine defined its surface against the night.

As it floated it did the impossible. It shifted where it was, its exterior beginning to divide into two imperfectly overlapping spheres drifting apart. They moved into an equidistant placing in front of me. Two sleek black disks. They sunk back, the space around them changing as their surfaces adjusted to a new depth. They were like lenses coming into focus.

Two round, glassy eyes as a face came forward out of the fading stars behind them. Pale, expression vacant, the face changed in scale as the body came into view. A lonely and small person, his figure cut out by the shadows.

Wally fell to his knees, splashing down in a puddle.

It hurts. Continue reading

>G20[fallen_construct]

‘You come here on your motorcycle, Frode? Good. Let’s go for a drive.’

Chest pain and anxiety were razor butterflies in my chest.

After waiting in Dag’s apartment long enough for the cat and I to dry, we had headed out again. Deep into the lowest, ugliest districts. Deeper into the blackout zones than the Orpheum, by far.

The road conditions and cat in my jacket would have been enough, but my state of mind alone made driving almost impossible. My eyes were wide, weaving this low-lane traffic. There was a specific back route he had in mind.

The rain was ongoing but at this point I had gotten tired of complaining.

‘There’s something you need to see.’

Very soon our two motorcycles had only rubble and derelict vehicles to dodge. Even here, though, the vending machines glowed, vandalized as they were.

All told, I’d never left my sector before. This was three over.

Dag’s tail light led the way in front of me. I slowed as he did, taking an unexpected turn into a downsloping alley. The walls grew uncomfortably tight as it went on.

Suddenly the alley dropped down into an arched tunnel. Part of the old underground, back when the city had been built on actual ground. The black depths swallowed us.

The cat’s claws dug into my flesh with every major bump.

Up ahead there was a singular light. We slowed to a stop underneath it. There were old gas pumps standing in its halo, static playing on the video screens above them. Dag hopped off and turned them on. No card swipe.

“These pumps are just here?” I asked, killing my engine.

He didn’t answer. “Fill her up.”

As I hooked up my bike and took in the visual and audio static the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. There was a kind of smell on the air. A sound. An indescribable sensation that fell on me. Continue reading