>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

>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

>B05[red_lettering]

Patterned red carpet under my bare feet and old pop music playing faintly in the background. The soda machine beside me buzzed.

The home I know is familiar skin.

I bashed the blue console in front of me.

“Hello?” I said. “Come on…”

But my home is always strange to me.

A round yellow face appeared, bright, simple and smiling.

“Hello, my name is Happy,” a man’s voice emanated from the static image. “How can I help y-”

“No,” I waved my arms, staring into the black eye above the screen. “Somebody stole my cat. I need you to send someone down here. To, you know, look.”

The screen didn’t reply at first.

“…I know we’re not supposed to have animals.”

The buzz of the electric visage stared silently at me.

I glanced back the route I’d come through the halls. Lights had sporadically gone out down the ghostly way, everyone fast asleep. The other direction the sign for the game room glowed.

“Did you see where it went, Frode?” the Smiler asked.

“What? No. I wouldn’t be talking to you, would I?”

My phone vibrated in my pajama pant pocket.

>’Dagr’_03:29:14 | “We could use you on Marshal. Bad team comp.”

I closed the text.

“You should go play with your friends, Frode,” the screen said.

I blinked.

The cheery face on the screen winked out. Suddenly I was alone in the hall. The police console was black.

What? Excuse me?

“Hey! What, you two-faced fuck?” I smacked the screen. “Cat!?”

I threw up my arms.

I could keep checking the building, I knew that’s what I’d do. But anything missing in this dingy cramped hive was something you never saw again.

I’d taken careful notice of the locks on the old man’s door. One simple turnkey bolt, no latch.

He was lucky he wasn’t spare parts at that rate. Continue reading