Friday, January 23, 2009

One-way street

The car swerved madly to the left, pounding over a mossy concrete island that separated the street into two narrow lanes. The undercarriage rasped and clunked; I floundered in my seat, my seatbelt biting into my shoulder, scenery reeling outside. I stared vapidly at the partition, now alive with meaningless animated graphics. We scudded past the far side of the island, tires groping for purchase, chunks of wet asphalt and scorched metal rattling against the windows.

The woman -- it occurred to me with absurd clarity that I still didn't know her name -- was barking commands into the suddenly stuffy air and grappling with the toggle that controlled her door's germicide seal. "We've been hacked," she said, calm infusing her voice.

"But we've got a human driver . . ."

"It found a way in."

I leaned back and uncertainly elevated my legs, ready to kick the partition. The cushions had stopped their hypnotic massage; I felt them clutching at my neck like mittened hands, the metal digits beneath the fake leather poking and straining. I rocked back and kicked the display screen. The veneer of plastic cracked noisily; my boots came away bloody with liquid crystal. The car swerved, accelerated. I kicked again, tucking my head forward to avoid the seat's questing musculature.

The woman had withdrawn a wedge-shaped gun from the folds of her suit. I watched as it telescoped to its maximum length like the proboscis of some grotesquely overgrown insect. The trigger extended from the barrel with a pneumatic sigh and she squeezed it repeatedly, filling the backseat with the lethal clatter of mirror-bright shells. The door exploded, ragged flaps of metal swaying against a kinetic backdrop of decaying stackmalls and defunct machinery. I suddenly realized that the car was taking us toward the base of the nearest skyscraper. I kicked again at the partition, feeling something give. The impact sent waves of pain through my shins and knees.

The woman removed her seatbelt. "We have to jump."

I huddled, staring furiously at the partition. Rivulets of crystal formed a brackish calligraphy, mocking and ever-changing, morbidly hypnotic. I slipped out of my harness and managed a sickened nod. The sliver's graffiti-covered ramparts swelled outside my window.

With insect-like swiftness, she poised herself at the edge of the ruined door, suddenly ominous against the flux of pitted concrete. As an afterthought, she leveled the gun at the partition in front of her, roughly where the head of the driver would be. She fired, jumped; I caught a glimpse of her lithe body hitting the pavement and rolling as the partition dissolved into plastic ash and fissured circuitboard. Through the chest-sized hole left by the blast, I saw something vaguely suggesting humanity hovering, headless, over a luminous dashboard. Then I was on the ground, tumbling, arms smacking against the street in painful rhythm, the roar of the car's engine dopplering like something heard in a dream.

Stillness. And then the visceral slam as the car impacted the building, engine imploding into an indecipherable knot of metal and plastic, hood springing open and detaching like a crumpled sail, gleaming silver through the haze of rain and smoke. A figure dropped from the wreck, limbs scrabbling weakly, the fibrous stump where its head had been wavering like a blunt antenna. Its skin was a uniform flow of dark rain and even darker blood.

1 comment:

Boris kreiman said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading what you all have to say


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