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May 17, 2012 / Daniel

A Nice Pair

[1357 words, rated PG]

The streets are quiet when the Sunday morning is early. No cars, no deadycabs even, racing by on suspensor field quickness. Just the streets, just the buildings, just the coffee, just a dirty floppy paper cup.

Marchalle flipped the good side of his collar up, turned into the breeze, sipped at his steamy black wakefulness. What to do today?

The wind kicked up briefly and he felt it on his toes. New shoes would be nice. Legal tender is hard to come by.

He walked a little, maybe something interesting would happen.

Sometimes you can find trash or something dropped or discarded, pop it into a reclamation kiosk for credit.  After a couple of blocks of walking and looking there was none to be found; picked pretty clean overnight.

No stores open, ambient sunlight getting brighter and brighter. Soon the driverless mass transit shuttles and deadycabs would start routes and the street blood would be flowing, waking the Caspaeia district.

The last glug of coffee was grainy cold. He winced, “Full body.” He pushed the tip of his tongue against his pursed lips and spit some grinds out, then looked around for a kiosk.

Across the street and half a block along he found a reclamation kiosk. He swiped his card in, keyed his personal verification code. The matte black kiosk screen glowed to life, showing a very friendly blonde face.

“Hello, Marchalle Windholm, thank you for keeping our city clean with a DaNATech reclamation kiosk. Please make your deposit into the tray area.” A door in the belly of the thing hinged down, and he dropped in his soggy coffee cup; too far gone to keep for any more refills.

The door hinged shut. “Thank you, Marchalle, your deposit is appreciated, and will be transmitted to Central Disassembly. If you would like a receipt of line items by element, please press anywhe-”

He tapped the screen.

“Very well, please take your receipt. If you would like to make another deposit, please pres-”

He tapped again, then took his receipt out of the slot.

“Please make your deposit into the tray area.” The door opened again.

He dropped the receipt back into the machine. “Never tried this before…”

The door hinged shut, then opened again. The receipt remained there. “I’m sorry, Marchalle, DaNATech Reclamation Kiosk receipts cannot be deposited. Keep these receipts on file for your records. Please remove your attempted deposit from the tray area. If you would like to make another deposit, please press anywhere on the screen within the next five seconds.” The friendly blonde face scrunched her nose cutely while she waited.

He took his receipt again and shrugged, “Hey, worth a try.”

She waved happily as the tray area hinged closed, “Thanks again from DaNATech and goodbye, Marchalle!” She faded away again behind the matte black.

“She loves her job, man.”

A woman screamed and shouted, “I CAN’T FIND IT!”, around the building corner, then she laughed in an insane sort of way.

“…not entirely sure she does, though.” Marchalle walked slowly to something that would surely be interesting.

He craned his neck to peek around the corner, hoping to size up the situation before actually getting involved.

She was alone, and a recent mess. It was evident that she had made herself up just the day before for a Saturday night out. The heeled shoes now scuffed, the short colorful dress now torn at the thigh, her hair half perfect and half tangled and nestlike, her makeup now smudged her cheeks where tears had gone. She’s definitely not street people.

She was beautiful.

The woman was there with her front side pressed flatly against the wall of the building, her arms stretched fully straight fanning up and down, her fingers frantically feeling, searching the mortar between the bricks, as if looking for some tiny bit of something; something that was more important to her than life itself. She was raving to herself, “Where is it, where is it, where is it, it was right here, right here, right here, right here. WHERE IS GODPLAN!?”

“I know what this is.” He looked all around, carefully.

No one else to see.

She was now curled in a tight ball touching herself frantically or scratching or having some sort of seizure, or, something. She moaned ecstatically laughed, shouted, “got lost, got lost, got lost, where’s GodPlan, where’s GodPlan…”

He reached into his coat and pulled out a small contraption that looked nothing like a gun. He positioned the device in his fist and aimed the back end of it at the woman.

Marchalle whispered “I’ve got what you need, baby girl… and that’ll make for a fair trade.” He steadied his aim. “Tit for tat.” He squeezed the device to activate it.

A small cartridge of pink liquid followed its needle as it flew through the air toward the woman. The needle pierced the dress and sank into the skin of her back, just below her ribs. She screamed and scrambled across the sidewalk to get away from the pain, found her feet and ran a few steps.

The springloaded dart pushed the pink stuff into her flesh. Her body spilled into a limp heap on the pavement, flat on her back.  Under her dress, her bra clung desperately to the remaining thread of her decency.

Marchalle pocketed the dart launcher, and looked around again.

Still, no one to see.

He jogged over to where she lay. From a pocket, he took a small envelope made from layers of metals and meshes of electronic fabric.

Her eyes were open and aware.

“You, little lady, are going to be in a whole new world of hurt when the pink takes hold, but the other side of that is far better than what you’ve got going now. I know what you did. I see it all the time. Your first time, am I right? Always is. Don’t try to answer, you won’t be able to.”

The fog river of sound and light in her brain began to clear away as the nanogins delivered by the pink sludge began bonding with the cocktail of drug-mimicking nanogins already in her system, deactivating the tiny machines by the millions. She was still lost, confused, but the storm in her mind was starting to give way to her own control. She knew she was in the street with a man over her, and she could not move. She felt she had regained the tiniest amount of self control, and with that, she prayed he would not hurt her.

“Now,” he said, “About that trade.”

She sank within herself. She was entirely helpless.

“You have a couple of things for me.”

She wanted to scream, to run, to hide, to cover herself. He was coming toward her.

He leaned in, looking deeply into her eyes. He reached over and pulled her left eyelid up, exposing her eye more fully. With his other index finger, raked across her cornea, popping a contact lens free, and pinching it, stuffed it into the layered envelope. He did the same with her other eye, then sealed the lenses and pocketed the package.

“There. Not so bad, right? You lucked out. Next time, you won’t be lucky enough to run into someone like me.”

He wiped chunks of mascara off her cheeks with his thumbs.

“You’ve never been on the pink, so I’m going to tell you what to expect. It’s going to stay in your body for about three weeks and you’ll be sick to wish you were dead the whole time, but ride it out, stay warm. It’s going through your blood and tissues and canceling out the microscopic crap you put in you body last night.”

He smoothed her hair and tucked the stray bits down.

“Your mind will be foggy for about an hour, but that will clear up. Ten more minutes or so, and you’ll be able to walk home. I’ll be close to be sure you’re safe, but you’re on your own after.”

He stood.

“Stay away from GodPlan. Find somewhere else to dance, beautiful.”

He walked away.

She waited.


Leave a Comment
  1. Ann Ritter / May 19 2012 12:08 am

    Empty streets on Sunday morning reminded me of the time we went walking on Beale St. in Memphis on Sunday morning. Very much like that. BTW, one of my favorite songs is “Walkin’ in Memphis.”

    Love that he tried to recycle his receipt in the reclamation kiosk. In the same situation, I hope I would have thought to try that.

    This is a good guy. I could feel the woman’s fear at the loss of control – how scary! Kind of like getting old, I fear. Unlike this story, however, I don’t fear being taken advantage of by others – just by circumstances.

    Very satisfying ending.

    • Daniel / May 19 2012 12:57 am

      Thanks for the thoughtful comment! I’m glad you liked it; this is among my personal favorites. One of my weaknesses is getting a full story event conveyed. I tend towards scenes that lack a moving plot. I’m proud of how this one traveled.

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