Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Trying to quit smoking and that's pretty forefront on my pounding skull. I did drink a whole bunch of coffee today and that seems to help, just can't sleep. Damn tobacco. If it was cheap and not so stinky, it would be freakin awesome.
Photos are from the aquarium in Chattanooga. We went on a trip and it was sweet. Drank beer and saw th sights and met friends of my wife and drank more beer. Sure I'll have more to add down the morning road.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
So it was my birthday the other day. Didn't know what to do so we took our first family trip to the zoo. I was a bit tipsy before we walked out the door and made a sizable gin-concoction to go. Note, I live across the street from the Memphis Zoo so we didn't drive nowhere. It was thick hot out and we were out to enjoy it. Baby Dan had to eat when we first got there so we stopped in the Burger Pavilion and got a bottle warm while watching the monkeys through the window. The second picture is one I took and wrenched a little. The original is pretty odd. More burger places should have monkeys. We finished up and made our rounds. The cats were cool as always. Tigers are just too bad ass. The boy loved the place, even if he had no idea what was going on. He's a huge fan of being outside. I like that. Then we wandered with moderate direction toward the Polar Bears. The snakes were slithering and Jasmine got a kick out of the Komodo Dragon. That's a big lizard. We had fun watching the ducks outside of the Panda exhibit. I can watch ducks all day. I remember a pond full of them at the National Zoo and that was the most memorable part of it. They keep bouncing about in their elegant manner.
We passed by the Savannah animals on the way. The tall giraffe doors are the funniest part. I wonder what it's like to see those creatures in their element, it has to be something pretty incredible. Hell, I still can't get over a ten point mule deer walking gliding by when I was pheasant hunting years ago.
By the time we got to the Northwest Passage, we were heat drunk, gin tipsy, and the bears were just hanging out on their cooled rocks. We took a seat for a bit and cooled ourselves in the timber house. The Memphis Zoo has some very well built exhibits and just a nice place to get lost at. It is also a people watching extravaganza. It was time to make the longish walk home. It started raining as we walked in our door. We then slept clear through the storm that knocked out a third of the city's power. It was the way to roll on a birthday.
The animals lead me to my next point. I've been teaching a summer school class (of one) in biology. It was once my favorite subject and I forgot how much I did know about ecosystems and the like. The class was going pretty well and then I decided to skip the huge section on cell bio because we don't have time and the student not the most inclined to study. The next section of the book is on evolutionary biology and natural selection. About two minutes in telling him how the planet wasn't always the way it is, he reminded me that God made the Earth in seven days. I responded that some feel that the Bible is metaphorical and the growing body of what we have seen supports the theory that the planet is more than 6000 years old and that we wouldn't be denying his religion. "Okay, so long as we don't go into that crap that man came from monkeys."
It was to be a long two hours but the kid is pretty cool and listened enough to come up with the idea that "The Bible only says that God made Adam and unless we're all in inbred, maybe the rest of the people came about how you say." It was even better to hear in his red-as-hell dialect.
I found no solace in talking with a coworker who told me that she was a Christian and found it difficult to teach the same section in her classes. I decided to read some creationist science to know more about it. Apparently, men lived with dinosaurs prior to the flood and we even have stories of them. You see, they were called dragons. That's fucking awesome. Nothing is cooler than dragons and I'll trade in some logic to have them be extra real and I can go look at their bones at the dino museum. Also, light is slowing down. That is why scientists who use it as a constant have been wrong by a billion-fold in their estimates of the universe's age. In addition, the Earth is the center of the universe. Go check it out. Creationism.org or something like that. It had me reading all manner of strange scientific books. I'm pretty screwed up about light slowing down. If it went super-duper fast before and light is some measure of time, would Methuselah's 900 years seem way longer? I ain't saying evolution is the exact truth, but...damn, is that the best you can come up with in response. The problem is that not recognizing natural selection, which we can see every day, avoids a huge part of biology. At least you got dragons, though.
This final picture is one I took on a school trip to the zoo. Also, Jasmine took the ones of the boy and the monkeys.
Sunday, June 7, 2009
Been having some fun with the boy. The other big news is that I got a job teaching Calculus at Central High. I figured I would be at one of the rough as funk schools in town but I lucked into the place I most wanted. Who would have figured that a writing degree would land me a job as a math teacher. It doesn't surprise me all that much.
Finding out that a couple of my friends are going through divorces. I hate it for them. One of the greatest things about being married is having that one person with you when the chips are down. Relationships are a hard thing, though. They are so easy to damage and so hard fix. I really don't know much about them but I'm pretty sure you gotta fight for each other and not each other. Sounds like a kid is yelping and I told him that I would read to him. He has no clue what I'm saying but he deserves a good yarn or two.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Grace in Unity, that's the name of the candlestick holder. My friend Dave ordered for his wife and had me give it to her on his wedding day. The other picture is from the Tampa airport. I hate flying. I used to not mind it. Heck, I once liked it. I just don't get how they can treat us, the paying customer, like poo. I know it's because they figure they have no competition but I know my truck can get me there in almost the same time as your screwed up planes and my knees won't be in my neck. I moved from the love and that is a bad thing since the point was the power of faith in another. As they say, find yourself a woman and you'll find love someday.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
That's my boy. He's not crying in this picture. He likes to cry. I don't know much about kids so I can't brag about fantastic he is. He eats, poops, sleeps, and hollars. Actually, he's starting to smile and playing a smidgin. It's weird trying to figure out what a baby sees and knows. I'm pretty sure it sucks with all the lights and noises and everything must hurt.
I got back to the odd adventure tale. I think I needed a bit of headspace and months of math problems has done that. Beyond that, not much to report from the land of me. Have fun and smile well.
Monday, May 11, 2009
These are some wacky pictures. I like them. Who knows if you do. Ha.
Monday, May 4, 2009
It's some time in the middle of the night and I think I'm too tired to fall back asleep. Poor kid is feeling like crap and they got him on enough medicine to make me want to rip my stomach out through my throat. He's doing better and I have learned a thing or two. Not even the smart men in white coats know whats up with babies. They just start testing until they find out what's wrong. Makes sense considering the array of symptoms consist of sick feeling and crying. I need to get some new and interesting reading material up here.
Politics are boring as ever and I doubt anyone that reads this would care to hear what I think about playoff hockey. This was just something to spit out so that I might fall asleep and I think it's gonna work...unless someone starts feeling extra crappy.
On another note, how can one have semi-solid crap from a liquid diet?
Saturday, May 2, 2009
Turns out, the crying all night was him trying to tell me that he was sick. I have learned that I dislike the hospital waiting room way less than the young people's e.r. waiting cell. It is even less fun with all the swine flu papers on the wall and everybody wearing masks and the news people being all scary.
I will say that my boy is pretty darn tough. I watched him get a spinal tap with nary a whimper. I probably would still be swearing and moaning if someone stuck a needle in my back. He's regained his color and his fever has subsided so the antibiotics seem to be working which hopefully means he doesn't have anything severe.
The most touching part of the whole adventure to date happened when I came home to get toothpaste and the like. My dog was whimpering and confused, she knew her baby person brother was sick and he wasn't home. That's my dog in the picture. She's the sweetest most useless animal. She rolls in stinky feces and sleeps on the bed when no one is home. Well, I've got to continue helping a young man write a paper about The Great Gatsby.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Rum-tum tiddle-iddle. I read some Winnie-the-Pooh last night and it is better than I remember. I need to get more than the one or two stories that I have. The writing has an elegance that is rare in children's literature, without being inaccessible. This is a day or so later and I'm a little sleepy but thankful for wonderful people and kind deeds.
Look at this a wacky picture I made after I let two of my students play with a silly program called Evolvotron. Let two sugared-up kids loose on a computer and who knows what will come from the other side. I think they sent my poor machine through a billion iterations but we got some neat stuff out of it.
I've been putting baby pictures in the "pictures of stuff" section. Feel free to comment or if you want them here, let me know. He is a cute thing, despite the nasal crying in the bit of night recently reserved for sleeping and stupidity. Drunkenness is overrated. Geometry knowledge represents.
Monday, April 27, 2009
One picture is something I edited from a day hike I took on crazy hot time a couple of years ago. I went to Village Creek State Park which is on Crowley's Ridge. It's a different world on this long, low ridge that runs from Missouri to south of here. I am unsure of the geology of it but I believe it is the vestige of an incredibly old mountain. I remember it being insanely hot and walking down a sunken confederate road and these crazy trees with roots half naked.
Now, the next picture is about the widest I have seen Daniel James open his eyes. He is a cute thing and I was not one for cute.
Monday, April 20, 2009
I lied. Who knew that I am a rat bastard? My awesome wife likes to remind of such. I think I do a pretty good job of beating myself up about such things. Not as much these days. I can be quite good at defining myself through my flaws, both perceived and real. I'll probably keep doing so even though a the scent of better habits helps me through. Just jotting some silly notes down here is the baby step to getting serious about writing everyday. I lost the drive a coupld of months ago. I feel that is a natural stage in the process and one in which the successful define themselves by overcoming stagnated spiritual motivation with developed need. What am I talking about, I haven't finished one big story and wonder if I ever will. The motivation to write has dwindled and no I must work on rebuilding it. Standard Issue needs a good role model, right?
Before I forget, the strip of black on the right of the picture is a few curls of Jasmin's hair. She refuses pictures and that's the way of that. One of the twusts of hair fell out last night and I have kept it in my pocket all day. It was my charm for the for today and I hope to carry it forever.
Oh that note, sleep well and that's this..
Check it out folks. That there is Daniel James Wallace. I'll try to not put ten million pictures of him up here. He was born today. Earth day. 420. As far as I'm concerned, it's his day.. I'm kinda tired and feel like watching some movies and sleeping. Enjoy yourselves and smile well.
I thank the gods that I have a beautiful and loving wife and that my brother is so dedicated to his fraternal bonds that he is on his way to the waiting room to keep a post for me. Those that know him, speak dearly of his benevolent nature while swearing of his funky ways. He is a frustrating lad but that's just part of the fun.
Know not what else to say but I do say that I have been too long from writing. Rock on and send strength to those fighting through the pain and joy to those seeing light in the rain.
Monday, April 6, 2009
I started studying global warming and a host of other environmental problems many years ago. Since then, I have had enough interesting conversation to develop my own views to a lot of confusion. I think one that stuck was when I was talking with this crazy fellow, Brian Jordan, about evolution. He's a punk as funk type of soul and a hellified artist. We got into the chat as he was giving me a tattoo for six hours and I needed to do something to get past the building ache and burn. I'm a strong believer of natural selection and evolution. It made sense when I first heard about it and books like Beak of the Finch firmed up my belief. Brian's response was "None of us where there to see it so how the hell do we know it's real?" Throw evidence all you want in the face of that argument but it a simple power to it. It allowed me to question what I thought I knew and that has led me to wonder about "global warming". Why is it easier to believe that Carbon Dioxide is the culprit rather than solar cycles? Maybe we just put out more heat by doing more work. That motor under the hood likes to be around 270 and it discharges excess heat through exhaust and fans. What happens when you air condition a civilization? You don't pump cold air into a building, if you want a hint. Silly ideas, sure, but could emissions be just as so? How did that start, anyway? Usually scientists start with the clean and logical theaory and work to prove or disprove it. Someone said, "gases" and it has been an evil debate to maybe prove it since. That doesn't follow the scientific method but we all follow the theory. Solar cycles seem pretty strong. I just read an interesting article at Discover by a Dutch scientist who figured that cosmic rays change cloud formations. It's all how the experiments are done and how the results are written. The carbon dioxide argument gets weird because folks want to charge a big ole CO2 tax. We could use alternate energy but we should also be focusing on efficiency. I'm about to give up on the political debate. I was happier not knowing and just as useless.
In other news, I see that the Boston Globe is teetering. That ain't good. Profit margins, not profits. It's the dumb problem with public trading. A loss is not making as much as you did. If you can pay the bills and keep the journalists fed and all that, the rest is gravy. Bastard owners just don't want to skimp on their gravy. What do they have to do with a newspaper? Be happy you got a dollar when you should get jack for doing just that. To top it off, the papers are all to ready to lobotomize themselves, forgetting that they have a big stick of power, to stay afloat. It might be best for some of them to grown a pair and start swatting back. Go out with a fight, not like a sideshow whore. What do I know.
Saturday, March 28, 2009
I don't have any new fiction to add. Shame on me. I figured I should add some better pictures of this last table since I am trying to sell it and the others don't show it off too well. It's sitting in the kid-to-be's room. That would be why everything is in technicolor. I can also say that I am starting to see first hand how silly the schools are. I've been tutoring and it is wrong to see what some kids don't know. How could you graduate from high school and not know how to add two negative numbers or read a simple(albeit boring) twenty line story? It is an obvious commentary on schools and straight ridiculous. I have believed for a long time that undervaluing a demanding education is like shooting yourself in the foot. I don't get it. Hire more cops, lay off teachers. This must be a diabolical plan or the great deciders are f'n inept. People aren't stupid but they are fools and we're all getting played. I guess that's why we talk all day about basketball and suck down some cheap beer or pop pills or whatever it is we do to avoid the deception. They're all busy worrying about the wheels falling off on the great society while the motor is blown. "A nice candy coat will fix her right up." They say as a rat makes another nest under the hood. Most of us know this but what can we do? Bills are piling up and life demands attention. I have some faith in the mission of hope. I really do but it is tough to keep when banks are given money and schools are crumbling and we are still in a war. I forgot about that. We are in a two front war and the front page of the paper is about the sweet sixteen. The same paper that fired some of its best writers while sending three reporters to Kansas for sports. The media makes the news and it has decided sports is more important because it is easily profitable. This is leading me down a path of anger. Idiots leading a house of fools. That's the title of my American play. Enjoy the sun and have an awesome day.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
The first two pictures are of a coffee table. Jasmine really likes it but she isn't a material girl so it is available. I might make another similar to it. I won't be able to recreate that scroll without some big equipment. Maybe it's just the end of an era.
The next picture is from a sweet corvette. Doesn't that make you want to get some whiskey and haul. The final one is me attempting to be artistic.
Monday, February 23, 2009
memoir of the untold. a ghost story.
I was never one for writing. It's a tough thing. Saying what you mean and not just doing what you need. Not much of a talker, either. I guess I'm a pretty boring person and I still am. This story isn't about me. It's someone else's but they aren't around to tell it and I have been forced by circumstance to be the one. I guess it won't make sense if you don't know my part. What I read on writing a book said to start at the beginning. Problem is, I don't know where the beginning would be but I figure I'll just start where I started.
A year and a week ago, I moved into the North Street Lofts. I was in the tailslide of a bad breakup. I couldn't afford the apartment I was living in without the two-faced whore's part or me taking a second job. I hated having some punk tell me what to do too much to have a second jackass tell me what to do so I could make the rent. Besides, I needed to move out of the place with it's nasty history. The halls reminded me of her and every few minutes I would think about the misery she created, using my heart as a tool of its own destruction. So I packed what shit I had left and found a new place downtown. I liked that, feeling like I was in a real city and not just the wannabe version the rest of this foul river town feels like.
The North Street Lofts are old projects or public housing or whatever you want to call them that had been gutted and redone in the contemperory style. I'm confused by that name. How long can that mean what it means before it's wrong. Words ain't my game and so I'll just let it be. Number 108, that's the one I got. It's a two bedroom. Some clothes, a stereo, my bike, and my paints. I'm not an artist. I just make copies of other stuff. The last one I did was a Lady looking in a mirror by Picassso. I give them away. I haven't bought a Christmas or birthday present in ten years. It took Patrick, my best friend, and me one afternoon to get it done. I don't have a car. I ride my bike everywhere. People think a thirty-seven year old man must have a car. They also think a lot of other stupid things.
I work at a Circle K. Maybe I am a loser, like the bitch said, but I don't hate myself.
The apartment has an old tub, cement floors and brick walls. Everything else is new and shiny with no buttons or knobs. Clean, that's the way it is supposed to feel. That feeling didn't last for long. They built the building in the fifties and fucked up things happen in this town and even more fucked up things happen in the projects.
I put my dishes where they go and all the other civil details of normal living. I was at work for the next week. I would ride around for an hour or so on my way home and make myself tired. I didn't want to resort to drinking my way through the breakup and I couldn't go to bed and wake up on the other side. After getting home and taking a shower, I spent another hour cleaning. I like order. Some call me anal but I find it better than being a slob. People are so dirty and they leave traces of their nastiness everywhere, like slugs. I hate slugs. Have you ever stepped on one barefoot? It's as enjoyable as you may imagine.
I don't know when it started happening but I do know when I noticed it. It was on March 21st. I came home from my aunt's funeral. Her various cancers finally caught up to her. I came in and took my clothes off and put them over the back of my painting chair. I went to the hall closet to find a change from the black church clothes. I went for jeans and a t-shirt. It was a nice spring morning and I thought I might go to the park and stare at the sun through the back of my eyelids. After changing, I went back to hang my nice clothes up. Most of it was where I left it but my tie was hanging over the door knob. It was not where I left it and I knew that. I could think of no real reason and so I decided I might have a ghost in my apartment.
I treated ghosts a lot like god. I've never had a reason to believe them. The world is nonsensible enough as is. But I found it silly to discredit them. Why would some try so hard to say they are imaginary? What do they benefit? They are the ones who want to tell kids that Santa is a dime store creation. I think they just like to feel like everyone else is wrong. The point is that I figured I had a ghost and found it odd but not fucked. What better way to learn about them than to live with one, right?
When I don't know nothing about something, I go find someone who does. If they don't know then it's just the way it is and we aren't supposed to know. I got on my bike and rode to the psychic place on Madison. One thing about riding everywhere is that you know where all the hidden places are. Cars move too fast and take the real out the neighborhood. They are only good at getting you where you're going and keeping you dry. I don't mind getting wet. It's a cleanse that the shower can't do. She wasn't open yet so I went down the street and read the paper. The news is supposed to be new but it sure never seems to change around here. Someone got shot, some fat cat stole something, a bloated guy hit a ball real far, and some place got blown up. After half a pot of coffee and flipping through the paper, I figured the lady was there and I went back over. It was like I figured with beads and the gypsy cloths and bells. It smelled like Morocco, or what I thought Morocco smelled like. She wants to do the crystal ball or the cards and I just want to learn about ghosts.
“Honey, you have to know about yourself so you can find out who this spirit was. No person is more desperate for attention than a ghost but that's because you have to be able to know the boundaries of yourself so well that you can sense the nearness of the spirit's.
"Some people say to learn the history of the space and you may find some of the clues. It makes sense. Once you can, you start to learn the ghost's story and it if you do, you might be the one to release him. He may be stuck here forever but I doubt that. Does that help, can I read your palm?”
I didn't feel like the rest of the stuff so I gave her twenty dollars for the information and left. My next step was to the library. Public records might have who stayed there. If something really screwed happened than it should be in the paper at some point.
Research made people smarter twenty years ago. Now you just type in the question and the answer appears. I recall searching through stacks of books to find what I needed. It was a treasure hunt and the incidental effect was that I would read about all the other weird things in the New Organic Journal of 1967 or whatever it was that I was nose deep in. This is not to say I did a whole lot of reading. Most of my school years were spent skipping class and doing nothing with my friends. We talked about doing all manner of things but we really didn't do much but waste a whole shitpot of perfect time. I know the teachers knew we were cutting because we were bored. They should do something about that. Give kids like us something to do. We all know we shouldn't be left to our own devices, teenage boys just want to tear it up. It turned out, none of us lost an eye, but my friend Oliver did blow off a piece of a finger.
“I know who I am.” I told myself as I left. It didn't take me two blocks to question that answer so fully as to realize that I did not know myself. I decided to become far more disciplined. It seemed like the best way was to shut the world out and live within tight rules. I don't mind rules, I merely hate exceptions to the rule.(that is my favorite line of anything I have ever written.)
Sunday, February 15, 2009
I took a too-long break from the action but have started trudging through the slushy gravel pit a novel can be. Who knew it was so f'ing hard?
“What the fuck? Why are you here? How?”
“Does it matter?”
“I guess not. Can you get me a beer?”
“What do I look like, you stinking drunk.”
“You look like a woman about to get me a drink and a drunk is better than a heartless bitch.
She eyed him with a hungry stare. He could not tell whether she wanted to screw or kill.
“Hurry up. Plans changed and we have to go now.”
“It's not my emergency.” Benjamin got up and walked to the refrigerator. He could not believe how strong he felt as he opened a beer. “But that is some strong medicine they gave me, I feel like I've been on vacation.”
“Good. Time to get back to work,” she said.
“Calm down, will you.” He sneered and went to the bathroom. The wound had healed and he appeared fresh in the mirror. As he pulled on clean pants he sensed that rather being alright, all was on the precipice of wrong. “Maybe I'm it's sleep fog.” He recalled Jeb's words but he let them slide into the apathy.
When he came out of the bathroom Tobacco Brown was zipping up a dufflebag.
“I was wondering what the hell we're waiting for. Let's go get this done.” He said.
And so Benjamin Patton looked around his place unsure if he would ever come back and decided he needed nothing more than he had and walked out with the siren killer following.
“Take us to Mr. Fujeta's.”
“Have you been there?”
“Stay cool. It is a bad place to lose your head.”
They had reached his truck in the second basement. He popped the hood and threw the duffel-bag inside. His backpack stayed with him.
“Why is this..I didn't clean my truck.” He asked as he opened the door.
“Oh. Mayor Winterfeld sent his man to check it out and clean it. Your full on fuel and in ready to ride clean.”
He did not have his normal capacity for anger or he would already be in the Mayor's office for messing with his tools. “I hope nothing was fucked with.”
“Relax, I was here the whole time, how else do you think he got into it.”
“He did do a nice job. Feels good in here.” He brought up the command screen. “Fujeta's fantasyland.”
“Destination set. Default route.” A computer's voice spoke through the speakers and the machine used all of its trajectory feedback information to navigate the serpentine garage and through the exit tunnel. After five miles, the tube rose up and broke onto open ground.
They were in the heart of compound country. Menacing fences lined the road on both sides and a slew of Open Country rigs roared by. The drug czars built their spreads behind kaleidoscopic walls guarded by strands of proton wire. Fights once raged between the czars but Tobacco Brown made her name when she was sent into squelch the fires. Tentative peace was made. Every few years, some clown would get too full of jack and try to take over another compound and he would find his small empire destroyed. The battle lines were in distant lands, not the Mayor's backyard. The fences were built mostly to keep the roughneck pirate outfits from straight robbery. They lived in groups that cared for nothing but survival and to crack a man's head with a hammer. Razor wire and broken glass kept the timid at bay from their lands. Pine saplings grew like an emaciated army along some sections of road, behind which more evolved groups of people worked together for a more honest life.
They continued down this road for twenty miles and then turned north on a dirt road running along a gurgling river. Overdrawn skies smoothed colors to a dull shade that reflected well with Benjamin. They bounced along the road a ways until he stopped the truck before a vining archway of surreal green.
“Certain annihilation to those who enter without permission.” A hand painted sign on the arch read. Benjamin got out to palm a box hidden beneath the broad leaves. Thousands of small buds were starting to open and reveal a crimson flash. He liked the color though he knew it was a disguise for he could see glints of fiber-optic line twisting in the vines.
“Access granted.” A chirpy voice blurted and the buds closed.
Benjamin got back in the truck, “This place is like taking a handful of synthacid and going to a freak show in a cathedral. Mr. Fujeta made his first billion on psychedelics. I don't know if I can deal with this circus. Hell, I can't give two shits about much but I guess it's better than most of my other options.”
“Exactly. Can you pass me the bottle under your seat?”
“You've got a problem,” she replied while pulled a hammer, pliers, metal box, and gin out. “What's in the box?”
“Odds and ends.” He opened and drank. “I've got to tell my body that my soul is dead. It's self-medication rather than your standard drunkenness.”
“In that case, bottoms up.”
“How else am I supposed to go along on this madman journey of the Mayor's?”
“I use anger.”
Benjamin had the wheel and they kept track by the river through an established grove of pecan trees. An old wooden waterwheel spun with the river, turning a candy-caned drive shaft that flipped, rotated, and undulated a series of abstract forms.
“Everything has eyes.” Benjamin said with another swallow.
That is when Tobacco Brown noticed the unsettling and real eyes set into the art and trees.
“They look real.”
“They are. He's been working on fusing living organs to cyber-controls for some time. A hawk's eye, a dog's nose, they are superior to anything man could create. That's why he is so keen on neuro-processors.”
A granite boulder the size of the truck forced the road away from the river. A pair of cat eyes stared from the middle of the rock and Tobacco Brown reached for her proton cannon. “I don't like this place.”
“It takes some getting used to. Mr. Fujeta ain't evil but he has a thing for the fear. He's got his pretty spots once you get past the defenses.”
“I really don't like this place.”
“Don't flip out. I ain't positive what will happen but I'm sure it would be fucked up and so you just sit tight and catch a breath. You start firing that thing and he'd probably remove your soul and leave the corpse standing as a trophy.”
After another hundred yards, th weird woods opened and a bevy of earth-berm buildings formed a semi-circle around a large fountain. A copper dragon sat in the fountain, scrubbing it's back with a dragon-sized brush.
“I like that.”
A thick layer of grass carpeted the buildings and all but the driveway. Tobacco watched the colors shift from green to red to blue to gold as they came around the fountain.
“Heya visitors” Mr. Fujeta bounced out of the center earthen house. “It's good to see you, Benjamin, now that we are away from that quack under the river. Too much time underground is bad for you. Have you ever seen the cave monsters? The most grotesque formations of life I have had the chance to observe. How you feeling, Mr. Ben?”
“I'm on my way to a stupid doom and I just had a doctor cut at me for three hours after coming back from a shit storm in a swamp and you shoved something in my spine that has me all fucked up.”
“I can't do anything about all that. It was the past, you know. You look healed and you sound like poo so I note the shot as a success. That's excellent. And lovely Lady Brown the Hunter, it is a pleasure to have your company on this special day. What is the nature of your visit?”
“Business, you know that.”
“Yes, business. It's all people think about. Silly people. Salvation through work, death in business is what they don't realize. How do you like my new lawn?
“Stick around long enough and it will play with you, telling a thousand stories, some only you may know.”
“That's weird shit Mr. Fujeta.”
“You know me, Mr. Ben, purveyor of the weird.”
“Can we get moving? I've got to see Mr. Patton to the wall. The Mayor is an anxious man.”
“A nervous wreck is what he is and remember that patience is the least valued commodity in America's obscure history. Everyone's so damned worried about getting something done. My success only came through diligence to detail and tortoise steps.”
“You lying old man,” Benjamin chuckled, “you told me you were tweaked out, running seven days, twenty-three hours a day, not stopping until you made it happen.”
“Damn your memory and I might have been exaggerating when I said that.” Mr. Fujeta laughed as he led them through the round glass door he had come through.
A playful and nervous symphony of druggist sights and sounds greeted them. Bubbling, blipping, whirring and steaming vials trembled on a table that wrapped around the inside. A lithe woman in a simple, green dress and long rubber gloves sang fluorescent melodies as she used a mortar and pestal. A stove stood in the center of the large room. Pipes sprang from the top like Medusa's hair and a fire blazed inside.
“Let's have a seat.” Mr. Fujeta gestured toward a violet sofa wrapped around the firebox. A pair of greyhounds was asleep on either end of the couch.
Benjamin stared at the flame as he sat. The furnace was made of clear brick reflecting and dancing from the reactions within. He watched the flame twindle around a basin of water and steam drifting into the narrowest pipe. Everything had its own color and the vapor was clear blue as it skated through the pipe migrating all around the domed ceiling. He wished he could join the steam and settle into the distance of things. In the swirling, directional dance of gas he saw himself carried away from his definitive location and from that small place maybe he could look back at himself and know who he was.
“Water invigorated the greats.” Mr. Fujeta was searching through a bookshelf formed the base of the table. After some agitated searching he handed am ancient manuscript to Tobacco Brown. “This is the Codex Leicaster, Leonardo Da Vinci's splendid study of the mechanics of the fluid.”
Benjamin recognized the slim book since he was the one who had procured it for the Mayor's Science Advisory when re-eingineering the Generator. Mr. Fujeta made an immaculate copy of the original and Benjamin was able to make the change with no one noticing.
“You see, Leonardo studied the fluid from the artist's eye. He may have felt that he was being scientific in his research and he was but he thought as a painter and that is how one should try to understand these texts. It's like talking to a barber about law or a fisherman about God or a pastor about fishing. Amazing stuff if you know how to seek the right questions.”
“Yes, astounding but what does that have to do with Ben and me?” Tobacco Brown handed the book back to Mr. Fujeta. He got up to put the text away and then started clanging away in some cabinets. After a half dozen tries and a hiss of murmurs, he returned with what appeared to be the perfect skipping stone.
“This hand-held has the complete briefs for everything you need. I could explain it to you but that would be a waste of my time since everything I know of the Mayor's plan is on here. It's coded to be used by Benjamin and no one else.” He handed the black stone to Ben, who put it in his pocket without breaking his fire-born daze.
“Is he okay?” Tobacco Brown wondered aloud.
“Oh, he'll be fine. Ben is a strong fellow but I think he has pushed himself to the edge and he's starting to see where he stands. His spirit, chi, soul, self, whatever you want to call it, has been tapped for the Mayor's rush. I tried to tell him that Benjamin needed more time to heal but that was not allowed and so I had to use a special process to get him to strength quickly. The problem is that people are not machines and you can't just fix them. People are of the class of beings that can only alter themselves. We can't rebuild his flesh; we can only aid his body to heal. It is designed to operate with careful steps which is odd because the mind runs like a wild boar. People are a mockery of themselves, a paradox, an anomaly of contradiction. I have devoted my life to studying them and I wonder if it's pointless.”
“Heavens no. We would be fucked without Femrol and you know that.”
“Would we? It's not as if we would be extinct. All it did was save enough lives to preserve the status quo.”
“That's bunk. Our Environmental Resuscitator is one big example why. We don't treat energy like it's free and we don't send strong youth to war.”
“Battle is reserved for the frail and the imprisoned and that is perhaps for the best but it does not seem like a great change when people are still sent to destroy unknown enemies. I am glad to hear enthusiasm in your response. It's a summer's breeze.”
Benjamin was listening enough to see himself in the discussion. “I wish I had been a teacher or farmer. My time has been spent taking and I'm getting old from it. I guess it's the old refrain that you become what you do and what have I done but be a low down punk.”
“You do what I ask in the Capitol and you will be anything but.”
“How? I'm just putting up with this shit because I like my blood inside of me and I ain't got nothing better to do. That's about as selfish and stupid as it gets, if you ask me.”
“Selfless people only exist in the books written by the most selfish of people.”
“That doesn't really change my position. If you were sending me to kidnap Jesus, would that make me a son of Satan? I'm getting tired of getting screwed by the lot of y'all and me letting it happen.”
“You surly bastard. You need to stop meditating on your existence and get into the action. Trust your instinct and come visit me when you get back. I will be most anxious to hear about the adventure. You will be the technician of my greatest experiment and that is very exciting.” Mr. Fujeta had gotten up helping Benjamin to his feet. After staring Ben in the eyes to see if he had registered he turned to Tobacco, “Lady Brown, I am aware that the Mayor has things for you to do but I am asking of you to stay with Benjamin to the end. Too much is at stake for one man and I believe you have personal matters to attend to in the Capitol.”
The dynamic woman looked at Mr. Fujeta as if he had read her diary. “I'll consider it.”
“That won't slice my apples, I need to know you are committed beyond considering or I will not allow this fool's errand to leave my grounds. I have too much at stake and Mr. Patton is too valuable a man to treat like this. Don't be ashamed about what I know, I don't believe in vengeance but you are not wrong in your motives and the ends do justify the means. If you can give me a good reason to not demand this of you then I may consider my request.”
“There is none.”
“It is settled then.”
Tobacco Brown had no chance to disagree and she was not convinced that she should and so she did not.
Mr. Fujeta led his two guests to the door, he did not want to see them leave but he knew that all great causes required sacrifice. He let Ms. Brown out and made a small bow, “When you return, we shall have the luxury of time and you will have a chance to see the wonders that abound in this place.”
“I look forward to it but don't write anything down because I'm not betting on coming back. It isn't just my creed but I believe it more than I usually do.” She shook the old man's hand and walked toward the truck. On her way she noticed the lawn shifting and forms of color coming to be and they told the story of Hank the angry Crustacean and Wendy the Otter visiting Neptune to answer the riddle of the sea. It was a tale her father told her when the nightmares and pounding chaos outside their bunker kept her awake. She had forgotten over the years and wanted to be lost in the warm embrace of the the story unfolding in the twinkling blades of grass.
“Benjamin, you take care and take lots of pictures.” Mr. Fujeta shouted at the apathetic hero as he started the truck. Benjamin laughed and felt almost like he was worth a damn.
“I guess your coming with me,” Benjamin stated as they back through the pecan groves and past the dancing sculptures and to the highway, “ and so I figure I should learn to put up with you. What was that about your motives?”
“It's a long story and I don't feel like telling. You might find out but let's just agree that I'm along to help you in exchange for a ride for now.”
“What do you know about the Centaurians?”
“I know that they are the last group I want to fuck with and I sure as hell don't need to be going to the Nest, or whatever it is they call it.”
“Do you have any useful information since that is exactly where we are headed.”
“I've just heard stories and only one first hand account. That was in a bar in Krakow, this cat in there worked for some European engineers and they wanted to know what the hell was going on over here. The thing is the Centaurians use collective thought so well it verges on telepathy. This is why they are so hard to fight, it's like a damn hydra. They are very aggressive in sucking folks straggling through their lands into the herd. It doesn't matter if they blow your arms off since they are just going to build a machine around your corpse. All they need is a heart, brain, and spinal column that was recently working to turn you into one of them.”
“What the hell are we supposed to do?”
“I'm not sure. That guy, Finnegan, I think it was, was sent to gather information and so he could move fast which we will be doing but we've got to stop and get our shit while we're there.” Benjamin had pulled up the on screen maps and set the course to the Smoky mountains. After the computer took control he took his new hand held from his pocket. “The rat bastard forgot to tell me how to work this thing.” Benjamin examined the equipment but it appeared to be nothing but a stone and he began to wonder if Mr. Fujeta was setting him up for something.
“Can you call him?”
“Mr. Fujeta only speaks in person. This thing here is the closest he gets to telecommunicating. I better get it figured out or we're screwed.” He tried vocal commands. “Power on. On. Wake up. Work you useless piece of shit.” None of them worked. It was too frustrating for him and so he decided to rest his eyes and deal with the details of the trip later. The smooth device was in his hand as he let his inner monologue ramble. At some point through a journey of half ideas and unseen fears, the voice seperated by the first fronds of sleep asked the stone a question on the New Captiol. Voices jolted Benjamin awake and he searched to find the source.
“You hear that?” He asked Tobacco Brown, who was busy with her laptop.
“Hear what? It sounds like someone is reading an encyclopedia entry or something.”
“No. Are you one something?”
“Not sure.” Benjamin listened until he realized he was hearing the reading voice in his head. He was also seeing images of people and places he had never seen. He focused on the voice until he decided to ask it a new question. “Who are you?”
“The computer in your hand. I was deigned by Mr. Fujeta and made to provide all the information you may need.”
Benjamin looked down at the stone set to asking it about the Centaurians, the Capitol, the processors, the Mayor and all points between but he mostly stuck his findings to the Centaurians.
Some of the hill people had made heavy bunkers for the attacks many believed would never come. They had buried their future in the Appalachians and as soon as first of H-bomb incinerated Washington, they went into hiding. The Army took control of the east and set to making it an automated armory. Robots could survive the fallout and the new Capitol was under construction on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The official U.S. count was “total annihilation five hundred miles from Washington D.C., New York City, and Boston” but small clans of hill people survived the blasts and the sickened atmosphere. They were overlooked as the convict work crews erected the capacitor fields that would power the armories. The Environmental Rectifier caused an unending stream of electrical storms trying to purge the earth. Lightening rods placed on every mountain top sent the captured flashes down an array of transmission lines to large slow-release capacitors on the eastern slope. The method worked to power the unending lands of robot plants and refineries but it brought insidious change to the Appalachians. Ancient lands became malicious with the imbalance of positive and negative energy, the men an women who lived deep in these mountains changed with them. They first came from their caves to steal from the scrap trains returning from the western battle zone. The trains were heaped with arms, legs, canons, wiring, power cells and anything else salvaged from the fighting fields. By then, the mountain families had fallen so deep within the mean spirited mountains that they had learned some of the primordial arts while developing them through cult rituals.
He paused the lecture and summarized it for his passenger.
“So they are crazy, mean, and one with the land. I hate fighting the spiritual warriors, it takes a small army to take one down. They still bleed but that is only part of what keeps them alive. What you have told me doesn't help, it just makes it more troubling. We need information that is useful for strategy.”
“Working on it.” Benjamin resumed his studies as Tobacco Brown put her computer away and watched the rolling lands come toward her and disappear. They had left the communes and private forts in the past and moved into the agricultural lands divided into strips that stretched as far south as she could see. Elevated rails bounded the segments of mixed crop fields and long beams spanned the rails. A gaggle of cords twisting in and around the beams crawling methodically along the tracks brought power, water, light, and nutrients with them across the beam so that it could be dispersed on the crops without the slightest step of a man. A cleansing light glowed beneath the beam and the plants beneath were green and strong. The structures gave the farmers access to till, plant, cultivate, and harvest. It was a newer take on old methods developed by a small circle of farmers.
The genetic seed producers had tried to engineer plants that would not be affected by the foul clouds of war and oil. It was the way of the future until a series of ugly plagues killed a third of the remaining population. A few small growers developed clean crops with mixed fields and pure seeds that were progeny of a past that clung to by a few. This small group quickly accrued control of most of the arable land. They built the rail and bridge system to have superior control of the land without having to employ anybody but mechanics. Their knowledge was priceless and they guarded it like a guild secret of old Europe. Every nation had bombs but few produced food with such success and that was the real source of the United States'. The Unified Federal Authority offered the Sustainable Agricultural Coalition 15% control of the UFA in exchange for the Coalition's land and governance. United States leaders worried many sleepless nights as the Coalition considered the offer and declared a holiday when the farmers released their statement.
“We are bit simple people of the land committed to tending to it so that it may forever bring us nourishment. As such, we do not identify with any ruling body but of God and Earth so we find it impossible to remain true to what has brought us strength and coalesce ourselves with the Federal Authority,” or as Buster Toarmino insisted in the meetings, partial ownership of shit is shit.
The Federal Authority and a number of other ruling bodies sent spies to try to steal information from the Agricultural Coalition but they did not have knowledge so information they managed to secure was useless. After the Coalition discovered some of the spies, it hired biker outfits to protect its property. The Darkside Rebels roamed the plains region for a few years before it disbanded. It was easy and lucrative work. The group leader would be informed of the breach and the gang would ride to the location, find the spy and leave him on the roadside with shattered knees and no hope. Benjamin swore off killing after watching a Siberian man beg of his lord as vultures came to peck at his spilled entrails. Some of the Rebels would get hard at the thought of pulling the trigger but Benjamin saw it as theft of the higher will. He followed no particular god but he choices of death belonged to the divine. The promise was broken on a few occasions when he had to choose between his life or that of the person firing at him.
“Centaurians propagate the race through natural methods as well as immersion of outsiders. Immersion occurs when they draw people in with telepathic calls from the Governor that grow in strength as the prey partially succumbs to the negative balance of the territory. The prey loses strength and the constant calls from the tribe convince him or her to surrender where he will be carried to a transformation. Limbs are removed and replaced with soldier-bot parts stolen from the scrap trains. Because the prey is not born into the Herd, a neuro-processing unit is injected into the skull that trains him in the cult arts of the Herd and joins him to the Governor.
When the Herd is engaged in immersion of an prey, it focuses on the task until completion of the Rites that recognize the prey as one of the Herd. The single mindedness of the Herd is the source of its strength but can be used for diversion.” Benjamin stopped the session.
“I think I found our way in.” He said as he pulled on the maps of the Centaurian territories on the screen.
“How much of a ruckus can you make?”
“I could blow these crazy fools off the map.”
“That would be easier. What we need is for you to keep them busy while I try to find a processor and the Mind.”
“They won't want to kill you but they will be in your head, trying to get you to surrender to them.”
“What's so difficult about that? Remember, I'm a stubborn bitch.”
“You're gonna have to be more than that. They will be trying to brainwash you.” He was finding the topographic maps of the region and they were of little help. “Fuck.”
“I've got a basic layout of the area where they live but nothing detailed enough to be of use. This is looking pointless and straight suicidal. We've got to have a better plan.”
Benjamin turned looked past the computer and to the slow rise of mountains in the distance. In the rear view, he spotted a brief glimpse of the smoldering sun as it dipped below the cloud layer and behind the horizon. The lands behind them glowed faintly in the rose light. He had tried, once, to chase the setting sun to be in that same moment for eternity but night caught up with him and he was angry with the cruel world for denying him something so simple.
Bars of light moved all around as the machinery of the fields tirelessly worked and the road before them turned up and into black skies sliced with a thousand bolts of lightening. The first groans of thunder reached the truck and the two lost souls drove headlong into the madness.
“There is no way. I guess we'll just do what we can and then be turned into psychotic-hillbilly cult killers. Maybe it ain't all that bad. I mean, not having to decide for myself would be nice. A lot less worry, for sure. Fuck the Mayor and his dumb dreams. They aren't my hopes. Why should I worry about people in the New Capitol? For all I know, they're perfectly content. That's what Dalana said. That's what all the artists and singers leaving the the Federal Authority say. 'It's perfectly fine if you redefine freedom' is what Dalana said.” He paused the internal questioning to admire his passenger.... “What's she doing here? Mr. Fujeta said something about personal reasons..”
“What was Mr. Fujeta talking about before we left?”
Tobacco Brown had been half dreaming when the question stuck through. She knew that Benjamin was no fool and would ask her at some time but she did not want to tell him. It was not that she disliked the man, it was just that explaining to Ben would bring the secluded past to her immediate state and force her to feel what she had long suppressed.
“It was nothing.”
“I call bullshit.”
“We both have our reasons and I'm not asking about yours.”
“Mine is the chance to live. It's not a good one but it's better than my alternatives. Besides, maybe listening to you will clear my head enough to make a sensible plan appear from the void.”
“Ok. I want to hear your story in return.”
“Mine ain't nothing you ain't heard already.”
“I doubt that.” She smiled and his normal self would have stopped the truck and ravished her beauty.
“I was married.”
“No,” her voice turned soft and distant, “I was pregnant. My son would be eighteen this month. My husband was a Captain in the Special Forces. We lived on the Gulf Coast in a two bedroom cottage on the Naval Base.”
“Did he have a name, what did he look like?”
“John T. Sullivan was the most handsome man I ever saw. He was strong and gentle, angry yet compassionate. A woman like me needs a man like him and they are damn hard to find. I was young and so grateful to have John and before long, I was carrying his son. It was so exciting and so frightening. The Conflict Region Treaty was to be signed and I was hoping for a future without the constant hellfire. I would be a small part with my family trying to rebuild a good place in the ruins of the old.
“I should have known, should have suspected. We lived too well for a Captain's salary but I never asked. You see, John was a point man for the Latin Revolutionary Front. He was part of the group who kidnapped the Mexican President. After that success, the Front asked John to assist them in removing the Federal Authority Director and help Marco Aurello gain the seat. They offered him a lot of power and money. John, my husband, turned them down. The Interior Defense Council caught wind of the plan and John's involvement.
“I knew none of this and lot of people would still be living if I did. My first explanation came as our doors were kicked in one night. John told me to run and I tried. I made it out the window and dropped down to the side yard. I was going as fast as I could when two Defense officers tackled me. One took out my legs and the other hit me from behind. I was a helpless and pregnant woman in a nightgown and nothing else but they came for me. I could feel my baby recoil inside and die as I heard them dragging my husband out while beating him to no end. They threw him in a air-car and I never knew what happened. I prayed that he died in the car but of prayers only help those with hope.
“They locked me up for six months and after a hundred serrum treatments and general torture, they concluded that I was ignorant and could be released. Locked in my white room, I made a blood oath to kill everyone responsible. Now, they wish they had killed me since I left the prison and went home to find John's hidden gunsafe and one of his old computers. My search of men and information caught the attention of Mayor Winterfeld. He said he could help me in return for my services and now I'm here.”
“Have you honored your oath?”
“There is one more.”
“And I'm guessing it's someone in the Capitol.”
“It's none other that the Chairwoman of the Inner Defense Council.”
Benjamin watched the witch's brew of night storms and retold the tale to himself.
“You know, that is the worst story I have heard in a long time.”
“How do you think I feel? I spent a lot of time trying to forget. My job with the Mayor helps. I like seeing tough guys beg for mercy, they cry out to god but he has forgotten us on this wretched planet and so I can show no mercy.”
“I'm not sure I'll argue with you. I must stretch my legs.” Benjamin grabbed the wheel and pulled the truck to the side of the road. A light rain fell and it was cold and a stiff breeze sang in the trusses. Benjamin could see the rain in a strip of clear light emaniting from the bridge creaking his way. To the east, the thick sky lit up in dancing spasms. As he paced and sucked in the hard air, letting the rain brace wake him up, heavy light threw everything in a wash. In a gush of sight and sound, an convoy of armored cargo trucks roared by. The drivers stared through their windows at the lone figure. “What was he doing?” The hollow faces asked. “Does he know where he is?”
Benjamin watched the convoy charge into the distance of his direction and decided it was time to go.
“Can you wait? I need to pee.” Tobacco asked Ben as he sat down.
The woman got out and went behind the truck. Now is the time. It would be so easy. I could just drive off. To where? Maybe a Canadian Peace Colony. I could grow fat and die without the hassle of being gunned down. He reached for the shifter and wrapped his hand around it. The decision froze him. His normal self would be halfway gone by now but he stopped. He had a mission, a goal and it gave him direction and now, as he thought of Tobacco Brown, his goal had purpose. The journey was becoming his and aso he sat and waited for his passenger.
“It's fucking cold out there.”
“That it is.”
They continued in silence. Tobacco Brown was letting the old fires of hate stir up. What would she say to the Chairwoman when she saw her and how much pain would she inflict before snapping the spine of the woman who had destroyed her happiness? Benjamin found a small piece of his strength at admitting to his part in the plan. Purpose was never an issue with him. It was not a question worth asking because it had no answer. He was not a learned man but he understand some of the plight of the philosopher and preacher.
“You asked me about my story.” He broke the silence.
“It's up to you.”
He told her what he could recall of his mother and the conducter and the ballcap with gold lettering. “I left the Darkside Rebels when I was sixteen and bounced around doing what I could for awhile. I ended up in the city and got a job at the Yards. After a few weeks of that hell I went up to the foreman and told him I wasn't going to make it loading ships. He asked me “what can you do?” “I can drive,” is what I say to him and he looked at me and saw the Rebels brand on my arm and said ,”Boy, you're too young to drive the big trucks but I've might have something for you.” He handed me a small bag and sent me to Mr. Fujeta's house. It wasn't as crazy then but I'm sure the foreman figured I would flip out but I didn't. Over the next few years, I continued being a delivery boy until a few of the people I was dropping off to wanted to further my involvement. I left my job at the Yards. The foreman knew what was going on and he just said to watch my back. I was working mostly for the art dealers and Mr. Fujeta. Well, I end up needing to steal a painting for the Museum. It was the first time I snuck into the airport, I was freaked out, you couldn't have fit a cunt hair between my asscheeks they were so tight. I got it and after I delivered it to the back gate I decided to see what the hell happened there.
I was walking through a sculpture room and there was this gorgeous wild-haired woman running her hands over a stone figure. She was pretty, not stunning, but she had it and she was like a nerve-ending of god and she created. She made a room feel better when she walked in and her place was full of books and paints and flowers and things she had made. She tried to make something beautiful in a world gone ugly.”
“I had to make my first long run to the Latin border. That's when I lost my hand. It tool me two months to get back and by then I was ready to turn it in and find local work. She had changed, she said it was my fault for being gone so long and she grew upset with a place that took her one bright light and it made her weak. She had become a firnd and there was nothing I could do. I tried for a few weeks to break the habit but you know how it is.
“You make me sad.”
“Yeah, I was upset for awhile and threw myself into whiskey and work. I've seen a few women since but she was the only one that I longed for and this bullshit place wouldn't let it happen. That's why I took on the longest and dumbest trips because it got me away. I hate Memphis but it ain't any better anywhere else. It's all shit and we're the asshole.”
They had come up the plateau and the into the outer bands of the rage. The fields had dissipated into gouged lands laced with transmission lines. Hard and gnarled trees walled the road. A fierce wind swirled through and shot down the road, shaking the truck with each mean gust and the rain was loud. The road climbed in long runs up, down, and around the ancient mountains. Water swifted under bridges barely high enough and the lightening shattered relentlessly. Benjamin throttled the truck down and had the onscreen overlay a radar over the maps and waited. After thirty miles, he saw the first signs. It was a cross made from motorcycle parts and transmission wire. A skull sat atop. He looked at his map and there was no way of telling where to go and no way to know what to do.
“At least we're near.”
They were coming around and down. A cliff shot up on side and the other dropped to a valley. At the base of it, they saw the first encampment. A garage leaned near the road with piles of robotics inside. A power line spliced from a transmission tube fed the bright lights of the ramshack building. A small pen was attached to the side held a family of goats with empty eyes and an old woman with mechanical arms fused to her body stood out front. She stared as they drove by and then turned to go inside with a jerking gait.
Tobacco Brown had the photon cannon in one hand and an EMP grenade in the other. They kept climbing and diving, twisting and turning. They passed more cobbled shacks and more signs but mostly passed through woods that tried to push into the road. Trees had reached across the top in an attempt to trap the travelers.
“How are we ever going to find our way, much less a little processor in this. No one but they know where it is.”
“You're a damned genius.”
“We're gonna let them take us in.”
“Got a better plan.”
“Please, feel free if you do.”
“Forgetting about it and driving off.”
“We're in too deep for that.”
Benjamin was starting to feel the sinister call of the land. It was angry and felt of the scorn lover's heart eaten by revenge, ready to strike at anyone or anything. The eroded giants had taken care of men for eternity and all that was given was destroyed in flash. Now the men had cast the land in darkness and it would use its powers to shake them. Humanity was a rash and it needed scrubbed off. Kill them, kill them all. Taste the flesh and smell the blood as the cries of the savage race died at the hands of its giver. The human experiment had failed. That was the call and it drizzled in like February rain.
“I've got too much to deal with to listen to this shit,” he told himself. “This one track mind is already running through an obstacle course and whatever it is trying to tell me otherwise is just gonna have to take a number.” The argument worked because it was true. He grew fiercly irritable but did not fall into the trap. Tobacco Brown, meanwhile was dreaming of the kill and readying to have a glorious end for the cursed mountains.
“You feel that.”
They came around a high ledge and in the electrial eruptions, she could make out a row of the capacitors in the visible distance, white dots far away. Down they went once more and whispers sifted around her.
“Come with us. We will take care of you. Be one and the mountain will love you. It's warm here. Warm and safe and quiet. Come. Forget the past. The trees will embrace you. The rains will cleanse you. All will be absolved. All will be done.” They grew more as they dove down. They angered Benjamin. He hated the lightening and the rain and the thousand voices. It was another disguise and he was tired of masks and lies. They could have it all. Fuck the Mayor, if he wanted something so bad, he should get it his own damn self.
Through the shadows beneath the sparkling skies, he saw four of them come from the woods and stop in the middle of the road. He took the wheel and stepped on the gas. The big motor roared and he could feel the machine spring to life. A hundred yards turned to fifty to five. They were visible now. Bodies of men fused to motorbikes. They had hooks, claws, cannons, and saws for arms and wore heavy helmets with hoses running from the mouth into the bowels of the robotic skeleton. He braced for the squeal and screech of impact but there was none. The four Centaurians were in the rear view as he watched a hook fired at the back of his truck and hit just above the camera. They hook was attached to a cable that they attached to a thick ring which was secured to twisted Osage/ or some other. Benjamin had no choice but to slam the breaks. The tires broke lose and he was sliding. Tree trunks thrashed the sides and he was skidding toward the edge. The truck jolted and stopped moving forward but momentum carried it to the edge and Benjamin saw a swollen river fifty yards below. “Thud” The truck was stopped headlong down the embankment by a hefty oak.
“Come on woman. Take care of those punks while I get us unstuck.” H looked over and the seat was empty and the door was open. The calls were screaming at him and rain blew in through the door.
“Fuck.” She had left the EMP grenade behind. Benjamin picked it up, grabbed his plasma rifle from behind the seat and ducked out the door. He was soaked immediately as he ran through the woods with the road at eye level, following the taut cable. Tobacco Brown was walking in the middle of the road. To call her would have brought attention to himself and so he just kept a few steps behind and in the darkness of the woods. She had reached the four and they were waiting. Their motors sang through the rains as they secured her to the back of the track-mounted one. Benjamin watched them turn and head through a clearing in the woods he had not seen in the first pass and he raced back to the truck, sliding and tripping along the way. The third plasma blast melted the cable and he was in the cab, hoping he could pull out of the spot. Tires spun but grabbed nothing but mud and soaked leaves. He got out and began fumbling with the winch. Cold hands were failing him and urgency pushed him to the point of frantic. It was one lever he needed to push to release the cable drum but he was pulling too soon and the winch wanted to jam. On his last try, he managed to free the spool and ran with the cable to wrap it around a tree on the other side of the road. The motor shuttered and grumbled but it reeled in the line, pulling the truck onto the road. Benjamin unhooked the line and let it wind up the rest of the way, he could see himself hauling ass through unknown roads with the hook dangling free only to catch a transmission line and fry the whole truck with him inside. The opening was were he remembered and he turned into it onto a path just wide enough for him to scrap both sides of the vehicle. A mile through dense woods he bumped and bounced until the path split.
“Son of a...what's next?” He spat as he got out with the rifle and the grenade.
“Come with us.” A grinding call said to him. Nothing was in sight but it kept tearing into his head.
“Leave it behind. Give in to the call. The pain will be your friend.”
“Where are you!” Benjamin yelled as the heavens bombarded him. “Come out here and fight, you low down punk!”
The next cracks of light revealed a monstrosity before him. A woman's body was sitting on six legs. She was two feet taller than Benjamin and her right arm was a long blade. His first shot blasted one of the legs off and sent her charging straight at him. A thousand cries filled the air and he was firing away as more ensemble hellions came up the same path she was on.
He ran down the other one while letting the plasma rifle tear the world apart. The bug lady was on three legs and screaming wildly. He stopped and watched her head incinerate with a well placed shot. The rifle was hot and it felt good in his stiff hands. He sprinted down the free path until he heard the banshee cries coming toward him and he decided it was time to cut to the other side. Straight into the thick belly of the forest he fought and pushed for. Sirens were wailing somewhere ahead and the air hummed with electricity. Something was following his trail into the trees slapping and scraping him bare. The thrashing behind him was gaining and he was slowing. Lungs and legs were fire in the rain would not stop. Lights beyond the next line of trees and movement everywhere. He dropped to crawl to where he could see what was out there. He was on the high ground and he could see the path come down from his right into a large with two quonset hut beside each other and a pigpen nearest him. The siren hollered from the top of the round buildings as a legion of Centaurians streamed out of one. Their cries pierced the already foul air. Tobacco Brown was nowhere to be seen. He figured she was in one of the long huts but did not know and he had only one grenade. Everything depended on it. The pulse from the blue can in his hand would scatter the circuitry of everything in the clearing but more would come and she had to be down there. Screams, cries, pleas, and calls pushed his thoughts out and his followers were almost on top of him.
“Fuck it.” He murmured and crawled free from his hiding space. “Hey. Y'all. I'm up here!” He fired the rifle on auto for the bastards to really know. The swarming mass turned and perceived as the figure of a man hurled something toward them and then turned to send a glowing round into a member of the Herd's chest.
Everything went white and then black. Benjamin was fighting to see through flash burned eyes. Cries were faint as half machines flailed and failed. His legs went to running and he was hellfire with a plasma rifle. Past the pigpen, past the first building he was dodging the crippled Centaurians and the voices spit gibberish and faded. Instinct sent him to the second building and he ran in. The lights were out but the place was half alive with movement.
“You in here!” He shouted.
“I think,” she moaned. He ran to the voice and damned himself for forgetting a flashlight as he tripped over nest of cables on the floor. As he tried to get up, something grabbed his arm and clamped with machine force, making him to drop the rifle.
“Aarghdieshitnut,” came out as one word as swung at the unseen with his own metal hand. He struck and the clamp tightened. More sounds of steel scraping around and something was biting into his ankle.
“Now you die,” was the dry rattle in the air and Benjamin closed his eyes. He waited and set to making peace with himself, knowing that he had done the best he could and all went white.
The vise released on his wrist and the space was quiet.
“Yea.” On his feet he saw a light before him and Tobacco Brown was holding it.
“Let's get the hell out of here.”
“What about the Mind?”
“What about us?”
“Look, I ain't enjoying this place but we're here so we might as well and see if we can get our shit and go.” He walked toward her in the beam and surveyed the area. Bodies spasmed in a circle on the dirt floor. A cross stood in the middle and Tobacco Brown was standing in front of it. The cords he had tripped on ran to the metal cross. She was following them with the light. They traced across the floor to a pedestal. A green robed Centaurian was curled on the floor next to the pedestal with meat saw as one hand and a syringe in the other. Benjamin ran and picked up the needle and inspected the pedestal. A carved urn sat atop. It did not appear to be attached to anything but he could feel all things vibrate and shift as he neared it.
“I'm guessing this is it.”
“Just grab and it let's go.”
It was in his hands and he could see the realm of the Mind. It knocked him back and he lurched like a punch drunk boxer. He tucked the urn under his left arm and flailed with his other. Tobacco Brown grabbed the free hand and pulled him along. She let go to hurl another grenade out the door and then they were outside. Benjamin did not feel the cold or the rain. Gusting squalls were silence to him. He watched as Tobacco Brown danced and dodged and raged hellfire from her photon cannon at anything and everything. He knew he was supposed to be doing something but he the Mind was showing him what the Herd felt, anguish and rage. Terrified cries to release the urn. It was trapped and in the clutches of a member of the race of destroyers. He wanted to smash the smooth wood, set it on fire and release himself from the burden.
Tobacco Brown was shouting at him, waving, asking him something.
“Where's the truck?” The storm had strengthened and the lightening blazed in all corners. Trees cracked and fell around them and Benjamin was standing with the rootball under one arm lost in the folds of its primordial power. The hills were screaming with the desperate calls of Centaurians and she could sense them coming from all points. She had one grenade and could never fight them all off. She fired at three coming from the other building, three times a helmeted skull shattered. They still moved but with no control and two had tangled with each other. They would be surrounded soon, thousands of hell-born men coming for their totem to immortality.
“Of course.” She said to herself as she hurried to grab Benjamin. Grabbing his free hand in her left, she pulled a --- grenade from her belt and held the plunger down. She held it high over her head and walked down the middle of the path toward the road. Voices grew scared.
“No. You would never. The spirit will save us.” They could sense the danger and stopped at the edge of the clearing when they saw the devil woman with the device held high. Attacking would not do. Tobacco Brown smiled when she saw the Centaurians stop in the near sight of rain choked night. They were close enough to hear the ventilators and gyroscopes click and whir. She continued with careful steps for a slip in mud would bring instant closure. Gradually, they walked up the path and she could make out the truck. She would need to move quickly when they reached it and she desperately needed her driver. He was a lone soul walking through an fog of frightened spirits. The faces appeared and he could see past the helmets and to the gaunt expressions pleading for what was theirs. They were weak with sadness and confused by fear. What would they do without their legacy? He wanted to give them the bundle like a scrap to the cold and homeless. A door opened, he was pushed onto a seat. He knew the place but not so well as the faces staring through the glass at him. Something grabbed at the urn. He wouldn't let go.
“Damnit, Benjamin. Let go and drive.” He just sat and looked at the Centaurian on the other side of his door. “Sorry.” She jabbed a stungun into his neck and he released the urn as he spasmed and his head fell forward. She lifted up the sensous wooden vessel and it hated her. It burned and she carried the agony long enough to throw it in the back seat.
“What the hell?” Benjamin was opening his eyes and he was surrounded by Centaurians. “I think we might be fucked.”
“Just drive and let me do the talking.” Tobacco Brown was opening and closing her scalded hands and chambering the EMP grenade into the launcher on her cannon.
“You might have to explain it to me.”
“We've got the Mind and they think I'm about to blow it up with us.”
“Oh.” He was remembering the recent past and the pieces began to fall into place. “Hold on.” He turned the truck on and around. Not that it was easy. He was starting to feel like the stories of dead white men entering new lands—Cortez?---. They were ready to bow down to him. The grinding, oil smeared arms, wheels, legs following his every move ready to kill or kneel. If only they had killed, would it all be different. What does it matter questioning the past, it is not as if I could redo it or anything is ever gonna be the exact same again.
Tobacco Brown had ever idea of every intention of hers. The robed bastard had succeeded in raping her and was on course to take the last ounce of her mind. They would feel her wraith and it would the fury of savage moons.()
“Get us the sweet fuck out of here.” She yelled and then got out and into the back. Between water cans, tools, and motors she kneeled with the grenade in and shouted for Benjamin.
“Go. You bastard. Drive.”
Okay. He started off on a Sunday jog and the circle opened and fell into the rest of the flock behind him. She held her fire. The driving was fun. The rain and wind played a symphony on trees and truck and he enjoyed it. It felt new to smile, one breath shy of alive. He stepped on the gas.
“Hold on, baby, it's gonna get bumpy.” They bounced and shot up the hill and down to the road they tumbled. The rain felt like needles in her back but she was focused on the breaking line following. The dense forest opened and she was thrown to one side and looked up to see pavement sliding away. Centaurians were starting to pour onto the road. She shot off the EMP grenade. Blue white burst and a Centaurians were skidding on useless bodies, piling up and stopping up the road. She loaded the anti-gravity grenade and placed a shot just past the middle of the scrum. Truck windows shattered and hell squal thunder shattered the earth. Benjamin didn't know what to do but drive and now he wanted to get away. He had enough fuel to do a hard run to get past the capacitor farms. The few Centaurian that might keep up would not go so deep into new country. He had hoped that it wouldn't come to this but that's the way it was. His ears were bleeding from the shock wave and glass from the side window pricking him all over. The windshield was still intact or he would be in trouble.