Sci-Fi Shorts / Sunday, February 15th, 2015
The people in front of him swarmed as he emerged from the ship. It was like he was a magnet walking out into a crowd of iron filings, all of whom were directing him to barely functioning transports. The quantity of wonder and awe each driver could offer him increased constantly as they all surrounded him, each driver one-upping the the previous. He felt like he was silently conducting an auction room. His head hurt.

He pushed through the swarm with his head down and they slowly started to peel off to try their luck elsewhere. When they all lost interest he moved to the corner of the transport bay where the light had gone out, lent against the wall and took in his surroundings. He was in a transport bay underneath the port. The stone walls bore the scars of age and decay, but it was clear from the crumbling art deco embossing in each panel that this place had not always been so decrepit. He scanned the bay, looking through the swarm of drivers and defenceless travellers emerging from the port. He found what he was looking for as far from the hubbub as was possible. The shape of the man sitting on the bonnet of his transport carved a crisp silhouette in front of the bright lights like a shadow puppet. He popped his collar, checked to make sure no one was taking too much interest in him, and strode calmly but quickly toward the shapes in the other corner of the bay.

As he approached the light in the wall blinded him more and more. It was evident that it had at one time been covered with a sculpted diffuser to throw a gentle glow over that corner of the bay, but now the LED’s inside were exposed and it was blinding. The man shape sitting on the transport was still an enormous black shadow as he got close, he remained still and silent.

“I’m looking for a friend. Mack sent me.” He enquired with a calm confidence.

There was a pause.

“Mack.” the shadow grunted. With a nod the shape got off the bonnet, moved round and got into the drivers seat. The few remaining functioning lights of the transport came on shedding more detail on the reality of the vehicle. Which was like it’s surroundings only it didn’t look like it had ever been in good condition. As the headlight shone on the other vehicles in the hangar though it was clear this was luxury transport around here. The passenger door opened invitingly.

He was safe.

He drifted slowly downward into the seat of the transport. The bastard child of cheap trance and post-orthodox folksong had managed to somehow get hold of some illegal documents, and slip through unnoticed into the local populations’ psyche under the pseudonym of music, and was now invading the stereo in the control panels speakers like an airborne virus. Initially he thought he could feel it seeping through the alvioli in his lungs and entering his bloodstream, burning his insides. But the seat was welcoming, and it pulled him into it, quenching his paranoia. The sound quickly and politely began to retreat into the background of his consciousness as the city lights drifted past the window and formed a silent, alien highway  trailing through the mountains of smoke and low hung clouds of pollution in the faded light of the sky.

He was safe.

It hadn’t been easy to get here. It may not have seemed to most that the suspicious rattling from the undercarriage of the decrepit vehicle could resemble, to a drifting mind, a kind of rhythmic poetry like a lullaby. Nor that the feeling of relaxing into the wasted faux-leather seat, patched with faux-fur and centuries of noncommittal faux-colonisation could suck that mind into it like the warm and safe embrace of a lover. The hairy man to his left, behind the controls of this loosely constructed monster of engineering certainly didn’t present an image which would usually be associated with any such consoling imagery. In fact the very thought of his gristly eyebrows probing out toward the cracked, and bullet holed windscreen would have sped the average drifting mind right back up to a concentrated beta or gamma wave level, where it might be prepared to process the level of anxiousness and paranoia that such eyebrows instil in their potential victims. Through all of it’s constituent parts, the scene presented the kind of overbearing impression that it might be stalking the prey caught within it, and might at any moment, choose to pounce. But it hadn’t been easy to get here. And…

He was safe.

The idea of using the energy he had left to debrief from and review his recent experiences probed gently at the edges of his mind. The inkling to let it penetrate and spawn was a temptation that he found easy to quash. The time may come to engage in virtual conversation with that demon, but if that time didn’t come, he wouldn’t look for it. Instead, his mind chose to move slowly and cautiously over the present and into the potential immediate future. And that was a happy place for his mind. So it explored. As the transport mounted the old potholed tarmac ramp to the new elevated highway, it explored the possibility that his destination would have a roof, a door with a lock, and a warm bed in it. Once it had explored the haven of safety he was now moving smoothly and quickly towards, it explored the surroundings. It stepped out into the potential future dawn, and watched the sun coming up over the still water of the lake throwing warmth over his potential future face. The whole idea relaxed his tired, drifting mind. He wasn’t ready to give in to sleep yet though, so he retook control, and forced his concentration back to the reality he was actually in and decided to engage in actual conversation with the more present demon next to him.

The driver didn’t speak any of the languages he would have liked him to have spoken. He could only assume that his native tongue was some kind of rare ancestral language that belonged to the ancient culture of his autonomous eyebrows. Having made that discovery though, he remembered that his planned studies of the language and culture of the Eyebrowic religion had never quite come to fruition and he ought to make provisions for the fact that it might just be the local dialect. It was both bemusing and comforting to think that in the world he lived in, there could be a place like this, where the transport drove on the same kind of frictionless highway that linked the Northern Corporations and yet the whole thing appeared to be built and used by people that couldn’t universally communicate. That was why he had come here though. He decided the best course of action was to employ the man as his linguistic guide, and he proceeded to try and learn enough words to make such a request.

An hour later, and after a conversation involving mostly hand gestures with a few words of broken English, he was practically fluent. He had learnt that “hello” in Eyebrowic was “hallo” and that “thank you” had around 17 syllables (he had made a note for future study). Unexpectedly, he also seemed to have picked up the names of most parts of a woman’s body, that Eyebrowic society appeared to be patriarchal, and that this man was called Oggler, and was a womaniser. He had a certain feeling that he hadn’t got exactly what he wanted from the lesson as they arrived at the dusty backwater ‘lodge’ where he would be staying. But one mustn’t take knowledge for granted. He hauled himself up the gravity well that had been pulling him into the seat, and out into the stark openness of the world, which appeared to still be where he’d left it, outside the transport. The gentle breeze felt more intimidating now though, so he transferred Oggler his fee as quickly as possible, wondering briefly and non-comittally about the enormous number of zeroes attached to the figure he was being charged, and paused briefly to interact with the entrance computer before scurrying into his accommodation to shut everything out.

He sat on the bed.

He breathed deeply.

He was safe.