Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Know Circuit - Chapter 12.5

Chapter 12.0

Bridge walked along in darkness, tripping here and there while trying to keep an eye on the flickering form of the dragon. The creature often flew too far ahead and would have to circle back to allow Bridge to keep up. Feeling petulant, Bridge did nothing to quicken his pace. On one of its return circuits, Bridge tried to engage it in conversation. “So should I just call you Mister Dragon, or do you have a name?”

The beast pulled up sharply, hovering beside Bridge with tight flaps of his fiery wings like a monstrous hummingbird. “Carl,” he said flatly before flying off again.

Bridge yelled at the dragon’s back. “Carl? Really? Carl? What kind of a dragon name is CARL? Shouldn’t you be called Firebelly or Phoenix or something?” Carl looped back and landed forcefully in front of Bridge, his feet melting the snow. Bridge pulled back. “Not that Carl is a bad name, I’m sure your mother was quite happy with it. But I mean, really, Carl the Dragon doesn’t inspire fear, you know what I’m saying? You need something with mystery, excitement. Like Draconis.”

Rivulets of steam escaped from Carl’s nostrils. His front toe tapped on the pavement, making a sound like striking matches. “You think I should change my name?”

Bridge shrugged. “I’m not saying it’s crucial, just that if you’re going to try to intimidate someone once they wrap their noodle around the idea of a giant flaming fucking dragon, telling them to obey the commands of Carl the Lizard King ain’t cutting it. You’re going to end up having to blow something up again, and pretty soon you’re out of shit to blow up.” Carl responded by breathing boiling gouts of fire on a nearby tree, exploding it in a shower of sickly orange light. “Yes, very impressive. I’ve seen that, not feeling it.” Carl bent down even further until they stood nose to nose. Bridge could feel the waves of heat coming off the dragon’s body. But he was surprised to note that the dragon didn’t smell. There was no scent of brimstone or charcoal or anything burning. Though he could feel the flames, his sense of personal space did not feel violated by the dragon’s physical presence, almost as if the creature occupied no corporeal space.

“What are you doing out here, Carl the Dragon?” Bridge asked, standing defiantly straight despite the attempt at intimidation.

“What do you mean?”

“Well, you closed off Boulder, you downed a news chopper, you blew up some shit and chased off the National Guard, all to get me to come with you. Why? Why me? Why are people with interface jacks compelled to drop everything and come all the way out here? You’re holding most of a city hostage, you know and after four days, you haven’t released any demands, haven’t appeared other than these two times. How does a dragon hide away from satellites and soldiers and cops for four days?”

Rather than answer, Carl took off again, rising into the air with a snort. “Do you ever stop gibbering?”

“No,” Bridge replied with a smile. “My girlfriend says the only way to kill me is to gag me. Says silence is my kryptonite. She’s probably right.”

“I’m not the person to answer your questions, Mr. Bridge,” Carl said. “I’m just supposed to bring you here alone. Balfour will have your answers.”

“Fair enough. Who’s Balfour?”

“You’ll find out,” was all the answer Carl would give. He flew on in silence for a minute then abruptly switched back to hover over Bridge. “Give me one good reason I shouldn’t torch those two following us.”

Bridge didn’t bat an eyelash. “Because they’re my bodyguards, like I told you. And if you think I’m going to tell them to just let me go alone with a flaming dragon, you’re crazy. I’m lucky I can go to the can without one of them on shaking duty. You want me in Boulder? You leave them alone.”

The dragon turned back towards the dome without comment and Bridge let out a slow sigh of relief. He glanced around trying to get some idea of where Stonewall and Aristotle were, but couldn’t see them. They were good. He walked on, staring up the road and trying not to get too fatigued. The day’s walking was starting to wear him down. “Hey, can we take a rest? I’ve been walking for hours.”

“We don’t have time for this,” the dragon said peevishly.

“Unless you’re going to offer to carry my ass, you’re going to have to give me a minute to catch my breath.”

“Shouldn’t have been talking so much,” Carl said, but settled down in the road to allow Bridge a breather. When Bridge felt a little steadier, he started in motion again. They walked on in silence until the dome appeared out of the darkness. Bridge had gotten glimpses of it now and then, but its proximity was such now that it dominated the view, a shiny black omnipresent deity peering down oppressively on the ants walking below. This close, the dark material seemed to glow faintly, grasping every iota of the moonlight and in reflecting it, amplifying the light. Bridge became aware of a buzzing hum of energy that made the hair on his arms stand up. He felt that charged expectant potential in the air like the seconds before lightning strikes. Anxiety and anticipation grew in the pit of his stomach as he approached the mysterious construct. Finally, the dome swallowed the road, the houses, and the sky, everything in front of Bridge. There was no more city, just the dome.

With distracted disinterest, Carl said, “We’re here. Go on in.”

Bridge looked at the dome’s surface, then back to Carl with skeptical irritation. “Wait a minute, you want me to touch that thing? Just walk into it?”

“Just walk into it.”

“Hold everything. I’ve seen the video on the Net. That thing fried the last jackass who touched it. What are you trying to do, electrocute me?”

“That idiot wasn’t allowed in. You are. If I had wanted to kill you, I’d have done it back there when you made fun of my name. Now go on in, the force field is calibrated to allow you and only you through.” Carl shouted back over Bridge’s shoulder at the bodyguards. “That means your bodyguards should not expect to be let in. Do not touch this thing or you’ll get fried. Do you understand?”

Si,” Stonewall answered. Bridge picked out their location as the Mexican stood up from behind a building. “You ok, Bridge?”

“I’m pretty far from ok, brother,” Bridge replied. “But I got this. Marcus, if your grandmother’s in there, I’ll find her.” Again, Bridge refused to promise. Aristotle just nodded sadly. “If you can, let Bud know what’s going on. I’ll see what I can do about his people while I’m at it.”

Bridge stared at the dome, then back up at Carl, trying to read the creature’s emotions. There was nothing in the flames that would give Bridge comfort either way, no sense of sympathetic feelings that would bolster Bridge’s shaky confidence. The dragon motioned a talon towards the dome again, shooing Bridge forward impatiently. “Well, fuck it,” Bridge said finally. “I didn’t come all this way to pussy out now.”

He stepped into the dome with his teeth clenched and eyes closed, expecting to be thrown backwards by electric shock any minute.

Go to Chapter 13.0


Arkturuz said...

I just found your blog... and I loved it!

My name is Arkthuruz Navarro. Im doing an online magazine on alternative culture and my firts issue is on industrial/EBM music and Cyberpunk literature and animation. It would be an honor to feature your work and maybe even interview you for the magazine. hope to hear form you soon.

Arkthuruz Navarro Z.

Gary A. Ballard said...

Sure, I'd love to discuss this further with you. Shoot me an email at


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