Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Know Circuit - Chapter 13.5

Chapter 13.0

Despite his impatience for answers, Bridge took to the road at a sluggish pace to avoid the few cars left stranded. The longer he stayed under the dome, the more he felt that tingling nervousness like walking in a graveyard at dusk. Bridge’s comfort zone was the breakneck pace and claustrophobic press of Los Angeles’ 24-hour lifestyle. The overcrowded atmosphere of Denver had a different vibe but it was one Bridge could grasp . Suburbs made Bridge nervous at the best of times, probably residual resentments from his pampered teen years. But this emptiness, this isolated silent wasteland without the slightest human presence gave Bridge the willies on a level he’d never felt before.

The six-lane highway he drove on was in need of repair, the truck bouncing over numerous potholes. Lines of patched-over cracks ran up and down the street like varicose veins. Houses and office buildings stood mute watch over the road from either side of the highway. Two slow blocks later, with Bridge taking careful inventory of the scenery, he began to feel something just on the edge of perception, a slow tingling, the itching sensation in his jack sending tiny ripples of feeling up and down his spine. Incoherent but insistent at first, the feeling grew and grew, traveling through his body like the circulation of blood. All the hairs on his arm stood at attention. He could feel the anticipation in his genitals, his fingers, and his eyeballs pulsed with the sensation. His tongue tasted like he’d licked a battery. He heard/felt a rattling, murmuring drone just at the edge of consciousness.

“What are you doing in my truck?” The scream startled Bridge. He threw himself to the side of the truck’s cab, pressing up against the door as if trying to escape the moving vehicle. Sitting in the passenger’s seat was a stranger staring angrily at Bridge. The muted sunlight poured through the stranger’s colorless body. Bridge could see through the passenger. This ghost wore rumpled pajamas, his curly hair tousled as if from bed head. He appeared to be in his early ‘50’s and worst of all, he was visibly pissed. His stubby finger pointed accusingly at Bridge. “You fucking thief, you stole my truck! Pull this thing over right now!” Underneath the anger, the man’s voice held an unreal quality, a droning artificial timbre that sounded digitally altered, as if he spoke through a voice box.

“Nobody was around,” Bridge stammered, trying to keep his voice steady despite being freaked out. “The whole goddamn town is abandoned and I needed a ride.”

“What, your mama told you taking people’s stuff was ok long as they ain’t around? It’s still my truck! Pull over, I’m gonna whip your monkey ass right here! I’ll have you arrested.”

“By who? Have you seen the cops anywhere? Have you seen anybody? The place is a ghost town! Look at yourself! You’re a ghost!”

“What you talkin’ about, boy? I’m as real as she is!” The ghost pointed at something out the windshield. Bridge had been paying too little attention to the road, having grown accustomed to the idea of an empty city. He turned quickly to see what the ghost pointed at, but was unprepared for what he saw.

Directly in the truck’s path was a woman, wandering aimlessly across the highway. In that split second before reaction, Bridge’s senses expanded to encapsulate every detail of the scene no matter how trivial. The woman was young, perhaps a student, dressed to the nines in a short skirt, fuck me stiletto heels and a strapless top. Her body was on the chunky side of decent, but her face was plainly unattractive. Her eyes vacant, her gait a shuffling stumble, Bridge would put good money that she was well past drunk. She turned her head as the vehicle bore down on her, a scream building in her throat as she realized the danger too late. And then the truck passed through her transparent body. Bridge had swung the wheel too late to avoid contact.

The brakes screamed in protest, tires spitting smoke and cacophonous anger at the impossible intentions of their driver. The truck shuddered towards the shoulder and past it, spewing gravel in its wake as it tore into the grass on the side of the road. Bridge felt the truck slam into the guard rail, his body thrown forward into the inadequate cushion of the expanding air bag as metal screeched against metal and glass shattered into tinkling bells.

Bridge maintained consciousness, but everything hurt and his pulse thundered in his ears. He counted himself lucky to have been so cautious, as he couldn’t have been driving more than 35 miles an hour when he hit. Nevertheless, he heard the hissing of a punctured radiator and saw rivulets of steam escaping from underneath the hood. “Now look what you done, you motherfucker!” the ghost howled. “Do you know how much that’s gonna cost to fix?” He cursed Bridge, but Artemis just ignored it, opening the door slowly and stepping out. Bridge checked himself from head to foot. Nothing was broken, and other than a stiff neck and a motherfucker of a headache, he was unharmed.

He spit a little blood from a split lip and wiped his mouth on his sleeve. “Fuck it, I’ll just walk,” he said sardonically. “You hear me, you old cocksucker? You can have your goddamn truck back.” He looked back into the cab at the swearing ghost. His eyes widened.

There were ghosts everywhere, walking around in a daze. Some were dressed in their night attire, like the driver of the stolen truck, while others seemed to be going to work or shopping as if it was any other routine day. He stood on a hill overlooking a shopping center with a grocery, drug store, hardware chain and a few other sundry shops. There were people everywhere of all ages, all oblivious to each other and to their own immateriality. Though his head hurt and he ached from head to toe, his entire body vibrated with energy as if he stood underneath a gigantic electrical transformer. His jack was on fire. The scene was exactly like his first bout of hallucinations in the Tanz, only on an incomprehensibly grander scale.

The buzzing vibrations grew stronger. He could almost hear it now, a ringing in his ears that reverberated through every cell, every square inch of him. The light grew stronger, stronger, unbearably brighter and piercing. The ghosts reacted as well, fear growing in their ethereal expressions. They shielded their faces from the light and screamed, and Bridge screamed with them.

Just as suddenly as it had begun, the light show was over. Bridge stood on the hill over the shopping center holding his ears against a pain that no longer troubled him. He opened his eyes slowly, expecting a ghost to pop out of the nearby bushes. He swore. “This is too fucking weird for me,” he complained, and started walking towards the university again. The thought of taking another vehicle occurred to him, but he decided he did not want another visitation from a pissed off ghost owner.

Go to Chapter 14.0

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