Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Know Circuit - Chapter 14.0

November 7, 2028
2:07 a.m.

Bridge stalked past the shopping center in a daze, stewing in mystified confusion and bone-wearying fatigue tinged with impotent anger. He wasn’t even sure who or what the anger was directed towards, just that it simmered in every cell, every pore of his being. He was angry at the dome and everything in it for the goddamned invasion of weirdness it had injected into his life. He was angry at Aristotle for giving him the sob story that had landed him here in the first place. He was angry at Carl the Dragon for being a mysterious dick. But mostly, he was angry at himself for being a soppy bitch and letting all of them push him along to this upside down bizarro world where he felt sure he was going to die. Based on how strange his time in Boulder had been so far, he half-expected that inevitable death to come from a 16-ton weight being dropped on his head from a very great height.

Just north of the shopping center was the intersection of Baseline Road and 93, a crisscross of perpendicular six-lane highways. His route should have followed the highway northwest, but something told him to veer directly north through a large compound of sandstone brick buildings with Italian-styled red tile roofs. The itching pointed towards the compound and beyond, so he left the road for the verdant shade of the trees in front of the compound. A small sign in the meadow informed him that he had finally reached the University, or at least the part of the school known as Kittredge Complex. Though Bridge felt a load-lifting relief at reaching his destination that was as palpable as the bone-deep fatigue that dragged him into a panting stoop, the lack of any visible sort of resolution made that success all too anticlimactic.

“Well, I’m fucking here, you bastards!” he screamed at the barren campus. “I’m finally here. Now what?” The abandoned buildings stared on in mute indifference.

Bridge continued on to the nearest building, which was named the “Wolf School of Law” by signs at either end. The main door was locked. Rather than try to break in, he moved on. “Last thing I need is a building for future lawyers,” he muttered to himself. Talking to himself had become way too routine. Crossing the street presented two more buildings. The one on the left appeared to be another academic building. He ignored it and approached the building on the right, which was set back from the road in a shaded grove. A quick survey of the ground floor windows revealed a series of dorm rooms, all as empty as the house he’d raided earlier. Beds were slept in but uninhabited. Spotting a mini-fridge in one of the rooms, he realized how thirsty he had become. His body was not used to this much walking.

Quickly glancing to either side for onlookers, he pulled out the pistol and cocked it. One shot sounded thunderous in the emptiness of the dome, but it did the job. The window cracked enough for Bridge to finish the job with a well-placed kick. Using the gun butt to clear the rest of the glass, he reached in, undid the latch and climbed carefully through the window.

The electricity still hummed along like the other buildings he’d seen in the city. Bridge searched the room hungrily, snatching a bag of chips from a shelf overlooking a cluttered desk. Opening the mini-fridge revealed only a sparse assortment of vegan food and bottled water. “Fucking kids these days,” he grumbled. “Where’s the beer?” He was sorely disappointed in the room’s former occupants. He ignored the water and munched on the chips while pilfering the room, scoring a few more credit ID’s.

Done with his search, he opened the door and peered up and down the hall carefully. The hinges squeaked too loudly, echoing down the empty hallway with enough volume to make him flinch. Seeing no pursuit, he began a thorough room to room search of the hall. The third mini-fridge he raided contained a stash of the sought-after golden elixir. It was a cheap brew, the kind college students drank because they couldn’t afford the good stuff, but at least these students had had sense enough to make sure it was absolutely ice cold. Bridge popped the top on the can and drained it with zeal, pulling another to carry with him along the way. The frigid liquid gave him a brain freeze and he felt the slightest hint of a buzz building. The bed next to the fridge beckoned to him with the promise of much-needed rest, but he resisted the urge. As fucked up as this place was, he’d likely wake up with three pissed-off bears fussing over his body, ready to revenge Bridge’s theft of their beer.

By the time his search had reached the last door on the east side of the building, it was necessary to switch on the light to dispel the rapidly gathering gloom. It was only after minutes of searching the room that it occurred to him how unnaturally dark it had gotten. He could see the afternoon shadow of the building stretching out on the ground, inching too quickly forward. He had not noticed the quality of light before, but seeing the shadows now reminded him of those old time-lapse photography films of plants growing. It wasn’t quite noticeable at first glance but careful observation confirmed it. The sun was moving impossibly fast towards the western horizon. On the shelf to his right directly at eye level, a digital clock blinked, the numbers cycling through their sequence at breakneck speed. Time was almost literally flying past him.

He tried to connect his jack wirelessly to the GlobalNet. He could feel a definite connection, but where the GlobalNet’s data stream should have been was only the void. He couldn’t check the actual time from the GlobalNet, so he tried to trace his steps back to his entry into the dome. He had left Carl at the entrance at somewhere around 1 or 2 in the morning, yet the dome’s interior was bathed in early morning sunlight. He had perhaps walked 20 minutes, spent another 20 in the house before stealing the car. The ride had been interrupted by ghosts perhaps five minutes after it began, and he had spent another 30 minutes walking from there to his current location. In all, he’d spent no more than two hours under the dome, and yet he could swear it was now as late as 4:30 or 5 o’clock.

While he pondered the issue of time, his eye caught something in the distance, something moving. He could see it above the red-tiled roof of the residence hall to the northeast, floating probably 50 feet in the air. Bridge blinked two, three times, trying hard to comprehend what he was seeing. “The fuck…” he stammered. His mind could not comprehend what his eyes confirmed. Floating there effortlessly stood the figure of a man.

Go to Chapter 14.5

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