Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Know Circuit - Chapter 14.5

Chapter 14.0

Bridge’s legs began to move before his mind could work out the details. He bolted from the room and around the corner, slamming through the locked door at the bottom of the stairwell and out into the fading light. He barely noticed the fenced area covered in beach sand and volleyball nets. He was past the other residence hall before he even knew it. Bridge kept his eyes locked on the flying figure, expecting it to dissolve into ghostly nothingness any minute.

The road he’d crossed earlier curled around northwards past the second residence hall, and beyond that were three open sports fields along the eastern side of the road, bounded by a line of boulders that followed the street’s curvature. Towers of arc lights had just exploded into life, outlining the fields with pools of light. The man hovered over the northernmost field, and as Bridge rounded the curve, he caught sight of other figures on the field, oblivious to the flying impossibility above them. In fact, the figures on the field were playing soccer. Bridge pulled up short in disbelief.

A full game of 11-a-side soccer was in progress under the watchful eye of the flying man. Bridge wanted to run, to join the group, his desperate loneliness drawing him to the crowd. He so hated to be without a pressing mass of people around him that his natural inclination was to immediately join any crowd regardless of the potential danger. He forced his pace to a walk, wiping the sweat from his brow. His natural paranoia made him double-check the gun tucked into the back of his waistband.

Every step closer brought the scene into more stark detail. He eyed the figures in the distance closely, and to his relief they were not ghosts. He didn’t feel stable enough to deal with another set of phantoms. Bridge guessed the flier was about 5”9”, though it was hard to judge his size with only the sky to measure him against. He was wiry thin, wearing jeans and a white T-shirt with some slogan on the front made up of mathematical symbols Bridge could not decipher. The man looked Chinese, with spiky black hair and olive skin, likely a few years younger than Bridge. He was furiously waving his arms at the players like a maestro conducting a symphony.

Bridge scanned the football players. From a distance, they appeared normal, but on closer inspection, they were nowhere near normal. He recognized the uniforms they wore almost immediately, the familiar reds of Liverpool facing off against the white kit of rival Manchester United. The players’ skin shined in the sunlight, but not from natural perspiration. In fact, their skin was a patchwork quilt of metallic detritus. As he reached the near touchline, he realized that the players weren’t human at all. They were walking Frankenstein constructs, made of bits of scrap metal and car parts. Every movement they made was accompanied by the faint sounds of twisting metal. The flying man’s excited gesticulations matched the player’s movements as if he was the puppet master Geppetto directing two teams of Pinocchios.

None of the figures noticed Bridge’s approach. He stood watching the game in silent awe for minutes, until the United team slotted a silky header into the goal. The flying maestro cursed loudly. Bridge yelled up at the man, “Ummm, hello?”

The flier screamed in shock, and gestured at Bridge as if throwing a baseball. Bridge’s eyes grew wide as a ball of blue fire erupted from the ends of the man’s fingers and he dove to the side just in time to avoid the explosion that engulfed the spot he’d vacated. Bridge rolled and tried to pull the gun out of his pants, but it had fallen to the ground in the awkward motion. He threw his arms out, palms forward in a gesture of empty-handed peace.

“Whoa, whoa! Hold it, hold it! I’m not here to hurt you!” Bridge marveled at the idea that he could harm a guy who’d just tossed a fireball at him.

“Who are you?” the flier screamed in response, his left hand held out in preparation for another fireball. Bridge could see tiny arcs of blue flame hopping from the man’s fingers. “No one is supposed to be here! Can’t you see I’m trying to run a simulation? You ruined it! I’m going to have to start over!” The clatter of collapsing metal filled the air as the soccer players crumpled to the ground. Something grabbed Bridge, an invisible hand that pinned his arms to his side and lifted him off the ground like a rag doll. The flying man’s right hand gripped air and as he raised the hand, Bridge was pulled into the air to levitate at the flying man’s feet.

Go to Chapter 15.0

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