Fiction: Sci-Fi set in SF After the Apocalypse
So, I’m at the sawbone’s and I’m tryin’ tah ‘splain muhself tah the doc ‘bout how I got all hipshot an everything. They got me in a cold ass room with green walls, brown cab’nets and a shiny metal counter top an’ I’m sittin’ my happy ass on the bed thingie in the middle of the room. The getup they gave me to wear is some damn dress robe with a crack down the back, and for all the good it’s doin’ towards keeping me warm I’d just as soon be naked. Least I wouldn’t look so damn silly.
“Ok, please continue,” says the doc – little guy, white coat, glasses, scribblin’ on his pad.
“So, I’s heading down El Camino Real and noticed them off to the West,” I says. “Weren’t nothing but fuzz on the farview, but a little whiles later and that’s when I heard the bullets. And I get dinged in muh shoulder and saw my canvas jacket — my good goddam canvas and leather duster — torn and blood dribblin’ out. So I —”
“Wait,” says the Doctor, getting wide eyed. “Somebody shot you?”
“Well, yeah,” I say, shakin’ my head and freezin’ my ass on the examination bench. “Look, you gonna let me tell this whole story, or you just gonna keep interruptin’ every couple minutes?”
He looks at me above his glasses, pen tappin’ on the side of his clipboard. He don’t say nothing but waves the pen in a little circle, nodding to go on. So I get back into telling him how I came to be bleeding from the shoulder while sitting on his examination table.
“Well, so, where was I? Oh, hell, I’m backin’ up. So, I had left town and had the damn creepiest feeling. You know, where something just weren’t right — you know that feeling you get when you know Fall’s a comin? When it’s starting to get cold an’ the air smells differ’nt? You can’t deek it, but you just know it?”
The shoveltooth just stares at me like I’m talking backwards, then does some more scribblin’.
“Anyway, I was a little ways out of town there when I noticed dust clouds on the horizon. So I headed east, moving more down wind and speeding up a bit, but pretty soon I could hear the thumpin’ o’ diesel rigs and the clattering chains against their bikes and I knew it was them goll-durned peanut-farmin’ Moshurs. I woulda been able to outrun ‘em if I’d been using a bigger kite, but I weren’t, so I just dug in hard and started workin’ the kite to make more speed.”
“Excuse me, but, you were being pulled by a kite?” Asks the Doc, buttin’ in again.
“Well, yeah man,” I respond, and stare at him the same way he was lookin’ at me — like I had an arm growing out o’ my forehead. “The wind was blowin’ a good clip, so was using a medium size land kite. With a bigger kite I would have been able to outpace em pretty handily but the only reason I wouldah gone that big is if I’d ah known I’d have to ditch a bunch of drunken bikers. Otherwise, it woulda just been stupid, pointless risk. Specially with all the gear I was haulin’.”
“And…” He says, pausing to look at his notes. “You’re riding on some kind of kart?”
“Yeah, a kart or a buggy, whatever you wanna call it. It’s a Beetle Two, from Beetle Bob’s down in Cruz Station. Think I traded him about a hundred pounds of jerky and an old beat up C-kite that I didn’t even want. It’s a cool kart, looks just like a damn beetle. The gear goes in under the wings, and it’s got four wheels stead o’ three. You know, he asks a bit more for ‘em, but them features is worth the extry. It also switches to pedal power, got a few gears. But, so — oh, oldusties! What was I sayin’?”
“You had just seen the clouds coming, possibly following you.”
“Right, right, fuzz on the farview, so they was following me and I put on speed and then I looked around and saw a big steel horse off to my right. It’s just a damn motorcycle from the old days but they got it all rigged up to look like a snortin’ bronco — scare the piss outa yah if yah don’t know better. Anyway, that’s when the bullets started flying. So I noticed my shoulder and good coat was hit, and I turned even further down wind and pulled the masted sail lever.”
“The what?” Says the doc.
“The masted sail release on the Beetle Two. You know how I said it had extry features that were worth it? Well, it’s got a couple spring-loaded contraptions that pop the gear covers up like wings. And blam-o, I got two sails catchin’ more wind and I pick up more speed.”
“Sails,” says the doc, lookin’ down at his pad and writin’.
“Course about as soon as I pop the masts, I notice a few deep ruts coming up. Might’ve been rills during the last storm. But they were coming quick. So I unhooked the kite lines from my body harness and clipped it to the seat of the cart. And then I strapped on the seat belt ‘cause it was time fer jumpin’.
“So I pulled the kite down low close to the ground and popped it back up to the right, sweeping it through as much wind as possible. It was a pretty good send and the kart and I lifted off, flying through the air, over the ruts. It’s a little bit crazy but I don’t worry too much about it these days. Doin’ that sort of thing don’t leave you much time to worry. Jest got tah start thinkin’ ‘bout how you’re gonna land and not thinkin’ — an’ this is the tricky part now — not thinkin’ ‘bout how you could crash. Ain’t no time fer that.
“Well, anyhow, I think there was a gust then and I felt the moisture leakin’ out of the side of my eyes. Once the tires come back to the ground I was moving fast, diggin’ hard, rockin’ from side to side and and hopin’ I didn’t hit a soft patch.
“This was all right in front of a line of low dunes, so I started going up a little rise and I looked back over my shoulder — checkin’ fer the Moshurs. Weren’t no sign of ‘em. But when I looked ahead again I see this damn deep canyon stretchin’ out ‘nfront o’ me like the waves pulling away from shore. This sucker was like the big momma o’ them rivulets. Deep and wide.
“I did all I could but I was already falling by the time I swooped the kite through the window again.”
“What window?” says the Doc. “Where?”
“The wind window,” I says, perturbulated. “You inlanders ken about as much wind as a dog knows cookin’. El viento passa por la ventana. The wind blows through the window. The window is everywhere a kite can fly. It’s got the most power in the middle an’ sweeping the kite through it and up gives you a lot of lift and…”
The doc’s lookin’ at me like all he’s hearing is “Rubber Baby Buggy Bumpers” over and over. “Look, lemme see yer pen,” I say.
He forks over the clippy board and pen and I draw a wind window diagrams like this:
His clipboard’s kinda weird, feels more like glass than paper. Man, am I ever delirious.
“So’s anyways, I popped the kite through the window and the hang time was awesome and the lift was incredible but it just weren’t enough. The rig made it to the wall, maybe a hundred and fifty, maybe two hundred feet. Naw, prolly not that far, but still. Incredible, one of the damned finest jumps I ever done — musta been a hellova up-draft — I mean, shit, I wished the boys could’ve seen that one, you know?”
He cracks just the smallest durned hint of a smile at that.
“Well, so, spiraling the kite, trying to move forward, and I saw the kite come down and hit the ground past the lip, you know, above me. And fer a moment I got kinda proud cause I almost made it crossed that durn channel — liked to see someone else come that close — and that’s when the wall smacked the cart and me like a fly swatter and I took some bangin’ up.
“The cart started falling, but the kite must’ve wrapped on a boulder or something, because there’s a sudden jerk and I slammed against the wall again. Then pretty much everything went black.”
Tune in next time to see how Carlos adjusts to life inside the “San Francisco Spike!”