|Euphoriography : First Installment|
The first section of a cyberpunk story I plan on serializing exclusively for transference. It's a rewritten version of one of my old stories, and it has been changed and re-outlined, making it worlds different than the original.
I think it'll be a pretty neat story, and although the premise may seem fairly derivative of other cyberpunk works so far, the story isn't going where you'll think it's going after you read this section.
SUBSECTION ONE: MY RED HOT CAR
Jamez says, “I need a car.”
His name is spelled with a ‘z’, because like many other people, his parents bought into the sickening trend of naming their children with ‘net slang. Some even stooped so low as to use numbers. Thankfully enough, his didn’t.
“What kind?” asks Viktor, a used car salesman slash mechanic of Hispanic descent.
Jamez has grown to trust Viktor in his few years of living out here on the east coast, so he knows that Viktor, unlike most used car salesmen, is an honest fellow.
“I don’t care, as long as it’s less than ten thou.”
“Friggin’ hell, dude. Where’d you get all that money?”
Ten grand isn’t all that much, but it is when your sole source of income comes from being a mechanic where most people don’t own vehicles or a clerk at an adult book shop.
“Been saving it up since I first came out here.”
Viktor leads him to an old red Ford Mustang; a 2000 model, from the look of it.
“It’s a fuckin’ antique, but it runs like a gem. I’ve got it all fixed up. For you, buddy, I’ll sell it for five thousand.”
Jamez beams, “You’ve got yourself a deal!”
He didn’t plan to spend the full ten grand, because spending all the money on the vehicle and leaving none for the trip probably wouldn't be the most intelligent of choices. He did, however, intend to spend more than five.
“Where you plan on going?”
“I don’t know. I’m getting sick of this place. Maybe I’ll go back home to Kansas City. Its been a few years since I’ve been back there.”
“Well,” says Viktor, “It was nice knowing you.”
“Yeah, you too, pal. Who knows? Maybe I’ll come back someday.”
He tries to open the door, but finds that it is locked.
“Dude,” says Viktor, “I think you are forgetting something.”
He tosses Jamez the keys.
The gas gauge is full. Jamez and basset hound Mr. Boogles set off on their epic journey into West Virginia; the heart of the Appalachians. Just in the bounds of this small journey, the duo will leave the jurisdiction of the United States government, which extends in only a one-hundred mile radius surrounding the District of Columbia. The nation is united in name only, being truly governed by the regional corporations that are wealthy enough to pay off the government officials, making the land of the free into a sort of modern feudal system where the common man is naught but a peasant at the mercy of the corporate elite. Certain areas, however, such as the Appalachians, large patches of the Midwest, and the deserts of Nevada and California have been made havens for revolutionaries, freedom seekers, immigrants, and people of every sort. The poison tendrils of urbanization have destroyed any semblance of nature that these places may have once possessed.
The forest zooms by as Jamez drives down the curvaceous mountain highway, flying effortlessly around the deadly twists with precision and grace; no protection from a two hundred foot freefall save the flimsy guardrail. Mr. Boogles doesn’t seem to notice the fact that his life is being put on the line as he sits on the floorboard eating luscious kibbles from his little red dish. Kicking death in the testicles as he drives, Jamez enjoys the scenery mountain valleys and streams and finds beauty in the massive expanse of forest that spread out around him.
Coming around the bend reveals to him a stark metropolis of tents and makeshift shelters spread about the landscape below. Gravel roads run all throughout the valley, lined with buildings of brick and stone and wood. The businesses that can afford them all have large neon signs that reach into the heavens, almost taller than the mountains themselves. Gas stations, restaurants, bars. Everything you can imagine can be found here. Atop the largest of the mountains are two communications satellites and an electricity plant that gives birth to a plethora of overhead cables that are strewn randomly above the city, leading in every possible direction as though their layout had been determined by a child. Jamez has been here multiple times, but it never ceases to amaze the hell out of him.
SUBSECTION TWO: SHE’S A BOMBSHELL
Kali is Jamez’s long time 'net friend. She rents a room in the top floor of an old bar here, and he met her for the first time in person the last time he came through, although they’d been talking online for years previous. Driving down the gravel road that is barely wide enough for his car, the headlights seem to prod the masses of pedestrians like cattle to the sides of the road. In their eyes, anyone with a vehicle has to be important. Pulling into an alley beside a two-storied building, he can tell it is the right place by the illuminated Pabst and Budweiser signs that hang flickering in the window. He pops the trunk to remove his luggage: a red backpack stuffed with a change of clothes, a gun, a pack of sandwiches, a computer, and a fresh carton of Marlboros.
Inside is a dimly lit room with a haze of tobacco hovering in the air like smog. The people, far apart and generally alone, are too concentrated upon their drinks to notice his entry. A chubby bartender with a stained apron takes his cigar from his mouth and nods tired greetings in Jamez‘s direction.
He asks, “What can I do you for, bud?” in a thick Brooklyn accent.
“Is Kali in?”
“Yeah, she’s upstairs. You want a drink?”
“No thanks, man.”
The narrow stairs are so dim that Jamez can barely see as he makes his ascent, using the loose railing rather than his surgically enhanced vision as support. Atop the staircase is a short hallway with decaying wooden floors and cracked plaster walls, a single door on each side. If he remembers correctly, Kali’s room is on the right. Any doubt he may have had is put to rest when he approaches, hearing that horrid music that she somehow listens to. Hoping she can hear over that shit, he pounds on the door like a policeman on a bust.
She yells, “Who’s there?”
“It’s Jamez!” he answers, yelling louder in return. A scream this loud usually requires the use of multiple exclamation marks.
As she peeks out the deadlocked door with a bloodshot eye, Jamez's nose picks out the sweet smell of marijuana sifting through the crack. Once she confirms that he is indeed who he says he is, she opens the door and pulls him in by the collar of his plain white t-shirt.
“Didn‘t expect to see you again so soon,” says Kali as Jamez lights up a smoke.
“Just passing through on my way to Kansas City. I wanted to stop by and say hello to my little Hindu goddess of death and destruction,” he replies, blowing out a thin wisp that swirls towards the suction of the open window.
“That’s good of you,” she says.
Kali flops what little weight her small body has atop her twin bed as she gazes gaily at the glow-in-the-dark stars and planets that dot her ceiling along with an unlit light bulb that hangs from a thin wire. The bed looks ready to collapse.
“I’m going to get online to check some shit real quick.” Jamez kneels and removes a small black box from his bag.
“Hold on a sec,” she says. “Have you heard about these kids that have been dying?”
“No. What does it have to do with me?”
“Jamez, they’re dying while online. Ten of them so far.”
“That’s fucked up.” He messes with the wires.
“I just want you to be careful. That’s all.”
“I will,” he assures.
The electricity cord goes in the wall socket, and the other two plug into the neurolink at the nape of his neck.
His vision fades into blue, like an old television set on video mode.
The 'net is a consensual hallucination.
You can see, feel, touch, taste, or smell anything imaginable.
A room appears before him, a desk and a chair alone amongst endless blackness.
You can have sex with whoever you wish.
Taste any food, although it will not nourish you.
You can play the starring role in your favourite film.
A voice asks, “What would you like to do?”
“I’d like to check my mail.”
“You have one article of mail from Charlie. Would you like me to read it to you?”
An envelope appears atop Jamez’s desk as he lounges back in his chair with his legs rested atop the desk. Charlie was his old friend from back in Kansas City; they had been inseparable all throughout their childhood and teens. Up until Jamez moved away, really. They had promised each other that they’d keep in contact, but they never did. It feels good to hear from him.
Yo, this is Charlie back in Kansas City. When do you plan on coming home? I’m not entirely sure that I’m clear as to why you left to begin with. I miss you bad, man. You heard the news about all these kids dying? Well, so far, there have been ten deaths, and five of them have happened in metropolitan St. Louis. Pretty whacked, eh? And all of them were online at the time of their passing, and what’s more, the coroners could find no evidence leading to a specific cause of death. They were all in perfect health. I don’t know what’s up, but it’d be best to watch yourself. Write back, bitch.
“Hmm...” ponders Jamez, “Put this in storage. I’d like to compose a reply.”
The letter disappears from his hands.
“How would you like to compose it?”
“I’ll just tell you.”
The mail Charlie will receive will look/sound, depending on his preference, something like this:
In fact, I’m on my way there now. So quit bitching. I’m in a hurry, so I’ll see you then. A week at the most.
“You got that?” Jamez asks.
“Yes. Anything else?”
“Can you send any breaking news regarding these ‘net related deaths to my mail?”
Being a computer fiend, this interests him. Who is to say what will become of it? Especially since he'll be passing through St. Louis.
“News regarding that topic will be delivered to you immediately upon release.”
“Thanks,” Jamez says, “I think I’m going to log off now.”
Originally, he had planned to talk to some people, maybe get in on a game or a chat with some friends or something, but now, he doesn’t really feel up to it. He just wants to go back and spend some time with Kali while he’s here; to make the small amount of time they have together last.
“Are you sure you wish to log off?”
Reality kicks him in the balls like a naked plunge into the Arctic Ocean.
His head rests in Kali’s lap. An awkward jolt tells her that he’s awake, so she yanks the two wires loose from the neurolink hidden under his bandana, caressing it afterwards. He’s all defensive of it, but it isn’t as though he’s the only one to have one. Kali has one. Hell, these days, everybody has one. It’s as common as circumcision for kids to get one at birth. Most people think nothing of it, but it makes him feel like a robot. She runs her fingers up the nape of his neck and through the maze of his stiffly spiked black hair as she takes a hit from the joint she rolled up while he was plugged in. She caresses the side of his face as she holds it steadily to his lips, allowing him a hit. They share back and forth until he feels no particular urge to do anything except lay there in her lap and tingle as she twirls his earring around in circles for the rest of eternity.
“I got a bottle from downstairs while you were plugged up.” She runs a hand along the contours of his chest while holding the joint to his mouth for him.
“Let’s save it for later,” he says, “I like this right now. Will you light me up a smoke?”
He doesn’t want to move. Not looking, he can hear the flicker of the lighter and the sweetness of her breath before she places the cig gently in his mouth, moving her graceful fingers back up his cheeks, through his fuzzy sideburns, and into his spiked hair. Holding the cigarette loosely in his lip, he closes his eyes and lets her hands roam, so lost in the feeling that the cigarette burns to the filter unnoticed. She takes it gently from his lip and puts it out in the ashtray atop her dresser, careful not to disturb his rest. Before she realizes it, he’s asleep, all curled up like a kid in her lap. She provides a comfortable pillow for his tired head
SUBSECTION THREE: GOIN’ TO KANSAS CITY
The mountain sunrise shining through the open window tells them that it’s morning. Yawning, Jamez wakes up with sore muscles from sleeping on the hardwood floor. Kali complains about how he shifts around too much in his sleep, and Jamez lights up his morning cigarette, a tradition shared by smokers around the world.
“Are you leaving today?” she asks.
“Yeah, I think so.”
“I’m coming with you,” she says, her tone telling him that there is nothing he could possibly do to dissuade her. That, my friend, is the power of women.
“No you’re not,” he insists.
“Yes I am.”
It has been officially decided.
He sighs. “Pack up your shit, then.”
The road trip is an age-old symbol of youthful freedom, and he looked forward to some male bonding with Mr. Boogles. Well, that plan has been shot to hell now...
She’s filling up a suitcase with multiple changes of black clothes, a pound bag of weed, cosmetic items, birth control pills, a half-empty carton of lucky strikes, her music collection, the bottle of jack, some other pills, feminine care products, and a gun.
“You think you got enough?” mocks Jamez.
“I don't know. Let me think for a second,” she says seriously. Standing up on her rickety bed, she removes the glow-in-the-dark star and planet from her ceiling one-by-one.
He casts a bizarre glance in her direction. “What the fuck?”
“I don’t want to part with them." A look spreads across her face, but to him, it was incomprehensible. Maybe depression for leaving? He doesn't even bother trying to interpret the strange maze of emotions that is the female race, so he just leans against the wall and smokes a cigarette, tapping his foot impatiently to the music that plays in his head.
Forcing her suitcase shut, she says, “I think that’s all."
Jamez holds the door open for her and watches as she stumbles down the stairs awkwardly with her heavy suitcase. His backpack has been ready all the while, so he follows.
He pops the trunk so she can shove her shit in there, while his bag gets thrown in the backseat with Mr. Boogles. It really pains him, doing Mr. Boogles like that, but it has to be done. There would be no end to the bitching if a dog rode shotgun and she got stuck in the back. She’s usually in a better mood, he thinks, but apparently she’s not the type for unplanned early morning departures.
“You ready to get out of here?” he asks, opening the door for her like any proper gentleman should. She just glares at him and gets in, pulling the door quickly shut before he has the chance to do it for her.
“We’ve got to stop by a convenience store and pick up some shit first. You know where one’s at?” he asks.
“There’s one a few blocks down the road,” she answers.
The clerk is a brown headed girl with headphones and a fuck you look in her eyes. Kali is standing by the door, watching as Jamez peruses the aisles. She doesn’t know what in the hell he’s going to get; they don’t need food, because they can eat along the way. She’s guessing that he’s got enough money, or else he wouldn’t be planning this trip to begin with. He's walking down the aisle like a kid, grabbing multiple bags of peach rings and jelly beans, also stopping to get two twenty-four packs of beer and a twelve pack of Dr. Pepper, along with some kibbles for that dog of his. Painstakingly hauling it all up to the counter, he smiles at the clerk. Her eyes are glued on the ceiling, and her headphones play loudly enough for Kali to clearly make out the lyrics, the only sound louder being the smacking of her gum.
“You have a customer,” Jamez says.
She doesn’t hear. He leans over the counter and lifts the headphones.
“You have a customer.”
She rolls her eyes and takes off her headphones, allowing them to rest around her thin neck.
“What do you want?” she asks.
“I would like you to let me walk out of here with these goods and not say anything.”
Kali never thought he'd be a thief. He has to be joking.
The girl just looks at him levelly and says, “I’ll call security.”
Kali knows damn well that there is no security in this town. The managers tell their workers that to provide them with a false sense of security. To make them think that, even though they are working at an easily robbed convenience store in a lawless region, they’ll be perfectly safe. Kali also knows, however, that the girl probably has an Uzi up under that counter ready to pull out of her ass and fill him up with holes. Jamez, grinning, pulls out his revolver and shoots her twice in the chest. Kali, in shock, hears nothing but the reverberation of the gunshot playing itself over and over in her head. He doesn't even seem fazed! Her instinct tells her to run, but she can’t bring herself to. She doesn’t want to believe that he did this; that he just murdered. He seems utterly remorseless as he grabs a load of the goods he bought and heads out to the car, stuffs it all in the trunk, and comes back for the rest. He looks happy! Not knowing what she should think, do, say, or feel, she gets in the car when he does.
“Why?” she asks, simply and plainly, holding back a tear that wells up in her eye.
He smiles, pure sadism spreading across his rough, yet boyish face. No answer is given.
“I asked you a question!” she yells, sharp like a busted up beer bottle.
He smiles, takes her hand in his. She yields apprehensively.
“Relax,” he tells her, opening her hand into a cup. “Don’t make such a big deal of things.”
He releases the chamber of his revolver, letting the four remaining bullets fall into her cupped hand. She knows a bit about guns too, and she sees that the bullets are plastic-tipped, coated in tranquilizers. The girl isn’t dead, but she’ll wake up with bruises and one hell of a headache. And, thankfully, Jamez isn’t a murderer, although he is a bastard for pulling this kind of shit on her, toying with her emotions like that. She slaps him in the face twice, watching with satisfaction as he recoils back and rubs his stinging cheeks.
“Shit,” he says.
She looks into his green eyes. “Quite a trickster, eh?”
“You should never meet people you meet on the 'net, 'cause you never know what kind of weirdo they'll turn out to be.”
She pauses for a bit, but in the end, they both laugh.
They drive back into the mountains and up north to Wheeling. There, they will catch I-70, the Main Street of America. There, they will begin their journey west, feeling much like the pioneers of old.
SUBSECTION FOUR: A LETTER HOME FROM A SOLDIER
It’s me. Percival. What have you and mom been up to lately? I’m okay, but I’ve been kind of depressed. They ordered me to kill a kid today. Just a little kid, no older than five, standing there with his teddy bear. You know, I’m amazed how easily I did it, too. How easily I killed just to avoid ridicule and punishment from my peers. No matter how much I object, I think they were successful in making me into the indiscriminate killing machine that they want me to be.
I wouldn’t mind fighting if the cause was good, you know, like stopping another Hitler or something, but sometimes, I just wonder what the hell I’m fighting for, you know? I think I’m fighting more for the corporate gain of Starbucks Inc. rather than being the defender of justice and feeder of the poor that they tell us we are. They say that every minor coffee shop that is put out of business puts more money into the pockets of Colombian coffee-farmers that they buy from. It’s all generalities. That isn’t worth fighting for. It’s all just propaganda. We’re nothing but tools.
Do you think what we’re doing is honorable? Answer me truly, do you think so? Are you proud of your childkiller son because he followed in your military footsteps? Is it worth that much to you? I don’t like it, but I’ll pull through. There is nothing else for me to do. I made a friend a few days back, and he’s made the experience better for me. We’ve got a lot in common, and being around him doesn’t make me so bitter all the time.
You know, I try to forget about the things I’ve done, I try not to feel, but it’s hard not to feel when the muzzle of my gun is pressed against the head of a kid. It’s hard not to feel when his brains splatter against the wall. It’ll never leave me, you know? I just want to go home and be happy again with you and mom and my old life. You grow up quick here. I should have ran to Canada when I had the chance, even if their border snipers would have got me.
Anyways, just tell mom not to worry. I’m fine, I’ll make it through. Tell her I’m happy, and that I love her.
(February 12th, 2003, 7:31 am)
haven't read the whole thing yet. but, what i've read so far is great. can't wait to finish it. :)
(March 23rd, 2003, 1:27 pm)
I likes this lots.
Quite different from the version I read, but good changes I reckon.
Like the developement and explaination of the relationship with Kali a lot, fits better. Altho I did rather like the originals version of events when he met up with kali, had a more flowing and chilled feel to it. This doesn't flow quite as well to my mind. I also preferred the fact that the store clerk was a pretty young blond who was attracted to Jamez, made it more interesting. This feels bleaker (unless of course that was the intention this time round?).
But I DO love the letter home at the end and am interested as to how you use this.
Nice work dude, as usual! ;)
(March 31st, 2003, 12:28 pm)
Just took time out of my busy work schedule (*cough*) to read the story. I like it much :)
The first part of jamez just up and leaving like that is recognisable to me. The part with jamez and kali is interesting, it leaves much open to their future relationship once they're on the road. And i must say, the shooting in the convenience store was quite a shock...
I don't really get where you're going with the last subsection, but i guess i'll have to stay tuned and follow the other parts to find it out, right ? :D
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