Author : James Smith

She started hallucinating yesterday, and now the center line floats three feet above the blacktop and glows in neon rainbows. Exhaustion makes her slippery in time, and she doesn’t know if she’s remembering– or actually seeing– the sparks she left behind on her way through broken glass and car parts.

When the Kaptech people brought these legs to her, wanting to graft this chip here, these wires there, the idea of running again made her cry.

At ten years old she was doing wind sprints a day after having her appendix out. At twenty she had one pair of pumps and fifteen pair of running shoes. At thirty she joked that not having a kid meant not having to run with one on your back.

At forty she was hit by a truck.

Now, at fifty-five, she was trapped in a solar-powered alloy chassis that stopped responding to her commands five days ago, and was dragging her around the country at an un-broken fifteen miles per hour.

The HUD was static overlaid on her blurred vision, and she couldn’t steer. She learned to direct herself somewhat by leaning left or right. Going through busy areas was tricky. She cried when the shopping mall loomed up in front of her, saw herself crashing through plate glass windows and baby carriages. That was when she threw herself to the ground, leaving behind skin in the doing. She lay there, legs kicking like some giant silver cockroach while cars skidded to a halt around her. A crowd formed, curious wet shadows between her and the beautiful sun, the lazy clouds. Big, square hands under her armpits, lifting her, and she was off again, gone over the hedges, taking out a bystander and slamming her shoulder into a post on her way out of town.

She could do it again now. The desert sand on the roadside looks more forgiving than parking lot tarmac. But dying here, alone, legs kicking forever as their cells drained and recharged, drained and recharged… She couldn’t take that.

But she knows where she is now. She recognizes landmarks where people from elsewhere might see only nameless desert. Soon she will pass through the town where she grew up. It is small. She will be on the main road. And if they haven’t built up the place, she will be able to see her old home through the gap between the church and the mechanic, and then she will be four hours from the sea.

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