Author : Adam Wiesen

(Dark sludge slides across the matte surface like an oil spill. Hands reach down, grip and…)

…effects of the sickgun weren’t wearing off like he’d hoped. Joya whimpered from the back seat. She’d taken the worst of it: twelve seconds of flashing ultraviolet to the face followed by 94 ghz millimeter waves. Inside, she was maybe fine, but her nerves were on fire, and she had the equilibrium of an 84-year old whiskey disciple. Amit wasn’t much better, had no idea how he was keeping the car straight. Bad as the sickgun was, though, he knew there was worse. Behind them, police coralled protesters into black vans, and anyone who wasn’t brain damaged from jackboot-stomping was about to have their paradigms permanently shifted by the brainbugs under police headquarters.

“Where are we going?” Joya moaned from the rear.

“Just gotta get to the ferry, baby. Be fine once we hit the water.”

“What about Lynn?”

He had no answer. He’d last seen Lynne under a police dogpile. Joya repeated the question.

“You just ease back, baby. Pier’s coming up.”

“They’ll feed her to the ‘bugs!” she gasped. “Amit, we have to go back and get her! They’ll feed her to the ‘bugs and then she’ll… oh God.”

Joya wretched, cloying wet stink of spoiled parmesan cheese spreading across the back seat. Federal researchers bred brainbugs to grill criminals. They fed on myelated axons related to memory, and digested them slowly enough that they could be picked apart, fed into machines, translated. Pure information extraction, leaving a smooth patch where memories once grew. Started maybe with noble intentions, but it wasn’t long before ‘criminal’ took on more elastic meaning. Amit and Joya were teachers. Their union decided to strike. Feds tagged them ‘economic saboteurs’ for slowing urban infrastructure. Gave the cops brainbugs to aid in the pacifying effort. Now Lynne, 64-year old math teacher, was having the insides of her skull gnawed on to find where her shop steward was hiding.

Amit swerved, crashing through the pier’s rear gate, sped to the ferry. If he could get them across the border…he had family. They could hide. He wasn’t high enough on the food chain to matter. Police buzzship overhead hit spotlights, screamed for him to pull over. Amit taught history. Memories, on a racial scale, were what he’d built his life on. He’d be damned if he let some squirming insect chew them up, shit them out on some slide for the cops to sift through. He wiped his mouth, felt the sickgun’s effects acutely, vomit rising.

Up ahead, the ferry, great lake, mountains. Almost there. Almost…

(…retract. The brainbug’s intestine drains from the petri dish, processed and filed. Amit Pandya, slackjawed and blank, is wheeled aside. Hungry brainbugs mewl in their nearby pen as Joya, struggling feebly in her wheelchair, is brought forward. Hungry not much longer.)

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