Author : Chris McCormick

Crouching slightly, she trod softly towards the small brick hut. Her cloud poured through the door ahead of her, flooding the small room, and through it she felt into each corner. She brushed over each surface, carefully checking for anomalies. There were frames hanging on the walls, a small crack in one corner of the hut, a table, some chairs. She was impatient, so by now she had almost walked in through the entrance of the hut. With her cloud she felt over the items on the table as she did so. There was a small alarm clock, some paper, pens, pencils, a stone ovoid that she thought must be a paperweight. She felt-sensed down the sides of the table, into the drawers that she could now see from the entrance. She began to explore the contents of the drawers. Wait a minute. What is that? The paperweight had a slightly warmer energy signature than it should have. Maybe someone had held it recently. Or maybe –


She released Swift into her system and everything seemed to slow as she physically propelled her own body backwards out of the hut. The stone ovoid exploded outwards now into a cloud which intermingled with her cloud. The attrition rate in her cloud was huge in the volume where the two clouds overlapped. She sucked what remained of her cloud backwards as fast as it would come towards the entrance to the hut. She was by now almost all of the way out of the door, seeming to hang in mid air; physics excruciatingly slow under the influence of the drug.

Before all of her cloud was out she had it pull matter from the door frame and roof, whatever it could touch, and fill the entrance with a diamond-hard membrane that was easier to construct than it was to break apart. The last gasps of the remenants of her cloud that were still trapped behind the membrane told her that she had momentarily trapped the mech cloud, before the signal from those nodes winked out entirely.

By now her body was striking the dirt outside the hut as it came to rest. She could see out of the corner of her peripheral vision small dust rolls balooning out from under the parts of her body that had already touched the ground. She remembered the crack in the corner of the hut. This was no good. By now the mech cloud would have found the crack; the path of least resistance. It would be rounding the side of the hut to rip her apart in a few milliseconds. She thought hard.

This was crazy. This was a big risk, but if she didn’t take this chance she was fucked anyway. She recalled a program she had written way back, in a fit of teenage angst. Cheesy algorithmic poetry. She pulled it into her conciousness, modified it, and then pushed it out into her cloud. The cloud obeyed, turning on her just as the mech cloud rounded the side of the hut. Her cloud set upon her and began tearing off her atoms, molecules, cells one by one and converting them into dust. She lost conciousness. She was dust. Stupid, stupid dust.

The mech cloud pulled up short, probing and hesitated. There was nothing here but dust, and it didn’t care about dust. The mech cloud floated cautiously on the breeze and with an almost shrug like movement, flowed away.

Minutes later she came to, reassembled, lying in the dirt. Ha. Goddamn it. She smiled.

Discuss the Future: The 365 Tomorrows Forums
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows