Author : Mark Thomas

It was a self-destructive spasm of madness!

When the hunter cornered it, The Future had assumed the guise of a malnourished, homeless psychotic, bumping his shopping cart full of human trifles along a dirt path underneath a highway overpass. In this iteration, the Future was utterly defenseless yet it made no attempt at disguise. In fact, it was wearing a black T-shirt emblazoned with white block letters that unambiguously said: “The Future.”

“Stop!” the hunter commanded, leveling his rifle at the thing.

“I can’t,” The Future replied as it continued to force the wire cart through a network of hardened mud ruts.

The hunter fired a single shot into the ground underneath the nose of the shopping cart. Clods of earth spattered a nearby patch of weeds and a wheel spun madly for a few seconds before dropping onto the path.

The Future glanced nervously at the mutilated cart. “Well,” it reconsidered, “I guess I could pause for a minute.” But the abstraction in the black T-shirt soon fidgeted awkwardly and slowly squatted down to pick up a cigarette package which happened to be lying near its feet. “I can’t stop moving altogether,” it said apologetically. The scrap of cardboard was slowly placed in the basket.

The hunter nodded but his muzzle tip produced little air drawn patterns in response to every movement. The hunter didn’t trust The Future.

The Future was full of tricks.

The ragged manifestation squatted once again and picked up a plastic hand lotion bottle. The hunter’s rifle tracked each movement but didn’t fire. Emboldened, the Future decided to gather a few farther-flung bits of debris while it bargained for its continued existence. “What is it you want?” The Future timidly asked, although it surely must have known.

Fingers deftly extracted a wadded donut shop napkin from some nettles, then a cracked plastic lighter.

“You’re a threat to my investment,” the hunter answered. His cheek was still pressed against the breech. “I’m using a second lab-cultured liver. All of my long bones have been replaced with titanium rods. My viscera is silicon mesh, my memories are coded within magnetic bubbles.”

A dirty breeze wafted through the bridge pilings. “It sounds like you don’t need me,” The Future said sadly as it picked up a dented can of strawberry meal replacement.

“That was the plan,” the hunter said. “But I’ve been informed of a glitch within the process of live tissue synthesis…”

“Ahhh,” The Future said knowingly.

“My humanity is at stake.”

“I’m surprised you consider that a problem,” The Future sniffed.

The hunter’s eye discs became threateningly opaque. There was a small click as the guidance mechanism of his weapon locked onto target.

The Future licked its thin lips. “All existence is a delicate negotiation…”

The weapon exploded and The Future jerked violently backwards into his cart, spilling its contents onto the path. The hunter walked over to the body husk and poked it with the toe of his boot. The abstraction gurgled, but its adopted face soon became peaceful. Perhaps The Future was tired of dragging eternity to and fro.

The hunter meant to leave quickly but was distracted by a gaudy bit of tin near the shopping cart. The pseudo-human picked up a can of OldWest tobacco featuring a colorful prairie scene with a mounted cowboy slumped in front of a frozen sunset. Pink-tipped grassland offered endless tranquility.

The hunter picked up a scrap of notepaper veined with faint purple lines. The pattern was beautifully meaningless.

“Hmmm,” the hunter said and stooped again to retrieve another bright fragment from the endless pile.