That air plant is probably the only thing I’ve laid my eyes on all week that doesn’t seem to make my head hurt more. Tillandsia Stricta, that’s what she called it. I don’t even know where she got it from. I know she had told me at one point or another, but let’s be realistic, I wasn’t going to retain that shit. I still have it though, just under the console. Elsie told me to keep it in my cab to remind me of the woods when I’m out driving, said it would be hard even for me to kill it, all I have to do is just spray it down with some water every couple days or so but it’s so fucking humid I really don’t even have to do that too often. Just make sure it stays green.
I’m having the worst luck with the traffic lights this evening. It keeps looking like I’ll have straight shots through intersections and then every time I’m about to pull through it pops to yellow. Other cabbies always talk about how “back in the good old days” yellow meant slow down, but you can still get through if it’s too tight. Ever since the they deployed the Sentinels to monitor street crime and a few people got executed on the street for pushing through those yellows we all just decided to start stopping for them. After all the bullshit I went through in the service, there’s no way in hell I’d let myself get got by one of those glorified robo-crabs.
Gotta stay calm here though, I can feel myself just getting angrier and angrier, this headache is fucking killing me. It’s just been getting worse and worse since I first noticed it that evening outside Sydney’s lab. It’s like there’s a fucking hornet flying around inside my head. I heard weird shit starts happening at this age with your body but I swear if this goes on for another 20 minutes I’ll crack my own shit right op-
Calm the fuck down
I’m looking at the plant again, and for some dumb reason it keeps calming me down. Like it doesn’t have any issue, it doesn’t have to worry about shit, just keep growing, keep living.
“Look, I know we’re definitely taking a risk here, but we’re also talking about a future for our kids we’re just never going to have.”
Elise’s just giving me this blank stare.
I hate this moment, I can’t tell if she’s gonna get behind me or chew my head off.
“I never wanted kids. I never wanted to put anyone else through this nightmare. Everything I’ve ever had to do has been for self preservation, I’m over it.”
“That’s not really answering the question here.”
“You said you already got this shot or whatever it was right? Do you feel any different?”
“Not that I’ve noticed, at least nothing I wouldn’t expect at this age anyways, they said the first guy just dropped dead right away, and I’m still here. They said something about him having other complications from age or something like that.”
“So you think it’s more or less safe?”
“I wouldn’t have suggested any of this if I didn’t think it was worth it. The way I see it, this is the only way we could possibly give our kids any chance at living past 35. That and it’s our only chance to maybe see them make it that far. At this point I really think it should be your call though.”
She’s sitting so still, staring ahead but not really at anything, more like through. I hate serious discussions. I’d rather go through every day just doing stuff that makes me happy. I wish we could just say fuck it all and just go make some tunes right now. This is what’s happening right now though, no matter how much this makes my stomach knot up I just gotta make it through this talk. I remember my Dad always used to say “this too will pass”, most patronizing thing to hear at 7 years old but sitting in this chair today I think I finally understand what he was getting at.
“Yeah, just tell us where and when to go.”
“I’ll let Will know”
“Is that the name of the guy from the cab?”
“Yeah, comes off like a real cold son of a bitch, but I gotta say there’s just something about him I can’t help but trust”
She’s just kind of rubbing her thumb on the side of her mug handle, the dining table lamp is slowly swaying back and forth.
“It’s set up, just take them to the address I gave you. Sydney was really pleasant, I think the kids will like her.”
The light in front of me shifts to red just as a Sentinel comes around the corner and it’s like someone just shoved a hot rail spike through the middle of my forehead. I can’t see let alone get my contacts in time and despite looking straight down I can see the red glow of the optic scanner wash over me through the windshield.
That buzzing is only getting worse, I’d think it’s deafening if it wasn’t for the crystal clear sound of every gear, motor inside that fucking robot as it creeps over the concrete, it’s pointed spider legs clicking on the ground. The sound of it is overwhelming, waves of pain roll over my eyeballs and seep through the nerves back down my ear canals and into my spine, the taste of blood and stomach acid in the back of my throat. Why the fuck is this happening to me? Is this some kind of new tech they rolled out? This unit doesn’t seem new, and how the fuck can I even tell that?
What the fuck is happening…
The glass in my driver window just smashes through and I can feel the little pieces of broken glass against my face. The cold claw of the Sentinel following quickly behind, grasps around my throat and that’s fucking it.
The pain folds in on itself and I can feel my brain exploding against the inside of my skull. My vision just goes white and even though I’m choking from the death grip on my throat, I’m screaming without air. The buzzing hits a fever pitch as my head splits and I feel it burst out…
My vision fades from white to black.
The sound of the city is returning to me, but it’s not the same, slowly the steering wheel is coming back into focus, the gauges on my dash are still glowing. There’s little sparkling flakes of glass on my lap.
The street is dark.
Not a single window shines a light, every car has stopped, turned off. The streetlight above no longer signaling. It’s out.
As I turn my head to see what happened to that Sentinel my stomach turns. It’s lying in a heap on the sidewalk, dark as the windows and streetlights above.
The buzzing now feels like just a tingle, distant as the lights of the traffic a block or two ahead of me.
I hear a car door open behind me and footsteps, I see a woman rushing towards me in my side view mirror.
“Hey! Are you alright?!”
The ‘Hey’ sounded like it was underwater, but by the time she made it to ‘alright’ she’s managed to reach the surface. I’m so confused right now.
“Are you ok?”
She looks like she’s maybe a little shorter than me, her long brown hair is pulled back wraps around her shoulder to one side and she’s got a ratty old Sox hat on. I see a checker strip pin just under her service badges, she’s a cabbie like me.
“Yeah, I think so”
I start brushing the glass off my lap onto the floor.
“I was going to ask you the same question”
“Didn’t you see it? That Sentinel looked like it was about to take you when all of a sudden every light around seemed to burn out. It’s like there was a power surge or something, I’m not really sure what happened. You got lucky it took the Sentinel out, from my seat behind you it looked like you lucked out.”
Fuck, she’s gonna report me. I reach for my flashlight, maybe I can hit her hard enough she won’t remember my face when she wakes up. She spots me reaching under my seat and through the broken window she puts her hand on my shoulder.
“Don’t worry, I won’t say anything, That could have just as easily been me.”
“Hey, watch out for our own, The name’s Kate.”
“I’m Larry, nice to meet you”
“Well Larry, this has been pretty damn strange and all but you seem alright and I really need to get back to work. Maybe I’ll see you around, hopefully next time you won’t be getting choked out.”
“Yeah, You too.”
She turns and walks back to her car. I hear it start and see her headlights bounce off my rear view mirror.
I go to turn my ignition but the starter grinds and I let off. How the fuck is my car still running?
If there was a power surge that took out the whole block how come my car didn’t go too?
Ya know what, I’m asking way too many questions right now, who fucking cares. My head doesn’t hurt anymore and that fucking piece of shit tin cop didn’t take me out so I’m up 2 right now.
I take a look at the air plant one last time before flipping the transmission to drive. I don’t know why, but it looks greener now for some reason. Maybe it was my headache. Whatever.
Only 45 minutes left in this shift and I can head home.
I hope the Elsie and the kids are OK. Will should have gotten them back home by now.
As the glowing lights of the street ahead draw nearer, I can feel the frequency of the buzz returning. This time it’s not the same though, It doesn’t hurt the same way it did before.
Maybe I should go talk to Sydney, maybe I should have waited… I need to get home.
The gear shifts up, the revs drop. It’s tuned to the frequency and for the first time in a long time, I feel something, real…