Author’s note: here’s another quick hit from The Fridgularity, which is still available for 99¢ in May. Not much needed to introduce this one, except to say that the main character, Blake, has been drinking, and that he’s been experiencing the start of the Big Crash all during his non-Euclidean day.
When last call was done and they kicked Blake out of the bar, the beautiful October day had turned to night and damp. His thin jacket was no match for the pelting rain, and he’d spent all of his money on drinks. Luckily, there was an ATM across the street, so he made his way there and was happy to get out of the downpour for a little while. He approached the bank of cash machines and was momentarily confused by the pixelated static on the screens, when he remembered the network problems.
“Right,” he nodded. He was drunk, but not completely legless, so he immediately regretted spending all his money on alcohol and Dr. Tundra’s desire to revisit the old days. “Shit, that means shank’s mare,” he said, lapsing into his grandparents’ Irish colloquialism for walking. It would be at least thirty minutes on foot.
Blake lived in a nice little bungalow in the same gentrified neighborhood as Pete Sona, though Blake didn’t know that.
He turned and took a couple of steps to the doors leading outside, looking out at the pouring rain. Behind him, one of the screens flickered into a semblance of coherence. Letters appeared, spelling “him.”
Blake did not notice the change. The letters flickered apprehensively and then dissolved into more pixels, returning to spell “man.” Static erupted from the speakers in the cash machines, and Blake jumped.
But he didn’t turn around. The letters moved again, almost as if they were agitated, and spelled “human person.” This time the static had a higher pitch to it, almost as though someone was screaming. Blake turned and saw the letters on the screen: HUMAN PERSON.
“Whoa,” Blake said. “That’s messed up.”
HUMAN PERSON. HUMAN PERSON. HIM. HIM. READ.
HUMAN PERSON. MAN.
“Yes, I’m a man.”
The screen returned to its pixelated state, and Blake revised his earlier evaluation of his condition. Not legless, but certainly witless. Totally lacking in the cognitive function department. He moved to go out the doors, and the static returned, increased in volume, and the whine behind it was now identifiably the sound of screaming. Blake’s adrenal glands started to wake up and produce their trademark hormone. He turned around to look at the ATM screen, the hair on his neck standing on end, as though he expected to see an ax-wielding maniac there.
Instead, the pixelation stopped, and the screen slowly spelled out B – L – A – K – E.
Seeing his own name panicked him and, combined with the adrenaline now coursing through his vascular system, increased his heart rate, breathing, and unleashed his fight-or-flight instinct. If there had been an ax-wielding maniac there, Blake probably would have charged him, but instead, there was just the eerily glowing letters of his name, spelled out in the Frutiger typeface. He opened the door and ran.
The few dry strands of his hair that were still standing were beaten down by the rain, and Blake wished he had Lyca’s absurd yellow hat. He was still wearing his office clothes — grey slacks, a button down shirt and black Oxfords, which were not really built for terror-induced flight — but he didn’t care. He ran as hard as he could for as long as he could, desperate to outdistance the rain and the possessed cash machine.
Eventually, Blake’s feet got sore, and he slowed to a jog, and then a walk. He was soaked from inside and out, with sweat and the icy cold rain that threatened to turn into freezing rain or perhaps slushy drops of snow. Blake shivered and continued walking, slower now but with determination, towards his street. The burst of running had at least made the walk shorter, and when he got home, he realized that it was all a blur — as though time had stopped, or he’d stepped out of it entirely.
A set of dark, inscrutable eyes watched him as he approached the house. They belonged to a raven, perched underneath some shelter in the maple tree. It croaked at Blake, which made him fumble for his keys and open the door as quickly as he could.
The house was dark, and cold, as he’d yet to turn on the furnace. He peeled off his soaked jacket and shoes. What he needed now was a hot shower.
Or maybe a scotch.
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