Thursday, October 29, 2015


Obligatory Chase Scene
By Dan Baker

Brick vaporised.
Not for the first time, Timo considered how much he truly enjoyed keeping his brain and their bullets separate. He was weird that way. The keystone bounced heavily in his backpack. Ducking around a corner, his legs ate the pavement in loping bites …
The itch had started at Holborn, so he’d jumped the Northern at Tottenham Court Road and hunched amongst the usual mix, made zombie-pale in the tube’s antiseptic light. Which, on second thought was a bad idea, what with Timo’s parents passing on more than a little of their native Sudan. Fuck it! he’d thought, the itch having lodged in that ‘You’re in my personal space, mate’ spot on just under his right shoulder blade. Empty space stares. Eyes on tablets or bioware tats. Tourists. Suits. Little old ladies getting their bits from Marks. The itch getting itchier. Timo had flicked down his feed and spread it across his forearm, fluorescent green ink swirling bright to live tweets.
Ya Pinged, bruv. Heavy Thatcher. #fiveanddone
@timodee and @zalidum fighting the good fight! No excuses! No surrender! #betweenthecracks #whiterabbirrevolution
Run Forest, run! #boned #theonlycardio
… that blurred the streets of Chalk Farm. Running south, Timo dodged through traffic, the triple-crown of the Shards glinting bruise blue. The sun was low, air nipping. Behind, people were screaming. Timo kept running. No looking back. Not now. Had to keep going. His palm prickled. Index to thumb, he picked up.
‘Heya, sis.’
‘You runnin’, Timo?’
‘No biggie.’
A concerned pause. ‘You Pinged again?’
‘Just needin’ the flex.’
A judgemental pause—longer. ‘You get it?’
‘Then don’t get splat!’
She hung up.
‘Love you too.’
Timo cut left into an alley, ancient cobbles drumming hard in his knees. Bags of garbage and broken soldiers. No sirens. No drones. Why bother? Get Pinged and all they needed was time, follow the flashing dot on the screen, cast the nets, tighten the noose. Right. Another left. Into the humid shadows of tent-slum gloom, illegal generators coughing warmth for homeless dozens, a torn quilt of cables leaching off the grid. Left. But Timo was Timo, and Timo …
Yo @timodee! @zalidum groks a Crack in Camden Lock. Not far. Not far. #betweenthecracks
The train had shuddered into Mornington Crescent and Timo had stood, slipped to the doors with the shuffling gap-minders and thumb-scrolled his feed over to a map of London. Two Fivers, camo-weave tweed and all, had detached from the back of the carriage, looking everywhere but Timo. Yeah, maybe they were just stretching their legs, not wanting to spook the skinny black kid because he had enough on his plate already, right? Maybe. And just as maybe, this was the reality where Timo, his sister, his friend were on a list in Thames House, with all its fuck you-get fucked-fuck off-fucking glory. Sigh. And with the next stop, he’d been off like a shot, the Fivers on his heels.
… was one of the Gotten Forgotten, those of the Grateful Lost—Timo could slip between the Cracks.
The slums dissolved, giving way to an open court hedged by leaning brick buildings and graphite clouds. Edges of conversation licked at Timo, men and woman rummaging by temporary stalls, trestle tables a rickety zig-zag under tarpaulins stretched over thin pine frames. He checked his arm—the bioware was green static. Dead spot. They’d have lost the signal from the Ping. Timo hesitated.
A hand tugged his finger. ‘Excuse me.’
Timo started. A little girl stared up at him. ‘Alright?’
‘Do you know where the honey man is?’
He girl shrugged, quickly disappearing into the press of shoppers.
‘You got it, little,’ said Timo, reckoning it was time to make like a tree and not put down roots. He took a step and was swallowed by the crowd, its natural current taking him past roasting chestnuts and boxes of dates, boxes of records, golden pides with lamb and mint, watches, paperbacks, and a bloke selling miniature chairs made of muselets and charcoal sketches of scenes from Hamlet. A few more steps and he was standing at a mountain of cheese, three bites into a steaming pastie.
A woman smiled. ‘Can I help you, luv?’
Little wonder a Crack had opened here. It didn’t take an Einstein to see that this place wasn’t like other places—Timo had been here minutes and he’d already forgotten that there was anything else but here. All around, the future had chromed up around the market, but this present kept its shape like a paw print left when the concrete was wet. It was like stepping into another time that hadn’t really been, like a world built of iPhone photos with a hint of sepia or frothy stories after three pints on Wednesday.
Sirens whined.
‘Cheshire.’ Timo pointed. It didn’t matter that those photos and stories weren’t really true, because people believed them and wanted to, because theirs was a world they’d chosen to see. That … and the truth was total bollocks anyway. ‘My sister loves an old Cheshire.’
Flashing blue.
The Crack glittered a few steps to his left.
The woman smiled, picked up the cheese, and started wrapping it in butcher’s paper. ‘Likes a sharp one does she?’
And because they believed it, they’d made it real: a London that wasn’t London. Not this one, not now, not the seamless image projected onto LED LCDs in crisp HD, at least 1080p. It didn’t fit—a little wrinkle that had become something deeper. An opening. Timo glanced back. The two Fivers were shouldering through the market.
‘Yeah,’ said Timo, taking the cheese, paying too much for it, not caring. The Fivers closed in, guns drawn but low. Timo took a step and another. One more. ‘Sharp enough to cut.’
‘Pack it in, lad.’ One of the Fivers stepped forward. ‘Nowhere left to run.’
The woman frowned. ‘What about your change?’
Timo fell back …
He grinned. ‘It’s coming.’
… and was somewhere else.

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Writer and academic tutoring in literature (supernatural, genre, and Shakespeare) and prof. & creative writing at Deakin University, Australia. PhD. in literary studies exploring the progressive potential of fantasy fiction. Loves Cowboy Bebop.

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