** A note from the vagabond: I posted a flash science fiction piece here a while ago. I ended up liking it somewhat and decided to try and expand it to 8 or 9 thousand words. I eventually finished it about a month ago will be posting it in small chunks here for the coming month or two as I go through and edit it further. The following section is a rewrite of that which I posted before, followed by some new stuff. Thanks for reading… **
Under This Dome of Pretence
That’s the way it was with him. Always running, never fighting. “Welcome to Lat Khean” said a sign standing to one side against a backdrop of empty sand and sky. He was on a slow march over the eroded path which rose and fell over the landscape. He wasn’t sure what made the cities like Lat Khean so appealing to the masses of other settlers of this graveyard planet. He savoured the depth of disgust he had for them as he lifted his foot off of the terra in a puff of light yellow-brown dust. Locke lifted his eyes from the patch of ground immediately before his feet for the first time in a few indiscernible hours to inspect his surroundings more closely. He was looking for the glint, the glint which would guide him like a directional star, toward his object of hate, and his mantle of redemption which lay somewhere inside it. The sharp light from the low-lying sun which dominated the sky above with its immensity made it difficult to see as the photons bombarded Locke’s eye’s with too much brilliance for his unmodified eyes to handle. The rays refracting off of the desert around him had him squinting so hard that his eyes were almost closed. He knew more from his experience than from his observations. The stretch of empty desert behind the welcome sign didn’t fool his subconscious. His quickening heart beat was an observable measure that told him he was headed toward more than just dry landscape and sizable craters though this is all one less experienced would find if approached with an un-searching eye.
Locke dug his hands into his worn pant pockets; the memory of where precisely he had put the crumpled piece of paper had escaped his tired mind. The bits of lint left over in the depths of his pockets drifted off with the hot breeze as he pulled the softened from age paper into the harsh sun to look at. “Lat Khean, Soi Sam, tell them Joe sent you” said the paper in faded ink. He flipped it over, “Soi 4, Sala Daeng”. Locke stumbled onwards; searching for the glint of the glass like city dome he knew had to be appearing soon. He glanced back down at the patch of yellow dust before his feet because his eyes were sore from the brightness of the day. The reflection off of its gleam made him close his eyes momentarily and he felt his steps take him left of his intension as his tired body groped for balance without guiding sight. The few seconds of relief were bliss as his headache eased in the dark behind his eyelids. He flicked a hydration capsule into his mouth and it exploded into liquid as he bit down.
When he opened his eyes again the brightness was intensified until his pupils constricted again and he reduced his eyes to slits – barely open, but open enough to catch the glint he had been searching for. The city dome was just ahead. Locke pulled on his cloak and let the sleeves run back down to his wrists. 20 minutes later he glanced back over his shoulder, he was approaching the now obvious dome ahead. His fear of heat stroke now eclipsed completely by his peaking agoraphobia. The translucent invisibility of the dome from far was an obvious distortion of light from up close and octagonal grid patterns on the hazy dome criss-crossed across its surface. Locke paused where the yellow path he’d been on for 3 planetary days met the dome. “Joe sent me” he croaked into the hard glass-like surface before him. There was a pause and then a ripple in the dome propagated from a point on the surface before him and he stepped forward, ducking his head through the rippling wall…
Locke’s left arm twitched and he gave it a glance, just before his body slipped through the surface of the shimmering dome, to ensure none of his ill acquired tech was showing beyond his sleeves. Lat Khean’s air-conditioned atmosphere met his bone dry skin with a cool embrace, wrapping him in a moist body wrap due to the psychrometrically cooled air. As if the atomic weight of the heat itself was lifting off of Locke’s shoulders, he stood up straight, but what truly greeted him this side of the dome was an old hated companion. A featureless face in his subconscious, a personality behind his eyelids who would look at him out of a crowd of blank faces. The voice was always a whisper in his ear – you’re a coward it would say Run home to where it’s safe. He didn’t want to be in the city but circumstances were no slave to his desires and his past had forced him to travel the 200 miles to Lat Khean, this serpent pit of poisoned motives and poorly disguised intentions. But this was for her… and so he had no choice.
He felt as if there were knives poking at his heart, he knew the feeling well, it was the anxiety he felt for the people he would soon have to handle. Locke sunk into his coat and tried to avoid the eye contact of the impending crowd he had emerged into this side of the dome. “Cities…” Hespoke it like a swearword under his breath. “People…” he swore again.
“Keep walking, head down, breath slow…” he told himself as he moved past the congestion of conversing people.
Locke glanced backwards at the dome and then moved forwards again noting the tall skyscrapers surrounding him. He was moving through a bustling crowd of Lat Khean’s people on the sidewalk of a dirty street. He moved past street stalls selling tech, food, and many nefarious items for which he had no desire. He was single minded and moved deliberately, not even pausing to acknowledge the hawker’s calls of promise telling him that “I have all you need just down this soi”. Locke needed to get through this mess of people and find Joe before one of the knives poked a hole in his pounding heart. The signs on the side walk guided him through two lefts and a right, down a flight of eroded stairs and then up to a wooden door in a graffitied wall. Locke hit the intercom button and waited.
There was a commission inside, behind the door. Footsteps and gun fire, Locke jumped aside and the door burst open like a crate of fireworks, the wooden door splintered sending planks, cement and bricks exploding in all directions, except in the direction of Locke who stood with his back to the wall adjacent the now gaping hole with his eyes and fists clenched shut.
Next, people exploded out of the hole in the wall and Locke opened his eyes just in time to watch two men and a lady, follow each other in a staccato blistering sprint out of the charred hole. The last in the line of three out of the graffitied wall paused momentarily only to slip a glance through her visor at Locke, before putting her head down and recommitting to the chase. Her face was hidden but to Locke it almost appeared as if she was considering approaching him instead of disappearing with the others, why had she paused when she looked at him? Almost as if she had recognised him. The way she moved… Locke almost felt the same way about her, but he was left behind, surrounded by a pile of rubble. The girl and the other runners had disappeared into the street.
** part 2 will follow next week, come back if you found this vaguely amusing**