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Fringe
Published by Wickerkat on 2008/9/30 (3587 reads)

But he knew my name before my license was in his hand.

Fringe
by Richard Thomas

Holding the bloody microchip in my hand, my jaw hung open as a wave of disbelief washed over me. With my free hand I grasp for the cold beer sitting on the Formica table and knock it over, sending it clattering to the beaten grey tile beneath. My eyes canít leave the chip, though. The tiny yellow light pulses amidst strands of hair, and a piece of what must have been my flesh. The trickle at the back of my head feels like a river, as the room swims, and I fight for my vision, grasping at my straw consciousness with slippery fingers. There is a pounding at the door. I canít move. It is coming back to me, little by little.

Tuesday, the delivery guy. Pizza that I know I didnít order. The driver standing there, just a little too old, his shoes a little too nice, and square. Something too slick. His eyes too sharp.

Wednesday the pile of boxes outside my door. UPS. Not for me. But they made it inside. Moments later the pizza guyís twin brother stood there, apologizing for the mistake. But I hadnít even called them yet. He glanced around the room as he wheeled them out. Earpiece.

Thursday, a cop pulled me over. I wasnít speeding. I wasnít doing anything wrong. But he knew my name before my license was in his hand. A sparkling white grin plastered on his face.

Now it was Saturday. And as I glance across the room at the glowing computer monitor, the cursor dances a jig, clicking around my desktop, starting up applications, scrolling down menu bars, pulling up histories: How to make your own bomb with household products. What exactly IS anthrax? Assassinating a president: 10 tips for success. What bothers me most is the lettering on the microchip. Itís Russian. I think. It certainly isnít English.

It had started as a joke. Something to do on a slow night besides study. There were groups on campus, attendance sheets to sign, rallies to attend, skirts to chase, beers to drink.

The screech when I answered my cell this morning had been that of a fax. I think. It didnít sound quite right for a fax. Glancing up at the dark windows across the courtyard, the other apartments were dark. All but one. A man stood there, with something in his hands. A red dot bounced around the kitchen. A singular image from my cell phone flashed across my eyes. A man walking a dog, older, with white hair, leaning over to kiss a tight little blonde. Not his daughter, that was for sure. Their heads spun around. Familiar. One quick email to a couple hundred people. Look at this guy. Caught in the act. How funny is that?

The pounding continues at my apartment door. Unable to move, I can only stare at the weak frame as it shakes and splinters, dust breaking free, tiny microbes spilling into the space.

Nobody ever takes me seriously. Sure, I wear all black. Sure, my head is shaved. The swastika is a good luck charm of the early aviators. The fertilizer is for my garden. I grow roses. And I've had that rifle for a long time, for hunting. Iíd only recently run out of ammunition. This was a mistake. My head grows heavy and thuds to the table, the tiny chip clattering to the floor. My limbs twitch as the darkness swallows me whole.

The high whine of a fast moving object, the tinkling of glass, and a tiny pfft of dust from the drywall. There is a crack at the door, voices and footsteps, and hands at my shoulders. ďComrade,Ē he whispers.

Or is it Conrad.
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