A Chuck Wending flash fiction prompt – (about 2000 words) –
Indiana Jones meets The Matrix
“Yo! Meathead! Cut me loose! And while at it, stop using my air!” Mall detectives became easier to outsmart when mad. I did my very best to annoy this one. One of my specialties! I was nearly done with the cuffs, just needed a little bit more time… Just a little bit more… My masking hologram was doing fine. I didn’t look like myself. While being busted, you better look like someone else. Shopping mall security men weren’t exactly what you’d call smart. “Do I see a brain-fart forming in that vacant room you call skull? It is! Lots of space between your ears- Say do you have an echo, when you’re thinking? Is it for rent? Where can I sign up fo-“
The first bashed into my face, jammed the rest of the sentence back into my throat. Couldn’t breathe nor swallow. That was too fast! So fast! The room washed black, the sounds ran from my ears. The world shrunk… Shit! If I passed out, I was in serious trouble. The cracking sound surprised me even more. Nose went to pieces. My head took an attempt to fly off. “Ah, fuck.” The coppery taste made me gag. This mall detective had the shortest fuse I ever saw, and I wasn’t prepared for it. Than it hit me. Realization yanked me back into consciousness!
That wasn’t a – detective… Not a human, not anymore. Oh, fuck…
This was a host! A meat fingerpuppet. A parasite infested vlaipo! A friggin’ vlaipo! Dammit! Explained the speed. That punch was from another world… Hurts. Hell!
“Mister Jones, insulting another person is a sign of despair.” The man towering over me hid behind a grin. “You know that, don’t you?” An impossibly wide smile flashed, his eyes glowed. Suddenly he seemed semitransparent -for a glimpse – then went back to normal. Did he blink out of the world, or did I blink? Was that a glitch? Interferences? Fuck! This was bad. Was the parasite making a move, or could it be the artifact? Did the vlaipo wear a holomask too? “Now tell me, Mister Jones. Where is the artifact, the device?“ He leaned closer. „Where is Neo?“
“Ah – Who?”
“Don’t disappoint me, Mister Jones. Where is your broker? If you play for time… I better let you know, that no one is coming to save you. I made sure of that, so we can have a nice long chat. Between friends. You and me… Don’t make me wait. You’ll regret it.” Regret, yeah, I should’ve stayed in bed. Just should’ve… “I’ll make you regret it.” Shit! I bet. That thing wrapped up in the skin of that mall detective, walked up and down beside my chair. I doubled my efforts on the cuffs very carefully and very slowly. “We sent you a present, Mister Jones.” A present? What present?
„What does a vlaipo need a broker for? Nowadays your kind is everywhere.“ I tried. I needed him to speak.
His big hand touched my shoulder, crawled up to rest on my neck- so cold! I stopped. Sick kind of chill drilled into my back. Under my skin the sticky kind of pain crept into my bones, invaded my neck and jaw. I felt the skin melt to his palm, fusing with it. My tongue numbed. What was happening? Oh god… Was this how infestation felt? His fingertips went deeper… “No!” It hurt, it burned. No. „Don’t infest me! Please.“
„Why not?” His tongue clicked. “Don’t you want to know, how the magic works?“ I heard him smile. The warmth of his breath flooded my ear. „Where is Neo? What were you retrieving for him? Something important?“ Shit! This was insane! “We know that it is a device he’s been after, for years. He makes contact with you. You disappear. For three days, and now here you are, downtown. Defiantly shoplifting, in the inner city limits, right under our noses. Tell me, Mister Jones. Where have you been? And what have you been doing lately?”
I’ve been solving some anonymously sent riddles. Decoding. The solution were simple commands. Nothing else. Except for the last one. Got a call. A mechanical voice repeating a sequence. Numbers. Coordinates. Time. Date. „Got myself a fancy hobby. Solving puzzles. Some old man stuff… Just dumb lucky. “ I shifted in the seat, but the hand held me in place. „I don’t even know who the hell that Neo-guy is!” The freeze stopped right under my occiput. My ears started to ache and ring. If the questioning went on, I was done! I’ve seen corpses with burn marks on their necks. This wasn’t to end well. Not for me. “Sorry pal!” I kept telling myself to calm the fuck down.
His questions suggested, that he didn’t know about the contents of my bag. Yet. But that was only a matter of time, he found out. He pinched me before I had time to stash it. Yeah, of course the artifact was on me. I needed to get out. Asap! Any genius epiphany disrupting this interrogation – don’t be late! The cuffs were nearly off. If I wanted to knock that guy out, I had to surprise him. What was I thinking? Physically overpowering a vlaipo was nearly impossible, for a human that is. Certainly there were more of them around… Always were.
“That possibly exists, yes.” He nodded. “Also, I consider it not very likely.” He plucked his hand from my frozen neck, and moved back, where I could see him. “Luckily, we have enough time to find out. I’ve been told I am very persuasive. And with a little help from your friend, you’ll warm up.” That smile…
Something bad was about to happen. I felt it coming at me, like a tsunami to the shore… What friend? What was he talking about?! He snapped with his fingers, it dawned on me. First barely audible, but then I heard her. My tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth. Clearly. Screams… She screamed my name. „Indiiiii!“
No! This mustn’t be! „-Marina!“ Worst turn events could take. I couldn’t hide it.
“She followed you.“ The laconic voice wrapped itself around my throat, made it hard to swallow. Satisfied with himself, the vlaipo showed teeth. For him, a human life meant nothing, it was equal to the life of an insect. The parasites depended on us. My ears rang. Or was it a phone somewhere? I couldn’t tell.
The noise grew to an alarm wail, piercing and unbelievably annoying. Dammit! Such siren could make a man go mad! „Stop that ringing! Someone pick it up already!“ The infested man gave me the eyebrow.
„Pick up? Do you have a communicator on you? Earpiece, huh?“ Wait! Why didn’t that occurred to me? He bowed down to look me in the eyes. There was recognition of some kind. „A holomask? Color me surprise, Mr Jones, color me surprise! Aren’t you a clever little shit?“ He touched the adapter behind my left earlobe, switching the fake face off. I felt my skin tighten with muscular tension, a bit more of the electrical tingling than usual. But given the situation… „Now tell me, where did that call come from?“ He planted the adapter behind his own ear. With a soft gesture, he turned it on.
It wasn’t my custom-made holoface appearing on his, but a confused and pained grimace.
I could hear his teeth click and grind. Eyes wide! Then I saw it! Optokinetic nystagmus. First horizontal, then vertical. Ha! That vlaipo crashed! I could literally watch his brain shut down. First stiffening, having a seizure, then going limp. He fell over like a sack of wet flour. I’ve heard rumors of specific frequencies shutting down parasite neuronal activity.
Must be that awful sound coming from the adapter. Who sent the signal and how? Now that was a table turner I needed! I got rid of the cuffs, there was only Marina to worry about.
„Indi! Iiindiii!“ Not deaf, Marina… “For God’s sake, you idiot! Help me! Indiiii!” I heard her. Grabbing my bag – with the artifact tucked away, I stormed out of the mall detective’s office… Well – to be precise – I wanted to storm out. The doorway was bricked up! Like a decoration of some sort, bricks looked like painted on with crayons. By a five years old. It was definitely the door I have been dragged in. It seemed to emit a hum, and to the touch it felt warm. Now wait a minute! The wall was soft! I could push my hand into it, leaving an imprint… Weird… Even for this part of the city.
Oh, wait, my adapter. I took it back, and switched my holoface on.
– to be continued –