Drifter Ch:7 “Traffic”

“Is he dead? Check him again.”

A faint collection of decibels hum in the background. A fog of pale colour slowly begins to focus. Out of the haze comes form, gradually gaining shape and structure. Two of these shapes have faces.

One of the faces squints, and jabs a rod at the fleshy mass that is Gerald. He exhumes a cough in return and waves away at his onlookers. “Who are you? Where am I this time?”

As Gerald slowly sat up, Face one turned to face two with what roughly appears to be a confused look. This time?

“Got ourselves a right one here..” A sighing female voice emanates from face two. “Look pal are you OK? What’s your name? And what’s with the lab coat?” She sounds impatient.

“Ger.. Gerald. My name’s Gerald. I.. I was in the hospital, and then the next thing, everyone had vanished.. and there was, Oh god there was a terrible monster! And I tried to get away, I really tried but it chased me down, I swear it was the end for me and then.. then he, he saved me! Of all people, HIM? And now I’m… here? Where is her.. I mean, where are we?”

Gerald’s guard was completely down. All the words just flooded out at once, his hands gesticulating gingerly. As he finally looks up at his small audience, the picture begins to clear and he realises the two people are wearing some kind of uniform. They look authoritarian, almost military. The decibels have increased, familiar yet oddly musical.

“Er, well hi Gerald,” said face one in a deep but reserved male tone. “My name is Officer Cryer, and this is Officer Jones”.

“Hey. You been drinking buddy?” Jones’ polarising attitude jolts Gerald.

“Easy Jones! Look, We’re.. I mean you’re in the old Hospital District, that’s for sure, but there hasn’t been a hospital here for 15 years.”

Gerald winced. Not again.. “So what’s here now?”

Jones loomed in, eyes narrowed. “The 305 downtown freeway.. and you’ve been blocking two lanes of it. That’s why we’re here!”

As Cryer unceremoniously helps Gerald to his feet, everything suddenly sharpens. The ruins he escaped from just moments ago are gone, non-existent, but the wide stretch of seemingly endless road shadowed on either side by cloud-piercing buildings and dazzling bright holo-boards leaves Gerald’s jaw inches from the neo-carbon asphalt. He gazed at the scene before him, his arms by his sides with the oversized coat sleeves flapping below his hands. How could everything be so different, again?! This can’t be…

He sees the high volume of flowing vehicles the other side of the reservation, then meekly turns to face a lengthy tailback of angry, bemused and frustrated commuters. Their jeers and profanities almost drowned out by the musical background accompaniment, which has aggressively morphed into a cacophonous din of horns, engines and maintenance sirens.

As he went to move, Jones dropped her hand firmly onto his right shoulder.

“This other guy, the one you said was with you. What’s his name? Where is he?”

“Eric? um.. yeah Eric. Eric Winters. Except.. he’s not the Eric I know. Knew..”

The confused look again. Cryer took the turn to sigh this time. “Well he ain’t here now. I think we’d better get you over to the precinct, try and straighten things out.”

“And you can start talking some sense.” Jones sneered.

The officers escorted him to their patrol car, and as Cryer opened the rear door, Jones latched a set of high-tech looking cuffs on Gerald’s left wrist.

“Don’t freak out on me now, just following protocol. Not saying your a criminal, but this means you cant hurt yourself back there.”

“But I..”

“We can talk back at the station. Now, the other arm.”

Gerald wearily raised his right arm as Jones locked his wrists together, then went in for a pat-down. As she reached his hips, she caught something solid in the coat pocket.

“What you got there, Gerald?”

Reaching in, Jones pulled out a small leather notebook and flicked through a few pages. From the brief notes she glanced at, this guy belonged in the financial district across town, not a doctor’s uniform, let alone in the middle of a freeway. Just what is the deal with him? Maybe something in here’ll tell us…

“I’ll hold onto this for now, you just sit tight” she says, the eyes narrowed further to practically a squint.

As traffic slowly filtered past them to resume the rush hour commute through the heart of the city, Gerald sat uncomfortably with his hands clasped together and looked out of the window. This definitely isn’t home either.. As he thought this, a whirling sound spun into live, and the car rose about 6 feet off the ground. He panicked, and braced himself as if experiencing turbulence.

“Aah! What the heck?! What’s happening?!”

Cryer chuckled. “Man you look spooked. Where you been hiding, under a rock? All the major task forces are trialling these new HydroMag Engines for the next 6 months before they go fully commercial. Been in all the news.”

Jones quipped “Then again, this probably is your first time I guess. Not many folk get to experience this yet. You’re a lucky guy Gerald! Now keep it down.” She tossed the notebook onto the dashboard. “Call it in, Cryer.”

Gerald was in the back of a hovering police car, in handcuffs, driving through a near-futuristic version of his city that he could not comprehend. This is of course, after being almost killed by some horrific science experiment in a hospital that once did but now didn’t exist, and the only person who could corroborate all this is his friendly office co-worker / armed special operative member who was now nowhere in sight. Lucky was the last thing he’d describe himself as.

He also wouldn’t describe that notebook in front of him as green. Definitely more of a purple this time…

You can read new chapters of DRIFTER at both Medium and Jukepop

Lighting Designer, Freelance Graphic Artist and Self-Confessed Photoshopaholic.