Stone and asphalt stretched for miles ahead. His classic muscle cars were all but gone from the world nowadays. For relatively good reason, too; they polluted with noise and toxins, fumes from an old, less conscientious way of life. More than that, the cars were almost impossible to repair requiring ever part to be specially hand crafted from quality steel.
Mostly though, they were just too damned expensive to run. Petroleum oil was scarce. What could be found was usually reserved for private owners of old-world wells. They stockpiled and hoarded it like doomsday preppers during an apocalypse and twice as vicious. To even hear a muscler run was mostly a thing for vids and museum-goers.
That didn’t stop Murphy. He raced along, as he’d been doing for hours, through mountains outside the city. Out here it was just him, the stars, and eight cylinders of pure Big-Block chaos exploding in the night. Behind him, the city was a hive of light and noise. Pulsing. Throbbing; a vast organism teeming with infinitely more parasites.
It wouldn’t have been easy, had he bothered to look, to separate the so-called transportation from the people. Murphy didn’t care to. They were all automatons to him. Besides, nothing was worth breaking the spell binding him to the car, the fire, the cracked asphalt. The curves of every road, the thumps of every pothole and ridge screamed of gravity, exhilaration, a past now unmatched by an insurmountably different present. His dry-clean only, electric air-car, rechargeable torch world couldn’t hold a candle to it, even had it known what one was.
Still he drove, pushing the car further from ordered “civilization.” He abandoned it as it had once abandoned the car, let the night swallowed everything but the sky’s most prominent pinpoints of light. Even the glow managed to struggle after him.
The road dipped suddenly; the city disappeared behind rising mountains. A cavalry of three-hundred and fifty horses screamed in charge, leading his assault into the unknown. Where they might end up, only the road knew. All Murphy was certain of was the emptiness ahead, the order behind, and the chaos within.
Something had been lost in his world. No-one was sure what, or how, but a transition had occurred. The world went from choking smog, dirt and gristle, to smothering, white-walled sterility where microchips could be made on street-corners. There were still places resembling that old world; dirty and gritty, but further and further between than most knew. They were poor imitations anyway, lacking the life, the soul, to their grit. With the car at least, that soul was fire; smoke, the price paid.
The remnants of that world were the places you ended up when you’d run dry on luck– or couldn’t pull the weight you tried to throw around. They were gang recruiting grounds for the latest incarnation of street anti-heroes, or in some cases, corporate soldieries. They were places where metallic and neon recreated recurrent, age-old scenes of depravity and poverty in perpetual damp and wet; places dark of midnight even at high-noon, where warped reflections in puddles were better descriptors than even the most high-res vid-cams could manage.
But it was still Murphy’s world, not the one before. It was an imitation. The last, bleak scrap of tattered canvas hanging from the frame a once-proud masterpiece. Beneath it, or rather perhaps surrounding it, was a swaddle of so-called humanity smothering itself into obedience, compliance, or death. The choice between wasn’t a choice, but an outcome serving the purposes of those wrapping the bundle. If Murphy could’ve had his way, he’d have burned the whole damned thing, child of civilization included.
Instead, he burned fuel in a car a century older than him and made of over-pressurized fossils infinitely older than even that.
And all of it, just to forget, for even a moment.
It would’ve made him think, if he weren’t so engaged in avoiding it. That was the way of his world. People thought too much, never acted, and always about the wrong things; money, jobs, taxes, Social I-D numbers, angering or upsetting the infinitely spawning pool of overlords above them. Rather than act against their miserable realities, they tempered themselves with self-inflicted fear, fulfilling their own nightmares by becoming the oppressed they feared becoming.
The only difference between those people and the visions in their heads, Murphy knew, was the lipstick stained over-swine they feared falling to, but equally failed to recognize their present overlords for.
The whole thing made Murphy sick. So sick he drove: He wasn’t wealthy. He wasn’t a genius. He wasn’t married, engaged, expecting a child, dating a would-be model or even a wannabe model. He just was. In the moments before merely existing, he’d been many other things, including driven enough to scrimp and save to afford the car, and after, the fuel.
No one existed anymore. They were all imitations of imitations, generationally mutated over and over again, by impersonally impotent, carbon-copies of one template. Each one was just as defective as the last.
Murphy wasn’t really any different, he’d just pushed himself toward something different. His fear was letting fear win. Even then, he’d still lost, like everyone else. It was why he had nothing but the car, a full tank of petroleum fuel, and the insurmountable urge to drive until one used the other and both died out. The only other thing he did have was a six pack and a bottle of twenty year old whiskey. It wasn’t even particularly good whiskey, but it was his.
He imbibed most of the six pack on the way to the mountain-top and back down the other side. Now, near its end, he pulled off on the side of a cliff-face. It only just rose above one of the forests littering the mountain-sides.
At the very least, his world had managed to stay beautiful, though he wasn’t sure anyone knew it– or ever would.
He took the bottle of whiskey and leaned against the car’s warm front end. There, between the stars and the car’s radiating heat, he remained, thinking of nothing and merely existing.
And it was there he saw it:
An entire world spread before him. Few lights dotted the horizon; air-transports ferrying those carbon-copy defects between metros; the same ones that had signed away their rights to land and property for lazy money, city-life conveniences, never realizing the noose they were fitting around their own necks, their children’s, granchildren’s– every other carbon-copy defect that would ever spawn from a portion of their template.
Murphy saw it now, felt it now, but didn’t care. He was over the mountain. Before him, fog hung a veil over the low lands amid a sterling gray while forests rode mountains along ragged, saw-tooth waves to peaking crests as glistening and white as any could be.
Murphy had seen it before, but he knew it now; this was a different world. The mountains were different; the trees were different, every one a vastly varied organism. Down to their cores. They weren’t carbon-copies. They weren’t even their antithesis. They were what they were.
That, he decided, was why he’d come. He commemorated the event with a swig from his ten-cred whiskey and raised it in a toast at the moon for another.
Moments later he was back in the car, once more charging toward the unknown. The fuel wouldn’t hold up forever, but wherever it ran out, he’d start anew.
The world he’d left behind wasn’t his world any longer. He had a different world now, the world. Earth. One where, no matter how similar it appeared; every rock, every tree, every patch of soil was different,teemed with infinitely varied lifeas his old world had teemed with parasitic copies.
And he intended to experience as many his meager, remaining life-span allowed.