Short Story: Carbon Copy Defects

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.

Bonus Short Story: Horizon of Pastels

Early 90’s metal blared from the speakers of his ’68 Camaro. Over the dash, the waxed polish of the blue coat and white racing stripes gleamed in the bright light of the desert around it. She had her head in his lap, sucking him off. Between the vibration of the 396 V8 and her vigorous strokes, he was in utter heaven. He drove with one hand on the wheel, the other between her legs as she splayed out across the leather seats. Her sundress flapped in the hundred-mile-an-hour breeze while her throat groaned against him.

His fingers were wet inside her as she thrust her hips back and up to get off. He suddenly understood how kings and emperors felt. They were Gods among mortals, a half-dozen women on their knees for them at any time. All he had though– or needed for that matter– was her and the car. The three had been running together for months, every night out doing one drug or another, and at some point ending up in a similar position before passing out.

That was of course, all in secret. Likewise the mornings had always come too early and the glaringly recognizable car had to park down the street to drop her off at home. She walked the block in the near-darkness, her sneakers scuffing gravel the whole way. He watched her every step to the house and into the door, even despite the difficulty. And always, before leaving for wherever he was headed, he waited long enough for her to sleep, revved the engine and sped past too fast to be seen.

She never knew anything of it, but he knew exactly what he was doing. So did her father. He couldn’t see the car, but he sensed it’s owner. Always though, when he went to check on his daughter, she was fast asleep in bed– still sore from their sex hours before. If only that fat, abusive prick had known, he’d have killed them both for it.

He was one of those types that always hid their abuses in community participation. He’d take the family out to church on Sundays, and the quiet, reserved family would silently participate in the sermons. Sometimes, they’d even stay after to mingle with the other members of the congregation. She and her mother never betrayed the secret, no matter how much they wanted to, but from fear rather than love.

When she was younger, Karen– or Kay, as he always called her– had made the mistake of saying something to him about the abuse. Jake showed up the next day with a squadron of cops and a loaded .45. They pulled everyone out of the house, took them into separate interrogation rooms, had female cops examine the women physically. There was nothing to suggest abuse. Kay’s “dad” ended up beating her half to death when it was all over, but when in the hospital, everyone insisted she’d been mugged the night before, walking home.

That was the last time Jake got the law involved. Ever since then, he’d taken matters into his own hands. The prick couldn’t blame anyone when he woke up some mornings with swastikas burned into his yard, or his tires slashed, or with broken windows in his car. He always called the police, and they always took his reports, and did absolutely nothing. Most of them had gone to school with him, took him at his word. It was the same reason he’d gotten away with the beatings and escaped the interrogations unscathed.

Everything changed recently though. How he’d pulled it off, Jake didn’t know, but he knew what he’d pulled off. Kay had been in to see a gynecologist for a cursory examine after turning eighteen. Somehow the bastard got hold of her medical records, or bribed a doctor, and found out her cherry’d been popped. He also found out she was on birth-control, as opposed to the anti-acne pills she’d said she was taking.

The beating she received then only stopped when Jake showed up. The house was wrecked. Glass was shattered all over the place. Kay and her mother were barefoot in the middle of it. Blood spotted the creme-white carpets where Kay had been tossed and shoved around. Jake had been lucky enough to get a call from one of Kay’s friends. The two had been on the phone when her father came in screaming, she heard the first thuds of heavy fists, and immediately hung up.

Everyone knew Jake was bound to do something, and that calling the cops only made things worse in the long run. What they didn’t know, and few did in fact, was Jake’s proficiency with his .45. He’d spent months at the range, learning pin-point accuracy shooting at every range. He’d also learned to control his adrenaline through street-fighting, and had a morbid fascination with human anatomy.

The only thing that kept him from driving the Camaro through the front room was the fact that he’d still need it afterward. Instead, he kicked the door in off its hinges. The .45 was up and aimed straight on the old man. The snake-faced monster was poised over Kay. She lie, sprawled on the floor in her sundress, hands and feet covered in blood.

Her father actually had the gall to bark orders at Jake. He didn’t sway. His voice was calm, firm. He kept his gun and eyes level on her father, “Kay get off the floor. Get in the car.”

“Move and I’ll break your neck!” He spat at her. Jake repeated himself calmly, feeling adrenaline flood him. Her father spat again, made a move, “Son of a–”

The .45 cracked. The aim was perfect. The bullet whizzed past his left ear, close enough for a friction burn. He recoiled with a yelp. Kay skittered toward Jake. She rocketed out the door and into the street, climbing into the car.

“I could’ve killed you,” Jake said simply, unmoving. “I will if you follow me.”

The old man gave a roar, and moved to lunge. The gun angled down. Two rounds blasted his kneecaps. He fell in screaming pain. Jake lowered the gun as the monster howled and screamed pain and obscenities. He gave a final look to Kay’s mother, who stood slack-jawed to one side of the room.

“I wasn’t kidding. If he follows me, I’ll kill him,” he said, turning for the door.

Over his screaming pain, her mother called, “Take care of her.”

He stepped for the door, hesitated just before it. His head cocked a little to the side as if to speak, but he had no words. He started forward again. A few moments later, sirens screamed nearby as the Camaro’s engine revved. It’s tires squealed and it tore away from the house.

Since then they’d been driving, only stopping long enough to refuel, sleep, or fuck. They finished together; she threw back his semen like a pill and he sucked his fingers dry. She sat up with a smile, leaned against the passenger door. The bruise on her cheek was just beginning to yellow, but the light played off her face with an angelic glow, accenting her blonde hair with bright highlights.

“How was it?”

She threw back her head with a laugh, giddy from her newfound freedom, “Magnificent.”

He laughed with her.

They didn’t know what the fallout back home was, or if there would be any. For all they knew, they were fugitives, but something in Kay’s mother had told Jake she wasn’t going to make a case of it. Who knows, maybe he’d liberated her too, or opened the door for her to do it herself. Personally, he didn’t give a damn. He had Kay, she had him, and they had the car with nothing but an open road and a horizon of pastels ahead. Most of all though, they had life.

That was more than enough for anyone.