Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Small Man Complex

"Randy Schafer, we know you're on this bus, put your hands on your head and...." The cop looked around, his expression unreadable behind the smooth black mask of his helmet but puzzlement sounding clear through a mumbled, "What the fuck...." He scanned the bus, hand hovering over his pistol. A dozen sickly-looking people stared ahead, blank and terrified, simply glad it wasn't their name that had been called.

"I, ah, don't see him," me mumbled.

"Didn't copy that, McKellar, say again?"

"The suspect's not on the bus," he repeated. "At least, I don't see him anywhere...."

"Watcher says his cell phone's right there, should be around the middle...."

The officer walked forward, but there was no one sitting there. As he approached, however, he saw a cell phone sitting in an otherwise empty seat. He picked it up, said, "What kind of cell phone was that again?"

There was a brief pause, then, "Motorola Titanium p1040."

"That's it all right." He pocketed the phone as evidence, and said, "Suspect has abandoned his cell phone. He could be anywhere along the route, within an appropriate distance. Set up a Watch around all previous stops." He strode back towards the door, deliberately oblivious to the relief - and silent applause - that accompanied his wordless departure.

Near the back of the bus, crouched down on his knees between the seats, sat Randy Schafer. As the bus had been pulled over to the side of the highway, he'd had to think fast: he'd dropped his cell-phone out of his pocket, slid from his seat, and scuttled to the back of the bus, all the while meeting the eyes of anyone who looked and offering them a silent, implied thank you for their presumed silence. He darted in to one of the back seats, assumed a meditation pose with his shins flat on the ground and his forearms on his thighs, and had gone deep inside himself, reached a point of stillness just as he'd practiced so many times before. Necessity had seemed to clear the way for him, the state he was looking for clicking into place with an almost mechanical ease that he'd never experienced before. The momentary froth of consciousness fuzzed out into a total blankness of mind, and then recrystallized with absolute coherence around a single thought: that he was very, very small, indeed invisible. He'd seemed to disappear within himself, and when the cop had entered the bus he'd been aware of his presence only dimly, as though he were a dream.

When he finally moved, he had no idea what time it was. It had been a while since he'd worn a watch and his only source of timekeeping had been his cell phone, which was gone now and had taken with it significantly more than just a clock. That was something to worry about later, however. For now, he concentrated on easing himself up, slowly stretching out muscles that weren't used to holding such a pose for such a length of time. What had it been, an hour? Hour and a half? Something like that, judging by the Sun, he thought as he settled back into the chair.

At any rate he was well out of the city, by now. Evergreens and open meadows were flying past outside the window, with human habitation thinly scattered. The population density would increase significantly by the time the bus stopped, though, and he knew Watcher would be looking for him there, for having failed to find him in New York, they'd be expecting him in Rochester. He mulled this over while he looked out the window, but not for too long, because in truth conclusions regarding the only possibly course of action
had long ago been arrived at, deep within his subconscious mind, waiting only for the right moment to be acted upon by his conscious mind.

Standing, he walked down the aisle, towards the bus driver. There were a couple of surprised exclamations, quickly hushed; so deep had his invisibility become that even some of those who had seen him crawl back had gradually forgotten his presence. To these he gave voice to a few mumbled thank-yous, spreading some gratitude around him for their help.

He squatted down beside the driver, and said, "Hi there." He was a heavyset man, or had been: flaps hung from his face, flapping with the bus' motion, like the skin of a deflated balloon, and what had once been an imposingly bristling beard wobbled greasily from his multiple jowls.

Thedriver glanced over his shoulder. "Randy Something, right? That your real name?"

"It was," said Randy. "You saw me, then?"

"Yeah, caught it in the mirror," the driver murmured, staring ahead.

"Thanks for not saying anything."

"Seemed like the thing to do," shrugged the driver.

"Could I ask one more favor of you?"

"What's that?" The driver asked.

"Maybe pull over, right around here? I don't really want to be in a built up area right now, you know?"

The driver chuckled, shaking his head. He tapped the screen of his GPS navigator. "I pull over here, kid, they'll know for sure something's up. Then they pull me over, you're not here, and it's my ass. Sorry, kid, I got a family to feed."

Randy had already thought of that, of course, and addressed the man's concern automatically. "You could tell them I threatened you. They know I'm armed, they'd believe it."

The driver glanced back at him, eyes narrowing with a tinge of suspicion. "Threaten me? What with?"

Randy opened his jacket and drew a long, razor sharp hunting knife a little out of it's sheath, just enough to show what he had, and then calmly replaced it. Seeing fear glint in the man's tired eyes, he hastened to add, "I'm not threatening you, man. Just giving you a plausible story."

This seemed to put him at ease. The driver chewed his lip. "Awright. Grab your bag. I know a place just up the highway."

A minute later, the bus pulled over to the side of the road along a long, curving stretch where the forest came up almost to the shoulder. The door opened and Randy bolted from it, back-pack bouncing with every stride as he ran off into the forest. He had no idea where he was, and he knew the contents of his pack were more suited to a weekend staying at a friend's house in the city than they were to camping alone. That was assuming he knew much about camping....

But, the last place he wanted to be was anywhere he was expected. So even if he wouldn't last two days with what he had on him, well, that was two days to find someone to help him. Two days in which to find grace. Two days before he was taken by the elements, by starvation, by wild animals, by.... He re-directed his thoughts away from such unpleasantness. No good would come of worry, not now, here in the place where hope came to an end and he had no choice but to throw himself on the mercy of the world, trusting that his time had not yet come.


  1. Mate,
    Not disappointing at all.You know of course it's not long before they have armed cops on every bus and subway looking.Was it Orwell who described the future as a jackboot on a human face...?
    It's all about fear that's our greatest enemy and ourselves of course.
    Thanks mate keep writing.

  2. Glad you liked it, man.

    The thing a lot of people don't realize about Orwell is, he was really writing about the present. 1984 wasn't just a dystopic parable meant to warn us away from a possible failure state; it was a deadly serious portrayal of the world as it really is. It took me a long time to figure that out ... whilst a schizophrenic friend of mine saw it a decade ago (and of course, everyone including me thought he was crazy.)

  3. psychgram,
    enjoying it all.
    keep writing.


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