IN THE ROUGH
I unwrapped the sandwich and took a look at the bit of meat sticking out of it. Real meat, not printed synthetic stuff.
“God damn it, Riley.” I threw the sandwich on the dash. “I told you I’m trying not to eat meat anymore.”
Riley smiled at me sideways. “Lighten up, girl. You’ll be fine.”
I sighed. “Go get me a different one please.”
“C’mon. You’ll be fine. Just eat that one.”
“I don’t want to eat that one. I want something else.”
“Okay, like what?”
“I dunno, a fuckin’ salad or something.”
Riley frowned, grabbed the sandwich and blew the cabin of the car open. “Fine. We can do it that way, too.” They hopped out and went back toward the waystation.
We’d been out for almost a month and the travel was wearing on me. Wearing on Riley, too.
My head throbbed, and I put my hand against my eyes. Another synaptic bleed, which was not fucking good. No good at all.
I took my hand away and saw I was back on the Desert Planet--back on Hugo 20152314--waiting in the car for Terry to come back out with smokes and sandwiches. I had already quit smoking by then, but they’re still hooked.
The aft hatch opened and a woman climbed in. Her face and hair and eyes’re dark and blank.
My reflexes were shit. My nerves completely fucking shot. So I sat there twitching a little, feeling nervous as all fuck and waiting to see what she’s going to do.
But she didn’t do anything. I mean, she sat there, but that’s it.
“Can I help you?” That’s the lame ass thing I thought to ask.
“No,” she said.
All right. Fuck. That didn’t work. “Um, who’s car do you think this is?”
“I don’t know her name,” the woman said.
Her? Terry sometimes read as female to people who didn’t know them.
“Okay.” That’s all I had. So I sat there with her, waiting.
Terry came out and got in the car, handed me the shit.
“Terry, um …” I pointed in the back.
“Yeah, she needs a ride.” Terry’s totally unfazed. Like, ain’t shook.
“All right,” I said. “Next time, could you give me a heads up?”
“How was I supposed to do that? I just met her inside?”
I nodded and put my hands flat on my thighs, trying to control my heart rate and blood flow. My nerves were electric with misfires.
Terry must’ve seen this because they softened and put their hand on my shoulder. “Hey … it’s okay, baby. You’re fine. Everything’s fine.”
It didn’t feel fine. Felt like I was gonna shake until I just came apart. But I trusted them, so I smiled and nodded. “Yeah, okay. Thanks.”
Terry closed the cabin, sealed it, and put the car in the air. “Where are we goin’, sweetie?”
The woman in the back said, “Westward Under.”
Terry smiled and said, “Okay. We’re on our way.”
I wasn’t from the Desert and knew fuckall about it, so I asked, quietly, “How far is that?”
“About an hour,” Terry said.
Holy fuck. I would be shitting and pissing myself on the floor by then.
Riley broke my link to the past and brought me back when they threw a boxed salad in my lap. “Happy now, asshole?”
I felt my nerves steady and flexed my fingers to test them. They’re holding. For now, anyway.
I opened the plastic box and pulled the fork from the lid. “As a matter of fact I am. Thanks.”
More from T Van Santana & The Black Book Of Fear. Still figuring it out. #bbof #tvssos