Short Story – Paranoid

I saw another one on the way to work today.

I’d been looking at the lean legs driving us forward, the little shorts. So sue me, if I take a little pleasure in my surroundings. There wasn’t much else attractive to see as we crawled bumper to bumper with bicycles and dented rustbuckets belching fumes – faster to walk probably, although after today I’m even less inclined to try the pavements. The sun is burning the clouds off earlier and earlier each day – I remember when all this was fields. I do. The human is adaptable, our memories blurring over time. I sometimes feel a little – herded, when I think of the changes over the last thirty or forty years. Claustrophobic. But sometimes there isn’t any other way to go, except with the rest of the sheep. Even though you catch yourself glancing wistfully in other directions. What are the odds of a sheep winning a scrap against a collie? Ah, I’m just old, and bitter, and too eager to pin blame. This structure protects as well as contains us. I’m scared of terrorists too, of simulants carrying bombs, of foreign diseases, of the Outside. I keep my head down and do my job, and I’m pastured and protected. I guess that makes me part of the system. Aren’t we all?

I turn my hands over in my lap, palms facing upwards. A black dot glistens in the centre of my right hand. You might be mistaken for thinking it was a splinter, or a speck of dirt. But it is far more important than that. Without this chip, I couldn’t open my own front door, I couldn’t withdraw money, I couldn’t access the building where I work. I’m still not really used to having it – I was one of the last wave to have implants. I think I was hoping that the bill wouldn’t be passed, but it was. I guess its not so bad. Its convenient not having to worry about losing my credit card, or my keys. But I still have nightmares about losing or breaking it, about being erased from the system. Its probably a result of all the science fiction books I used to read. Liberal authors didn’t really lean towards exploring the positive aspects of total government. You’ll find the fiction a lot more forward thinking these days…. Automated things still bother me, though. Probably because I’m old and ornery and untrusting in technology. Too much to go wrong. I wonder whatever happened to Mr Schneier?

The percussion steals my attention away – and although i don’t want to look, I do, along with the rest of the filthy hooting queuing shouting dusty mid morning rush hour traffic. My conscious brain already knows what I’ll see, but its not fast enough to counter the instinctive twist of my neck. I’m forcing myself to see it all, to take it all in and make it part of me, images to relive in slow motion on auto repeat through my sleepless sweat drenched nights, as the young Asian man bursts out of a side street, arms pumping, legs pounding, face contorted with fear, cheap sportswear flying out behind him, and I can still see the expression on his face – mouth open, gasping for air – as the second shot snaps his thigh and he goes down, and then the officer pulling up fractionally later, standing over him as he writhes on the ground, the mercy shot to the head. Perfunctorary. Businesslike. Professional. They do it all the time. It must be a hard job, being a policeman in a martial state.

The brains sure look realistic for simulants. I wonder how the police tell them apart from humans.


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