Saturday, 4 July 2009

An accident in Old Europe

Seeing the clock tower looming hunched under a gentle haze of crisp moon light, I tried to remember the last time it rained, and moved down the old cobbled street towards the square. Not a soul in sight - no sign of activity. The shadows stretched out, yawning across the cavernous space between the arcades around the centre. An old tube, a can. Sleep was nagging and whatever it was before me hung by a thread. I felt the coins in my pocket and tried to remember the conversion rate (divide by 5, divide by 5) but it had been so long since that was relevant. Jingling lightly in my hand I let the smaller coins wash between the gaps in my fingers and remembered the gags we'd made before the struggles.

As expected, the tube of Quadraturin was lying underneath a parasol on one of the deck tables, next to a half finished can of beans. With a timeless shimmer, the pulses glistened tantalisingly as I approached. Music played both gently and loudly from nowhere and everywhere and I wondered where I'd heard it before, trying to clear these thoughts away and focus on what was coming next. There was no room for old fears and hallucinations now. No need in indulging. Leave it all behind they said. The goal and the now were what needed to stay close to the front of your thoughts at all times, but after four sleepless days it was hard to know which way you were facing. The candidates had been and gone, and Body Politic Interactional Nodes (BPINs) were a thing of the past.

I blinked once, twice hearing again the roar of drunken revellers and seeing the spectre of a party of comrades flicker in the silver light before I came to my senses. There was nothing but the sound of me standing very still. A touch of the dizzies. Again I focussed on the tube. But it was worse than I thought. It was leaking, which meant, of course, I was fucked. We had a solution for most eventualities with the Quadraturin but the simple matter was, if it had a leak, you were gone. I double checked, smiled to myself and took a seat under the parasol with half an eye on the beans.

Indeed, whatever loose frame of reference I had been struggling to hold together was slipping away as the substance took effect. Sadly, it was a scene all too familiar. We'd been using it to expand fields, structures and notional edges for years. A dab here and there could nicely expand a living room or office space to the dimensions you needed without effecting your neghbours, but since cheap imitations had found their way onto the black market, wanton expansion of the urban grain was rife. One notorious 'liberation' group had disappeared inside a cathedral having slathered it to the walls and then locked themselves inside. Once the authorities broke in, the walls, floor and ceiling were nowhere to be seen as the deep black cavern smirked back at them. AntiCC turned up in Delta6a three months earlier and we're still trying to locate them. And right now I'd walked into a typical Quadra-Crime scene. I fingered a bean and took in my surroundings.

The Tower was now a speck in the distance and the arcades were moving still further in the opposite direction - the poison was deep rooted. Resigned to my fate, and watching the scene recede into the darkness, I relaxed into my wicker chair and wondered what QT would have made of all of this. He always preferred his lunch al-fresco.

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