Ten Years From Now
Version threw himself over the side of the building, painfully aware of the muffled thud of silenced semi automatic rounds following in his wake. Frantic seconds passed before his feet found purchase on the board, no mean feat considering he was in a flat dive, the street below rushing to meet him. It stood to reason it was a moody deal. A midnight pick up south of the river, delivering a Samsonite case to a safety deposit box in King’s Cross. His handler at Control had let slip it was a cash in hand job. Version flatly refused to make the run at first, but there was a dearth of couriers who ran at night. And so here he was, plunging towards terra firma with the dregs of last night’s comedown teasing at his brain.
He wouldn’t have long. Even from forty-two stories it was more than possible to misjudge the distance and rupture himself across the pavement, reducing himself to a Saturday night suicide in a heartbeat. More likely he’d be written off as another courier too stoned to ride. Painfully close to the truth, closer than he’d like. He was struggling through the dislocation of last night’s Ket, a distant part of him well-acquainted with the seriousness of the situation. It was strange seeing the city like this. Off-kilter buildings made of vertigo and Futurist chic attached themselves perpendicular to the concrete below. Huddles of old brick and the previous millennia’s architecture provided a backdrop for late night hustles, whispered flattery and muscular posturing. The street. He could almost smell it. The grotesque mix of detritus and cooking meat, perfume and clothes box fresh. He would have been able to sample that strange cocktail if he hadn’t been in a swan dive that took his breath away and set his heart to a jackhammer rhythm in his chest. The building flashed by next to him so close he could reach out and brush his fingertips against rain slicked-glass. The tower was a landscape of flat panes, subdued light emanating from windows, gone in slivers of seconds.
Halfway down now. Pools of light spilling sodium orange across tarmac made shiny with rainbow-hued petrochemical rain. Trees in the plaza below looking ominous and shadowy reached out with branches furnished in red and gold . Beneath his feet the board thrummed with energy, he pushed back with his right foot, bringing the nose up incrementally, feeding thrust to it in fractional amounts. Shifting acceleration, shifting mass. He could see litter pockmarking the pavement now, so close, so painfully close.
The courier bag over his shoulder flapped and slammed into his ribcage. The briefcase inside was made of a lightweight alloy, but still threatened to knock the air out of him. Unsurprising. He was rake thin. Too many frantic dashes across town on business or pleasure, amped up on Phetamines, stomach oblivious to anything nutritious. His eyes were streaming, he’d not had time to attach his eye protection, or his filter mask. He tried to breathe, only to find the air snatched away from him.
People below had spotted him now, watched in agonised disbelief, tracking his descent, unsure of what they were seeing. A graceful silhouette falling through the night, gravity’s prisoner. He pushed back harder now, panic rising, his stomach turning. Sunnboards weren’t supposed to function on the straight down, only cruise the horizontal. He leaned back, his left arm out behind, his right hand pressed against his sternum becoming a claw and then a fist.
The board leveled out and Version, not breathing, gave it thrust and flinched violently as tree branches slapped at him. They gave way and sprang back into position, the soft plastic limbs leaving bright red welts underneath his bodysuit. He concentrated on climbing for fifty meters. No use escaping gun men only to get snagged by the cops for low level surfing. He pressed on, minding the speed limit, watching the dark hulks of buildings drift underneath him, passing over roads that resembled ribbons of light, trailed by traffic in the gloom. He shivered and shrank through a wave light-headedness, promising he’d start weaning himself off the toxic cocktail of stimulants and downers, spiced rum and borrowed cigarettes. Eyes closed now, drifting, feeling the board underneath him surge and flow through the night air. He breathed at last and then the city stopped, the tarmac and concrete abruptly ending. He was out over the thick treacle of the Thames, refractions and reflections dancing up to him from the spoiled waters. He let the board idle, felt his pulse slow, heard his heart throb in his ears loud and irregular. Almost losing his balance in that moment he looked down to his feet, where the spatter and flow of fluid had trickled down his bodysuit. It ran over the molded casing of armour on his knees and shins. It was starting to pool around his feet.
He pressed fingertips against the hole above his right hip and fought the urge to throw up. Sirens wailed on Westminster bridge, departing south to find accidents and tragedies in the great city. The remaining traffic trailed past unaware a courier was dying over the choked and murky artery of London. Version dropped to one knee, fighting off another wave of dizziness, fingers reaching for the exit wound.
It was shaping up to be a hell of a night.
© Den Patrick 2011