Today I’m sharing Part 1 Section 2 of my novel Broken Things. Broken Things is a sci-fi novel about an abandoned and broken android kid trying to make his way home. Some sections are long, others short. The novel is available in paperback and for your Kindle here:Broken Things. If you missed Part 1-1, you can read it here. As a side note… reviews are starting to come in now. Two 4 stars and one 5 star on Amazon, and one 4 star on Goodreads. If you’ve read the complete book, why not share a review of your own?
Copyright © 2013 G.S. Wright
Published by G.S. Wright
All rights reserved.
Lance Stalling liked to break things.
In his dirty, cherry-red Ford truck, he’d done his share of damage. He and his truck had a special relationship, on the weekends they would go out together and run things over. It brought him a small measure of joy like nothing else. He especially enjoyed breaking other peoples’ kids. He’d grown tired of his job and jaded toward his girlfriend. His doctor said he suffered from desensitization and gave him more pills. He didn’t tell his doctor about the kids. Something so cathartic couldn’t be that bad.
Fifteen days ago, he’d celebrated his fifty-seventh birthday alone. Nobody remembered his birthday anymore, but it’d been a good excuse to drink until sunup and sleep for two days with a hangover that wouldn’t quit. Though his body looked as that of a thirty-something man, it sure didn’t respond like one. He didn’t remember his brain ever feeling like it’d been pickled by whiskey before.
His father had retired at seventy, but Lance didn’t possess any hope for himself. He’d be a draftsman until the day he died, a job he once loved, designing machinery for a big engineering firm, but now each day filled him with despair. Day after day of the same thing slowly crushed his soul. They even had the nerve to tell him that his attitude needed improvement. What the hell did that mean, anyway? There wasn’t any fresh blood entering the job market, only a bunch of old dogs already secure in their jobs. Sure a few people jumped careers, but you didn’t see much of it, no matter what the bosses threatened. If they weren’t careful, he’d switch companies too. It worked both ways.
It felt as if lately everything in his life was spiraling out of control. Gloria had been on his case more often than ever. She’d started talking about marriage. Every time she brought it up he’d feel an onset of heartburn. His father used to say that it’s not what you’re eating, it’s what’s eating you. Well pop, it’s Gloria, she’s eating my spirit. He’d been seeing her on and off for five years. His first two marriages hadn’t lasted that long combined, and logic told him that the common denominator of failure involved a license from a court house.
Besides, who could stay with the same person forever? Maybe, if he had the fear of death hanging over him like his parents had, he’d have a need for that whole ‘until death do us part’ nonsense. He had great health insurance though. They covered all of his prescriptions. No death for him, hooray for the modern world. Eternity didn’t sound so good when you were a wage slave, and no company would provide retirement benefits anymore. Hell, he’d heard that they had removed the word ‘retirement’ from the dictionary.
He really needed to break something to help him loosen up. So few people bought kids anymore, and yet they still just turned them loose. Imagine paying that kind of money for a toy. Like all machines, they were really only good for a few years, despite what the manufacturers advertised. If you didn’t break them, they broke themselves. At his job, he knew that better than just about anyone. Engineers could build a better machine, but that hurt future sales. And people liked new things anyway, it was what kept them happy and allowed them to survive in this stagnant world.
He’d run over his first kid entirely on accident. The thing had darted out in front of him after a soccer ball and he couldn’t stop in time. What had it been, fifteen years ago? Now those kids, they exploded in gears, circuit boards, and hydraulic fluid, all cleverly masquerading in the form of a child. He’d pulled over, but knowing what it would cost him to replace somebody’s kid made him drive away before somebody noticed. He’d been angry… angry about the damage to his old truck and angry about the guilt he felt. He’d lost sleep over it for a few nights but it passed. He did it a second time just to see if the kid exploded just like the first.
Fools and their money are soon parted, he told himself, chuckling at the thought. He’d never hit a real child, after all, there hadn’t been a real one born in twenty years. Everyone knew about Timothy Alexander, the last real child, the miracle baby. Last he’d heard, Tim was being groomed for politics.
He used to worry. What if’s played through his head just before he hit one for the first few years. And, oh man, the technology these days just blew his mind. They were so real! No longer did they explode, but they bled now, if you hit one right it would smear for a good twenty feet at least. If he had the money he’d consider buying one, just for the fun of it all.
But why spend the cash when you could just take them for free? Just grab one off of the street and you could play rough with it for days. If only he had more time this weekend, he would go out and catch one. That alone was reason enough not to let Gloria move in. He didn’t need her giving him guilt over his play things. Today he’d do it old school, just drive over it, quick and easy. Besides, his truck sounded hungry.
He pictured himself and his truck as a single entity, a tiger on the prowl for fresh meat, stalking through a suburban jungle. It had been awhile. There just weren’t enough kids around anymore, even with the summer. There should be children everywhere, riding bikes, throwing balls, going through their mimicry of life. The world needed something new to get people buying again. Even ten years ago, investing in cyber-robotic technology stocks rivaled the pharmaceutical companies. He once had a few thousand dollars in a local Idaho corporation, Kidsmith. They tanked a few years back, taking most of his investment with it. He’d heard that they’d moved most of their business to China after closing down the majority of their production in Boise.
Lance turned off of Filer Avenue, leaving the traffic behind for quieter neighborhood streets. Kids tended to keep to the side roads anyway. Two blocks later, sure enough, his gut led him true. A boy, not too big, probably not even a teenager model, rode a shiny new blue bike. Not only did parents buy an expensive kid, but they gave the toys their own expensive toys! Some people had more money than sense.
He pulled over, parking a block away from the kid. He had to be careful, once he’d smashed one right in front of its owners. He’d spent the entire week sweating as to whether or not they’d identified his truck. He couldn’t afford to replace one of those things.
The street remained empty of actual people, and the kid had reached the next block. He looked like a smart one too. He looked both ways, like he’d been programmed with a survival mechanism, which only enhanced his illusion of life.
Lance slowly gave the truck gas. He didn’t peel out anymore, that made people look out their windows. Still, the engine growled in approval, as though it read his mind. It must have, he’d read that cars nowadays were nearly as smart as their drivers. He didn’t go for any of those new cars, his was vintage. He liked to hear what he drove, and not that annoying electronic buzz. This thing still guzzled gas as though it came from the previous century.
The kid heard him coming. Within the nearly two blocks he had the speedometer up to forty, and it roared like the tiger he saw it as, hungry for synthetic blood. The kid didn’t look concerned and pedaled closer to the curb. With such a nice wide street as this one, he probably felt safe.
Lance couldn’t hold back a high-pitched giggle as he swerved at the last second. The boy rewarded him with his eyes popping open impossibly wide in shock as he realized his impending doom. The sheer terror in the child’s face simply amazed him. Who would program such emotions? The collision of chrome and kid could be heard over the engine, a sweet, satisfying thump. Lance deeply appreciated his truck. There wouldn’t even be a dent.
Somehow the bike hooked his front bumper and child and bicycle rode along with Lance as a figurehead on a ship. He swerved back and forth, whipping the steering wheel from side to side in an attempt to force the kid loose. He didn’t always get an effective hit, but if he could just get the kid to tumble under the tire…
A few more jerks of the steering wheel and the bike came free, twisting hard to the right. The truck hardly registered the impact as the bike went under, but the boy tumbled away. He couldn’t see what happened, but only the results. The boy did not go under the tire.
Lance’s foot came off of the gas pedal and hovered over the break. In the rear-view mirror, he watched as the boy bounced and tumbled, finally coming to rest against the curb. Beyond the boy, parts and pieces of the bicycle stretched for nearly the entire block. The child, however, remained in one piece.
He slammed his fist into the dashboard, throwing up a small cloud of dust and leaving an impression of the ball of his hand behind like a mutant footprint. His eyes darted back and forth to watch the road and witness the damage to the kid at the same time. He had to have broken him, he just couldn’t tell. Kids didn’t have luck. They were fragile, delicate machines. They always broke. He ran the options through his head, trying to decide whether to reverse and run him over again, or maybe circle the block. No, he had to leave. He couldn’t take the chance of being caught and forced to pay restitution. He whipped the truck around the next corner, deciding to leave the boy behind. Dissatisfaction left bile in the back of his throat, and he spat out the window in disgust.
Next weekend, he promised, I’ll find one and break it right.
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