Trapping the Pleistocene
By James Sarafin (excerpt)
He could see the lighted tower, looming ever larger through occasional gaps in the trees, well before he arrived. An example of the newest footprint-reducing architecture, the tower was built like a giant morel: a tall, narrow cap with an irregular, ridged surface overhanging a smaller, round base. No, not a morel; if that tower was a mushroom, it had to be one of the poisonous varieties. From a hub level in the tower cap, the thin lines of skyways spread out in various directions. Like a giant spiderweb.
When he saw the government’s sign at the compound’s surface entrance, his foot went to the brake pedal and his hands twitched, wanting to turn the wheel back toward home. But he followed the entrance ramp into the compound. He drove through parklands where elk and camels grazed, over a creek, and the length of a small lake where swans swam in pairs, to arrive at a small paved area before a tower entrance. It held no other vehicles but looked as good as anyplace to park the truck, so he did. The outside of the tower base presented a rough, ridged surface with no windows or seams. He pulled his wool cap down over his forehead and raised his windows or seams. He pulled his wool cap down over his forehead and raised his hands to push open a door. He stumbled slightly when his hands met no resistance and he felt a puff of air as he passed through the non-existent door into the building. The lobby’s outer wall appeared to be made entirely of one-way glass that allowed a view of the compound outside. Or maybe he was only looking at video screens. It probably made no difference to the tower-dwellers.
The floor was covered with some mutated form of living grass that lay in a short, dense mat like a golf green. He gouged its surface with his boot-toe and watched it begin repairing itself. Imagine that crap growing over your foot, eh, Katie? From a wall of the tower’s core a waterfall trickled down and formed a stream that meandered across the floor to his left. A few of the dark-robed tower-dwellers strolled and loitered, communing with their view of the outdoors. Others scurried in or out of the elevators. They paid him no mind.
Jack had walked through the lobby, halfway around the tower’s core, when a voice growled his name from behind him. He turned and saw what looked like a cross between an orangutan and a human woman. She wore no clothing and was covered with straw-blonde hair, long but thin and with no underfur. Her face was bare ahead of her ears and heavily made-up. Her arms hung nearly to her knees and her breasts halfway to her waist; the breasts swung across her torso as she moved.
“Mr. Morgan, the director’s office is this way.” She smiled open-mouthed, displaying ivory canines. She seemed amused by his reaction.
“How do you know who I am?”
“We were expecting you. You’re not connected, so you’re the anomaly here.”
She turned and knuckle-walked to the nearest lift, wiggling her hips as she went. He moved to follow and almost fell on his face as a weight dragged on his right leg, the one with the bad knee. Some kind of cleaner robot had wheeled itself across the floor and was licking the half-dried mud off his boot. He licked to the hub floor, the one with the transit stations, where the skyways spread out like the spokes of a wheel. Caught in the spiderweb.