My first story on protagonize, originally an sort story idea for class. A short about the character Basil living in the possibly present future. The world we know was changed dramatically with the creation and implementation of two different technologies. Artificial intelligence and a mass rapid transit system called the Skyway.
They’re out there. Waiting. Lights dimmed and engines cold. I watched the parking lot. It was nearly empty. There was the boss’s Mazarerai, Carl’s Bentley, a couple cars I couldn’t identify from so far up, and my baby blue Volvo. Tank.
A beep behind me. Carl’s head floated over my computer monitor.
“Hey, Bas. Thinking of taking a drive?”
“Yeah. It might be good for the old girl to be running again.”
“Well you could pick a better day for it. The skyway is open all the way from here to Longview. You could be home in ten minuets.” I nodded but said nothing. I felt that need to drive. Carl’s face flickered and when it returned his avatar was smiling. “Hey your wife texted. Wants you home for eight.”
“Why is she texting you?”
“Well she and Jill are pretty close…”
“So my wife texts your wife saying that she needs me home for …” I turn from the window and see Carl’s avatar gleefully going through my mail. “Stop reading my mail.” I crossed the office and my desktop went blank. Carl’s head floated off, the pixel’s laughing.
“Well have fun. I’d join you, but you know …”
“Yeah, sure Carl.” His head disappeared and I packed up.
I sat there; briefcase packed, and stared at my desk. It was clear, weak plastic and metal. My old leather case, scratched as it was, looked stronger. Tougher. More there. The impulse to start the desk up again was strong but I resisted. And I continued to sit. Time sat with me and we yawned together.
Seven came and the light above the door went from red to green and with a click the glass slid aside. Co-workers rushed from their offices to the elevators, their every step busy, racing to the roof, to the skyway, to hearth and home. I sat for another ten minuets before making my way through empty hallways and taking the stairs down.
I entered the old reception area. The grad lobby empty and dusty, the security desk empty and dark except the small blue roving light of the camera. As I crossed the lobby my strides felt like they were in slow motion and I took childlike glee in the billows of dust my feet kicked up. Each step was a sand storm in Egypt, each step ended civilizations, destroyed continents of swirling dust. I felt like the great destroyer, striding across the face of earth, my foot falls ending the clumps of dust that caught my eye. Chaos in my path.
In the parking lot I had to sift my way through the trash as the skyway hummed above me. If it got any worse I might have to get a plow attached to old Tank. Yet another expense. I didn’t realize it but I sighed. Deeply.
I slipped the key into the ignition and the car let out a contented groan. She was happy to be moving again.
“Hello Tank.” I say, resting my hands on the steering wheel.
“Please stop calling me Tank. Its not very slimming.” I laugh.
“You’re a Volvo not some Citroën. You’re not supposed to be slim.” Tank grumbled but the wheel warmed under my hands. She was happy to be moving again.
“You driving or am I?” she asked.
“Hmm.” I say, making a lazy left hand turn out of the parking lot; towards home. “I think I will.” She enjoyed it when I drove. It gave her a chance to relax and enjoy my company. For much of the way home we talked about meaningless nothings, then Jane called and I talked to her for a while. I could feel tank growing distant. She could get pretty moody when I talked to Jane.
Dinner was at eight. I promised to pick up groceries and diapers, then went back to talking to Tank.
There was a noise when she talked. A deep sickly rattle. When it grew in volume she would speak louder in a lame attempt to cover it up. But I noticed. She noticed I noticed.
“Basil. My transition needs changing.”
“Yes.” A pause.
“And so does my oil. And my exhaust is loose.”
“I’m dying Bas.” Her words were almost covered by the splutter of her engine.
“No, you’re just getting old.”
“Yes, but I’m dying also.”
“Please don’t die.”
“Because I’d miss you.”
“Because … because you’re my friend I guess.”
“I love you.”
“I love you Basil.” The wheel grew warmer.
“Tank slow down.” My foot pressed on the brake, nothing happened.
“I love you, I love you Basil.” The seatbelt tightened.
“Slow down. Slow down Tank.” The wheel grew hot and began to burn.
“I love you. I love you. I love you.” The seat closed around me, welcoming me in.
“Tank!” The wheel burned, the belt choked.
“Loveyou. Loveyou loveyou.” The soft fake leather of the seat hugged me tight.
And then we died.