Authors: Mark Souza
By Mark Souza
Copyright 2012 Mark Souza
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or any portions thereof in any form whatsoever.
Robyn’s Egg is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination, or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Cover design by Jeroen ten Berge.
No one writes a book in the dark. I was fortunate to have lots of help and would like to recognize and thank the people who lit the way. First, I need to thank my wife, Lisa, my alpha reader, whose opinion I value above all others. Anything I write goes through her hands first. She is my compass.
Thanks also to my beta readers for their valued contributions:
, author of
The Memory Keeper: A Mountain Mystery.
, author of the Thea Campbell mystery series including
Death By A Dark Horse
An Error In Judgment.
, author of
, and many others.
, author of
From Russia With Blood.
, author of
State Of Panic
, and the soon to be released
Till Death Do Us Part.
, whose short stories have appeared in the anthologies
Indiana Science Fiction 2011
among others, and who was my inside source for all things Indianapolis and Indiana.
, a rising talent and author of
Sugar Is Sweet
Roses Are Red
Violets Are Blue
, my keen-eyed father-in-law.
, my brother-in-law, and talented screenwriter and director.
, my well-read mother.
, my equally well-read father.
And I would like to thank the editors and agents whose timely advice encouraged me and helped improve my writing. Among them, Bob Mecoy of Bob Mecoy Literary Agency for the most thoughtful and helpful rejection ever (I’m not kidding), Jessy Marie Roberts for teaching me what horror is and for providing such a good home for so many of my short stories, and K.C. Ball for showing me how to ratchet up tension and for publishing my first story.
By Mark Souza
Monday, 10 October
oyer Winfield’s father once said, if a man wanted to know who he was, all he had to do was look at where he was and what he was doing and he would know. And as Moyer rode the tube to work, jostled by strangers and largely ignored, he realized he was invisible as air, and like air, barely existed. He was a cog in a great machine that abraded men and women to dust, and an insignificant cog at that. The great machine would continue to churn with or without him without missing a beat. Without a lick of remorse. Without acknowledgment or recognition he’d ever been.
He wondered what would happen if he screamed; screamed so hard his throat bled. Would he even be noticed? But of course he wouldn’t scream. Ever. Sticking out from the crowd was too dangerous.
Those around him stared ahead blankly, tuned into the net, disconnected from the world, oblivious to anything else. Their clothing flashed with an array of ads delivered through fiber optic threads, the content selected based on proximity metrics, what might appeal to those nearby. A Hogan-PerkoBirthing Center ad scrolled across the chest of a man seated near a group of married women. Global Brands Lo-Cal Beer appeared on a couple of riders seated amid a cluster of men. Moyer’s coat flashed with an ad for diarrhea medicine probably aimed at the man across from him, which was more information than Moyer wanted.
Moyer clutched the rail to keep from toppling over as the train slowed. Those around him snapped out of their trances and readied for the rush for the doors. When they opened, Moyer allowed himself to be swept out of the car and up the stairs by the crowd.
Above ground, tiny white flakes fell from a clear blue sky dusting Moyer’s clothes as he rushed with the throng of commuters for Freedom Circle. He attempted to brush the flakes away and left a smear on his sleeve. It wasn't snow; they were the ashes of the dead. Freak winds pushed the effluent from incinerators in the Northern Labor Housing ghettos back into the city, ghosts returning home.
Years ago, complaints from the city’s elite closed the downtown incinerator and prompted construction of a new facility at the outskirts of the metropolis among those with little money and less influence. But even the wealthy couldn’t control the wind, though they were certain to complain about it. When the winds blew strong from the north it meant only one thing, a storm was coming.
An advertisement for umbrellas and another for dry cleaning cropped up in Moyer’s head, as well as campaign ads for the candidates up for election to the Consolidated Board of Directors. It was an intrusion Moyer resented. He hated how messages could be inserted into his brain as if they were his own ideas, and despised the effort involved to keep the constant bombardment of advertisements and propaganda from polluting his thoughts, to differentiate between his own and those uninvited placed inside his head by someone else. Then similar ads appeared on the clothing of those around him. Messages of discounts for cleaning cropped up, and maps for the nearest location to pick up an umbrella. When the net detected a commercial opportunity such as the ash fall, it wasted little time taking advantage.
Moyer trudged toward the Circle lost in a school of people, head down, collar up against the ash fall. Walking an instinctive weave through a maze of human traffic, avoiding collisions and eye contact, he moved without identity, a sardine among a massive ball of indistinguishable brothers and sisters flowing like a liquid amalgam. He felt safe. When they parted ahead of him, he moved with them and dodged an open manhole, its cover askew over the shaft, a rusted relic from another era forged with the city’s old name, INDIANAPOLIS, printed in raised relief in an arc around the edge.
Government crews in tidy blue coveralls were out removing fresh Begat graffiti from buildings and off the bricks of the Circle. The sharp tang of chemical paint stripper filled the air. Half the letters had already been burned away, but even so, a faint watermark remained legible. Moyer didn’t have to look to know what it said. The slogans were always the same and everyone knew them.
HP is not God
– obviously aimed at Hogan-Perko headquarters across the Circle. Trinity Corp was another favorite target. But graffiti wasn't the only tactic employed by the religious extremists. They had recently added bombings to their repertoire. If the intent was publicity, it was working. But they weren't winning any sympathy. Fortunately for the general populace, Begat limited their bombings to Hogan-Perko birthing centers and churches while the city slept. At least for now.
Advertisements splashed across the glass facades of the buildings and skyscrapers bordering the Circle. Liquid crystal sandwiched between panes turned windows into giant video monitor billboards. In the center of the Circle stood the pillar-like structure of the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument. Its terraced reflecting pools altered the course of those traveling north and south. On warm days, the sound of cascading water and sunlight dancing off its surface was a delight. On windy days, the flying spray was a nuisance.
As Moyer approached Digi-Soft, security agents by the dozen amassed for some kind of drill, falling into rank, a perfect square in shiny black armor and reflective visors, giant men facing a single officer with a silver chevron emblazoned on his chest plate. The massive human bait ball ushering Moyer across the Circle reacted as if a shark had entered their midst. The crowd cleaved giving the agents a wide berth. Moyer followed the flow toward his building, and kept the security agents in view from the periphery of his vision, careful to conceal any outward interest. A common saying went,
look into an agent’s visor and you will likely see a criminal staring back
He had never really done anything illegal, at least nothing serious – nothing more than what others routinely did; some shopping on the black market, commerce crimes mainly. But just the same, he had an innate phobia and overwhelming guilt that manifested as a tingle in his chest in the presence of security agents. It was as if, if they scrutinized closely would see the outlaw hidden inside him below his very average façade. As a result, he remained ever vigilant and fearful trying to ride the ragged balance between caution and nonchalance, which, perhaps, was a wise thing where agents were concerned.
Locate and avoid
was his philosophy. No point in tempting fate. Never stand out from the crowd. Lone fishes get swallowed up. Everyone knew that.
Moyer swiped his wrist over the security reader at the main entrance to Digi-Soft. In a fraction of a second, the computer recognized his hologram and the lock clunked open. Moyer released a long sigh when the lock safely snapped closed after him.
Inside the foyer, Moyer shook the ash out of his hair and dusted off his clothes prior to heading into the subbasement. He turned and watched for a moment as the security agents continued their drills. There was comfort behind a locked door and the obscurity of smoked glass. Perhaps the additional security patrols were to guard Hogan-Perko from the extremists. Though if Begat had wanted to bomb HP headquarters, couldn’t they have done it last night instead of painting slogans on walls?
Downstairs, Moyer draped his coat over the back of his chair and checked the productivity board dominating the front wall. The central computer had added his name to the display when he swiped in at the door, but his status was still dark. He was early. The board registered twenty-four minutes, and counted down. Nine minutes before morning calisthenics, plenty of time for coffee.
Petro Martinez was holding court in the break room, the Brazilian’s hands moved wildly as he spoke; a wild grin tattooed to his animated face. Moyer pretended not to notice while he filled his cup, but wondered what it was about Petro that made him so engaging. The man always had an audience. Around the office they jokingly called Petro and Moyer the twins. Though they had the same build, dark hair, and olive complexion, they couldn’t be more different. With his foreign accent and gregarious nature, Petro was seen as exotic and charismatic. Moyer, on the other hand, was dull, ordinary, invisible, the guy whose name no one could quite recall.
Petro’s eyes brightened when he spotted Moyer. “Come on over, Moyer my man,” he called across the room.
“I really shouldn’t. I feel another cold coming on.”
“Did you see last night’s
Anything for Baby
?” Petro asked.
“No, I missed it.” What Moyer didn’t say was that he couldn’t bear to watch the popular game show, couples publicly humiliating and demeaning themselves. Perhaps it was that the contestant’s desperation for a baby hit a little too close to home, but he’d preferred to think it was that he wasn’t the type who derived entertainment from the misery of others.
“You really missed out this time. One guy had his wife fire him from a cannon to impress the judges. It all went wrong, but oh how he did impress. He was trying to set a distance record and must have set the charge too high; shattered his legs. They reported on the net this morning that they had to be amputated.”
Moyer found the glee in Petro’s voice repulsive. “Did he win a baby?”
“No, that’s the ironic part. He lost the popular vote. The audience didn’t like him. He came across as an intellectual, all cold and superior.”
Moyer forced a smile. “I guess I did miss out.”
He glanced at the clock and continued on his way. Time was wasting. He stopped by the restroom to assure an unscheduled bathroom break didn’t result in a productivity mark against him.
As he stood over the toilet, it was comforting to see his face reflected in the bowl. Today was a water-free day in his apartment block, and Moyer disliked using the powder, electing instead to hold it until he arrived at work. He would not behave like some cat burying its waste in the sand if he could help it. Some people, it was rumored, used the powder for bathing, a thought which made Moyer’s skin crawl.