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Static Mayhem Chapter Three

Static Mayhem Chapter Three

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Published by eaubry
Chapter Three of Static Mayhem, a new novel set to be published by World Maker Media in September of 2010.
Chapter Three of Static Mayhem, a new novel set to be published by World Maker Media in September of 2010.

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Published by: eaubry on Aug 28, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Chapter Three
Harrison slept until almost eleven o'clock the next morning. "Dammit, dammit, dammit!" he saidto his clock.Looking at the floor, he saw the notes he had made in the middle of the night, but he didnot move to pick them up. The crude map of his origin and destination looked back at him andmocked him. There was no way he could do this. It went right in the trash. Then he took the basket straight out to the dumpster.His waste disposal system was becoming pretty ripe, what with no pickups anymore, andhe had to hold his breath just to get near it, let alone lift the Dumpster's lid. Gasping for air, hesaid, "That is one aroma I will not miss." From that moment, he admitted that he was Chicago- bound, bad plan or no plan.Inside, he served himself a breakfast of Coke and cold chicken noodle soup, then took ashower. By noon, he was ready to hit the shops. He got in his car, and as he pulled out of themotel parking lot, he turned on the radio. Nothing.He nudged the tuning in both directions. Faint static, but no more. Further adjustmentsmade no difference."All right," he said aloud. "That doesn't mean anything. There are plenty of reasons shecould be off the air right now." He thought back to his brief and insignificant experience as acollege DJ. His training had been a joke, and he remembered nothing that would give him a clueabout why a station could be up one day and down the next. Maybe she was alone. Maybe a fusehad blown. Maybe she just hadn't found it yet. A drop of perspiration tickled his temple. Heturned the radio off. Conjecture would serve no purpose. He would try again later. If Claudianever came back on, well, he would just have to get himself to Chicago and find out what hadgone wrong.It took twenty minutes to reach the nearest working gas station that also had aconvenience store. Early on, this shop had been home for a few days, and he already held a mildnostalgia for it. Filling his tank for the last time, he went inside to stock up. Provisions consistedof one of every map available, two flashlights, and an entire display box of Slim Jims.Harrison sat in his car for a while, eating Cheetos and counting rivers on the maps. If hecould get himself across the Hudson, he wouldn't run into serious trouble until he got to theOhio, by which time, with any luck, he would have traveling companions with brilliant ideas andresources. That earned a chuckle. Traveling companions, indeed!So far, his plan relied on finding things along the way without being certain they werethere. For starters, he had been forced to accept that even his most optimistic estimations of histravel time ruled out the possibility of carrying enough food for the whole journey. If thedistribution of food sources (random convenience stores, for example) was a constant, and givenhow many such sources he had found on the length of this one highway alone, he could expect tofind food at least once every three or four days. That meant he would need only two weeks¶worth of supplies. If he ever went longer than a week without finding something, he would turn back. Of course, since "turning back" was synonymous with "getting lost," he put little thoughtinto that eventuality.Then it dawned on him, as so many things were dawning on him: "I need a compass!" Henodded. "I need a compass. Of course." He grinned in congratulation of his own ingenuity until
realization crept in and overtook revelation. The smile wilted. "Dumb shit. Of course I need acompass. I should have thought of that before I thought of food." He drummed his fingers on thesteering wheel. "Okay. I won¶t waste time or energy scolding myself. I didn't think of it before, but I've thought of it now.´ He gave himself a mental pat on the back. ³Let's move on. I can dothis." He stared out the windshield, organizing his thoughts. "Probably," he said, "I will not finda compass in that store." He stared. "Probably." He got out of the car.He found a dashboard compass in the automotive aisle. It consisted of a ball suspended inwater in a spherical container. The back of the blister pack showed how to attach the compass toa dashboard with a small square of double-sided foam tape, included. Retail value, $2.97. Therewere two on the peg, so he took them both. "I guess this will do until I can find L.L.Bean," hemused, but this success was far more than he had expected. It rekindled his hope.Once outside, he held one of the compasses upright, then turned it left and right to test it.Sure enough, the ball inside remained stationary while the container rotated around it, the small painted arrow fixed. He rotated the compass until the arrow lined up with the little red hash mark  just to the left of the N and was impressed that such a cheap tool would bother to make thedistinction between true and magnetic north. Orienting himself in a northerly direction, helooked up, and saw the front door of the convenience store. He shook his head. "That doesn't feellike north," he said. A moment's reflection told him why. When he had lived here, he slept lateevery day. The sun rose behind the building, so the window side always lay in shadow until highnoon. Facing the store meant he was facing almost due east. He shook the compass, turned itupside-down, and spun himself in a complete circle. None of these actions affected theinstrument's resolve to point at the store. "Crap," he said. "I admire your loyalty, little guy," hetold it, "but I need something a little more objective."Testing the second compass yielded the same results.Harrison growled and rubbed his eyes. "Okay," he began in a reasonable tone of voice, "Inow have two piece-of-crap compasses. Can I, in any way, count them as assets?" He consideredthis for a few moments, then said, "Let's try this on for size: both compasses point east. Maybethey're not broken. Maybe it's a design flaw. Maybe the factory screwed up and painted botharrows in the exact same wrong direction." This was not sounding too bad. "Maybe," hecontinued, "they work perfectly, but they're offset ninety degrees. This could still work." Helooked at the compass in his hand, then at its brother, sitting on his car. It would not be enoughfor him to talk himself into this theory. He already felt stupid about not knowing what he wasdoing. If he were going to set out and rely on two defective compasses to guide him, he wouldneed some experimental evidence that they would be up to the job.He rotated both compasses so that their arrows pointed to their respective E marks. A proper test would have to be conducted in motion, so he started to walk. That was when hediscovered that his theory had a flaw.Both needles crept away from E. It was subtle at first, and he took it to mean that hewasn't holding them straight enough, but soon he recognized that he would have to keep turningthem to keep them lined up. They continued to point parallel, though. His earlier theory nowmade no sense, but he did not have the tools to explain this new observation until he looked up.He had walked across the front of the building and was now close to the edge of the lot.Both compasses still pointed at the door.Running back to the door, he inspected it for magnets. Nothing. He took one compass andwalked the whole way around the building. The ball performed a slow and graceful completerotation as he walked. A repetition with the other compass produced the same effect. He walked
away from the building, and shielded himself behind the gas pump. The arrow still pointed to thedoor.Finally, exasperated, he shouted, "This makes no sense!" He shook the compass. "Youmake no sense! What are you doing?" He sighed. "This is no good. I need to find a realcompass.""That won't work," came a reply from behind him. In his current state, this surprised himfar less than it pissed him off. He spun on the speaker, a vicious word already on his tongue, andduring the split second required for the motion, he remembered to be shocked that he could snapat anyone. Scrambling to form a proper expectation, his brain begged for more time to prepare. Itwouldn't have helped. When he turned around, he came upon some sort of prehistoric insect,about the size of a pigeon, hovering less than a foot in front of his face."Aaaaaaahhh!" he said. And ran."Shitshitshitshitshit. Shit!" he elaborated as he threw himself behind his car. He noticedthat he had dropped the compass and had to explain to himself that going back for it was not a priority. His heart pounding, he crouched next to the rear wheel on the passenger side. He had noidea what kind of bug that was, but it had triggered a primal terror response. In his struggle toreconstruct his brief glimpse into a usable image, all that stood out were the huge wings. Huge,translucent, purple (maybe), in two parts like a butterfly (that can't be right) or a dragonfly. Yes.A dragonfly. A big, big dragonfly. That might be all right. His memory of dragonflies was notone of fear. They didn't bite (he thought), they didn't have stingers (he was pretty sure), and hedidn¶t remember ever being afraid of them. When nothing happened for a full minute, hegathered the courage and peered over the top of the trunk.Which was right where the bug was patiently hovering."Aaaaaaahhh!" he reiterated. This time he didn't stop until he had gone around the back of the building and thrown himself flat against the Dumpster. He scanned the yard for a big stick, but found nothing. He had gotten a better look at the bug this time, but not much. Definitely not adragonfly, though. It didn't have the long tail, and the wings were much wider. Much more, infact, like a butterfly, although it didn't move like one. And it wore a lab coat.A white lab coat. In a valiant battle against every sane, reasonable thing he knew aboutwhat an insect should look like, that image had managed to work its way to the surface. Once hegot a grip on it, it was still there. And once it was still there, it was an anchor. The image he triedto assemble in his mind's eye resolved itself. He walked around the Dumpster, prepared for whathe would see."Are you done yet?" the bug asked. It had a feminine voice.He did not respond. The question had been posed by a woman with wide, translucent purple butterfly wings. She was about the size of a pigeon, and she was wearing a white lab coat.He remained detached from this impossibility long enough to perform one moreexperiment. He lunged out, not to grab, but to swat. Without effort or change of expression, thesmall hovering woman moved back, just beyond reach of his fingers, then moved forward again."Huh," he said. He walked away.He had never experienced a hallucination before. He did not realize they could be sovivid. He had always imagined that hallucinations were somehow fuzzy, or only visible at theedges of one's periphery, or something. He didn't think it would be possible to stare right at one,like watching a movie. And yet, he couldn't touch it, so hallucination it was.Back in the parking lot, he found the compass he had dropped and took it back into thestore. It turned out the compass did not point to the door from inside the store. This was not a

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