You are on page 1of 23

BRENDEN BAILEY GLAUDE

VIBES

I stepped into my small apartment tired from the sixty-hour workweek embedded in my bones yet wired for the weekend to comeit was going to be a big one. I had exactly half an hour to shower, shave, and load fourteen cases of beer into my car before the police started their Friday night sweeps of all the major highways leading into the city. umming an illegal tune, I hopped in the shower and pushed !premium"I had earned the full four minutes. #lcohol and !congregations of ten or more people for the purpose of listening to loud, looping, electronically produced music, sounds or otherwise aberrant vibrations" had been outlawed three years ago. $he punishment for attending such a party %!&rasers", the authorities called them' was a double-fortie in a detaining cube, the punishment, however, for supplying one with alcohol or music was much steeperthe deaf-penalty, surgical removal of the offender(s eardrums. )onsidering the price people would pay for illegal suds, I thought it was worth the risk. *y dealer usually supplied me with no more than a case a week, the sale of which allowed me to indulge in delicacies like fresh fruit, vegetables, and steak. Fourteen cases though, fourteen cases was +uite exceptional and made possible only by the fact that my dealer was relocating to a more secure location and needed to unload his back stock before doing so. #t six minutes to six I hopped in my car and headed for the highway. $he sky was a sultry purple eyelid, and the night its wink. I tore up the pavement like missile wake. ,ows of cramped condos sped by at -./kphthe police were busy placing flares at the side of the road in preparation for their 012/ sweeps to !cleanse the city of all illegal beverages, substances and sounds." I reached my exit with seven minutes to spare, so I pulled over to celebrate3 I lit a joint, cracked a beer and popped three caps1 red, white 4 blue. $onight was about business, but that didn5t mean I couldn5t have a little fun too. $onight(s party, or vibe, as those in the know called them, took place in an abandoned hospital, selected for its superior sound insulation and courtyard parking. #bout four hundred people were gathered to hear the collaborative sonic stylings of two 6ld-7orld 89(s who had been supplied with fake I8(s and flown in for the event. *any of the 89(s of decades past had been captured on this continent and relieved of their ability to hear, while others had simply retired out of fear. #s a result, most 89(s refused to even show up for anything less than 0// :robo5s in advance, and a vibe such as this could make a performer very rich indeed. #s soon as I pulled into the courtyard my car began to vibrate from the bass, and the excessive clinking of bottles in my trunk attracted immediate and unwanted attention to my payload. #ll was blurry in my rear view mirror as I navigated myself slowly across the courtyard past fallen angels and beautiful beasts. igh above, spotters scanned the city streets for signs of police while people repelled down the inner walls to screw holes for hammocks and hanging seats. $o my right a fire-breather sent up a huge ball of blue flame, to my left a group of young men made love openly in the mud. I had just found the perfect spot to set up shopright beside the stagewhen I saw the sight that no one wanted to see3 a single red flare shot up from one of the spotter(s positions overhead and exploded the entire scene in an instant. $his vibe was on the verge of being busted. #ll was chaos. $he sky ignited in a flurry of warning flares, casting the mayhem beneath into a fiery glare. ,ooftop spotters threw down their guns and took to gliders, soaring safely away into the anonymous night. ;anicked people scurried up and down walls like soft insects. #t ground level, bodies moved in every direction while feathers from cast-off wings fluttered down to earth to be trampled in the mud. From the flare-pattern, I knew that an army of &raser-ops were closing in fast.

BRENDEN BAILEY GLAUDE

VIBES

$here was no way to return how I had come, back through the courtyard and the crowdI needed a new exit immediately. Filthy as it was, covered with torn banners and graffiti, the wall behind the stage appeared to be made of glass. <ood enough. I stomped on the accelerator and burst through the wall like a glass grenade, sending a huge pyroclastic cloud of shards raining down before me, and, as I admired them glinting off the marble floors of the atrium, I thought, perhaps the red pill was a bad idea. #fter an hour of driving, I deemed it safe enough to stop and assess the damage to my car and goods. I had just heard a news report of the bust over the radover eighty arrests, though many more were thought to have escaped, including the 895s themselves. #s usual, the police issued a warning to all &raser-goers that they would be !sought out and shut down, our ears are to the ground." #s soon as they started playing their !sixty seconds of sirens" I clicked the rad off and pulled into an alley. 8riving over some pissstained cardboard I noticed something strangeno more clinking. ;erhaps my cargo had been more badly damaged during my escape than I had anticipated, in which case my trunk would reek of alcohol, in which case I would need to burn it where it stood. I got out to see. =pon opening my trunk I did not see a single drop of alcohol spilled, nor a bottle, nor a case, nor any sign that fourteen cases of primo suds had ever been there, what I saw instead was a beautiful but terribly frightened girl of about seventeen wearing little else then a bra and butterfly wings. Fuck me. $his was bad. $his was very, very bad. >ot only had I lost my entire cargo, and almost killed myself in the escape, I now had what amounted to a kidnap victim bound and bruised in my trunk. $he weekend was not going nearly as well as I had planned. I untied the girl and gave her my coat, which she insisted on wearing over top of her butterfly wings, claiming they were both real and the source of her power. $here was a strong possibility that she was on drugs or had been drugged, and an e+ually strong possibility that she wasn5t, for I, after all, was on drugs myself and found it difficult to tell one way or another. I helped her into the passenger5s seat and asked if she was alright, to which she merely moaned and laid her head back on the seat3 evidently, she was not. I needed to get her some help, as well as lay low for awhile should the &raser-ops still be looking for anyone connected to the vibe. I knew of a place nearby, ?ivo ?han5s 6xygen @ar %4 underground ambient lounge'. e had been a doctor overseas, but his medical license was not recogniAed here in )anada, so he became a successful business owner-operator instead. ?ivo had the knowledge, as well as the basic supplies, needed to help this girl, and besides, he owed me one. @ack when electronic music was first outlawed, ?ivo had refused to yield to the authorities, to stop playing the music which he said, 5was like medicine to his customers.5 $he police took it easy on him at firstfines, threats of imprisonmentfor he was a wellestablished and respected member of the community. @ut once the #B##berrant th Bibrations #ctwas passed %6ctober . , C/DD' a Aero-tolerance policy came into effect, and ?ivo was left with no choice, either turn over all his sonicards or be shut down and jailed. #nd so he did. @ut not before I had their contents copied over to an ultra-highcapacity storage device that I had stolen from work, a device normally used to store the pulse data of a multi-headed laser sculpting tool, but suited just as well, with minor modifications, to storing music. #nd so ?ivo5s healing vibrations were allowed to play on, albeit in secret and +uite literally underground, without any further disruptions by the

BRENDEN BAILEY GLAUDE

VIBES

police. ?ivo ?han5s 6xygen @ar was located on the outskirts of )hinatown, where rent was cheaper, but still drew a generous crowd during peak hours, especially on weekends. $he name, etched out in glass and back lit in blue, gave the passerby a feeling of genuine freshness in those otherwise dingy and reeking streets. 7ith nowhere else to park, I pulled into a burnt-out bakery and stopped the car amidst melted mixers and charred conveyor belts. $urning off the engine, I nudged the girl beside me and wiped her face with my sleeve. :he stirred slightly, mumbled something about a magic forest, but did not wake. I could not bring her inside ?han5s like this, so I slipped her a white cap to clear her head. In a few moments she came to, revealing eyes like wet sumac leaves in the moonlight. !#m I in the burnt part of the forest, so that I may grow anewE" I told her yes. $here was no sense in defying her current perception. It wasn5t, after all, very far from the truth. !Fou5re hurt. )ome with me and we5ll see the healer." 7e left the car and walked to ?han5s together over burnt cookie cuttershearts and arrowheads, witches and angels crumbled beneath our feet. I asked her name, she told me it was >yliah, and that she was a fairy, but she wasn5t feeling very magical at the moment. I said that that was 6?, and led her inside. ?han5s was painted in deep, cool colors and had a shimmering metallic bar opposite a wall-length a+uarium. In it, bubbles rose like jellyfish helices from three evenly spaced jets while strings of indigo lights accented abstract art hung near the ceiling. Four patrons drew from triangular orange masks connected to blue-glowing tubes, %there were probably three times as many beneath our feet'. ?han was behind the bar tweaking dials on an illuminated control panel. !?aleb, my friendG 7hat may I do for you and your lovely guestE" !;erhaps we can go somewhere to talk." !6f course, of course. )ome now," he said, passing through a beaded curtain. In the back room, ?ivo listened to my story with genuine interest and concern, and, after a lengthy pause to consider all I had said, replied, !I will do what I can to help the girl. @ut you, you should stay away from red pills. @lue, I can understand from the nature of your work. 7hite, in moderation, won5t harm you. I take a few white from time to time myself. @ut red do not go well with your body chemistry. ,ed will override the others and make you do things that you may regretif you live to regret them. >ow, mind the bar while I take her downstairs." For the next twenty minutes I monitored oxygen levels and admired the giant moray eel swimming back and forth between corals in the massive saltwater tank, its long dorsal fin rippling hypnotically in the water. 9ust as I was being lulled into something close to calmness, two &raser-ops pushed in. $he shorter of the two hadn5t taken five steps before he had his ear-horn out and pressed up against the wall. $he taller op came straight towards me, !7here is the owner of this placeE 7here is ?hanE," he demanded. !?han is indisposed at the momentin the bathroom. Is there something I can help you withE" I asked, deftly tapping the mute key under the bar. !*aybe. #re you the owner of a vehicle, plate number D9$? .HCIE" !Fes." !)an you explain the damage to the front of your vehicleE" !:ure. 6n the way over here I took a wrong turn on @ellevue and did a nosedive into a pothole."

BRENDEN BAILEY GLAUDE

VIBES

$his got a bit of a chuckle out of him. ! umph, that is a rough stretch. Fou should be more careful." @ehind him, the shorter op was lying prone, with his horn to the floor. !#nyhow, we searched your car and found nothing suspicious. It is, however, parked illegally on condemned propertya five hundred dollar fine. )ash." It was at this moment that ?ivo ?ahn returned from the basement behind the beaded curtain. !7hat are you ops doing harassing my customersE #nd you, with that ear-horn, there hasn5t been anything to hear in my place for three years now but deep breathing." ! e5s right. $his place is clean," said the shorter op. !Fine. ;ay up and we5ll be on our way." ,eluctantly, I pulled out five :robo5s and handed them over to the op. !Fou have yourselves a fine evening now," he said on his way out the door. !Forget about them, ?aleb. Four friend has a moderate concussion and will have to spend the night. 6ther than that it is just bumps and bruises and whatever she5s on. I have put her up in the storage room. :tay with her. &njoy the music and take some oxygen, but don5t let her sleep." I thanked ?ivo and headed for the basement. 9ust as I passed through the curtain he called out after me, !#nd don5t touch any of my supplies, or I5ll pump hydrogen cyanide into your maskG" >yliah had eyes of new moss encircled by astral eyelashes that flared out like an angry star. er hair flowed in electric blue rivulets down her fair face to a neck exposed and flecked with silver. :he was beautiful beyond reason, and as forbidden as &den5s fruit. $he night went +uickly with her, telling senseless stories to each other and listening to our voices undulate along with the subterranean basscapes. I assumed that, as time went on, her fantastical talk would fade, but as morning drew nearer it became clear that these fancies were not drug-induced at allthat she actually believed she was a fairy. #t sunrise, ?ivo came to serve us tea and check up on >yliah. !Fou look fine, my dear. ,adiant, actually. 9ust be sure to get some rest today and take it easy." !$hanks, ?ivee" >yliah said, with a wink and a kiss on his cheek. @lushing, ?ivo said,!,ight then. >ow, get the hell out of my bar you two, I5ve got work to do." #nd, as he turned to go upstairs, muttered, !I think I need some oxygen." 7e left ?ivo to his work and headed back to my place to relax. I lived in a spacious 2xHm room on the --th floor of an old low-rise uptown. For J2-//Kmonth, I had everything I needed to eat, sleep, bathe and connect. #s with most buildings, toilets were communal th and re+uired flush tokens to operate. $he lift to the -- floor, also, cost two tokens but th th rarely made it past the 0 or . floor, forcing you to walk the remaining three. =pon entering my apartment, we sat down on the only two chairs in the place3 me at the comsole and >yliah at the nano-nook. *y walls were painted carrot orange with blue circuitry stenciled on one side. For decoration, I had a giant fern and a -xCm painting done by a homeless man. $he painting depicted two crude figuresdemonsone, small and frail, the other, huge and thorny. #mid a swirl of violent brush strokes emerged the image of the larger beast devouring the smaller, head first. It was done in tar. I gave the man four beers and a new shelter for it, as he had been using it as a roof. !I like your fern. It5s so green!" !$hat5s thanks to my parabolic reflector, without it I could hardly grow a dandelion." !6hG Fou own a 5flector. 8oes that mean you have heated showersE"

BRENDEN BAILEY GLAUDE

VIBES

!Fep. Fou5re welcome to u..." and with that >yliah was half stripped and in the shower. # few seconds later >yliah5s clothes flew over the cylinder, a gasp escaped her lips, and all I heard was falling water. I ate cold oatmeal and scanned the sub-web for word on the weekend5s vibes. Last night5s bust must have had its desired effect3 no one was talking, not even in Bibro. I searched the most remote sub-sites I could datadig, but still found nothing. Four minutes later >yliah emerged from the shower like a water nymph. 7rapped in an aAure towel, she stood drying her hair. !$hat felt so good. I haven5t had a heated one for a month." !I see. )are for some oatmealE" #t this, >yliah scrunched her nose and turned towards a bowl on the counter top. !>o. @ut are those fresh strawberriesE" she asked, pointing. !Fes, they are. elp yourself." $aking the entire bowl in hand >yliah sat back down at the nano-nook and began sucking strawberries, biting their juicy bits off with a single, efficient slice. ! ave you heard of any vibes happening tonight, >yliahE $he lines are +uiet." ! m. Fou want your beer back, and you think I can help." !7ell...yes." $here was no denying it, I knew all along that >yliah was my best bet for finding the missing suds. :he probably saw who bound her, and therefore, who took my stash. !I can sense the energy of the cityits people, its musicit all flows through me and tells me things." !6-?, what is it telling you about tonightE" !$hat people are afraid. $hey5re worried that what happened last night could happen again tonight, and so they5re being extra cautious." !7hat, so no vibe tonightE @ut it5s :aturday night, there5s got to be a vibe." !Fes. I feel there will be a vibe, just not anywhere you5d expect. !7here thenE $he waterfrontE Little ,ussiaE $he old AooE" !>o. It will be somewhere untouched by city lights, somewhere the sound will be swallowed up by the darkness." !Is that soE )an you sense anything else >yliahE" !6nly that you don5t believe me, but I5m too tired to care. I feel drained. I need some rest." !6? then. :ome rest sounds pretty good about now. Let5s get some sleep." >yliah crawled into my bed like a languid lynx and was asleep within a minute. I watched her for a few moments then %her chest rising and falling and her lips puckering for some unseen fruit' before drifting off myself. I awoke eleven hours later in a womb that glowed like a honeycomb. I5d slept late, it was now sunset. $wilight transformed my room into an electronic sarcophagusthe golden circuitry flaring up one last time before the lid was shut, and the plug pulled. I opened my eyes. >yliah was gone, and so were my car keys. !Looks like my fairy has flown away," I said to no one. I got up, poured myself a glass of caffeinated milk, and popped three whites. Clarity. Focus. Concentration. I shuffled over to a phosphorescent panel on the wall and flicked the switchfour dim pot lights twitched on, barely illuminating the apartment. !C1CC 6f Light ,emaining" read a display at the base of the panel3 not bad for a day5s charge. Clarity. Focus. Concentration. I placed my finger over one of the circuit nodes painted on the wall, then followed it through the blue labyrinth of data streams to its point of origin

BRENDEN BAILEY GLAUDE

VIBES

near the comsole. $here was an image pulled up on the screen, some kind of schematic diagram, a blueprint of half-constructed tunnels exed out and drawn over with yet more tunnels that were, in turn, themselves aborted. I sat down. I must be looking at an image of the subway expansion project from over twenty years ago, not the first attempt %but probably the last' to extend the lines far to the north-east and west. $his project, and others before it, failed due to the huge cost, e+uipment breakdowns, and lack of people willing to work the -. hour shifts necessary to make it financially feasible in the first place. Clarity. Focus. Concentration. ere, on the screen, was something that didn5t belong on any blueprinta silver smooch in the upper left corner encircling a chamber labeled !:tation ..." I leaned back in my chair and let my eyes refocus3 this was it, this was the vibe I5d been looking for. >ow that I knew where to go, I had a few hours to kill before the party started. $aking a magnetiAed handle from beneath the comsole, I removed my uppermost slideaway, then set it down at the nano-nook. From it, I took out a bag and began rolling a joint, in which I sprinkled the contents of two capsules, red and blue. %I should be able to keep my head on three whites.' I flipped on my headphones and lit my creation. Scissor Slip infected my eardrums, then slowly doled out the antidote, so that after seven minutes and one joint, I was cured. I took to the streets to explore my senses in a black slycros jacket with a fern leaf in the pocket. It rained darkly from clinging clouds, both ground and sky were black. $here was not another person in sight, save for those that never left and had become a part of the streets themselves. 7alking east towards the old theater, I watched sparse streetlights pulsate behind their watery veils. ;lumes of sewer steam filled the spaces in between. :uddenly, a light directly above me flickered and died at the precise moment I passed under it. *y steps +uickened. In another block, I came upon a lone goose before a storefront window, nestling up to its own reflection. I stopped to observe its downy rump ruffling in the wind. #fter an eon, the goose slowly raised its head and began swaying its neck back and forth like a drunk cobra. $hen, very +uickly, it emitted a hiss and gave a violent peck to the glass, before settling down once more. I raised my eyes to the darkened window. $here was a flash of lightning followed by a hellish thunderclap that bounced off a thousand buildings before dying out in the west. In the ensuing silence, a steam cloud crept between me and the window, and in that haAe, I saw myself. I was on a balcony, looking out between bars at a vast urban nightscape. A gala y of yellow stars swept over the hori!on and buildings rose like steel stalagmites from a radon pool a world below. I turned around and saw the city"s lights#but not myself# reflected in a sliding door, where phantom figures moved behind beaded glass. $ne phantom looked familiar, so I raised my hand to touch her shape and watched, in horror, as the skin grew smooth and the fingers, thin. I %olted back, passed through the bars, and fell into the night. $he last ghost of thunder rumbled way beneath, while wisps of steam evaporated from my fingertips, and puddles formed around my feet. I was back in reality, or something like it, except the lines were not as clearsenses not as separateas before. I tried to remember what before was like, but could not grab hold of anything solid. :oon my scalp began to sting, so I crossed the street to buy a hat. Barushka5s Fashions was laid out like a runway, where the shopper walked the catwalk and the !audience" consisted of a crowd of hyper-real manne+uinsa mass of

BRENDEN BAILEY GLAUDE

VIBES

plastic people locked in a variety of poses from dancing to sucking dick. $here were doAens of them. # group of blacktop break dancers dressed in full flish style dominated the front entranceway. %#pparently, it had made a comeback.' I knelt down to examine an #sian model more closely. It not only had eyelashes, but tear ducts too, and...yes, the eyes themselves were moist with lubricationG *agnificent. Licking my finger dry, I turned to face a felinistic lesbian couplecomplete with ears, whiskers, and tattooed spotsriding a sex swing. $he models were copies of each other, right down to the scratch marks, but wore different wigsone purple, and one blue. I admired the beauty of the twins, marveled at the time and care that must have gone into constructing such perfectly flawed beings. #fter spending hundreds of hours stretching plasticiAed skin over musculoskeletal frames, sculpting flawless scars, and implanting each hair with surgical precision, I wondered whether their creator had grown to loveor hatethe objects of his design. I pulled away from these synthetic sex kittens and in a few steps found a manne+uin that looked disturbingly like myself. :ame height, same build, same premature grey hair. Looking into the manne+uin5s murky blue-grey eyes, I felt a chill of recognition, and almost expected it to avert its gaAe, but it stared on, right through me. &ven the halfunkempt facial hair matched my own. @ut when I reached out to touch its texture I was stopped short by the crack of a riding crop across my hand. $he sharp-featured woman who had been hanging off my double had suddenly sprang to life. !I am Barushka, and nobody touches my manne+uins but me." !Fes, ma5am." !8o I look like a ma5amE I am a strong, ssexy woman. >ow vat do you vantE" !I5m just looking for a hat." !6h please, I can see by your jacket Aat you are looking for more Aen Aat. I know vat Aat leaf in your pocket means. )ome to Ae back, I vill introduce you to my cousin, $asha." #nd with a stern face and flick of her whip, Barushka led me towards the back of the shop. !7ait," I said, !there was something I wanted to buy after all." !<ood. Men get it. I vill be here, vaiting." # minute later Barushka had bagged my purchase and was pushing into the back room. $here was a tall, angular woman there, strapping on a pair of high heels. :he didn5t look up. !Mis is my cousin $asha, she vill take care of you." $he two women exchanged looks, then Barushka turned to leave. !>ow, I must get back to my manne+uins. <ood-bye." 7e were alone. !>iA leaf, 5andsome 9ack. *y price iA a thousand, and I5m verth it." !6kay," I said, reaching into my shopping bag, !but put this on first" I ordered, handing her a blue wig. I floated out of Barushka(s feeling like a soap slug hovering over the pavement. It was raining only lightly now, a gentle mist caressed my skin as I passed through an enchanted alley. Lanterns hung high above bathed everything in blue, and made the mist glisten on every surface too. I decided to go up, to make my way to the nearest subway station by rooftop, and thus avoid the dangers of the city(s streets at night. )limbing up onto a large dumping bin, I noticed a mangled manne+uin hand reaching out from within poor blinker. From there, I grasped the slick iron ladder of a fire escape and hoisted myself up, then scaled the dripping stairs to the top. $he view was of run-down rooftops crammed closely together, like a cobblestone

BRENDEN BAILEY GLAUDE

VIBES

road grown moldy with neglect. In this area public spaces had been built up, and existing structures leveled off, so it wouldn5t be too difficult to get from one building to the next. I leapt from the rooftoplanding s+uarely on the building opposite. $hat one was easy. $he next gap, however, was much wider and would re+uire a running start. I counted out the steps to the edge, then walked them slowly in reverse, noting each foot placement as I went. I looked towards my goal, took a deep breath, and ran. #fter that gap, I got into a groove and began jumping on instinct. :oon I was sprinting effortlessly over rooftops and landing jumps with ease. 7hile running past clusters of sky shanties and packs of street swarmers down below, I began to +uestion just why I was going through so much trouble to get my beer back. It wasn5t just about money anymore. :ure, the suds could buy some freedom %maybe two months off, if it hadn5t been sold already', but there was more. # love of the musicE $hat would never die. @eer was my ticket into a scene that I really had no business being in otherwise. It was something bigger, beyond love, beyond belonging, a desire to fight back against a system that didn5t make sense, against laws that kept people from coming together under a cause. $he cause itself wasn5t just to have a good time, but a social expression of freedom, a sonic rejection of the status +uo, a two thousand watt 5>6G5 Bibes were the voice of the people in a silent society. I snapped back to my immediate present, which, at that very moment, was the middle of a four metre gap. )ycling my arms and legs in mid-air, I came down hard on the other side, falling forward and scraping my palms on the gravel. ,esting on my elbows, I turned my hands to see the damage, and, for the first time that night, noticed that they had glitter all over them. I chuckled at this, and watched as the now-sparkly blood pooled in my palms, then dripped down between my hands and into a dark puddle. $his swirling microcosmos then sprang to life. I was laying on a balcony, looking up at a swath of impossibly bright stars. Sharp, %utting towers stood around me like giant arrows shot from a blood&stained sky. I rolled my head to look inside but saw only darkness, and a vague shadow of myself, reflected back. A single beat burst up from far below, followed by another, followed by another. Soon my body was awash with bass and my ears were filled with strange and e citing sounds. Suddenly, a light switched on inside and, in a blur, I fell straight through the floor' but, as I fell, each successive sound wave slowed my decent, until finally, I came to rest, softly upon the street. !#re you okayE" $here was a little Indian girl standing over me, with her hand on her hip and a furrow in her brow. !=hh, yeah. I, I5m okay." !7ell, you sure don5t look okay. 7hat are you doing on the ground anywayE" !I fell. I jumped that big gap behind me, and I fell." !Fou jumped thatE 7ell, at least you made it over." !Feah, at least," I said, as I got to my feet. !7hat5s your nameE" !?aleb. #nd yoursE" 7ith a smirk on her lips, and a sparkle in her eye, the girl extended her small, bracleted hand to mine. !I5m *aya. )ome with me."

BRENDEN BAILEY GLAUDE

VIBES

*aya led me to a small structure in the center of the roof. It was right slipshack, but painted a regal gold. !7elcome to my placeG" !Fou live here aloneE" !>o silly, I5ve got my friends here too," she said, indicating a number of painted figures on the walls. !$here5s :unny, *oona, Flora, and ,ain. :tarja5s around too, but she5s shy. &veryone, this is ?aleb." !>ice to meet you all." !>ow that you5ve been introduced, let me get something for those hands." *aya vanished into her hut behind a purple drape, leaving me to scan my new surroundings. $here was a large rain barrel with petal-like projections around the rim, and several potted plants at it5s base1 green beans, hot peppers, tomatoes, and hemp. @eside that sat an old satellite dish inlaid with a mirror mosaica makeshift reflector. # spiral of melted candles adorned a tire at my feet. *aya re-emerged from her hut holding a narrow crimson cloth which she used to bind my hands like a boat boxer. !#ll better." !$hanks, *aya. $his is (uite a place you5ve got here." !Fes it isG *y brother helped me with it before he...disappeared. ey, are you hungryE Fou look hungry," before I could lie and say no, *aya was again inside her hut, and in a few moments presenting me with a modest plate of rice. !&at." I ate. !Fou5re the first person to be up here since my brother left. I didn5t think anybody could reach me up here, there5s no ladders, no stairs, but you just flew right in." *aya laughed, a charming little chime laugh. !Fou know what I thinkE I think you came here for a reason, that you were sent here by someone, maybe :tarja or *oona, but probably ,ain. :o then ?aleb, why have you come hereE" 7hat the fuckE 7as she seriousE I guessed she must be, she was a little girl living alone on a rooftop after all. )hy had I come hereE 7hat could I sayE I decided not to say anything, but instead reached into my pocket and produced a see-through sonicard, placing it in *aya5s tiny hennaed hand. :he looked at it with awestruck algae eyes, then closed her fingers gently over it. 7ith our exchange complete, *aya showed me to a far corner of the rooftop, where she kept a rope anchored in order to make occasional trips down to the street. $ossing its knotted length over the side, she flashed me another smirk. !7ell, what are you waiting forE I5ll pull it back up once you5re down." I climbed carefully down the side of the building, looking up every now and then to see *aya5s head peeking out over the edge at me. @y the time I got to the bottom, she had bled back into the sky above. I shuffled out of the shadows towards a nearby subway station. $he intensity of the past few hours was beginning to catch up to me3 but no furries, the second wave would be coming on soon. #ll I needed now was some green and a moment to focus my chi. >o sooner had I thought this than a trio of pre-teens shot past me in a shopping cart, trailing a cloud of cannabis. @ouncing over the broken curb, they rode straight into the station. 6nce inside, the pusher jerked sideways, bringing the cart to a halt. e immediately started spraystencilling the walls, while the other two worked a joint and ditched the cart down some stairs. #s I got closer, one of the tokers called out, ! *lip blip, uptown threeG" to which the trio turned, ran, and slid down the center of the escalator rails on their backs. I stopped a second to admire the fresh artwork, three orbs floating in space, with a large !=" in the middlenot bad. I slid down after them, but landed awkwardly, whereas they continued on

BRENDEN BAILEY GLAUDE

VIBES

in one fluid motion. $he leader of the group, a keen ?orean with a post-modern mohawk, turned on a heel and shouted, !7aitG" $hey all stopped. !>o lice would5a yanked that flip just to bite us. :ave your energy, he5s an alloy." !>ice tag up there guys, a real slicer." !$hanks man, we5re making our mark, you knowE" !7e5re the uptown threeG" piped a boy behind, a tall Italian with a black eye. $he leader gave him a look over his left shoulder, and he fell silent. !$his is 8rag and ,una," the boy said, motioning behind him, !and I5m My. 8o you munchE" !I5m falling." !7e5ll blip you back up. Fou aiming northE" !&nd of the line." !Let5s hop a sub." ,una rolled a spliff right on the subway and nobody gave a fucksad sober eyes turned towards handheld technology. I thumbed through a sketchbook from My5s backpack, a collection of the trio5s work together. &ach artist5s style was distinctyet linked somehow as if by an invisible thread. 8rag5s drawings were harsh and heavy, full of fat, ugly lines and raAorblade eyes. My5s designs were slick and symmetrical, the universe laid bare. $he other forms, light and graceful as a school of sea snakes, undoubtedly belonged to ,una. #fter a few stops, she raised her pink shaven head and presented a perfectly rolled threepronged wonder. !#nybody hungryE" she asked slyly. 7e got off at the subway5s next stoplast on the lineand waited for the platform to clear3 dull, pale creatures limping to get out of the light. My knew of a hole in the camera grid, a sliver of space behind one particular pillar, so we lit up there. $he joint moved from ,una to 8rag, 8rag to My, each member lighting a prong as it went. !:o you5re a viber, ehE" asked My, passing the trident to me. !Feah, how5d you knowE" I asked, taking a long, demonic pull. !I dunno, your eyes have an edge to 5em, like you got somethin5 to live for." !I5ll take that as a compliment...I guess. I5m actually heading to a vibe tonight, someplace called station eighty-eight." !:tation eighty-eightE 7e tagged there last month," said My. !Fea, massive chamber there woulda5 been great for a mural, but didn5t think anyone would see it," added 8rag. !7ell, there5s going to be plenty of eyes there tonight. Is it hard to findE" !Fes, but, we could show you the way," offered ,una. !$hat would be boom!" I said, passing her the joint. :he pinched it between two fingers, nails glistening like wet cement. !It5s not too far from here, if you know the way", said My, !let5s work this thing an5 get you there." $wenty minutes later, I was crawling through a narrow electrical conduit, shoulders hunched, padded palms insulated against cold metal. $he uptown three were out in front, biting down on pocket bulbs. 7e were somewhere deep inside the city, a lost and useless tunnel once reclaimed by rats and roaches, but since abandoned for lack of purpose. :mall, tubular offshoots passed like black holes in the dead of space, only a slight change in acoustics betraying that they were even there. !$his is it," said My, in a voice like li+uid mercury, !follow this down a hundred meters and you5ll hit station eighty-eight, your vibe." is words swirled down the tunnel after me,

BRENDEN BAILEY GLAUDE

VIBES

disappearing into the blackness beyond. $he uptown three didn5t come with me, they had 5important work to do5making their mark, I assumed. I was halfway down the tunnel when I began to feel a vibration in my fingertips. $his sensation grew, meter by meter, until my wrists beat with an electronic pulse and the fluid in my knees throbbed. &ighty meters in, my face felt fuAAy and my veins opened up, releasing a wave of euphoric energy. :uddenly, I felt like a prisoner crawling towards freedom, like a slycros sperm about to be launched into reality. I had arrived. I dropped down into electric air, landing softly. *y fall was cushioned by fabric, an enormous pile of castoff clothing. #ll around me, a seething mass of bodies, every one of them painted, glowing, nude. I had plunged into the middle of a hypercolor wet dreama neon &den, long after the Fall. I gravitated towards the madness, a churning bioluminescence, where my buAA was the color of cuttlefish, taste of dank freedom, feel of slick flesh against my ribs. *y ears unlocked in an instant, while my eyes refocused on the sensoryfuck before them3 a sea of flexing torsos, gleaming genitals, and luminous limbs. :lim, flat-chested girls rubbed rhythmically against each other, while thin blue boys conducted invisible orchestras in mid air. $hey channelled the luscious soundscape, absorbing every note, before ooAing it outwards. *eanwhile, groups of glow whores spun sloppily around pockets of bulky men in gentle embrace. # girl with skin like spilled gasoline stopped to stare into my eyes, fall utterly in love, and leave me on a whim, all in the span of about eight seconds. $hat was all the time I needed to know everything about her. In fact, I felt I knew everybody at a glance, their complete composition, body and mind. :uddenly it all made sense3 sound, people, and movement all came together into a total e+uation, a complete fluency of being. I was a single cell in a spasmodic new organism, a boundless fluctuation, held together by a magnetic core. 8rawn to its center like a piece of plankton caught in an undercurrent, I took off my jacket and hung it on some rebar jutting out from an oversiAed support columnone of nine lining the huge chamber. &ach one had a shipshape !.." etched in it that reminded me of a twin hourglass3 only time here wasn5t measured in sand, but perspiration, a primordial pool of hedonistic ripples. >ow my shirt stuck to me like one big suction cup, so I tore it from my neck down to my waist and entered the crowd. :oon I was smeared with glow paint, first by hands of blue and white, then by angel5s breasta red slash across my chest. @odies brushed like painters half-asleep, and slapped like living sculptures eager to alter each other. I was a single stroke in a threedimensional mural, wet clay in a thrill-fueled centrifuge. $he force of this feeling spun me sideways, then outwards, to the very edge of the fluid coalescence. # hand snagged my right wrist and pulled me to the sidelines. !Fou look like you5re divin5 pretty deep. ow 5bout a beer to balance ya outE" I was in the grip of a viber-viking, forearm veins painted like bolts of lightning, tree tattooed on his chest. is beard was braided, nose bent, and eyes intense. !Fifty bucks." e barely let this settle before erupting with laughter and smacking me on the back. !6nly joke, this one is on meG" he said, releasing my wrist and handing me an icy beer. !@ut next round is on youG" I knew before even tasting it that this beer was mine, %from the curve of the bottle alone' but this guy didn5t seem like a dastard. #nd he wasn5t, he only had a satchel full on his shoulder. e was just a buyer.

BRENDEN BAILEY GLAUDE

VIBES

!Fou got it, man. 7here did you get thisE" !From the fatso at the farthest pillar," he said, pointing, !but listen now, and drink, 6lak has something to tell ya." I gulped the stolen suds as 6lak started. !Fou see those lightsE" I did. @lack lights. $he ceiling was covered in them. !Feah." !$hat5s thirty-thousand high-powered L&85s wired into a single line." !7hoa," I said, taking another swig. !Feah, but that5s not the best part," 6lak said, adjusting the ancient aviator goggles on his head. !$hat linea single strand of gigacurrent cableruns up through conduits, down subway tunnels, and around camerasover twelve kilometers in totalto reach the basement of the city5s biggest bank3 a direct line into their power source, jacked in such a way that no one will notice until it causes a tower-wide blackout, shortly after I o5 clock this morning. @y the time they trace it, everyone here5ll be gone, and they5ll be left with one helluva hydro bill." !$hat5s incredibleG" !Fou5re fucking right it is. I wired it." !:hitG ,eallyE" 6lak nodded proudly. !$hen it5s an honor. )heers." !)heersG 6ne swigG" I complied. ! ave another," 6lak insisted, thrusting a bottle into my gut. !@ang." !>ow why are ya hereE I mean, other than to, absorb itE" !*aybe that5s all I5m here for." !>ah, you5re wearing pants. $he only ones here wearing pants are you, me, and that fatso selling beer. Fou5re here for something. :omethin5 else." !6?, you5re right. I5m a beer dealer. Last night, someone stole my stash and replaced it with a girl. $his morning that girl stole my car. I5m here to get it all back." ! ow5d ya know to come hereE" !:he left me a clue." !$hen, this girl wants to be found. 7hyE" !I don5t know." !6?, this is something. $his is reeally somethin5," 6lak, said, stroking his beard, !I will help you. 7e will get your beers back." ! owE" !&asy. )ome on." It took an electric eternity to get to the farthest pillar, a fluorescent forever to reach Fatso. e greeted us with a wide, salesman smile. !$hirsty man, back for moreG ow many you wantE" 6lak thrust his elbow upward in a violent arc that caught Fatso s+uarely under the chin, causing his head to snap back and feet to leave the floor. e landed in a heap, unconscious and snoring. !I5ll take them all." !:hhitG 8oesn5t this guy have partners, backupE" !*aybe. @ut they5re probably up to their brainstems in chems right now, lost in the depths."

BRENDEN BAILEY GLAUDE

VIBES

!,ight. 7ell, thanks a billion 6lak. Fou want a fewE" ! ow 5bout a caseE" !# caseE $hat only leaves me nine." !$his rounds5 on you." !Feah, thanks," I said, as he slapped me on the shoulder and walked away. I spent the next few hours dealing suds at JI/ a pop, or two for a :robo. $he price was low, but it encouraged people to buy more, and I wanted to unload this luckless li+uor fast. :ales were stellar, and Fatso didn5t budge. I was down to my last case when I saw her3 a lucid nymphlet amidst the bleary rainbow of the crowd. >yliah. I told the girl fumbling through her shoe to take it, left the rest, and took off towards her. :he was bobbing like some kind of sensual sea creature when I got to her, arms undulating in the unseen waves. !?aleb, you made itG I5m so happyG" ! ey, I didn5t know fairies could drive." !8on5t be upset, I just borrowed it. Fou got your beer back, didn5t youE" !Fes I did. ow5d you knowE" !I told you, I sense things," she said, smiling. !6h yeah." $he smile fell from >yliah5s face in a flash. !7e have to get out of here. :omething5s comingG" !7hat do you mean 5something5s coming5E I was talking to," and then I heard it, the distant whir of rotor blades. !Flybots." !7hatE" !Flybots. I didn5t know our ops had any. *ust5ve picked some up used from 8etroit." !7hat will they doE" !$hey5ll try to photograph and I8 everyone here, then they5ll return to the surface with our location." !)an they do thatE" !$he paint may protect our identities, but the gig is up, we5re busted." ! ere they comeG" $he flybots whir warped into a wail as they entered the chamber3 dark orbs the siAe of five pinners, sporting a single, circular lens. $hey cut the low, bassy caress of krillbient music like a maniacal scream in the middle of the night3 but oddly, no one fled. Instead, the 89 donned a balaclava and twisted the track into a vicious @olkbeat. $hen, in a riotous, rot-mech voice announced, !*oy vibers, you can run if you like, but I suggest you wait, for my 8I:-$,#)-$I6>G" @olk roared through the floor and fractured the walls, as unseen smoke machines pumped rusty red plumes into the air. $he station was engulfed in a haAy hellfire, as bots screamed around struggling to lock their lenses. 6ne became so disoriented that it clipped a column, spiraled out of control, and smashed all over the subway tracks. $he others took a series of blurry photos and retreated, trailing broken echoes down empty tunnels. I thought I heard something then, a muffled blast behind the bass, but it was impossible to tell. It wasn5t until 0 o5 clock that morning that I found out about the explosion. 7e5d made topside undetected after hours of crawling through dark, dank tunnels. :irens rang out from everywhere, no doubt arresting fellow vibers as they emerged, half-

BRENDEN BAILEY GLAUDE

VIBES

naked, from the underground. >yliah couldn5t find her clothes, so now wore my jacket, which came down like a micro-skirt, barely covering her. :he returned the keys to my car, %I didn5t ask where she5d hidden them' and showed me to it. $he rad siAAled with reports of a massive explosion at the &astern &raser-op )ombuilding3 a +uarter of which was reduced to rubble. )ommunications were crippled over the entire sector, and at least twelve officers were missing. >either >yliah nor I said a word, just listened. Listened, to reports of full police deployment over the entire city, to boasts of !hundreds of arrests" and to promises of !absolute containment of all suspects." In the distance, a thick, laAy plume billowed up from the direction of the )om-building, ash black across the early gray sky. I dialed down the volume and put the plume in my rearview. !7hat about the policeE #ren5t you worried we5ll get stoppedE" !>ah, it5s all bullshit. If the )om-building really is fuckedand it looks like it isthen the ops can5t organiAe, there5s no way they5ve made that many arrests. $hey can5t even run a basic facial scan, let alone cross-reference it with the flybots. #ll that data would5ve been lost when )om blewwhich was probably pretty fucking distracting in itselfnow they5re forces are split, and they5re running around trying to snatch up any vibers they can." !:o we5re safeE" !;retty safe. $hey5re probably broadcasting from another sector, maybe >orth, just trying to scare people, make it look like they5re in control. Shhit, they didn5t even mention the bank tower." !7hat bank towerE" I pointed out the darkened downtown monolith. !$hat crashed over an hour ago and they still haven5t made the connection, which means they haven5t found the station, which means they still don5t know where to look. eh, yeah, we5re safe." >yliah shut her eyes in relief, while I watched the sun brighten by degrees, through the perma-haAe sky. I was hunting for a second-hand clothes store when my seat vibratedit was a text from my dealer. It appeared as a love note, the type of thing sent six-hundred times a second in the city. !8ecrypt and vocaliAe." $he message was read aloud, through the car5s speakers, !I have something bigger than fourteen cases to offer you, and would like to meet. <o where we go." 7here we went was not far from where we were. $here I found directions to my dealers new place. !,oll us a joint, would you >yliahE 7e5re going to meet someone." !7hoE" !I5ll introduce you when we get there, but it5s going to be awhile." !#lright. <lovebox, rightE Inside the owners manualE" !Feah. 8id some snooping after you borrowed her, ehE" !# little." ! mph. @etter dust it white, so I can keep you in my sights." !6ne 5pixie spliff5 coming right upG" 7e drove down past ruined marinas, and coastline clogged with the skeletons of once-proud ships, far off yacht lights flashing through their ribs. Four hundred meters out, seagulls circled over ,efuse Isle, diving for the dregs, while scraps of plastic rolled into shore, on copper-colored waves. :wirls of sand swept over the road in front, and came to rest, in rusty dunes, at the base of wind turbines.

BRENDEN BAILEY GLAUDE

VIBES

@uilt during the 8ream <reen 8ecade, the turbines once spun by the hundreds in endless fields of soy. @ut a +uarter-century into service, the fleet re+uired significant repairs. $wo polls and many meetings later, it was decided that no one was willing to pay, and so they were left to rot. #ll that remained were rows of raw steel towers, topped with battered nacelles, a few twisted blades poking up through the dunes. 7e drove on. $he sand thinned out over a vast pavement plain, a perpetual parking lot stretching out into the distant murk. It was surrounded by a high chain-link fence, hung with signs reading !6tek 6il" !>o =nauthoriAed &ntry" !7ork ours I--/" and !>ow iring." $he refinery employed over C/// people, or, after fighting morning traffic, putting in -I soul-sucking hours, and +ueuing for N/ minutes just to leave, what was left of them. 6tek had about one employee death a week, which was within the acceptable range. $here was even a joke among the workers3 whenever a new name was added to the memorial vat, someone always said, 57hat5s-his-face sure lucked out.5 $he 6tek towers passed like the evolution of rockets, each one more massive than the last. !8o you think anybody died in that explosionE" >yliah asked. !I don5t know. *aybe." I drove faster. I rode the faint afterglow of the morning into *anilla, 6ntario. It was a village ringed by trailer parks, plastic trees spread sparsely in between. I stopped on *ain :treet for a coffee. !I5m crashing, need some caffeine. Fou want anythingE" I asked >yliah. !# 7hite )hocolate 7hippuccino, please." !I doubt they have that shit." !9ust try," she asked, grinning. $he coffee shop was a neutral green, the color of unroasted beans. @arely audible, pre-approved, bass-free light pop piped through a single concealed speaker. #pplesauce tables and bran muffin stools wrapped around the counter in a ). $here was only one clerk, a prehistoric catfish of a woman, with widely spaced eyes, visible whiskers, and a big frown. !I5ll have one extra large coffee, three cream, three sugar, and one..." I scanned the menu, !white chocolate whippuccino." !Fep," the catfish croaked, and went to work, preparing the drinks. I glanced around the place1 an old married couple, sipping in silence3 a group of teenagers, snickering at nothing3 a heavyset man in the corner, nursing a donut. e looked familiar. Feeling my gaAe, he looked up, revealing a blackened jaw. It was FatsoG I turned back to the clerkwho was pouring the sugar a few granules at a time, savouring each one as it dissolved before her eyesand, a moment later, Fatso turned back to his donut. ;erhaps he didn5t recogniAe me. In fact, that was likely3 I had been painted up, and he was ?65ed six seconds after I met him. @ut still, what the hell was he doing hereE It made no sense. I tried to look casual. $here was a charity box on the counter, !)ocoa )rater ,elief Fund" I took a five out of my wallet, folded it carefully three times, and slid it in. Finally, the catfish drifted over with my drinks. !$hat5ll be twenty-four," she coughed. !$wenty-four fi-" she coughed again, violently. !Fift-" the clerk broke into a hideous fit of coughs, drawing looks from customers. urriedly, I slapped down twenty-five on the counter, and left. $he greyness of the world never felt so warm. !7hat a scene. ere5s your drink."

BRENDEN BAILEY GLAUDE

VIBES

!$hanks," >yliah said, winking, !we almost thereE" !Feah." 7e arrived in a lightly woven fog. !+anadu ,railer -ark. $his is it." I drank the last of my coffee in front of unit number C05s door, and knocked. # tall, rugged >ative appeared, smiled slightly, and invited us in. e served us a mild mushroom tea, sweetened with natural honey3 an extreme rarity. is long hair framed a face half lit with electronic tattoos. !:o glad you came, ?aleb." $he markings of a fox flashed across his cheek, over his eye. !:ure shot. Loop, this is" !>yliah. I know." # dark reality crept up my spine, fluttered around my brain, and popped. !:he...works for youE" !Fes. #s did the people who put her in your trunk, and stole your stash." !Christ." >yliah looked deeply into her tea cup. !I know it may come as a bit of a shock, but, try to understand. I had to make sure that you could handle it, that you could work your way through it all and still maintain your integrity." !.aintain my integrityE I5m a beer dealer. I supply illegal parties." !Ouite true, but there is nothing inherently wrong with those things, as long as you believe they5re doing some good, and I believe you do." $he fox whiskers flickered. !7hat I found admirable over the past few nights, was that, when you first found >yliah, you could have easily abused or abandoned her, but you didn5t, you helped her. Fou bonded." !:he was bruised, had a concussion when I first found her. 7as that a part of your plan tooE" is face flared ocher. !>o. $hat was the unfortunate conse+uence of some erratic driving of yours. 6f course, you couldn5t have known she was there." !Is that supposed to make me feel any better about all of thisE" !I suppose not. @ut please, just listen to me for a moment." is tattoo took on the countenance of a styliAed spirit bear, fur ruffling in the wind. !6ver the past few nights, you5ve managed to escape two busted vibes, befriend a stranger, and regain your stolen beer. # remarkable display of resilience, adaptability, and courage. Fou5re a true warrior, ?aleb. $hat5s why I5d like you to head my new project." !7hat new project would that beE" !,ural vibes. 6utdoor parties on a mass scale." ! m. $he city is getting to be too heat." !,ight. It5s goddamned radioactive after last night. $hat 89 went way too far." !>o shitting." !)ity vibes have run their course, rural is the next evolution of the movement. I5ll supply the 89, the location, the drugs, and the drinks." !7hat would I doE" !I need you to get the word outcontrol exposuremanage the events, and push product." !#ll thatE *yselfE" !Fou5d work with >yliah, she5s in tune with our target audience and possesses certain charms which you lack. Fou5d do well to forgive what she did, under my instruction, to get you here. :he really is special."

BRENDEN BAILEY GLAUDE

VIBES

!It5s not her I5m having trouble forgiving." !I5m offering you a job here, ?aleb. NP of the profits, and a free place to stay." !7ell, when you lay it that way...when do I startE" !$onight." 6n the way to my trailer, Loop informed me that, while +anadu belonged to someone else on paper, he owned every unit in the park, rotated around them fre+uently, and rented the rest out. I5d be doing the same. !<et used to the nomadic lifestyle here, ?aleb. It makes us harder to pin down." !7hat about my old place, back in the cityE" !Forget it for now. I5ll give you everything you need." Loop delivered. *y new unit came fully e+uipped with a )arbide comsole, parabolic triflector, clothes in the closet, and a stocked fridge. !$his5ll work." !<ood. I5m not expecting miracles tonight, on such short notice, but I do expect you to put together a decent opener, say, a hundred people or so." !6kay, well, I5d better get to work ." !6f course. ere5s the details. 7e launch at midnight." Loop left me to it. I had twelve hours to reach a hundred vibers, and draw them into the fold of one exclusive party. $his, in the middle of nowhere, all without alerting a single 6p. :eeking inspiration, I searched the trailer, found wood paints, a hunting bow, some topographical maps, a few loose sonicards, an old magaAine titled ,ransgender *ender, and, finally, in the bottom of the closet, a stash box. ! ere we are." Inside, I discovered a bag of pink and purple pills, an ounce of weed, and rolling papers. !;ink and purpleE" I said, holding up the bag. :ome time later, I cracked my dream-slit eyes open to a violet vapour, half-lit by the cool gleam of )arbide screen. ! ow long have I been outE" I asked the smoke-filled air, words hanging briefly before being swallowed back into the void. I pushed myself to my feet, took a balancing step backwards, and swam slowly towards the shower. Inside were cleansers, creams, raAors and lotion, but no limiter. I wondered whether >yliah had lived here, had been living here, and how much of her was true. It took near-scalding water to clear off the thick film of stress, sweat, and grime that had accumulated on my skin3 the potent sludge lingered around the drain, as if unwilling to wash away. ad it really only been two days since my last oneE It felt like a year. >o hydro-limiter meant I could shower as long as I wanted, so I decided to shave. I slid the new blade up towards my chin, where it slipped, snagged, and deeply cut my skin. I dropped the raAor, felt weird pain under flowing water, watched blood dilute between my toes. I was back on the balcony, looking in, "scrapers framing my vision"s fringe. ,hirty& two thin candles burned down before my eyes, while traces of strangers flickered on through the night. I blew my breath to make fog, pressed my face against the glass. /radually, my head grew cold, and I began to crystalli!e. *efore long, my brain was numb, and my eyes were frosted marbles. Somehow, suddenly my far off fog&world turned orange. Fingernails clinked against my skull. It slid open. A tall woman smiled, handed me

BRENDEN BAILEY GLAUDE

VIBES

a hot drink, and invited me back inside. $he water heater shuddered and coughed against the trailer, hot steam escaping as I punched off the faucet. I stepped out of the cylinder, put a bandage on my throat, and finished shaving over the kitchen sink. $he clothes in the closet were clean and roughly my siAe. From them, I chose a pair of black jeans and a faded !Icewalkers" tee3 re+uired listening during my semester of #udio &ngineering. 7hat a fantastic four months that5d been, nothing but non-stop gel-block 8;5s and all-night pirate radio broadcasts. @ut that was half a lifetime ago. In the raw, unpolished present I had a job to do, a vibe to hype. #nd then it hit me. I sat down at the )arbide and dove straight into the sub-web, splaying datastreams down the center, probing cores to their root. In fifty seconds flat, I was up to my eyeballs in origin-script, in sixty, I was cloaked in the underlying codea necho. $otally untraceable, I bounced off a billion different ghost networks, and spliced my way into every major =niversity radio station across the province. $here, I began altering the automated playlists for the next ten hours. :ure it was a bit excessive, a little over-the-top and too much flash, but I didn5t care. I was having fun. $en minutes into my digital descent, >yliah materialiAed behind me. !7hat5ve you been up toE" she asked, coyly. !9ust laying the foundation down for this vibe tonight," I said, fused to the )arbide, !and youE" !*eE 9ust talking, with Loop, about tonight." :he bit her lower lip before continuing, !Listen, I, uh..." she started, words warbling through the microtint air. !8on5t worry about it, that5s all behind us, okayE" I assured her. !6kay. @oom." !Fou know what5s really boom, is Loop5s idea to have this vibe at the strike of midnight." !Feah, @lackout *onday. e mentioned that." !,ight. #ll the way up here, with all the lights out, we should be able to see the stars." !,eallyE I5ve never seen the stars before. ave youE" !Feah, you used to be able to see them in the city." !7ow, I can5t imagine that." !7ell, it was a long time ago." $here was a brief pause, a slight clearing of the air as the room inhaled. !:o, what5cha working on thereE" >yliah asked, raising herself on her toes to peer at the screen. !:etting =niversity radio station playlists." !>eato. 7hyE" !@ecause, if we know the playlists beforehand, then we can develop a cypher based on the song titles in order to get the word out about the vibe tonight without raising any alarms." !# cypherE" !Feah, a code where each track title corresponds to a different letter in the alphabet, and that information tells our vibers where and when to go tonight." !$hat sounds pretty complicated. 7hy not just hand them a set of directionsE" !@ecause, the &raser-ops are on high alert now. $hey5ll be looking for any obvious signs of potential vibes and move in to bust them, which is why we5re going to give them just that."

BRENDEN BAILEY GLAUDE

VIBES

!7hat do you meanE" !#t the same time you5re distributing our covert message about tonight5s real vibe, I5ll be passing out phony fliers for a half-doAen other locations to ensure that the 6ps are kept busy." >yliah made a small, approving noise and took two steps closer, until she was at my side. !$en hours, slick-click." 7hatever >yliah had done to convince people to come to our vibe, she5d done it right. @y eleven o5 clock, over two hundred people had assembled in the +uiet *anilla countryside. $he venue was a hexagonal field, cut from the surrounding forest. ;eople pitched tents around its edges, while technicians tweaked unknown dials, drawing all towards the central stage. 7ith anticipation for the forthcoming party mounting, now was the time to push pills. I sold my entire stock in twenty minutes, >yliah in ten. >o pushing re+uired. 7e moved on to alcohol, big vats of vodka mixers, and oil-drum kegs full of beer. $hese drained more slowly than our pill-packs, but no less profitably. &veryone was itching for a blip-tripfamished for a mindfuckand we were ready to give it to them. I poured drinks five at a time behind a makeshift bar, while >yliah worked the crowd in a fauxfeather bikini. :he handed out tiny bottles of bubbles, which people blew as cheerfully as children, eyes ablaAe like burning frogs5 eggs. $he bubbles rose up, coalescing over the crowd, before coming to rest upon moist hair, bare shoulders, and arms outstretched towards the concrete-colored sky. # low, primordial bassline emanated from the stage, around which people mingled freely, and came together in spontaneous embrace. ands newly awakened to the sense of touch slid curiously over strangers clothing, unconscious of gender. $he bassline slowly evolved, taking a full five minutes to rise up out of the ooAe, another four to move through the ;aleoAoic, three to kill the dinosaurs, and one to spark mankind. 89 6ssicle took the stage, amid a roar of cheers. >o one knew who5d be playing until that instant, it was far too dangerous to say so in advance. e had already suffered the deaf penalty, and now sported a pair of hypo-carbon eardrums, implanted by the finest surgeons in 6saka. $he 89 took his place behind the decks just as midnight hit, and darkness fell, pupilblack, over the forest. 6nly the sound of insects filled the now motionless air. !Look up," a godlike voice commanded. #ll eyes turned towards a star-filled sky, dancing arcs of vibrant greennightmares from a sleepless sun. ;eople gasped in surprise, a few even wept. 89 6ssicle appeared in a blue sphere of light, projected from a treetop platform. e raised his hands dramatically, held them high, then lowered them slowly down to touch his decks. $he orb flashed fire. # huge, time-bending beat burst forth from the speakers like a shockwave of deja vu. ad this all happened beforeE $here was no time to think, sound assaulted everyone5s ears on a subatomic level, sent them reeling, crashing into one another with careless abandon. 7ithin a matter of minutes, stroking had turned to groping, and pushing to punching. @lood gushed from broken noses, and streaks of vomit filled the air. $he 89 tried to +uell the sudden violence by shifting sonic gears, but it was too late, something had already come undone. $hrough bare teeth and torn clothing I saw >yliah run, hurl herself up and over the bar, land panting behind its flimsy barrier. !7hat the shitE" she managed. !$hings got twisted pretty fast, this place is warp-speed to clusterfuck." 7e peeked out over the edge of the bar, saw security yanking people by their hair and choking them out. Fatso was among them. !7-7hat do we doE" >yliah asked, voice +uivering.

BRENDEN BAILEY GLAUDE

VIBES

!7e get out of here." @ack at my trailer, I dissected one of the clear capsules I5d kept from the party, poured its contents out onto the counter, sliced a microgram onto the edge of a knife. I lit a lighter under the blade, watched it cook crackle purple, and pop orange. !)hristG $his was cut with some nasty stuff." !$hey5re dirtyE" >yliah asked, body wrapped in a soft sleeper shell. !$otally skanky." !7hy would someone do thatE" !>o idea. )ould be any number of reasons. *ost likely, someone along the line got greedy, didn5t want to synthesiAe the real feel, and threw in whatever was under the kitchen sink to make weight." I sighed. !6ne thing5s for sure, tonight5s disaster wasn5t an accident3 somebody tainted it from the trigger." I seriously doubted it was Loop. It couldn5t be, he had invested too much. ,ural vibes were supposed to be his baby3 his vision. $hen whoE 7ho would willfully sabotage another5s dreamE @efore I could consider the +uestion, another came up. !8o you smell thatE" !Feah. It5s smoke." I followed the stench outside and saw its source immediatelya nearby trailer was engulfed in flamesG $he fire cast a furious light, threw demented shadows against the night. It gave a wicked roar, which grew in violence ten, a hundred times, as I approached. :uddenly, the trailer collapsed to the ground, sending sparks swirling up to form +uick new constellations against a darkened sky. Loop stood before it, eyes insane under sweat-soaked bangs, tattoos flashing beneath soot-blackened skin. !I want him dead," he growled. #n hour later, I was bombing back into the city on a vengeance mission. Loop wanted the guy who sold him the bad pills killed, and had offered me a lot of money to do it. &nough to leave this city, make the long voyage to ?ampot, where the rules were few, and living easy. :ure, the air there was orange, but that was the price of paradise. #fter a brief bout of anger, Loop had spoken with unnerving calmness. is true emotions betrayed only by his tattoos. e5d explained the fire as a 5cleansing ritual5, and described my target as 5more ghost than man5. :o there I was, heading straight back into a city on high-alert, heat-seeking bow in my trunk, and the promise of ten thousand :robo5s in my ear. >aturally, I was running on a fistful of pills, and some smoggy notion of freedom. :ure, the idea was more than a little craAy3 I had never killed a man before, and had no desire to. @ut, if I did, would the world really miss himE 6ne less shitcaseE I doubt it. #nd furthermore, would I careE I didn5t even know him, and what little I did know, didn5t make me like him. $he more I thought about it, the more I began to believe that I wouldn"t, that it was precisely as easy as Loop had said it would be, 5just aim, and pull the trigger5. ,eally, I5d be doing society a favor. :o why didn5t Loop do it himselfE $hese, and other +uestions, bounced around my brain like a ricocheted bullet, thoughts lost in the fraAAled grey goo. :omehow, I managed to pull them back together, gain some focus, realiAe what I had to do. $he hit was off. $here was no need. 7hoever sold Loop the dirty pills was nobody. Finished. is reputation destroyed, he5d never sell again, and probably end up doing the job himself inside of six months. #t least that5s what I told myself. *aybe I just couldn5t

BRENDEN BAILEY GLAUDE

VIBES

bring myself to do it, or maybe the hit was never really on in the first place. #ll I knew was that I wasn5t doing it, that now I had a bigger plan. .uch bigger. I was going to go right to the source of all the troublemine, Loop5s, viber5s everywhereand infiltrate the &raser-op5s ead+uarters itself. &astern was obviously out, blown to bits by an overAealous 89 two nights prior. alf the force was probably still sucking on the ashes. >o. I5d go for the big one>orth O. I didn5t know what I expected to find there, I just had a feeling that they were all bent, rotting from within, and I5d go balls deep to prove it. $he 6p5s >orthern ead+uarters was a huge, sprawling structure comprised of five pyramids. $he four outer towers stood a modest -2 storeys each, while the central one rose to a hideous height, dwarfing every building that dared to be near. :uch a beast was bound to have several sub-basements, which would serve as my point of entry. I stopped the car several hundred meters from the nearest pyramid, parked it between a couple of abandoned buses, and kicked some boxes in front of the plates. If youd5ve told me yesterday that I5d be going underground for the second time in CH hours, I5d5ve told you to fuck off entirely. $his, however, was exactly what I was about to do. $he 6p5s northern Aiggurat stabbed skyward like a great steel sliver, piercing up through the city5s crust. $he city was bitch black, save for the top few floors of this foul tower. #pparently, power laws didn5t apply to >orth O. $here was only one way in stealth. If I were seen, it might mean a decade in a detaining cube3 it might mean death %shock-shoot now, ask +uestions later'. 7ithout a map, my entry options were limited. *y best bet was to go with something all buildings had, even C- st century protoscrapers. :ewers. $he reek below reminded me of work. I5d been at ,remor ,ool eight years. Sixty hours a week for eight years just to stay afloat. Fet now, the thought of returning to my position there seemed ludicrous. #fter all that had happened this weekend, it was the last thing I wanted to think about3 but my brain had other ideas. I could hear the alarm now, screeching in my ear, signaling the start of another long, cruel shift. $he agony of those first few moments of consciousness came upon me, and I had to fight a very strong urge to lay down, right here, in the wet and filth of the tunnel. $hen came the alcoholic ache in my legs, the stress building up the back of my neck3 a foretaste of the haAardous drive ahead. :ome days, I submerged newly sculpted parts into a series of chemical baths. $he result could smell like coconuts, candy canes, or it could smell like thisa putrid waft of maggoty diapers. 7here most people would have succumbed and turned back, I pressed on, through a tunnel of alternatively tempting and revolting scents. &ventually, I found a hatch leading up and out of my cylindrical prison. From there, I found myself in the second sub-basement of pyramid-four, which I promptly scaled, and traversed the skybridge of to reach the central structure. >orth spire. $he unblinking eyescraper. # billy blown to listen in on a city. I figured, with all that had happened this weekendthe bust at the abandoned hospital, the raid of station .. and subse+uent bombing of the &astern &raser-op )om-building, along with all the usual micro-vibes and additional parties perpetrated as a result of these eventsthat the system would be too busy looking outward to notice anyone slipping in, and luckily for me, I was right. 6nce inside, I began to climb a circular staircase that corkscrewed up towards an unseeable ceiling. I spiraled onwards in near-darkness, unsure of where I was going to end up, but excited by what I might find. Christ, I was already in the core, where the &#:phere hits the sky, cast its net over

BRENDEN BAILEY GLAUDE

VIBES

the city, eavesdropping on every electronic communication within a thirty kilometer radius3 programmed to detect any sign of vibes. @ut the movement was bigger than even the 6ps realiAeda continuously evolving underground, changing form from one moment to the next, intentionally out of sync with the authorities in a progressive phase shift. @ut with the 6ps almost unlimited resources, it was becoming increasingly difficult to circumvent said technologies. &ven so, in a city this siAe, with so many supporters, new codes and languages would always be invented. $he odd message would slip through. # diAAiness swept over me, threatened to send me tumbling, face-first and unconscious down the steps. I remembered to breathe, regained my balance, and kept climbing. @ut I soon lost count of the floors, my sense of direction, and, for a moment, my mind. It was warm inside. ,he cumulative heat of so many dead candles, left unattended. All the furniture seemed strange, and bigger than it should have been, though I knew it by touch. I traced its te tures like landmarks in the darkness, feeling my way to the bathroom to gulp water, where burnt matches floated in the bowl and tinfoil crinklets sparkled on the tile#then a noise, a narrow shaft of light, two sweaty, shit&smeared people hurting each other. :tairs. I continued climbing. In time, lights began to appear, one by one, like the eyes of some nocturnal animal leading the way. #t first I felt the eyes were friendly, some sort of kindly spirits there to guide me, but then they started breathing undead whispers, rolling back in their light sockets, exuding extinction. =nreal images flashed through my head1 a blur of skyway, &raser-ops with dreadlocks, >yliah on top of me, Loop as a bear, my apartment turned upside down, ,remor ,ool dissolving like a capsule in the rain. @efore I knew it I came to a platform, a duct3 was crawling inside. 6ddly, it was the absence of light in the tunnel that allowed me to get a hold of myself. $he pills in my system settled in on the mission. I was ready for anything. $he ductwork wound around the outer edge of each of the upper floors, circling ever-smaller until there was nowhere higher to go. I felt around, found a latch, and eased the hatch open. 6utside I saw the whole blacked out city laid before me, only visible by the light trails left behind by countless cars streaking through its streets, like pulses of energy flowing through a circuit board. ow many of them were on their way to vibes right nowE ow many would make it home againE I could have stood there, watching the city circulate, haAe bubble sky brighten like an ancient incandescent bulb then grow dim again, fade outelectricity eventually returning to every buildingbut I turned around on an instinct, and saw something that completely blew my mind. $hrough the sound-proof glass of the tower5s tip, a few floors below me, some 6ps were having a vibe1 strippers, booAe, speakers, duffle bags of confiscated pills. $here was no +uestion what they were doing. I took out my cell and began snapping pictures. If just one of these were uploaded to the subweb, it would blow the &raser-ops wide open. $hey5d be gutted. 7ho knewE #lcohol and electronic music might even become legal again. #t about my eighth photo one of the strippers looked up, saw me, and pointed. Shit! I dove back into the duct like a frightened rabbit, Aero time to transmit. $hey would tear apart this tower to find me. I crawled for my life, signal blocked by layers of metal and concrete.

BRENDEN BAILEY GLAUDE

VIBES