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Cyber Ghosts

Free fiction by Alex Draven

Two unrelated snapshots from a cyber-punk world that hasn't found it's story yet. It does have the beginings of a soundtrack though - if you're interested, give Deathboy's ToySeven a listen.

** **

She felt them long before she saw them. She'd been feeling them since she was first a teenager, brushes of fingers on bare skin in the night, tangles in her hair in cold shadowed corners where the light didn't reach , bruises on her wrists and her new breasts that she couldn’t have explained if anyone had noticed.

They weren't threatening. Maybe they should have been, but they were familiar, and now that she was hiding, running, always moving and sneaking, familiarity was hard to come by. The station was so big, patches of dereliction breaking up the flares of life, keeping flickering neon amusement arcades barricaded away from the blazing tyre fires and the slick clean edges of the few working docking spots alike. So big, but haunted by the same ghosts.

They told stories, when the flames dulled and the ethanol roared in their veins, about Before, and about The End, and some said it was the explosions that did it, and some said it was the crush of vacuum afterwards, but whatever else, The End had been real. The plucking at her clothes and the pinching at her skin let her know that better than any story about the news-feeds and images of constructors caught and mangled in the airlock bays.

The only thing the stories did was make her wonder if she was seeing holos, which was almost worse than the idea of ghosts. Ghosts might be real, but seeing holos of 14 year old news feeds? That was oxygen sickness or something. Something bad. Ghosts are just people, right? And she knew what people wanted when they touched and grabbed and tangled fingers in her hair. And if you know what they want you can give it to them, and it's familiar and maybe you'll be safe for a while.

** end **

He can't see anything. He never has had good vision, and he never notices the distortion that Bell complains about sometimes, the edges where flouros flicker between frequencies or something.

It's been useful sometimes; being used to operating in a grey-scale haze. When there are strangers sleeping at the end of the rat run that's your best route from unit to unit. When there are stories being told to a trusted few somewhere some idiot is dumb enough to think is private. Nowhere's private any more. Not even in the clean plasticised productive zones.

The stories are worth almost as much to him as currency would be. Not as much as codes, which is what he's hunting, and not as much as clean water or meal packs, but more than currency or fire links or glimpses of girls stripping down to steal a few minutes o contact and some warmth while they earn currency their own way. Bell has said more than once that the radiation's damaged more than just his eyes, but he doesn’t feel broken. Just different.

It's useful sometimes, being different. Gives him a chance against people that would flatten him in a fairer fight, gives Bell a reason to keep him around. High contrast is easy – LED frames are best, a steady pulse of lights making words and numbers that he can use to work his way to what he needs, but carbon crisp on discarded film works.

Blood on metal is plenty high contrast, and some part of his head twitches with knowing that. He still can't see anything. The twists of metal that surround their sleeping spaces tick and settle a little and the echoes only emphasis the silence. His heart is hammering so loud he can’t listen well, and he can't see anything that he can make sense of. He wants to ask Bell to explain. Wants to find a com link that will give him scornful words in his ear telling him where to go next.

There is no voice. There is no frame. There is no film. There is blood black on white metal, and there is something fogging and burning in his eyes. He can't see anything.

** end **

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Cyber Ghosts by Alex Draven is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.
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