Hey, Folks! The Lords of SF Signal have allowed me to post a story from my new collection The Dritty Doesen in order to get your Matthew Sanborn Smith juices flowing. (They’re easy to identify as they flow from the nose.) So here, with two more sentences of ado, is my story “A Body is for Driving.” The Dritty Doesen struggles to contain this and eleven other of my least reasonable stories, along with behind the scenes info concerning their creation. The story you’re about to read first appeared in Grant Stone’s nifty zine, b0t!
His bare feet slap slap slap on the city street, capillaries bursting them purple, as his reproductive organs beat themselves into blinding pain on his hairy thighs. Through huffs and puffs he chants, “A googolplex times a googolplex times a googolplex times a googolplex times a . . .” and so on. This will keep his pursuers occupied.
He runs through clouds of twilight gnats. Dozens of them are plastered to his skin with the coolant which seeps out. Some are swept into his air intake while the valve is open. His body spasms with hard percussive breaths, trying to blow them back out. The system is automatic. So clever those ancient designers. Driving this body is like examining the quaintly complex mechanics of an old chronometer.
One of his maker’s makers found this human body on the bottom continent, so well preserved it looked cherry, like she could fuel it up and run it then and there. She couldn’t, but over the years she’d painstakingly rebuilt the thing, searching the system for original parts, lymph nodes from a forgotten Martian colony, an unblackened nose from High Europa on Upper Earth and so on. And what did she do once she’d gotten it running again? She showed it off to her pals at the classic body shows. And not a damned thing else. What an unbelievable waste. He, at least, knew how to live. Or was learning.
One exquisite smell, besides the shorn lawns lining the park, besides the ozone crackling from the tourists who try to parse him, one exquisite smell catches him dead in the limbic system and his mouth drips without his knowing why. There! An Irish Setter just electrocuted itself on the Dog-B-Q on the corner. How many times has he smelled that in his natural form and ignored it as nothing more than an indication of another pest being eliminated by a trap? That same scent now though, the cooking meat . . . he bares his teeth without meaning to. He wants so badly to take one ripping bite out of the dog’s smoking corpse. Some internal process in his midsection vibrates and gurgles.
No! He has to keep going. They could stop him at any time. He has enough fuel to do what he wants to do. He runs into the forever tall building. They had hundreds like this in the old days, back when humans walked the earth. They built cities thousands of times the size of this memorial park back then. Even so, few of those people knew how to have a good time.
He’s up the stairs, never even glances at the elevator. He’s going to run this body into the ground. He won’t ever get a second chance. His maker’s maker kept it in good shape, but never dreamed of running it flat out. The thing backfires a couple of times, blowing exhaust out the back end instead of the top. Little red hairs all over his body catch the tickling breeze as he thumps up and around and up the zig-zagging stairwell. The body gasps big sucking chests-full of air. Two steps at a time now. Coolant splatters everywhere with each leap.
So much wonderful information assails him with every pounding step. The grainy dirt sticking to his soles, the warp of a mislaid tile and how incredibly this body compensates for the tiny loss of balance. His thighs and rear end are itching, his chest is burning. He gets so much more in his normal body but none of that has ever felt this good.
“Please cease and desist!” comes a voice from just below him. He tries to chant his googolplex ward, but it’s all he can do just to breathe. The Park Ranger will overtake him within a minute. Now or never. He dives for the next door, pulls it open and throws himself through, pulling it closed behind him to slow the cop. Ten floors up, not nearly what he wanted but it will have to do.
“Please stop before you further damage that stolen vehicle!”
In the tenth floor lobby, a great window reflects polished brown chairs and the rainbow of hardcopies fanned across the table, at the same time giving a deep indigo preview of the coming night beyond its surface. The human body is on its last, but even at that, it picks up the slightest bit of speed as his goal is in sight. The tight weave carpet catches a torn toenail and rips it off completely a second before he leaps.
He slams into the cold glass. He passes through and feels the sky.
Busted nose, ribboned skin, fluids rushing out into the cool evening air and he screams screams of 1) joy, 2) fear, 3) excitement, quickly quickly because things move so fast in this slow, slow body.
How is it going to feel when he smacks into that gray speckled ground below? It can’t come fast enough for him. The air forces itself into his face but he can’t take it in. His eyes water, waste water dribbles from his reproductive organs, the little engine in his chest feels like it’s about to explode.
This is what exhilaration means! This is what it means to be ali—