The bubble cab drops quickly. Through the transparent plastiglass roof the Anvil can see the city’s bottom, a mishmash of giant tubes, pipes, grav generators and spotlights. The ocean below rises to meet the taxi, a cacophonous tundra where waves crash against the broken skeletons of old skyscrapers half buried in the depths, the cracked and rusted torsos of ancient swimmers frozen in time.
The rain starts, drumming a familiar beat on the cab’s glistening, rounded surfaces. Lower and lower it goes, until the vacant sides of the half-submersed buildings come starkly into focus, all broken windows and crusted metal facades. The cab flits between the old structures, tracing an invisible path through the pounding rain and surf until it arrives at a globe-topped building, as cracked and worn as the others. “You have arrived at your destination,” says the taxi, demurely. The door slides up and a metal gangplank telescopes to the nearest opening, a gaping hole where the building’s outer veneer has crumbled away, exposing rusting and pitted steel beams.
The Anvil climbs out, the rain speckling his armoured hide as he clears the gangplank and steps into the edifice. “Have a nice day,” says the cab as it accelerates up and away. He places another two memjets on his tongue and swallows. Memories pour in, again. He remembers the little girl, but also this place—he has visited here in the recent past.
Before his vision (displayed in infra-red and ultra violet spectrums) he sees a busy market place, with stalls and stores constructed of plastic and metal detritus, covering almost every square foot of this building’s floor. Hovering glowglobes cast muted light and shadows. Everywhere people swarm: bargaining, buying, selling, trading. There are food stores, gun stores, places selling parts for water purifiers, street hawkers selling time keepers and illegal palmchips, Verso and Damage (the latest designer drugs). Buskers, poets and whores ply their trade between stalls, and skinny children run rampant through the crowds, unsupervised. There are no police here, but everything is fairly orderly. Most are dressed in little more than rags; their lean, dirty and despondent faces turn towards him in fear, and the place quietens.
The Anvil moves through the crowd. Once the onlookers realise he isn’t a cop the volume returns, and people are back to business. He checks his internal guide, works out how to display a hologram. At a Thai food vendor he shows the proprietor a holo of the address and the girl’s face. The man tosses vegetables in a skillet over a gas flame, checks the image briefly, and points to a shanty on the edge of the floor. The Anvil approaches the rude metal construction and knocks on a corrugated iron door.
A pumpgun barrel extends from a gap in the steel, aimed at his chest. “What you want?” says a female voice, old and grizzled.
“I’m here for the girl,” says the Anvil, the holo appearing above his extended palm.
“What’s the code?”
He searches his memory. The code is there, having filtered back at the same time as the memories of this market floor. “Rose Alpha Zen.”
The sliding of a bolt. The door scrapes aside. A wiry, weary-faced woman, with missing teeth and a permanent scowl, holding a pumpgun in one hand and the door handle in the other. He doubts the woman could stop him, even if he didn’t have the code.
The wizened hag lowers the weapon, checks around to see who’s watching, and pulls him into the shanty. “You couldn’t be any more conspicuous?” she says grouchily.
It’s a single room, with a small table, coolant box, gas stove and blanket separating this area from the bedding. A hovering glowglobe dimly illuminates the area. The Anvil’s muscular bulk takes up half the room. “I assume that’s your new form,” says the old woman. “I guess you knew what you were in for.”
The old girl’s name coalesces into memory. “You’re Granny Chun,” he says.
She looks at him like he’s addled. “Of course I am, you idiot.”
He taps his head. “Recall transfer issues from the rebirth.”
Granny Chun rolls her eyes. “Of course there were.” She moves to the blanket and pulls it aside, her voice and features softening. “You can come out, little one, it’s all right.”
A tiny blonde girl steps into the glowglobe light, carrying a worn teddy bear. She cranes her neck up as she takes in the Anvil’s size. “Who are you?” she says, a slight tremor in her voice.
The clouds in his memory are clearing. The shapes and forms on the periphery of his thoughts take on solidity. He knows who the girl is. He also realises who he is. He is not a ‘he’ at all.
“Violet,” says the Anvil. “It’s me. It’s mummy.”
To be continued…
Missed earlier instalments? Click here.
What is ANVIL?
ANVIL is a deliberately unplanned, multi-part short story I’ve created to challenge myself as a writer (I’ve done this before with The Sale – check it out). My intention is to write an episode as often as possible, generally (but not always) ending with a cliff hanger, then work out how to solve the dilemma and continue the story. I have no idea how the story will progress, no idea what it’s about until I get there.
Only you can tell me if it’s successful, or not. I hope you enjoy my continuing experiment.