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Hwy 87

Chapter 4

By Set ZekPublished 5 months ago Updated 5 months ago 14 min read
Apex Nightclub

Smoldering ash and debris encased Wolph’s lungs. The ceiling caves around them as they crawl and attempt to drag themselves to their feet. Coagulated blood coated their xiphoid still impaled by the pole. Dom’s jacket laid lightly in the puddle of blood on the floor. Seeing this, Wolph tore their shirt and grabbed Dom’s leather jacket and bit down on it before they stuffed their gaping hole of where the broken pole was. They let out an agonized scream, “Aghuuuuhhh!” At that moment, a loud bang sounded from one floor above. Wolph took the jacket and held the wound down while checking out the noise. Peering through the destroyed ceiling that exposed a symphony of broken wiring, dripping plasma, and leaking pipes, Wolph could see a figure moving beyond the floor. In hopes of Dom being alive, Wolph made it up the floor to find a big hole in the building. Wolph stared at the debris and then to the ring of the fiery opening that vignetted the midnight stars exposing the Draco constellation. There was Sergio’s cracked brain minced on the concrete floor, as preservation liquid surrounded it. Clicking heels crept behind Wolph and descended the staircase. Wolph snapped their head around. The staircase door ajar was now closing shut. “Beta!” Wolph attempted to run after her but they started to cough up blood. The building was collapsing all around them. “I have to get out of here.” Wolph looked around and saw a hole at the end of the lab. They ran as the floor quaked beneath them and jumped. The hole collapsed and Wolph fell to the second floor. Cement crushed Wolph’s injury and was pinned to the floor. They could hear Julli’s voice in the distance, or was it all in their head? ‘Wolph! WOLPH!’ Wolph could remember themself in the passenger seat with Julli whipping the UTV doing burnouts, ecstatically screaming ‘You see this shit, Wolph?! Hahaha!’ The sun beating against the warm sand. Wolph to the brink of barfing. Jokie chasing them with the dirt bike, “You break my shit, I’m chuckin’ your scopes in Big Joe’s portapotty!” Sid yelled at them to be careful as he tinkered with some device on the workbench. ‘Course they were only early-adolescents then. The epitome of what once were practical jokes, joy-rides, ghost stories, shared meals, tears and fragments of cached data seemed to have fizzled into the background.

When they got older, Julli and Wolph made a promise on the ledge of the escarpment to always protect each other. Wolph etched the initials JW in the rock they were sitting on. That night Wolph was starting work with Beta to make something for themself in the city. They didn’t want to ruin the moment with Julli. It wasn’t about business. It was about family, about making sure the ones you love are taken care of. Wolph just wanted to avenge Eryn and give her the proper burial she deserves. All they knew was that they wanted to spend the rest of their life with Julli but they knew she wouldn’t understand. But it was too late. Wolph was in too deep. Beta was a snake that swallowed her prey whole. Wolph saw no other way out. They contacted the TrySec Police but even they couldn’t help them. Instead, a remorseful cop put them in touch with an Investigator that was on the case to shut down the illegal trafficking of synthetic organs. An informant gave word back to Mama that they were working with the police. When Mama found out she outcasted them to never return to the clan again. This shattered Julli’s heart and then afterwards. She asked ‘Why? Why did you betray the clan. I vouched for you. You could have trusted me. You should have told me!’

The echoes vibrated through Wolph’s head and rattled them back to consciousness. They pushed the cement boulder off their back and threw it at the window before jumping out of it. Everything became blurry and Wolph fell to the ground. An irate itinerantly high man fumbled over Wolph, “Hey man. What the fuck! Get up!” The man looked over Wolph’s face and slapped them, “Whoa! Heyyyy man! You trippin? Wake up!” Faint ringing and blurry figure loomed over them with distant murmurs.

Wolph snapped out of it and draped up the homeless guy, “Hey! What! Where am I?”

“Fikir Plaza. You walked from that burning hospital down the street and plopped y’er ass on my section!”

Wolph looked up at the boarded-up derelict shut down plaza. Wolph removed the jacket from their wound. Healed. Wolph put on Dom’s jacket though it was quite tight on Wolph’s body. It will have to do for now. “Thank you.” Wolph said before walking off to find Dom.

“Fuck your thank you. Death is a rebirth out of the matrix, mannnn! Revolt!” The man said, scratching his neck.

Lightning flicked and beat threw the dark cinereal clouds as they folded into each other. They dance, embrace, and share a thundered kiss; cleansing its sorrow onto the city. Wolph’s implant was damaged so they approached the holo-phone on the corner of the intersection, picked up the receiver and dialed Julli. No answer. Wolph tried a second and even third time. Still nothing. ‘I have to let her know I’m alive.’ Wolph immediately made their way to the outskirts to try to get in touch with Julli. They called a taxi and headed to the clan’s compound. Hours later when they arrived, they stopped before the opening of the two bordering cliffs. “Can’t go no further, bruh.” Wolph tipped the driver, “What for me by the opening, I won’t be long.” The driver kept the car running. Wolph exited the tangerine coloured taxi and snuck into the camp. Everything was dark and in the distance, you can hear the wind howls as it blankets the snores or the slumbering members. The sniper’s light post was off. That almost never happens unless there was a malfunction within the grid.

Wolph spotted Jericoke patrolling the perimeter with another member and chatting. “Okay, Three Lakken Sky celebs you’d smash or pass, GO! And don’t say what I think you’re gonna say. Pick someone else.” Jericoke looked up and stopped, “LSCs aren’t even my type but if I absolutely had to pick, it would be Futahmari, Futahmari, and Futahmari, the way her voice just nails you to the wall. Absolutely talented. Omgosh. Plus, the way her beard falls between her chest. Just joy.” The patrolling member rolled their eyes before palming their face. Jericoke let out a chuckle. Wolph made this their opportunity to move from their cover to the back alley that led to Julli’s flat. They poked their head in the window of Julli’s bedroom, but no sign of her there. Wolph snuck to the Raven’s studio/ mech-shop to see if Raven was up. If Wolph could trust one person here, it would be Raven. Plus, she was a night owl. Wolph stuck their head in the rear shop window witnessing Raven asleep on her desk.

“Psssst! Rav’!” whispered Wolph.

“Hmmughm. The P83 hasn’t finished it’s conversion update, Mr. Cheng.” Raven said sleepily.

“PSSSSTTT!!! Raven! Wake up! It’s Wolph!” Wolph quietly said, climbing through the window and accidentally knocking over a walkman.

Raven jolted up from the crash, “Ah! It’s you! What the fuck! My walkman! It’s a relic! There’s only a few functioning ones left in the world. Why is everyone breaking my shit.” Raven pulled her hair. “What the fuck are you even doing here? If Mama finds out you’re here, she’ll shoot you on site!”

“So lower your voice. I’m looking for Julli. Why is she not here?”

“Don’t know. I saw Julli arguing with Mama on the drone but she left the camp. It’s been a while now actually. Probably torn after you helped Beta drop Jokie and Sid.”

“I didn’t, I was trying to get them to escape. Jokie was like a brother to me. Please, I need to find her. She probably thinks I’m dead.”

“Dead to her? Or actually dead?” Raven folded her arms.

“Please.” Wolph picked up Raven’s walkman off of the floor and placed it back on the table.

Raven saw tears coming down Wolph’s face, “I don’t know. Maybe she’s at the club or a pub somewhere blowing off steam.”

“The last time I spoke to Julli she said she was coming to get me. But I didn’t see her at the hospital. I hope she’s not there. Donahue-Owens collapsed. It’s a fiery ruin now.”

“Hmmm. I may be able to connect the relay signal back to her GPS.” Raven starts typing on her computer.

“My implant is broken.” Wolph sighed. “I tried calling her from a holo-phone earlier. No answer.”

“Ce n’est pas un souci. No worries. We can do it from here.” Raven pulled up a map tracking Julli. “Looks like she was at the hospital and is now going to Apex Nightclub. I wonder what she’s up to. Ah voila.” Raven said, dusting her hands together with a smile. “And nothing broke.”

Wolph wired her some TUs, “Thanks Raven and I’m deeply sorry about your walkman.”

“Thank you, if I see Julli, I’ll call you first. You know how she is.”

“Yes I do. Not intentional, she’s just… Passionate.”

“Ew. Get out of here you lovebird before I shoot you myself.” Raven uncomfortably pursed her lips. “Go through the back door, please. Because, you know, I have one.” Raven held up the walkman sarcastically.

Wolph avoided the switched patrols and escaped through the opening of the escarpment undetected. They took the cab straight to Apex. It was late and the only busy place on a Friday night is that club in the Entertainment District. Wolph followed the now drenched cobblestone alleyway to the district. The stones changed from a glazed indigo to variations of neon red and magenta. By now it was pouring and Wolph’s tattered clothing wasn’t going to let them get anywhere near the club. It wasn’t open yet so Wolph went into a store to buy some clothing. The largest hoodie they had was an XL. The clerk looked Wolph up and down as Wolph put on the tightly fitted sweater and the arms rod up to the armpits.

“That’s all we have, um.” the clerk said nervously.

“I’ll take it.” Wolph tore the sleeves off, added some cannabis sticks and wired him the money. “Peace be with you.”

Wolph stepped out of the shop and it stopped raining. A line formed outside the club. Wolph stood in the shadows of the building to view the entrance in hopes to see Julli. Instead, a 5”7 figure formed out of the alley and into the street lights. Dom was alive. Injured but alive. they watched Dom flash their ID to the merc at the door and brushed inside. Wolph, eager to make contact with Dom, outed their joint and ran towards the rear exit of the club.

They headed inside and stood at the wall behind the dance floor and the DJ booth. Wolph towered over the jumping crowd but Dom seemed out of it to notice them. So they waited. Moments went by until Julli came through the front door. Wolph attempted to intercept her but the crowd was swallowing them whole. Julli made eyes with Dom and took their drink. They seemed to be exchanging words before Julli started to feel up on Dom and share a kiss. Wolph was livid and clenched their fist so hard that they started to bleed. ‘What the fuck are they doing here together?’ Wolph thought to themself as they watched Julli part from Dom. Dom spoke with the bartender and started to pat themself down as if they lost something before bolting out. Wolph opened the back door and saw Julli sped off in the UTV. They closed the door and were about to proceed to the bartender. Wolph then saw Dom coming back inside with Samayat. ‘What’s going on here? Samayat and Dom?’ Wolph turned towards the crowd and pretended to dance and saw them being escorted to a booth. They headed to the nearest wall to eavesdrop on their conversation with their retinal interceptors. Booth is soundproof and could only hear murmurs even when isolating the audio. Wolph heard their name and leaned into the opaque red glass as seated silhouettes exchanged something by hand. Wolph gave up and tried to walk into the booth but the security blocked them from entering. Wolph backed off and walked back to the wall behind the crowd near the exit. All Wolph could think about is the kiss between Dom and Julli. They could help but hate Dom for it and Julli. Julli. How quickly she moved on. ‘What was she thinking?’ As Wolph was trying to piece together the situation, Samayat emerged from the booth as the security guard opened the door and she left the club. Dom emerged later with an envelope in hand. Wolph tried hard to contain their rage as Dom turned over to the crowd meeting eyes with Wolph. Stunned, Dom rubbed their eyes thinking it’s a dream. Wolph stepped out of the club and headed up the fire escape leading to the roof. They sat on the roof and lit another canna-cig and looked down at Dom bursting through the door looking for them. Dom gave up and called a cab. Wolph watched them leave and called Raven.

“Raven’s Emporium. Genius’ need sleep too.”

“It’s Wolph. You have an odd way of answering the phone.”

“Get bent.”

“Is Julli there?”

“Yeah. I was going to call you to tell you that she just got back. You want to talk to her?”

“No. Don’t tell her you spoke to or saw me. Don’t tell her I’m alive. She’s planning something but I’m not sure what.” Wolph held their head.

“Okay. But you owe me.” Raven said with a grin.

“Sure.” Wolph sighed as they left the club.


Weeks washed over into months, Wolph assimilated into the city of Tryterrah. With the little Wolph had from working at Mr. Rubles’ convenience store and Ms. Okata’s Bordello as a security guard, Wolph had enough for rent in a seedy studio apartment in the putrid projectile orange stacked multiplex Junction Apartments off of Hayden and Xavier Avenue. Wolph woke up from the mattress that had been there from when Wolph started renting the place. Roaches and mice that populated under the rusty fridge occasionally wandered out to chew through the wallpaper and mattress of which Wolph just succumbed to the floor. The peeling wallpaper that unveiled the molded past lives of a scratched vert flétri from distraught tenants of what was once an amalgamated family where crude drawings of the representation lined its base. Wolph sat there in the emptiness of the studio like an ornament amongst the chaos. All they could do was juggle the scenario of Julli and Dom in their head. How fleeting it is to meet another being in your likeness in a world where social connectivity is scarce and fickle. They clutched the loose edged fabric of the mattress in an attempt to enclose themselves into the one-sided warmth of their disarray. Clinging to whatever made sense and curdling into the seams of safeness. So, it seemed.

Wolph laid there in the fetal position for a few hours before recovering to their feet staring at Dom’s jacket slugged over the doorknob. Springing up to a fiery pit in their base, they lunged after the jacket. They crumpled it up and threw it in the metal trash. They watched it as it swirled around in a metal snared edge and returned to its foundation. Reminded, they still have Eryn’s gun and still have to retrieve it from Dom since they narrowly escaped death as well. Wolph pulled out the matchbox from Okata’s Bordello as the vinyl blood red glistened in the dim bulb that swayed from the drift from the window. They lit the fire that started from their hearts and ignited the jacket. Warmth instantly engulfed the studio to their satisfaction. Vengeance can patiently await courtship. For now, Wolph’s temporal death was momentarily satisfying.

sciencetranshumanismtechspacescience fictionliteraturefuturefact or fictionbody modifications

About the Creator

Set Zek

"In times of chaos the soul is immortal"

So why not pour it on the paper. Oh, and I paint and illustrate too.

IG: @set.zek

Twitter: @setzek


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