I’ll be counting down to the November 5th release date for See These Bones by sharing chapters from the book. In Chapter 1 and Chapter 2, we learned a bit about our protagonist and his not-so-stellar childhood. This week, Chapter 3 kicks off his journey with the mysterious Mr. Grey.
There aren’t a lot of cars on the roads. I’m told they were everywhere before Dr. Nowhere broke the world, but these days, most people recognize them for the rolling death traps they are. Never know when another Pyro like Scarlet might show up or when that psycho Pele is going to surf in from the Pacific on a tidal wave of shit-you-not lava.
And that’s before you even get to the Shifters or the Titans. Know what King Rex used to call cars? Meals on wheels. Dude had acres of style to go along with that skin condition and seventy-foot shadow.
Mr. Grey opened the passenger door of the rust-covered death trap parked at the curb, and waved me in.
After a moment’s hesitation, I shrugged. Truth was, I’d always kind of wanted to ride in a car. I tossed my bag into the back seat, and climbed in.
The engine coughed and wheezed like an asthmatic choking on a bone. In a series of lurches, our car pulled into the empty street, noxious black smoke wafting out behind us.
The other reason nobody drives cars—especially in a town like Bakersfield—is that the roads are terrible; more pothole than surface. Or maybe the roads are terrible because nobody drives anymore. Hard to say which was the cause and which was the effect.
Anyway, it turns out that riding in a car really sucks. I’m talking having-a-spring-shoved-up-your-ass-every-couple-seconds-while-the-whole-vehicle-shudders-around-you sucks. And once we got up to top speed—slightly faster than your average non-Jitterbug could run—every scrape of metal against asphalt made me think the world was going to end in fire.
It will, of course… and sooner than anyone wants it to. But that’s a story for another day.
Point is, in almost eighteen years of life, I’d done some stupid things, but nothing quite made my balls want to crawl up into my body like that car ride.
* * *
We’d traveled maybe a mile before I pulled myself together. I hugged my knees to my chest, shifted my ass so the damn spring—did you think I was being metaphorical?— poked something less delicate, and turned to the man who’d come for me.
“Are you really a Finder?”
Mr. Grey didn’t give any sign that he’d heard me.
“Where are we going?”
Nothing. Guy made a stone wall seem talkative.
Yeah, I know some stone walls talk. You’ll hear about one of those, if you stick around that long. But you get what I’m saying, right?
“I don’t care what Mama Rawlins thinks,” I finally said, “this is the Free States and you’re not allowed to just kidnap me. Tell me where we’re going or I’m sticking my head out this window and screaming bloody murder. I know all about stranger danger.”
For those of you who don’t know, that’s pre-Break literature, something I’d found digging through the boxes of crap Mama Rawlins kept at the orphanage. They used to give these pamphlets to kids to teach them not to head off to strange places with people they didn’t know.
Apparently, children were just as dumb back then as they are now. Seems hard to believe.
Not sure if it was the words, the threat, or my stunning display of pre-Break knowledge, but Mr. Grey finally responded. He pulled to the side of the empty road, killed the engine, and turned to me.
“I have a use for you, Mr. Banach, but you are not indispensable. Keep a civil tongue.”
“Or what?” I challenged.
“Or you will be replaced.” Those blank coins slipped just a tad, and behind them was something like white noise and hunger.
I know what you’re thinking. Damian Banach? Seriously? That’s your name? Well, you can fuck right off. Banach was Mom’s maiden name. Think her side of the family came from Poland, way back when there was a Poland. I sure as hell wasn’t keeping my dad’s last name, on top of all the other shit he’d given me.
Could’ve been worse. I could’ve been Norm Jacobsen, Jr.
Or maybe you’re thinking that Mama Rawlins’ doublewide ass should be arrested for letting some psycho take her oldest orphan? Please. It’s not like she was going to say no to the same government that kept her in cigarettes and synth-rations.
And I had even less choice in the matter. Nowhere to go, no skills to offer, no way to eat. Whatever the government wanted would beat starving in the street, right?
I swallowed my anger and shut the hell up.
He restarted the car and eased back out into the empty road.
I’ll be back on Thursday with something a little bit different… a compilation of stats (most of them silly) about the book. Next Tuesday, I’ll share Chapter 4, in which Mr. Grey’s goal becomes a little bit more clear.