“Your sample was destroyed,” she says, like this means nothing and I’m not out five hundred dollars.
She hesitates just long enough to tell me she’s an honest-to-goodness human on the other side of this phone and not a robot. “I’m sorry, but there’s no further information. Your file has been completely redact….”
And the line cuts out.
Just cuts out. No dial-tone, no psychosis-inducing beep-beep-beep, nothing.
So much for genetic ancestry testing. This was supposed to answer my questions, not leave me broke and pissed. Not the first time something like this has happened. Still annoying. “Ryley!” I yell, not bothering to turn around because I know he can hear me. “Ryley!”
“What?” shoots back at me from another part of the compound.
A moment before the answering bellow: “Sorry!”
I’ll bet you’re sorry. Not that it does me any good right now at all. If the phone went out, the lights might next. Like hell am I sitting in the dark.
It’s a rainy night in San Francisco, the very best kind: drizzly, nasty and wet, but not wet enough that you get instantly soaked. You just sort of wilt, slow and salty, like newspaper in ocean spray. The fog makes all the streetlights look like little moons. I love it.
I could be smarter in wardrobe choice, but as my old man always used to say, “Too late, we’ve gone too far. Can’t turn back now.” Besides, black leather (trench coat included) fits my personal savoir-faire, though I doubt my spiked black hair is impressive anymore. Wilted spikes are a sad, sad thing. I probably look like a cartoon character out of Daria.
It’s late. My favorite places are closed. My day could not get bette-
Something hits me.
Something huge and heavy and hard, knocking me flat and scraping the hell out of my hands on the sidewalk, and I think it’s a car, but it’s not, oh hell, it is not.
It’s a giant… dog… dragon… chicken thing standing over me, with a tail twice as long as my car, with sparking-red light flashing inside its mouth like it’s got fire in its lungs. Just standing there like the worst acid trip in the world.
Did that shitty little panicked whine coming from me?
It’s not paying attention to me, thank God, it’s not paying attention to me-
“That’s all you got?” says a chick, and she steps into the street-light’s halo in a fedora and a trench coat like she just fell out of a 1930s detective flick. She’s so pale that for a second, I think I’m hallucinating her. Serves me right for watching The Jungle Princess while stoned.
If she sees me, she ignores me, too. Lucky!
“We will have the Kin childrenses!” says the chicken-dog-dragon thing, and that’s not a voice. No, that’s some kind of lizard-screech with grinding metal, and it makes me want to run and run and run until I die.
This can’t be happening. None of this is happening. I try to scoot backwards, but one of the chicken-thing’s claws have punctured through my coat, pinning me to the sidewalk. I keep making these panicked sounds on every exhale, like broken bagpipes. What the shit is happening?
“Why don’t we both step nice and easy away from the ordinary mortal, hm?” says the chick (don’t you mean the moll ? my brain says because it’s a dick).
The dog-dragon-chicken leans down and sniffs my crotch.
I don’t know why that was the signal to attack, but it the chick suddenly flies at him, way faster than any person I’ve ever seen, way faster than she has any right, and she punches him in the face.
And the monster goes flying off me and into the wall, breaking brick, bringing roof-tiles down to crash in the street.
I suddenly get it. She hit him before. He landed on me. Luckiest day ever!
“Might want to scram, Trent Reznor,” she says without looking at me.
I can do that. I can scram. Hell, I can scram all night.
I trip over myself as I try to get away, clawing at the sidewalk, gasping and stumbling until I somehow get upright enough to run.
That didn’t happen, I tell myself, but the horrible crunch of metal and crack of brick behind me say otherwise. A car alarm goes off and then stops, like maybe they crushed the car.
That didn’t happen, I tell myself, but my coat is torn where the chicken-dog-dragon things claws touched it. And the holes are smoking, hot to the touch.
“That didn’t happen!” I scream to myself, but I still run.
Dawn peeks in the sky.
I run until my legs were rubber and my breath breaks into ugly, uneven rasping, and I finally fall down because I can’t run anymore. It’s glorious: I fall to my knees, then my hands, then my face, and lay there on the rough, smelly sidewalk like a dying fish.
Where the hell is this?
Somehow my phone survived. Somebody near here has unprotected wifi with an SSID of Dance On My Face? (sure, okay), and when I check the GPS, it tells me I’ve run nearly fifteen miles. I’m near Golden Gate National Cemetery, for frick’s sake.
The holes in my coat are epic, epic. They’re huge, and the edges are so burned that the leather is thin.
One of the holes went through my other pocket. My wallet is gone, and there is no freaking way I’m going to find it again.
And Ryley probably didn’t pay the phone bill yet, so I can’t call home for a ride.
I’ll take the walk. I’ll take it. It’ll give me time to come up with a cool story about what happened. There is no way in hell I’m telling the truth. No freaking way.
My phone beeps. Visual voicemail, delivered via stolen wifi. What is my life?
“This is a message for Mr. Eugene Yang from the Alternative Genetic Ancestry Bureau.” The alternative bureau? I thought there was just one. “We have your test results, and I think we have some good news for you. We do have an answer regarding the… anomalies you’ve been experiencing. However, since this is of a very delicate personal nature, we recommend you come in for a consultation – free of charge, as it’s included in your original payment.”
Okay, I’m pretty sure there wasn’t any “consultation” listed in the paperwork. I read those terms real careful to make sure there was no chance they’d turn my blood over to the cops or something if they saw the substances I put in it.
“To make an appointment, call one-eight-hundred….”
I hang up and pocket the phone. I’ll listen to the details later.
This is all too much. I’ll be miserable and hungry and weak when I get home, but that’s okay. Maybe if I walk out all the crazy, today will make some sense.
Last night didn’t happen. Did not happen.
I will keep saying that until it’s true.