[I just couldn't leave it hanging there all night. Too depressing. cd]
One Sunny Night
©2016 by Charon Dunn
He climbed to his feet. His heart was pounding, and his mouth was dry. Someone was helping him stumble through wreckage, into a dark and shady area where he stood blinking and dazed. The field was directly ahead of him, and he watched a pack of Rams snatch the ball from an unfortunate Tiger.
Something bumped against his knee. He looked down and saw a dog. He gave it a friendly pat and it nosed his hand. As he stroked its pointed ears, someone grabbed his shoulder. He let out a startled yell. The dog darted away as a waterpod glittering with beads of cool condensation appeared, offered by a slight man with pale skin and blond hair, wearing a red-and-white doctor’s shirt, his mouth moving as though he were talking.
He accepted the water and drank it greedily as he watched the players gather for another time out. Gradually, his brain reassembled the doctor’s vocal sounds into words. “Can you hear anything I’m saying? Do you know what day it is? Hello? Sonny?”
“I’m – yes.” That must be his name, Sonny. He had more names but he couldn’t seem to think of what they might be.
“I’m Doctor Quicksilver, and you’ve just had a full restore. Tell me what you remember.”
He noticed his clothes were in shreds, and he was covered in faint scratches, freshly scabbed over. Then he noticed he was covered in blood, and streaks of it were decorating the doctor’s clothes too, and in fact he was standing in a trail of it leading to a large red puddle coating the wreckage he had just climbed from. A cage. Nearby was an intact cage containing the Rams’ mascot, an ill-tempered specimen of the sheep they raised here, bioengineered for tasty meat, bulletproof wool and the ability to thrive in scorching temperatures. He had landed on the cage for the Tigers’ mascot, a dog with tiger stripes on its back end. The one whose ears he had been stroking.
“You’re really very lucky. I was standing right nearby, got both of you stabilized before you bled out, and then the nanobots went to work. You’ll be excreting them over the next several days. Absolutely a textbook presentation, multiple fractures, impaled through the liver, probably some brain trauma. You don’t remember any of it? Did someone push you? Perhaps we should fill out a police report. Sonny? Can you tell me your name? Do you know where you are?”
His mouth felt thick and clumsy. He blinked. He was bursting with energy, and he began to pace back and forth in tight little circles, trying to come up with answers to the doctor’s difficult questions.
A woman screamed.
His ears picked it out of the surrounding roar, reverberating from the old reddish masonry. Down at the end of a hall. An impending-danger kind of scream. He charged toward it, down a dark hallway and around a corner.
As he turned he saw the open door of a private box. It was somehow cool inside, with a huge window overlooking the Rams’ dugout. It was furnished with puffy red chairs, and a little table bearing a silver ice bucket stuffed with a sweating bottle of champagne. It contained an old man dressed in a red uniform jacket dripping with gold braid, and he was slapping a beautiful woman.
Rage flooded through him. The stadium rocked, the crowd screamed, and Sonny took it as a natural consequence of his rage.
The woman turned to face him. She had a mane of complicated curls spilling over her shoulders and down her back, a thousand subtly different shades of cinnamon and raven and chestnut and mahogany flowing over velvety amber skin. Her brief blue dress clung to a compact assortment of breathtaking curves. Her face was round and sweet, with big hazel eyes and round cheeks, and a perfect little mouth that was open in a perfect circle of astonishment as she touched her slapped cheek with her red-and-gold fingernailed hand.
The old man growled and raised his hand, preparing to smack the woman again, and Sonny charged, driving his forehead straight into the old man’s nose. It crunched wetly. The old man staggered back.
The woman screamed again as the doctor burst into the room, shoving Sonny to the side. Directly into the woman’s arms. He gaped at her, dazzled. “Hi,” he said. “I love you. Will you marry me?”
“Sure.” She let out a laugh that was self-conscious and horrified at the same time. He nodded at her in sympathy, just to show her he was sensitive as well as protective. She embraced him, burying her face in his shoulder as the stadium rocked again. His rage melted away at her touch. He buried his face in his new fiancee’s hair, which smelled faintly of oranges.
He looked over her shoulder, through the window. All of the players were clumped together outside, both teams together, pointing and having a heated discussion. As they argued, far above them, a bright projectile flew through the air, landing somewhere in the top rows. It detonated in a big cloud of greenish smoke.
Another projectile landed right in the middle of the field, filling their view with green gas.
“Get your hands off me!” The old man dealt the doctor a punch that sent him flying. The effort of punching didn’t seem to agree with the old man and he clutched at his chest, his blood-smeared face contorted.
Green gas crept into the private box, even though it was well sealed to keep the coolness in. The gas had a sweet, fruity smell and it seemed to be clearing Sonny’s head. The crazy sense of energy was subsiding, and his heartbeat was slowing to normal. Beyond the beautiful woman’s orange-scented hair he could see the old man, bent over in pain, scrabbling inside his jacket. His hand emerged holding a big ornate, ceremonial-looking revolver.
Sonny had temporarily inconvenienced people by killing them with digital guns in multigames, plenty of times, but he had never had one pointed at him in real life. He stared at the bobbing barrel as the old man tried to aim. Blood ran from the old man’s squashed nose, sweat poured from his forehead, and he seemed like he was having trouble staying on his feet.
The stadium rocked again, hard, and the window exploded inwards, showering the room in shards of glass as Sonny dived sideways to the floor. He caught a surge of red and gold as a player burst through the broken window. The gun discharged into the floor where Sonny had been, filling the room with smoke.
The woman was beside him on the floor, half underneath him, in fact, with her boobs squashed against his chest and her orange-scented hair against his cheek. Sonny closed his eyes in bliss until he realized she was trying to get away. He braced his palm on the floor, cutting his hand on a shard of broken glass and raised his weight so the woman could wiggle free, which she did, sustaining a few slices of her own.
The doctor grabbed her hand, hauling her to her feet. Sonny got his knees beneath him. There was an enraged bellow from behind and then something heavy fell against his back, knocking him back down with a startled “oof.”
A warm, cozy sense of relaxation passed through him. He wanted to lie there among the glass shards and take a nap. He was in pain, though, from several fresh cuts and also from something poking into his ribs. He reached down, exploring, and found his hand wrapped around the barrel of the gun. He shoved the gun barrel off to the side and it fell right out of the old man’s limp, unprotesting fingers, into his own.
He squirmed around and found himself face-to-face with the old man, who was dead. One of his eyes was staring straight ahead and the other had been smashed to jelly by the blow that had caved in his forehead, leaving a scattering of protruding bone splinters. A clashball player loomed behind him, looking large enough to bench press a mountain. A familiar slash of scar across his eye. Something fell from his hand and shattered.
Running footsteps echoed in the stone tunnel as Sonny stared at the dead man. He finally summoned the strength to shove at the corpse, wincing as it dribbled blood and brain matter down his arm. As he did that two shots went off at practically the same time, both hitting the corpse and throwing it back.
Two men stood in the doorway, beyond the smoke cloud. Not terribly big nor very memorable men, other than the fact they looked exactly alike. Identical twins, sharing a face with sharp cheekbones and a pointy nose. Dressed as sports fans, one for each team. Their smoking guns were square and businesslike and not ornate at all. They seemed perplexed, and they were both pointing their guns at Sonny as he lay there dazed. He realized he still had the old man’s gun in his hand.
“Don’t shoot!” The woman screamed, at the top of her voice, cutting through to their overwhelmed ears. The first twin turned toward her, his gun hand sweeping along with his eyes. The second twin kept his focus on Sonny.
“Drop that,” he ordered. Sonny lowered his ornate revolver, moving slowly and carefully, staring into the second twin’s intense dark eyes.
Rufe took full advantage of the fact nobody was looking at him. There was a brief flurry of movement, and then the first twin was howling over his gruesomely broken elbow, gun dangling in his useless hand as Rufe held him in a chokehold, pointing him toward his brother like a shield.
They froze in a standoff for a few seconds, listening to the first twin’s agonized shrieks as his stubborn brother waved his pistol in tight arcs. Sonny finished slowly and carefully placing the ornate pistol on the floor, and as he slid it away, he saw a dark streak dart around the corner of the hallway.
The tiger-striped dog snarled and charged, and leaped. Rufe lifted the first twin and threw him, dodging to the side as the second twin fired, opening up a large exit wound in his brother’s back. The dog landed on the second twin and brought him down, tearing at his throat with an impressive assortment of teeth. Once the second twin was dead, the tiger-striped dog released him, and yipped proudly at them all before darting back down the hall.
“Go!” Rufe bellowed, gesturing at the hallway as he relieved the dead men of their weapons and headed after the dog. The doctor darted toward Sonny, grabbing his arm and hauling him to his feet. Sonny felt a sharp stab from the doctor’s fingertips, and a second later his head began to clear enough to step carefully around the dead bodies and run after the beautiful woman, who had gone after Rufe. He caught up to Rufe at the end of the hall, killing a third twin, and a fourth, with his new guns.
They emerged into a chaotic scene of unconscious bodies and green fog. Robotic load lifters were unfolding from a staging area, and some of them were already arranging limp, uncomplaining people in rows and sliding them into people-sized cylinders, and loading the cylinders into racks standing near waiting boats. All the people running the load lifters were identical to the twins, all of them dressed in sloppy sports fan attire. Some of them had backpack rigs that fired more of the greenish gas. Sonny didn’t have much time to look around because Rufe grabbed him and threw him right through the window, into the sea.
Soon after, the woman and the doctor splashed down, followed by the dog. After another burst of gunfire, Rufe cannonballed into the water beside them. They swam toward the docks, submerging to avoid gunfire and the foul debris floating on the surface. Bullets whizzed past them as part of the stadium collapsed into the water, making a wave that pushed them away. They got to a pier and swam underneath as the boards above them pounded with panicking feet.
They made their way to a wooden platform at the end of the pier and clambered on top of it, where they sat to catch their breath. The air smelled of harsh smoke from the burning warehouse district, which added a new layer of sweltering heat to an already scorching day. Every alarm and siren in the city was going off, making one big angry chord. The tiger-striped dog pressed tight against Sonny’s leg and he hugged her for reassurance.
They sat and stared, watching boats headed to and from the Principessa Larisse, delivering racks of people and returning empty to collect more.