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Unit Lost

by Patrick D. Downing

Ding-Dong Wakanabe shifted uncomfortably in his seat. The cheap moulded-plastic was doing a poor job holding his tremendous girth and the last hour had not been a pleasant one. He pushed the last, large piece of his maxi-size ultro-choco chocolate bar into his mouth and stared out through the windshield.

The scene at the dilapidated housing unit across the street was the same as it had been for the last two and a half hours: pure nothing doing. He hated surveillance. Boredom made him anxious, and tedium... well, tedium was a hard one. Especially since the entertainment system in his crappy Pakov get/go had gone and broke, and its seats were a literal pain in the ass, and his Unit had fallen into the river, and he was still hungry, and...

He checked his thoughts. No complaints, he told himself, that is neg-thought. And neg-thought begets neg-behaves. And neg-behaves beget neg-self. And neg-self begets being a loser. And he was not a loser. At least according to the My Special Helper virtua-psychiatrist on his Unit, he wasn’t.

But now his Special Helper was all up and gone down into the river and the electric headshrinker on his loaner seemed very unsympathetic and overly analytical. He sighed heavily; he really missed his Unit.

If only he hadn’t tried to get the whole extra-super-saucy-soy tube into his mouth at once he probably wouldn’t have lost his grip on his Unit, thus sending it off the bridge to its watery demise. It was just another sad setback in a life that seemed to be already sadly set back. With his detective business floundering, the loss of his Unit meant that until it was replaced, his stupid piece of crud get/go would continue to exist in its same capacity, his dirty-ass jeans would continue to exist in their same capacity, and his sad, lonely self would continue to exist in its same capacity.

He sighed. In all actuality, the loss of his Unit diminished the capacity that was his self as it really put a low hurt on his already lowly character. It was a little much. If he had been creative enough (or had had his Unit, which could have done the job for him) he would have rightly exclaimed, “Alas!” but he wasn’t (and didn’t), so instead a stinky “Ugh!” escaped his fat face.

He picked up his loaner Unit from the passenger seat and studied it. It was bland, boring. “Ugh.” Even though it adhered to the legally required functionality it just looked so... nobody. It made him feel the same.

He looked up at the large, weather-beaten billboard hanging on the side of a nearby building: You can’t spell Unity without Unit.

Ha, he thought, united in what? The looks on the faces of the people around him when he had used the loaner to pay for lunch at the U-Cheese U-Dog cart had seemed pretty united in their apparent disgust with him. It forged the notion that he was beginning to really feel that he was indeed pretty close to nothing, which was hard for a 375-pound man to be.

It angered him. He knew he was never going to be Ding-Dong Charisma PhD regardless of his Unit, but his old one was one of his few positives and as such had lent him a sort of comfort. He had decorated and jazzed it up quite nicely and had worked real hard all by himself.

He sighed himself back to the task at hand, and re-fixed his gaze back on the domicile across the street. Lamenting the facts wouldn’t change them, so just concentrate on work, he thought; if he could lock this case it would be a big, big step in the right direction.

Deeana Ho was big time. Big money, big society. Big time. Getting the job done for her would definitely help everything, open doors. Ho was huge. Her late husband was the late, great Lorenzo Ho, who with his two brothers had started the HoHoHo Candy Cane Company. Twenty years later it was the 3Ho Confection and Manufacturing Concern, a multi-trillion dollar corporation.

Deeana had taken her husband’s place on the board when he had died and had taken the corporation to new heights. Unfortunately, like all great families they had a black sheep in their flock. In this case it was their only son, Ricky. And he was why Ding-Dong was sitting in his crappy get/go in a crappy part of town secretly watching a crappy domicile.

A sleek, modern ultra-bike pulled up in front of the house. It was a stark contrast to the worn-down, long-forgotten neighborhood surrounding it. Ding-Dong sat up in his seat, watching as the lanky, well-dressed young man got off the expensive machine.

It was Ricky Ho. He sauntered up to the entrance of the domicile, keyed something into his lean, beautiful Unit, a moment passed, and then the door opened before him. He went inside.

Ding-Dong waited shortly before he got out of his get/go. He took long looks up and down the street. It was utterly deserted. He labored across to where Ricky’s ultra-bike sat. Ding-Dong let out a low whistle. It was a thing of true beauty, from one of those low-orbital, high-end fabricators. Untouched by gravity, its curves were perfect. It probably cost as much as the entire street it was sitting on, thought Ding-Dong.

He took the nano-tracker from his pocket, powered it up, and checked its signal output on his Unit. Loud and clear. He slyly placed the tiny, tiny, tiny, tiny device into a discreet spot on the bike. Well, he thought, you’ll be able to keep tabs on your little boy now, Missus Ho. Not that it’ll matter.

Ding-Dong knew from his surveillance that the young man was pretty close to lost. Ricky Ho was addicted to cubes. He had been sticking his head into boxes full of weird lightning for a while. Putting them on heavy and steady. Heavy and steady enough for Ding-Dong to know the kid was microns from the edge.

The cubes: clear neo-plex boxes charged with the radiation from the mysterious energy spheres that had been discovered in deep space. One of the many queer properties of the spheres was that if one contained its radiation — dubbed weird lightning for its odd, purple discharge — in a simple neo-plex cube and put it over one’s head, the energies inside powerfreaked the mind beyond any manner of narcotic.

Powerfreaked, but with strange side effects. Intense exposure to weird lightning-lineated thoughts. It took all the senses, perceptions, processes of the mind and broke them down, reduced them to a bizarre base: lines. The universe of the cubed became de-dimensioned; it became lines, everything was simply lines. Purely linear. It was weird.

And Ricky Ho was pretty freaking linear. His mom was using her money and influence to try and get him out and save him before the government Anti-Cube Divisions did. The penal-delineating centres did not discriminate, and regardless of rank or social standing or anything, once you were in, you were in. Until they let you out. So Missus Ho had hired Ding-Dong (for whatever reason) to bring her son home before the ACD picked him up, which was inevitable, seeing his state of cube abuse.

A cubed haunt like the one Ding-Dong was standing before was a heavy ACD magnet: very heavy, very magnetic. They never lasted very long, as the Anti-Cube Divisions were always on the case big time, and this worried Ding-Dong big time.

If the ACD pulled in Ricky, he would have failed in his case. Missus Ho would refuse payment, she’d blackball him, she’d ruin him, she’d get someone to kick his stomach in. What good was he if he let Ricky get taken in? That’s why she hired him: to help get Ricky out of the cubes, not watch him get zapped by the fed-authority.

Ding-Dong tensed. He couldn’t lose this gig; this case was his pump ticket. If Ricky went down, Ding-Dong wouldn’t be that far behind. If he saved Ricky Ho, though, it could be excellent. He got excited at the word ‘excellent’. It made him almost wish to burst in and grab Ricky, pick him up and throw him over his shoulder, take him home, be a hero. He took a step. And stopped. Was it fear? Common sense? Excellence? Something? He took another step. And stopped.

Two steps forward — nice start. What was he doing? Ding-Dong tapped the side of his skull. “What am I doing?” There was no reply. He shuddered, and put a hand into his pants pocket and fishing around, he pulled out the bright green cellophane package that held an OhSoGood taste treat. He tore open the snack and rammed it into his mouth; its flavoured core massaged his tongue, his throat, his gonads.

He glanced at the wrapper: curiously enough it was 3Ho product. A sign, he thought, the snack treat tells me to. He swallowed the remaining gob of chewy goodness, sending it to the dark, warm, churning pits of his stomach.

Slowly, as he stood stupidly, a vibration from deep within, beyond the folds of fat, muscle, bone, and organs, began to massage his psyche. It was subtle, profound, and it moved him. He stepped up to the door. There was no knob or handle, and it was much sturdier than it was meant to look. In fact the whole domicile was in better condition than was obvious at first glance. The whole structure had been cleverly disguised beneath intricately detailed dilapidating camouflage. Interesting, he thought.

He keyed his Unit and scanned for recent signals. Outside the food bands and carnival networks, which showed the usual large volumes, there wasn’t much happening. He spread his scan, and a poorly scrambled transmission burst stuck way out on the outskirts of the trans-commway looked promising.

Ricky needs badly, Ding-Dong thought, he wouldn’t even try to hide his doorbell. Ding-Dong copied it into his Unit, de-scrambled it, and put it into his doorknocker. Knockbeep-knockbeep. He waited. There was a loud series of clicks and the door opened.

No one was there. Ding-Dong cautiously poked his head through the door. It opened into a long, bare white hallway. A door sat in the wall at the end of the hall opposite the entrance and was the only other feature in the passage. He took a deep breath. P.I. big time, here I come, he told himself and entered the domicile.

Three strides in and he was rudely stopped short by an invisible barrier. A clear, plastic wall barred his way. He turned back to the door just as another clear wall came down, shutting him off from his exit. Two more walls came down, completing his cage. He was nervous.

“We don’t know you,” said the voice out of nowhere. Before Ding-Dong could reply, his clear, plastic cell fell through the floor.

He fell into darkness. Ding-Dong was scared. He hated the dark, the unknown, and everything about his current situation. He felt light as he fell for what seemed like a good distance before his weight returned and he was standing as still as his transparent prison. It was black. He stood scared and stupid. He was breathing heavily; he wanted to scream.

A tickle slid up and down his spine, and he shivered. He tried to move his feet. They wouldn’t. His back seemed to flow upwards as his legs stretched down, as if through the floor. Ding-Dong swallowed hard and his throat went streaking down after his feet, his mouth chasing his shoulders upward.

A sizzling hum warmed the air around him as his ears and eyes reached out to catch the rest of his head. His hands went deep down his sides in search of his toes. The darkness disappeared as light ceased to matter. It was marvelous. His body now stretched before and beyond anything and everything.

His being, each and every part of it reduced to a single point, lined up side by side, back to front, his bad bits, his virtues, other things and pieces, mingled, stretched, some so close and others seemingly so far away that he wanted to scream in terror and cry for joy.

He shot through vast, endless fields that were universes, crossed other lines, other beings and where they touched he would share their points, and they his. This was deep, deep infinity. And it was his. And it was everyone’s. In an instant and forever. Everything. Nothing.

He tried to shout out, proclaim the glory, the mystery as solved, but his voice only managed a quaint, “sleek.” Ding-Dong the line shimmered up and down its entire length as it settled across the fabric of the cosmos. He had arrived.

They pried open the trap doors in the floor of the front hallway and peered down into the darkness. The large, uniformed man with the thick, gold stripes on his sleeves ordered in a winch. They hauled up the giant, man-sized cube from the sub-basement.

The big, fat man they found inside did not respond to standard sphere-radiation emergency recovery treatment and was taken to a government penal-hospital for observation, before he could be sent to a de-lineating facility. His prognosis was not good. The doctor that examined him at the hospital had never seen such an overdose of weird lightning, it bordered on poisoning. He doubted the fat man would ever come out of his linear psychosis. He was gone.

Ding-Dong stretched across the universe, all his bits and pieces in a long, thin symphony of everything that coursed over his infinite length. A most glorious smile like a burst of beautiful, electric fire coursed from his end to his end. He was. Oh, how he was.

Copyright © 2008 by Patrick D. Downing

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