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by Ásgrímur Hartmannsson

Chapter 17
'Error' synopsis

One day, Jonas, who has recently migrated to the city, discovers that all his records — including his assets — have been erased somehow. No longer able to get work, buy anything on credit or sell his now legally non-existent car, his life becomes a unique adventure.

Jonas did not meet anyone as he walked to his apartment building. But still, he could not help but look around. He could never know if someone evil might spot him and make a call to some violent people. And they must be really pissed off now that some of their own had had themselves a little accident caused by chasing him. Jonas was sure they would blame it all on him. Of course they would not be held accountable for their own stupidity.

Jonas made sure to lock the door. He triple-checked, just to be sure.

After a most relaxing bath and a change of clothes, Jonas made himself a meal and ate it while listening to his TV. It was so early that the daily programming had not started yet. But he had a choice between non-stop music on three channels and radio on one. Of the three music channels, two aired actual music videos, the third aired a still shot of a CD while music was being played in the background. Jonas guessed it was music from the CD on display, but one can never know.

Jonas was looking forward to hearing the news, but as they were about to begin, the TV’s scheduled programming started.

Cartoons; awful ones, politically correct ones — whatever happened to Tom & Jerry?

Jonas gazed at the TV screen in dumbfounded awe. The cartoon had less plot than a porn film. It was all about this colourful entity that would spring from behind random objects at random intervals, followed by a bunch of juvenile voices calling out: “There is —a colourful random entity!”

Jonas switched to one of the music channels. There it was, the CD. After watching that for about ten seconds he flipped to another.

Dancing people entertained Jonas for about twenty minutes before he shut the TV down entirely and went to turn on his radio. It was just an alarm clock with a built-in radio or a radio with an alarm feature, and as such it had the lousiest acoustic qualities. But it worked.

It took some adjusting, but Jonas finally got the correct station. It hissed a bit, but that was more due to the third-rate antenna than anything else. It was just this thin piece of wire trailing out from behind the set. Jonas unwound it, and stuck the end in the window with a thumbtack.

Jonas grew tired, so he went to the kitchen and made himself a pot of coffee, as strong as he could make it. He had a bad feeling about these pills Frank had given him.

A couple of cups of coffee later, the news began. “Four people were killed and two were injured in a traffic accident in Smoky Bay tonight.”

Four dead? Jonas tried to recall it. The big mountain car had toppled over a couple of times; then it was hit by an oncoming vehicle. Four dead? That oncoming vehicle must have been really moving. But then, being inside a rolling SUV on 38-inch wheels can be very detrimental to one’s health.

“Earlier in the night a man in his thirties was killed in a hit and run incident during a police chase...”

There was more information, but Jonas drifted out. He counted five dead. He had been there. For a minute he expected the police to come knocking on his door. But then he remembered that they could not trace his plates even if they saw them. Jonas breathed a little easier, but five dead? That thought stayed with him.

Who had been killed? That man who was hit by the big Land-Cruiser. Then the Land-Cruiser had a little spill... How many had been on board? Jonas did not know. Four, maybe? Or maybe the little car that hit it had four people on board... The two that were injured might have been on board the mountain car.

That would be bad, very bad. Jonas was not one normally to wish death upon people, but if someone deserved to die, in his mind, it was the thugs on board the big cruiser.

Jonas had another cup of coffee, and a dog biscuit. The sun was about to come up. It was slowly getting brighter outside. He had a whole lot of time to kill until midnight. He figured he would just finish the whole pot of coffee and then go for a walk. And the dog-biscuits. You need dog-biscuits with coffee.

Some might ask, “What is a dog biscuit?” Others might just assume it was a doggy treat. A few might even think they contained dogs as an ingredient. Not so. Well, dogs do like the dog biscuit, but it is not a purpose-made doggy treat.

The biscuit is rectangular in shape, and about 5 cm across. It comes in 400-gram packages, 18 biscuits per pack, and is relatively cheap. The dog biscuit was originally introduced by the English army during the Second World War and was a part of army rations to the troops, being full of energy; 1788 kilo-joules per 100 grams, protein, 8%, and fat 12% of mass. The stuff men need during military operations. The locals liked it so much that it is still produced to this day. The biscuit is dry and hard, but normally it is dipped in milk or coffee to soften it up.

Good stuff.

After drinking a whole litre of coffee, Jonas was in a mood for a nice, long walk. Actually, he was in a mood for a marathon. He quickly put on his shoes and jacket, and had his gloves ready before he found his keys. Then he opened the door, made sure it was locked before and after he had closed, just to make sure, and then he was off.

Outside in the cold air, Jonas could move about freely. He had crossed the parking-lot when he spotted a car coming in the driveway. It was a red and grey Land-Cruiser on 35-inch tyres. It looked a lot like the one that had been chasing him before. Jonas walked up to the nearest building and hid himself behind the corner to spy on it.

The Land-Cruiser found an empty space and parked. Right after it had parked, another car entered the lot. It was a dark green Ssang-young Musso. Jonas also remembered that car. It was parked near by, and some people exited the vehicles. They then gathered together in front of the courtyard, where they had a brief conference.

Jonas could not hear what went between them, but in just a few seconds they all moved into the courtyard, toward the main entrance. In just a few moments someone let them in.

When Jonas saw this, he figured it would be best if he never went home again. He turned around, and walked to where he had left his car. He had to know if they had touched it. He also needed it to get away more rapidly.

Jonas had parked his car as far away as he dared, and now his over-consumption of coffee helped him to get there faster.

The car was still there. It looked intact — that is, apart from all the damage it had sustained the night before — and ready for use. Jonas looked at it more closely. He bent down to look under it, to see if the brakes had been severed, if the nuts holding the wheels were all there. He found that nothing was wrong with the car.

They must have found his home by some other means. Or perhaps they were going to see someone who lived near him in the apartment. Jonas could not say; he did not yet know any of his neighbours. He had been busy. So had they. They had not even sought him out when he moved in to offer him coffee and get to know each other. And his mother who had given him a coffeemaker just so he could offer his neighbours a drink in return...

Jonas got in his car, and started it up. He put in gear and hurried out of the lot, out of the neighbourhood and out of the city. Knowing thugs, he supposed they would not venture beyond the city limits unless they needed a place to stash a body or pick up shipments of drugs.

Jonas found a place to park some fifty kilometres out of town. There he parked the car, went out, walked a few meters and lay down in the moss between the shrubs. It was cold, but peaceful. Nobody would come looking for him here.

Most birds had long since gone, but the grass was green. It had begun staying that way a few winters back. It was getting warmer. Slowly, but it was getting there. Global warming due to human activity, said some. Naturally occurring climatic change, said others. Whatever it was, Jonas supported it. It was too damn cold, it needed to be warmer.

In the fourteenth century, it had been warmer than now. Then suddenly it cooled. Greenland used to live up to its name. There were settlements there that relied on agriculture. When the climate changed for the worse in the late fourteenth century, it became extremely difficult to raise livestock, and with limited knowledge of how to survive in the arctic climate, the people slowly migrated away or died of starvation and cold.

Now, when the weather was returning to what it had been 700 years ago, pessimists were complaining about the glaciers melting and filling the oceans with water. Medieval people never complained about a little more water in the sea. Nor did they complain when some of it turned back into ice.

After lying in the moss for an hour, Jonas stood up and moved around. He needed to relieve himself. The coffee had filtered through his kidneys already. Jonas felt much better having watered the frozen ground, and had a walk. There was nobody around. Not a sound. Not even a bird — just him, walking around on the soft mossy ground.

There was a lake near by, one of the largest in the land. It looked peaceful and serene. Clear and smooth as crystal, silvery from reflecting the cloudy sky. Jonas walked toward it. It was a bit too far away, and over uneven terrain. Jonas figured it was probably best not to go there. And he had second thoughts about venturing too far away from his car.

Instead he turned and walked to a tree he saw nearby. It was taller than all the other trees, yet of the same kind. Jonas approached it, and stopped. He marvelled at the tree. He had nothing better to do. Why not use some time to watch a tree? He was not missing out on anything more important on TV. And thugs might be rifling his apartment, looking for him for their own nefarious purposes.

Why had they not just done their thing when they first met him? Were they afraid of doing their thing in public, even at night? Might that be it? Or did they want to torture him at home to get that extra feeling of hopelessness that comes from being tortured at home?

Jonas could only speculate about how technically minded underworld torturers would be. They might have a degree in psychology for that very purpose, or they might be just random sadistic thugs. Whatever their training was, the purpose for torture is to torture. You can not interrogate people by torture, because they will say anything while tortured. This was discovered during the Middle Ages. Anything a torture subject might say, it might say because it thinks the torturer wants to hear it — whatever that may be.

Those particular torturers, the ones after him personally, would be out to generate fear to stop him from working for Frank. Jonas thought about continuing working for Frank because of that, on general principles.

How would they go about it? He had seen one of them handle a tyre iron. And he had heard Frank talk about hangings... Jonas wondered what had happened to the evil woman he had sent them to meet. The media was silent on the matter. Perhaps they had just stolen her car.

Jonas figured he must go and check that out. He walked back to his car. The first thing he would do was to drive past the woman’s house and see if she was at home. Yeah, good idea, he thought. He stepped into his car and started the engine. Looking over the gauges, he thought it over again: no, the first thing he would do was to buy some fuel. He was running low.

Jonas let the engine heat up a bit before he backed out of the space and headed back to the city.

To be continued...

Copyright © 2010 by Ásgrímur Hartmannsson

To Challenge 429...

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