by Bertil Falk
|Table of Contents|
|Chapter 1: He Knew Too Much|
Infranet is the story of a strange kind of induction. A Nameless Detective appears, but he is only an extra, and this is not exactly a detective story. The story has cyberpunk tendencies but is cyber without punk. Darwin and Teilhard meet Oriental creeds, but it is not a religious story. It has Freud and Jung sweetened with Fodor, the paranormal, and Tibetan Buddhism, but it is nevertheless not a story of the occult. It has some elements of a thriller but does not fit that genre, either. In short, this is a story in the “kitchen sink” genre.
Heaven opened and he bathed in a divine golden light. Not like the killing radiation of the double sun but like tens of thousands of candles, like the breath of Allah...— Stefan Mankefors
From the Sound, the foghorns sounded and white fog stole upon the harbor, wrapped the city and bridge in its slow mist. It was so dense that the street lamps barely could penetrate it. The cars went at a crawl. In particular, a heavy Volvo went crawling in the dock area, where the street lamps were sparsely distributed.
There were three men in the car. A pillar of society was at the wheel. He pulled the lighter from the dashboard and for a moment a cigarette flared up. The fiery red glow was reflected in the poison-green colors of the dashboard. It conferred an unhealthy color to his face.
His features were somewhat fat. Chronically, a mild smile lay crosswise over the lower part of his face. The half-opened mouth of his smile exposed his protruding teeth. Two teeth were a little bit bigger than the other ones. He did not look like a rat, but if someone spontaneously tried to establish what species he belonged to, the rodent species presented itself immediately. His wife affirmed that observation. She saw the strains of a rabbit in her husband’s face, the strains of a cuddly rabbit. People who had done business with him regarded him differently, to say the least.
By his side sat a lanky man, aged 35 or so. He wore a turtleneck sweater under his blue coat. He smiled too — sometimes. His face was thin and he already had a few gray hairs in his dark mane, which was plastered down with water.
In the back seat was Martin. He kept the case with the bundle of notes in a firm grasp and a strong feeling of enthusiasm ran through him. Money at last, all problems solved.
“Can I take you somewhere after dropping off Martin?” the man at the wheel asked without turning his head.
“I have dumped my car by the hospital,” the lanky man replied. “But we have a problem. I’m thinking of the one who knows too much. I trust you know what to do.”
“That matter has been taken care of,” the pillar of society said and slowed down.
“What are you talking about?” Martin asked. He was still stunned by the thought of all that money, his part of it.
“None of your business,” the man at the wheel said. “Are you happy with your earnings?”
“Well,” Martin said and smiled to himself, “I can’t complain, but as I said before: once but never again. This is exactly what I need to manage my economic problems.”
“Okay. I’ll stop here. Your car is just a little bit further on and nobody will see you in this fog.”
The drug king stepped out of the car and opened the rear door for Martin. He extended his hand and nodded approvingly. “This went well,” he said. “Thanks, Martin. It’s a pity that you don’t want to do another job.”
“I don’t want to be a full-time criminal,” Martin answered and disappeared into the fog.
The old Volkswagen he had “borrowed” in Skara was parked around the corner. The engine hummed and fizzed and stopped dead as he turned the ignition key. It was always the same old story with old cars in moist weather. He tried again and the second time it went better. He switched on the dimmed headlights. They tried to cut two tunnels into the fog ahead of him, tunnels that expanded and got drowned in the sickly haze streaming from the Sound. He put the car in first gear and slowly rolled away.
Once again that rejoicing sensation came over him. Now he could marry Barbara without that gnawing anxiety that they would have problems making ends meet. He could afford to go to India and continue to have sitar lessons in Varanasi, as the Beatles once did. And Barbara would be with him.
The tipsiness spread all over him and reached his right foot. Carefully he kicked the accelerator pedal, shifted into second gear and the car proceeded at a crawl on the asphalt and into the heavy barrier of mist.
He needed some time to calm down. He entered the expressway to the university town of Lund. The fog lifted and it was almost totally gone on a level with Arlöv. Suddenly, a straight stretch of freeway lay ahead of him and he stepped on the gas. The old car could easily do 110 kilometers an hour.
He stepped on the gas: 120 kph.
Slowly but steadily, the speedometer approached the magical number 125. The road made an indiscernible turn and he habitually made that small movement that adjusted the car to long, bending roads. It was then that he realized that the car was not reacting as he expected. He tried to turn the wheel a little bit more.
Nothing happened. The road turned but the car went on, straight ahead. He took his foot off the accelerator pedal. The car began to slow down. Carefully he touched the brake pedal, no response.
The verge got closer and then he panicked. He stepped on the brake, but there was no braking power. He could as well have put his foot through the chassis.
Cold sweat broke forth on his forehead. He let out the clutch and threw the car into second gear while driving at 120. The whole car screamed — a wild, lamenting howl — the whole universe seemed to sway and the vehicle skidded out onto the damp roadway. It was a skid in the right direction. The car that would have otherwise crashed off the road now rushed along in the right direction. Joy lasted for a split second. The violent skid had caused the car to spin, half a wrench, half a turn.
Martin faced the pale yellow headlights of cars behind him. They were now running straight at him. But there never was a head-on collision. Instead the stolen old VW continued off the road.
Martin felt the car flying. He felt everything spin, and when the car smashed into a fence, he sensed the smash. With appalling over-explicitness, he knew it was all over. As hatred mingled with terror, he understood what the two men in the front of the Volvo had been talking about: “I think of him who knows too much. I trust you know what to do” had been answered with “That matter has been taken care of.”
Martin was himself the man who knew too much and now he knew the matter that had been taken care of. In that moment the crash happened.
A violent blow hit his head and he lost consciousness as his body was crushed. He felt homeless. It was as if he were floating. He saw a demolished car upside down by the side of the motorway.
People came running.
Far away, like blueberry mixers, the spinning lights of ambulances and the patrol cars could be seen.
He floated towards the car and looked into the driver’s seat through the emptiness that had replaced the crushed windshield.
And then it dawned on him.
It was he lying there! It was himself!
A squad car came rushing at him. The piercing sound of sirens carved like an ache through him. He discerned a face in all that blood. Within torn clothes mixed with blood and rags and bowels, there was a tattered body.
Jarring sounds forced their way into his unconscious consciousness. The headlights with high beams caught him. It was a relief. The strident noise ceased and he felt joy as he saw the growing, overwhelming light.
It must be God, he thought.
The prowl car came to a halt and two policemen rushed out to the wreck. He saw one of them take out a flashlight to light up his own bloodstained face.
His eyes, they were not. They were blood and slime. There was a thick rug of blood covering the ash-colored hair of his scalped head. And a piece of brain protruded from under a crushed skull. The thumb of his left hand was torn off. The police officer looked at him and shook his head.
“There’s not much left of this one,” he said and lowered his flashlight as two men came hurrying with a stretcher. Martin saw his mortal remains carried away and he realized that he was dead, dead, dead...
Copyright © 2000 by Bertil Falk