Clay by Tony Bertauski Page B

Book: Clay by Tony Bertauski Read Free Book Online
Authors: Tony Bertauski
diagnosed with hyperactivity and attention deficit disorder. Those programming biomites were absolutely necessary to get him to focus. He shouldn’t be penalized for that.”
    The doctor bristled at the phrase “programming biomites . ” Adults don’t typically admit to adjusting their children’s thought patterns, but Steven knew what they did. He remembered that, before the programming, he used to daydream.
    Now, he was sort of empty.
    Mom crossed her arms, tapping her fingers on her elbow. She had that look, like a lecture was coming. Only she couldn’t give it to the doctor, not like she gave it to Steven and his siblings.
    “Slow down, Liz. Let his body catch up.”
    “A tenth of a percent is useless.”
    “If he goes over 10%, M0ther will report it. He’ll be disqualified from sports. There’s no way around it. All right?”
    She rubbed his shoulder.
    “I’ll have someone take you down to x-ray.”
    They confirmed the fracture. Steven’s arm was put into a cast, but Mom refused the 0.1% boost.
    The following week, someone that his dad worked with came over to the house. Steven didn’t want to wait for it to heal. He didn’t want to rest, either. He was a three-sport athlete. He would go far.
    The man from his dad’s work boosted Steven’s biomites and his arm felt better the next day. He said the boost didn’t take him over 10%, but it didn’t make any sense. His mom said that would be useless.
    These biomites were special, Dad’s friend said. They would make sure his bones didn’t break anymore.
    “This is between us,” his dad said.

    The chains lift a link at a time, leaving indelible impressions on Jamie’s psyche. Her body is filled with sand. Her teeth hum.
    Fabric scratches her face.
    Her eyelids crack open. Lines are scratched into the vinyl, her breath blowing back in her face. She stares at the felt ceiling of a car. The windows are dark. The air is ripe with body odor and the sharp tang of urine. It’s not until she pushes up that she notices the wet stain in her inner thighs. The seat squeaks as she sits up.
    Her head is heavy.
    A look of shock—usually that reserved for concussion victims—holds court until her name, her very own name, falls out of the sky. Jamie.
    My name is Jamie. I’m in the backseat of a car.
    A semi-truck flies past, jostling the car. Its headlights, for a moment, illuminate a man sitting in the grass. Darkness returns and the highway is lonely again.
    Recall, Jamie thinks.
    The thought command kicks in. Pressure builds between her ears like air inflating a dead tire. It’s followed by trickling sensations as brain biomites reboot neural connections, connecting memories buried in the subconscious, bringing them to light like defragging a computer.
    Charlie and the club.
    Fallen bodies.
    And the old man. She remembers the old man named Marcus Anderson. His watery gray eyes and wispy hairs loose on an otherwise bald scalp. He’s the last thing she remembers, his face seething inches from hers.
    Three days ago.
    She remembers nothing after that. As if she’s been knocked out. 
    The man remains still, as if the jagged edge of a distant mountain range is speaking to him. Her confusion is replaced with the instinct to move. She focuses on the back of his head, chats in his direction, a sort of welcoming gesture, a digital way of saying hello. And identify yourself.
    He’s closed down lines of communication, no chatting or opportunity to know his name. Strangely, she can’t locate where she’s at. Her biomites are not locating GPS, just churning out a subtle clicking sound that’s searching for data. Jamie stays seated several minutes before slowly pulling on the door handle.
    Cold air rushes over her wet denim. The highway is dark, flat, and long. “Hey,” she says.
    He doesn’t move.
    Jamie grips the door, her fingers shaking. She could command biomite cells to give up energy to warm her core temperature but she’s

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