Clade > Excerpt

It’s late, almost dusk, when Rigo finally gets off work, grabs a quick bite to eat at Salmon Ella’s, and catches the Bay to Bay shuttle from Monterey to visit his ailing mother in San Jose.

The air in the train is full of sniffers, strings of broad–spectrum glycoproteins that are the molecular equivalent of flypaper. Rigo imagines he can feel them infiltrating his clothes, probing his asshole, prying underneath his fingernails for illegal moleculars. As a countermeasure, he’s taken precautions. A few minutes before boarding, he dosed himself with antisense blockers, sticky proteins that will attach to the sniffers and cripple them as effectively as two dogs locked in a frenzied coupling.

Rigo finds an empty seat near the back of his pod and hunches against the window, a narrow ribbon of plastic bordered by a retail outlet for Armani Body Ware on one side and a display case for Japanese bento meals on the other. The train is carrying commuters, starched suits and students taking classes at UCSC’s Fort Ord extension. A few stare out the tinted bubble plastic, mesmerized by the blur of passing scenery, the fiery sunset that has turned the peeling bark of the eucalyptus trees into reddish tinder. Others browse the display case windows of various in–pod stores. But most of the passengers are interfaced with their information agents, sending and receiving e–mail, tuned to music, news, or digital video downloads. For the most part, people keep to themselves, hidden behind the cellophane eyescreens of their wraparounds and shades, talking only to their IAs or to themselves over the soft insect buzz of flitcams.

It makes for a quiet trip.

At Blossom Hill Road, the pod detaches from the train and Rigo’s in terra cognita. Stepping from the pod, into the dissonant jungle of scents and sounds where he grew up is like slipping into a pair of ill–fitting clothes he’s outgrown. The fabric of his well–being pinches uncomfortably at the seams.

He doesn’t belong here. Not like Beto, who never left. But for some reason, he can’t seem to break free. Something is always dragging him back. It’s as if there’s no escape from the place, or who he was.

Rigo checks the time. Six–fifteen.

The neighborhood is just beginning to rouse itself from catlike slumber. Tígueres are beginning to prowl their territories, looking for customers. In another few hours the streets of the barrio will be raging. Rigo can feel the energy building up, like ozone, the air getting ready to crackle, filled with the wild spray of photons.

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Copyright © 2003 Mark Budz. All rights reserved.