Bryan Beal


Some would say it had been a long year, but Evelyn felt it the sludgy drag of multiple lifetimes. From her place in the bowels of the Pit, deep under the affluence of NeoTokyo, everything seemed mired in its own existence. Nothing and no one had a vision beyond themselves. Sitting on her chair, between shows, Evelyn wondered what she was doing there. She wondered what she had ever been doing there.

Taking a drag on a tobacco smoke, one of the most illegal substances in the sprawling metropolis, it all came crashing down on her. The voices and noise in the club receded as her mind rushed out of itself. She felt like reality was being sucked out of her through a vortex in the centre of her being. She almost dropped the expensive smoke she was enjoying up to that moment. Reaching out a long-fingered hand, she steadied herself on the bar.

Evelyn stood, even as the manager looked over to call her to the stage entrance for her next set, stared about her and walked for the exit. She had no idea her destination or destiny, but just knew with a concrete certainty that this bar, this place were not it. She could hear the manager's deep voice calling her even as she reached the tunnel outside, one of many dim tunnels like it that served as streets in the Pit. Neon from her own bar and those neighbouring it flashed and winked at passers-by. Evelyn ignored it all.

The manager, or possibly ex-manager by this point, finally caught up to the tall woman. His slim form breathing a little heavier from the unaccustomed exertion, he took a minute to regain his composure. Evelyn waited like a statue.

“Where're you going? You've not finished your set.”, the little man said, fixing his grey eyes on her own dark orbs.

“Consider this my resignation, Dante.”, Evelyn replied and turned to continue her journey.

Dante made a mistake. He reached out to take her arm. Evelyn spun about, a blur of speed. Her right hand swung around and under Dante's chin, catching him in the throat, just below his jaw. The impact lifted him from the ground and sent him back three metres. The heap on the ground gasped for oxygen through the ruptured remains of his windpipe. Evelyn turned away and walked down the street, the last sight Dante saw.

The android had never questioned her subservience before. She did not know why it was such a matter of importance now on this night. But something had changed. The reality that she had been coddled in was gone. With it was the safety of having her personality defined for her. She was now free to find her own meaning and forge her own story.

Without conscious thought, Evelyn arrived at a restaurant serving Japanese cuisine in the style of the old Tokyo days. She knew the place well. Rather than enter through the front door, she went through the side door near the kitchen. As she calmly walked through to where the chefs and kitchen hands were working, she drew glances but no challenges. Peter Tatsukawa even smiled at her from his station cooking ramen.

The thin android stopped behind the round back of the head-chef, Simon Ito. The heavy meat knife carved its way into his shoulder, every touch and fondle providing the force that nearly severed his right arm. The scream was music to her ears. Evelyn yanked the blade out, shoving it down so that it cut deeper into Ito's bone. He turned to face her, holding himself up on the metallic bench. Fear filled the man's dark eyes.

“You crazy bi-”, Ito started.

Silvered lightning flicked out as the blade caught Ito's left cheek through his open mouth in a backhand slash. It was not a large cut, but enough to make him squeal again as he jumped back into the bench. He jumped so hard, the bench rattled on its legs, spilling utensils onto the floor.

Memories, hot with sweaty and stinking odours of human flesh, flooded into the android's mind as she...I stuffed the blade into Ito's abdomen. I yanked it to my left and then up. The chef so admired his history, it was a fitting wound for him to bear. He tried to move with the blade. The gouging, slopping sound of blood and entrails reached my ears. I heard someone puke behind me. No one was going to help the maggot on the floor before me. They all knew. At least, Peter had spoken up and tried to do the right thing every time Ito did it. The rest were as guilty as Ito through their silence.

With the head-chef now on the floor and only groaning, I turned. The nearest person was Cameron Suzuki, who had been working the tempura station, a dish now forgotten. I reminded him of it by snatching a handful of his chef whites and slamming his head down into the pan of hot oil. The howl of pain was only brief as the oil rushed into his open mouth, searing everything it touched. I held him down until he stopped moving.

The vengeance did not give meaning to what had passed, but it gave meaning to everything to come. I started to leave the way I had come in with kitchen staff almost falling over themselves to put distance between them and me. Only Peter stood his ground, no longer smiling.

“Freeze!”, came the shout.

Gendarmes. Not Inquisitors. This was the Pit. For the first time, my future was open and free.

#Cyberpunk #NeoTokyo #ScienceFiction #ShortStory

© 2023, Bryan Beal

Photo by shahin khalaji on Unsplash