What follows is the first chapter of The Augmented Man. Enjoy (and let me know what you think).
1 April 2053
Trailer closed his eyes and sat at the end of the bar where the cigarette-burned, cheap black Formica countertop met the wall. He eased himself onto the last stool, tucking into the corner in the dim light, a spider hiding out of sight at the edge of its web. His fingers hovered over the cigarette burns closest to him as if divining their cause, sensing them like small, unhealed wounds, seeing the people involved, learning if each burn was an accident or intentional.
The door opened and he smelled the cool April evening on his skin. It was followed by the alcoholic breath and sweat of two men and a woman they supported between them.
Trailer brought his attention back into the bar, collating the activity immediately around him. The barkeeper, a heavy smelling man gnawing a toothpick, his face somewhere between needing a shave and growing a beard, walked over to Trailer. “Yeah?”
“A beer. Whatever you got.”
The man grunted and walked to the other end of the bar. When he left, Trailer opened his eyes. A river of tattoos flowed up the man’s left arm. An old style claw prosthetic served as his right, its hinges and catches polished like silver and glinting in the mirrored bar light. He wore black jeans and a tie-dyed t-shirt over powerful shoulders and an ample gut. Trailer closed his eyes again as the man returned. It seemed to Trailer that the man swam upstream in a river of his own sweat.
He placed a bottle of Coors in front of Trailer. “Six.”
“Six. Six dollars.”
“Can I run up a tab? I’ll probably stay a while.”
The man shook his head. “Uh-uh.”
Trailer handed him the money and nodded at the prosthetic. “Amazonas?”
The man eyed him and shook his head cautiously. “Loreto.”
“I was there, too.”
The man eyed him a moment longer then nodded as he walked away. “Uh-huh.”
A five-man band walked onto a stage surrounded by a plexiglass cage reinforced with steel fencing, closed the cage door, set up and tested their instruments.
A woman screamed from a room hidden by a beaded curtain.
Trailer stood up. The barman caught Trailer’s shirt in his claw. “You gonna drink your beer or what?”
Trailer stood a head and a half taller than the barman. He said nothing and closed his eyes when the woman screamed again.
“Eddie, Bill?” the barman called out. “We got ourselves a pretty boy here.”
Two scar-faced men got up from a table near the door and walked towards Trailer. He shook his head, but slowly, searching with his ears as a blind man might search out a strange sound. He moved his head from side to side and made a quiet sound deep in his chest, like a great cat purring, then shook his head vigorously, “No…no,” as if tasting something tart and bitter and wanting to spit it out.
Eddie and Bill smiled as they moved closer. Thin and wiry, Eddie had a chain around his waist held on by a drop hook. Rolled back sleeves revealed lean, muscular arms, but with shoulders too high and too stiff for the arms they supported. He wore tight fitting pants and taped his boots, the laces stopping half way up. The right boot’s tape stopped half way down on one side.
Trailer’s eyes snapped open wide and he catalogued, his irises retreating as if on flame. “Parkerized Military Machetes, eighteen inch, sheath cross harness. Walther P38 9mm Short nine round capacity right ankle lift grip, Rockwell C57-59 EK Combat Knife left ankle rip release.”
Bill’s face and scalp looked as if he’d been lyed. Short and squat, the lines on his clothes were clean, hiding no weapons but revealing the scarred musculature common to bikers who played too hard too long.
The woman screamed again. Trailer counted Eddie and Bill’s footsteps by sound, measuring the two men by heartbeat. He felt Eddie’s muscles twitch as Eddie thought about dropping his chainbelt.
Before Eddie’s thought became action, Trailer’s spine released and he grew.
The barman’s claw didn’t open in time and he screamed as his prosthetic ripped out of its socket.
Trailer’s eyes closed and his face relaxed, becoming calm, pacific, the face of a child fallen asleep. He brought his head down hard onto Eddie’s skull and smiled at the sharp-sounding crack.
Patrons can read the next section and frontmatter at Frontmatter, Surface and In.