Sunday, January 14, 2007

The Price

by Matthew Sanborn Smith

When my car got hungry it walked off the road. I flipped because I was already late for my meeting and the damned fuel gauge said I still had 1/32 of a tank. They'd never made a decent gauge since we moved away from fossil fuels. The car could have easily made another thirty miles, but when it felt hungry, none of that mattered. It slowed to that familiar crawl, its tires peeled apart into steel-reinforced rubbery feet for off-road terrain and it started grazing on the unmown grass on the side of the expressway.

"Shit!" I cried, pounding the fleshy dashboard. "Not grass, you idiot!"

The thing responded by shaking like a wet dog while my door and seatbelt buckle both sprang open. It threw me a good ten feet, but I didn't even feel the impact in my fury. Vegetation was the least efficient fuel the thing could have found.

"Stop eating that grass, damn you! I didn't pay eighty-thousand dollars for an omnivore to have you eating goddamned grass! Especially not now, find some squirrels or something!" I looked around in vain, praying we'd stopped near a cow pasture. Nothing.

The car stopped and went to a nearby tree. I searched the branches figuring it had indeed smelled a family of nice fat squirrels. Instead, it gnawed on the tree, stripping a chunk of bark and chewing contentedly.

At this rate, it'd take all day to consume enough calories to satiate itself. And if I missed my meeting, I'd be out of a job. And if I was out of a job, I'd be out of Karen. Sure, Linda would stick by my side, but she was the gum beneath my shoe. The kind of psychotic sticky wife that drove me to Karen in the first place.

Fuck it. This is where we separated upper-management from middle-management. I tore off my left pant leg (wouldn't be needing it anyway) and tied a tourniquet around my upper thigh. I dialed up the heroin on my hitbox and fed my whole mother fucking leg to the thing. The bitch tried to eat me whole but I beat the tender underbelly with a stick until it backed off. The thing still salivated, threatening another feeding. I figured I would decide on its next course rather than let it decide. My left arm went next and I hopped into the driver's seat before dessert came.

With a sharp kick, I got the beast back on the road and rolling again. I called my assistant, telling it I'd be a little late. I told it to print out some prosthetics and have a new suit sent up.

"Nothing can go wrong here, Troya," I told it. "My bonus is riding on this presentation and daddy needs the scratch. Goddamned price of fuel is getting ridiculous."

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