Chapter 11: Mausoleum

Start from the beginning

When I finished dressing in the cotton gray garb with a dull yellow stripe down the sides, a door on the opposite wall opened and I went through, unsure what to expect. It opened to a slightly larger room with an android on a platform in the center. I approached him with a straight back, ignoring the tremble in my hands.

"Number?" He asked, his synthetic voice smoother and kinder than the woman's up front.

"Six six five seven nine four," I said, my voice crackling. The numbers continued to haunt. Would they be with me when I died?

He didn't look at me as he sifted through his pockets and produced a small key with a plastic head. He waited for me to put my hand out before plopping it into my palm.

"Just through there," he said, pointing at open garage doors. I nodded at him and clenched my fingers around the key, the cool metal biting into my palm. I turned away just as the android murmured a genuine, "good luck."

I turned instinctually and whispered, "Thanks."

His smile was subtle as turned his gaze away and I moved toward the garage. Warehouse would've been a much more accurate description, though. It was larger than the garage at Hatsui's and devoid of the massive shelving we used to hold cars. Instead, cars filled every foot of the floor, parked in lines with seemingly no sense of organization. Large SUVs sat next to coups, motorcycles were tucked between trucks and in corners.

I studied the key, wondering how I was going to find a car by just its key. But then I saw a small red triangle beneath "lock" and "unlock" buttons. I pressed the button and an artificial shriek filled the warehouse. Following the sound, I weaved through the cars, careful to not clip my head or shoulders on side mirrors. Finally, I found her.

Nestled between two large and top-heavy SUVs was a black sedan with a long, thick front. My first impression was disappointment. I didn't know this car, I hadn't seen or worked on one before. But then, I started to analyze, to dig beyond my first impressions. With just two doors, her structure was sturdy, more metal than glass. The headlights were small and angry-looking, matching her sleek lines and obvious care for aerodynamics. Even motionless, the car look coiled to spring, ready to roar down a track or between mountains.

It bore no markings, no identification besides three letters, six inches from the crease of the driver door. "H E L." There was residual adhesive where other letters had been, so I figured it wasn't an obscure reference to norse mythology. I crouched and grabbed hold of the front wheel and shook it. The wheel barely budged and the car barely shimmied. That filled me with confidence, at least she was sturdy.

I pressed the "unlock" and tugged open the door. The smell of the car enveloped me. Gear oil and cigarettes were the dominant scent, then underneath there were more subtle smells like leather, metal, warm and plastic. It smelled familiar, it smelled like home.

The interior had been nice at one point, but now the remaining leather seats (just front ones, though evidence of rear seats remained) were cracked with wear. Veins of dry imperfections creased across the seat. The dash had faded from black to dark gray in large splotches. Where there used to be an audio system, there was now a jagged hole. Quite few knobs were either missing or damaged. But, the gear shift was still perfectly intact and the seat belts had been updated to six-point harnesses.

There was a certain ingrained need to run my fingers across the her glossy paint, to brush away the bit of dust that collected on the gauges, to hear the roar of her engine. When I slid into the car, the leather seat nestled me, softer than anything I'd rested on before. I ran the tips of my fingers against the smooth steering wheel.

I depressed the clutch and turned the key in the ignition. The engined snarled awake. The dash lit up, displaying the speedometer and tachometer. The odometer was blank though, giving me no indication of how many miles this car had seen. With the ware but attention to preservation, I guessed it had belonged to a private owner at one point. Maybe an android with an affinity for the old things. But once petrol-based and non-autonomous vehicles were banned in the city, they sold it off to Dead World and traded up to an electric model.

Dead WorldWhere stories live. Discover now