Home' Technology Review : November December 2007 Contents 62 FICTION
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The toolshed was locked securely, but Lincoln was
still skinny enough to crawl through the hole in the
back wall; it had been hidden by junk for so long that
it had fallen o the end of his father s repair list. This
time he risked the ashlight and walked straight to
the welding torch, rather than groping his way across
the darkness. He maneuvered it through the hole and
didn t bother rear ranging the rotting timbers that had
concealed the entrance. There was no point covering
his tracks. He would be missed within minutes of his
parents rising, no matter what, so the important thing
now was speed.
He put on his boots and headed for the irrigation
ditch. Their Ger man shepherd, Melville, trotted up
and started licking Lincoln s hand. Lincoln stopped
and petted him for a few seconds, then r mly ordered
him back toward the house. The dog made a soft,
wistful sound but complied.
Twenty meters from the perimeter fence, Lincoln
climbed into the ditch. The enclosed section was still
a few meters away, but he crouched down immedi-
ately, practicing the necessary constrained gait and
shielding himself from the sensors gaze. He clutched
the torch under one arm, careful to keep it dry. The
chill of the water didn t much bother him; his boots
grew heavy, but he didn t know what the ditch con-
cealed, and he d rather have waterlogged boots than
a r usty scrap of metal slicing his foot.
He entered the enclosed concrete cylinder; then a
few steps brought him to the metal grille. He switched
on the torch and oriented himself by the light of its
control panel. When he put on the goggles he was
blind, but then he squeezed the trigger of the torch,
and the arc lit up the tunnel around him.
Each bar took just seconds to cut, but there were
a lot of them. In the con ned space the heat was
oppressive; his T-shirt was soon soaked with sweat.
Still, he had fresh clothes in his pack, and he could
wash in the ditch once he was through. If he was
still not respectable enough to get a ride, he d walk
"Young man, get out of there immediately."
Lincoln shut o the arc. The voice, and those
words, could only belong to his grandmother. For a
few pounding heartbeats, he wondered if he d imag-
ined it, but then in the same unmistakable tone, ratch-
eted up a notch, she added, "Don t play games with
me---I don t have the patience for it."
Lincoln slumped in the darkness, disbelieving.
He d dreamed his way through every detail, past every
obstacle. How could she appear out of nowhere and
There wasn t room to tur n around, so he crawled
backward to the mouth of the tunnel. His grand-
mother was standing on the bank of the ditch.
"What exactly do you think you re doing?" she
He said, "I need to get to Atlanta."
"Atlanta? All by yourself, in the middle of the night?
What happened? You got a craving for some special
kind of food we re not providing here?"
Lincoln scowled at her sarcasm but knew better
than to answer back. "I ve been dreaming about it,"
he said, as if that explained everything. "Night after
night. Working out the best way to do it."
His grandmother said nothing for a while, and
when Lincoln realized that he d shocked her into
silence he felt a pang of fear himself.
She said, "You have no earthly reason to run away.
Is someone beating you? Is someone treating you
"No, ma am."
"So why exactly is it that you need to go?"
Lincoln felt his face grow hot with shame. How
could he have missed it? How could he have fooled
himself into believing that the obsession was his own?
But even as he berated himself for his stupidity, his
longing for the journey remained.
"You ve got the fever, haven t you? You know where
those kind of dreams come from: nanospam throwing
a party in your brain. Ten billion idiot robots playing
a game called Steve at Home."
She reached down and helped him out of the ditch.
The thought crossed Lincoln s mind that he could prob-
ably overpower her, but then he recoiled from the idea
in disgust. He sat down on the grass and put his head
in his hands.
"Are you going to lock me up?" he asked.
"Nobody s turning anybody into a prisoner. Let s go
talk to your parents. They re going to be thrilled."
The four of them sat in the kitchen. Lincoln kept
quiet and let the others argue, too ashamed to o er
any opinions of his own. How could he have let him-
self sleepwalk like that? Plotting and scheming for
weeks, growing ever prouder of his own ingenuity,
but doing it all at the bidding of the world s stupid-
est, most despised dead man.
He still yearned to go to Atlanta. He itched to bolt
from the room, scale the fence, and jog all the way to
the highway. He could see the whole sequence in his
mind s eye; he was already thinking through the aws
in the plan and hunting for ways to correct them.
He banged his head against the table. "Make it
stop! Get them out of me!"
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