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75 Voice metallic

K Tate awoke to the sound of metal on metal. Lala was not there. He had a vague unsettling premonition of rats inside a bulkhead scrabbling.

He rolled over and fought free of a green wool blanket army issue, wrapped around his legs. He was bathed in sweat, skin shiny slippery wet.

Clang again. K Tate slid out of bed. Bloodstained drapes rubbed a viscous oily scum against the misted window, neon splashing backlit blue.

Small brown bedside table, a few coins, a squarish TV bolted to the wall high in the corner. Someone was in the shower, softsteam leaking.

The clang was in the next room. K Tate ran his fingers over the cumstained wallpaper, figures of trolls looking like lost children waifish.

He pounded a fist on the wall and the clanging stopped. Soft scuttling inside the vent, paper rustling, someone clearing his throat, hcchct.

Are you my new neighbor? The voice metallic, harsh, must be computer generated. Can you hear me? Is that you, K Tate? Hello? More clanging.

Who are you talking to? This from the blonde emerging from the bathroom wrapped in terrypink. I heard an odd voice. What's all that racket?

She gestured at the adjoining wall. K Tate shrugged. The voice continued, persistent. K Tate, it said, I am the Methane Man. Listen to me.

You are riding a corrupt brainstream. Do you understand? You must leave here immmediately. You are in grave danger. You should not be here.

K Tate played along. Here? Where is here? Where am I? Some kind of sleazebag motel? I have no idea how I got here, or when, or who you are.

This is Joy Motel and you are going to hell. I am the Methane Man, you must listen to me. Go to the window, look out, be careful, do it now.

K Tate rubbed a circle in the steam on the glass and peered outside. Parking lot. Nothing, he said. I see nothing. A pickup truck idling.

In a few moments, two men will get out of that truck. If they find you in that room, you are dead. The voice rattled through the air vent.

The blonde shimmied into her jeans and pulled a white tee over her head. Red lettering on the front. A design of some kind, a logo: Lala.

The passenger door of the truck opened and a thin man wearing a white shirt and a skinny black tie slithered onto the pavement, reptilian.

The driver door next. The man who emerged seemed familiar. K Tate stared. More clanging from next door. These damn tanks! What do you see?

Two men, he said, I see two men. K Tate went to the door and slipped on the chainlock. He told Lala to climb out the window. Fire escape.

Methane Man gagged. Shit, tank changeover... get out of your room. There is a little green box waiting for you at the post office, box 231.

Past a Coke machine at the end of the long upper floor hallway of Joy Motel they came, two men, one reptilian, the other with an easy lope.

Dick Overtone, orchestrator of the polluted brainstream coursing through K Tate's skullchamber, rewinding history: 'Visagerists and Sylph'.

And Kindred, CIA-trained assassin, NamLurp, son of bombmaker Dr. Kindred, flat throwing knife palmed and killready. They paused at the door.

Methane Man peeking though a slit saw Kindred kick the door in as K Tate and Lala hotwired Kindred's truck and rolled away, Lala frantic:

Who was that? K Tate saw the two men on the fire escape in his mirror. The first guy, I don't know. The other one? Kindred. He was my dad.


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