Gut Feelings

Illustration by Mathew Borrett

They can’t quite get the bloodstains off the pavement.

Not for want of trying. Not that they aren’t trying still. It’s been a good twenty minutes — fifteen since the ambulance has been and gone — and the bots and drones are still at it, rotary brushes scrubbing at a blur, nozzles spritzing iridescent chemicals onto the sidewalk. But the cement is just too porous, or the blood is just too stubborn, or Google’s custodial drones just don’t live up to the ad copy.

Out, damned spot. Marius Ghazali stares out through the window, allows himself a small sick smile. His knuckles sting at his sides, raw and oozing.

Everyone’s still out there. If anything there are more of them now, accreting around that first sparse smattering of onlookers who stood by while he vented his rage. The plastic barricades, thrown into place in the wake of his — episode — are keeping them at bay, but the gaps behind are filling. This could be an honest-to-God crowd before long even though there’s nothing to see here, not any more, move along, move along. One of the bystanders spies him through the glass, nudges her friend. Both flash him a thumbs-up.

His calf knots as the last vestiges of the taser charge tug at his motor nerves. He staggers, braces against the glass: floor to ceiling, wall to wall, a glorious invisible intelligent insulative ecofriendly solar-energy-collecting barrier that fits in perfectly with the garbage-collecting robots and the omnipresent cameras and the ubiquitous underground sensors infesting every square meter of this perfect creepy community in the heart of the city. A Bit of Heaven in the Depths of Hell — at least, that was the slogan doing the rounds at Quayside Management until someone with an actual conscience leaked the memo to the Oakville Beaver.

The Google logo towers above it all — atop this very building, in fact, in letters three meters high. Ghazali’s pretty sure it’s directly above him. He can’t see it from in here, but it — sticks in his mind.

It almost seemed to be smiling down at him the whole time.

His fangirls are shouting at him. Their mouths are moving, at least. Window must be soundproof in addition to its other miraculous properties. He turns away, surveys more immediate surroundings. He’s in some kind of conference room. Two doors: the one they dragged him...

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About Peter Watts