A monitor was playing archival footage. Not from a camera, but a program that used algorithms to mine every recorded data source imaginable. From those sources, it was able to reconstruct virtual models of anything that had ever happened, anywhere. A window into a hypothetical past, slightly obscured by a glare across the glass, the glare cast by the shape of the unknowable.
Behind a gas station, on the route to Barstow. A Greyhound bus was making friends with that peculiar Siamese twin found on all interstates, a refueling center and fast food outlet merged into one edifice that reflected the shape of America’s needs. Eat bad food and go nowhere fast.
“There you go. Skunk, but it’ll get you high.”
The pale youth exhaled a cloud of smoke, which in his mind’s eye was green because that’s what he felt pot smoke should look like. In the shadows behind the gas station, there was no color to anything. It would be months before he simply noticed the truth, that it wasn’t any greener than any other kind of smoke. This was his first taste of any kind of psychoactive substance, and his head was coming apart.
He barely held back a cough, and struggled to keep what he hoped was a poker face, but the effort cost him the ability to do anything other than stare straight at the ground. Tears of irritation pooled at the corners of his eyes; one spilled over and escaped but it was on the cheek facing away from his audience, thankfully.
Fourteen years old, and he didn’t know how the bruises on his arm had sung to this particular wolf a song of fresh prey. How his age and his new NIN shirt had added spice to it, painting a picture of a child old enough to take risks but not old enough to know their consequences, a boy who felt alienated, lacking in real world connections. How his foot-tapping and window-gazing had signalled the nervous excitement of a bird flying the coop, a refugee escaping into the night. How the wolf had salivated at that.