Book One in the CUSA series
(C) 2017 Adam Cole
Published by Nuncici Press, an imprint of Adam Cole Works LLC
Smoothing her skirt, she knelt before him. As he held the pill before her mouth her eyes went soft. Like a child, she opened her lips, an expression on her face that was part surprise, part exultation, and solemnly he slipped the pill between them. “Don’t chew,” he instructed. “It has to sit beneath your tongue for thirty seconds. Then swallow it.”
She nodded and closed her lips, remaining still. “In the name of the Holy Spirit,” Basil said, making the sign of the cross over her. The other people in the room were getting to their feet. The man who had remained standing the whole time quickly knelt next to the woman, whose eyelids had begun to flutter.
“I want a Green Bus. Do you have a Green Bus?” he asked eagerly. “I had one last time.” Basil nodded and reached for the capsule.
Next came a small man with wiry arms and weak eyes. He hardly looked at Basil as he knelt on the floor before him. Basil recognized the telltale expression of a Gamer. He was employed to play virtual scenarios in the AVE all day long. Basil knew about Gamers because they had to be blessed differently. Gamers rarely saw the world. Most of them had remained in full-time login since their school-days. Because they already lived in their own little world it was not helpful to give them certain kinds of substances. Basil had been instructed to make their forced sojourn in the physical world tolerable through mood-enhancers. Padre had told him that for Gamers this would suffice.
Just as the first woman was entering her convulsions, several other people came into the office. By the time her movements had stopped and her euphoria began, twenty people were lined up waiting for Basil’s benediction.
It was always busiest at first, Padre had told him. The beginners rarely came back for seconds until near the end of the night, and the more experienced knew enough to wait before mixing effects. Those who didn’t know how to be careful, Basil would have to turn away for a while.
He had no trouble. By the end of the first hour, he was the only responsible person in the building; the rest of the occupants were engaged in drug-play. When things had finally slowed enough for him to take a break, he stood up, closed his bag, tucked it beneath his arm, and left to roam the top floors of the pyramid.
He had seen the effects of the sacred implements all his life, but only on the faithful, who used the addictive drugs. None of tonight’s blessings would induce vomiting or generate hazardous delusions. As he walked around he saw some office workers leaping from table to table in a kind of line-dance, overtipping empty wine-glasses. A few sat in chairs and sofas in solitude and watched their own little mind-shows. Others talked back to the visions. They would not remember what they saw. As he passed the stasis chair he saw the secretary, Ms. Sanchez, sitting in it. She was trapped in an endless vision compounded by the technology of the chair.
Basil had not expected this situation, nor did he know how to handle it. The woman might be in real danger. Putting a hand on her arm, he brought the chair to its still state. She did not blink.
He pulled her gently from the chair by her arms. She came out easily. Laying her on the floor face down, he checked her pulse. It was slow but steady. He pulled a salve out of his pack, wetted two fingers, and applied a patch to the side of her neck. Then he left her. She would soon recover and come back for more.
He wandered past a couple who held each other immobile, their arms wrapped around one another like two mummies in a single coffin. Another pair stood face-to-face just down the hall. They were trying to touch one another but seemed unable to do it. Their fingers and faces came close again and again. Each person seemed perplexed by their absolute inability to connect.
Standing next to them, three men lay inside the AVE and watched the Denver Post at New England Kellogs game, not really understanding what they were looking at. Instead of cheering, they stared, baffled, at the running men all around them. Basil strolled past, walking through the 3-D image of the players.
Finally, several people accosted him at the bottom of the crystal stair. “We want more,” said a man in a black frilled shirt and matching vest. “I want the Rainpowder. Do you have the Rainpowder?”
Basil shook his head.
The man looked cross. These were executives like Mr. Sattari. They were not used to hearing no, especially from someone like him. “I know you have it,” he said. “I took it at a party once before. I know you guys keep it in your bags.”
Basil shook his head, feeling a little nervous. He didn’t want anyone to see him lose his confidence, so he stood still and stared at the wall.
The man’s expression darkened. “Give it to me now, you shitty little twerp,” he said. He grabbed Basil by the lapel with a dark fist.
More about Motherless Child
When Rosa’s mother loses her job with the Corporate United States, her family must flee or be killed in an employee purge. Taking the dangerous bus trip across the Unincorporated States, they are ambushed by bandits. Hopelessly separated from her family, Rosa is rescued by the people of Ascension, a small backwoods Virgilna town with a terrible secret.
Seventeen years in the making, Cole’s book about a girl trapped between two Americas serves as a reminder of what the United States has become, and what it still could be.
Adam Cole is an author and music educator in Atlanta, GA. He has written numerous books and stories for children, as well as a number of adult and non-fiction titles including The Girl With the Bow and Seven Ways the World Can End.
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