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03.26.03


  Viper Wire by Richard Kadrey

 

 

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Space-Time Collapse

  

His wife walking out the door, for good this time. He senses it in back of his throat and in the dark intimacy of his spinal fluid. This is what Stephen sees and feels from the top of the stairs.

Stephen goes to the bedroom to call his office to tell them that he won't be in today, but when he tries to speak, no sound comes out. This is it, he thinks. The beginning. His incompleteness is already showing. He's falling apart and it will only get worse. How long before his organs start to slosh in his chest and his teeth rattle?

Stephen disconnects the phone. He moves methodically through the house, pulling plugs from wall sockets. The microwave. The television. The VCR. The air pump on the fish tank. Jenny's hair drier. The computer, printer and modem in his home office. He unscrews all the lights bulbs and sets them aside. He goes into the basement, where he uses a small earthquake emergency tool to turn off the water and gas. Stephen unhooks himself from the world.

Upstairs, he goes into what he and Jenny called the "guest room." Really, it's a storage space with a slightly musty futon in the corner. Stephen lies in the center of the futon and pulls its soft edges over and around him until he resembles an insect in a dusty cotton cocoon. There, he falls asleep.

In his dreams, Stephen feels each cell in his body dying. The microscopic channels that carry fluid through his bones dry up, turning his skeleton brittle. His joints slide and bump in their sockets. He must squint to keep his eyes from rolling out of his skull. I've reached an ending, he thinks. Everything is going. Nothing can hold.

When Stephen wakes up, the futon has flattened itself again and he's cold. With his eyes shut, he reaches for the edges to rewrap himself. Finding something soft, he pulls, but it's not the futon. Stephen squints his eyes open and sees that he's holding the bottom of the wall. It's bowed out soft and loose, like taffy. Stephen pulls harder and the ceiling and floor stretch toward him. Stephen keeps pulling, gathering the physical body of the house around him, a buffer against the universe.

With one mighty tug, the house collapses in on Stephen until it compresses into a Singularity — a single white point that contains all of his existence. A last small yank, and Stephen and the singularity disappear like the dot fading on the screen of an old black and white TV.

 

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Richard Kadrey is a member of a small group of innovative writers, including William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, John Shirley, Pat Cadigan, Tom Maddox, and others, who changed the face of science fiction in the 1980s. He also creates art. He lives in San Francisco.

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