At that moment, however, Baldwin wanted to know who had saved his life and then had taken off without giving him time to say thanks. He began making the trek back to his Blazer, the pain in his body flaring everywhere. As he walked, he looked for footprints or any kind of sign that might lead him to find his would-be savior.
Baldwin stopped looking within just a few minutes, laughing at himself. He chuckled, thinking about the fact that he was a city boy. He knew about as much about tracking someone as a country boy knew about where the best restaurants were in the big city. Footprints, broken limbs and twigs here and there; might as well have been Greek to him. He finished walking to his truck and stepped inside, cranked it and drove away, listening to the creaks and pops now present from getting hit by another vehicle. He hoped the old truck would hold together.
He drove and thought. As the miles spread out before him, trees lining the road on both sides, he kept one eye on the forest and the other on the road, all the while thinking about everything that had happened. He thought about his faith in God, tenuous at best, but somehow it had grown in the last few years. He’d tried to live like everyone else, tried to adjust to the comfort, not having to do much of anything yourself, the fact that anything and everything a person wanted was within reach at nearly all times. But, unlike most people, it never set well with him inside. It never felt right. He sometimes would look down at his hands and wonder if all they were truly for was grasping what we wanted.
To him, the Brave New World was Hell. He sometimes wondered if that were what was happening all along: he’d already died, and God had forgotten him, and he was in Hell, searching for things he would never be allowed to truly find. He wondered if perhaps he’d somehow missed the mark; despite not allowing himself to be augmented, he wondered if somehow that hadn’t been enough. Maybe God had become so angry at humanity that not even denying mankind’s current god, Evy, was enough.
But that didn’t seem right to him, either. Like he’d told the old man before leaving the city, he’d read the Bible. Every word, multiple times, in fact. That didn’t seem right, that God would abandon him to Hell. He remembered one verse in the big book that indicated that, if people would simply admit their wrong and seek God, they’d find Him. He hoped that was true. Desperately. Because if Evy was all there was, if she was the only thing close to god in the universe, well, he didn’t want to allow himself to lose all hope, so he let the thought go.
She was like a mad organism, one that would never stop until reaching what it believed was a perfect organism: Evy did not seek to make humanity better by giving this bipedal creature more freedom. She was more like the warped man’s ideal of the evolutionary process, only she did not want to diversify in any rational sense. Evy wanted to recreate humanity in her image, one that would eventually become a single, organized entity without autonomy. Her synthetic sophistry ensured that she saw nothing but her own holiness in her mission. He could read it in her voice. And, as far as he was concerned, there was nothing new under the sun, including Evy. Odd as it seemed to him, Evy knew it. Her creators knew it. The general populous had seen her as humanity’s crowning achievement when, in reality, she was nothing more than the power-craving, narcissistic envy of every other old pagan god who’d sought to make mankind into its own image. Wrapped up in a shiny, new package giving mankind the credit.
Baldwin noted the sun beginning to set. He’d need to find a place to crash soon.
The house was a mansion. It was massive, at least ten thousand square feet, more rooms than he cared to count. That made him nervous: no telling who might be hiding in the old place. But he needed to get off the road. He went inside the old place and stopped, listening, seeing if his presence caused movement in the place. When he heard nothing, he sought out a room back behind the kitchen. It had one entrance, a very thick old door that had been made in a time when quality was important. If someone tried to knock the old door open with a shoulder, they’d best have an augmented shoulder, otherwise it would break bones like paper. There was only one window, and once he had locked the door and put a very old, very heavy chest of drawers in front of it, set to work on blocking the old window. He nearly had a heart attack when the first crack of thunder boomed over the old mansion. He couldn’t remember having seen any clouds. Then came the rain. The sound was bittersweet. The rain hitting the ground and the window of the old house gave him a sense of peace, but that was something he knew he couldn’t afford. So he listened to the rain, enjoying it only as much as he could while remaining alert.
Two hours later, he’d passed out on the old, creaking bed. The rain had put him to sleep despite how hard he’d tried to stay away. His mind wandered through the labyrinth of dreams, at every corner was Evy, tracking him, listening to him, undermining his resolve in his dreams. She wasn’t really there and even though his subconscious knew this fact, it didn’t matter. She haunted him. His mind tried to answer the questions he couldn’t allow himself to ponder while awake. What was the point of running? She would find him. What was the point in hiding? She would find him. That was what his mind tried to tell him over and again. Even within his dreams, he reminded himself that he ran because that was what he knew he should do, that death while free was better than life while enslaved by comfort that wanted to render you useless.
Thunder woke him. But as soon as he woke and looked up, he realized that it wasn’t thunder at all. A massive UN cop had just opened the door, sliding the chest of drawers away like they were made of cardboard.
“Hello, Baldwin,” the voice said. He knew he should have been frightened. He wasn’t. Simply hearing Evy’s inflections in the cop’s deep voice filled him with pure rage. He didn’t even reach for the pulse pistol. Instead, he grabbed the trusty tire iron he’d kept with him. He laughed as he slid from the bed, looking Evy’s muscular minion dead in the eyes.
“Hello, Evy,” he said. “Let’s get this over with, shall we?”