‘Go right.’ The voices whispered and Ruben turned right where he thought the voices wanted him to go. He had left the others behind without a look back and jogged down a side street into a business district.
The ‘voice’ wasn’t single it seemed like there were a dozen people saying the same words into Ruben’s head when he listened. It was like listening to a choir; everyone was synced perfectly when they spoke, but the voices together were greater than any of them were alone. Ruben had been living with the voices ever since he had plunged his knife into the top of Ella’s head back in Chicago. He hadn’t been following their advice until recently; most of what they told him to do was just plain crazy. Now he thought he had them figured out.
Following the instructions Ruben turned into a small diner; it had a bar with built-in stools along one side and booths along the other. ‘Grab the jacket. Keep moving through the kitchen. Out into the alley, you can rest there.’
Ruben reached out and snagged the blue windbreaker that was hanging from a peg next to one of the booths with one hand and continued moving through the kitchen, out into the alley behind the eatery. The alley was deserted and he leaned heavily back on the wall, folding up the jacket to stuff in his rucksack.
‘Or do I put this on?’ he inquired of the angels in his head.
‘Dump the body armor, fold your coat up. Open the backpack.’
Ruben took off his outerwear and removed his body armor. In truth, it was a relief to take it off, the road rash hadn’t been good to it, the trauma plate over his chest had been slipping around as he ran, threatening to fall out entirely with every sudden twist and turn. Ruben looked at the bomb; it had weathered the slide well, showing only a few scuffs and scrapes from the incident. He examined the top of the pack and slowly loosened the straps holding it closed. With some trepidation he gently lifted the top of the heavy material and stared inside the bag. He started laughing. His mirth got the better of him and he sat down hard upon his body armor, still clutching the bomb in both hands.
When he finally regained his composure he sat the bag on the ground and started pulling the items out of the top compartment. Inside was a small metal box lined with closed cell blue foam, the box fit inside the bag precisely. Stacked inside this container were cans of beer. At the very bottom of this compartment was a sacks and what looked like an ordinary brick, Ruben pulled both of them out. He pulled open the drawstrings on the sack and opened it up to see that it was filled with sand.
“Shit. We’ve been carrying this forty pound bag around with us and it’s full of beer and sand?” This was not quite true, the bottom of the bag was a separate compartment entirely, “So if I open that I’ll find, what? Two liters of whisky?”
‘Just the bomb, Ruben. Leave it alone.’
“So it works then?”
‘Yes. It has once already.’ the voices whispered in his head.
“Why the extra weight?”
‘Psychological, if it weighs more soldiers think it works better.’
“Really?” the voices didn’t answer and Ruben hadn’t thought they would; they didn’t tend to speak if he questioned what they had already told him.
Ruben cracked one of the beers; it was lukewarm but otherwise tasted fine. He finished off the can, packed his fatigue jacket into the top of the pack along with a couple of the remaining beers and pulled on the windbreaker. The wind was picking up and he appreciated the lighter covering. “I don’t even have a gun.” No one answered, but Ruben kept thinking out loud, “I can nuke you back to the stone-age or run or maybe knife you. But not shoot you.”
Shrugging Ruben lifted the pack up and headed down the alley, the voices didn’t tell him which way to go so he guessed he was doing okay on his own. When he reached the street he looked both ways and saw a bright blue Nissan Leaf parked on the street. Sighing, he reached into his new pockets and his hands touched a key ring. As he walked to the car he pulled the keys out and heard the doors unlock when he was a couple feet away.
“Not even a proper key, just this fob thingy. Give me a good set of keys any day.” Ruben climbed into the car and put the backpack in the front passenger’s seat. Looking over the dash he didn’t see how to turn the car on. There wasn’t anywhere to put the key fob into, like a normal key would have. There was just a button where a key would normally be inserted into the ignition. Cautiously he pressed the button and an amber ring around its edge glowed softly. With another sigh, he tucked the fob back into his pocket.
“It is on? No fricking way to tell I guess.” The car looked like an automatic style with just a simple shifter to switch from park to drive. Ruben pulled the stick to ‘D’ and was startled when a soft voice chided him to put his seatbelt on.
“Today, we risk it.” he said out loud.
Pressing on the gas pedal, the car silently moved forward. ‘This,’ thought Ruben, ‘isn’t nearly so bad as I thought. I wonder if I should even think of it as a ‘gas’ pedal? It’s not gas powered. So quiet, like riding a bike, only with no effort. Maybe those tree huggers have something after all.’
He had no idea where he was supposed to end up, so he turned to the east. He was pretty sure wherever he needed to be was east of here. He drove on for a little while keeping to a sensible, low speed on the side streets and pointing the car towards the ever darkening sky to the east.
‘Right, then the next left.’
Ruben did as instructed, muttering a brief prayer as he did so. Up ahead was a Wal-mart. It looked looted and dark.
‘Pull into the drive of the yellow house on the corner. It’s empty, go inside. Open the garage door manually, put the car in the garage.’
‘Well, this is new.’ Ruben thought. He found himself to be a little let down at the idea of leaving the car, it had been a smooth ride. Once he was through parking and had the garage door down again he stood in the house, looking around the open kitchen dining room and wondering what he was supposed to do next.
There were some maps on the island, he shuffled through them and spotted one that had been written on with a blue pen. He brought the map over to the front window so he could look out at the street sign; sure enough there was a trail from this house that ended in a circled block some distance away. “How many blocks in a mile?” he asked out loud while counting the streets between where he was and the circle on the map. “Twenty blocks, that’s gotta only be a mile or so.”
The Lord worked in mysterious ways and Ruben didn’t want to take advantage of his angels to ask questions when he could figure out the answers for himself. They had brought him here to find the map; he could take it from here. He examined the map closely, memorizing the street names and details before folding it carefully and tucking it into the deep pockets of his pants. Ruben picked up the pack with his bomb and started walking.