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Excerpt from Out of the Abyss

by Brenda W. Clough
©1998 Brenda W. Clough all rights reserved

Edwin ran shaking down the corridor. It was mealtime, the building full of the smell of institutional cooking. Nauseated, he burst through the nearest fire door and tumbled headlong down some concrete steps. He came down hard on one knee, luckily without tearing his pants, and had to limp to his car. But he had learned the trick of shutting out physical pain to some extent, and by the time he got in and pushed the start button the bruise was healed.

Western Virginia was too rural for guidance nets. He had to steer and accelerate the blue sports car with his own hands over the night-mantled mountain roads to Luray, the nearest town. It was Thursday night and early, but the first bar he came to had its red signs lit. Edwin pulled into the small empty parking lot. Inside the place was dark, smelling of cleaning chemicals. He was the first customer. An interactive game wall dominated the front of the establishment with its distracting green and blue shimmers of holo, but towards the back at the bar it was quiet. The bartender looked up from his computer inventory as Edwin sat down on a stool. “What can I getcha?”

Edwin leaned his forehead on his hands. “Brandy. Napoleon, if you have it – a good old fashioned kind of drink. I don’t do innovations these days. Six shots. No, make it eight. Just line them up.”

“Eight? Forget it, joe. You ever heard of alcohol poisoning? Go back to college, and tell your frat brothers this is a bar, not a suicide parlor.”

Edwin folded his arms and glared at him. “How old do you think I am? Do you recognize me?”

The bartender leaned to look more closely. “You on viddy, maybe?”

“My name is Edwin Barbarossa. Scan it.” He held out his left hand, palm down. With a sigh the bartender touched his scanner pen to the back near the wrist, where the pinpoint computer chip was embedded just under Edwin’s skin.

“So you are.” The bartender looked at the partial ID readout on his screen. “And your rating’s real healthy ... Dr. Edwin A. Barbarossa – wait a minute, I do know the name. You’re the astronaut, the Franklin Syndrome fellow.” The public knew of Edwin’s immortal condition only by that name.

“Preternatural recuperation, that’s me. That’s why I need eight of them, lined up. If I want to get drunk I need them fast and strong. And it’ll be the shortest bender you ever saw, guaranteed. Here, you hold this.” Edwin handed over his encoded car key. “If when I’m ready to go I trip the breathalyzer, you know the drill.”

Novels to Come

©1998 Brenda and Larry Clough Last modified 30 October 1998