Orbiting eccentrics – Chapter 4

The suitcase

Dial ‘W’ for WTF

It occurred to me suddenly that the object which was blinking and buzzing gaily in the trunk of my taxi could have been some form of incendiary device. Naturally I’d not let myself be taken in by the paranoia which the foaming neurotics had so effectively disseminated around the world’s airports and shopping malls and, when I did notice an unattended bag lying on the platform at a train station, I never succumbed to hysterical fits as instructed: I proceeded calmly on my way.

However something about this suitcase seemed alien: it emanated a palpable, metallic intelligence which my brain could not reconcile. I imagined it to be the doomsday weapon of some Terminator-like cyborg who’d travelled backwards in time to annihilate the seed of a future human threat. This of course was nonsense and I quickly dismissed the idea. Only in the framework of a bad movie script could the Terminator plausibly want to leave such an important artefact in the back of a dented Taxi in Sydney. Or would he?

I closed the boot and then reached through the driver’s window to kill the engine.

But what if it was dangerous? Not a bomb, but something valuable, stolen from NASA or the Mafia. Wouldn’t they want it back and come looking for it?

The school bell rang and hoards of screaming children swarmed from the playground into the buildings. Lorelei was in there somewhere. I wanted to storm in and take her away. I would also perhaps take the time to spit at the feet of Mrs Crockwood as we exited. It was an inexplicable urge, however I remained outside and tried to think of a way of safely removing the taxi. Somehow I had convinced myself, despite having just rejected the explosives theory, of the perils of driving around the city. I was already deep in debt, I’d been disbarred from my profession, my wife had left me for a marketing manager named Daniel Head – I didn’t need the extermination of four million souls on my conscious.

Fortunately the school rested on the crest of a gentle decline so I decided to roll the car out of the parking lot and down towards the beach, where I would park it somewhere in the trees away from the public and then make a phone call. Exactly to whom I would place this call, I had not yet decided.

The first part of my plan proved easy enough to execute. I was travelling against the flow of the morning traffic, which was heading into the city and I managed to find a space in the shade of two gumtrees. At least I could panic and be cool at the same time.

But traversing through the contacts in my mobile phone, I could not decide on a name. With whom was I supposed to share this predicament? What exactly was my situation?

Oh, yes, you see, a man dressed in a spacesuit escaped from my cab leaving a shiny, electronic suitcase in my trunk, the design of which may or may not bear cataclysmic consequences for our city and perhaps the Earth.

Who would listen long enough to this nonsense without hanging up?

Then it came to me and my finger scrolled, almost automatically, down to ‘W’.

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