by David D. Levine
$0.99 (Short Story) ISBN 978-1-61138-231-0
Clark Thatcher is one of the elite: a surgically-enhanced soldier carrying in his very bones the Army’s secret weapon. But when he decides that enough is enough, he must decide if he’s willing to pay the price—a price higher than even he, with his unique capabilities and all they cost him, ever imagined. A pulse-pounding chase through a dystopian America, Rewind won the Writers of the Future contest in 2002.
A harsh pounding rattled through the room. “Police!” came a voice. “Open up!””Oh Jesus,” said Angel. Her face suddenly looked like dirty white plastic.
“Keep calm.” Thatcher looked out the window. It was five stories down. No fire escape. “Do you have a gun?”
“A rifle. But it’s hidden on the roof. Couldn’t risk getting caught with it.”
The cop would be armed. No way he could take him on without a weapon, not as shaky as he felt. “Have you ever been arrested?” He looked in the closet.
The closet overflowed with clothes, shoes, and junk, but there might be enough room. “They might not have your picture, then. I’ll hide in here. You answer the door. If there’s trouble I’ll come out and help, but with any luck he’ll just ask a few questions and leave. Whatever happens, keep calm!”
“Calm. Right.” She took a deep breath, then left.
He checked and armed his system as he closed the door of the tiny closet, hearing the cop’s rough voice asking Angel “have you seen this man” and demanding to search the apartment. Thatcher tried to visualize the place from the brief glimpse he’d had earlier, hearing heavy footsteps moving from the front door to the kitchen, to the bathroom… the cop seemed to be making a pretty cursory search of it. This just might work.
Booted feet came to the bedroom door. It squeaked open. Creak of the cop’s leather jacket and gunbelt as he looked from side to side. A pause. Two more steps.
The closet door jerked open. Thatcher saw his own terrified face in the cop’s black visor as he bit down.
Desperate, exhausted, Thatcher slipped under the bed as the cop’s footsteps moved from the kitchen to the bathroom. Sipping air he wanted desperately to gulp, he tried to ignore the smell of the worn and filthy carpet and make as little noise as possible. More footsteps; the door squeaked open. Dusty black boots trod inches from his face, while he held his breath. The closet door opened, then closed.
The boots paused, looking around. Drops of sweat slithered down Thatcher’s sides.
The boots departed.
Thatcher clutched the carpet, trembling with fear and fatigue, as the cop admonished Angel to report immediately if she saw this man, then tromped off. He blacked out for a moment, then saw Angel’s face, creased with worry. “I thought you were in the closet!”