About the Author…
A firm believer in the “apply butt to chair, then fingers to keyboard” philosophy, Ferrett Steinmetz writes for at least an hour every day – which helps, he promises. He is a graduate of both the Clarion Writers’ Workshop and Viable Paradise, and has been nominated for the Nebula Award, for which he remains stoked.
Ferrett has a moderately popular blog, The Watchtower of Destruction, wherein he talks about bad puns, relationships, politics, videogames, and more bad puns. He is the creator of the most popular and comprehensive online purity quizzes (this one’s for sex, but he’s also done them for roleplaying and Livejournal). He’s written four computer books, including the still-popular-after-two-years Wicked Cool PHP.
He lives in Cleveland with his wife, who he couldn’t imagine living without.
About the Narrator…Kathy Sherwood resides in a (probably only figuratively) magical forest in North Central Florida, with her significant other, two dogs and two cats. She also hosts alternative rock show Not Quite Random on 88.5 WFCF–Flagler College Radio.
by Ferrett Steinmetz
The ad-faeries danced around Sheryl, flickering cartoon holograms with fluoride-white smiles. They told her the gasoline that sloshed in the red plastic canister she held was high-octane, perfect for any vehicle, did she want to go for a drive?
She did not. That gasoline was for burning. Sheryl patted her pockets to make sure the matches were still there and kept moving forward, blinking away the videostreams. Her legs ached.
She squinted past a flurry of hair-coloring ads (“Sheryl, wash your gray away today!”), scanning the neon roads to find the breast-shaped marble dome of River Edge’s central collation unit. River’s Edge had been a sleepy Midwestern town when she was a girl, a place just big enough for a diner and a department store. Now River’s Edge had been given a mall-over like every other town â€” every wall lit up with billboards, colorful buildings topped with projectors to burn logos into the clouds. She was grateful for the dark patches that marked where garish shop-fronts had been bombed into ash-streaked metal tangles.
The smoke gave her hope. Others were trying to bring it all down â€” and if they were succeeding, maybe no one was left to stop her.
Rotting bodies leered out at her through car windows, where computer-guided cars had smashed headlong into the collapsed shopfronts that had fallen into the road. Had the drivers been fleeing, or trying to destroy the collation unit? She had no idea.
The ad-faeries sang customized praises to each auto as she glanced at the cars, devising customized ditties about the ’59 Breezster’s speed. Sheryl needed speed; at her arthritic pace, walking through the women’s district might tempt her into submission.
Given that the ad-faeries suggested it, driving was a terrible idea. River’s Edge had been so gutted by bombings that she’d have to drive manually â€” and it was already hard to see through the foggy blur of chirping ad-faeries, each triangulating her cornea’s focal point to obscure her vision for the legal limit of .8 seconds. They elbowed each other aside, proffering chewy pomegranate cookies, diamond-edged razors, laser-guided wall-bots that would paint her house a new color every day.
She had no use for them. She’d burned her house down, leaving Rudy’s body underneath the pile of engraved stones with her sons’ names on them.
She had to pass through the two main shopping districts to destroy the collation center at River’s Edge â€” and if she did that, then she could free Oakmoor, then Daleton, and then who knows where? But they’d kill her if she weakened.