Paradigm - June 1997
The Cycle Helmet - Smiley
(page 3/20)

The Cycle Helmet

Shelly plugged herself into the laptop. As she booted up and delved into her system, she mused on the day. This had been her first full day at Uni and there were still no signs of her roommate. She wondered what her roommate would be like, and how she would react to an American. Already she had felt the cold glances because of her obvious clothing.


"Bloody racists! Frigging benders!", Shelly spat at them in her mind with more than a touch of bitterness. Then, as an afterthought, "I hope she's pretty", referring, with a glance, to the empty lower bunk.

She had spent the first twelve years of her life in America. Then the "bastards" had "randomly reassigned" her to Britain, the only sector in Europe which maintained its defiant independence outside the EU. Shelly openly maintained that they had dumped her here because of the virus she had planted in her teacher's terminal, and she made a special point to tell everyone so. That, along with how much she didn't want to be here. Not only was Britain still the only predominantly Heterosexual sector in the world; Americans were shunned in their society, treated much like black people had been in early American history. Now at fifteen Shelly had gained a place at one of their top Universities.

"They still rank no. 1 in the world for their education though", she conceded, and in fact was eager to get to grips with her course. She had accepted the fact that she would face bigotry, and who knows? Maybe the "equal rights" drive had even helped her into this college; but she regarded it with a self-denied bitterness.

Since coming to Britain, she had become a loner, burying herself in her work, and often surfing the net, keeping in touch with her old friends, and searching for perverse "feelies", anything to get her away from here and now. It had become increasingly difficult, and much more of a game since she had come here. The British "tightarse" attitude to feelies meant that net security here was better than anywhere in the world. She took it as challenge, and now that she was over the road from the main security scanners, playing the feelies was almost a let-down after the excitement of the chase.

Shelly quickly switched the door to alarm mode, and started to scan for signs of any detectors in the area. Within hours of getting a terminal in college she had already downloaded a rather unusual feelie. She had retrieved it from a route that hadn't been accessed for several years. What was weird about this one was that she hadn't thought feelies dated that far back. Now, as she examined its structure and scanned it for spikes, its bizarre "symmetry" was almost mesmerising; strangely beautiful, and yet made her feel what could only be described as... uncomfortable. This was far too complicated to have been written when the date signature implied, but there were ways around that. In fact, it was far too complicated for when the route that she had taken had registered it had last been accessed. She shoved those anomalies aside for later, and prepare to delve in.

"Go on, blow my mind!", she dared it as it kicked in.

The scene was very rickety, and the motion was even jagged, the edges blurring as she moved. What she saw, fading in and out, was a dark dusty room. There were books all around and in the air hung a stale acrid food smell. There were pipes running all around and even a switch light operator just beside an old style, "swing" wooden door. "If only I could have one of those she thought, "it'd solve my credit problems". She could almost taste the Carbon Monoxide in the air that she had learnt polluted this era, and she presumed by the primitive "computer" that lay on the nearby cabinet, that the programmer had set this feelie at the end of the nineteen hundreds.

"Playing stupid computer games again", came a muttered male voice behind her.

As she started to turn to see who it was, in that split-second's delay in the shifting something sharp registered in Shelly's mind. The voice hadn't come from the feelie, but from the real world. Quickly she reached up and yanked the leads from behind her ears, spinning around in her chair all in one movement. The pain of the disconnection bit, and her refocusing eyes made her head spin. Dizzily she reached for her rape shocker, a vicious little plaything she had smuggled with her from America. There was nobody there.

Confused now and with blurry eyes she checked the door. It hadn't been accessed. What was going on? Having just come so recently out a twentieth century feelie, she was reminded of the house she had once visited. It had been built in the same era as the feelie, and she remembered that the voices of those in the other room could sometimes be heard clearly. That was impossible here though, they had recently built these halls and they were completely sealed off nowadays. She had been "randomly assigned" a room on the first floor below ground level, and they extended to twelve levels. There were jokes about the engineers having designed for thirteen levels, but had forgotten to take into account the weight of the room contents. Shelly secretly believed that some racist nobody had given this room especially to her.

Snapping back to reality Shelly carefully checked her luggage. Someone might have planted a joke device, just to spook her. She knew that by now, reaching Uni, people should have matured enough not to be malicious enough to do anything nasty, but you never knew. She knew her history, and the supposedly intelligent were as vulnerable to stupidity, like racist attacks, as anyone else. Thankfully she had been assigned to one of the more secure halls, right next to the Union. No unauthorized male was allowed to even step foot in her room. That also meant that in this female-dominated college the opposite was true; not that this bothered Shelly since she was inclined the other way. The access security was especially good. Shelly knew well. She had tried and failed to break in herself on her first night. She had almost been caught trying to hack herself into her own room. She could not afford a scan now with the feelie in her room. Shaking her head, she stashed the feelie chip in a pocket in her pants. No more head-screwing tonight, she had to contact her friends. America would just be coming on-line about now...

"Why's it so misty? ", he wonders as he steps out into the road. This was the coldest summer he had ever experienced, and the mist cast a grey pall over the buildings. London had never seemed so bleak and unfriendly. The voices in his head whisper softly as he crosses the road. Turning, he sees nobody. Still, they follow him, teasing like dancing ghosts on the edge of his vision; but he knows nothing is out there, there never is. As he enters the arch, they grow louder and more fervent, clamouring for his attention; but he seems oblivious to their calling.

Here the short figure stops and looks around as if searching for the non-existent people that once lived, loved and laughed in this now dead place. He continues though, and only as he approaches the stairs that lead downwards do the voices become clear enough to make out.

One voice, a whisper, yet so clear, rises above the rest and resonates within his head. "Give it up", it whispers, "let it go...

It's a voice out of the distant past. A voice he hasn't listened to, won't listen to, despite knowing that it speaks wisdom. It speaks more than truth now, for he knows that his very existence depends on not listening to that voice.

As he walks down the frosty metal grill stairs, the voice again haunts him, "It's time to move on, we've done our work here."

He walks on regardless, step by step closer lo the door at the end of the passage. His keys come out with a rattle, the only sound that does not come from within his own head, and he unlocks the door.

Bright light and colour floods through the door, and the figure steps in out of the grey. With just a brief glance he notices a short, slim, well-formed figure sitting at the computer. "Playing stupid games again", Andy mutters...

and then his world explodes...

For the first time in a century the cycle has been upset...

to be continued...



Hopefully most of you will appreciate this mass of ideas, and my rather rusty attempt at a flowing descriptive. I doubt though that many (except the present committee) will understand the "deeper meanings".

It's deliberately supposed to build a myriad of sci-fi/futuristic strands that sets up enough background for a book. Yes, it's a ghost story; and yes, it's supposed to end that abruptly. No, I'm not going to write anymore in the foreseeable future, so you are quite welcome to carry it on yourself, or even nick my ideas - those of you who are more widely read, or just happen to have read some of the same books as me, may realise that the majority of them are nicked anyway. Anyway...

Anyway, I'll leave the "story behind the story" for Andy to explain.

(P.S. if you can't work out that Shelly now lives where the ICSF library is then you obviously need to use the excellent ICSF library more; with over 3500 books free to borrow, it's a must!

<CHEESY GRIN>). (and you're good at them - ed.)