Littler Brother 2
She left me there.#Zeb had a pizza for me when I got back "home" — to the tent under a freeway overpass in the Mission that he'd staked out for the night. He had a pup tent, military surplus, stenciled with SAN FRANCISCO LOCAL HOMELESS COORDINATING BOARD.The pizza was a Dominos, cold and clabbered, but delicious for all that.
"You like pineapple on your pizza?"Zeb smiled condescendingly at me. "Freegans can't be choosy," he said."Freegans?""Like vegans, but we only eat free food.""Free food?"He grinned again.
"You know — free food. From the free food store?""You stole this?""No, dummy.
It's from the other store. The little one out behind the store? Made of blue steel? Kind of funky smelling?""You got this out of the garbage?"He flung his head back and cackled.
"Yes indeedy. You should see your face.
Dude, it's OK. It's not like it was rotten. It was fresh — just a screwed up order.
They threw it out in the box. They sprinkle rat poison over everything at closing-time, but if you get there quick, you're OK. You should see what grocery stores throw out! Wait until breakfast.
I'm going to make you a fruit salad you won't believe. As soon as one strawberry in the box goes a little green and fuzzy, the whole thing is out —"I tuned him out.
The pizza was fine. It wasn't as if sitting in the dumpster would infect it or something.
If it was gross, that was only because it came from Domino's — the worst pizza in town. I'd never liked their food, and I'd given it up altogether when I found out that they bankrolled a bunch of ultra-crazy politicians who thought that global warming and evolution were satanic plots.It was hard to shake the feeling of grossness, though.But there was another way to look at it.
Zeb had showed me a secret, something I hadn't anticipated: there was a whole hidden world out there, a way of getting by without participating in the system."Freegans, huh?""Yogurt, too," he said, nodding vigorously.
"For the fruit salad. They throw it out the day after the best-before date, but it's not as if it goes green at midnight.
It's yogurt, I mean, it's basically just rotten milk to begin with."I swallowed. The pizza tasted funny.
Rat poison. Spoiled yogurt.
Furry strawberries. This would take some getting used to.I ate another bite.
Actually, Domino's pizza sucked a little less when you got it for free.Liam's sleeping bag was warm and welcoming after a long, emotionally exhausting day. Van would have made contact with Barbara by now.
She'd have the video and the picture. I'd call her in the morning and find out what she thought I should do next.
I'd have to come in once she published, to back it all up.I thought about that as I closed my eyes, thought about what it would be like to turn myself in, the cameras all rolling, following the infamous M1k3y into one of those big, columnated buildings in Civic Center.The sound of the cars screaming by overhead turned into a kind of ocean sound as I drifted away.
There were other tents nearby, homeless people. I'd met a few of them that afternoon, before it got dark and we all retreated to huddle near our own tents.
They were all older than me, rough looking and gruff. None of them looked crazy or violent, though.
Just like people who'd had bad luck, or made bad decisions, or both.I must have fallen asleep, because I don't remember anything else until a bright light was shined into my face, so bright it was blinding."That's him," said a voice behind the light."Bag him," said another voice, one I'd heard before, one I'd heard over and over again in my dreams, lecturing to me, demanding my passwords.
Severe-haircut-woman.The bag went over my head quickly and was cinched so tight at the throat that I choked and threw up my freegan pizza. As I spasmed and choked, hard hands bound my wrists, then my ankles.
I was rolled onto a stretcher and hoisted, then carried into a vehicle, up a couple of clanging metal steps. They dropped me into a padded floor.
There was no sound at all in the back of the vehicle once they closed the doors. The padding deadened everything except my own choking."Well, hello again," she said.
I felt the van rock as she crawled in with me. I was still choking, trying to gasp in a breath.
Vomit filled my mouth and trickled down my windpipe."We won't let you die," she said. "If you stop breathing, we'll make sure you start again.
So don't worry about it."I choked harder. I sipped at air.
Some was getting through. Deep, wracking coughs shook my chest and back, dislodging some more of the puke.
More breath."See?" she said. "Not so bad.
Welcome home, M1k3y. We've got somewhere very special to take you."I relaxed onto my back, feeling the van rock.
The smell of used pizza was overwhelming at first, but as with all strong stimuli, my brain gradually grew accustomed to it, filtered it out until it was just a faint aroma.
The rocking of the van was almost comforting.That's when it happened. An incredible, deep calm that swept over me like I was lying on the beach and the ocean had swept in and lifted me as gently as a parent, held me aloft and swept me out onto a warm sea under a warm sun.
After everything that had happened, I was caught, but it didn't matter. I had gotten the information to Barbara.
I had organized the Xnet. I had won.
And if I hadn't won, I had done everything I could have done. More than I ever thought I could do.
I took a mental inventory as I rode, thinking of everything that I had accomplished, that we had accomplished. The city, the country, the world was full of people who wouldn't live the way DHS wanted us to live.
We'd fight forever. They couldn't jail us all.I sighed and smiled.She'd been talking all along, I realized.
I'd been so far into my happy place that she'd just gone away."— smart kid like you. You'd think that you'd know better than to mess with us.
We've had an eye on you since the day you walked out. We would have caught you even if you hadn't gone crying to your lesbo journalist traitor.
I just don't get it — we had an understanding, you and me..."We rumbled over a metal plate, the van's shocks rocking, and then the rocking changed. We were on water.
Heading to Treasure Island. Hey, Ange was there.
Darryl, too. Maybe.#The hood didn't come off until I was in my cell.
They didn't bother with the cuffs at my wrists and ankles, just rolled me off the stretcher and onto the floor. It was dark, but by the moonlight from the single, tiny, high window, I could see that the mattress had been taken off the cot.
The room contained me, a toilet, a bed-frame, and a sink, and nothing else.I closed my eyes and let the ocean lift me. I floated away.
Somewhere, far below me, was my body. I could tell what would happen next.
I was being left to piss myself. Again.
I knew what that was like. I'd pissed myself before.
It smelled bad. It itched.
It was humiliating, like being a baby.But I'd survived it.I laughed. The sound was weird, and it drew me back into my body, back to the present.
I laughed and laughed. I'd had the worst that they could throw at me, and I'd survived it, and I'd beaten them, beaten them for months, showed them up as chumps and despots.
I'd won.I let my bladder cut loose. It was sore and full anyway, and no time like the present.The ocean swept me away.#When morning came, two efficient, impersonal guards cut the bindings off of my wrists and ankles.
I still couldn't walk — when I stood, my legs gave way like a stringless marionette's. Too much time in one position. The guards pulled my arms over their shoulders and half-dragged/half-carried me down the familiar corridor.
The bar codes on the doors were curling up and dangling now, attacked by the salt air.I got an idea. "Ange!" I yelled.
"Darryl!" I yelled. My guards yanked me along faster, clearly disturbed but not sure what to do about it.
"Guys, it's me, Marcus! Stay free!"Behind one of the doors, someone sobbed. Someone else cried out in what sounded like Arabic.
Then it was cacophony, a thousand different shouting voices.They brought me to a new room. It was an old shower-room, with the shower-heads still present in the mould tiles."Hello, M1k3y," Severe Haircut said.
"You seem to have had an eventful morning." She wrinkled her nose pointedly."I pissed myself," I said, cheerfully. "You should try it.""Maybe we should give you a bath, then," she said.
She nodded, and my guards carried me to another stretcher. This one had restraining straps running its length.
They dropped me onto it and it was ice-cold and soaked through. Before I knew it, they had the straps across my shoulders, hips and ankles.
A minute later, three more straps were tied down. A man's hands grabbed the railings by my head and released some catches, and a moment later I was tilted down, my head below my feet."Let's start with something simple," she said.
I craned my head to see her. She had turned to a desk with an Xbox on it, connected to an expensive-looking flat-panel TV. "I'd like you to tell me your login and password for your Pirate Party email, please?"I closed my eyes and let the ocean carry me off the beach."Do you know what waterboarding is, M1k3y?" Her voice reeled me in.
"You get strapped down like this, and we pour water over your head, up your nose and down your mouth. You can't suppress the gag reflex.
They call it a simulated execution, and from what I can tell from this side of the room, that's a fair assessment. You won't be able to fight the feeling that you're dying."I tried to go away.
I'd heard of waterboarding. This was it, real torture.
And this was just the beginning.I couldn't go away. The ocean didn't sweep in and lift me.
There was a tightness in my chest, my eyelids fluttered. I could feel clammy piss on my legs and clammy sweat in my hair.
My skin itched from the dried puke.She swam into view above me. "Let's start with the login," she said.I closed my eyes, squeezed them shut."Give him a drink," she said.I heard people moving.
I took a deep breath and held it.The water started as a trickle, a ladleful of water gently poured over my chin, my lips. Up my upturned nostrils.
It went back into my throat, starting to choke me, but I wouldn't cough, wouldn't gasp and suck it into my lungs. I held onto my breath and squeezed my eyes harder.There was a commotion from outside the room, a sound of chaotic boots stamping, angry, outraged shouts.
The dipper was emptied into my face.I heard her mutter something to someone in the room, then to me she said, "Just the login, Marcus. It's a simple request.
What could I do with your login, anyway?"This time, it was a bucket of water, all at once, a flood that didn't stop, it must have been gigantic. I couldn't help it.
I gasped and aspirated the water into my lungs, coughed and took more water in. I knew they wouldn't kill me, but I couldn't convince my body of that.
In every fiber of my being, I knew I was going to die. I couldn't even cry — the water was still pouring over me.Then it stopped.
I coughed and coughed and coughed, but at the angle I was at, the water I coughed up dribbled back into my nose and burned down my sinuses.The coughs were so deep they hurt, hurt my ribs and my hips as I twisted against them.