Thursday, 21 October 2010

The Unprincipled Certainty

Sam felt light-headed and happy as he washed his hands in the grimy sink of the public toilets. Things were going his way today in a manner he had never experienced before. He smiled to himself in the unbreakable polished metal that served as a mirror above the sink. What a day! Every single choice that he made was paying off, every bet was a sure-fire winner, and the money was poring in. He couldn't lose.

The euphorics didn't hurt either. The tiny inhaler was empty now but he felt so high he couldn't imagine being able to get any higher. Sam laughed to himself. What a day!

Wiping his damp hands on his dark grey trousers Sam took one final look at himself and was surprised to see someone next to him, also staring intently at Sam's reflection.

'Hello?' Sam's mood was so overwhelmingly great at the moment that his first reaction of dislike was instantly overridden with a general feeling of generosity.

The man continued to stare. He was tall, broad, dark. Thick hair fringed a rugged face that was split in two by a vicious scar across the nose and cheeks. The stranger smiled, crooked stained teeth and an evil stench of bad breath emerged.

'Want a tip?' he rasped, tilting his head to one side as he spoke as if dislodging the words from his brain to his mouth.


'Want a tip? It's a sure thing'

Sam began to feel a little uncomfortable. The man was leaning in towards him and Sam had to restrain himself from leaning back in response. He started to wonder how he could get away. After all, the next race was due to start shortly and he hadn't yet chosen his ride.

'Well, yes. If you like.' Sam strived for a distant but polite voice. Only the two of them were left now in the bathroom and the room felt like it was closing in around them, pushing them together.

The pungent stranger leaned in closer and bent down to whisper in Sam's ear. Sam felt his breath as a wind that caused him to shiver, heard and recognised the single name and frowned. He looked round to query the information but the man had gone, the swing door out into the arena slamming shut as he went.

Odd, thought Sam. That bot was new and new bots never won their first race. He shook his head, his good mood dampened by the encounter, and rattled the empty inhaler. Maybe he could find a seller out in the crowd. It shouldn't take too much to restore his original mood.

Back out in the arena and back at his reserved seat Sam fumbled in his pocket for the glasses that enabled him to see the race action. The living plastic wrapped round his head and his vision zoomed to the field of action. The nanobots were shuffling into starting positions. A clock in the corner of the eyeglass counted down the remaining time for bets to be placed.

Sam worried about what to do. His luck had been so astonishingly good so far but now he hesitated for the first time that day. Should he follow the odd man's tip? The man's voice echoed in his memory - 'it's a sure thing'. It would be insane to believe that such a tip was genuine. It would be insane to bet on a newcomer to win. And yet Sam hesitated.

'Why not?' he said quietly. So far he'd done so well he could afford to bet and he would still be up on the day. He dialled his agent and placed his bet. Then, feeling somehow relieved to have decided, he settled back into his seat and waited for the race to start.

No comments: