There were no gaps in the heavy traffic, but Doctor Skin managed to fit into them anyway.
The motorway was clogged with all kinds of vehicles - trucks loaded down with livestock, all terrain vehicles with children on their way to soccer practice filling every available seat, and expensive luxury sports models that had the option of a free blow job from the manager at purchase. Pushing the accelerator pedal on his stolen Aston Martin Vanquish to the floor, Doctor Skin zipped past them all.
He took his eyes off the road for just a second to see if the police car that had been following him since he had pulled onto the on-ramp was still behind him, but could not spot it in the sea of traffic.
Skin eased off on the acceleration, just a little bit. He wasn’t in that much of a hurry.
Bracing the steering wheel between his knees, Skin pulled his tin out of his jacket pocket and rolled a ridiculously fat joint in record time. Lighting it, he rolled down the window and blew it out the window, the smoke drifting right into the path of a packed school bus.
Leaning back in the car seat and sticking on elbow out the window, Skin flicked through the stations available on the stereo. The choices were limited and Skin could not believe the car did not have a better system. He vowed to not bother stealing another Aston Martin without checking the extras again.
Finding nothing but nostalgic pap and rabid talkback on the radio, Skin turned it off in disgust and took another long drag on the joint.
“Where do you want to go?” said a voice coming from the stereo speaker set into the car’s dashboard suddenly, its low, almost metallic tone reverberating throughout the vehicle’s interior.
Doctor Skin was not surprised that the radio was talking to him now that he had turned it off. It had been one of those days.
“Where do you want to go?” asked the voice again.
Skin finished the joint off and tossed the roach out the window before replying. “I want to go home.”
“You have no home,” said the voice.
“I still want to go there.”
“Your mind is your home. Everything that is, everything that was, everything that will be. It all comes from there.”
“Yeah,” sighed Skin. “But that doesn’t help me get there, does it?”
The voice did not reply. Skin did not expect it to bother him again, especially now that he had other things on his mind.
The traffic up ahead was slowing to a crawl and far ahead he could see the distinctive lights of several police cars. They were waiting for him.
“That’s not fair,” whined Skin. He had only stolen one vehicle. And run one cop off the road. And slammed into one prison van, tipping it on its side and releasing its load of highly dangerous criminals.
Skin had regretted nothing. His actions had been necessary. He knew what he had to do. He was on a mission.
He hit the accelerator again and pulled the steering wheel hard to his left, shooting for the breakdown lane at the edge of the motorway.
He scraped through the tiniest of gaps that appeared between a run-down Ford and a souped up Nissan, swinging around into the breakdown lane and accelerating down the road. Ahead he could see a police car parked in the lane, blocking his way.
“No harm in trying,” said Skin through gritted teeth, speeding up even further as he approached the roadblock. A group of officers stood in the gap between police cars, waving in an attempt to get him to slow down, but Skin was committed now.
The officers dived out of the way as he shot through the space, sparks flaring up as he ruined the paint job on his ride.
He took his eyes off the road just for a second to check that the suitcase Mr Green had given him was still there, before returning his full concentration to the task at hand.
Several of the police officers behind him had drawn their guns and fired at him, but at the speed he was traveling, Skin was soon out of range. The traffic on the other side of the roadblock was a little less dense, but Skin knew he had to get off the motorway. He could see the police cars already giving chase and the current path gave him few options.
Too busy watching his pursuers, Skin shot past an exit off the motorway. Instantly whipping on the handbrake, he wrenched the wheel to the left and skidded to a halt. Slamming the gear stick straight into second, he took off again, shooting back the way he came.
He reached the exit at exactly the same time as the police chasing him and although a collision appeared unavoidable, he hoped for the best. Luckily for Skin, the officers driving the cars were not ready for a head-on smash and got out of his way. Skin pulled did another 180 and headed down the exit.
He came off the exit straight into a suburban hell, all neatly manicured gardens and no soul. Several of the cop cars were still chasing him as Skin roared at top speed past children playing on their immaculate front lawns.
Right on cue, a woman with a baby in her pram walked right out in front of him. Unwilling to live with the guilt of an innocent death, Skin drove off the road, losing control on a slick lawn and careering through a wooden fence.
“Fuuuuuuuuuuccccckkkkkk!!!!!” screamed Skin as he slammed on the brakes and the car spun around, smashing through another fence before coming to rest right next to a ridiculously ostentatious bird fountain.
With adrenaline still coursing through his system, Skin started giggling uncontrollably, but stopped as he saw the police that had been chasing him pull up at the hole in the fence he had created.
“GETOUTOFTHEFUCKINGCAR!” screamed one.
“HANDSONTHEHEADNOWMOTHERFUCKER!” screamed another.
“No fear!” replied Skin, hitting the gas again. The car spun around as the rear end smashed the fountain to pieces. Several shots impacted on the exterior of the car, but none penetrated the interior and Skin was off again.
He smashed through yet another fence and found himself zooming down a back alley behind the suburban homes. From this angle they appeared even tackier, but also looked a little run-down, as if the owners did not care what things looked like from the rear.
The Aston Martin hit the street again and Skin turned left, heading towards an industrial area of town. He raced along the wide, empty streets outside massive warehouses, moving even faster than he did on the motorway.
A truck pulled out in front of him, but Skin, his knuckles turning white as he squeezed the wheel, made it in front of it just before it covered the road completely and continued on his way.
There was no sign of any police chasing him anymore, but Skin did not let up. He could see the tall skyscrapers in the center of the city looming ahead and continued heading straight towards the tallest of them.
As he got closer to the center of the city the traffic increased in density again, but Skin continued to speed up. He shot straight through red lights and stop signs without hesitation, expecting at any second an impact that would finish him off, but miraculously it never came.
Out of the corner of his eye Skin could see more police cars chasing after him, but he blocked them out and concentrated on his driving. Not far to go now.
Suddenly a suicidal police car leaped out of an alleyway and smashed into the rear of Skin’s vehicle. At the high speed he was traveling, the car began to come apart about him as it swerved dangerously from one side of the road to another, but Skin kept on.
And then three of the tires blew right at the same time and Skin felt a shudder as the car clipped another parked car and flew up into the air. For a second Skin sailed peacefully through the air and he had time to wish he could roll another joint before the car smashed into a line of parked buses and motorcycles in an inferno of screaming metal and shrapnel.
Several fuel tanks ignited at once, sending a huge fireball up into the air. The blast sent out a wave of hot air and to his own surprise, Skin found himself riding the wave, the suitcase held tightly in his hand.
“Huh,” he said as huge chunks of metal fell around him and flames licked at his shoes.
He hit the ground, rolled and was up and running before he even realized what he was doing.
Somehow he was completely unharmed, but he did not have time to count his blessings. There was still a block to travel.
Cars on the street had pulled up to avoid the explosions and Skin leaped over their bonnets and onto their roofs, running across them until he found the building he was looking for.
He ducked inside just as the latest police officers arrived, running past the building, missing him entirely. Skin ran on across the ornate marble foyer and up to an elevator. He hit the button.
He hit the button again and the elevator pinged. Looking up at the display above the doors he saw it was several floors away, but heading back down.
Skin checked his watch, only to find it must have come off in the explosion. He went back to staring at the display, mentally willing it to move faster.
After an eternity, the elevator doors opened. A short man in a immaculately kept uniform stood by the buttons.
“Going up, sir?” he asked politely.
“All the way,” smirked Skin, stepping in beside him as the doors closed.
The elevator attendant hit the button for the top floor. As the door closed he caught a glimpse of the damage outside.
“Say, what’s going on out there?” he asked.
Skin shrugged. “Life in the big city.”
“You’re telling me,” said the attendant, happy enough with that answer. He did not say another word as the elevator rose.
Doctor Skin wiped some dust of his shoulders and rocked on his heels to the insidiously infectious tinned music. He began to hum the tune, even though he could not name it.
After another eternity, the elevator doors opened again.
“Top floor,” said the attendant. “Ready when you are, sir.”
“Thanks,” said Skin, stepping out. After the briefest of consideration, he stepped back in and gave the attendant a large pile of banknotes. “Here you go. Buy something nice for the wife, will you?”
“Thank you, sir,” said the attendant, genuinely grateful. Skin nodded and headed back out, walking along the corridor, looking for the door to the roof.
Finding it, he climbed the last few stairs and stepped out onto the roof of the building. Moving to the edge, he stepped up onto the ledge and looked around.
The city stretched out around him and Skin could see the path he had taken to reach the tallest building around. Down below the fire from the explosions he had caused had died down, although he could see a huge dust cloud and smoke still poured from down below.
Skin was suddenly overcome with an almost overpowering sense of deja-vu, but it soon passed and he opened the suitcase he had carried all this way.
Looking at its contents, he remembered long-ago summers, sitting on the lawn of his home, compulsively re-reading all the pages of the comic books, over and over and over again. He remembered all-nighters in front of the television, soaking up movies on the video tapes in all their radiated glory. He remembered sitting down while on a long journey and finishing off the novels in one go, a massive information dump that still registers.
He remembered them all.
“Nothing lasts forever,” he said.
With no regrets, he turned the suitcase upside down and let them all fall out of the suitcase, right over the edge of the building. The novels, comics and video tapes continued to fall out, far more coming out than could ever fit in the small suitcase.
As they fell, they shimmered in the sun, fading until they had all vanished.
Doctor Skin took a deep breath as he heard the door back down to the building slam open behind him and several pairs of boots charge out onto the rooftop. Harsh voices screamed at him.
“One moment please,” said Doctor Skin gently.
Then he stepped off the edge of the building.
The wind tore at his clothes as he fell and the ground rushed up to meet him. As it came closer and closer, Skin felt himself fall apart, like the fictions that had preceded him.
Seconds before he hit the ground, Doctor Skin slipped into the gaps between everything and vanished.