An essay by Othello Maxwell, as provided by Brandon Nolta
Art by Leigh Legler
She looked like the kind of woman for whom doors opened. Tall, hair so black it absorbed the light, her body a pillar of muscle, she strode with confidence through the late-afternoon commuter crowd, someone used to being unimpeded. I watched her walk toward my car, and thought ghosting must have been a tough call for her.
She stopped in front of me, turned her head to meet my gaze. Her eyes were gray, so light they were almost pearl. That’s just short of albino in the standard population, and rarer than hen’s teeth, as Mom used to say. In Lottos, though, that was almost base model. Eye scans are still the most common way to catch one.
“Double O?” she whispered, body tensed. She seemed poised to run, or maybe kick my head through the train window. I wouldn’t blame her for either. Imagine surviving an apocalypse, or being descended from someone who did, only to find that you were now an asset of incalculable value, and everyone wanted a piece–or more–of you. Even the West was shitty about snagging Lottos, and in theory, they still had rights there.
“Yes, ma’am,” I whispered back, nodding just a fraction. The whole point of ghosting was to avoid notice. Ghost suits work pretty well at deflecting attention, between the pheromone masks and pupil dilation sensors, but they don’t do shit for loud voices or sudden movements. Keep calm and stay unnoticed.
She opened her mouth to say something else, and I held up a finger, pointing at the ceiling. Her eyes flicked upward to the sensor ring in the panel above me. She nodded, and inclined her head toward me, as if we were old friends and not strangers on a trans-Bay of Bengal train.
“Next station,” I said, yawning as I did. The older Sikh next to me didn’t seem to notice; he probably saw Caucasians with smart lenses talking to themselves all the time, and he’d taken no notice of the ghosting Lotto in front of me. Not that I wanted to test that. I stood as the train began to slow coming into Chennai Port and moved in front of her. No need to watch her leave; she’d follow. Lottos aren’t welcome most places, and she’d need help to get somewhere she could be left alone, much less welcomed.
When the genetic anomalies first started to show up, lots of people thought the stories were bullshit, cooked up by governments too afraid to admit how bad things really were. Losing nearly two billion people will do that. It didn’t take long for rumor to become documented fact, though.
To read the rest of this story, check out the Mad Scientist Journal: Summer 2018 collection.
Born into a military family, Othello Maxwell (or Double O, as she prefers) is a world traveler, jack of all trades, and professional Lotto smuggler. Not much of her early life is known, and what details she does share are carefully parsed to minimize exposure. What is known, however, is that she’s good at her work, has contacts all over the surviving First World countries, and counts ancient movie trivia and recreational immunology amongst her few hobbies.
Brandon Nolta is a writer, editor, and professional curmudgeon living in the transportation-challenged wilds of north Idaho. After earning an MFA, he went slightly mad. Nothing much happened with that, so he gave it up and started working for respectable companies again, which he still does when he wants to pay his bills. His fiction and poetry have appeared in The Centropic Oracle, Stupefying Stories, The Pedestal Magazine, Every Day Fiction, Perihelion, and a cacophony of other publications. Iron and Smoke, his first novel, was published by Montag Press in 2015; he has yet to admit to a second.
Leigh’s professional title is “illustrator,” but that’s just a nice word for “monster-maker,” in this case. More information about them can be found at http://leighlegler.carbonmade.com/.
“Gray Eye Shuffle” is © 2018 Brandon Nolta
Art accompanying story is © 2018 Leigh Legler