« Devotional | Main | Body »

Worse Than Riders

by Luc Reid

Nobody expected Lonny Orris to show up at the 20th high school reunion, because we all knew about his time travelling.

Conversations collided and crumbled into murmurs all around him as he walked into the restaurant, his robotic arm waving hello while his human one remained jammed into his pocket. Rick Tate, former president of the drama club and evidently the only one of us with any balls, stepped out and offered his hand.

"Rick?" Lonny said uncertainly. Rick looked different--we all did. There was the extra forty pounds around Rick's belly, the gray hair at his temples, the glasses. And of course there was the Rider astride his neck, asleep for the moment. Lonny was the only one in the room without one.

"Hey Lonny," Rick said, grabbing the robotic hand firmly and shaking it.

A Rider across the room kicked its knobby purple heels on its human's shoulders, it's flat head turning to one side to glance at Lonny. "Prepare food!" it demanded. Its human--Nadine Turanski, of whom I knew nothing except that she had allegedly once eaten a live cricket at lunch--hesitated, her eyes still fixed on Lonny. The Rider, impatient, jabbed her with its control glove, sending electricity arcing through and around her. She screeched; we looked away; she stumbled toward the Rider food facilities.

Rick hadn't let go of Lonny's hand. "You don't have a Rider."

Lonny dipped his head, flushing. "It happened when I was traveling back in time. It's a long story." He tried to pull his hand out of Rick's. Rick held on tight.

"So it's not just a rumor--you really did bring these goddamned Riders down on us!" Rick said.

"Human! Disrespect!" Rick's Rider said, and jabbed him briefly, sending the shock through both him and Lonny. Rick bore the shock, then abruptly jerked Lonny to the ground and began to kick him. There was a roar, and some people shrieked, and at least a dozen guys and a few women ran up to help kick the crap out of Lonny Orris. Their Riders shocked them, but through screeches of pain most of them kept kicking.

They couldn't kick long with the shocks, though, and Lonny was still conscious when they had to fall back, exhausted and smelling faintly burned, their Riders scolding them like snippy schoolmarms.

"You sons of bitches," he said. "Why do you think I did it in the first place? You think you're so smart. This time it'll be even worse!" Then he vanished.

"It was worth it. Goddamn Riders," Rick said. He braced for the shock, but none came: the Riders were gone.

The sky suddenly seemed to darken, and there was a disturbing buzzing noise that grew from one moment to the next. Swarms of insects began to descend from the sky like little tornadoes.

We scattered, leaving the restaurant. The next day, on the Internet, people were planning dark things for Lonny Orris for the 25th.

Post a comment