Needle Stacker

South Tycho City, The Quads Market, Sooth Shaker (Needle Stacker Doctrine)

I look into other people’s futures…

The kid drops a copper coin into the tin cup in front of me. I take a deep breath and stand up slowly. Something cracks in my knee. The kid is grinning. All cocky and confident. I stare into his eyes briefly before kneeling in front of him and placing the first needle, point down, onto the dusty concrete. I gather the second needle and move it into position before closing my eyes.

I focus.

The treacherous thought is there. Same as it always is. I wince.

I remember the heat and the way the armoured truck bounced from side to side along the road. Murtagh is talking with his mouth full from the seat on my right.

I remember the white flash. The crunch. The way the truck stops dead before tipping forward. A moment of weightlessness before the second crunch as the roof crashes into the road. The roll cage buckling under the strain. More weightlessness. Murtagh’s sandwich floats calmy in front of me. Such a weird detail to remember. Cheese, I think. Then, the final crunch as the wreckage of our transport lands back on its wheels. No one is moving up front. Murtagh says something, but I can never hear what it is.


The air is filled with a red mist.


My sense of taste is the first thing to register that it’s blood in the air. Murtagh slumps against my shoulder.


 I snap out of it. My mind returns to the kid in front of me. I open my eyes and note that I’m ready to place the fourth needle. The other three balance perfectly. Still. Despite the air and the bustle of the market.

I stack the fourth needle and reach for the fifth. I don’t know why. Nobody ever gets to five needles anymore. Right on cue the stack topples into a pile on the concrete. The kid almost jumps. I stare at him momentarily before returning my attention to the pattern of collapsed needles.

I scratch my chin and tilt my head. Theatrically, as I make a show interpreting the result.

I look back to the kid and tell him he will benefit from betting on red and avoiding blue for the fight next month. It’s getting difficult to make up something new every reading. How are you supposed to tell everyone, that all they can look forward to is the drudgery of everyday life?

Give them a show. Give them some bullshit. Never tell them anything bad.

The kid snorts and moves off. I watch him cross the street before he is obscured from my view by a blue delivery van. Very similar in fact, to the one I’ve just seen will hit him in a couple of weeks when he’s crossing the road. All cocky and confident.

I look into other people’s futures. Because looking into my own past is too horrific.