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01.09.02


  Viper Wire by Richard Kadrey
 

What Goes Around

Heather didn't want to go to day care. She didn't want to move to this new town; she didn't want to leave all her friends behind; she didn't want her mommy and daddy to make her promise not to tell her special secrets. But all these things had come to pass, so, Heather sat alone by the Tinker Toys at the Enchanted Peach Tree Kids' Center.

Heather was angry as she jammed the green dowels into holes along the edge of the Tinker Toy wheel. She was still angry when she added an axle and a base, making sure the growing toy tower was always in balance. Though a child, Heather knew secrets. Secrets her parents didn't like her telling. Sometimes, Heather would show her secrets without saying a word. Mostly when she was angry.

Heather worked all through nap time and juice time. She didn't join in when the kids sang camping songs, even on the B-I-N-G-O part, which was her favorite. It was dark when Heather stopped working. She was sweaty and trembling a little.

The little girl looked up when she realized that the other children were staring at her Tinker Toy tower, almost as tall as the room. Mrs. Myers, their teacher, was staring, too. But Heather was still angry. She put her hand on the tower and pushed it. With a pleasant wooden clack, the tower spun. All the children laughed and even Mrs. Myers seemed pleased. Everyone was happy except for Heather's mommy, who had just come in. Her eyes widened at the sight of the tower.

Mommy grabbed Heather's hand and began to lead the child out of the classroom. Heather said, "What's it called, mommy?"

Heather's mommy turned to Mrs. Myers. "I'm sorry. We won't be coming back tomorrow."

"Tell her the name, mommy. I can't say it."

Heather's mommy looked at her daughter sadly. "No, dear. There's no such thing as perpetual motion." She took Mrs. Myers' hand. "I'm very sorry." The mother scooped her daughter into her arms and hurried away.

Mrs. Myers looked back at the toy tower. It had been spinning now for some ten minutes and showed no signs of slowing down. In fact, it might have been spinning a little faster. Mrs. Myers put her hand out to slow the thing, but a protruding rod caught her palm and tore the skin. Surprised, Mrs. Myers pushed a Lincoln Log into the outer spinning latticework, knocking off a small section of dowels and wooden hubs.

The toy tower wobbled, off balance, and began to spin quickly, erratically. One of the children screamed. A dark finger of smoke rose from the top of the wobbling tower. "Everyone go to the parking lot and wait there!" shouted Mrs. Myers. As the kids filed out, the teacher grabbed a large wooden chair, one of the ones reserved for visiting parents, and threw it at the tower with all her strength. The chair stuck in the missing section of latticework, but was ground up by the Tinker Toy gears at the heart of the tower. Smoke was filling the classroom. Mrs. Myers crawled to the hall and joined the children in the parking lot.

The fire at the Enchanted Peach Tree Kids' Center went to four alarms before the fire department could get it under control. Even after the roof collapsed, a tall, charred structure stood in the middle of the wreckage, turning slowly on a blackened central axle. Mrs. Myers took an axe off one of the fire trucks and chopped the thing to pieces to make it stop. Later that night, when she called Heather's house, the phone had been disconnected. The family had left no forwarding address.

 

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Richard Kadrey is a member of a small group of innovative writers, includng William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, John Shirley, Pat Cadigan, Tom Maddox, and others, who changed the face of science fiction in the 1980s. He also creates art. He lives in San Francisco.

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