The Shockwave Rider by John Brunner

On the floor?

He fought himself, and failed to win; he lay sprawled, his legs apart, his mouth dry, his skull ringing like a bell that tolls nine tailors, his guts churning, his fingers clenched and his toes attempting to imitate them. The room swam, the world floated off its mooring, everything EVERYTHING dissolved into mist and he was aware of one sole fact: Got to get up and go.

Weak-limbed, sour-bellied, half-blind with terror he could no longer resist, he stumbled out of his apartment (Mine? No! Their apartment!) and headed for his rendezvous in hell.

THE CONVICTION OF HIS COURAGE After pressing the appropriate switches Freeman waited patiently for his subject to revert from regressed to present-time mode. Eventually he said, “It seems that experience remains peculiarly painful. We shall have to work through it again tomorrow.” The answer came in a weak voice, but strong enough to convey venomous hatred.

“You devil! Who gave you the right to torture me like this?”

“You did.”

“So I committed what you call a crime! But I was never put on trial, never convicted!”

“You’re not entitled to a trial.”

“Anybody’s entitled to a trial, damn you!”

“That is absolutely true. But you see you are not anybody. You are nobody. And you chose to be so of your own free will. Legally—officially—you simply don’t exist.”


SHALLOW MAN IN ALL HIS GORY WAS NOT DISMAYED BY ONE OF THESE Take no thought for the morrow; that’s your privilege. But don’t complain if when it gets here you’re off guard.

ARARAT With a distant… Too weak a word. With a remote part of his mind he was able to observe himself doing all the wrong things: heading in a direction he hadn’t chosen, and running when he should and could have used his company electric car, in sum making a complete fool of himself.

In principle he had made the correct decisions. He would turn up for his appointment with the interview board, he would outface the visitor from Tarnover, he would win the argument because you don’t, simply don’t, haul into custody someone who is being offered permanent employment by a corporation as powerful as G2S. Not without generating a continental stink. And if there’s one thing they’re afraid of at Tarnover, it’s having the media penetrate their guise of feigned subimportance.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions. His were fine. They simply had no effect on his behavior.

“Yes, who is it?” In a curt voice from the speaker under the veephone camera.

And then, almost in the same breath, “Sandy! Hey, you look sick, and I don’t mean that as a compliment! Come right on up!” Sound of antithief locks clicking to neutral.


He pondered the word with that strange detached portion of his awareness which was somehow isolated from his body at present, yet continued to function as though it were hung under a balloon trailed behind this fleshly carcass now ascending stairs not by legs alone but by arms clutching at the banister to stop from falling over. Legs race combines with arms race to make brain race and his brain was definitely racing. An invisible tight band had clamped on his head at the level of his temples. Pain made him giddy. He was double-focusing. When the door of Kate’s apt opened he saw two of it, two of her in a shabby red wrap-around robe and brown sandals… but that wasn’t so bad, because her face was eloquent of sympathy and worry and a double dose of that right now was to be welcomed. He was sweating rivers and imagined that he could have heard his feet squelching in his shoes but for the drumming of his heart, which also drowned out the question she shot at him.

Repeated louder, “I said, what the hell have you taken?” He hunted down his voice, an elusive rasp in the caverns of a throat which had dried like a creek bed in a bad summer all the way to his aching lungs.


“My God. In that case have you ever got it strong. Come quickly and lie down.” As swiftly and unreally as in a dream, with as much detachment as though he were viewing these events through the incurious eyes of old Bagheera, he witnessed himself being half-led, half-carried to a couch with a tan cover. In the Early Pleistocene he had sat on it to eat omelets and drink beer. It was a lovely sunny morning. He let his lids fall to exclude it, concentrated on making the best use of the air, which was tinted with a faint lemony fragrance.

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