Winner of 2017 Giller Prize

Winner of 2017 Giller Prize
Michael Redhill for his novel Bellevue Square

Sunday, November 11, 2007

DARWIN'S GAME. - FIRST CHAPTER, CYBERPUNK NOVEL by TED FRYIA

DARWIN'S GAME by TED FRYIA is a near-future (cyberpunk) novel taking place in Toronto, where 'cyberheads' are being killed and their brains plundered. With matrix-mating chips embedded throughout his brain and coaxial implants in his fingertips, a cybernaut by the name of Eugene Muck, is drawn into the mystery. Muck is led to his one-time mentor and a plan where the accelerated evolution of cyberspace threatens the existence of the physical world.
CHAPTER -- 1
Brick, darkened from the tired and toxic breath of the city, sucked up what little light slipped into the alley from Yonge Street. Rusted metal fire escapes looked down like spiders, contracted, ready to pounce while raindrops tapped-danced off Stella’s shoulders. Shadows slouched against walls and slid into puddles that drooled across the pebble laden asphalt. Iron gates stood guard in doorways, daring entrance.

Stella’s vinyl rain jacket flapped, unfastened. It gave her quick access to the grip of the antique Browning 12 gauge shotgun held inside by tear-away straps. The sawed-off barrel bounced off her left thigh and was responsible for the fist-sized bruise. She’d tried to carry it on the right side but found she couldn’t locate the grip to tear away and level it quickly enough.

She’d only discharged the weapon three times. The first, a warning shot to three would-be muggers in the stairwell of her apartment building. Another time she’d spread number three shot across the toes of a group of skinheads who wouldn’t let her pass. Most recently she’d been forced to unload into the belly of a dealer of cybertrash in an alley much like this one. When the dealer tried to cave the side of her head in with a metal bar, she halted his backswing with a blast from a single barrel.

“Psst – psst - hey’re you Stella?” A tall sillouette pushed a long shadow down the alley as it moved out from the wall.

Stella stopped, reached inside her coat and rested her hand on the grip of the Browning. “I am. You the one with the tracing virus? You Bobby Basic?”
“Yeah.”

“Got what we agreed on?”

Bobby Basic patted his side pocket. “Downloaded on this chip.”

“How do I know it’s authentic? Where’d you get it?”

“Never mind, where I got it. You’ll have to take my word that it’s authentic.”

“Why should I do that?” asked Stella.

“Because, distrust is no way to cultivate a business relationship. And while I’ve got nothin’ against vintaged women,”said Bobby, pointing limply to where Stella’s hand was hidden under her coat, “I’m having second thoughts about getting involved with a woman carrying loneliness in her eyes and buckshot in her hands.”

“How would you know what I have under here?”

“I make it my business to know my customers. And a middle aged woman totin’ an antique blaster doesn’t go unnoticed ‘round these streets.”

There was movement behind Bobby. It was subtle, fluid-like and it ducked into a doorway. “We were to meet alone,” Stella said.

Bobby’s voice was accusing. “That’s what I thought. Who’d you bring?”

Before Stella could answer, shadows moved from behind Bobby and converged on him like a sea of carbon coloured waves. Stella froze. She felt light-headed all of a sudden, her vision swirled then clouded. Her knees buckled and she was dumped onto the damp gravel-strewn asphalt as Bobby fell quietly among a pool of darkness.

Cold wet asphalt felt rough against her cheek. She struggled to her feet, not knowing how long she’d been out or what she’d find when she went to Bobby. He had collapsed with his knees folded under him, lying backwards over his heels, his pelvis thrust upwards.

She approached. Her soft-soled shoes kicked loose pieces of gravel into puddles, sending small ripples through reflected fragments of light. When she got to Bobby, she could see his hairline was no more. She thought it a trick at first; his skull had been cut and opened like the top of a can. It was empty! His body was intact, except for his flip-top head, no sign of a brain. But where was the blood?
A chill burrowed into her bones. She shivered, knowing she couldn’t be caught in this position with this dealer, in this place. Just being with this man, with the software he had, would be more than enough reason for local police or Intelligence International to haul her in. Trafficking in illegal software had been upgraded to a capital crime. And add in the lifeless, brainless body of Bobby Basic, and Percy might be waiting for her on their couch a long time.

Stella looked in both directions down the alley, reached down and checked Bobby’s pockets. She found the smuggle tube she’d come after. Pulling at the neck of her sweater Stella slipped it into her bra. Another quick look around. She pulled her coat tightly around herself and stepped over the gaping head of Bobby Basic, towards the end of the alley.

The meeting had been set up so that subway access was not far away. Only now did she realize how good a plan it was.


Ted Fryia went to school, worked and lived in Thunder Bay for a total of 11 years. His older son was born in Port Arthur General and he and his two sons were educated at Lakehead University. His younger son still lives in Thunder Bay.

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