The Fold

I occasionally write something other than horror or fantasy, and when I do, it’s usually science fiction. “The Fold” is an example. Fans of hard SF will be disappointed as the science is more or less gobbledygook, but science isn’t really the focus. This story originally appeared in the Irish magazine Albedo One back in the fall of 2001.

Warning: This is a long one.

Parke got hung up at the Gate, as he did every morning when he left the Fold to go to his job at the Astoria II. He was already late, so of course the lines were especially long and virtually immobile. After ten minutes of standing in one place, Parke grew impatient. He stood on tiptoe and tried to look ahead, but he was too short and too far back to see all the way to the scanners. He did notice armed agents of the Governor, though, dozens of them, standing against the walls of the corridor like well-armed mannequins. Guards at the gate was not noteworthy, but they weren’t usually present in such numbers.

Parke leaned forward and tapped the shoulder of the man ahead of him. “Do you know what happened?” he said.

No response.

Rebuffed, Parke settled back to wait in silence, but then a woman behind him said: “I heard it was the Foldies.” He looked at her over his shoulder. She was small and blonde, dressed in a blue and white uniform, like Bo Peep from the old story. Her hair was tied back with a tattered red ribbon. “One of them went through with a plastic bomb set to go off when it got sniffed, and—”

She broke off as one of the Governor’s soldiers came up beside them. “There was an electrical malfunction in one of the scanners,” he said. “Rumor-mongering will not be tolerated. Desist immediately.” The guard backed off, but stayed within easy listening range.

Electrical malfunction? Not likely, Parke thought. He would believe ten rumors before he’d believe one official statement. Especially rumors about the Foldies, who could always be trusted to hit the Governor where it hurt innocent people like him. They just didn’t understand that no matter how much damage they did—no matter how bad they made things in the Fold—the Governor would just carry out his reprisals and rebuild what they’d destroyed, and life for the survivors would go on as it always had.

He finally reached the red line on the floor that marked the beginning of the run to the sniffers, three parallel archways that you had to pass through to continue along the corridor. They were separated by perpendicular plastic barriers that divided the hallway into thirds. The middle aisle was cordoned off with charge tape that hummed and crackled unpleasantly; the scanner beyond was a bent and twisted mess of dangling wires and severed tubes hanging down to a cracked and blackened floor.

Electrical problem. Of course.
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