Prose Header


by Ásgrímur Hartmannsson

Chapter 6
'Error' synopsis

One day, Jonas, who has recently migrated to the city, discovers that all his records — including his assets — have been erased somehow. No longer able to get work, buy anything on credit or sell his now legally non-existent car, his life becomes a unique adventure.

Frank drove the car ten or so kilometres out of the city, then turned down to a gravel road which lead to some place where Jonas had not been before. He drove for a while, but stopped after a couple of minutes and Rick and Eddy went out to get something.

“So, what are they getting?” asked Jonas.

“Just something you have to deliver for us,” Frank answered. “Nothing you need to worry about.”

Jonas was silent. If he was to walk around with something, he thought, would he not need at least to worry about losing it? Especially since he would be getting paid to deliver it, and failure to deliver would mean no payment? But as it seemed, the cargo might just be something rather dubious, so perhaps Frank meant that the less Jonas knew about it, the less he needed to worry.

Jonas hoped it wasn’t anthrax.

In ten minutes the guys appeared again. They opened the doors and got into the car. Eddy had a large, wet, boxy bag with him.

“Let’s open it up,” said Frank, and brought forth his knife.

They cut open the bag and found that it contained several smaller yet similarly shaped bags. They investigated one bag at random, cutting it up and poking it with the knife. Jonas did not see everything that went on, but some cutting, smelling, rubbing and taping back was involved.

By the way that Frank and Eddy handled the bags it did not seem they worried about its being anthrax, and Jonas calmed down a notch.

After putting the little bags away in a different bag they had brought with them for the purpose, a bag marked with the logo of a cheap convenience store, they handed the bag to Rick, and he put it on the floor between his feet.

Then Frank turned the engine on again and backed up. He turned the car around and went back the way they had come, heading back to the city.

“Where is your car?” asked Frank. Jonas told him where he had parked his car. Frank drove him there, and on the way he explained everything to Jonas.

Jonas would take the big bag and drive around town and deliver to ten individuals one of the little bags inside the big one. He was to deliver them to no one else. If someone else wanted to take the bag, he was instructed not to make the delivery but to leave and call Frank, Eddy, or Rick. Frank gave Jonas a phone for this purpose, with all the relevant numbers in the memory.

Frank listed the ten people to whom Jonas had to deliver the bags. Each of them had already paid for the delivery; Jonas need not worry about handling any money. However, the list was very long, because it came with more than one address for some people and a vague meeting place for others. He had to write it all down.

Luckily, Eddy had a notepad with him. It was unused, but it had clearly been in his pocket for quite some time. Jonas had three pages of information. It could easily have been more.

Finally they arrived at the place where Jonas had parked his car. They let Jonas out, and Frank gave him 10K up front.

“The rest when I hear from everyone, OK?” he said to Jonas when he handed him the money.

Jonas nodded. He had a week to deliver. He figured it would be best to start tomorrow. He had to go home to sleep now and hopefully wake up in time before the Bureau of Personal Information Protection closed for the day. He was not about to give up with them. He would nag them until they gave him his identity back. He could not spend the rest of his life working for shady people who stay up all night and sleep all day.

Frank and the guys drove away, and were out of sight when Jonas got to his car. Jonas unlocked his car by inserting the key and turning. Somehow it felt good to him to do this; he didn’t quite trust the remote thingy that Mac had. And he liked to turn the key in the ignition to turn on the engine. Turning the car on from a distance had its space-age high-tech qualities and was damned impressive, but it did seem impersonal, somehow.

Jonas drove back home, listening to the radio. It was better at night. Fewer commercials, because who listens to the radio on a working day night? Who is even awake on a Monday night? Apart from artists and shadowy individuals in smoky pubs, that is... And they did not seem to listen to the radio much, Jonas thought.

Jonas would have loved to drive around just listening to the radio, but he was falling asleep. The last thing he needed right now was to have himself an accident. The worst would be to damage the car so much it would be undriveable. Without an identity on file, getting another car would be, well, illegal, even if he didn’t steal one.

Jonas did not much desire to impose further on his friend Mac by borrowing a car from him. Or maybe Mac had only one car? In that case he could hardly lend Jonas a car, even if he wanted to.

Jonas parked his car, locked it, and brought the mysterious bag with him into his apartment. There were many dubious persons on the prowl in the neighbourhood. Well, actually just five or six, but they were very criminally active and did not stay arrested nearly long enough.

Jonas did not trust that his bag would be in his car in the morning, with those people about. He felt he was lucky that his radio had not been stolen yet. But he often thought, correctly, that the main reason that the radio was still intact and in the car was that it was the cheapest kind. There did not seem to be a big market in the gangster world for old and cheap car radios.

Hell, the thing was so old it could play tapes. No car radio had that feature anymore; it had gone the way of the dinosaurs more than five years ago. Jonas’ device was probably one of the last in existence.

When Jonas came to his apartment, he stuffed the bag under his bed and had a small bite to eat before going to sleep under warm covers. Sleep came easy. He had been awake since early in the morning. His eyelids had been aching to close for the last four hours.

Sweet oblivion of sleep.

Jonas dreamt he was being chased by a pack of wolves. He had been walking around in a shadowy woodland, total silence all around, just the moon shining its light down on the forest floor.

He did not see the wolves, he just felt their presence. How did he know they were wolves? He was not sure. It is one of these things that happen only in dreams. Jonas moved through the forest a bit faster as he became aware of the wolves behind him, and all around.

As Jonas moved faster, so did the wolves, but they did not become visible. Jonas began running, but he still did not see or hear the wolves. He just knew they were there, behind him, eagerly waiting to tear him up with their jaws.

Shadows in the forest began to move. Wolf-shaped ones? Jonas was not sure. But they were moving with him, nearing him as he ran.

They were gaining on him perceptibly, and he was about to get a clear look at one of them, when consciousness crept up on him and he woke up.

Jonas struggled to get back to sleep, because he wanted to see the wolf that had been chasing him through the dream-world. But it did not happen. He was unable to conjure up again the vision of the moonlit forest filled with hungry wolves.

Jonas thought about the dream while he boiled his breakfast. He had never seen an actual wolf. He had seen some on TV, mainly in cartoons but also on David Attenborough’s nature shows.

A wolf is a peaceful creature, it seemed to Jonas. They do not eat you unless they are hungry, he thought. And they do not bite unless provoked. That was at least what all the nature shows told. There was also the expression: “brought up by wolves.” A man could not be brought up by wolves if they had eaten him first. At the least that sounded logical.

Wolves cared for their weak. Jonas saw that on an Attenborough program. A wolf that broke his leg would be fed, just like any other member of the pack. Any other type of animal would just leave him to die alone. Wolves are a bit socialistic that way. But wolves did not need to rely on the state for identity.

Jonas looked out the window. The sun had come up.

Yep. It was that time again: time to speak with the Bureau of Personal Information Protection. Jonas knew the way there now. And he had a strategy. He would demand that his mother be called upon to verify his existence. Maybe he would summon some of his old friends from back home, while he was at it. If the guards chased him again, he would just come back in an hour. Maybe there would be someone else at the desk then.

Jonas pondered how many would work for the Bureau of Personal Information Protection. He guessed there must be many, judging by the size of the building. But then, it had been a conglomerate of a few nameless governmental agencies before. And every time two government organizations come together for reasons of efficiency, the sum total of their manpower increases, and the operating expenses increase more than the added manpower would cause one to think they would.

No use in thinking about it. It was just something Jonas had to do.

Then, in the night, he would deliver little packets to strange people. If he got his identity back, maybe he would continue doing that, just for the extra cash. God knew he paid too much of his money to the taxman.

People who say money doesn’t buy happiness do not know what they are talking about. Or they are bitter because they are broke.

Jonas sat down with his porridge and ate. He felt as hungry as a wolf.

To be continued...

Copyright © 2010 by Ásgrímur Hartmannsson

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