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George mumbled a string of cursewords under his breath as he turned on his blinker and cautiously made his way through two lanes of traffic to the slender shoulder of I-95. Blue lights swirled in his rearview mirror. Twenty minutes outside of North Carolina and his day was already ruined.
The sound of rocks crunching beneath tires usually soothed George. It reminded him of rain on rooftops; a gentle auditory massage that left him relaxed and hopeful. He’d made many detours in his life just for the pleasure of that sound, but now it did nothing to lighten his mood.
George shifted into park and opened the packed glove compartment. He riffled through old receipts, fast-food wrappers, and his Academic Publishing Convention materials, until he located his registration. His stomach jolted and threatened to release the half-digested bagel he’d had for breakfast as his fingertips slipped over a hardened, brown banana peel that he’d left there who-knows-when. He had just retrieved his license from his wallet when he heard a tapping on his window.
“Hi Offic...Oh my god!” George yelped, unable to stop himself. Before him stood a four foot woman whose saggy skin and moles paled in comparison to the pink wetness of her missing upper lip. Gums and teeth showed huge beneath a narrow layer of wrinkled skin just below her nostrils.
“Lishensh and Regishration,” the cop said, her voice gravelly and wet.
“Absolutely officer.” George pulled his own lips back until it looked like a reasonable approximation of a smile. He swallowed hard and forced his eyes to lock with her impenetrable shades.
“Exshpired,” the cop said, handing his registration back.
“Sorry about that.” He flipped through a stack of forgotten napkins in his glove compartment until he found the current registration. George ignored a wave of nausea that twisted his stomach into knots. He took a deep breath as he mustered his strength. It took an act of will he did not think himself capable of to not stare at the woman’s mouth when he turned back to face her.
“What was the problem officer?” he asked as he handed her his crinkled registration.
“You were shpeeding.”
“Was I?” He glanced at his speedometer, hoping it could help his denial. He’d been passed twice in the last five minutes, once by a mini-van.
“Yesh, 82 in a 70.”
George blinked his baby blue eyes at her as if trying to clear them from sunspots. He had to clench his jaw to keep from saying, “But this is I-95.” Anything less than 90 wasn’t really considered speeding.
“Okay. Well, sorry about that,” he muttered instead. “Is this a warning type of situation?”
The cop turned her head slightly and spoke into the walkie talkie attached to her shoulder. “Dishpatch, we’re gonna need a tow at mile marker 23. Copy.”
“Copy that. Tag and bag on the way,” the tinny voice squawked from her shoulder.
George held up his hands in protest. “Whoa. Tow truck? My car’s fine.”
“Shtep out of the vehicle, shir.”
“But I have no priors, no speeding tickets, no parking tickets even. I pay my taxes early every year.”
“I’m gonna need you to shtep out of the vehicle shir. Pleash do not make me ushe forsh.”
George undid his seatbelt, hoping he wouldn’t be late for the convention.
He walked back to the cop car, asking for an explanation on the way.
“Shtand with your handsh on the hood, pleash.”
“Shir, handsh on the hood.”
“But I haven’t done anything...”
The cop didn’t wait for him to finish. She grabbed him and slammed him onto the hood, his head bouncing off the shiny blue metal before coming to rest at an odd angle.
Even dazed, George was amazed by the strength of the ancient officer. He flinched as she cinched cold metal cuffs around his wrists.
“You can’t do this!” he screamed.
“Shir, I shuggesht you shut up.”
“Are you reading me my rights now?” he asked as she pulled him off the hood.
“Shir, thish ish Greeneville. You have no rightsh.”
She shoved him into the back of the car and started the motor. “At leasht you’re here at the right time of year. Winter’sh hell.”
The officer pressed the gas pedal and pulled into traffic, cutting off a tractor trailer.
“Where are we going?”
“Shentenshing. Now shut up.”
They pulled off at an exit with a faded green sign for Greeneville. George tried to open the backdoor but it was locked shut. He searched his pants for his phone, but then he remembered he’d left it in his car.
He stared out the window as they wound their way through tree lined streets, stopping finally at a large white building with a marble sign that proclaimed it to be the Greeneville Courthouse.
George was still reeling in confusion when the cop, much stronger than her ancient appearance implied, dragged him into the courtroom.
“Well now, traffic case is it?” the Honorable Henry J. Long said from behind the bench, jowls shaking as he spoke.
“I think there’s been a mistake your honor,” George said. “I was only going twelve miles over the speed limit. I’m on my way to a conference in DC. Just passing through. Surely I can pay a fine.”
“Six months mandatory citizenship,” the Judge said pounding his gavel.
George stood, his face grown flush with anger. He wanted to throw something at the judge but nothing was handy, and his hands were firmly cuffed. “What? Six months? Six months of what?” he asked the cop, the bailiff, the judge and everyone else in the room.
A young man at the table opposite stood up and cleared his throat. He ran a shaky hand through his loose, black curls. “Umm, Your Honor...” His voice faltered as he picked up a piece of paper, dropped it, then picked it up again. The man’s eyes did not leave the paper as he spoke, delivering the address in fits and starts. “Your honor, I’d like to throw my client on the mercy of the court and the mercy of our benevolent dictator. This young man is new to our town and unaware of our ways. It’s clear he meant no harm.” At the end of his speech, the man looked up, his smile almost bright enough to cast away the shadows under his eyes. Almost.
The judge’s cheeks wobbled as he thrust a finger at the man. “This court shows no mercy as you very well know Quint. Not another word out of you or I’ll hold you in contempt.”
The man folded his skinny frame into his tiny, wooden chair and averted his eyes from both the judge and George.
“Our benevolent what?” George asked.
“Thish way,” the cop said. “Prosheshing.”
Jasmine Chow: As I read this story, I was reminded some what of Terry Pratchett, especially some descriptions of politics and economics. The sci-fic setting is quite intriguing. Writing style is quite lovely and grew on me slowly. I was also slightly reminded of Mark Twain, especially his book A Connecticut Ya...
mohit tiwari: Best scifi stuff I have ever gone through. Great way of story telling and a great story indeed. I really loved the way the author framed the time travel topic and made it seem so much real. Best part of this novel for me is the way by which the author builds up suspense by narrating different inc...
NancyRichFoster: This second book of the Anmah Series was as awesome as the first story, I disagree with spare runner. The names were ordinary names with different spellings, which I for one loved. I am now going to read the third book in this amazingly awesome story!
Diana Chernenko: I liked this book. Even if the idea of book isn't so new. "girl that should save the world with her super powers." sometimes I thought that she is too overpowered, and I was sometimes really annoyed by her, and felt sorry for her friends and Derek. Moreover I didn't like first chapters when the...
Lauren Kabanyana: It's simply amazing, the story is touching and has you captivated while reading! I loved it! Would read it over and over again. I applaud the way this book was able to evoke a mixture of feelings. I felt everything the two main characters felt from the start to end, i would recommend this novel t...
Kevin Brand: My overall rating: 4.8/5 starsLoved. Every. Second. Everytime I came back to continue reading I got this overwhelming feeling of getting hooked on the first sentence... Over and over and again!The only things that were missing for me include more descriptions on what happens when Reuben touches s...
bloodrosemaiden: I love this book!! I have read it several times and though there could be improvements I applaud the author. I know positive feed back is appreciated!! I enjoy reading about the learning the different character's backstories, and the affects in the overall story!
ArgyrisMetaxas: Thrilling story which builds layer ontop of layer. A few mis spellings every few chapters.What I found special was that it took a modern day problem and took it to its logical conclusion and plays this realism with gritting precision. I'm always on edge ready to shout from adrenaline. This is gre...