Mercy Street
Ridley McIntyre

Technology advances faster than our laws or common morality. Clever as we are, can we support the human costs of our ingenuity?

This street is hollow. A tube full of nothing. Empty. Lonely. Like a star. Neon so bright and shiny that it dazzles in the sunlight. Concrete sparkling diamonds across my eyes. Stars in the sunlight.

Sees other stars and believes in friends. Lies. There are no friends. No enemies. No souls. The sky is full of holes. Hollow holes like this street.

Hollow boy he cries. Shedding water as if a skin. Sheds until his eyes burn and he's a ball, wracked with pain. Pain inside. Wearing a grief mask, or some pale reflection. There he stays. Lost in a maze. A wilderness of empty soul. Every twist and turn a dead end of the mind. A riddle that doesn't matter. Never makes sense.

"Understand me. Do you understand?"

Despite the one way connection I have with him, I have to shake my head.

"Then learn."

There's a camera-eye view of the world. Looking through a kaleidoscope. Fish-eye technicolor tunnel-vision of this street. The car is sleek. A joy rider. Young boy full of old ideals. Gonna join Metropol, this kid. Gonna be somebody.

He's too small. His feet barely reach the pedals and he can't see where the hood ends and the nightlights begin. Company car. His friends laughing and screwing around in the back.

"Faster, man! Push it to the floor." They goad him and he smiles. Two feet on the accelerator pedal, he closes his eyes. Senses the danger. The wall races to the car and the car is still. The hood crushes. His face smashed against the steering wheel. The crash bag inflates above his head. The engine burns. He can hear his friends screaming as they go over him. Through the glass. Out into space. Then he hears no more.

Lost in what he was, memory falls on him from on high. Raw bile history burns his throat. Burn in red flames, friends. So-called friends that never were. Just like they burned him. Just like the nearest star burns his skin. Hardens him. Turns him to ash. He crumbles before its gaze. Nothing but a void of chrome and electronics. A brain lost to technology. And there he stands, a living corpse shell of a boy. Sweet smile, spike hair, baby eyes no more. The past has burned the chaff away.

Now something inside him has died. The part that washed against the shores of life but could only grab sand, torn away. Rip tide. World now an empty space. A world without feelings. Nothing but fast strong currents leading to deep-water holes. Hollow holes like this street.

"You really don't give a shit, do you?" Dirt runs down his face in thin lines. Greasy smears across his silver skin. "You really don't care who I am."

I'm silent. Utterly silent.

He never really wakes up. Not in the physical sense. They switch his eyes on and he can see. They don't let him have a mirror. They don't let him touch himself. Through digital hearing he listens to the doctors. Full prosthetic rehabilitation. A technological marvel.

Don't want it. Want to be dead. Want to be anything but this.

The doctors reassure him. They tell him that he'll get used to it. That the bad feelings and the nightmares will pass. Others have and so will he. Sterile tasteless hands show him off to students. Look at what we made. Once a dead boy, now a living machine. No one cares. No one there wants him to be alive. They just want to look. Look at what we made.

Once a whole person. A young boy with old ideals. Now hollow. Like this street.

This street is salt. Transforming. Tears raining down across the concrete. Like blood. Like a red storm -- purifies. Constantly changing. Warping in and out in a continuous heat haze. Evaporates into nothing. And the salt trails behind. A bug swarm on the tail of a scirocco wind. Leaving behind only the sound of crying. Echoes in the darkness. Empty voices. Lonely. Like a lost boy.

Sees other boys. Ghosts of memory. Across the street. The street is full of them. Consumed by them. They are everything. And he believes in friends. Convinces himself. They're real. They're all real. And so am I.

"I care." I take his link from my head and my dreams are my own again.

Kiss him and he tastes of mercy. Rain salt mercy washing me clean. Dry. Soul desert kiss. But warm lips. Warm steel lips and I close my eyes to him. Warm him. Warn him. Convince him.

You're not so alone.

Ridley McIntyre ( was born in London, but now lives in New Jersey with his fiancée. He has been writing SF since the age of 8, but took a brief hiatus in 1997 while exploring the potential of growing up. He plans to do this with grace, having many tales to tell other people's grandchildren.

InterText stories written by Ridley McIntyre: "Boy" (v2n2), "Seven" (v2n6), "Mercy Street" (v3n3), "Nails of Rust" (v3n4), "Monkeytrick" (v4n4), "Ghostdancer" (v5n5), "Life Without Buildings" (v8n4).

InterText Copyright © 1991-1999 Jason Snell. This story may only be distributed as part of the collected whole of Volume 3, Number 3 of InterText. This story Copyright © 1993 Ridley McIntyre.