"Vision of Heaven"
by Rowan Wilson
Exiting at the 119 mile marker, Hwy. 60 West, the driver of the white Mustang turned right at the stop sign in downtown Lodi. When he reached the free car-ferry, it had just dropped the number one ramp and he drove aboard. The only vehicle for this trip through the pre-morning darkness.
Following Hwy. 113 North, he then motored through Devil’s Lake State Park and up the steep, winding exit road. At the three-way corner where Hwy. 113 met Broadway and South, he pulled into the Standard station. The Baraboo phone book was housed inside a black, protective binder anchored by a steel cable. The phone book showed four Connor listings.
Future records for the pre-war years were fragmentary, and the names of Sarah Connor’s parents weren’t something that had survived. Only by cross-referencing newspaper articles had Skynet determined that she’d grown up in Baraboo until age twelve. Where the family moved from there wasn’t known. Sarah didn’t show up again in the public records until she was twenty-two and living in Los Angeles.
A sixtieth of a second was required to determine that his data banks did not have a conversion table for rural route box numbers to physical addresses. Knowing that Craig L. Conner lived at Rural Route 2, Box 23, got him no closer to locating Craig. He would have to wait until the Post Office opened.
“Here’s a map showing the rural box numbers and their physical addresses. The address is listed as a location on a grid,” the plump, middle-aged woman in the USPS shirt said. “It’s on Man Mound Rd., E41334. The ‘E’ means it’s east of this location.”
“Do you happen to know if Craig Conner has a daughter named Sarah?”
“No idea. And I’m sure I’m not allowed to tell you if I did know,” the woman said with a forced smile. “Is Craig a friend of yours?”
“No. We’re trying to do some business together, is all,” he said in a casual and measured voice.
Using the map from the Post Office he navigated up Broadway to 8th where he turned right. A left turn onto County Rd. ‘A’ led up a long hill where it met up with Man Mound Rd. The crushed-rock drive, fifty yards long, led back to a white clapboard farmhouse.
There was a screened porch attached to the front of the house. It sat slanted down to the right where time, gravity, and soggy ground had allowed the footing blocks to settle. A screen door leading from the porch into the house was ajar and the screens were half torn away. The wooden door with only about two-thirds of the white paint still on it was closed. He rapped four times.
“Whaddaya want?” said a male voice from inside. The voice rasped of abused vocal cords.
“I’m looking for Craig Conner. I’m from the Highway Commission. We’re going to be widening Man Mound Road, and we want to buy some of your property.”
The sound of slippers slapping an insubstantial floor heralded a screech of wood on linoleum. A man of perhaps forty, dressed in boxer shorts and a coffee-stained white tee shirt, looked up at T755 from behind a cigarette. He had a beer bottle in one hand and a Pop Tart in the other.
“How much land you wantin’? It won’t be cheap.”
“Before we continue, may I ask if you have a daughter named Sarah?”
Conner’s expression was a mixture of curiosity, greed, and confusion. T755 watched as the emotions made themselves plain.
“What? No. There’s no one named Sarah here. Never was. Now what about you wanting to buy my land? I ain’t giving it away. My family’s been on this–”
That was as far as Craig Conner got before the android assassin pulled the 9-millimeter pistol from under his shirt and shot Craig twice in the chest. Both bullets passed completely through and embedded themselves in the lathe-and-plaster wall, evidenced by the red stains that haloed them. Conner took a half-stumbling step back, the Pop Tart and the beer both falling to the floor. The bottle landed flat on its bottom and erupted in white foam before toppling over. Frothy beer ran across the uneven floor and mixed with the pool of blood that had already begun forming. The slimy, pink amalgam seeped between the cracks in the linoleum and dripped into the crawl space beneath.
Gerald Connor cursed aloud as the backhoe jumped around, sending the rest of the John Deere loader-tractor lurching in place. The whole tractor danced around as the outrigger feet resettled a full inch from where they’d been. No matter how delicately Gerald tried to maneuver the control stick, the boom would leap up or down, left or right, depending on the movement of the stick. Trying to dig a hole for the new septic tank and seep pipes with the backhoe behaving like he was sitting atop a very pissed off bronco was making for a bruising morning.
A couple of times he’d come within inches of smacking the backhoe bucket into the concrete silo on his left. Not that it would have hurt the bucket or the silo if he had, but it also wouldn’t have done either any good. Lunch couldn’t come soon enough today.
The movement in his peripheral vision brought his head up in time to see a white Mustang pulling up. Gerald turned his torso around and tapped at the horn button mounted into the dash panel. Whoever it was, Gerald didn’t have time to schmooze…he needed to get his work done.
The man that exited the car gave a small wave and began to walk his way. Gerald stopped working the controls and studied the man, noticing the unique, ever-so-slightly stilted gait and the man’s physical build: height, shoulder-width, hair color. Gerald motioned to the man to come around the trench on Gerald’s left rather than on the right where all the dirt was piling up.
Leaning forward and to his left, as if to talk out the open window, Gerald kept his right hand resting on the right control stick. At the point where the visitor was even with the backhoe boom, Gerald snapped the stick to the left. The boom arm leaped left and smashed into the visitor, sending him flying against the silo just three feet away.
Polyalloy bones don’t break easily but T755’s right shoulder socket, connecting with the steel turnbuckle of the silo’s compression ring, bent in and jammed against the ball, immobilizing the joint. His head bounced off the concrete stave, requiring a soft reboot. Precious seconds lost. Lower down on his torso, T755’s pelvis was trapped between the onrushing backhoe bucket and the concrete silo wall; with no give on either side, the polyalloy there bent as well. When the bucket bounced back at the end of its jolting swing, the killer android slumped to the narrow concrete apron.
Gerald Conner shoved forward on the same control stick and pushed the boom down and onto T755. Snapping the boom stick to the right sent the entire tractor off to the left three feet. As soon as the tractor settled back onto the outrigger feet, Gerald lifted the boom up and smashed it down again. Steel digging teeth leading the way, the bucket pounded against the android just about where the artificial navel had been constructed. Caught between the steel teeth, synthesized flesh tore away, exposing the polyalloy endoskeleton. Six more times Gerald lifted the bucket arm up and brought it down, smashing against T755. Each time he extended the boom arm slightly. Each time the bucket came crushing down a little higher up on the torso. More flesh tore away with each strike, exposing more of the not-human internal structure. Gray ribs made of not-bone showed where flesh and clothing were ripped by the teeth. The entire attack, leaving T755 broken, helpless, and harmless, lasted no more than twelve seconds.
On the sixth strike, there was an electrical discharge that rivaled the firing of Gerald’s 30.06. When he tried to lift the bucket one more time, the body of the stranger came with it. The electrical arc had fused some part of the polyalloy to the steel of the bucket. He put the bucket back down and applied down-pressure to pin the body to the apron.
Snapping the door lever open, he climbed out of the tractor’s cab and stepped down to the concrete. Gerald walked the long way around to get to the head of the man-like thing on the ground. Already there was red fluid running in a thin stream over the edge of the concrete apron and onto the grass below. The right arm, still attached, whereas the left was not, scratched feebly at the turf, trying to grab onto Gerald’s out-of-reach foot. The face, burned and with spatterings of something that looked somewhat like blood, tilted back and looked at him.
“Bring Sarah Connor to me,” T755 said in a voice that rasped of electrical static, “and I will let you live.”
Gerald didn’t respond to the thing restrained beneath the backhoe bucket. Turning away, convinced that the machine-thing was well-pinned, he walked around the silo and entered the house through the mud-room door. Beyond the open doorway separating the kitchen and the living room, framed against the morning sun, Sarah was perched in the bay window with an open book held up for reading. Next to her was a half-full glass of milk and a saucer with toast crumbs on it.
On the wall above the wall-mounted Princess phone, hastily scribbled with a ballpoint pen, and centered in a darker circle where cleaning rags had orbited it, was a number that very few people in the world had.
The phone rang once. “General Markham,” said a man’s voice.
“Gerald Connor, here. You were right, General. Another one showed up today. I have it disabled. It’s all yours, come and get it.” Then, gazing through to the living room to where Sarah sat in the bay window, he added, “…and I’ll take that relocation for us that you offered last time.”
John Markestad is a returning adult auditing the course. He is semi-retired, lives near Portage with his wife and best friend of 52 years, and has authored nine scifi novels.
Rowan Wilson, 17, Watertown, has been weighed down with long-haul COVID symptoms for the last year-plus whilst trying to keep up as a student, writer, artist and performer. The experience of chronic fatigue and chronic pain following COVID have informed Rowan's art in this past year.