The car bumped over the motel’s pitted parking lot and pulled into a rusting docking station. After some negotiation, the word “Charging” began scrolling in red letters across the auto’s windshield.
The car was dreaming it was still parked in its garage 736 miles to the north. The motel’s AI didn’t quibble with the car’s delusions, didn’t even try to wake it up. It often pretended it was somewhere else, too.
The driver’s door lifted, and a man with a plastic shopping bag got out. He jogged around to the passenger side to keep the broken gullwing door there from slamming down like a guillotine on the woman who emerged.
She rubbed the small of her back as she stood. “Will it be okay?”
“For tonight,” he said. “We’ll get something else tomorrow.”
The motel’s entrance rattled open as they approached and scraped shut behind them. Stinking air from the outside spun into the machine-clean interior, recreating, for a single breath, the taste of the 20th century. The air filters whispered the flavor away.
The desk clerk eyed the pair. They were youngish and pretty, or at least pretty enough. “Help you folks?”
“A single,” the man said. “Just for the night.”
The clerk sucked his teeth and checked his inventory on screen. “I think we can set you up.” He inspected the couple again. They were fit, or at least not fat. He turned back to the screen. “The honeymoon suite is open.” He licked his lips. “I could cut you a deal.”
The clerk risked another peek at the pair. The man looked like he’d know about such things, but he wasn’t sure about the lady.
The man rubbed the back of his neck and looked sidelong at the woman. “You game?” he said. “You’re supposed to be the creative one.”
The woman shrugged.
The man squeezed out a grin for the clerk. “Sounds like a deal.”
They shared the elevator with a nuclear family. The lift wheezed up six floors before coughing them all out into the hallway. Doors followed doors in either direction. The man counted down to 613 and shoved the plastic card in the lock. The door clunked open, and the overhead light beyond fluttered on.
“You want to shower first?” he said.
She shook her head. “I’ll do it later.”
The man set the bag inside the closet and closed the door. “Let me brush my teeth.”
The woman studied a diagram mounted on the wall. The exits and fire extinguisher were clearly marked there, among other things. She traced lines on the diagram with her finger and compared it to the story growing in her mind.
The man came out of the bathroom. “There’s another toothbrush in there.”
“You worked it out?”
“Fast or slow?”
“Medium,” she said. “I’m tired.” She checked her watch. “Kiss me now.”
He grabbed her shoulders and kissed her. She was glad he’d brushed his teeth.
She let him undress her and made a playful lunge to undo his pants. He sat on the bed while she pulled off his boots.
She leaned in close, her hair brushing his chest, and breathed soft sounds into his ear. “Stand up and move me to the right.”
He stood and buried his face in the left of her neck, tasting salt. She ran her nails over his back, feeling old scars and crossing the boundaries of crude tattoos. He pulled her to his chest. Her breasts flattened against his skin, and he swung her to the right.
She licked her way down his body, hands sliding down his chest, over his hips and down the backs of his thighs. She took his penis into her mouth and checked her position against the plan in her head. She felt his hands in her hair — rough, but not demanding. Reluctantly, she was grateful again. She used her teeth, and he groaned toward the ceiling.
He took her hand and pulled her to her feet. He kissed her again as he slid his hand down her stomach and between her legs.
“On the bed,” she whispered. “Make it look good.”
She pushed him backward onto the mattress and straddled his hips. She rocked gently and remembered to moan as he cupped her breasts and drew tight circles around her nipples with his thumbs.
She let him turn her onto her back and ran her fingers over his close-cropped hair as he kissed and nibbled down to her crotch. Then she rolled him back over and rode his face.
He trusted her instincts. She knew what would work. He licked and let her use him.
The orgasm surprised her. The last twenty-four hours had made her anxious and tense, and the tiny release was a relief. She’d only had to exaggerate, not fake it entirely.
She rose up, and he slid out from under her like a mechanic. He rose to his knees to kiss her shoulder. She met his ear with her lips. “From the back,” she whispered.
The woman lowered her hands to the floral bedspread and swayed on hands and knees as he stroked her back and the sides of her breasts. His hands moved to her hips, and she grunted as he pushed into her. His right hand found her hair and tugged, showing her face to the eyes in the headboard. She bit her lip and closed her eyes to pant. Her breasts swung as he thrust and thrust and thrust, then swayed to stillness as he stiffened with a moan. He toppled, taking her with him to lie on the bed.
They breathed hard together but out of sync.
“Was it any good?” he said.
“We’ll know in the morning. Give it another three minutes, then I’ll get up and take a shower.”
They checked out early. The desk clerk was still on duty. He grinned when he saw them and pointed at his screen. “We’ve been getting about a thousand hits on the site every hour. Not a record but not bad.”
“All her.” The man pointed at the woman with his thumb.
“Sure,” the clerk said. “You signed the release when you came in, but I’m supposed to remind you the recording is motel property.”
“Got it,” the man said. “What’s our cut?”
The clerk clicked his mouse. “$500 in cash and three nights at any of our franchises in the continental U.S.”
The clerk handed over the cash and room voucher. He watched the couple leave with the shopping bag, then reached into his pants with one hand and clicked “play” with the other. It had been a long shift.
The man unlocked the car and opened the woman’s door for her. He dropped into the seat beside her and twisted two wires together to wake the engine. He set the shopping bag on the seat between them and let his hand linger on the shape of the sleeping TeraDrive within.
“Is it enough?” she said.
He shrugged. “It’ll get the three of us to Mexico.”
Fiction writer R.W. W. Greene lives in New Hampshire, USA with wife Brenda, their son Devin, and two cats. He teaches high school creative writing and journalism and tries to stay at least two steps ahead of his students at all times. Greene grew up with a head full of Robert Heinlein. Stephen King, and Isaac Asimov and has since built up that brain mélange with William Gibson, Richard K. Morgan, Cory Doctorow, Joe Hill, and Margaret Atwood, among others. Greene serves on the board of the New Hampshire Writers Project and blogs about writing, teaching, and the twenty-first century at RWWGreene.com. He Tweets about all of the above @rwwgreene.