“I’m a ghostbuster,” my uncle reveals in a hoarse whisper.
“Right,” I say, relieved that none of the other workshop participants can hear us. “How does that work, then?”
“You know, like, I see ghosts. And then I tell them to rack off.”
I roll my eyes.
“I’ll tell you to rack off in a minute if you’re not careful.”
The instructor gives us the usual drill about weapon safety and backing up your buddy. I look out the blurred plastic window of the Nissan hut to see muddy vehicles arriving in the carpark, one after another. Diesel fumes drift in through the door. The mud and the grease and the blood get into your skin. Turn it black.
Five prisoners, all of them cuffed and blindfolded, in the corner, their heads bowed. My uncle stares at them, his left eye twitching. I notice his hand has already moved to his weapon.
“Traitors,” he mutters.
“Shut up,” I say.
A klaxon cracks the silence and we’re all on our feet and out of the hut. The first unit loads the prisoners into the open-top truck, while ours piles into the bus. Neither vehicle has windows. The sunlight and wind strafe us without mercy as we careen down the old logging track towards the dam, its surface thick with algae.
“Does anybody know how to switch this thing off?”
It’s the spotter, who’s struggling with the onboard comms installation, a greige tablet affixed to the otherwise empty dash. Every few seconds it emits what sounds like a random string of numbers.
55-63–62–09 . . . 73–02–04–04 . . . 83–02–43–58 . . .
“Maybe it’s next week’s Lotto results,” my uncle says.
“Right, that’s it,” I say.
Unlocking my seat belt, I turn to thump my uncle with a closed fist.
The guards wait by the shore with the prisoners as the barge draws closer. High above us, a sound like fighter jets scrambling, although this is impossible. But it’s the signal.
I clean my weapon in the ambience of the AI’s crackle, and the rhythm of the undulating algae.