The cigarette appeared to have been hand-rolled, and when the boy lit it, with a matte black Zippo lighter, it smelled a little like burning electrical parts.
The boy inhaled deeply, then held his breath. He let the smoke trickle out from his mouth, pulled it back into his nostrils. Shadow suspected that he had practiced that in front of a mirror for a while before doing it in public. "If you've lied to me," said the boy, as if from a long way away, "I'll fucking kill you. You know that."
"So you said."
The boy took another long drag on his cigarette. "You say you're staying at the Motel America?" He tapped on the driver's window, behind him. The glass window lowered. "Yeh. Motel America, up by the interstate. We need to drop off our guest."
The driver nodded, and the glass rose up again.
The glinting fiber-optic lights inside the limo continued to change, cycling through their set of dim colors. It seemed to Shadow that the boy's eyes were glinting too, the green of an antique computer monitor.
"You tell Wednesday this, man. You tell him he's history. He's forgotten. He's old. Tell him that we are the future and we don't give a fuck about him or anyone like him. He has been consigned to the Dumpster of history while people like me ride our limos down the superhighway of tomorrow."
"I'll tell him," said Shadow. He was beginning to feel lightheaded. He hoped that he was not going to be sick.
"Tell him that we have fucking reprogrammed reality. Tell him that language is a virus and that religion is an operating system and that prayers are just so much fucking spam. Tell him that or I'll fucking kill you," said the young man mildly, from the smoke.
"Got it," said Shadow. "You can let me out here. I can walk the rest of the way."
The young man nodded. "Good talking to you," he said. The smoke had mellowed him. "You should know that if we do fucking kill you then we'll just delete you. You got that? One click and you're overwritten with random ones and zeros. Undelete is not an option." He tapped on the window behind him. "He's getting off here," he said. Then he turned back to Shadow, pointed to his cigarette. "Synthetic toad skins," he said. "You know they can synthesize bufotenin now?"
The car stopped, and the door was opened. Shadow climbed out awkwardly. His bonds were cut. Shadow turned around. The inside of the car had become one writhing cloud of smoke in which two lights glinted, now copper-colored, like the beautiful eyes of a toad. "It's all about the dominant fucking paradigm, Shadow. Nothing else is important. And hey, sorry to hear about your old lady."