>A03[shallow_tragedy]

The bus stopped.

Skrimp, Wally, Dag, and I lived in the same building. As much as that meant something hundreds of floors apart, it meant our ride was shared every day home. Even if in silence, at best texting feet apart. I cherished our quality time.

The bus had pulled under a massive overhang of concrete, stopping at the curb there. My eyes swept the yellowed depths of the opening hall to the building, glancing back at the grey street behind and its traffic. Back, peering through pillars to the revolving bars which prohibited the way into the building itself.  A small throng of the homeless off to the right watched our blacked out ride.

Up and at em.

Stagnant water at my feet, inches deep, broke under my rainboots as I hopped down from the bus.

The others pushed out behind and around me in a quickly dissipating crowd. People I had nothing but the slightest familiarity with. No better than Phillip.

We all walked to put some space between ourselves and the curb. I stopped then where I was to tap out my last coffin nail.

Dag and Skrimp kept going on but Wally paused by me.

His black mechanical eyes refocused my way as I drew and struggled to spark my lighter. A phantom pain in my right arm came with the jitters which stuck around. That shake for me was a rattle, a quiver of electric nerves in my dominant hand.

Wally extended his lighter. “Here.”

“Thanks,” I said, leaning in my lips for the flame. “My nerves. You know how it is.”

“I don’t have the same problem.” So matter of factly.

“Not with your eyes. But you know what I mean. It’s a hack job, not an augment, Walter dear.” I tried to shake out the tingling metal limb, hard. “…Fuck me.”

Wally turned his face towards the others as they swiped their cards to turn the gate into the building. “Will you be on, later?” He asked.

I coughed. “Sure,” I said. “You… I know I flaked the last few times. But we’ll hit the weekly challenges. Promise.” I was lying through my teeth.

He faced me and goddamn I couldn’t read those eyes.

As I cut my focus away, I thought of all the people lying dead in their beds, like bugs in the crackling concrete hive that buried us. Sleepers. Deep in their electric dreams. Playing games and going afar in mind without stirring in their sweaty mattresses and coffin dark apartments.

Mine awaited me. Every day.

“Then we’ll see you.” Wally slipped his lighter away. “Later.”

My drag went on with a grimace. “…Later.”

He was off his own way and I was right here.

Under the nearest pillar wrapped in plastics, a bearded man lay eyeing me with a dead stare I returned.

“You got something to say, Phillip? Say it.”

He scowled. Clutched his bags closer.

“I thought not.”

//////////

The rain had stopped.

My apartment building took up most of B6 and B7, the giant it was. I was on the opposite side of it now from the other night, trekking the mess of shops and metal beneath the highway. On one side a whorehouse glowed brightly, motion behind its frosted glass front catching my eye, bass bleeding through the street.

But my sights were set on the lonely slot in its sidewall.

Surrounded by plexi plastered over in paper with items and prices listed, all I could see of the shop attendant through the slot was their delicate young hands holding a book.

Cars rumbled overhead.

I knocked on the shop face, metal on glass.

Smile, please.”

I glanced up to see the glossy half sphere protruding from the wall above.

Smile for the camera but the camera never smiles back.

“Luckies,” I said, extending my card. “Come on.”

“Have a nice day.”

I quickly drew one to light off the remnants of my last.

…Thanks,” I breathed.

I was walking the moment I had back my card.

Going somewhere.

There came a black car lowriding on round wheels down the roads under here. I jumped aside for it to pass. I didn’t want to get hit twice in twenty-four hours. Though it wouldn’t be a record.

My adventures have that perk.

I kept moving.

Scanning every sight, I walked beneath the highway’s edge above. I could still see the sky, never going too far into the folds of asphalt and artificial light to lose the deepening gloom.

There were smokes in my building, there was food in my building, sure.

But I needed fresh air.

An acrid mix of tar and piss.

That was the fresh air I needed.

I would smoke some, I decided, sitting down under the highway’s eave, then head back. I didn’t want to let them down. They wanted me to dream with them. So I would dream. But that wouldn’t keep me from procrastination. Never ever.

I knew this spot.

From where I sat I could see through an uncovered basement window into the whorehouse. Rent-a-sexbots lounging on silk, bathed in blood red light, their eyes glazed and their expressions unchanging.

It was nothing I couldn’t see a thousand times over in my dreams. The infinite flesh I could find in my head each night was not the same.

Leaning back against a trashcan, hands dangling, cigarette burning away in my lips, I watched them stay perfectly still. No rising motion in their bare chests, no flicker in their perfect lashes. This was who they were when they thought that no one was looking. So beautiful and lifeless.

There was something about it.

Sitting there in the faint red, I smoked and stared at them. This was me when no one was looking. This was the joke. This was dread and boredom.

This was Monday.

 

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