Sometimes you can’t do nothing. Even if it’s meaningless, anything will placate more than nothing.

Conflict was the blind God’s left, stronger hand.

I had awoken before sunrise again. But today was different. Miserably special.

My nightmare had been more real. It warned me with a vague feeling of uneasiness that Saturdays were no excuse to throw away my life. But there was a very witty rhetorical response to that hesitation for what I was about to do. It stayed on the forefront of mind.

We’re not done yet, the words came back to me. He’s watching.

I was unharvested capital, yet. Valuable in a way I didn’t want.

Damn the consequences. I had made up my mind.

I put on my rain boots, grabbing a black helmet off the counter top as I stood. The keys around my neck came off to lock the apartment behind me. As I was tucking them back into my shirt, throwing up my hood, I passed by one of my neighbors in the hall. At least I thought I recognized him.

Proximity meant nothing, though.

“Fuck off!” I shouted at his back.

He closed his door and I heard the bolt slide on. Not even a glance.

He didn’t want to know.

It’s not like I was a threat. Cameras dotted the ceiling, their rows carried on out of sight.

I went on my way.

The hollow eyes of my reflection looked back in the glass doors as I descended in the elevator to ground floor. They slid open and I stepped out into the concrete underbelly. It was a right from there into the garage, a short walk.

Everything was optimized for the least effort possible.

I slid my ID card over the black vault in front of me, bringing the inner machinery to life. I could hear the pistons and motors churning. Like a giant goddamn vending machine, my vehicle came to me.

That was efficiency.

The yellow bike was dented and old, dispensed onto the concrete in front of me by mechanical arms. It was faded, a pale and jaundiced color.

The helmet under my arm came on with the press of a button. On boot up the lights in the mask displayed a happy face. I scowled at the memory, staring at it for a second.

I was a shadowy creature. You know when you intend something but never say it out loud? It’s easy to pretend there was never intent.

I put it on.

As I cranked up the bike I flipped off the cameras above.

Add it to my bill, Smiler.

Squealing out, concrete pillars flew past me on the turns from the parking garage and into the complex entrance. Weaving around a few tents set up under the eaves of the building, it was only a moment to reach the rain and open road at full speed from there.

Most the signs overhead were in Mandarin, flying by on the scraper’s sides.

My bike was handling funny, I realized; but I managed.

It was a long ride from here to where I wanted to be, but I remembered the way.

The highways were simple to navigate. They were automatic and mindless. Every car was driven by a machine around me, drivers like me taxed out of existence. But I didn’t care today.

Today was a special day.

I had taken a turn that would let me travel by the ocean, surrounded by less traffic. Go far enough north or south and you’d find yourself at the black seawall. Here, a constant ocean spray washed over, punctuated by the rush of crashing waves beyond sight. Salted rain washed over me as I slid into the left hand lane. It was bitterly cold.

Delilah would bitch if she knew I was out here. But she didn’t even know what day it was. She didn’t get a say.

My bike nearly lost traction as I drove. All at once I figured out why it was handling poorly. The road was frozen beneath my bald tires and I was the idiot. One spot of black ice and the wrong move and I would be swallowed and ground out by spinning wheels and asphalt.

I was careful. I would be fine. I told myself that.

The sun was beginning to rise. I rode on in silence for a ways.

Finally, my turn off came and I drove down into the city below the highway. I took a bridge over the flood control channel and into a bad part of town. Older buildings loomed low.

I came to a quick stop at a familiar spot. My kickstand hit the ground and I removed my helmet, letting the light rain run down the back of my neck.

The structures were short, here. Bathed in pink light.

I pulled out Wally’s phone to check the texts. One received. It was Dag.

This was where we’d stood on that night. The ramshackle in front of me was boarded and tagged over. We’d searched every one of them but found nothing. In the weeks after that night we’d returned a dozen times to look again. But when we never found him, it all fell apart. They didn’t talk to me anymore. Why would they?

There was nothing I could do, now. Nothing but remember.

Wally was long dead somewhere, if there was anything left. He wasn’t waiting to be rescued. There was no mystery or secret plot, no chance of a redeeming sacrifice or meaning in our absurd final encounter, just random loss. |  |/  ||  /_

There was no story here.

I opened the text and read aloud.

“Happy birthday.”


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