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Thursday, July 25, 2013


       It had been three weeks, and every day when Sera went to work at Rawlins, McGuire and Smith, and each day she had to step over the woman who had set up shop on the steps leading up to the place. Sera wasn’t wealthy: she, like all of the others living below the Domes, scraped by on her wits and good luck.
Yet, whenever she saw the woman in the gutter she stopped by and handed her the few credits that she kept in her pocket.

            “Hey, lady.” the woman rasped at her on a Wednesday of little consequence, “Hey, what’s your name?”

            Sera blinked at her and paused mid step. She looked back towards the doors of the firm and shrugged, “I’m Sera Atson.”

            “Christina.” the woman held out a grimy hand and grinned, “I figured we ought to shake hands, seeing as we’re neighbors and everything.”

            Sera smiled and shook the woman’s stinking fingers and then tried to politely wipe her palm on her pant leg, “So, uh…how’s it going, Christina?”

            “Fine, I guess.” the woman shifted on the step and winked at her, “Another day in paradise.”

            “I hear you.” Sera cleared her throat awkwardly, “Well, I gotta go. Work, and such, you know.”

            “No, can’t say that I do.” Christina smiled, and for a second Sera could see how she had once looked: her mouth had an easy, almost sexy curve to it, her eyes glinted in the rays of the sun, and even though it was covered in grime, her face had a beautiful, almost exotic shape.

            Sera stared at her for a second and then nodded awkwardly, “Well, I guess I’ll see you later.”

            “Not if I see you first.” Christina grinned, and the sight of her teeth ruined the almost seraphim-esque look that had crossed her face a moment before.

            Sera hurried inside and found her way to her desk just in time to see her boss confront one of the few other employees angrily as he led a dirty, terrified looking woman inside. She unfolded her mobile work station and pretended to be flipping through the notes on one of her latest cases when she heard her boss start to shout and she only somewhat covertly watched the scene in front of her unfold.

            Her coworker, Robert, stood easily with his hands in his coverall pockets as McGuire shouted into his face and pointed at the girl beside him as if she were one of the rat-sized cockroaches that had long ago taken over the bathrooms. The ease with which Robert took the abuse made Sera jealous: he was a crusader for the downtrodden and the only thing that Sera had done all week was reject four requests for what was essentially financial amnesty.

            The hours crawled past, and by the time that lunch rolled around, Sera had decided that she was going to talk to Christina again. She picked up her food supplements from the allotted dispenser at the rear of the building and wandered outside to enjoy her fifteen minutes of what her bosses liked to call the employees’ “recreational digestive recess.”

            The clouds had rolled in and transformed the out the sun into a pallid, almost green-tinted ball, and when Sera stood on the step, she saw that Christina hadn’t moved. She walked over and cleared her throat timidly, “Hey…do you mind if I sit with you?”

              The woman looked up with surprise and mutely shook her head, so Sera sat down and offered Christina a supplement, “Hungry?”

            “Starving!” The woman grabbed it, and then looked suspiciously at her, “What do I have to do for it?”

            “What? Nothing…just eat it.” Sera pushed her own supplements into her mouth and swallowed.

            “Oh good. For a second, I was afraid that you were going to ask me to tongue your snatch or something.” Christina almost rabidly swallowed the pill and sat in silent enjoyment as she felt her stomach attack the nutrients, “So you work in there?”

            “Yeah. I review cases all morning.” Sera looked over at the woman and smiled, “Do you get many requests from people for you to…lick their snatches?” she tried to ask flippantly, but found that the words stuck in her mouth unpleasantly.

            Christina laughed, “Yeah, more than you’d think. I’ve been on N2 for probably longer than you’ve been alive, and now every time I try it I get sick. Actually physically sick. I got nowhere to go detox, and since I don’t know anyone who really cares…so I went to the one place I know they won’t come to try and beat the shakes.”

            “Wow.” Sera looked at the veins on her inner arms and cleared her throat, “Two years ago, I lived on the street too. I sold most of my memories and was on N2, but I beat it.” she thought back to where she’d been exactly two years prior: she had been laying in a gutter with a cracked head, hallucinating and loving it.

Even though she had cleaned up and started working again, she still lived alone in a one-room tenement with no family and only a pigeon that she had rescued from a storm drain to keep her company. The pigeon, which she had nicknamed Stumpy, had been missing a wing, which was the only reason it had let her near it. Its missing limp had probably been torn off by one of the city’s destitute, who had most likely eaten it.

“It gets easier. If you need someone to talk to, I know what you are going through.” Sera smiled at Christina shyly, but found only a mocking grin staring back at her.

“No, no, no, just no. I’m on a new drug that makes it so that I can’t go dose on N2 without being sick. As soon as I’m off of it, I’m gonna get so slammed, it won’t even be funny.” she sneered, mockingly, “Thanks for your little pity fest though. It means so fucking much, you tourist. I think your lunch break is over, get inside where you belong.” Sera stood up and took a step back as Christina cackled, “Jesus, this ain’t a fucking tent revival.” Sera hurried inside, trying to forget the ragged and cruel laughter.

That night, when Sera when home, Stumpy was dead on her stood. Apparently, he had hopped outside where one of her neighbors had smashed it with a rock. They were probably going to cart it home when they heard Sera close the door and made themselves scarce.

Sera didn’t touch it. She wordlessly opened her door and went inside without sparing more than a second glance to it. As she was stripping to climb onto her thin mattress, she heard someone outside scraping up the bird’s remains and s she lay down and closed her eyes, and muttered, “Fuck you, Robert.”

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