I wake up in the morning with cold sweat on my face, and my heart skips a beat, as if to remind me I’ll soon die. I look out the window to my dark, grey city, and I ponder away, time passing in my head. How soon will I be dead? I don’t know. I brush the thoughts off with my comb and rinse them out with my coffee. A clear brain and jittery hands start me through the day. An omelette, some tomatoes. All a little qeasy-making. Processed food. Forced to lay eggs, forced to breed, forced to make food.
A concrete jungle. Little drops of black rain fly through the sky and smack into my window as the coal stacks pump smoke into the air; a cycle of life, here and back again, here and back again, here and back again. I wonder how many times that very little bit of carbon has graced my eyes. Means nothing though. It’s all random, all meaningless. I suit up, throw my plastic wrapped food for the day in my bag, and soon I find myself under the awning of the bus stop.
I’m at the bus stop, waiting on the bus, waiting for the next step of the day. I step into the bus where all the other lovely dreary faces greet me, perfect in their sorrow, novel-like. The man two seats down starts an argument about our Senator, the old lady across from me coughs her lungs out to near death. More black dust. And I stand there, a man among men and a rat among mice. What gives me any dignity but my greater profit-scrounging?
Along hums the bus, down roads paved with long-ago extracted seashell oil from the Middle East. The most exotic thing in this town, I bet. A moment of clear thought comes, a vision of long-ago beaches unsullied with our products, free of imperfection, strewn with seashells and bright urchins basking in the sun of a universe too naive to see what it was growing: an Earth forced, like a teenage mother, to bear strange apes out of her womb.
But not all is bad, I see the bus driver does his job well. The people in the bus hate their lives, but they keep them going. A labor of love where none of them know what they’re loving for. We are all damaged people, working to keep the lights on. And they are on. A bit of magic sprinkled through the day. Wonderful. Miraculous. If only these people could all work towards something good… If we were not unified under the banner of a soot-encrusted flag of pointless stripes, but no flag at all. Autonomous and free… You see, my thoughts lead me away from the task at hand. Not good for my career, all this imagining.
The bus sputters to an unhappy halt and the brakes squeal in protest. Time to disembark. I trod up to work - a big palace of unhappy people subjecting themselves to slavery in 9 hour shifts. I walk in, backpack in hand. No briefcase here, the days of the dignified businessman are long over. I’m searched. Tested. No drugs, no mind-altering substances, nothing dangerous. Clean. Sterile. I wonder what they’d say if they could see the sun-dappled forests in my mind, or hear the music that waterfalls across their drab instructions on the new government regulations.
I sit at my desk and meander away through my work, distracted with some inconsequential oddity every few minutes. When will that mystery pop back into my life? And how? Is this the destiny of all of us? To meander through dark days into the grave, with the occasional respite of some shoddily constructed Caribbean vacation tour with uninterested guides who hate their lives too? Whatever. Another email, another contract to close with another government agency, another product to sell. I make a few calls and enthusiastically drone on about the improved connection latency of our new device. Definitely worth it, I tell him, the government bidder. He acquiesces and forwards me to his supervisor.
More hours pass. A few things to fix around the office. New desks to arrange, new programs to download, new documentation to write. A dabbling effort here and there. More grimy sweat on my hands and my heart’s pumping more than it should. As ever. Pain in my upper right leg. Probably not serious. Doesn’t matter, no doctors have time these days anyway. I take a downer to ease the anxiety from the uppers. Hopefully they don’t conflict with my antidepressants and blood-pressure pills. Enough to keep going, at least. The boss bumbles by, mumbling something about a promising new lead (with a different agency this time). I retreat behind my eyes and observe my co-workers, anxiously putting together reports for the mother-hive in their mundane drive towards a promotion. Strange.
I get out, and the sun is almost gone. A little sliver still peeks through the clouds at the horizon. Nothing new, it’s all just like tomorrow will be, I’m sure. I decide to walk home this time. It’s always interesting to see what kind of bottom-feeders lounge around under the bridges. Dirty people. Leeches. They can’t even be bothered to shit outside of their tents, it’s shameful. And here I am, another rat in this industrial maze - I’m even worse. I build this system up, they leech off of it. Probably my fault they’re here. I don’t see any tonight, though. They must be out in the canyons.
The sewer water sometimes finds its way out of the gutter and spills over into the tent cities. It gets all the sleeping bags wet and dribbles over the cracked open syringes, like it wants to drink the contents. The shit of the homeless people gets washed along with it, into the gutter and out into the ocean. I don’t think anyone cares about the painted “No Dumping Waste” sign above the gutter anymore. Those days are long gone. The bay is already filled with floating shit and syringes and meth pipes and occasional oily puddles of black-tar heroin. I haven’t seen people swim there in years. That’s life in a big city, I guess. At least the copious amount of shit deters the rats.
I keep walking, and there’s not much more to see, just other scenes of a boring dystopia. Pizza parlors shoving their illegal immigrant workers out of the back door at the end of the shift, disgustingly obese slugs devouring their third milkshake of the day, discarded street gang bandanas and related ornaments. Life in a big city. I reach home, and as I open the door, I realize I haven’t been with a woman in a while.
I haven’t thought about women for a long time, actually. I haven’t thought about sex, about good food, about fresh air, sun, forests, it’s all missing. It’s like someone carved out a piece of my brain and threw in the rotten slop of acceptable modern thought. Who knows. Whatever. I don’t have much more energy, I just collapse into bed and sleep. I vaguely remember that I should floss and brush my teeth, but I’m too lethargic to do it. Kind of satisfying to have the sugar eat away at my enamel, in a perverted way. I’m so fucked up even the best dentist in the world couldn’t save me. It shows I still have a little bit of sovereignty left, I guess. And I finally get some much needed sleep. Life in a big city.