“Well there’s your proof.” Riley slapped Gus on the shoulder. “The Earth is flat.”
Gus stumbled back away from the edge, overcompensating for Riley’s slap.
“I told you he was smarter than you,” Violet chimed in with her hands on her hips. Her parka’s drab green somehow looked feminine despite its bulk. Riley shook his head and gave his attention back to the chasm.
Gus approached the edge again, cautiously. He got onto all fours, then on his stomach, and leaned his head out over the cliff of ice edging the world. Gus kept the bulk of his body firmly touching the snow and ice—as far back as possible from the infinite drop. Only his head hung out over the edge of the world. He pulled out his phone and started snapping pics of everything in sight.
Riley picked up a couple of handfuls of snow, molding them in his hands. He stepped up to the edge without taking precautions and dropped the snowball, watching it disappear into the sky-blue nothingness.
“I was expecting something more spectacular,” Riley admitted. “It’s just like looking up, … except you’re not.”
Two days later, I wake. I over slept, again. My first instinct is to roll over. The straps hold me back. I’m salaried. If no one’s complaining, I get paid. I consider unstrapping myself, just to roll over. Then that little voice warns me, where does it end?
I unstrap myself from the hammock, and sit up. The Spud’s gravity is too weak to keep me in bed all night without straps. (“All nights,” I verbally correct my singular thought.) I hate the straps. I can’t roll over with the straps. Sometimes I sleep in the dust just to avoid the straps.
Fred looked down on her burnt form. His squinting eyes bookmarked a crumpled expression and one twitching nostril that threatened to make his voluminous mustache crawl away to find a more appetizing site. Smokey smells replaced the expected morning scent of sagebrush after rain. Her right arm flung wildly above her reposed form, clawed at the scorched bark of an ancient pinyon destroyed by the previous night’s fire.
He scratched his back and rubbed his fingers through the mustache to calm its twitching, then cleared his throat. He looked at the late morning sun, as if to burn the image of her scorched flesh out of his mind.
She opened one eye slightly. Her voice rasp, “I must have slipped out. It won’t let me back in.” Her left fist unclenched, but the right hand kept rubbing raw burnt fingers against the remains of the pinyon.
If it’s sold, the Man chips it. HDTV? Chipped. Shoes? Chipped. Cats and dogs? Chipped. Underwear? Chipped.
That’s life. Who cares? Everything has chips.
When the student loan bubble burst, average folk like me needed new tuition sources. I decided to go with sponsorship. The Man pays my tuition, books, and rent until I get my diploma. In return, I became a walking chip-activated billboard.
I’ve known Kimball since I was a kid. He lived in the abandoned space between my building and the red brick one on the left. Kimball slept under a mattress that he propped up against the alley’s old chain link fence that kept us kids from getting to school on time.
Kimball was harmless enough. He didn’t talk or scream at ghosts or people on fake cell phones. His arms were clean—no needle tracks. No one ever saw him even drink coffee. But, he was still a bum, and mom hated us talking to him.
Carrie fingered her reprimand collar at the library table. Her legal guardian, the house AI, kept one on her and her sister for discipline purposes. The shogi game in front of her awaited her move. She ran her fingers between her collar and the flesh of her neck, avoiding the sharp pointed electrodes that held it in place. She tried imagining not wearing it.
“Any month now.” Keith’s voice jolted her. He whisked her away to the library for a game of shogi any time the house AI became too annoying.
“I know. I’m excited to get it off.”
“The game. It’s your turn. You know I’ll have your king. No shame in resigning.”
“It’s just not in me.”
“Even John the waiter couldn’t save you now.”
“‘John the waiter’?”