Its night time here and it’s raining, but the garish neon signs stop it from being dark. Not that the light matters, its not the dark that hides me but the damnedable masses. No one can see the real leaves; the fake forest is in the way.
The isolation is almost bearable now. Not that I’m alone, far from it. Hardly a minute goes by that I’m not jostled this way and that by the press of bodies, the crush of their hollow gazes nearly killing me. No one thinks anymore. No one tries.
Ok, so not quite no one.
The stairwell leads up from the crowded alley to a barren concrete stairwell. Up I go, 45 stories in all. Winded by the end but not tired. The brave new world does do one thing for you. It keeps you trim. Hesitating the barest moment before opening the door to the roof I remember; fear is pointless, I’m already dead, and it is just a matter of time.
The change came not so long ago, “perfect immortality” they called it, branded it PI. Catchy ads, circles and slices, “get your piece of PI”. Fucking corporate bull, you could smell the stink of the boardroom on it. You could see the desk jockey chuckling himself to sleep with visions of his presentation profit share charts mirroring ad campaigns. It was sinfully indulgent and wholesome at the same time. The perfect god damn sales pitch. Not that they needed it. A drug that makes you ageless and nearly impervious to harm? A drunken shit slinging chimp could have sold the stuff, not nearly as fast though. The first few flawless years after its shamefully fast tracked release only a few of us still thought it was too good to be true. We were right, not that anyone gives a fuck anymore.
Setting up on the roof top with tri-pod, rifle and scope I scan the crowded street from the near total darkness, more exposed here because who among them would be on a roof, breaking the mould and doing something new. Muttering aloud I muse as to the nature of our perfect immortal world, “Side effects may include the loss of all initiative and will, glazed stares, the inability to form personal connection or change in any significant way. If you experience these symptoms this product may not be for you but it is too late. You. Are. Fucked.”
There are perhaps a few hundred of us left and dwindling. The Unchanged, Mortals, The Free. Each person among us finds a name for it, a way to come to grips that we are not part of the world anymore, or that we are all that is left. Each one of us paranoid as all hell and running scared. Something is killing us, it started killing once nearly everyone has changed and now the fear is in all of us that are left. Somewhere out there one of the few humans left with free will has decided the rest of us need to die.
So after scanning the street for a face I don’t recognise, a stranger or anomaly, I continue my patrol though the dozen square miles of city I’ve claimed as my own. Eventually assured nothing new is here today I head to my favourite diner like I do most days sit and wait for Harv to come by.
“Hello Mr. A what can I get for you today.”
It seems I’m feeling unusually bitter, rather them my usual miming of an order I ask him “Harv, you ever get the feeling we’ve done this before?” I’m not sure if his name is Harv, I’m not sure if I care, he responds the same as always.
“You want fries with that Mr. A?”
I feel the old anger rising up, useless but refreshing, “I want you to go to hell Harv so I can get a different order for once.”
“Sure thing Mr. A, extra gravy and a coleslaw, we don’t have Coke though, just Pepsi. Is that still ok?” he smiles and I know he doesn’t see me.
“I’m sleeping with your mom, your wife and your two daughters Harv, usually all at the same time.”
“That’s great Mr. A I’ll get that for ya toot sweet.” And he amicably ambles off to the kitchen like he does every morning leaving me alone again.
I shake my head, not for the first time. I have no idea who Mr. A is, or why he ordered steak with fries coleslaw and gravy at 5 in the morning often enough to engrain it in Harv but he never shows and it’s a shame to let it go to waste. Besides that I hate disappointing Harv, he does a mean steak.
As if a killer in our midst wasn’t enough every year a few more give in, take the drugs and just stop being. I ran into one a few years back pistol in hand and determination on his brow. Back when I scouted out of my home turf, I don’t do that anymore. It’s too fucking creepy. I spooked for a moment till I saw the look, the glaze in the eyes that isn’t seeing. I followed him on his route for a while, figured out how to hide in a different part of town if I had to. Then I put the poor bastard out of his misery. The changed are hard to hurt and harder to kill, but it’s not impossible, tossed him into a garbage truck compactor and it’s probably all over, I hope.
The morning after I torment Harv I find what I’ve been looking for. A man is sitting in my spot at the diner eating steak. Seamlessly I draw a knife, I have no idea how he heard me but he fell to the ground and rolled up, something I didn’t recognise in his hand. My first knife finds his arm and I see pain in his eyes, real new pain, not a distant memory of pain. I thought I had been scared before, I was wrong, I’m terrified now. The interloper went for something on his ankle and my second knife found his throat. He died before he hit the ground. The blood spreading out over the diners’ floor and his eyes glazing over in a familiar way. Harv will clean the floor soon, like he does every morning and I wonder for a brief moment just how bat shit insane I have gone. I wonder if this was Mr. A.
I should have asked his name.
So here I dance around the streets watching and hoping and fearing to see something new, someone that can change, someone that doesn’t fit the ritual dance of my fiefdom. Sleeping in a string of different empty beds by day and patrolling crowded streets relentlessly by night. I’m the only one here who can change and I’m too scared to do so. I’m sure there’s a joke in there. Whatever it is I’m not damn well laughing.