A short story from the world of FUTUREPERFECTED.
| 1 |
Eno Volt was the life and soul of the party. Which party? Any party you’d care to mention. Life in Roxy was one big party. It was never meant to be that way, it just happened, slowly then suddenly all at once. The way binderweed starts out as a couple of leaves and then next time you look it’s all stringlike strands and yellow trumpets strangling the life out of some other, more delicate species. For the people who frequented Roxy; the free quarter of The City it was the only real party they would ever see. They came from their homes; not in their thousands, maybe not even in their hundreds but in their tens, definitely and visited Roxy. They partied and then they went back to their lives of order and structure and importance. All except Eno Volt, he lived there
As one of the few ‘residents’ of Roxy, Eno Volt enjoyed a certain notoriety which bordered upon celebrity. Maybe this had been his downfall, he had gotten too far away from his early days of stealth and cleverness. He had become lazy and confident and being away from The City, he believed himself to be invincible, that this new world of freedom was his by right and would never end. He was wrong, freedom was not a state that existed; in The City or the part of The City known as Roxy, no matter what people thought. It was just a dangerous idea.
It was a typical day and so, as it wasn’t even three in the afternoon Eno Volt wasn’t awake. This was evident by the closed curtains of heavy blue & gold brocade, thick-lined that blocked out the sun that beat against the hotel window. A counterpart quilt had spilled off the round bed onto the floor like some pool of silken water. From under thick white cotton sheets a pale, thin leg and foot protruded out to the right of the bed. Lengths of long hair rippled across the crisp-white box pillows that pressed against the deeply padded bedhead that was fixed to the wall. A tall empty flute glass stood on the left bedside table, under a heavy classically inspired brass lamp stand. Its lampshade covered the view of the scene as if shielding it from something one should not see. Eno turned in the bed, and awoke. He looked across at the hologram of an ormolu clock that incongruously showed that it was 14:27 in the afternoon (if the two supporting people with winged cherubim atop their shoulders could be believed). That was it, he was awake now and no number of twists and turns in the bed could take him back to oblivious sleep. ‘Mmmgghh’ he grunted and dragged himself to get up and out of bed. He made his way toward the window and pulled back the curtains and the sun streamed in piercing his eyes. Arms outstretched, each hand gripping and hanging on to each curtain, he dropped his head. After a time, the sun having warmed his body (the upper part was bared, his lower half draped in loose, silky sleep trousers) he felt he could face the day, much like a lizard might have done. He surveyed the room. Clothes were scattered across the floor and he manoeuvred around each garment making his way to the bathroom. The bathroom was opulently furnished, especially with tiles, relief patterned in a myriad of scenes. He showered, them made his way, back through the maze of clothes-strewn floor to the large oak-limed wardrobe (one of two) and chose clothes for the day (and night).
Having toyed with the idea of having breakfast in bed and abandoned it as an antisocial luxury he could not afford. Eno Volt made his way down two levels of regal staircase and into the Dining Room. He wore black trousers made of an expensive woollen fabric which had black sequins that snaked down each outer leg. They fitted tightly to the knee then flared aggressively outward and came to rest upon off-white craquelure, leather shoes on gold rubber-like soles. His shirt was also black, pipe-embroidered in dark silk around pockets and cuffs. Over his right shoulder he had swung a black suede jacket. This was however no ordinary jacket, it had large lapels and shoulder pads and from each pad, plumes of dark feathers danced interference pattern colours along their length, in the crystal lights from the chandeliers. He had smiled and armwaved and gesticulated his way to a favourite table and had been waited upon hand and foot. Nothing was too much trouble for one of the Hotel’s most important guests (even breakfast at three in the afternoon). Having feasted and spent time watching a vid of the latest resident band from Centrepoint; the club he would be visiting tonight, he pulled out his diary and looked at what was next on his agenda. The rotating hologram head of Felstaff turned in profile just above the thin grey diary. He would be meeting him at Four o’clock to discuss sourcing a new batch of ’Flaps’. Flaps where what the users called them; a 5cm square, digital, narcotic delivery system that, when attached to the skin effected the transfer of said narcotic into the recipient. An outer edge remained unattached (so it could easily be removed when finished with) giving the appearance of a flap on the skin. The Flaps were each identified by digital artwork, often elaborate, some 2D and some 3D depending upon the drug and target demographic.
He toyed with the white porcelain coffee cup, pushing the handle this way and that with his right thumb and forefinger. ‘Hey, Eno! How are things?’ shouted across a man from the foyer, outside the Dining Room. Eno looked up, his arming smile, thrown across the room. ‘Well, well’ he replied. He had no idea who the man was but that was not the point. Everyone could be someone. ‘Going to Centrepoint tonight?’ asked the man. ‘Yeah, yeah. I’ll be there’ replied Eno. Eno got up from the table, dropped the napkin he’d had across his lap to the tabletop and walked out to the foyer. His shoes made no sound on the marble floor unlike others that clicked and echoed as people walked across it. He checked at the desk for messages and terminal 3 flashed for his attention automatically as he approached. Two requests for flaps, this evening at Centrepoint and a coded delivery drop time. The messages faded as he turned and walked out of the large imposing doors and down the steps of The Grand Imperial and into the sun of a warm summer’s afternoon. A few people milled about but Roxy was quiet, for Roxy.
| 2 |
Eno Volt made his way to meet with Felstaff at the appointed place, at the appointed time. He had put on his ‘plumed’ jacket and cut a flamboyant shape, like some dark avian avatar as he walked across Centrum. Centrum’s pale blue grass always attracted people who came to sing, dance play, get inebriated or doped, or inebriated and doped and even people who just came to sit. It was edged around with buildings that housed shops selling all manner of things - everything that anybody could want who came to Roxy. He continued, out beyond the fringes of its centre; it’s artistic hub and down, to the support buildings that dominated the lower reaches of the area. Here, array panels on buildings sides and tops tracked the sun and large rolls of flexible ducting curled and twisted in and out of square grey buildings. This industrial quarter pumped the energy and various liquids and gases required to keep The City; including Roxy alive. It was its heart and lungs. It was amongst the morass of Fabri-block and ribbed ducting, where engineering confusion appeared to reign supreme, that Eno, whilst looking incongruous in his ‘high-flying’ fashion appeared to be totally at home. He made directly for his destination, never faltering, a left turn here or a right turn there. He had an innate knowledge of the environs and needed no map.
‘Over-dressed as ever Volt’ said a rich base voice booming down from on high. Felstaff was several feet up above, on some metal ladders that clung to the building wall Eno had stopped at. He didn’t look up but smiled his smile and said ‘Mister Felstaff, you’ve gone up in the world’. ‘You had better believe it’ came the reply from on high. ‘I didn’t know whether you’d come yourself or send a courier on your behalf Sir’ replied Eno turning and lifting his head. ‘It will probably be the last time I do come Volt’ said Felstaff starting to climb down the ladder. Eno stepped back and stood smiling, with his hands clasped down in front of his groin waiting for Felstaff to complete his ungainly descent. Felstaff was a large framed gentleman but agile with it. At the bottom of the ladders he turned and pulled a bag, which he had slung across his left shoulder around the side of his rotund torso with has large stumpy hands. He pulled the front flap of the bag up revealing rows of white boxes, neatly stacked. He extracted one delicately between his fat thumb and forefinger. ‘These are special - you are going to gain an even larger reputation than the one you already now have. Believe me’ said Felstaff passing the box over to Eno. Eno unclasped his hands and received the plain white box. He pressed on the front and the top opened revealing ten thin slivers. Eno deftly lifted one of the slivers out revealing a thin grey pad on one side but an intricately patterned tracery of silver/gold on the other. The pattern was of relief swirling leaves that interwove with each other, their metallic nature catching the sun and glinting. He held the Flap between thumb and middle finger and gyrated his hand, watching the sun roll around the pattern, admiring its beauty. ‘You should have no problem moving these Volt’ said Felstaff. He was keen to move the transaction along. ‘As you say’ replied Eno ‘Five hundred a box’ came back Felstaff immediately. ‘Five hundred? That’s steep. There are limits to what people will pay’ said Eno looking directly into Felstaff’s eyes. Felstaff was sweating and he pulled a brightly-coloured handkerchief from the top left pocket of his double-breasted suit and dabbed at his forehead and lip. ‘Four hundred’ said Eno. ‘So, we arrive at four fifty’ said Felstaff stuffing the handkerchief away into the pocket leaving a limp tail trailing from the neatly tailored jacket. Eno had put the Flap back into its box, closed its lid and was handing it back. ‘Four twenty is the figure I have in mind and I take all. How many do you have?’. ‘Four twenty? Er there are twenty four boxes, two hundred and forty Flaps. Four Twenty’, he mumbled under his breath’. Eno had pulled out his CommCat 450 and was preparing to transfer the 100800 credits over to Felstaff. Felstaff reciprocated but was clearly not happy but trying not to show it as he proffered over the bag of product. At the audible ping of transfer, the bag was passed over to Eno. With the transaction completed and no cafe or bar in the vicinity to sit and make small talk, not that either of them would have should the facility have arrived, they parted. Felstaff turned and walked, engrossed in his CommCat 450 no doubt checking the transfer and looking what to invest it in. Eno Volt walked off with an air of superiority, like a dark peacock in the opposite direction. Neither looked back.
| 3 |
Eno cut through a narrow walkway between two buildings; grey, impossibly tall (they were the tallest buildings in this industrial quarter) and nondescript. They housed the control centre for the operation of The City. In point of fact they housed two. Mirror image suites, redundancy, automatic failover, ‘always on’. There were no people here, the buildings, like all the buildings here were nigh on impregnable, operated from a distance, up in The City. An all-seeing eye would be keeping an all-encompassing watch on all that transpired, though very little ever did. He knew where to walk so as to find the blind spots, an innate sense of avoidance guided him through the the alleyways of fabri-block, a rat who knew his way around the maze. Driven by reward. He made his way back, right then left, out and up into Centrum.
Roxy was now a little busier, a few more people had come out into the late afternoon sun and Eno would be able to mingle. Mingle is such a dismissive term for what he had developed into an art form. When Eno Volt mingled he wove a sense of importance, threaded through with strands of need and satisfaction to create a fashion-emperor’s new cloth. He danced his way in and out of people’s lives, performing a ballet of chemistry, handing out the latest designer dream in Flap form, engineered to exult the visitor, taking them up to a height from which they could never truly descend. Yes, they would return to their lives in The City but would never truly come back down to the earth of daily routine. As is the way with all drugs, whatever they had taken would continually gnaw away at their mind, slowly but surely eating into their existence. In The City, where all are surveilled, this would surely not go unnoticed. ‘Eno!’. ‘Hey, man. Where’ve you been?’. ‘Darling, I’ve missed you!’. A smile, a wave of an arm, the blow of a kiss, aloof and alluring…
Eno passed through the centre and headed out in a North Easterly direction. It took him up a rise and eventually to a small cafe that sat out of the way. It was the corner of a building, seemingly cut out of a massive expanse of fabri-block that towered up and back forming a building that displayed no windows until three storeys up. Being on a rise, the building commanded a view across Roxy, even from the cafe at its base. It was a quiet zone with only one other person sat drinking. Eno chose a chair facing out, away from the man, ordered a plain coffee and took in the scene below. He thought of Roxy as his ‘City’. He knew its every nuance. He could stand in the centre, on the blue grass and walk out in any direction to a place to complement his mood. He could walk out and meet anyone to obtain anything he required. Eno coursed through Roxy’s veins.
The sun had started its fall but as yet no lights were displaying below and Eno sat mindfully stroking the plumes on his jacket collar which sat over the back of a vacant chair. After several minutes he reached into the inside pocket of the jacket and pulled out a small packet. The ornate psycha-swirls of the packet’s design flowed, its yellow and blue intertwining and blurring. There were several flat tablets inside and he took one out and swallowed it, along with a small mouthful of water from a glass on the table he’d poured. He would need a boost to get through this night. Eno may have thought of Roxy as his ‘City’ but it was a symbiosis. Roxy took its toll.
After another drink and watching lights flicker, fuzz and stab into being from the various signs and windows of the approaching nightlife, Eno stood, placed his jacket over his shoulders and preened himself and made off to walk down into the gathering throng.
| 4 |
In the gloam between the skylight of day and the nightlight of Roxy, when eyes were still adjusting from the natural to the super-natural, people seemed as ghosts drifting about no particular purpose, save that of haunting the squares and circles and triangles of the nightlife centre. They were illuminated and cast into shadow and hi-lighted and tinted within moments of each other. They appeared and disappeared and re-appeared in rhythmic pulsing to the light shows, planned or otherwise. Eno’s pulse raced a little at the excitement that was starting to be generated and it fluttered at the booster he had taken; a slow builder with drifting undercurrents to be punctuated by short boosts throughout the evening. Who knows what delights had been built into the Flaps he had purchased earlier in the afternoon. He had dropped a large quantity off into his safe in his hotel room before coming straight back out with a quantity in pocket. He would see how they performed and gauge how much he could bump the price for the following evening after the free advertising by the takers he would engage tonight. The beauty of it all was is that these babies sold themselves; word of mouth, proof of the pudding, sold as seen. He had a feeling that tonights showing - ‘Eno’s new batch’ was going to be a real crowd-pleaser. He saw his rating elevated further, his name lit up in virtu-neon lights, he should be getting the keys to his ‘City’, which was ironic as it didn’t exist in the eyes of The City. Roxy was just a tolerated irrelevance. ‘But what did they know!’ he shouted and two exotics laughed and flung their arms around him and the booster kicked in for the first time.
Two people stood transfixed in front of a building which still looked closed but from a horizontal slit window approximately eight feet above the grass, soft-laser lights danced a staccato rhythm on their retinas. A few steps to their side snake-like pulses transfixed another couple. Turning around, looking up to the sky, Eno watched light bombs of yellows and purples explode and drop, showering all with digital fallout. Music was punched into the spaces between buildings, mixing to form new music that pulled at passersby, much in the same way that the targeted advertising did. A saxophone wailed, plaintively and caught at Eno’s edge of perception and he focussed. He purposefully made his way along and around and headed for Centrepoint.
Centrepoint was the night venue of choice. At some point throughout the night, a fair percentage of Roxy’s population would head into the club that dominated the left-centre of Roxy. It was a pyramidal mass that ended in a point. Some surmised that the energies of life were concentrated in the shape and to look at the club in full swing, its multi-decked interior supporting a myriad sound systems of whatever people wanted, you could believe it to be true. This was Eno Volt’s spiritual home. He knew every bar and rest area and WC. He knew every DJ and sub-genre of sub-genre that they played but it was when each of the individual DJ sets came together, at that pivotal point in the evening to bathe Centrepoint in a run of three tracks that he adored. When they would synchronise, bouncing the music around the floors, the music taking on a 3-D aspect as it traversed the pyramid’s interior; back and forth, up and down, in and out. Not ever knowing when that time would be as it varied every night, dependent upon the mood, the music played, the time of year. It was this time that Eno lived for. It was the reason for his existence. It was why he lived here. One of Roxy’s few permanent residents. He felt if he left, he would die.
The door to Centrepoint was one large, triangular opening suffused with a curtain of vertical light static. It moved up and down and subtle colours fused in and out of coherence. A people passed through the curtain, their individual body chemistry shorted it in unique ways. It buzzed and crackled and hissed and hummed and fizzed and people relished the feeling, as it washed over and through them. Eno stepped up to the doorway, he had no need of presenting himself to the side kiosk of orange fluorescence as they knew who he was. He did not have to pay any entrance fee, he had free lifetime membership to the sharpest place in town by virtue of his standing (and the fact that certain people, the right people always got a little something at the end of the night). Ahead of him, three women in matching platform shoes, silver lame trousers and electro-neon blue low cut tops played in and out of the curtain. Their hairstyles differentiated them; one had a black, straight fringe bob, another, ringlets of gold that cascaded to her mid back with the ends dipped in turquoise, the final with chestnut brown shoulder-length straight, threaded throughout with fine points of silver. They laughed and smiled and beckoned to Eno. He played to their performance; his first customers of the night.
Inside, another world existed. One that you loved, one that you needed, one that made an audio-visio-chemical bond that would not be easily broken. Everything melded into perfection pulling you into a dream within a dream. Music flowed from multitudinous banks of speakers, from the platform levels that seemed to suspend in mid-air. Walkways and gangways joined these and the scene of people making their way from one level to another was like some pharaohic burial procession in a great pyramid of antiquity. A small piece of each person’s soul would be forever interred in the building as befitted it. Eno approached the three women he had toyed with at the door from another direction. ‘We meet again, so soon!’ he exclaimed knowing exactly how to play out the sale. Pre-amble, the divulging of wares, a provenance of their efficacy, their unique nature and finally once they were hooked, the price. The three walked away, after each pressing the Flap to various parts of their anatomy. Eno disappeared into an area of darkness before bursting again into iridescence and then moving to another sector. He drank, he danced, he mingled and he sold Flaps to all and sundry; the loud, the bright, quiet, the dull that dissipated into gloomy areas of nowhere. He drank a little more.
Up on what was probably the eleventh section of the club where palm fronds waved in the artificial breeze of a sub-saharan night Eno was feeling the rush of another boost. He was dancing with a group to bounce Jazz infused with mnemonics. When the current track stuttered to its finish, he made his way down in an arcing fashion, catching the eye of old friends (good customers), sliding palms with revellers and nodding in synchrony with DJ’s to old plays he remembered from previous nights. He pulled his CommCat 450 from his inside jacket pocket and checked the total transactions. ‘Not bad so early in the night’ he thought to himself smugly and feeling in his other pocket he revealed only a few Flaps left from the bundle he had brought out with him this evening. He had known he would finish early this evening. It was always the same when he brought a new batch to market. Dadag Raga jumped from the speakers in arrhythmic stabs and he stepped in asynchronous motion across the base floor milking adoration whether it was meant for him or not. He passed a Flap one by one through his long dextrous fingers, in a motion he pulled the backing from it and as he passed the bare midriff of a dancing blonde and he placed the the Flap square-centre of her suntanned back. ‘Gratis’ he shouted as the blonde turned, her mouthing opening in a joyous ‘thank you’.
| 5 |
The adhesive tear-off from the Flap Volt had placed on the back of the female dropped to the floor with feather-like grace and was immediately scuffed underfoot by several dancing people. At the same time, the joyous thank you from the mouth of the girl turned into a hideous tortured scream, followed by coughing and struggling for breath. Both her immaculately manicured, nailed hands grabbed desperately for her throat, her face turning red in the process. Friends first laughed, then became alarmed then grabbed at her as she convulsed to the floor. Within further seconds she was thrashing on the floor, friends forming a perfect circle around her, stepping back from flailing legs that randomly caught several on the shins. Eno turned and a horror gripped his heart like an ice claw as he saw the woman jerk on her back one final time, then lay still in twisted form on the floor. The horror on her face was mirrored by all around, then the horror subtly turned to accusation and to Eno. A finger pointed, not to Eno but to the Flap that stuck in the dead-centre of the woman’s back. Although the riot of music played on and the circle of friends started to talk and shout, Eno heard nothing, only the pounding of his own heart as it seemingly tried to make up beats for the lack of those in the woman’s. He turned and made for the doorway, the pointing finger now turned from the woman’s back towards Eno’s and joined by others. The feather plumes on the shoulder pads of his jacket floated up and down with his exiting motion. The crackle he made as he passed through the curtain sounded like the breaking of brittle bones or the crumbling of old empires.
Outside, the night air hit Eno Volt like the sting of salt on a wound. He turned his head left, then right, then peered into the distance ahead. The lights of the place threw coronas around themselves blotting distinction of shapes of things and places out of view. His breathing was erratic, at odds with the revelling people that thronged about the square outside Centrepoint. Crackling behind him caused him to curse his inaction. People were exiting the club, their voices raised as soon as they broke the curtain. Volt ran to the right, a streak of black in the night, like a bird cutting into the undergrowth. Right, left, on, left and beyond any chance of pursuit, he continued. After labyrinthine passage through Roxy’s lesser used quarters he slowed. ‘Anaphylaxis! It had to be…’ he thought as he saw the woman on the floor again in his minds eye, as clearly as if she were there, in front of him out in the night’s air. The jerk into stillness. The unnatural lie of her limbs in contrast to her body. It haunted him. He stepped beyond the outer building wall that made a natural perimeter to Roxy and in the grass hill beyond it, he climbed a way until he could see above the building and into Roxy’s heart. It continued to beat as evidenced by the sound and light. Such stark contrast to the woman’s, which did not.
Somehow, he had fallen asleep in the grass upon the hill overlooking Roxy. He awoke cold and damp. His bleary-eyed vision of an Early morning Roxy was a new phenomenon to him. The odd light loomed through a haze, very little else was of notice. It seemed peaceful, Eno for once in his life felt peaceful. After seconds that seemed like minutes, he stood and stretched. The feathers on his jacket hung heavy with the dew, loosing their ostentatious air and he made his way slowly down, back into Roxy and headed for The Grand Imperial.
As he got nearer the centre and the hotel he became more cautious but had no need to as hardly anyone was visible. This was the quiet time of Roxy, the time when she took a breath. After looking about, he approached the doors of The Grand Imperial. It lived up to its name; it was grand and imperious and it was the only one of its kind. He mounted the three large marble steps and put his hand on the large brass handle on the right door. The metal was cold to his touch in the stark light of morning. He had never noticed this before. He pushed but it would not open. A Concierge was stood looking out at him from the other side of the ornate glass pane of the upper part of the door. He pushed again but it did not move. Eno was about to open his mouth to speak but something in the Concierge’s face stopped him. The ice grip of dread had him again in an instant, just like it had last night. It was the second time a face had him caused terror, true terror. He pulled his hand from the cold metal handle (it was no longer ornate bronze, just plain cold metal). He had realised instantly from the eyes of the Concierge that he would not be let in. He turned, looking about but there was still no-one around. He stepped down onto the pavement and made off in a different direction from the one he had arrived from. It could have been because of a built-in self preservation mechanism but was more likely because of shock. He walked, dazed by the realisation of what was happening - it was no longer ‘his Roxy’. Before he knew it, he had walked into a side lane, then down another and across to another. He had no recollection of his directions and no need for them at this present moment in time. His mind moved the pieces of recorded events around slowly, there was no chemical stimulant to help now. He slowly became aware of something. He wasn’t sure what it was, it could have been anything, it didn’t matter what it was. For the first time in his life in Roxy, he was unsure of what to do. Did that matter? He had a feeling it didn’t but didn’t know why.
Two men dressed in smart dark attire stepped silently out in front of Eno, he almost bumped into them but pulled up short of contact. ’Sorry, I just…’.
| 6 |
Three women and two men walked from around the corner laughing and talking loudly, caught up in the early night euphoria of what is Roxy’s speciality. They were bright and glamorous and exotic and totally oblivious to the bundle that lay in their path until the first of the group stumbled. ‘I nearly fell!’ She exclaimed. ‘And the night’s barely started, darling’ said another busting into laughter. ‘Who left this here, it’s a danger and a sight!’ the discoverer continued. ‘It’s a… It’s a. Person!’ said one of the men. He bent down to one knee being careful not to stretch-tear his blue moiré trousers. He pulled the bundle which turned out to be a black woollen-type, oversized blanket that opened to spill the naked form of a thin, stark man. Naked, save for square after square covering near every inch of the his lifeless form. It gave the appearance of some over-sized armadillo. The group recoiled in horror. It was the last thing they expected to find in Roxy. One of the women started screaming, each stepped back further. Some people came running, expecting to find a new high put on for their entertainment by Roxy. They stopped short, puzzled then alarmed with understanding. Their night was tainted.
| stop |
A man sat behind a sleek design desk in one of the many office blocks overlooking The City. Light shone in at the window, tempered by the baffles that auto-adjusted to the incline of the incoming rays. An ultra-defined image of Eno Volt as a thin digi-scan was suspended in the air, just above the desk. The figure brought up his hand, finger extended and slowly but deliberately struck an ‘X’ across the image of Eno’s staring eyes, smiling face. The X’s red afterglow hung for a few seconds across the image in the air, before the image ghosted to a mid grey, stuttered then disappeared. Copyright © 2014, murpworks.com