Author : Ben Spivey

10:25am, on the wall hung an old analog clock. The second hand ticked once forward then once back; the battery was close to dead. Josh sat in front of his pc; its glow illuminated his sharp face.

Behind him his fiancé slept under a neon blue blanket. Her arm hung over the bed’s edge making the implant barcode visible on her wrist. The numbers read 9780502. They signified everything from bank records to birth caste.

He flicked up the room’s light switch. The bulb hesitated to glow and the numbers on his wrist read 9780500. Untouchable.

“Wake up Scarlet.” He said.

She pulled the blue over her amber hair, “Sleepy” her voice came through muffled like static.

He pulled the blanket past her waist. She put her hands on her face, “The light,” she moaned.

He put on his parka and pulled the hood over his forehead; strapped his boots.

Out of bed she wiggled into a pair of black leather pants that complimented the tank top she slept in, as well as her curves.

11:15am, garbage, knee high, lined the streets gutters. Caste 00 was restricted to the slums, the alleys. 02 moved freely.

11:19am, blanket sky was gray as the sun selectively broke through in circled spots.

“How do I look?” she asked pushing Audrey Hepburn sized glasses to the top of her head.

“Stunning,” he said while patting his pocket, making sure he remembered his wallet.

11:27am, brown brick building, Tokyo neon sign read: Red Shift.

He took her by the hips and held her close, “That’s the place.”

They stand for a second deep in each other’s eyes.

“You deserve this,” she said.

Inside the Red Shift an anorexic man who looked like a Soho street dealer said, “You’re late,” as he disappeared behind a red taffeta curtain. From behind the curtain he said, “Name’s David.”

11:46am, he reappeared, goggles strapped to his face. “Payment?”

Josh put $78 onto the counter. David’s eyes reflected through the goggle’s black tint. Behind the taffeta curtain was a hallway decorated exclusively with Virgin Mary candles and pictures.

11:51am, “Sit down,” David said opening a case full of various electronic gadgets and rusted surgical tools. “Give me your wrist. Relax. First a shot first, disrupt the tags.”

“Will this work?”

“You’ll be caste zero two before you know it.”

The needle went in smooth; David smiled crooked.

11:54am. “I feel dizzy,” Josh said.

“That’s your girl out there?”

Josh nodded like a drunk, “Scarlet.” He slid out of his chair like a dead fish. The floor was cold and ubiquitous. “Drugged me,” he squeaked and coughed. He watched the room twist and spin. It reminded him of when he was a child at the park. His legs couldn’t understand his brain telling them to stand. He dragged his weight toward the exit, toward David walking away, toward Scarlet. He gasped air; his vision turned black

11:59am, “Scarlet?” David asked, resting his sandpaper elbows on the curve of the front counter.

“Everything alright?”

“Fine,” he assured her, he paused, “Follow me.” They walked past Virgin Mary. “I’ve got my own problems you know? I’m double zero too,” David held up his scared wrist, removed flesh; he’d long cutout his barcode. “To be set free; you’re my ticket, I need your barcode.”

In a flash she sees Josh laying flat, his eyes glossed. “God,” She gulped; turned too run; she felt a needle slide into her neck.

“You won’t feel a thing,” David said as she collapsed to the floor. Holding her wrist he began to cut out her barcode.


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