Author : Waldo van der Waal

It was raining outside. It was always fucking raining outside. Fat, acidic drops that stripped the city of its colour, and its inhabitants of their lives. Everybody walked hunched over, hunkered down inside their dark coats. And it smelled like… It smelled like death. The water running down the streets carried with it the pungent smells of the excrement of four million people. It washed away their shattered dreams and their cheap imitations of grandeur.

He was lying on his back, looking out through the window near his bed. Rivulets of water ran down the window pane, like veins that carried the clear wetness of death harmlessly past him in a constant stream. In the distance a holo advertised a discount hoiliday to Greece, its images flickering through the rain like lightning. Its sound drowned out by a train, passing behind his apartment.

His mouth was dry, and his arm was numb. He turned his head to see what was wrong with his arm, and saw a girl sleeping with her head on his bicep. Dark-haired, pretty. Dragon tattoos all over her face, but still pretty. And naked. She was sleeping peacefully, her breasts rising and falling in a slow rhythm.

A new sound drew his attention back to the window. It was the fuzz, landing one of their bastard ships in the street outside his apartment. For a second or two, red and blue lights flashed into his apartment, lighting up the place. The light fell on the ancient refrigirator, reflected off his broken holo tube. It cast eerie shadows across the pizza boxes, the overflowing ashtrays and the beer bottles. Red. Blue. And then it disappeared. Somewhere, some poor citizen was about to get hauled to the blocks for a friendly chat with the government. And he wouldn’t come back.

There were some shouts from a couple of flats down the hall. The girl stirred slightly and turned over. He glanced at her, but almost immediately turned back to the window. “Visit Santorini,” said the voice from the holo – he could hear it now, the train had gone – “It is the island of your dreams. The entire trips is only twelve thousand units, including transfers, teleports, accommodation, all meals and a welcome drink on arrival.”

“Twelve thousand units… That’s a lot of money”, he thought. He blinked slowly, reached for his cigarettes with his free hand, and managed to light one without setting the bed on fire. The tip glowed bright red as he took a deep drag. He held the smoke in his lungs for a couple of seconds, then he slowly exhaled in a steady stream that hung near the window before dissipating into the rest of his apartment.

Twelve thousand units. But only one trip. He killed the cigarette in the ashtray on the window sill, leant forward slightly and pulled a silver metal box closer. He opened it, pulled out a hypo and stuck it into his neck. The pain lingered for a moment, but then disappeared together with his apartment, the girl, the police, the holo and the rain. His head lolled to the side, his open eyes staring out past a future that held no appeal.

“Twelve thousand units”, he thought as he sank deeper into his dreamworld. “What a fucking waste of money…”


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