Author : Sierra Corsetti
He’s late again, which is becoming the norm. Unless he decided to jump off a high-rise on Level Three without his parachute again, I have no reason to worry.
I’m on Level Twelve in a bar that stinks of vomit and cheap liquor. Like Rex’s lateness, that’s not unusual either. Toilets don’t flush up, and when you’re at the bottom of a twelve-story city, you’re fresh out of luck.
I strum a few more notes on my guitar and unplug from the amplifier. Nobody’s listening and I’m not getting paid, so what’s the use?
They finally want me up top. The Dean sent a nice little note this morning saying if I come up, I’ll have all my training paid for and my mom will get the best care they can give her. And I’ll have a job where I can get a view of something more than gutters. But…
Rex shows up and throws back the rest of my drink before I realize what he’s doing.
“Let’s get out of here,” he says.
I sling my guitar across my back, toss some money to the bartender, and follow him outside. We step onto his hoverboard, me with my arms wrapped around his waist from behind, and take off.
He smells like fuel and grease, with a hint of the soap he uses to try and scrub the grime off. It’s all familiar to me, a part of me that I can’t imagine living without. I reach up for a moment to ruffle his hair, and know from the way his head tilts that he’s smiling.
The ride takes an hour, with transfer stations and all, but we finally set down on the top of the med center on Level One. We can see the sunset from here, but I suspect Rex chose here tonight because he knows something’s up. When I called him, I told him I wanted to talk. We both know that’s never a good thing.
“You could have all this,” he says after a long silence, and sweeps his arm to indicate the horizon. The honey-red sky lights the reflective windows of the tall buildings on fire, nearly blinding us if we look at them from the wrong angle.
“You could help people,” he presses when I don’t reply. “Sick people. Like your mom.”
But nobody can help my mom’s ALS. Even with all the prosthetics and drugs that enhance liver performance and muscle tone and eyesight and whatever else a person can possibly want.
“I could give her nurses and painkillers, nothing more.”
“It’s better than nothing.” Which is what she has right now, but he doesn’t say that.
And what would I have? More money than I’d know what to do with, a posh apartment, glamorous clothes, and people calling me Doctor Allie instead of ‘hey you.’
“But I wouldn’t have you,” I say, and turn to face him.
The look in his eyes could kill me, I swear.
“You’d make do,” he manages.
“And would you?” But he can’t answer that, and neither can I.
The sun’s nearly set now, and we’ve both begun to shiver in the growing dark. We’ll have to leave soon before the night security force comes out, but we can wait a little longer.
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