Author : Desmond Hussey, Featured Writer
“That’ll be two-thousand kilowatts,” the droopy eyed clerk said when he finished scanning Sarah’s purchase. She held out her debit battery, which was running depressingly low; prayed she had enough. The clerk barely looked at her as he snagged the black, glossy storage unit and slid it into the transfer terminal. A light blinked momentarily then went solid green. She breathed a sigh of relief.
Sarah retrieved her depleted battery, packed her purchase carefully into her backpack, shouldered it and stepped outside into thick, muggy air.
The treeless streets were crowded with a shuffling throng of pedestrians and commuters on bicycles. Very few internal combustion autos were on the roads these days since fuel prices had skyrocketed. Electric vehicles were also rare, used exclusively by obscenely wealthy power brokers. Since electricity had become the standard currency, it was considered frivolous to use so much energy to commute. Even the most efficient electric automobile consumed enough kilowatts in a short fifty kilometer trip to buy a family food for an entire week.
Sarah glanced up at the sky. Overcast. Again. Which meant the solar collector on her patio would barely be charging. Sunny days were rare, but when they happened, the whole world was rejuvenated, basking in the sun’s generous outpouring of energy. Pale faces showed a hint of color. Batteries charged. Pennies from heaven.
But today, the slate grey sky was reflected in the slack faces of the desultory mob, which moved like an ocean, flowing in strange Brownian currents to myriad destinations.
She passed a communal dinning hall where she would normally have eaten a meager dinner, but she was low on kilowatts. The smell of spiced lentils made her stomach growl. She moved on.
She passed the crowded mag-rail station and envied those who could afford to ride it. She felt the weight of the parcel in her pack and fought a brief pang of guilt. If she hadn’t spent so much on a frivolous luxury she could ride home. Her legs ached after a long day pedaling the bicycle which powered the lights at the slaughterhouse. Perhaps tomorrow she would find a better job. A waitress in one of those fancy restaurants. Or a garbage collector. Anything but pedaling for ten hours. She shouldered her bag and continued walking.
It was dark by the time she got to her tenement building, a towering, terraced honeycomb of concrete. She didn’t bother with the lift. It was usually out of order anyway. Instead, she slowly climbed the winding stairwell to the tenth floor feeling the inert weight of her precious bundle in each step.
“I’m home,” she trilled softly as she closed the door to her tiny darkened apartment. The air was cooler here, fresher, smelling faintly of lemon and roses. Her sanctuary.
She checked the apartment’s battery supply. Less than 15% capacity, but she dared to turn on the full spectrum fluorescents. Just for a little while. They would need it.
As the lights flickered on, the room blossomed into a lush riot of verdant foliage. Ivy clung to the walls and spilled out the open window. Vibrant flowers, spiky dracaenas, broad leafed rubber plants, variegated hostas and herbs all vied for light; a veritable oasis of life.
She dropped her pack, withdrew the heavy bag of fertilizer and soil amender and began tending her tiny, luscious garden. Here, within her cocoon of life, she found a wealth greater than anything electricity could buy. She found peace. She found hope.
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