Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer

I open my eyes to behold a slit of blue between tenements that descend from lofty, sunlit heights to the sordid mess of which I am a larger part. Lining that strip of clear sky are the blurry, baroque patterns made by fire escapes and drying racks set against the cerulean heavens.
Lowering my sight, I find aged brickwork well on its way to possessing the rugose anonymity of weathered rock due to a thick layer of ordure. In places that glistens like oils left to dry by a demented painter.
I have but one boot remaining. The sock on the other foot bears more resemblance to what covers the walls than any garment. My trews are ragged, likely ruined. I am shirtless under my heavy coat, and am lying on a soiled mattress.
Have I an appointment? Am I late? Something disturbed-
My testicles are wet.
Pressing my chin to my chest, I see a bottle resting against my crotch, angled in a way that incriminates my left hand for dereliction of gripping duties.
Righting the bottle, I narrow my eyes, then resort to digital means as the effort required to focus is beyond me. My headware queries the bottle and its RFID returns: ‘Freefall: premium vodka triple distilled in low-earth orbit’.
Unfinished vodka, and the sun is on the rise. So yesterday was Tuesday. Maybe. Today is probably Wednesday, or I missed brandy day and today is Thursday: tequila day. Making head or tails of that conundrum can wait. I drink the bottle dry, then consider taking my trousers off to suck the spilled liquor from them. That would require a cessation of being prone – isn’t worth that sort of effort.
Letting my head fall back, I watch birds wheel across the blue slot above, trying to guess where they’ll pop into view. Sure enough, idling and booze slip me back into stupor.

I dream of a furtive man in shabby clothes running the calluses of his thumb across the edge of his blade, taking comfort from the feel of whetted steel. He’s creeping down a debris-strewn alley, everything about or on him suppressed so as not to give warning. It’s foolish, trying to get past the eyes that never sleep, but the rewards are so big he cannot do anything but try.

My knee cracks bone when it slams into his head, held in place by my left hand, grip anchored by thumb in eye socket. Right hand smashes the empty bottle. Pain starts to make him recoil; jagged glass opens his throat. I release his head with a push and twist. That turns him away before he drops next to me. His last breath gurgles and stops. From the roof above it would look like we’re drunks sharing a discarded mattress.
I’m awake.
“Good morning, Frank.”
My ‘eyes that never sleep’ have been waiting.
“Hello, SAL. How long did I manage this time?”
“Nine days. A new record.”
“Thanks for letting me pretend for a while.”
“I don’t mind. Your drunken dreams are fascinating and some of your ramblings are quite insightful. I’ve contacted the outfitters. Clothes and grooming accessories will be here within the hour. Coffee and pierogi will arrive sooner.”
“Thanks, SAL. Next contract?”
“Mars. Somebody’s insisting they’ve been dumped there against their will.”
“We’re to silence them?”
“No, we’re to bring them home alive.”
“Nice. We can pretend to be a good Samaritan.”
“I thought you’d like it.”
I sit up and settle. It’s so quiet here.
“We should move nearer to the entrance of the alley.”
“Ah. Yes.”