Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Writing Wednesdays: The Reformed 1.3

This is the fourth part of this story.  Previous installments can be found here or by following the label below the post.  Thanks for reading!

June 6, 2021
   Kent remembered television.  Flashing screens.  Annoyingly loud commercials.  Late night humor.  Even the occasional reality show or, Lord help, a soap opera.  But he’d give his right hand if he could watch some football again.  See some cheerleaders dancing, smiling at the camera.  Bright lights and loud fans.  Even a half would be okay.  Even a Titans game.
    Graham kept a flatscreen above the bar for old times’ sake.  “How can a sports bar be a sports bar without a tv?” he’d say whenever somebody would ask, which was nobody anymore.  The joke was as tired as every patron of the bar was.
    Kent drained the last of his beer and slammed the mug down on the bar.  Alcohol wasn’t cheap, not after the CRC stopped the barman from practically giving it away.  Graham figured everyone needed cheap booze to drown out the past, and for a while the man only charged whatever could be afforded.
    Graham’s eyes went up at the noise.  “Mind the glass there, Kent,” he said smiling.  But Kent wasn’t in a smiling mood.  His head buzzed, the world was spinning faster than normal, and he had business to attend.
    “Mind yerself, Graham,” he said with a growl.
    The smile vanished.  “Glass is getting harder to come by, so I reckon I am minding myself.  And if you want to keep your welcome here, you best learn to mind my word.”
    “Bah!  I’ve ‘ad enough today anyway.”  Kent stumbled to his feet, grabbing his backpack.  The bar was uncommonly full and several heads looked at him.  Usually around lunch time people were out working, finding ways to sustain themselves.  Everybody that was able had a part to play in the Hub’s survival.  Those that knew how worked the fertile lands outside the city, growing all varieties of crops.  This was the most important profession in the Hub.  Without food, they didn’t eat.  Others took jobs with the scavengers or the CRC, picking through the ruins outside the walls.  Some even traveled the long roads, trading with other cities.  There were many legitimate jobs to be had in and out of the Hub, and Kent shunned every one of them.
    “What’re you loogin’ at?”  Kent snarled at a wide-eyed fat man.
    He stepped out into the warm noonday sun.  The light hurt his eyes, jabbing his already throbbing head with a sharp stick.  The streets were busier than normal.  Before, roads were dangerous things, reserved for cars and trucks moving at incredible speeds.  Everybody had their own vehicle, doing their own thing.  Private lives.  Private property.  Private everything.
    Privacy burned to the ground with the rest of the world.  Just looking at the throng of people shuffling together down the street proved that.  Survivors all have something in common, but Kent found it hard to adjust to the new society.  For the millionth time, he wanted his old life back.  He didn’t like communal housing or rationed food.  He was a loner, absorbed in his own misery.
    As much as he didn’t want to, he joined in with the crowd, mindlessly moving in their tide.  He didn’t recognize anyone.  Just faces.  Hard, grim faces.  Where are they going?  Again he wondered why so many people were out today.  Was he missing something?  He thought for a moment that zetas might have been spotted inside the walls, but quickly abandoned that idea.  If that were the case, the crowd would be in chaos, like it was back when he lost Kallie.
    Buzzed and not caring, he spoke his thoughts out loud.  “Where’s everybody goin’?”  But no one answered.  To them he looked like all the other drugged-out lowlifes, ragged and hollow eyed.  They were right.
    He pressed his way through the crowd, cutting across and to the other side of the road.  In the distance he could make out what looked like a stage sitting in the town square.  Is there another announcement being made today?  He couldn’t remember.  Didn’t really care.  There were other things to do today.
    Frans was waiting for him just outside the door to the Old McDonald’s, a one-time convenient store.  His small, flashing eyes always made Kent think the man was paranoid, waiting for something to jump from the shadows and grab him.  Kent couldn’t blame him; he didn’t understand why there weren’t more people like him.
    Frans nodded.  “Hey, man.  What a crowd, huh?”  Eyes left.  Eyes right.
    “Yeah.  Big crowd.  There an, uhm, announcement today or somethin’?”
    Frans laughed.  “Yeah, there’s an announcement.  Something about equality or something for the betas.  More daylight time or something, I dunno.  You know, people always--”
    The world span.  Reforms getting equal rights?  Kent didn’t think so.  He had half a mind to march down to the podium and tell Governor Wallace what he thought about equality.  First they wanted to change the zetas to betas, and now they’re wanting to make betas equal to the so-called alphas?  The scum didn’t deserve equal rights with a tree, let along real human beings.
    “What a load a’ crap.  Those monsters...”  He spat.
    “Who, the betas or the politicians?”  Frans let a wicked smile cross his face.  Tiny teeth.  Beady eyes.  For a moment he looked like a large rat.
    “Funny.  You gonna take me in or what?”  The sun was killing his head, not to mention his filled bladder and smelly backpack.  Briefly Frans’ eyes fell upon his, and Kent thought he might’ve hurt the boy’s feelings.  A second later they were back dancing around.
    “Sure.  Sure.  C’mon.”  Frans led him down an alley.  It smelled like something rotten.  The beer threatened to come up, but soon they were through the stench and standing outside a sub-level door.  Frans tapped a few times and then produced a key.
    Inside, two thugs lowered their guns when they saw who it was.  Kent looked around.  Bodies everywhere, passed out or sleeping.  Some clothed, many not.  Used syringes and empty pill-tins lay cast about.  A cesspool of oblivion.
    They went down a small ramp and through a kitchen to an old office room.  Strung out junkies covered the place.  One woman was talking to herself about her babies, telling them they would be okay.  Several were sitting quietly, mind’s gone in private drug-fueled dreamlands.  Here, at least, one could find privacy.
    Frans knocked on the door and stepped inside.  A man about Kent’s age was sitting in a chair reading a book.  Varden Clark.  The most powerful man in the Hub.  “Ah, Frans.  I was wondering when you’d arrive.  Please, come in.”  They shut the door behind them.  “What can I do for you?”
    Flashing eyes again.  “Th-this is Kent Andrews, s-sir.  He’s got some business f-for you.”
    Varden put the book down and leaned forward.  “Business, eh?  What kind of business?”  His voice was smooth, like honey bourbon and iced Coke.
    Kent withdrew a dark stained sack from his backpack and tossed it on the table.  The bag came open and a head rolled out, falling to the ground.  Frans gasped.  The head smelled like it had been basking in a backpack for a few days.  It didn’t look any better.  A slight smile appeared on Varden’s face.
    “You said the reward was good dead or alive.  Well.  He’s dead.”
    “Yes, Mr. Andrews, he most certainly is.”


Crystal said...

I'm really enjoying this story! I like how you switch persons each week, but I think I like Kent's view better. Next week I'll probably like Sienne's view better, unless you decide to throw someone else's perspective in the mix....

logankstewart said...

@Crystal: Thank you very much. I can't decide which POV I like writing better. Hopefully the mojo keeps flowing for this story. :)

Kristopher A. Denby said...

I just picked this up here. Been, er, absent for a bit. Well, you know. Anyway, now I'll have to go back and catch up.

I have to say that this grabbed me right away. Very deft handling of character, my friend. Looking good. Looking good.

logankstewart said...

@Kris: Glad you're back. Thanks for the compliments. Let's hope I keep it up.