The outskirts went dark just before midnight whilst The Hub shone like a beacon, the only star in the heavens on the darkest of nights.
The rain was falling hard but I had to get out. Curfew in force no one out to enforce it. Things were bad, damned if I could remember when they’d been good? Same troubles always just different times. People are people. C’est la vie. The clichés fell as heavy as the rain and I just carried on walking.
Ahead the sky glowed thanks to The Hub. Figures huddled in doorways, down alleyways, some under makeshift shelters others just under scraps of whatever fabrics they could scavenge. Neglect was everywhere etched in deep cracks on the buildings and on the haggard faces of the street people. I turned my collar up to avoid the furtive glances, no one made eye contact, no one said a word, the polite society had died and disappeared long ago, feared held sway now thanks to the media and general arrogance, the I Want generations full of demands wanting nothing but bread and circuses yet having no desire to work for such rewards. Demanding of the state, giving nothing but contempt in return, always envious of the rich and eager for their wealth, looking for fame and glory but, again, no wish to work for, no talent to find it.
And now here we are?
Street walkers in doorways many long long past their prime others too young to be plying such a trade whistled as I walked, cat called for trade, one looked to be well in her 80’s so old that even the darkness could not hide a life lived so long, another was a lad in slashed faux leather hot pants and little else, scars on his arms and dark shadows under his eyes that had a blank stoned stare, the chain attached to the spiked dog collar around his neck held by a butch dom, a muscular female, out of place in that group by physique and bearing, clothing and stance. Gang boss? Maybe? On this street? No! Not on this street.
In the distance a wail solitary, high, wailing, mournful, closing. A siren, militia forces drawing near and above the rain you could hear the street people move, forcing open stiff doors, anything to get off the sidewalks, out of the alleyways. The sex workers vanished like smoke, one second there, the next gone.
I stood in the rain and listened to the ever closing wail. Eyes trying to see the tell-tale red and blue light show dancing in the puddles and flashing in the rain. Closer ever closer the sound came, I walked on, foot after careful foot moving to the end of the street. I froze. Saw a chance in a doorway, a deep shadow that could/would hide me. I moved there as the sound hit the corner and around it siren blaring came some Trash Monkey riding a bike its tyres long gone now, mainly riding on its metal rims that rattled on the road, a stolen siren wailed as the Monkey peddled laughing manically behind its face mask. I let out a long held in breath. Was about to step back out when the familiar hiss of a Probe drone filled the street in pursuit of the crazed cyclist.
I started at the sight of it. Hoped that it had not seen me. It passed quickly. 10 feet, 20 feet, 30. Had I been lucky? It reared back sharply, blade wash sending spray everywhere, beams came on as it turned, its lights tracing the walls, finding every nook, every doorway, every broken window, catching every face that had been looking out now forced back in to hide and hope it would leave them alone, it moved back my way slow and sure, then its three beams focused on where I hid, illuminating the toe of my boot. I swore silently in my mind as the beams brightened and rose to find the rest of me. The light blinded me and I raised a hand to shield my eyes. As I did so I noticed two figures move behind the Drone, each coming from different sides of the street, hands gestured in a way I recognised . The probe was speaking in its guttural electronic tongue, no doubt seeking instruction, clarification. The lights went out as quickly as they had come on and it turned, fast and furious, back after its Trash Monkey quarry.
I blinked. Blind in the darkness, stars dancing in my vision, I could hear the two standing in the middle of the street, could feel the apprehension. This was not the place to get busted. I took a chance, I began to run. No sooner had I moved so did they and the night, the street, now echoed to the sounds of boots running, splashing through the puddles and kicking up fear.