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Fiction Sprint #2

31 January 2018 - Wednesday - 7:25 PM Sprint

The month closed, and the bills were due. Good thing the paychecks went out that day as well. Debits went in; credits went out, it was like clockwork. Even the underworld had its rules. The dark underbelly of the Martian landscape grew more sinister the deeper it went. Only the brave feared to tread down to level 13. It wasn’t a fit night out for man nor beast, but down on Level 13, no one could ever tell. It wasn’t pretty, but the men who called it home weren’t pretty either.

No women were allowed on Level 13, and that suited them just fine. They could make do with whatever rules they wanted, and they could leave the seat up in the john. It was the little things that mattered down here.

Subsets of humans were also down here. Maybe they could be called AI, but the ones down here weren’t programmed by the high and mighty from the Council, they were programmed by the less than gifted guys who gravitated to this level of debauchery.

Did I mention it wasn’t pretty? Yeah, I thought so. I’d say I wasn’t pretty either, but no one ever cared to ask. I wore a mask that covered the upper left third of my face. Let’s just call it an accident and leave it at that.

The other side of my face wasn’t much better, with scars and track marks like railroads crossing a deserted lunar landscape. It didn’t matter that they actually came from railroads crossing a deserted lunar landscape, but that was a story for another time.

The word on the street that the New Moon on the New Day of the New Month would be extra dark. That wasn’t a good sign for me; it just meant more activity up above and more than my share of worry down here. The crazier things got up above; they grew ten times worse down here. I had to be ready.

Another of those little things was how the latches on the doors never seemed to match up. The shifting ground made it impossible for the things to ever settle down right. Not that it mattered. No one had anything down here worth taking. It was communal property. You took what you needed when you needed it. When you were done with it, the next guy went on about his business and took over for you. If you were lucky, you swapped shit for the time being and gave a wink and moved on.

The wink wasn’t any kind of kinky shit, it was a sign of respect and knowing that things weren’t always as they seemed. Just getting that wink meant that the guy you were dealing with knew the score. If you didn’t get a wink, you were dealing with a wannabe poser and memorized his face to report to the authorities. Not those authorities up above, the ones down here who did their dirty work. The ones from the way beyond and could tear up half the Level with just so much as a bad word. Once they heard about new wannabe posers, they picked them up and took them to a special holding cell. There they were toughened up and hardened into the type who never left this Level again.

Did I mention I was lucky? I could float between levels. Not that anyone up above wanted to see my ugly mug. I was free to move around and get things done. It made me very popular. If someone on Level 2 needed something “delivered” to someone on Level 12, I was the one they called.

Being payday and billday, I got a comm early on that some hussy on that very level needed a “present” given to another butcher on level 7. She had no issues doing the drop herself, she just wanted to see me. Thanks, Mom. I could have gone another few months without seeing dad.

It was just my luck that dad was out of the office when I dropped by to give him his “present.” The sign on the door said he’d be back in five so I waited. It stunk or rotten fish, but it was late morning by the time I got there. Breakfast was done, and the leftovers were thrown into the gutter. The pickup dirtbags were still sleeping it off from the night before. They’d be around soon enough, and the air would smell like daisies if daisies smelled like corpse flowers.

I mentioned my dad was a butcher, right? Though I didn’t say what kind of butcher. I’ll leave it to your imagination if you get my drift.

My dad walked back to the hall, brushing my shoulder roughly with his cutter. “Nice to see you, too, dad,” I muttered, half to myself and half to no one in particular.

He seemed to be in a foul mood today. Guessing one of his other deliveries hadn’t gone as planned. Just another kink in the goings on of Level 7.

I never understood why he set up shop on this level. With the shit that went on with him, you’d have thunk the authorities would have demanded he drop down a few. If not to Level 13, then at least level 10. That’s where the big bosses plied their wares. He’d have fit right in with those cretins. Sorry, I just don’t like them. Don’t tell them that or they’ll never have me do another transfer for them. I keep my mouth shut but they seem to know I don’t like ‘em.

I needed the cash so yeah, I kept my mouth shut. I took no sides, and that drew me a lot of heat from some of the other delivery guys. When push came to shove, I was right down the middle. It wasn’t an honor thing, I just didn’t give a shit.

Dad drew me a line of credit and handed me the chip receipt. Great, another thing to throw in my pocket and never wind up throwing away. It would be another link in the trail I could have done without. He was blood, so he knew that but didn’t care. I got out of there when he started carving into his afternoon work. It wasn’t my bag so I said goodbye and left.

The next five minutes were hard to take. The unexpected credits waffling around on my comm were hard to compute. It was too late in the day for things like that to happen. All transactions happened at 12:01 A.M. and not a moment later. I looked at my comm – 12:01 P.M. There must have been a glitch due to the coming moon phase.

25:00 Sprint – 1,135 words

Copyright © 2018 Chad V. Holtkamp.

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