I open the fridge door to face a rancid jug of orange juice. I hated the stuff. Ronnie left it there last week when he camped over to have me test his communications app for the company, making me message back and forth and click all the buttons while he listened to me grumble.
I would periodically give up to pick up the bowl beside me and spoon sugar fruit cereal into my mouth. Between crunches, I would watch the glowing lines of code extending and rearranging across his computer screen and ask myself if this was his way of checking on me. It wasn’t like we had school, not like other kids our age. Nor did we need to worry about the travel time with the teleporters, but Ronnie seemed to find reasons to be over.
And I needed him to have reasons.
There it was. The orange juice. I notice that the vial with the drug I carry to clients is not in the fridge before I shut the door.
No point in worrying.
Ronnie must have taken it with him on the way out, after we stayed up to watch the news on my tiny 4D projector, until I was too tired to think, and he had sent me to my bed.
I wander over to a LiveSmart panel in the wall beside the stove and scroll through my food options. Ten minutes delivery time. I always notice this little promise of theirs. I think to test it out, but most of the time the idea of food is…unappetizing. I ultimately stop scrolling through, leaving myself to stare at the glorified picture of a piece of steak.
I don’t want to be happy the way other people are.
Besides, our family wasn’t the type to know about food. I would notice bowls of fruit and flavored rice set out for me to eat that mother would have cut by hand or boiled herself, but our LiveSmart panel was always set to instant noodles. I didn’t know what to tell her.
I move my finger up the screen and hold down the circular power button until the panel flickers off. Some things just aren’t worth it.
Giving up breakfast I return to my room. I move to get dressed with practiced care. Pulling something from the top shirt drawer, tossing my slept in t-shirt to the bin in the corner. I find a pair of pants draped over a decorative chair to shimmy into over my underwear, which had been what I slept in. I mean why make more mess by dirtying all the clothes.
Why get dressed at all, unless you’re going out. Which is what I was doing.
I strongly believed in the medicine of fresh oxygen.
I turn the doorknob on my front door and pull back with all my weight, it sticks to the frame before popping open. I don’t fix it because it would scare a thief. I shove it closed behind me and it locks automatically. The tattoo on my wrist has the scannable key to let me back in. See, wrist tattoos are bad ideas. I’m still waiting to loose my hand.
I get to the rattling elevator that services the building and press the little down button three times for good measure. It jerks to a stop on my floor and the door jams halfway open. I turn sideways and push inside.
The trouble with always having new technology like PortPads is that you either have it or it’s broken. Can you believe that I trust this death trap more than the stairs? Well, believe it because that metal is corroded to shit. At least I can still escape my apartment.
Out on the street, most people wear VR Glasses. Their pixilated view shows them arrows to guide them past obstacles like an expensive game of frogger, but unlike them, I see my destination and everything else in between. Like the kids picking pockets as they run passing a basketball.
I hold up a hand and get a complimentary hi-five as one passes. They respect the low-teckers like me, like them. Then there are the technophiles who walk around practically flirting with their handmade robots, which look like crap, all loose wiring and dented casing. Ugh.
I finally stop by the nearly extinct hot dog stand which sadly hit it’s peak evolution with the sale of tofu dogs. I don’t get very close because I want to give this weardo-guy in a white suit, that has made it there before me, his space. I suspiciously eye the cash he hands over in exchange for a cheese covered meatdog. I thought I was the only cash carrying sucker left.
I have on an appropriately horrified face as he turns around.
He notices the face, I think, because he looks at me a good minute longer than he needs to. And for some reason, I keep looking at him in an awkward stare-off. Until he speaks. Well, questions.
“Do you live around here?”
Its like, predator question number one and he just asked it. Maybe, some girls would be happy to say. He is better dressed and richer looking than most, but me, I wasn’t into trusting.
I quirk the edge of my mouth in an awkward smile of acknowledgment.
“I’m…on the way to work,” I lie blatantly.
This is his cue to leave. Instead, he digs in his pocket with his free hand and holds up a white card, and now just white, blank.
“Keep it,” he says.
“What is it?” I think to ask.
Like hell I’ll keep it. Drugs. Must be.
“A key,” he says.
A key. To what?
The man in the white coat never said. He was walking away. He had managed to put his meatdog down, lift one of my hands, deposit this card thing into my hand, and walk away. And you know what.
I almost left it. His stupid key, on the edge of the food stand for the kids to have, but I slid it into my pocket because…maybe I could sell it. Hot dogs be damned.
I never told myself that I wanted anything more.