A sample of the piece I’m working on. I can’t call this the final version of this section, but it’s fairly well refined.
EDGE OF REASON by Adam Susskind
“Shocking?” she asks.
“A bit,” I say. I’m trying to act like I saw this coming from a mile away. I’m on my bed, sitting up, resting my head in my hands. A cool draft hits my scalp. I shiver. This conversation has gone nowhere for three hours. She doesn’t seem to have any answers. There’s a pause, like something on the tip of her tongue, a feather, and then nothing. I ran out of things to say over an hour ago. I stammer for a moment, “I…”
“You don’t know what to say.”
“I get it. It’s fine, really.”
There’s a long silence and, looking more than a little dejected, she eventually walks away. A clumsy conversation. I hear the television tap on, a light click, from the other room. She’s soft spoken and warm, smells like-… Something nice. I’ve never been one for poetry. Heck if I know how I became the luckiest man in the whole damn city. I love that woman like air and food and synth.
I fog up the inside of my helmet with my heavy breathing. Horrible piece of equipment; too much dependence on it working. I pull it off, the gravity fighting me every inch of the way. It gets tossed in the trash. A timer goes off somewhere internally. Time to haul my ass into bed and remember to forget for a few hours. Sleep hits me like a freight train, and the rest of the night flies past so fast that I’m snapping my .22 into its holster before I even have a chance to think about dreaming.
There’s a small mirror over the dresser where, in the top drawer, in the back, I keep my gun. The person looking back at me needs a shave and a tranquilizer. I walk out into the other room, one of three in a tiny closet I call home. There’s a closed door leading into the third room where my wife is sleeping, likely on the couch. I grab my key, and leave. The massive iron door closes in my wake. For a moment, before I start walking, I look down the endless hallway that lies before me, door after door after door, curving off, just in the distance. This infinite labyrinth is storage. Miles below the ground, and then still miles more below the upper parts of the city, this is home.
I can hear my wife’s breathing, echoing in my mind. Soft intake, smooth exhale. I see my wife’s pretty face framed in the doorway yesterday as she tries to explain that she’s back for good. I’m skeptical. I’m worried, but mostly, I’m scared shitless. She smiles, and even under her generic shirt and pants, I can see she’s one of a kind. I can see she’s one of a kind. I can see she’s one of a kind.
I shake my head. Present tense, I concentrate on what’s ahead. I start walking, following the blue painted lines on the floor that lead for two miles. I’m a crap cop with a dirty job on the bottom level of City 23 who enjoys the protection of a gun because I’m afraid of just about everybody. But I’ve got good reason to be.
My name is Sam Stone, my wife Katherine was killed two weeks ago, and I just spent the afternoon with her.
I’ve got a visit to make before clocking in at station.
Gregg Copper, living under the radar. The guy was raped up in the Eightieth Level Correctional Facility. He couldn’t stand the thought of staying behind bars, so he applied for the transfer to a work level, and escaped during his transfer. He’s here now. The man’s a bit of a suck up cause he knows I’m a cop, but he’s got friends who owe me information, and he knows where to find them. That’s half of why I don’t mind him making a groveling fool out of himself every time I show up. The other half? Doctors call it a superiority complex, my wife used to tell me I had a power fetish. Maybe I’m not as nice a guy as I wish I was.
I take a moment and look down the hallway, both ways, looking for people. I finger handle of my gun, feel a sneeze coming on, and knock on the door. How suave.
He’s quick to answer. The door flies open. Gregg is a small man. He doesn’t look overweight, but he’ll likely be dead by fifty from some heart defect or another. I almost forgot how his apartment consistently smells of urine; the open door is a cruel reminder.
“Hi Gregg. Mind if I bother you for a bit?” He’s got an empty look on. Kind of a dumb guy, not a real violent one though. I don’t know what he could have done to get himself locked up. He looks tired, bags under his eyes. His hair is all over the place, and he’s got a big bruise on his bare chest.
“Somebody rough your ass up?” I groan at the stench, “Put a shirt on. You need a shower.” I say. No response. I invite myself in. There’s a needle on the floor, and are several empty bottles of Synth littering the area. Gregg’s inebriated voice pipes up, but mumbles off before he finishes his thought. There’s a pile of dirty clothes littering the majestic landscape. Looks like he slept on his couch again. The door to his bedroom is closed, but I keep myself from being curious about it.
“My wife is back,” I say, “and I don’t know what is going on. You wouldn’t know anything about that, right?”
He clears this throat, “Ahem. No sir.”
“Well, I didn’t think you would. That’s fine. Smoke?” I offer him a cigarette. Old habits die hard.
“Didn’t you stop- like, uh, quit?”
“I don’t know. Can’t remember. Didn’t you quit drinking?”
I light up. Down here, fire is as illegal as the cigarette, which is to say, enough to warrant a beating down at the precinct. Gregg’s mentality is that it’s better to burn out and leave a great corpse then die on his knees at one hundred and twenty while a pulse monitor goes static. He takes the cigarette. These reusable cig’s don’t taste like the real deal. Not by a long shot, but then I suppose I don’t complain about Synth tasting like crap. It’s all booze to me. Somehow I can’t help but hate Gregg for a moment. He’s everything I hate about myself, except without the nagging anger in the back of my mind.
“Can’t you lay off the goddamn Synth for a hour or two?” I try not to yell. Too late. He whimpers. Poverty tends to breed his kind. I shouldn’t hate him, but it’s easy to find him disgusting, and I like the feeling of power because I don’t get it anywhere else.
I say, “I had her cremated. I mean, I just don’t get it!”
“I know. I was there.”
“Thank you. At least I’m not going crazy, that’s nice to know.”
He smiles and stumbles just the slightest bit as he steps forward. I guess he’s expecting something after this life, something better, because he’s definitely intent and drinking all time away.
“Sorry Sam, I didn’t say you weren’t nuts.”