The past week has been hectic. I ground this one out in two and a half days, if that. I like the idea of it, though.
The towers seemed higher than before. Massive spires of steel, they made the surrounding walls of East District look puny. As he switched on the service elevator to go to the lower decks of the city, he could not help but watch the sun setting across the skyline. Orange rays danced along the metal towers and construction cranes that covered the buildings.
He looked down at his full-body extermination suit and waited. Gears ground against gears behind him as rusted wires pulled the cab up. He took this time to watch a flock of birds circle one of the towers and vanish just above him.
There was a ringing in his ear as the cab slid into place. Pressing on the side of his helmet, he accepted the call. “Olsen here.”
“Isaac?” squeaked a familiar voice.
He grinned a little as the grate-lined elevator doors parted. He stepped inside. “Oh, hey, Stan. Listen, I’m about to head Below.”
“Oh,” his friend said, distantly.
“Yeah, a big one apparently broke through last week,” Isaac said, hitting the lowest button on the console. “Three workers are dead, five are in hospice and I can guarantee you that at least one of the bastards is turning right now.” The doors closed in front of him. “So, I need to be quick before it hits the residential areas.”
“That’s okay, then.”
“When can I call you back?”
His heart stopped. The sun began to dip behind the walls and high towers as his elevator sank. “Stan?”
“No, it’s nothing. I’ll just go.”
He knew what was happening. A voice belonging to an old counselling professor told him to keep his friend on the line. “Stan, come on, you called me. Something’s up, and you wanted to talk about it. You know I’m not gonna let something this cryptic slip by, so level with me: what is wrong?”
There was silence again. The elevator passed through an iron floor separating the city from the Below. The sun was gone. Basement Levels for each tower dangled like stalactites, dotted with windows that shone halogen lights in the gloom.
A sigh; his friend started: “I’m just so tired, man. Just with all these infestations and everything. Planet’s a mess, people are pissing around, and now Vanessa’s mad at me –”
“What happened with Vanessa?” he said, That seemed like a good place to start.
Stan groaned as though he were sick. “I lost my job at the plant, right? And now her dad’s telling her to call off the engagement, says I can’t support her now.”
In seconds, the lower halves of the towers were gone. All that connected him to the world above was the service elevator shaft he rode in. The darkness of the Below was growing deeper, even with the faint lamplight of the old shops and buildings illuminating the forgotten world beneath him.
“So?” he asked, inputting a code into his armcom. A video screen came up. “Her dad’s not marrying you; she is. Tell him to back off.”
“But he’s got a point, right? I mean, there’s no time to sit around anymore, not with –”
The gears began to grind loudly, cutting off his friend’s speech. With a heavy kachunk, the cab stopped moving and the doors slid open. A dingy intersection lay before him, cracked concrete and scraps of trash lining the ground. Burnt, crumbling buildings surrounded the shaft.
There was a high beeping noise. He checked his armcom as a message from H.Q. came to him. Slowly, Isaac read it and continued his chat, “Sorry, I didn’t catch a word of that,” he said.
“Nothing. It’s just,” his friend stammered, weakly, “I’m just wondering what the point of all this is, you know?”
Angrily, Isaac Olsen stepped from the elevator and typed out a quick response. “The point?! Damn it, Stan, I’m down here risking my life for people like you and Nessa! Seriously, if anything happened to you, I’d lie down and let the fuckers take me!”
“You don’t mean that.”
“Testing me, now?” he said, keeping watch on the emptied streets. A door was off its hinges just left of him, lined with scratch marks and blood stains, “I’m just some putz who cleans the streets. One hundred and seventeen of me back at the base. But you, there’s only one of you, and only one of Vanessa, and you wanna know the point?”
“Isaac, I –”
Isaac turned to face a dark alleyway. Movement came from behind a row of garbage cans. His voice lowered. “Call Nessa and tell her you love her. Take your ass to Jonesy’s tomorrow and fill out a goddamn form. Hit the West District, upper levels, start talking to people, find a new gig. If Nessa’s dad starts giving you trouble, tell him that you're taking initiative.”
“Don’t argue. I already got Elle to find someone to work on your resume. He’ll be there within the hour.”
There was a choked cry on the other side. His friend sniffed and whimpered in his ear: “Isaac, I love you man.”
“You, too,” he said, watching as something lithe and thin speared a garbage can, dragging it into the black unknown just as quickly as it appeared. “Now get your ass together. I see it.”
“Right. Knock ‘em dead.”
The com switched off. From an iron holster in his thigh, a long gun unfolded. He gripped the butt of it and stood at the ready.
A quartet of long, spindly legs unfolded from the darkness and dug into the concrete. There was a low hiss like steam escaping a rusted pipe.
He sneered at the thing. “Come on, you bastard. I got places to be.”
See you next time,
EDIT: May 17, 2012. Edit, edit, edit.