OPENING SCENES, DRAFT I - wed 13/08 - 1310 words


They lined up in the morning. It was bright, misty, and dewdrops condensed in their fur. Aa'haga shivered in the cold. His thin, pastel-blue t-shirt barely kept the moisture off, and he was hungry. They were all hungry. Most of them were thin. Some of them were barely alive. They waited for the trucks to come. The growling of an engine perked the to attention, some of them waving their work permits even before the car came into view. It was just a sedan, some guy in a suit by the wheel, causing a collective stir of discomfort to run through the group. Suits were the type to call the cops. Someone got a coughing fit, someone else collapsed. It was just another day.

Then the first truck pulled up and the shouting started. Shouting, waving papers, clamoring. /I'm strong! I'm healthy! I can work! I can work!/ Nobody bothered begging, because begging didn't work. The man on the flatbed picked out a couple of young bucks, then turned around and fiddled with his phone. Someone who'd been lucky enough to work the day before stuck up a ten dollar bill, the man snatched it and motioned for the briber to get in the van. More people got their bills out, more people got on the truck. Another truck pulled up, then, and the crowd splintered as people ran to be the first to reach the next hope. Then another truck, then another. People shouted, people waved their papers, people got on the trucks. With a little luck, come sundown, most of them would make it back, too.

When the frenzy was over, the oldest and the weakest staggered off. Someone laid still on the ground, knocked over in the stampede. He might not get up again. Aa'haga, unlucky today, didn't spare him a look. He put his work permit away and walked off towards the industrial quarter. Sometimes, someone fainted on the production line and you could get lucky work by the door. His stomach grumbled, and he felt nauseous. He walked on.



It was bright, misty, and dewdrops condensed in the flowerbeds below. Louie Rust, vaguely anticipating coffee, listened to the drone of the espresso machine and stared out over the grounds from his open window. He lived in a nice place, all in all. Clean. Pleasant. Quiet. Respectable. God, how he hated it. The embers of dissatisfaction smouldered vaguely under the fog of drowsiness in his head as he heard the espresso machine finished, and he lumbered into his little kitchen to pour a cup and eat half-burnt toast. EDM warbled out of his radio in between ad breaks, and overexcited canned hosts throwing to the next ad break after that.
The ember of dissatisfaction, stoked by caffeine, became the bonfire of anxiety and he swiped open Instagram. Fifty-seven likes on the selfie from last night, a couple of comments. Two attractive young women wanted him to see their naked video now, please click the link,, heart emoji. He scrolled through, leaving likes and brief comments on things without really looking at them. Then he put the phone down and took a bite of his toast. Then he picked the phone up again. Put it down. Toast. Up again. Down. Coffee. Up again. Toast. Down. Coffee. Toast.

He couldn't post about morning coffee and toast again, it would get old two days in a row. He wanted to buy a book so he could recommend it, or find a café.  Brushing crumbs off his shirt, he went looking for some content.

Louie Rust had a normal life. He'd been raised by normal parents in a normal house, gone to normal schools and made normal friends and, as is normal, promptly lost touch with them when he graduated college with a degree in English Literature. He had moved into a normal apartment and started a normal blog with a normal number of followers*, and worked normal jobs on the side. He was normal. Things were normal.

*i.e. two friends, three strangers and about a hundred and fifty spambots

"My friend Margaret, you know Margaret, she's the one with the husband who runs the hairspray company, and she says—"
"Yes, mom," said Louie.
"—and you could just try it for a week and you wouldn't have to stay for too long if you didn't like it but I just—"
"Yes, mom," he objected.
"—lots of opportunities you know if you just show up every day and apply yourself to—"
"Yes, mom," he opined.
"—but will you just please call her? I sent you her number, and she knows you'll be calling so please do it this time. Okay Louie?"
"Yes, mom," he lied.
"I'm just so worried you'll get left behind. The job market is really hard for people who don't have experience you know."
"Yes, mom," he disagreed.
"Ok I have to go, I have a meeting, but you will /call her/ all right? I'll see you next week. I love you."
"Yes, mom," he conceded, and she hung up.

Louie put the phone in his pocket, then took it out again. He took a selfie, and it came out awful. He put the phone away again and fiddled with it in his pocket. He wandered past shops and bodegas down Snakeskin Street, and bought a hot dog from a werewolf. It would probably be a full moon soon, judging by the man's bristling beard. He considered tweeting something supportive about full moon awareness as he ate the last bit of sausage. He sidled into a comic shop and flipped through a few issues, then to a bookstore where he tried to look well-read for a selfie. It came out okay. He bought a paperback about economic inequality in the third world and went to a cafe where the server got his name wrong. He tweeted something relatable about it. A couple of pretty elves giggled about something in the corner and he watched them surreptitiously for a while. He liked elves, but then, everybody did. When he finally took a sip of his coffee it had gotten lukewarm, and the autumn sun was setting. He sighed, and left it and left the café and wandered into the chill hoping to feel cold rather than useless.
He was not depressed, he was pretty sure of that. He didn't feel sad—at least not sad enough—he thought, and he probably didn't have real anxiety. Not like a lot of other people had it. He had had a plan, when he graduated, that he would write something. He'd told his parents it would be a novel, he'd told his friends it would be articles for some paper. He'd told himself it would be /something./ His parents had agreed to pay his rent and his food for a couple of years, which was nice of them. They could afford it anyway.

He saw a vampire walk past - he could tell by the black eyes - and wondered if blood tasted the same to them. They only drank pig's blood, of course, but there were always rumors. He thought about his blog. Then he tweeted about his blog, specifically that he hadn't posted anything on it for six weeks and he felt bad about it. A group of dwarfs ambled past, hunched under heavy backpacks. They probably didn't contain any gold, but there were always rumors.

He hit a corner store, and glanced at the dirty magazines. The shopkeeper, a burly oak dryad with a bird's nest over his ear, argued with his wife in a thick Russian accent. He bought a bag of chips and a bottle of coke and set off homewards.