The cold wind fluttered at the edges of my tattered coat, swirling between my knees and chilling me to the bone. December, and the sky was a grey bowl over the city. Walking slowly, I had to keep stopping to rest my weary legs.
This was it. Down to my last. The economy had crashed, and when all of those derivatives and debt instruments went to their digital graves, it wasn’t the bankers or brokers suffering, it was me with my stupid pension gutted and savings stretched to the breaking point.
I even had to dodge my landlord of 20 years because I couldn’t face him without money for rent. A single tear ran down my cheek, hot with the indignity of it all, the utter stupidity. I’ve always worked and paid my share, never cheated on taxes. And this is how it has to be.
Straightening up, I walked down the street to the MemBank. They were everywhere, riding the crest of new technologies out of autonomous zones of China, shiny skullcaps and geometric storage cubes peppered billboards with smiling faces and dollar signs.
“Got the dreams? See the GREEN!”
“Clean out that dusty closet, share your best with the rest!”
“Forget an ex? You got it, Tex!”
And so on, the gaudy colors and horrible type choices clashing with each other, the prices were the largest of all, automatically updating according to categories printed on the bottom border of the smart-ad.
Turning the corner, I pushed through the opaque paneled doors of the MemBank.
“Hey, you’re back – just give me moment, I’m with another client.”, Doctor Ellis smiled, the confident expression of someone about to make a lot of money.
I sat down on the primary-colored plastic seat, slumping toward the wall.
No turning back.
Just before it was gone, I thought about it again. Her smile, her lips. The 15 years we had spent together.
It was my last good one. And then, it would be the grey sameness of every day, blending into the next like a monochromatic film-strip. No chance of ever recreating that again. You couldn’t go back home, not when home had changed in a million ways, most of the people you knew were dead, with the outside world becoming a strange and scary place.
Not when strangers looked at you like you were a museum exhibit, complete with the window-tapping and the smug smiles of those who still had their best years ahead of them.
But I needed the money. The goddamned money. Clenching my fists, I tried to mop up my tears before Doctor Ellis came out again.
The door opened, and an older lady slowly walked out to the main entrance, with the Doctor close behind.
“Are we ready?”, Doctor Ellis smiled, impatient to get his fee.
“Sure”, I shuffled after him, letting the heavy steel door close behind me.
As flat and featureless as my life was to become.