Short Story in Progress #2
The sky is that hot, dirty blue that means the last days of summer. I ache for a beach, a pool, a bathtub. The air hangs in low and heavy curtains of tangible moisture and pushes in on my lungs. Breathing is more like drinking. I detect in this sip a bit of ozone that threatens a storm. The extra electrons in the atmosphere prick my skin in an attempt to release some overabundance of energy. In the distance thunder growls rough in its throat, but I have little faith that a real rain will make it into this city.
This weather wakes a restlessness in me. The cat feels it too. We are short-tempered with each other today.
As night falls, the stillness turns threatening. The chain on the ceiling fan clinks as it spins. The cat stretches down from her place by my side, dissolves into the gloom outside the bedroom door. Tap tap tap goes the fan chain. Tap tap tap. Its rhythm echoes loud in my skull, and my pulse answers it in macabre call-and-response.
I push through the weighty dark into the fluorescent brightness of the apartment hallway. The shadows retreat from my body to the safety within my doorway a little petulantly. The cat sends a low, chirping question my way, but no, it is not Outside Time. I lock her in and flow down the stairwell and out onto the street.
It is still dusk in the outside world. The bees are dozing on the goldenrod that overhangs the sidewalk, dreaming bee-dreams full of honey and flowers and light. But the tap tap tap of the fan keeps pace with me, and the air is still thick with potential. A distant rumble protests the low-hanging bubble of hazy blue sky still over the city.
But its release won’t come. It can’t, not with the Precinct’s climate control system in place. We never have any storms, but we can still feel the pressure change in the air. It’s something that builds and fades slowly, like a low headache, as our controlled air reaches equilibrium with Out There.
I feel it more acutely than most, so on storm days I walk. It helps my head. I know curfew is approaching, but all I can think of now is relief, is getting that tap tap tap out and discharging the current in my skin. My walk has taken me out of familiar territory as the sun slips down behind the western skyscrapers and is taken by the storm.
Those are the old buildings, the art deco monuments the Precinct is known for. Ahead of me, modern, fascist office buildings shake their blocky fists at the bubble, while shabby gas stations, smoke shops, wing joints huddle beneath, asking not to be noticed.
The back of my neck prickles like I’m being watched. I whip around, but it’s just the storm pressure. No one is out. It’s a Precinct order.