He walked through the city, his collar turned up against the cold air; head down on his chest. He swerved and slalomed through the crush of bodies; rushing, rushing, rushing, to reach their pointless destinations.
He turned down the street down the huge open plaza; the water fountain covered in graffiti and packed with people sitting, lying, standing, trying to rest in the never sleeping city. The lone man looked up at the grim cold grey sky, the red bricked buildings lining his view, like a prison trapping him in this grimy city, full of worms and scum.
He jogged over to a corner and pressed his body against the freezing wall, shoving his frayed gloved hands into his pocket. He saw men and women just like him, pressing against walls and corners in a desperate attempt to fade away. While scanning across the mass of bodies, an old man slipped off the fountain and hobble slowly cross the plaza. Horror flickered across the man's face for one small moment as the old man reached into the bag of a girl and pulled out a thick lather wallet. His eyes locked on the girl's form, but she was too busy shrieking nonsense at her friend to have noticed.
He turned away unable to watch any further and focused on two stray dogs scavenge for food. They were mutts, covered in fleas and raw skin and what little fur they had was matted and hard. He sighed, breath puffing in a pale cloud of vapour and peeled away from the wall, feeling the bodies make space for his sudden arrival, and then close in around him.
He walked further down the plaza, glancing into windows restaurants and shops seeing couples smile and kiss happily as though nothing in the world could be wrong, while outside on the corner men begged for change and "gangsters" ran wild tagging buildings with their unsightly pathetic scrawl.
He stood opposite the betting shop; half of the windows boarded, the others lined with cracks and tape. The green neon light flickered harshly forcing his eyes down on the ground. He watched it's reflection in the dirt filled puddle as rippling and shimmered hypnotically in the light wind. He rested his head on the wall of the church wishing to be as far away. In his boredom he began tapping out on the wall an old song he sang as a kid; the words were fuzzy but the beat was still clear.
The old door creaked open like a whining child, and a small young woman with bright orange and white hair popped out. Her eyes were wide with a smile that seemed to be stretching off her face.
"That was awesome!" She exclaimed; happiness dripped from her voice.
The man rolled his eyes, "Yeah, yeah, what did she point out for you this time?"
The girl jumped excitedly and pulled down on his shoulders so they were eye level. Her pupils were dilated and she smelt foul.
"Well, me confessing and admitting I'm addicted means I'm one step closer to giving up!"
He choked back a laugh and pulled away from her, digging his hands back into his pockets.
"No shit, you have the most addictive personality I know."
The girl giggled wildly and pulled out a cigarette, popping it into her mouth and dug a lighter out of her pocket; which the man promptly grabbed and threw down the alley way. It clattered loudly and vanished into the darkness.
"What the fuck?" The girl shrieked the cigarette falling from her mouth. She began down the alley but the man grabbed her arm roughly.
"Fuck, Morgan! Let go of me," she writhed in his grip, her eyes focused on the alleyway.
"No, Sab, no more," He tightened his grip on her arm.
"Ow, that hurts! Leggo!"
"Promise me you won't go after the lighter."
His voice was weary, as though he had said this more than once. He started to drag her way from the church and she didn't protest, only staring sadly down the dark smoke filled alley.
"Morgan, I won't run away."
He shook his head and released her.
She scowled at him and rubbed her wrist, before walking on head.
Morgan kept her in the corner of his vision, like a watchful parent. They walked down the plaza, back the way the Morgan had come. His eyes flicked over the plaza, looking for any shady characters, like that old man. Bodies lurked in every corner, glaring back at him with blatant hostility, commanding him to look away. He relaxed a little and bumped shoulders with Sab.
He smiled cheekily, "Got the job."
Her face broke into a grin; eyes glittering.
"Nice one, big guy," she punched his shoulder playfully and then continued on in silence.
The red bricks towered above them like prison guards. Morgan glanced at the rush of bodies; each self-absorbed, not caring for anyone near them; each wanted the next to vanish. He focused on Sab's hair, using the orange colour as his marker and dodged people to get closer. He stumbled on uneven paving stone and slammed into a girl with long black hair and a pinched face. She yelled and stuck up her middle finger, waving it in his face. He slapped her hand away and weaved through more bodies to reach Sab, who was now turning the corner.
He jogged up to the corner passing under the red archway into the street next street. Here the bricks were darker, the buildings more threatening; windows boarded up, doors padlocked and the grim sky pressing down like a thick sheet, even the gaps between the houses seemed to moan with agony.
Sab had stopped in the middle of the road staring at the disused park. Morgan followed her view over the thinning grass to a derelict merry-go-round. It's gold and white paint was peeling, and bare wood was on display like many ugly scabs on a child's knee. The whole thing repulsed Morgan; it made his skin crawl.
He thought of the city, it was too commercialized to be out of the loop but not important enough to keep in good condition. The city's existence was crushing Morgan so that he couldn't breathe. The fraudulence, the shallowness, the ever present danger, letting grime and dust of vandalism and criminal acts seep into the cracks and become the very foundation; it was disgusting. Everyone: addicted, intoxicated, selling, buying, gambling; living like machines with no brain, but a processor being told simple functions by their master named Media.
It was wrong.
Sab walked back to Morgan and took his hands and looking into his eyes.
"I'm going to get better."
He smiled bitterly.
She looked up, her eyes large and full of pain.
"I am getting help from them," her voice was a whisper that ran through the dead street.
"How many times this week have you seen the Nun's? They're always grinding you for donations!"
A look of defeat swept across her downcast face.
"They're helping me…they're helping a lot of people."
The wind whistled through the empty buildings, a mournful pained song, and she let go of his hands. They stood in silence, lost in their thoughts.
"I guess...uh...see you tomorrow then."
She didn't look up. Sab turned quickly and ran down the road, turned the corner and vanished out of sight leaving him alone in the grimy street. He shook his head, feeling the stares of the buildings as he walked back onto the main street. The rush of the crowd around him made him feel uneasy, but oddly comforted. He walked back to the main road with his collar up against the weather and his head in his chest.