Absurd comedy was my first thought. Ridiculousness was the second one. I went over things from the day before in my head. I tried to fathom what was going on.
I turned in bed trying to get some more sleep but my inner monologue kept me awake. I could hear the dust settle upon the window panes, small grains of sand made the wind seem more alive than ever.
Days used to be less windy. There had been a time when I could smell the sea from miles away. Now the dust had no flavor and smell. It had accomplished its greyness to a full scale.
I stood up, tangled in bed sheets. Standing next to my bed, I glanced over to the bedside table. An opened envelope lay on it. The paper was green and had stain on it. I touched the corners, they felt velvety to the touch. The paper was nice and soft. The stamp was lost, I wonder if the mail person had confiscated it. It happened, resources were scarce.
A beeping noise woke me up from my reverie. It was my bracelet. I had lost the sense of time, I could not remember how long it had been since I got the bracelet. I know, it was years.
“Three minutes to hell”, I said to myself. “Time to report.”
I pressed the small button on the bracelet and a monotone voice announced: “Your next report due in 24 hours.” I wondered what the exercise was for, they could have easily tracked the GPS signal whenever they so desired. I bet back in the day folks were not pressing buttons the way we are.
“Hell yeah!”, I yelled, but I knew it was in vain. The bracelet was not listening.
I glanced around the apartment. It was the same, every day of the week. I regretted not having done the dishes the night before. The pile was growing, I did not have any clean cups left. All were used and had tea stains on them.
For breakfast, I had an 8-minute egg and a toast. Mold had gathered in one of the bread corners, I scratched it away before eating it. I chuckled. Some mold to unbalance life. I was not seeing the forest for the trees.
I shaved and sprinkled water on my face. For a second it felt refreshing. I took a look in the mirror – it was time for a haircut. Before I headed out the door, I watered my two plants. I used some of tomorrow’s quota. It was worth it.
The greasy envelope in my hand, I took the E train to Manhattan. The train was packed, a melting pot of spices, sweat, oily grease, perfume and unwashed clothes. The train ran twice a day. Oil was scarce and there were few mechanics left to do the job.
I got off at Penn Station. Outside an old woman was selling newspapers. Nowadays a standard paper only had four pages and no advertisements.
A news headline announced: “The allotment of butter to be raised by one-third next week!” I chortled. What about our veins, how healthy can more butter be, I thought.
Yeah, I don’t even remember when sarcasm became my middle name. Perks of living in a city that does not sleep or wake up, a constant sleep walk. It is all a haze, there is no direction, only the now.
I got to the police station on 32nd Street. People were loitering around with no other place to go to, just idling. Not what citizens used to do. Now, a roof is a roof – even with the “5-0”.
Waiting in line was no mystery to me, I was accustomed to it. Once it was my turn at the counter, I handed over the envelope to the official, and said: “There must have been a mistake. Maybe they sent it to the wrong person.” I looked at the clerk, but I could not read his facial expression.
“No mistake”, he said the way a bored person says things. “You need to report to the Agency within three days”, he continued.
“I know, but I cannot”, I retorted.
“The rules are there for a reason”, he said.
“Okay, whatever”, I mumbled and turned on my heels.
I stepped outside and felt a moist breeze touch my cheeks. It was humid and a mix of rotten food and faeces filled the air. For no apparent reason, people were still burning garbage on the street corners. The smell was stunning.
Not far away, a motorcycle horn hooted, people were busy going somewhere. A young couple rushed past me on the street. It was like any other day, nothing special about it. I wondered if the people of the past used to be in such a hurry all the time as well or was it something we simply happened to find ordinary?
I turned my back towards the street and paused for a moment, then opened the envelope again. The headline stated “Results of the mandatory government lottery for the relocation to Mars Project 562”.
The letter was addressed to me, they even used “Sir” to get my attention. It worked. I felt an enormous gush of gravity. Government officials never learn new tricks.
I laughed dryly and continued to read: “Thank you for your interest in the relocation process to Terranovia on Mars. After a thorough selection process, we are glad to inform you that in the official lottery organized by the City Council on February 18th, you were among the selected. You are kindly requested to report at the Relocation Agency at 42nd Street by Wednesday, March 4th. You are also requested to present a valid passport and fours copies of photos. A request for a medical checkup report will be mandated after a clearance based on the passport. We request you to follow guidelines and regulations as set by the State of New York.”
I snickered sardonically. Lucky me, I did not see this coming! Not in a million years did I envision to live anywhere else than Earth. This planet went to shit but it was still home. But then again they say that Mars is a dusty planet, too. Maybe it will feel like home at some point.
I did not volunteer but I won a ticket to a space settlement on Mars. It seems valid that one gets lucky every now and then.
The only thing is, what would my probation officer say. Do I need to make an appointment with him and hand over the bracelet ceremoniously? Or would they still keep an eye on me in spite of the distance from Mars to Earth? What kind of bracelets did they have on Mars? Maybe ones that you could talk to and they would talk back? Would the officer in charge of my case give me an extra strong bracelet to send a report to end all other reports? Well, that remains to be seen.
It was four in the afternoon. I slid the letter back in the envelope and stashed the envelope in my breast pocket, then headed towards Central Station. On my way home I would purchase next week’s water allotment with my ration card. Those plants were damn important to me. Even if I never saw them again, they at least deserved a decent ending with plenty of water.
Photo: TheDigitalArtist, Pixabay / CC0 Creative Commons