Chapter 5:


Pyro's Grand Demise

He’s fucking disgusting.

It’s been a week and I’ve been forced against my better judgment to stay here. His lumpy couch is actually a futon and laying on it doesn’t make it any more comfortable. I’d sleep on the air mattress, but I’m afraid I might pop the damned thing. The metal in my right leg is extremely heavy and in need of an upgrade.

All the new cyborgs these days weigh the same as any human. Me? Well, let’s say I stretched my volts when it came down to mandatory maintenance. Hence the outdated limbs. They look real for the most part, save for the tell-tale signs of seams and slightly-glowing veins.

So long as I’m not put on a scale, I can pass as a human. Except for the eyes of course. They’re just slightly too blue--an indication of me being a blue-type. The government has a law where cyborgs are required to display what kind they are at all times. Most choose to forgo the tacky wristbands and instead get their irises done.

Anyway, back to Joe being a disgusting dick bag. He leaves his food containers everywhere. And he’s no cook, so you can imagine how many Chinese containers, pizza boxes, and bottles of soda the man goes through in a week. Cyborgs are generally supposed to eat one-point-five times the daily calories of an adult human, but I find myself feeling full when he unwraps his third cheeseburger. Then drops the wrapper on the floor.

Clearly I’ve been swindled. If I’d known what a slob he was, and that I was going to be staying here this long, I would have tried to escape days ago. I just keep thinking about the money and it grounds me enough to pick up a little. Only my space though, because the idea of cleaning up after a man kind of makes me want to slam my metal hand in a car door.

His car door to be precise. It’d leave a nice, hand-shaped dent in it. Fingers and all.

The slob’s mother is going out of town for some kind of business strategy conference in two days. This is the moment we’ve been waiting for, because the farther away she is during this job the better. I can only hope Joe knows what he’s doing because I’ll be following his directions through the ear piece.

After getting disgusted by chicken wing residue on the kitchenette counter for the second time today, I lock myself in the bathroom. It just might be the cleanest room in the entire shop. Even Joe seems to have standards, and I can only imagine why they don’t apply to the rest of his living space, even if it is temporary.

After doing my business and washing my hands, I stare in the mirror for a hot minute. I have dark circles from sleeping on the shitty futon, and my tan is almost gone, but I still look like me. Funny how a person can be surprised by their own reflection. It’s like we expect ourselves to change on the outside along with the events occurring in our lives.

I tug at my pale hair. It almost brushes my shoulders now and I guesstimate I have two weeks before it’ll need to be cut again. I like to keep it short so I can easily don wigs when I need to. Changing my identity oftentimes comes with working jobs, so I have quite the variety of disguises back in my hidey-hole apartment. Fuck. I need to pay the rent.

Exiting the bathroom, I scan the shop for Joe only to find him passed out on the air mattress. Hadn’t he just been awake a moment ago? Then again, we did drink quite a few beers last night. Maybe he didn’t sleep as much as he’d needed. We had both been woken up by the dump trump at seven this morning. For a moment I’d thought we were being invaded, the sound had been so loud.

Crap. Have we been getting buddy-buddy without me realizing it? I scrub at my face and snatch a post-it note from his work space. I also steal a pen and cringe when I find oil coating it and now my hand. Everything is coated in something here.

Went out. Be back in hour.

I slap my hastily-scrawled note onto the remote control. It’ll be the first thing he searches for when he wakes up. There’s not much to do when one is in hiding, so we’ve been binge-watching old shows from the 10’s. Classics, all of them, but I was shocked to find out he hadn’t seen a single one. Good thing we had nothing but time to spend this past week, so in between him tinkering with projects, we caught up on shows that ended nearly a century ago.

Also, he doesn’t threaten me with tasers anymore, so I think that counts as progress.

Neither of us are exactly supposed to be going outside right now, seeing as we’re both either reportedly dead or missing. Still, I have a lot of valuables in that apartment and only paper money because I get paid under the table. I have to get it to my landlord somehow.

I pull my hood over my head, wishing I had one of my wigs. They’re comforting in a way. Like a security blanket. I’ll just have to deal without.

I take one last glance inside the shop before shutting the door behind me. He’ll probably freak out when he wakes up and finds I’m gone, but he has nothing to worry about. At this point we have too many things to hold against each other to rat anyone out. Or to run away. In this day and age it’s almost impossible to disappear; that’s why I change myself so the original me doesn’t exist.

A brisk walk from the shop to my apartment only takes twenty minutes. Being too broke for a car, I usually walk everywhere so I'm pleasantly surprised.

My apartment building is kind of depressing to look at. It’s in one of the shabbier areas, sandwiched between an Asian grocery store and home improvement shop. The air is constantly assaulted by smells of sesame oil and paint. A mixture worthy of migraines.

The building itself isn’t quite falling apart, but it certainly could be in better condition. I always know the comings and goings of my neighbors because I can hear their footsteps squeaking to the door before the hinges shriek from need of a good oiling which never comes.

The landlord is an old smoker named Nancy whose favorite thing is being alone. So long as the rent is on time, and I don’t make a fuss about my broken fire detector, she leaves me unbothered. It’s exactly what I need being a minority and all. Some places don’t even rent out to cyborgs due to prejudices. It’s technically illegal, but no one bothers to stop it.

Big business runs this country now anyway. And they profit when cyborgs are desperate. In a better world, we’d be paid more for our labor because of our skillset. In reality, minimum wage can be expected. Unless you’re into the underhanded business like me. Even so, the only reason I have savings to begin with is because I’m a blue-type.

I keep my head down low as I finagle with the keyhole. This one sticks too. It’s actually a good thing this place is a dump because those new, fancy complexes require a key card swipe to access the building. I obviously don’t want any record of me being here.

All I’m doing is collecting my necessary personal items then dropping off the rent. I’ll come back for anything else at a later time. There’s no record of me even living here, save for a scrap of paper Nancy has squirreled away somewhere in those filing cabinets of hers. She doesn't believe in computers made within the past decade. I forgot the reason.

The day I signed my lease was the first and last time I was permitted to enter that office. I’m pretty sure she watches soap operas from the 20’s in there.

The carpeted stairs are in need of a good deep cleaning. The spots where people step on most are indented with dirt. It’s the same with the hallway carpeting.

When I reach the third floor, it’s only two doors down before I get to my apartment. I replaced the handle so the key at least doesn’t stick. I also added two more locks without permission, not that Nancy gives a flying fuck. I have separate keys for each lock which I swiftly go through. Once I’m inside, I immediately relock them behind me. I may be paranoid, but I have every right to be.

It’s a small studio apartment with the only separate room being the bathroom. My bed is within clear viewing range of the kitchen sink and washing machine, but I never found this to be a problem. Too much space overwhelms me. I’d prefer to feel cozy, even if it's a bit cramped. It’s probably the reason staying at Joe’s shop hasn’t sent me into mental turmoil by now, despite its messiness.

My apartment is fairly clean, save for a stray shirt or wig laying here and there. I crouch beside my mattress. It doesn’t have a box spring, but I choose to call myself a minimalist in not bothering to purchase one. I lift it and reach beneath for the tear in its lining. It may be an obvious hiding place for cash, but it’s not like I have many options in a living space so small.

The moment my hand closes around the cash, I hear it. The faint cocking of a gun. If it was from inside the apartment, I would have heard the person ages ago. My hearing is strong enough to hear someone’s breathing from twenty yards away, so certainly the gun is nowhere in here.

I look straight ahead at the wall. What I’d earlier perceived as my neighbors could have been the movements of an intruder. I’d been stupid and immediately shelved whatever noise was coming from the other apartments. I needed to find cover. Now.

The sound of gunfire has me diving behind the kitchen counter.

Steward McOy
Haru Yumera