Lights On The Catwalk (Short Story)

in Scholar and Scribe2 months ago (edited)

       The lowest levels of New Bantera were a no-go. Who'd ever want to find themselves down there?



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       Drifting along in a daze, through a maze of smoke and haze. The ones who found themselves in the lowlands were the living dead. Figures in the fog. The ones coated in the thick grey mist. Anyone without a mask was a walking corpse. No filters meant a quick build-up of scar tissue in the lungs. That loving itch that would quickly turn to a scratch. A local ripper-doc would fix any issue for a price, but a back-alley doc may do it cheaper. Although, underground medics lost their licenses for a reason; a ripper-doc helping himself to undamaged organs wasn't an uncommon story among the locals.
       New Bantera is the sort of city that climbed as high as it possibly could. Not as a way to showcase its own technological advances, the marvels of modern architecture, or the miles-deep basin of foundation that allowed the towers to stand above clouds. No, it was a necessity that the towers grew higher and higher. They gave those who could afford it the chance to get far above the dangers of living close to fog level. It also gave the ones lower down the level list something to aspire to.

       Kolin Ratdez walked along the skywalk and looked across the drop to the building opposite him. The mask had a way of making bright lights glare, and while walking briskly the glass would fog up. He didn't want to fog them up too much, but being late for work left him no choice.
       While he was five levels up, the mask was still necessary when out in public, especially on a particularly windy day. Along the steel and concrete walkways were lights, and they acted as a warning sign for those outside.
       Green meant it was safe to be out with no mask. Yellow meant brief walks with no mask were safe. Orange meant that a mask was necessary at all times. Red meant that brief walks with a mask were safe. Purple. Purple meant that even a mask wouldn't help. The lights themselves were orange but they sporadically shifted back to yellow briefly.

       While it would be better to stay at home - call in sick; come up with any kind of excuse to get out of it - there was no choice. Money; it's always money. It was the one skill Kolin never mastered. He was able to make it but was never able to hang on to it for long. One bad week away from being dropped a level. Any further down would make even a brief walk trouble.
       Every couple of steps Kolin found his attention locked onto yet another advert. The moving billboards showcased the newest must-have piece of tech, delicacy, drink, or intoxicant. Arguments were his weakness. Chop shops were the one place he would constantly frequent. A new piece of tech to make him feel complete. Some were necessary tune-ups, and others were status symbols. The level he found himself meant that status symbols were as important as a life-saving piece of equipment. Nobody wanted to be looked down upon by their peers. Especially not when there were so many more levels to climb.
       Drifting between daydreams of rising to another level, and thoughts of the newest enhancement he could get, left him not paying any mind to the catwalk lights. A deafening ringing started that pulled him to reality, and he noticed the lights were red all along the walkway.

       He was currently halfway between home and work, and each location was outside of the safe travel distance. Behind him, Kolin could hear a door locking, then another, and another after that. They all clunked one by one. No shops were close enough to take refuge, so private residences were his only hope.
       Kolin reached the closest one that was unlocked and he banged against the door in a panic. "Help! Let me in, the winds are picking up!" He pleaded to no one.
       He continued to hear doors lock along the catwalk, but not the one he stood at. He clutched against the steel and was left with no hope. There were no options bar this one. All he could wish for was someone to be inside. Another flurry of bangs left his hands pulsating, and he tried to hold his breath to avoid inhaling noxious fumes.
       Kolin turned around to see the mist thicken, sweeping from below. It completely blotted out the billboards on the other side of the gap. The lights closest to him turned from red to purple, and he was left sliding against the door to land on the ground. As the colours changed a warning alarm sounded, and it was the final thing he could hear before everything disappeared.

       Awakening, he stared up at a light, beyond it was a mould-speckled ceiling.
       "Thought you were slabbed." He heard a random voice state. "I was going to leave you out there once I heard the alarm but didn't want to have to explain a body to the NBPD. Suppose I could have just tossed you over the edge, but that would have been more hassle than just letting you in."
       Kolin looked up to see a Beskin in his mid-thirties - which was old for a Beskin - wandering through his small kitchen, in the process of making a drink. He was gaunt and tall. His nose was sharp, eyes dull. His fur was matted, and mostly grey with specs of dark. "Want something?" He asked, gesturing to his countertop.
       "I need to get to work," Kolin replied, as he sat up and rubbed his eyes which burned slightly.
       "Well, you'd better wait until the lights change. I ain't opening that door until they do," the Beskin grumbled as he shuffled to an old armchair that looked ripped and worn. He lazily slid back into it with a drink in hand, before taking a long swig. "Nasty beautiful stuff." His face contorted.
       "No, you don't understand. I'm late; was late. What time is it?" Kolin asked in a panic as he got to his feet.
       "Who knows, I stopped counting years ago." He responded with a shrug, followed by another drink. "The best you can do is sit down and wait. It'll pass, the lights will change and you'll be on your way to work. No point stressing over something you can't help. I'm sure your boss will understand."

       All Kolin could do was stare vacantly at the owner of the dank place where he found himself. He knew his boss wouldn't understand. Not now, not that he's on his final warning.

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I fell into the depths of this well-built world. It's so intruiging!

I thought Kolin would die, but thankfully someone found him. I wonder what will happen next.

I'm glad you enjoyed it, I should have the next part written and published within the next few days.

Thanks for checking it out.

Interesting post-apocalyptic world that you present to us in the story, the tragedy of living in such a world and trying to continue with the daily routine mix very well.This story reminded me of the pandemic times I experienced years ago. Very good work.

Thanks for sharing your story.
Good day.

Yeah, it definitely has some influences from that period. I think those days were pretty rough, and now any association with masks or unbreathable conditions outside can kind of reflect the pandemic.

Thanks for the comment, I really appreciate that.

nice worldbuilding here.

literally my only suggestion is formatting, and it's a preference I have. a line between paragraphs and speakers helps keep a clear focus on what is being spoken about by whom.

That is useful for editing as it helps show where paragraphs are too similar in length.

Thanks man, I took your advice and left breaks between each paragraph just to try and aid the readability of the stories. It does make it a bit easier to follow I think.

That was such a good build up of the situation. In my mind a lot of scenery from Dr. Who was passing through. Feels like a lot of Whoian stories had situations like this. I wish I knew what happened next though :D

I'm currently working on the next part and should have it out within the next few days haha

Thanks man, I'm glad you enjoyed it. I really like putting characters in situations like this just to follow how they get out of it.

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