The recording continued: “And now take a deep breath in through your nose, feeling calming and soothing energy flowing through you”. I breathed deeply, the stench of the local area flooding my mind. It was so foul. The megacorps must have started another production run at their factories. I felt my lungs fill entirely and I held my breath, waiting for the tape to catch up.
“Now breathe out through your mouth, and let your troubles go out with it.” I exhaled, the room getting slightly warmer. The windows fogged slightly and the signage started to blur, almost as if the glass was frosted. I stretched out my wings and tail, soaking in the bliss of the moment.
It had been 15 years since the megacorps had dominated every aspect of life. The oceans had slowly turned acidic, leading me (and the rest of my friends) to abandon my old beachfront house. The sky was actually blue then, not the sickly gray/brown/purple that the megacorps had turned it into.
But, this is time to meditate; not time to reminisce. Deep breath in, hold it, deep breath out, hold it; repeat and repeat. “Well done, you have completed this meditation synergy enhancement module. Ropjar corporation thanks you for your patronage. The usual fee will be deducted from your account. Have a good day!” I always hated that blurb at the end. Even when you paid for things you still got advertisements to remind you of your true masters.
I look over to Nicole, she’s splayed out on the couch in a drunken stupor. Sounds about right, she must have been out partying again; wonder if she still remembers the day we met in the deep. That day I saved her from that thick kelp forest. Back when kelp was able to grow in the wild.
I shook her a little by the dorsal fin, earning a loud groaning noise.
Putting on my hoodie, I spoke to her: “Come on, you told me you would go to the market with me.”
Nicole turned her head towards me and glared with that stare that only sharks are able to do. She turned her head back and covered herself with a pillow.
“I was going to get some Flopnax for your hangover.” That seemed to get her attention. She got up, very reluctant to escape from the sweet bliss of her emotionless sleep.
“Yeah, I’m coming, just let me get dressed.”
She sluggishly puts on a tshirt, hoodie and jeans and is ready to head out with me, nodding approvingly. We head out and lock the door behind us, once with the lock from the landlord and another we hoped would actually resist breakins. You could never really know for sure though.
The market was a quick stroll away. The skyline had long ago been bathed with neon. It was hard to tell if it was day or night based on the amount of light pollution. The blackened skies and 24/7 brilliant displays of capitalism had made sure of that.
A lizard-child looked up into my eyes on the street and I could see nothing but hunger and pain. I stopped for a moment and listened to him. “Please, I just want to eat. Can you help me?” He held up a large metal cup with a few coins in it. My heart sank. I had stopped carrying money after being mugged last week. The Rilkef Wrist-Wallet’s electronic payments finally won me over.
“I’m sorry, I don’t have any cash. Do you accept wrist-wallet?” I held up my wrist with the balance transfer screen showing an offer of $50,000, or just enough for a meal or two.
The kid’s eyes fell into a kind of despair you don’t normally see. He shook his head and sulked away sadly. It was hard to watch.
I looked over to Nicole to see her reaction to this, she seemed really split. “Hey, hey kid!” she said, summoning the lizard kid back over. “Take this, you really look like you could use it”. She gave the kid a $75,000 coin and the kid’s eyes lit up like stars.
“Wow! Thanks! I i don’t know what to say! Thank you!” The kid danced down the street beaming and happy, holding his precious coin like it was a gem.
I hugged Nicole. She hugged back. We kept going to the market. She was a lot more happy after having done that. The megacorps may have destroyed a lot of our planet, but they didn’t get our spirit of goodness.
The market was one of the few places in the city that was largely free of the headache-inducing levels of neon, thank god. Nicole was gone in an instant towards the medical section. I knew she’d get what we needed, as well as her hangover cure. I grabbed a few cans of water and headed towards the food.
The oceans had been poisoned by the factories. It was getting harder and harder to find enough clean water to sustain marine mammal skin. Universal basic income had helped, but the constantly rising price had made my favorite kind of bath more and more of a pipedream. At least there was the community pools, for now.
I got everything on the list and met up with Nicole. “Hey Cadey, look at this! This thing’ll let us purify some of our rainwater! We could take baths again!” …Purify? The acid rain? As a consumer product? That sounded preposterous.
“Sure, let’s hope it works”.
Nicole stuck it in the cart and we walked up to the checkout. We didn’t need to do anything but stick everything into a few bags. The corporations had been watching with cameras and automatically figured out what we were taking. It would be a beautiful system if it wasn’t so creepy.
We got notifications that the bill was split between us and started back to home. The purification kit was slightly too big for a bag, so Nicole was carrying it by itself.
Our walk home was uneventful. Just more neon, advertisements, and endless chrome skyscrapers. Walking up to the door, we noticed that someone had tried to break into the lock. Very badly, but they had tried. With a slight laugh I unlocked the door and helped Nicole in.
The door was closed and I headed to the kitchen to put things away onto the shelves. Nicole took the hangover pill and headed out to the balcony to set up the water system.
I heard her make a little bit of noise as she tried to fit the collection funnel over a bucket. My watch beeped a weather alert, it was going to rain. I heard her watch go off too. “Fek!”, Nicole shouted from the deck. She finished setup and headed indoors.
“Guess we’re gonna see this sucker in action Cadey.” She smiled with that toothy shark grin as I was throwing together some things in the Femtopot.
The rain started, sickly green burning drops falling towards the earth. It tinted the neon and made a slight sizzling noise when it hit the ground. The funnel seemed to be working well enough to avoid getting instantly melted. The filter also was doing its job passively filtering out the toxins.
The rain turned to a downpour and a crack of thunder could be heard from above. Nicole turned on the holo-tv and started flipping through channels.
I miss when it was safe to dance outside in the rain. It was one of my favorite things to do. My clothes would get soaked, but that wasn’t the point of it. The point of it was to have fun. To just live in the moment and not have to worry about it.
Seeing as dinner would mostly cook itself from this point, I headed over to my side of the apartment and laid on my beanbag. It was one of the few things I was able to save from my beach house. It had seen many years through many previous owners. The duct tape patches keeping it together showing their age. I slowly fell asleep, smelling the sweet smell of our chicken soup dinner instead of the pollution for once.
I woke up to Nicole shaking me awake. “You gotta see this! It’s enough for a bath!”
What. A bath? Out of the acid rain that melted the trees to slag?
“You sure it’s safe?”
“You can check for yourself with the PH paper if you want, but last I checked it was around 7.5. I tried tasting it and it’s the real stuff. Pure drinking and bathing water.”
“I’ll let you go first.”
She plugged the tub and filled it with water from the barrel. It smelled like my baths from when I was a teenager. That peaceful smell that comes from the meeting of the porcelain and the fluoride. I wonder if that’s how it was able to filter the acid out.
Nicole entered the tub and made one of those happy sighs that I haven’t heard in a long time. “Cadey! Actual water!” She splashed me and I remembered when we did that at the beach.
“Can I join you?”
She nodded and made room for me in the tub. I joined her and embraced her. We laid in there for what felt like hours, hugging, kissing and embracing in our watery tub.
It was perfect.