This post-cyberpunk tale absolutely takes the digital zeitgeist and desire to matter in a swiftly changing world and transforms it into a force for change itself.
~ Julian Yap, April 24, 2022
No One Knows How This Feels
It’s a gray and rainy evening. In this part of town, the shops are all shuttered, metal doors pulled down tight. Corner boys huddle around fires in oil drums, one at this intersection, one a few blocks down, like a signal passed station to station. A girl in her teens stands watching the trains go by. They are elevated and lit inside—late commuters nodding and swaying. A gray-haired woman looks out the train window and Jebby thinks, She can’t see me. No one knows where she is. No one knows how this feels.
She wants what she does to matter. Everything.
But she is a small thing. She thinks that small things can sort of bob along on the current; she floats along, innocuous. Easy to break if someone decides to. She pulls her hood so it comes over her forehead, putting her face in shadow.
She crosses the street to avoid people, dodges a car that hums by, splashing water.
“Yo, girl,” a boy calls from beside an oil drum. “Hey, cutie!”
She pretends not to hear.
* * *
As she walks west, the city starts to light up. First is a corner store, a tired woman standing at the counter staring out into the street. Then a restaurant with a light on over the door. She remembers when she was a kid and there were shops here, how people came to the bars and restaurants. She pulls her hoodie back when she gets close to Blockade, the retail island. No caps or head coverings in a retail island; CCTV has to see her face. She’s got a lot of makeup on. Layers of foundation and powder, eyebrows sculpted into wings, pale gold eye shadow. Under it she has infrared painted in patterns. A person looking at her won’t notice, but a CCTV camera records just far enough into the infrared that it makes her unrecognizable in the images. War paint.
It’s all on the net, ways to do things. Little things. Little things that matter.
She ignores the security detail at the entrance. Three people, two masculine, one femme, in black tactical uniforms, carrying short automatic rifles called “treetoppers.” They are talking, desultory, on a slow night in a corporate safety zone.