Bobby wandered lazily through the intense green of a South American rainforest. Around Bobby, the forest was almost completely dark because of the impermeable layer of greenery produced by the many trees above him. The soft, moist collection of leaves and earth caressed his feet and the air, heavy with humidity, encouraged him to sit and rest.
Legs crossed, Bobby sat upon the floor of the forest, listening and watching. Off to his left, in a hardwood tree, sat a group of monkeys, chattering among one another, possibly plotting to capture the multi-colored macaw, perched several trees over. Suddenly, one of the monkeys screamed and chased another down the tree and into the underbrush.
Then the scene began to fade, breaking into microscopic bits and pieces and Bobby was left in a tiny steel room, no larger than a walk-in closet. The room had one door, the door a small window and the window the top of someone's face. Two eyes peered in at Bobby.
[Time period has ended. Please exit through door.]
Bobby rose to his feet and looked out through the door's small window. There was no longer a face in the window, but a group of kids encircled the machine. He opened the platinum-silver door and walked out of the room.
[Thank you for using SenSurround, have a nice life.]
A young boy rushed in behind him, pushed his I.D. into the SenSurround chamber's I.D. slot and closed the door. A group of kids crowded around the SenSurround external video monitor. Bobby stood behind the group of kids, easily able to see over them, hoping the boy would activate the video monitor so that he could watch. The video monitor flashed on and there was the boy, clad in mountains of black armor and holding an enormous battle axe. On a battlefield, the boy swung away at gruesome monsters attacking him from every side. The LED display in the corner of the monitor was counting downwards from twenty-nine minutes and forty-three seconds.
Bobby briskly turned and walked away from the SenSurround machine. Around him lights flashed and kids struggled with video games.
"Damn!" complained a red-headed boy who looked about eleven. "Piece of shit," the kid said matter-of-factly and spun away from the game, almost running into Bobby.
The red-haired boy looked up at Bobby, apparently surprised to see an adult in the arcade. Bobby side-stepped around him and continued towards the exit.
Once out of the arcade, Bobby stepped onto the people-mover. Unhindered, light rained down upon his head from the roof of skylights above. As the people-mover carried him past the store-fronts in the mall, Bobby gazed into the windows. The sharp, bright colors of a trendy clothing store's display caught his eye and he looked over the buttonless shirts and loose overcoats with fat ties that the manikins wore. He noticed his reflection in the glass of the clothing store, the broad shoulders of his grey coat and his cuffed pants' legs.
Bobby turned away, cautiously looking at the people around him to see if they were staring at him. A large man, with straight blonde hair and a mustache was looking right at him. Bobby jerked his gaze away, watching instead the rubber surface of the people-mover.
After a few minutes, the mover reached the mall entrance/exit Bobby had come in and he stepped off the mover. He walked quickly toward the large glass doors and slightly overcast day beyond them. The doors spilled open before Bobby, ushering him out of the mall.
[Thank you for visiting New City mall. Come again, soon.]
Bobby's hard-soled dress shoes clicked along the entrance way's marble floor, grew quiet as they passed over the maroon doormats outside the doors and then sounded a dull clump along the concrete sidewalk of the outside world.
As he made in the direction of the monorail, a gust of wind, trapped by the massive architecture of the mall, chased after him. Bits and pieces of paper and dust caught in it pursued, caught up with and whirled around Bobby. The terminal was very close and he dove in towards its entry way to escape the dustdevil. The doors of the terminal swung open to greet him.
[Good evening, the next monorail outbound from New City to the suburbs will be arriving in ten minutes. The next monorail inbound from New City to the Inner City will arrive in forty-five minutes. Have a pleasant ride and remember, commuting by public transportation is faster, more relaxing and cheaper than driving yourself.]
Bobby plopped down into one of the many padded chairs along the wall to the immediate right of the door. He sat in the chair, slightly slumped and stared absently at the railway line, trying to estimate how much the material for a suit like he had seen in the display cases inside the mall would cost. About ten minutes after he arrived in the station, a red-haired woman, overburdened with packages, entered the station. Trailing behind her were several children. After hearing the automated door announcement, she sighed, and said, "Thank God we made it." She turned to her left, walked a bit and sat down in a chair on the other side of the door from Bobby. He noticed that one of the kids with the woman was the boy he had seen in the arcade. He smiled to himself, thinking about what the mother might do if she had heard her child cursing at the machine in the gameroom.
The boy recognized Bobby, too. He stared at Bobby inquisitively for just a moment, but when he saw Bobby was also looking at him, he quickly turned away.
"Look, Mom, the Mono's coming," said the boy, pointing through one of the windows in the station.
The monorail slid down a large, white, single line like a giant amusement park ride. The overburdened mother and her children boarded the monorail. As it pulled away, Bobby noticed the boy staring at him and he looked at his watch. Thirty-five minutes.
A little more than thirty-five minutes later, after two more outbound monorails had passed, the monorail Bobby was waiting for arrived. It was older than the outbound trains and its exterior more weathered. Bobby got into the monorail and took a seat near the exit. The monorail jerked into motion as the brakes let loose and then quickly built up speed. The landscape close to the monorail flashed by and looking out the windows, Bobby watched the enormous white stone mall gradually getting smaller as his distance from it grew greater. The setting sun, peeking between the clouds on the horizon, illuminated the mall, making the white walls gleam. Bobby imagined the mall was a fortress in the Middle East, European knights of the Crusades sizing up its immense walls in the setting sunlight, considering if they were up to the challenge.
Bobby looked away from the mall and in the direction the monorail was heading. Tall, dark buildings loomed ahead, the skyline of downtown. Bobby remembered quite a while ago when he was a child, when the rich oilmen built the big buildings. That was before the bottom fell out of the oil market. Now downtown was called the 'Inner City,' and the business men built their places of work to the north and west, where it was safe for them to travel after dark. The monstrous skyscrapers of boomtown were now tenement housing.
Bobby closed his eyes, leaned back and rested his head on the headrest of his seat. After about ten minutes, the monorail glided to a stop at a station. Bobby climbed out of his seat and got off of the monorail. He headed for the bathroom.
In the bathroom, Bobby entered one of the stalls, and quickly took off his suit. Underneath, he wore shorts and a t-shirt. He rolled up the suit, exited the stall and walked over to the sink. Overhead, several of the worn-out fluorescent lights flickered. The off-white walls seemed to reflect a sickly greenish tint. While he rinsed his face off, he heard his connecting monorail being called. Bobby turned off the water, dried his face on his sleeve and hurried out of the bathroom to meet the monorail.
The monorail stood waiting, its doors open. It had once been a clean white color, but dirt had accumulated over the years, giving it a soiled look. Bobby dragged his finger along the outside of the monorail car and then turned his hand towards his face. His finger was convered with dirt-slime. The Transit Authority doesn't really care about the Inner City monos, thought Bobby, wiping his finger on his shorts. He boarded the monorail and began to look for an empty seat that hadn't been slashed. After finding none, he sat down in a seat with the majority of its upholstered back remaining.
On the trip into the city, the now near-dark sky caused the windows of the monorail car to become mirrors. Looking across the car at the reflective windows, Bobby saw himself. He tucked his rolled up suit tighter under his arm. I'll iron it when I get home, thought Bobby.
After about twenty minutes and a few stops, the monorail entered into the area of the Inner City. The car was almost empty except for Bobby. Like dark mountains, the buildings rose up out of sight around the monorail line. Most of the buildings had few intact lower story windows. Out of a few of the broken windows flapped makeshift curtains. Bobby began to think of the Brazilian rainforest. The lush, sultry dampness all around, the clean, healthy air...
"Say man, can you spare some money?"
Bobby looked up at the voice. A Hispanic man who looked about twenty stood before him, hands on his hips.
"Sorry, I don't got any cash."
The man rolled his eyes and walked away in the direction of the next car. Bobby remembered he really wasn't carrying cash, only his city I.D. card. He felt a little safer, but he wasn't sure why. Thinking of his I.D. card, Bobby remembered the SenSurround machine and the debit he'd incurred on his account for the three minutes he was inside. It had cost him a quarter of his last paycheck, while the next kid had walked in and bought thirty minutes. Bobby tried to guess how much money the kid got for a weekly allowance. Probably more than my monthly paycheck, he thought.
The monorail began to slow down and Bobby turned around, cupped his hands to the window and tried to see through the reflection created by the lighted interior of the car. Familiar blurs of streets passed by, and he went through a mental checklist of what he had left his apartment with. The monorail's propulsion cut off and it glided into the station, jerking to a stop. The doors opened and Bobby got out.
He walked through the waiting area, out the exit door and then down the steps to the street. Bobby grasped the rolled up suit in one hand and jogged the one block to his apartment complex. Over the entrance to his complex, the amber streetlight flickered, as if irritated. Bobby removed his keys from his pocket, unlocked the complex's entrance gate and walked through, pulling the gate shut behind him.
He walked through part of the courtyard's rectangular pathways surrounding the dry swimming pool, to his apartment, #10, unlocked the door, went inside and locked the door behind himself. He ambled down the short, bare hallway, past the kitchen and bathroom doors, into the bedroom, turning on the light. He dropped his keys on top of a nightstand and headed toward the closet as he unrolled his suit. After hanging up his suit, he unfolded the bed from its sofa position, undressed, and got into bed. He turned on the television on a shelf opposite the bed and set the alarm clock. A few moments later he turned off the light. Green forest floated about inside his head as the evening news recounted the days horrors. Before the news was over, he had fallen asleep.
The next morning at about seven, Bobby stood, examining himself, in front of the mirror on the outside of the door to his small walk-in closet. He adjusted the blue cuffs of his uniform so they covered the white sleeves of his shirt. As he looked at himself in uniform, he thought of the government's latest advertising slogans. "Our pledge to you hasn't changed in Two-Hundred years." The same goes for the uniform, thought Bobby.
He closed the closet door and walked out of the room, turning out the light as he passed through the doorway. In the kitchen, he removed two pieces of toast from the toaster that had already grown cold. He took a bite of one, and headed for the front door.
Walking through the complex, he met Allen. They usually rode the same monorail to work in the morning.
"Good Morning, Allen."
"How're you doing today, Bobby?"
"Fine, how bout you?"
"Want a piece of toast?"
"Yeah, sure, thanks."
Bobby smiled as he handed Allen the piece of toast.
"So what'd you do this weekend Bobby?"
"Oh, same old thing, sat around, drank a few beers, watched T.V..."
"Yeah, me too."
They reached the monorail station about five minutes before their mono arrived. The terminal was much more crowded than the night before. When the mono arrived, the people hurriedly packed into the car and the seats were all taken by the time Bobby and Allen got in. They stood, holding one hand on the rail along the ceiling of the car.
"Say, did you here about the crash last night?" asked Allen in a quiet voice after the monorail lurched into motion.
"No I didn't."
"The monorail crash! It happened about seven o'clock last night."
"Was anyone hurt?"
"The whole thing went right off the track. Fifteen people were killed and another dozen were seriously injured."
"Jesus... where was it at?"
"Inner City, of course. The Metropolitan Transit Authority wouldn't let something like that happen in New City or the burbs, would it?" asked Allen incredulously.
"Of course not," snorted Bobby. "Was it in-bound or out-bound?"
"Inbound. Before this terminal, thank God. I suppose they have the line repaired since its running already. All the same, I'll be nervous as hell coming home over that part of the track today."
"Well, here's my stop, have a good day at work Bobby," said Allen as the monorail began to approach a terminal on the outskirts of the Inner City.
"You, too, see you tomorrow Allen."
"Yep," said Allen, working his way through the car's tighly packed mob of people, towards the exit.
Bobby switched monorails at the same station he had the night before and took a monorail to the suburbs. After he got off in the suburbs, he walked half of a mile to the post office, and went inside.
"Hey Bobby," Ginger, one of his co-workers, said to him with exceptional amusement. "You got a beaut of a package today."
Bobby walked around to where his mail was waiting for him, and saw the package. It was about three feet long, by two feet wide, by one foot thick. Bobby grimaced. What a monster, he thought, I bet it's heavy, too. He picked it up. It felt like it weighed about twenty or thirty pounds. He started out of the building with the package for his mail jeep. On his way he passed Ginger, who was sorting mail.
"How do you like your package, Bobby?"
"Oh its just great," he groaned. "I only hope my jeep will be able to carry it."
Ginger laughed quietly as she sorted through letters. Bobby smiled, his arms stretched wide around the package. In the fenced-in parking lot, Bobby opened the back of his jeep and put the package inside. Leaving the back open, he turned, and headed inside. He passed Ginger on his way in. She didn't look up from her sorting. He grabbed the bag with the rest of his mail and headed back out the door.
The big package was a burden on the small jeep's electric engine. Bobby made for the area where the package was to be delivered so that he could get rid of it and go a little faster without running down the jeep's battery before he had finished his route. After dropping off a few letters on the same street as the address on the package, Bobby reached the house.
The house, of course, looked like all the other houses in this subdivision - they were built that way. He parked the jeep, opened the back, got out the package, and walked up the curving sidewalk to the front door. He set down the package and pushed the buzzer. The a metal lense-cover slid away and a camera him carefully.
"Robert Giles, U.S. Postal Service. I have a package addressed to... a Mrs. Emily Verbogne," Bobby said to the hidden microphone.
Suddenly, the door swung open and there stood a grinning girl with long brown hair. She looked about eight years-old.
"That's my Mom."
"Well you can sign for it if you like," said Bobby, getting out a pen and record sheet.
"Marilyn, what are you doing," boomed a man with a half-shaved face, stepping up behind the girl.
"Just getting a package for Mom."
"Go on back inside and finish your breakfast. Now."
The girl looked at her father blackly and walked away into the house.
"Kids," the man muttered. "Hell, this things huge! Who's it from?" shouted the man.
"I don't know, if you could just sign here..."
"Lemme see..." he mumbled, picking up the package. "Oh no, not Edwina." "It's my wife's mother," the man whispered to Bobby.
"Very good, if you could just sign here..."
"I wonder what it is? Probably Christmas presents or something."
"If you could just sign- but it's only October."
"She mails early! What a crazy old lady. She could have at least sent it Rabbit Mail. They don't tear it up like you guys do," the man said.
"If you could just sign here..." repeated Bobby.
"And I bet they're cheaper, too. Hey, is Rabbit cheaper than ya'll?"
"I wouldn't know. Now if you would just sign here," said Bobby thrusting the pad and pen towards the man.
"Ok, ok. Where do I sign?" the man asked, setting the package down inside the house.
"Ok, there you go."
"Thank you, sir."
"Yeah sure. Have a nice life."
Bobby turned and walked away, stepping off the stone sidewalk, onto the green grass, which was still wet with dew. He crossed the yard to his jeep, shut the back, climbed in and drove away. While the jeep's electric motor purred, he began to think of Brazilian rainforests.