Shadows in Neon City: Part Three
This City Is Full of Late Night Delights
Written by: Zack
Art by Hydra ヒドラ
The hotel room was welcoming to Murph’s tired bones. Red carpet lined the floor with gold swirls looping symmetrically. Murph kicked off his shoes. The fibers brushed under his feet. Soft pins and needles danced up and down his legs before climbing up his spine.
In front of him was a window that overlooked the street below. He watched people pass under him. He had seen enough of the outside for today. Instead, his eyes were drawn to the twin beds that had just been made and pressed for his arrival. The cream and green colored sheets and comforter beckoned to him like a siren. Just looking at the bed made his knees weak.
“If I lie down I ain’t getting back up,” he said to himself. Was that really a bad thing though? The question rolled around in his head before he remembered he needed to give Daaron a call.
“I can do two things at once,” he said. Murph’s body crashed onto the bed and disturbed the pristine surface. With a disturbingly loud, tired sigh Murph felt his entire body ache. His knees and back cracked along his body like a series of explosive charges. Now that his whole body was at rest, all he needed to use was his brain. He brought up his interface again and dialed up Daaron.
Daaron Stewart was an ex-Orion employee who was lucky enough to win the lottery to travel up to Neon City about five years ago. He and Murph started at the same time, in fact. Despite Daaron’s elevation to newer, better pastures, they kept in touch every now and again. It would be a long shot for him to pick up, much less make plans out of the blue.
“You’ve taken tougher shots today,” Murph said to himself as he confirmed Daaron’s number and called him.
“Hello?” Daaron answered. A smile crept on Murph’s face. He closed his eyes.
“Guess who just checked into his hotel?” Murph said.
“Murph? Now, I know my geotags need to be updated because there is no way your number-crunching ass can afford the Scourge Suites,” Daaron said.
“Well, it’s on Orion’s dime. I made it Daaron, just like I said I would,” he said. Murph could hear Daaron laugh on the other end.
“Your golden ticket. Congratulations, man. Seriously, this is amazing,” Daaron said. Hearing that made butterflies flutter in Murph’s stomach. He let out a tired sigh.
“Thanks. I needed that. I need that about as much as I need this bed I’m laying on,” Murph said. He patted the mattress. He tried to wiggle his toes but found they were not responding at the moment.
“Oh yeah, the trip is brutal. I tried to stay awake when I got my ticket,” Daaron said. “I nearly fell asleep on the bus! When I finally got to my hotel, Orion could only afford to put me up in a capsule motel before the interview. Times have surely changed. Consider yourself lucky you didn’t have to struggle as I did,”
“Struggle? I still have to survive the weekend and get the job offer. I can barely move as it is,” Murph said.
“Well rest up then. When I get off work tonight, you and I are going to hit up some of Neon City’s best. It’s Friday, you’re in town and just about to embark on one of the hardest interviews anyone in this city has to go through,” Daaron said.
“It’s really that bad eh?” Murph said. The knot in his stomach was beginning to form again. Before he left, Murph did as much research as he could on what kind of questions or tests he would have to take for this interview. No one gave him a straight answer. He pushed it out of his mind when Daaron began to talk about nightlife in Neon City.
“I’ll be down by the Suites around seven. I’ll ping you when I’m close. Got it?” Daaron said.
“That should give me enough time to recharge. I only brought spare casual clothes so I hope we aren’t going anywhere too fancy,” Murph said. He heard Daaron laugh on the other end of the call.
“I said we’re going somewhere fun Murph, not fancy. Just don’t show up looking like shit. Though with Yupe fashion…eh, it can’t be helped,” He said. Murph felt his toe wriggle free from the hole in his socks.
“I’m kidding! Hey, started from the bottom right?” Daaron said. Murph nodded “I’m on my way up. Alright, I’ll see you then,” Murph said and ended the call. He stared up at the ceiling and realized that he had been smiling for a while. Murph scratched the stubble on his chin and closed his eyes. It felt nice to hear Daaron laugh. The life in his voice. Murph thought back to how he remembered Daaron; dour, sarcastic. The man had a dry wit to him that was almost charming, but you could tell it was masking some pain. That wasn’t the Daaron he knew before. Murph nodded off to sleep. The last thing he thought of before sleep took him was all the things he still had to do before he could fully relax.
Murph woke up hours later. The sun had done a one-eighty and just set when he opened his eyes. He brought up his interface and checked the time. It was just after six. Murph arose from his bed to a symphony of stiff joints and cracking bones. The yawn he let out was low at first and reached a crescendo when he stretched his arms above his head.
He walked over to the window. The dim oranges and reds of the setting sun were being pushed back by a veil of deep purples and near blacks. The city was shedding its business casual day to embrace its electric nightlife. The holographic adverts he had seen walking here now glowed vibrantly. The city and its citizens were undergoing a metamorphosis. People passed down below Murph sporting reflective coats and blazing displays. The way they walked was less uniform. While he may have described his morning walk as an orderly stampede, the crowd Murph witnessed now was nothing short of bulls proudly on parade. Rowdy, loud and full of passion, the people of Neon City were looking to get right fucked up. And Murph was going to join them. He got an alert on his interface. It was a ping from Daaron.
“I’m down in the lobby. Get it in gear, my man. We’re hitting the streets.” He wrote. Murph blinked and opened up his messenger to reply.
“Duck yeah!” He wrote. He shook his head and replied again.
Daaron merely replied “That’ll do Murph,” This cyber brain still had a few odd bugs he needed to work out. Luckily, he wouldn’t need to use his brain tonight. He hoped.
Murph stepped into the hotel lobby wearing his backup set of street clothes which consisted of just a pair of jeans, a white undershirt, and a maroon short sleeve button-down that he left open. Mild even by Yupe standards. The lobby was alive with people mostly going out. It seemed everyone came out looking their best. Murph saw a clash of leathers, silks, designer chic, and downright dangerous streetwear.
“Ayo!” Daaron said. Murph turned and looked around towards the sound of his voice. It took a minute to get his bearings but Murph looked ahead to see Daaron walking towards him. Murph had to do a double-take. It had been years since Murph had actually seen Daaron. He had to take in five years of change in just one moment.
The light caught a gleam off of Daaron’s shaved and oiled head. A silvered skull cap, covering the back of his head and neck, popped against his brown skin. His eyes glowed a deep red. His long face that often held a dour frown now held a grin full of brilliant white teeth that matched the brightness of his chrome. Murph saw silver veins of chrome run down Daaron’s bare arms. The sleeves of his black and red pinstripe shirt were rolled up. The top few buttons were left unbuttoned where Murph could see a silver chain hang from his neck. Daaron’s look was complete with a sleek pair of black jeans and some silver-colored shoes.
“You said we were going somewhere fun, not fancy. You trying to make me look like an asshole?” Murph said. He hugged Daaron and clasped his hand on his old friend’s back.
“I don’t need to try Murph,” Daaron said with a laugh. “Besides, this is just for fun. Lord help you if you think this is fancy,” He shook his head.
“Alright. You’ll have plenty of time to bag on me tonight when I’m sloshed. Where are we headed?” Murph asked. Daaron led Murph towards the door with a hand on his shoulder.
“For tonight, we’re going to a Neon City institution. The premiere hotspot where a good time can be had by all. Any day and any age; The Glitterdome,” He said. Murph had heard about this place. In the heart of Neon City was a giant structure. It was large enough to rival a MegaCorp’s headquarters. The Glitterdome is said to be owned in part by every MegaCorp with each one adding a level designed for a different kind of entertainment.
“Alright, lead the way,” Murph said.
There was something different in the air when the two walked out of the hotel. The electricity from the hologram adverts and buzzing lights added something to the air. It was enchanting to say the least. Murph was led down the street where cars sped by. He looked over to Lake Scourge. It was now dotted with big party boats. Beyond that though, far past the last boat Murph could see, was nothing. Darkness met his gaze. The lights from the Yupe didn’t even hold a candle to the brilliance of Neon City. Murph turned away from the void and looked back at Daaron.
“So are we hoofin it the whole way?” He said. Daaron laughed and shook his head.
“No Murph. You’re with me, we’re traveling in style,” He said. He then walked towards the curb and looked out to the sea of cars. Murph watched him as his eyes glowed red — he was using his interface. A few minutes passed and a sleek black car pulled up to the curb. The windows were tinted. Murph saw the doors had an Incubo decal painted on the side; a red devil head winked and smiled a sharp-toothed grin.
“It’s a company car. Come on,” Daaron said. The doors opened. Daaron let Murph climb in first. The interior was backlit red and the black leather seats had that new car smell. He got in and scooted over to the window seat while Daaron climbed in next to him. The door shut and the car took off.
“So,” Murph said. He felt the plush leather armrest “How long have you been working for Incubo? I thought you stuck with Asutenki,” Murph said. Daaron looked at Murph and gave him a knowing smirk.
“I passed my interview with them, yes. However, that kind of thing attracts other offers. It’s a common practice for aspiring MegaCorp workers to be snatched up by rival Corps. I just heard what Incubo had to offer. The rest is history,” he said. Murph looked out the window. His eyes darted from one brightly colored advert to the next. It was a lot more to take in compared to the short morning walk when he arrived. He had so many questions for Daaron, and they all wanted to come out at once. He wanted to know what life was like living here. How had MegaCorp life changed him? Did he miss the Yupe?
“What did Incubo offer?” Murph said. Daaron drummed his fingers on his armrest. He looked ahead, not at Murph as he answered.
“They gave me a different kind of freedom. Asutenki’s got a lot going for it, but” Daaron said. Murph was waiting for him to continue. Daaron left his mouth open and his eyes seemed to want to complete that sentence.
“Let’s just leave it at that Murph. Better hours, more freedom, and if I am honest, a better look,” Daaron said with a smile. Murph narrowed his eyes and tried to understand.
“You mean like a better culture and shit?” he said. Daaron kind of juggled his hands.
“In a way. Sorry to be so hush hush Murph, but MegaCorps want employees to be tight-lipped to outsiders,” he said. “Temporarily obviously. You’ll be one of us in no time.”
“One of us meaning a MegaCorp worker?” Murph said.
“Something you’ll quickly learn here Murph is that the real divide in Neon City is between Corpo and non-Corpo. Sure the logos and aesthetics change, but after a while the name matters less and less,” Daaron said.
“So like, does that mean we’ll be seeing more of each other after this? When I get in?” Murph asked. Daaron looked to Murph and gave him a small nod.
“Let’s hope. Come on, though, I’m off the clock and we’re about to get fucked up real good,” Daaron said. He pointed ahead. Murph followed Daaron’s finger and his jaw dropped. Nothing Murph had seen in Neon City compared to what they were driving toward now.