Shadows in Neon City: Part Four
This City Is an Oaysis
Written by: Zack
Art by Hydra ヒドラ
The Glitterdome came into view like the rising moon. Alabaster panels covered the dome of this pantheon-esque building. In many ways, it acted as the heart of the city. The roads and highways snaked around it and several hotels had walkways bridging between it and the dome. Murph heard about the Glitterdome from co-workers and relatives. Apparently you could live your whole life inside that place and still find new experiences. The Glitterdome was one of the few structures in Neon City that no one MegaCorp owned. It was a joint venture and each MegaCorp contributed something. A gift from them to the city itself.
“Even after all this time, I am still taken aback by the Glitterdome. Some might say it’s passé and that it’s a tourist trap. In some ways that’s true, but I think the Glitterdome is the perfect introduction for newbies who wanna live here,” Daaron said.
The car pulled into the roundabout and the two stepped out. Murph looked up at the staggering size of the gateway while Daaron spoke to the driver briefly. The car continued on its way and Daaron joined Murph in climbing the stairway into the main lobby.
The interior was just as lavish and grand as the exterior. The floor was spotted marble polished to a mirrored finish and lined with brass. Murph found a directory in the lobby. There were five levels, each one color-coded. The bottom level’s halls and carpet had a white and blue color scheme. The second level had green and red. The third level was orange and white. The fourth level was colored pink and blue. Finally, the fifth level was dark blue and black. Elevators and escalators took people to the respective levels. Daaron walked through the ocean of meandering bodies with purpose. Murph followed behind him, taking only brief moments to look at the dazzling lights and art on the walls.
“We’ll be heading to the very top. The Sky High Lounge,” Daaron said over the crowd. Murph followed him to an open elevator shaft and the two managed to squeeze in before the doors closed. Murph tried to make himself as small as possible so he wasn’t bumping or touching anyone else. Daaron pushed the button for the fifth level. Before he knew it, the doors slid open to the floor’s entryway. Murph walked out of the elevator and looked up to see the very top of the dome. Up above him was the backlit night sky above Neon City. He could only look at it for a moment before Daaron directed him towards a side hallway, away from the main crowd. Down that hall was a sectioned-off stairway with some serious-looking security monitoring the entrance.
“VIP area?” Murph said.
“Basically,” Daaron said. As the two approached, Murph got a better look at the men guarding the entrance. Daaron reached into his pocket to pull out his wallet, showing the men an ID card. Murph couldn’t really make out too many details, but he could see it was some kind of barcode. One of the guards gave the ID a look, his eyes glowing yellow. After scanning the ID he gave Daaron a nod and moved out of the way for him and Murph to continue.
“What kind of work do you do for Incubo now?” Murph asked. Daaron took the lead up the stairs, their footsteps echoing throughout the stairwell.
“I’m off the clock, Murph. I don’t really wanna talk about work right now,” he said. Murph wanted to press on. Not just for his own curiosity but because he wanted to know just what Incubo offered Daaron to make him drop a job with Asutenki. It was all anyone ever talked about in Orion. Murph had this idea that from where he was, nothing else could top a job from Asutenki, yet here was Daaron five years later, working for a completely different company like he hadn’t given it a second thought.
Despite his earnest curiosity, Murph dropped the subject altogether. He could worry about the working world tomorrow. Right now was all about having fun. They reached the top of the stairs and Daaron opened the door for Murph.
The room was thumping with driving bass and the lights made a dazzling display around a checkered dance floor. Above the dance floor was a black sky dotted with twinkling stars. It was a holographic projection onto the roof of the Glitterdome. With the added security Murph was expecting a high class lounge. Daaron walked past him and to the bar at the opposite end of the entrance.
“What’ll you have?” Daaron said. “I’m buyin’.”
“Just a beer to start,” Murph said. Daaron hailed the bartender and ordered one beer and then a whisky on the rocks for himself. Once the two got their drinks they watched the dance floor.
“To new heights,” Daaron said offering a toast. Murph watched as the simulated sky changed and a swirling galaxy opened over the dance floor. A wave of cheers erupted from the crowd.
“To better beginnings,” Murph said and clanked his beer to Daaron’s glass. Murph tipped his head back and took a long drink. He looked at the bottle and brushed his thumb across the label. It was Glarus Beer, a cheap domestic. He had plenty back home in the Yupe with his coworkers and family. He took another swig. It tasted the same. When he finished the bottle Murph felt grounded.
“It can’t change me. It won’t,” he said to himself and put the bottle back on the bar and ordered another. As long as Daaron was paying, right? The music sent shockwaves through Murph’s heart. He was never into clubs, though none of the ones in the Yupe held a candle to this place. Fan or not, Murph found himself swaying to the beat. Daaron nudged Murph and nodded towards the dance floor. It was too loud to talk now. Any semblance of speech was drowned out. Murph watched as Daaron left his drink at the bar and headed to the dance floor.
He watched Daaron take long, confident strides, his hips moved to the beat. It was another side to him Murph never knew about. Perhaps Daaron didn’t know either and only discovered how well he could dance after coming here. After joining Incubo maybe? The crowd parted as Daaron made his way into the dancing mass. It looked effortless.
The dance floor was enticing. As the sky above them changed, so too did the floor they danced upon. Murph saw the mirrored tiles shimmer and clouds began to rise up form beneath the feet of eager partygoers. It was like the adverts Murph saw before, and they looked just as real. He reached out to touch them, to feel the water droplets on his skin. He could have sworn he was at the bar. He blinked and found himself on the event horizon between the lounge and the dancefloor. Murph looked up and saw a wall of bodies twisting, undulating, stepping to the beat. A field of faces expressing a mèlange of emotions, all of them happy. He wanted — no, he needed — to be part of that.
“I have all weekend to worry. To fear and dread. Tonight I want to be happy,” Murph thought and stepped into the crowd. He tried to do what they did. He moved his hips and loosened his shoulders. The bumps and shoves Murph accidentally inflicted on others told him his dancing was very much a work in progress. He was given some space to work out the kinks in his technique. All the while wisps of smoke from the “clouds” kicked up around Murph. Soon it looked like he had his own little entourage of ghosts partying alongside him. With each awkward step, Murph felt the knot unclench from his stomach. He looked out along the dancefloor to find himself in a small lonely oasis. Now that Murph was in the belly of the beast, he could see that the partygoers were not all just one big dancing mass, but a series of cliques and groups dancing together that just appeared united from afar. In a sea of people Murph danced alone, and despite this he felt truly happy.
After a few songs the night began to get away from him. Daaron managed to find him and take him back to the bar to recharge, only to find his way back with the ghosts. It was a vicious cycle of drinking, dancing, flirting and drinking again. Murph’s night became an entanglement of colors and noise.
Faces stuck out to him. Daaron’s was first. It was important he not forget how he got here. Strangers began to become more familiar as time drew on; A woman with a half shaven head, hair bleached white and parted to one side. Another woman with the biggest and bluest eyes he had ever seen came into focus and faded away. The last thing he remembered was a man. He never got a clear look at him from his trips to the bar and the dancefloor, but his green suit looked amazing.
Art By Allure
A responsible man wouldn’t get drunk the night before an important, life changing interview. A responsible man wouldn’t have left the hotel at all in fact. Murph Bell was what some might call a semi-responsible man; smart enough to prepare and create failsafes, but aloof enough to still need those same failsafes.
Ever the semi-responsible man, Murph set up not one, but two early alarms before he met Daaron. At six, the first alarm blared in his dehydrated mind. A droning fog horn echoed in his mind, playing through his cyberbrain and into his auditory system. It brought Murph to the edge of consciousness, but just barely. The drone wailed on, needing to be manually shut off. For thirty minutes Murph tossed haphazardly in his bed before a second alarm harmonized with the first. All Murph could hear was pain before he finally stepped into the waking world, kicking and screaming.
“Fuck!” Murph shouted in both frustration and dread. Frustration that he finally shut off those alarms in his head, and dread that he felt like utter shit the morning before his interview. He dragged his fingers across his face and flopped back down on the bed. His whole body sent pulses of life up towards his head which pounded against his skull. He cringed and rubbed his temples. He brought up his interface and checked the time. It was just past six thirty. His interview was in four hours.
“You just had to drink and have fun…you asshole,” Murph said to himself. His voice cracked and his lips felt like ripped paper.
“Yeah I had to,” he said.
“No you didn’t. You wanted to,”
“Yeah and? What’s the difference?”
“How did I get here?”
“Don’t change the subject,” He argued with himself. He squeezed his eyes shut and just saw red.
“Fuck it, I am,” He opened them and winced as he turned the lights on. That sudden movement awakened something deep inside him.
“You’re gonna throw up,”
“I’m not gonna-”
Murph threw up over the side of his bed. He looked at the sick that trickled down the bedsheet and onto the carpet. His first thought was something along the lines of “I feel so bad for the person who has to clean that up”. The next thought right after that was “You could clean it up?”
“One mess at a time Murph. First I gotta get my life in order,” he said to himself. The next time he moved he didn’t feel like throwing up, which was an improvement. Between waking up dead and vomiting in his hotel room, Murph finally asked himself the most important question; how the hell did he end up back here?
There was an alert on his interface. He brought it up to see he had a new message. It was a video from Daaron. Murph’s face felt hot as he opened it up.
“Please don’t let this be a montage of embarrassing drunk moments. That’s the last thing I need,” he said. The video oddly enough was just of Daaron sitting in the company car. He was alone and was just about to light a cigar. He exhaled a large cloud of smoke and looked at the camera.
“Murph you really know how to party. You surprised a lot of people at the Sky High Lounge,”
“That’s not a comforting sentence, Daaron,” Murph said back to the pre recorded video. Daaron let out a hearty laugh.
“Had this been just another fling we could have fucked this town up hard, but I know you got more important things to do. Don’t worry though, I’ll give Lauren your regards,” Daaron said with a wink.
“Who the fuck is Lauren, Daaron?” Murph said, expecting Daaron to respond to his questions.
“We had fun, and I wouldn’t want your first night in Neon City to be anything else. However, I want you to stay here bud, I don’t want you sulking on the return trip to the Yupe on account of one hard party. So I left you a little something in your mini fridge. A gift on behalf of Incubo to you,” he said. Murph looked down at the mini fridge and opened it. Aside from the free bottled water he found a light blue aluminum can.
“It’s a can of Oaysis. It’s a chem drink for when you fucked around too much and need to clock in the next day.” Darron explained. Murph rolled the can in his hand. It had a palm tree on the front and the leaves made the “O” in Oaysis. Apparently this was “Lemon Zep” flavored.
“Drink it slowly and in about an hour you should begin to feel better. Trust me, I’ve been slamming this stuff down for years and I always bounce back,” Darron said. Murph shook his head a bit and looked at Daaron in the video.
“What the fuck have you been doing Daaron?” he said with concern. He watched Daaron take another puff of his cigar. When did he make this? The tint on the windows was too dark to tell so he assumed it was sometime last night. Daaron balanced the cigar between his fingers and looked down at it. He was silent for a while before he looked up at Murph, or rather the camera, with a more serious look.
“You wanted to know what I do for Incubo? Well to put it simply Murph?” Daaron leaned back and gestured at the car “This is basically what I do. Professional partygoer…” He shook his head “Yeah, let’s keep it at that,” Murph studied the way Daaron moved, his look. He could tell there was more Daaron wanted to say.
“Murph, this city is everything a guy like me could ever want. It’s something a guy like you deserves after all the bullshit he’s gone through. Don’t tell me you’re not relieved to be here,” he said. He took another puff and the cloud nearly obstructed his whole face. Murph could only see the outline of Daaron’s head as he leaned back.
“Whatever they want from you, as long as your reward is getting to stay here, give it to them. What’s one little thing compared to the rest of your life,” he said. Murph saw the red glow of Daaron’s interface before the video ended. Murph looked down at the can and popped the top. The can hissed and a small spray of citrus whafted up to his nose.
“I hate sour drinks,” Murph said. He closed his eyes and drank it slowly until it was empty.