Bromley awoke to the sound of his Marconi™ ringing. He pulled the communicator out of his pocket and blearily eyed the screen – Keeler’s number, face and location all flashed in time with his chosen ringtone. The time in the corner said 20:45 – a mere fifteen minutes after the time they had arranged to meet at, but Martroy was clearly wondering where the hell Bromley was. It was ok. Their local, the Frog & Peach, was only just up the road. Even taking a few minutes to clear his head, Bromley could be there before the last of the hour-mark’s chimes had rung out.
He gave a colossal yawn and groaned as he struggled to his feet. The flat was now dark and quiet, save for the street noise of the smog-huffers talking shit as was their wont. Bromley blinked, and immediately began to feel the onset of a headache. Ignoring the dull pain, he stumbled about the apartment, clapping his hands to switch on the lights and trying to ready himself for departing the flat. The Frog & Peach was a down-market whiskey joint – Bromley didn’t even particularly like the stuff, only ever drinking it with ginger ale and ice – but it wouldn’t do to turn up looking like the scruffiest boy in school.
The cracked mirror on the living room wall was the obvious port of call, and he beamed at the tousled mohawk and grizzled countenance before him. This only lasted a few seconds before he began to find the smirking visage an unsettling sight. His uneasy reaction to his own image concerned him briefly, before he dismissed the notion – there wasn’t time for such self-contemplation. Tilting his head up, he examined the barbed wire tattoo around his neck; tattoos were universal nowadays, the only difference being that social status to a large extent dictated what sort of image you might opt for. Those in the upper strata of society invariably decorated their bodies with the product of great artists such as Renoir, Monet, Picasso, Banksy or Ri Sung-Il. The less-fortunate were more taken by inspirational quotes and images, depictions of fantasy worlds, or symbols with various meanings. Bromley himself only had three tattoos, making him one of the lesser-inked of the general population. The barbed wire was accompanied by a Banksy-inspired faux-official message at the top of his back proclaiming ‘This Body Is A Designated Graffiti Area’, and a quote in florid letters on his ankle which read ‘It is sometimes an appropriate response to reality to go insane’.
The Marconi™ buzzed once more, and Bromley irritably pulled it out before glaring at the screen. “There’s no need to look like that,” came the female voice. “I’m just a messenger, after all.” The anthropomorphic organiser was right, of course, but that didn’t stop Bromley from getting aggravated every time she had to draw his attention to another event he had pencilled in. “It seems that you are due to meet your friend and colleague Keeler Martroy in four minutes and thirty-six seconds and, well, I couldn’t help but notice that you are still here in your abode, admiring yourself like a prize salmon”. Bromley couldn’t help but smirk at the odd comparison. “Yeah yeah, I’m on my way now. Thanks Saturnia, you pesky gnat.” The face on the screen had time to nod an acknowledgement before he closed the program and shoved the Marconi™ back into his pocket.
Hurling on his jacket and Rebreathable™, Bromley grabbed a handful of Credits from the table beside the door, did the usual necessary biometric procedures for securing the flat – scanned retinas, placed thumb-and-index-finger against the print-reader, coughed a verbal expletive for the voice-recognition software – and then marched out, wondering how much of a dick Keeler was going to be about his lateness.
Solidarity, brothers & sisters…Ⓐ