They had been trapped in Ward’s apartment on level fifteen, the top floor of a New Beginnings project.
The New Beginnings Project had been erected as a “government program”, a panic response to the sudden, severe homelessness and overcrowding issues caused by the widespread chaos of plague, famine, and vermin, all seemingly springboarded by the government's ever-worsening economic strife nightmare.
The buildings went up quick and cheap, erected in filthy, toxic “waste neighborhoods”. Places where the dealers dealt, the whores whored, the users used, the children wailed, and everyone suffered. There were too many people, and nowhere for them to go. Almost overnight, more than five hundred of the projects had been raised in the United States alone, and several hundred more were to be built internationally. Cookie cutter, sterile, phallic-shaped buildings that reached high into the smog choked sky. They were propagated as a “second chance” at life, a fresh start for the downtrodden. But it was really where the everyman was put to die.
Originally meant for senior citizens and desperate, disparate families, the New Beginnings facilities, like all social refuge programs, became the dubious home to degenerates and con artists of every vulgar variety. In no time at all the buildings became barely livable war zones, filling the disillusioned, good folks who did suffer dire straits and needed to be there with that old familiar (and all too true) realization: no one has their best interests in mind.
It may have been a dump, but it was the best Ward was going to do. His bohemian, loose-loving, art/punk lifestyle had essentially already killed him, and long before any of this madness started. In his favor, the HIV he contracted from one of his last short-term, punk-boy lovers had assured him a spot in the facility. A little place to call home, to get high in, and stay out of the acid rain while waiting to die.
Dexi mulled this over in her early morning funk. While reaching into her pocket for a cigarette, she thumbed the last of her stash. Eight bags. She had been careful, getting high only sparingly. In fact, not really using enough to “get high” per se, but to bring down the constant anxiety a bit. If she continued to be careful, she could stave off the sick for another couple of days.
From somewhere on the fifteenth level, the faint haunting cries continued to ring out.
She pulled out her smoke and lit it, drawing deep and exhaling long. She glanced over at her sleeping friends. Ward was low on his meds, if he was even still taking them, which concerned her greatly. Though he seemed relatively healthy, she knew the HIV could turn to full-blown AIDS overnight, and he was starting to lose mad weight again. But that could have been from their bad diet. There were too many factors involved, in any one thing, to be able to really properly gauge anything at all. And with the unpredictable N.E.C.R.O. creeping about, anything was possible. Conversely, Ward was always a good sport about his ailments, seemingly accepting his own personal plague with a shrug and a smile.
It was Chas that really worried her, but for much different reasons. He was not dealing well with the state of things at all. His drug use, womanizing, and general delinquency had always been extreme, but after the planet began to actively and aggressively cave in on itself, he really began to slip over the edge. There were no more little punk girls to deceive and defile, no more pricey drugs to take. No more law to piss off. When his personal stash ran out, and they stopped sharing (or ran out of) theirs, Chas would go psycho. Withdrawal was a hard cold turkey that he would not deal well with at all. He would rage, loud, scary and hard, making everyone suffer in his agony. And just by being her natural “sexy punk bitch” self, she felt like an unavoidable carrot tied to his head. With Chas came these stressors, and they were not unique to the situation. This was Chas.
As with the drugs, the food situation was in the dires. Some boxed mac and cheese, peanut butter, and Ramen noodles took up little space in bare cupboards. Things felt just as grim as they were, and Dexi did not feel like she had the where-with-all to face the already uncomfortable day. No, she was going to let Chas and Ward sleep as long as possible, and worry about going into the war zone later.
That nausea crimped at her stomach, a sudden stabbing shock of pain in twisting guts. She went into the bathroom, not just sick, but sickened with herself. She pulled out her kit and a bag and locked the door.
Time to shut out the world again. Time to silence the cries.
Tomorrow we reap ANOTHER PERFECT DAY