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Author Topic: Business as Usual (1982)  (Read 517 times)

Offline Eirazel

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Business as Usual (1982)
« on: March 25, 2015, 05:05:22 AM »
     Myelka stood outside the doorway of the café Ètrise, handing out - or rather, attempting to hand out - promotional flyers to the various disinterested passers-by that frequented Mozel avenue. The logic was, of course, that more people would be free on Equinox to idle in coffee-shops. Apparently, management underestimated the patriotism - or rather, the love of pomp - of the common citizen. To make matters worse, Ètrise was only two blocks away from Victory Square, where the main splendor of the 250th drew crowds even from the farming districts and the boom of the trumpets could be heard from miles around.

     She leaned against the brick facade of the café, heaving out a cliché sigh as she pressed the thick stack of papers against her gaudy scarlet cravat. Right now she could be at home, drinking hot chocolate in the rare quiet of the city, or at the very least idling in the celebrations. Workers didn't have that luxury, however, and she resigned herself to the cruel fate of a low-wage senior worker. Her brief meditative respite was abruptly shattered by a sudden and loud tap from the window - her employer, of course, wrinkling his face up so his walrus mustache bared out like porcupine bristles as he silently motioned for her to go back to work!

     She hated the walrus, and moved rebelliously to the other corner where nobody from the inside could see her. Just as she stepped by the alley however she was again abruptly surprised by a tap on her shoulder. It was lucky she turned around before she did anything, or she might have shrieked out and shattered the festive mood awkwardly. There, in his cheap suit with his secondhand-tie was a tallish boy, his earthy hair ruffled and unkempt. How she envied him, to be able to earn just as much money lifting crates filled with who-knows-what and never having to worry about what his outfit looked like or how much weight he had gained or lost!

     "Hell, Vas, you scared the shit out of me!" she yelled out in an indignant voice, a mixture of relief and annoyance on her porcelain face. If her boss heard her, he would have had a heart attack.

     "What's the deal Myel, did you think I was a mugger or something?" he chuckled, his hands defensively placed on his hips.

     "You? I don't think anyone would suspect you could even lift a jar of cookies."

     "Ouch, that's a sharp mouth you got there."

     "And that's a big shit-eating grin you got there, Vas. Besides, I know you don't hang around for small talk when you could be chasing skirts. What do you want from me?"

     Something changed in the air, a drop in temperature and a shift in tone. Suddenly Vasra's state seemed less carefree and more disheveled, and his brownish cheeks turned a hue of beige. He crossed his arms and leaned against the uncovered concrete side, casting his gaze over at Myelka.

     "It's 2 o'clock right now. What time do you get off street duty?"

     She looked at him uneasily; there was something unnerving, uncomfortable about the way he spoke.

     "Um, well... since it's the 250th, I don't think it'll be too long. Maybe by 3? I'll be out by 6, for sure, though the Walrus might make me work overtime."

     He looked at her with a serious concern. A concern that concerned her. This was the first time she had ever seen Vasra so serious before, and it sent a chill down her back. Finally, he replied gravely,

     "The parade down this street starts at 5. Everyone'll be wanting to catch a look at the royal family. Do me a favour, Myel... stay inside. Or far, far away."

     "What? What does that even me-"

     "Look, just promise me that you'll stay indoors, Myel. Don't stand by any windows either, keep far inside."

     This wasn't normal behavior, not for Vasra or any of her friends. An ordinary girl like her didn't have anything to do with the other side, and the encroachment of another reality, of another way of living tore at the fabric of her life painfully. She could only manage a brief nod in reply, still unsure about what Vas had meant before he suddenly walked off into the suddenly threatening darkness of the alleyway. Shuffle, shuffle, and suddenly she heard him break into a run that made a cold sweat run down her forehead.

     Nevertheless, she shook off her worries and walked back to the front of the café, greeted by the familiar sight of her exasperated boss' infuriated face. 'What the hell do you think you're doing, slacking off?!' his expression seemed to yell. Myelka ignored him, casting him aside with a flip of her bobbed hair as she returned to trying to catch the attention of the apathetic public. At least the angry walrus was familiar to her, something completely ordinary that grounded her to reality.

     So an hour passed by uneventfully, with no other ripples on the surface. It was a record day - a total of five new customers! Which didn't say much, because only two of the regulars visited that day. That was to be expected, Myelka thought in hindsight, on a national holiday. Still, it was a peaceful day as well, and that was what she appreciated more than anything else. A rural sort of girl would never quite get used to the hustle and bustle of city life, no less in the capitol, Myelka thought, and respite from it was a breath of fresh air for her.

     It wasn't very long when 5 o'clock came, and already the streets were crowded with anticipatory onlookers with garlands of roses to be tossed onto the parading vehicles or to be caught by the goose-stepping soldiers of the King's personal paramilitary division. Though she was two blocks away she could still hear the blare of the trumpets and the gaudy "modernized" drumrolls. Soon enough the vanguard of the procession barreled through the centre of the street triumphantly, as if victors in a bloody military battle - ostensibly in commemoration of the Battle of Volyets. Still, it was far too much for a girl like her, far more interested as she was at her perfectly made parfait than the grandeur of the nobility. They were on a league far away from hers, and she was content in her hot chocolate and sweets. Too content to notice the ripples that formed on the surface of her drink as the ground rumbled ominously.