An appropriation of the classical fairytale Rapunzel - imbued with contemporary themes and issues.
His worn boots struggled for grip on the slicked cement as he slid around the corner of another crumbling building. The clatter of footsteps echoing through the thick, black smog spurred him on. He wove through the alleys of the New Sydney slums, the reek of death a tangible being clawing at his mask. Signs marked with ancient Chinese figures dripped liquid that seeped onto his thick clothing threatening to blister his skin. The afternoon sun did little to illuminate the caliginous alley; the black miasma that smothered the city blocking out all but the most persistent of rays. He stumbled, his foot plunging into a pothole filled with a viscous fluid, sending him sprawling.
Scrambling to get up, he froze as an unfathomably bright light spilled from a doorway at the end of the alley. A man stood, broad shoulders silhouetted, at the entrance. His voice rumbled through the fog, “Zella? Zella? Hurry up and activate your god damned hair.”
He sidled through the shadows, hoping the man did not hear his erratic breaths and scuffing steps. He’d heard whisperings of a manufactured light in the perpetual gloominess. Electricity; a power only the rich could afford, until they and the light disappeared into this perpetual gloom. And yet he could clearly see the man, standing bathed in an artificial light which spilled from the doorway. A green light flashed, followed by a whirring. The man stepped through the entrance, the doors slid shut behind him, the darkness slunk back as the intruding light bristled away.
He sat down, his trembling legs sliding out from beneath him. The door seemed no more conspicuous than the thousands of other doors in the city. He wanted to touch it, scrutinise it, to pry it open so as to feel the light on his skin. He wanted to flee, to get as far from it as possible and never see it again. He wanted to wish he had never seen it.
He hunched in the alley for a long time, the measly light generated by the sun retreating from the clutches of the foetid smog as total darkness settled in for the night. A flashing light on his mask, indicating it was time for its scheduled decontamination jarred him from his thoughts. Vaulting up he took off at a sprint towards the closest Neut Station. Despite knowing he would be punished for fighting with one of his fellow workers then running off, he had to get his protective suit neutralised and checked for faults. No one failed to race to a Neut Station when it was time. No one knew what would happen if they didn’t, only that the Overseers claimed that ‘excruciating pain and a slow, suffering demise would be the sole corollary of a faulty suit’. But he was a cynic, and believed that it wasn’t a concern for the safety of the lumps of society driving these assertions. Just like with the electricity, the voracious need for dominance and power that corrupted the leaders of the nation led to the establishment of a number of measures and controls inciting fear and subjection in the general populace. He knew, despite the myriad of cover up stories, that those who did not have immense wealth or a cocky, megalomaniac attitude where left to suffer; to rot in the devastation of the indifference for those less ‘worthy’. He hated the bastards; every single callous one of them. But until he discovered an alternative to his pitiful excuse for a life he knew he had to avoid drawing attention to himself. He would be no use dead.