He's a cigarette addict who works in cat catching. She's a young painter who works at a cloth dyeing factory. They've never thought much of each other's existence, but when the two of them get caught up in a deadly fiasco between scientists, they have to find a way to combat it or the world is surely doomed.
His footsteps were completely silent as he walked across the broken glass and trash. The wind howled in the abandoned buildings around him, and he heard the telltale scuffle of the homeless people that were hiding in those hellholes, shrinking away from him, afraid he might hurt them with the throwing knives very prominently displayed on his belt. He pulled one off and began twirling it between his fingers, glancing around suspiciously. Where was Celine? She was supposed to be here by now. He checked his grimy wristwatch.
Celine was now officially late, and it wasn't like her to do this to him. She was never late, and the man needed his cigarettes, although if caught with them he would most definitely be arrested and possibly killed for such an offense. He bit his lip at this thought. What if Celine and her friends had been found out? Where would he get his fix now? Panicked at this notion, he sprinted back the way he had come, this time not bothering to be silent on the dirty streets and tucking the knife back into his belt.
Tearing down the deserted alleys and passageways, he desperately hoped that nothing had happened to his dealer. More than that, he also had romantic feelings for Celine, as well as the other guy who sometimes accompanied her. A guard, he would assume. He bounded up a rickety, poorly built staircase on the side of the building, and climbed in through a window shrouded by old, raggedy, stained cloth on the second floor. Inside it was eerily silent.
He pulled out a knife again, and crept forward. It was dark and smelled strongly of tobacco and alcohol. He took out a match from his pocket and lit the stub of a candle he had found on the street the other day. The room he was in now had a rickety, extremely splintery table and mismatched chairs. Upon the table lay a bundle of fabric and some money. He stuffed them into his jacket pocket and took another step forward, only to hear the crunch as he stepped on more broken glass. He looked down at the floor. Stepping on broken glass wasn't anywhere out of the ordinary, but when he had lifted his foot to take another step, he had felt his foot stick to the ground slightly, accompanied by a soft schlup noise. Bending down, he saw the remnants of a broken bottle in a pool of alcohol and a thick black liquid, very much like oil. The whole mixture smelled like a rotting cat.
Wrinkling his nose and stepping around the mess, he pushed aside another dirty cloth curtain. This was the main production room. There were shelves filled with homemade beer and alcohol all over the place, as well as falling apart crates filled with bundles like the one he had grabbed off the table. More curtains led off to separate rooms, and an old desk squatted in a corner. Several smaller tables and a few chairs dotted the floor, and one corner was devoted to making the alcohol, with big pots full of water and a stove, wood, and all the necessary ingredients.
He looked around in astonishment, momentarily forgetting who he had come to find. This was the production room of the city's top cigarette and beer suppliers, both of which were illegal. He looked at a few of the bottles, stuffed a few more of the bundles in his pockets, then went over to the desk and examined it. It was old and rotting slightly, but it was still quite strong and had a multitude of large drawers. He pulled on one. Locked, or stuck. He was guessing locked, they probably kept the money in there. He was just about to try another when he heard a wet wheezing sound.
He jumped a little and straightened up, waving his candle about to see the whole room. He gripped the knife tighter in his hand. The noise was coming from behind him, and he turned around to face a curtain. Wary of who might be lying in wait for him, he nudged the fabric aside and peeked in. Celine laid the floor in a pool of that vile black goop.
She didn't even notice him; she was vomiting up more and more of the stuff onto the floor. In a clumsy moment of surprise, his grip loosened on the knife and it clattered to the concrete floor. Celine jolted and snapped her head up to look at him.
Her expression melted into relief when she saw who it was. "Luca, please," she coughed and spat out some of the sludge. He noticed how shallow he breaths were and how much she had to struggle to get even the smallest amount of air. "Please, help me." She whispered.
Luca nodded and crouched next to her. "Yea, what can I do?"
"Water...?" Celine whimpered.
"'Course!" Luca bolted out of the room, rushing back into the main chamber and looking around frantically. Water, water, where do criminals keep water? For a moment he thought about giving her some of the beer, but she had requested water and so he would give it to her. Rushing over to the beer-making corner, he saw a large pot full of relatively clean water sitting on the wood stove, under which embers still smoldered. Luca looked around for a bottle or something of the like to carry it, but he found nothing. Desperate now, and realizing that he was probably taking too long, he took a full bottle of beer, dumped the contents onto the floor, filled it, and darted back to Celine.
When he reached her, she had relaxed and was lying peacefully in the oily substance.
"Here, brought you the water," Luca said softly to her.
She did not answer.
He frowned and nudged her. "Celine?"
Setting the water down, he crouched and rolled her over onto her back. Murky brown eyes stared back at him. Luca dropped his candle and it fizzled out in the sludge. Celine was dead.
Luca sat at the desk, a new candle that he had found burning in front of him. He shakily pulled one of the bundles out from his pocket and unwrapped it. Cigarettes. He lit one on the candle and took a calming drag. Glancing over to the curtain nearest him, he debated going back in there. While he didn't want to touch a dead body, much less Celine's dead body, he remembered the key on the chain she always had around her neck, and he was thinking that it might be the key to the drawers on the desk.
Luca let out a puff of smoke.
He would do it.
He would go back in there.