Walking Away

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For the fifth day in a row, I stare at the wall of the hell-hole I live in. I draw my blanket tighter around me against the cold fall breeze that's sweeping through my room from the hole in my ceiling. I can hear Mom's constant lectures about taking care of myself and my home, but I haven't had the energy to patch it. At least the breeze sucks away the smell of this old mattress we salvaged from the dump.

The agony in my back, neck, and head never let up, and I feel like I weigh 400 pounds instead of my actual 135. The weed isn't enough to take the edge off these days. Maybe Gina has some moonshine that would help.

As if summoned by my thoughts, my door creaks open and Gina, my older sister, peers inside. Her sleek auburn locks are pulled up into a mess on top of her head, and her pale face is streaked with tears. She's wearing her tech dealer outfit which means she's been out already this morning.

Is it still morning?

I often wish I could deal tech like she does, but I'm usually not well enough to leave.

"Arthur?" she whispers. "Are you awake?"

"Yeah."

I roll over to give her space to sit on the edge of my bed and she plops down with a sigh. "I heard they've already been cremated," she whispers.

"Already?!"

It still doesn't feel real. Mom and Dad caught the wrong freaking autocab home a few nights ago and never made it. I have no idea how they were even taking one without any GRIDcoins. Some sensors failed, and it drove them straight into the abutment of an overpass. I would say never trust automated freaking vehicles, but it's not like you have any choice if you can't make it on foot.

"They didn't even wait to talk to us?" Community bastards.

"It was obvious they were shirkers," she shrugs. "There's not much we could have done anyway. I guess."

Our family has been in the shirker camps for generations, and we're even stupid enough to be proud of it. This patch of abandoned buildings, called the Dregs, is one of the largest God-forsaken shirker camps in Central Continent. It's an old business complex the Community has chosen to ignore, just outside of Sector 157, and for now, it's home.

All this crap started a few hundred years ago when the world was a different place. The Community teaches that the world was at war — with country fighting country. Innocent people were caught in the crossfire every day. There were military strikes, cyber-attacks, and trade wars. Bottom line was, there was no safe place and no peace.

Then the Global Fellowship, or "The Community," came in and cleaned up the mess. It might be true, but Dad says — oh God, used to say — that they just took over. Their Global Reform Interface and Database — or the GRID — was more powerful and secure than the Old World Internet could ever have been. It just runs a little differently. They say it was an evolutionary leap forward in technology. 

Once united under a single government, the registered citizens of Earth stopped fighting. Now everyone gets free basic food, housing, transportation, medical care, and of course... access to the GRID for life.

Everyone but us.

We shirkers are paranoid, and either don't have GRID connections or don't use them anymore. Without one, you've got no money. Apparently, having no money today means we forfeit Mom and Dad's remains to the very government assholes they told us to fear. This may be the first time that government has actually pissed me off.

"They should have let us see them first." I grind my teeth as the pain of sitting up shoots through my body. "They were our parents!"

"The Community doesn't think that way," Gina shrugs with her beautiful two-toned eyes now glassy and hollow.

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