Cosey sat down at the table. The breakfast had been waiting there for several hours as they slept, and she’d finally stirred. It was light now, shifting across the stainless steel and falling into the dark polished concrete pools of the lobby. The delicate atrium had been designed by one of the leading architects of the time, who had recently fallen out of favour after a fatal incident at a nearby leisure centre. Cosey peeled back the tinfoil lid and unwound the film from the plastic cutlery.
Far above, a walkway moved a combination of shoppers and workers in a criss cross of the building. A brave use of space many said, it allowed the aspects to be viewed from multiple vantage points. From the top floor, Cosey had spent the previous afternoon staring into the rooms of screwing couples and weeping children.
The carpet had been introduced recently to add a little softness to the space. Tastes had changed and probably heating costs had gone up. The navy blue was sliced through with deep burgundies and golds, it was in poor taste according to Cosey, but the regular guests seemed to take it in their stride. The workers had long stopped caring.
Getting up from the table, Cosey once more felt the twinge of swollen cartilage and bluey black flesh. She bent down to adjust the black straps around her ankle, and the ones around her wrist. All in check, she left the building. The temperature was the same outside and the same contemporary baroque style carpet paved the street for the next block. Cosey’s injuries caused her to walk with a slight limp and she hung her head to watch for potholes.
When the carpet ended, the streets were replaced with concrete slabs. As part of a project initiated for the millennium, an artist had cast the footprint of every member of the town into the surface of the cement. In some cases, citizens had requested that their pets’ paw-print be included alongside their own. The artist hadn’t anticipated the high level of response and the number of shoe and paw prints meant that the street became treacherous to navigate. Cosey liked coming here when it rained. She watched the ways in which the water ran through the crevasses. The deep puddles that formed in the spike of a high heel, and ran off into the gently tiered groove of the sneaker. Those who had been children at the end of the millennia, made a ritual out of coming back here each year to draw chalk outlines around their feet, to see how much they’d grown.
Cosey’s ankle twinged and she once more adjusted the straps. Her hair, thick and black, short to the curve of her neck. Gravely skin, warped with wires. She kept to the corners, were the pavement had been softened by greenery.
In a part of town that many considered to be an eyesore, the local authority had picked up on some advice given during a nationwide lecture on funding avenues and regeneration. To save on the cost of demolishing the high-rise buildings that sit in strips along the horizon of the town, the council had draped fabric infused with OLED screens over the facades. They were able to play out major sporting events and local news, and when the breeze came, the material would ripple and billow. They still hadn’t managed to evict the people that lived in these blocks and Cosey found that it was easy to spot them. The constant exposure to high intensity light meant that their eyes had grown to between two and three times the average size. They pulsated constantly, with the result that many could no longer focus on specific objects. The factories that had relied for so long on the labour of those living in the flats, were having to make an increasing number of redundancies due to errors on the factory line. A protest group had formed, headed predominately by those identifying as woman. ‘No more screens,’ they cried, ‘Screens will be everything’.
Cosey turned her back on the towers and continued to walk pressed up against the verticals. She never looked up fully, but kept her gaze between the pavement and the stream of cars to her left. When she was wee, she remembered, the town got a new motto. The council members, proud of their forward thinking, used a substantial chunk of the annual budget, to issue every towns person with a t shirt sporting the motto. ‘Impress yourself into the world’, it read, in red and yellow. The adults and children joked around, pushing their bare skin into brick facades and corners of buildings. Similar to the ‘planking’ craze, ‘fleshing’ left greasy marks and dead skin all over the corporate sector of the town. Big businesses, fed up of a steep rise in cleaning costs, worked closely with the local university to develop an anti-fleshing device. A thick, clear liquid, which shriveled up the skin on contact was an immediate success, killing the ‘fleshing’ epidemic instantly.
Through the window to what was formally the bank building, her head and shoulders were framed. Although we couldn’t see her face, the thick black hair distinguished Cosey from the throngs of people. A warmth glowed from the crowds, reassuring in their chit chat. They moved like jellyfish, slowly insipidly through the streets. Many were on their way to work; to the same jobs that their mothers had done before them. Cosey thought she spotted her’s in the crowd, but remembered she hadn’t lived here for several years now. At intervals, the carbon pads of grinders shrieked against the stainless steel railings, removing them from the pavement. The sparks from the grinders sprinkled over the passers by in a ceremonious sort of way, but no one seemed to notice.
She slipped in amongst the flabby press of bodies, seeking out their heat. The cobbles underfoot jagged at her ankle, giving way in to her wrist. The crowd peeled off in waves down alley-ways and into entrance halls. Sheer cliffs of industrial chic soothed Cosey. Fail early she thought, it’s only gonna get more expensive.
Back at the hotel, breakfast was waiting where dinner had been.