About The Laws of Space
The Laws of Space
Chapter Ten Concludes
It was almost time for curfew when he announced he was closing up. Though of course he couldn’t push the Breathers out of his bunker, they fled at the dint of his brackish voice. Soon I’ll be out of this hellhole, where I belong. Once the crowd had scurried away, he peeked at the clock and began placing his sundries into an old sturdy safe hidden underneath the counter. The old man was spry, having made another killing. He started humming a tune, dreaming of retirement—a real retirement. Stepp checked his palm and smiled his black smile. He saw his obscured reflection through the grime of the glass countertop—his face looked like the opening of a cave. Never mind, he thought. I’ll get that seen to when I make Spacer.
Spit polishing the glass with a shirt sleeve, he heard someone coming down the brittle steps to the bunker door. “Closed!” he yelled, continuing with his polishing. It didn’t make sense to focus on that one spot of the counter; the bunker was a veritable cesspool. Again he started humming, but someone started knocking on the rusty bunker metal and wouldn’t stop. “I won’t open, you go on pounding. Mind your Space you degenerate!”
“It’s me, Mr. Stepp. Please let me in. Please.”
With surprising quickness Stepp was around his counter, opening the door. The new arrival wasn’t a customer. It was Alder Tate’s stray cat. “What’s this?” he asked. “You’re bleeding. How did this happen?”
“I was following them like you said, easy as can be.”
“Please, please let me have some of the good stuff before I have to be back for curfew.”
“Never mind that. Now you tell me, what happened?”
“I don’t know, they were walking around, doing nothing like always. Then I heard some machine, sounded like nothing I’d ever heard.” The stray was rubbing the back of her head; it was starting to ooze puss.
“And then this,” she said, showing Stepp her bloody hand. Something hit me… I don’t know, I woke up and came straight here.”
“That’s okay, I’ll be fine—just give me some stuff.”
“Not you, you witless whelp. This isn’t good. Get out of here, girl. Go on!”
“But the stuff.”
“No stuff. Now get.” The girl made a desperate face and pattered out and up the steps. The old man fiddled at his argentine hair. It had almost been a good day. As he closed the bunker door, his saggy shoulders sagged some more. What am I going to tell the Administrator?