Just off Wilshire, the address lands me at a high rise that looks like it's taking up half the block. I am looking for Suite 28-12F. I skate inside. There is a line of elevators behind a desk that appears to stretch the entire length of the room with no opening. "Hello," I say, gliding up to the desk, stopping myself with my elbow before I slam into it.
Behind the desk, a person sits wearing a safety orange hoodie and sunglasses. They turn their head away from a monitor and onto me.
"Yeah, hi! I'm looking for Suite 28-12F. Can I just take one of these elevators?" I point back behind them at the row of shiny steel elevators.
"You gotta sign in," they say, handing over a clipboard.
"Sure thing!" I smile. The top sheet is empty. "Name. Date. Time. Contact. Signature."
Contact? I look around. There are no cameras. Weird. Should I say my contact is the suite number? I write "Sugar. 9/18/2250. 3:30pm DD 28-12F" and then scribble my tag at the end of the line. I hand it back to them with a smile. They glance at it and slam a large square button on the desk. One end of the desk drops down into the floor. I skate through it, hoping to get to the elevator before they look too closely at the sheet. I press the UP button over and over, trying to get it to light up. It doesn't light but one of the doors opens. I zoom inside and repeat the same button pushing for floor 28. The elevator shuts silently and moves silently. There is a screen by the door that is completely dark. What the hell have I put myself inside? What kind of weird office building is this? Why aren't there any cameras? Every building has cameras, even the ones doing illegal business. I mean my building has cameras and 90% of its residents walking in and out every day are living there illegally. My face stares back at me in the dead screen that should be telling me what floor I'm on, or showing an advertisement, or something.
The elevator door opens silently to an empty corridor. I can hear ticking in the distance. There is a sign 1-23 one way and 24-45 the other way. Each door is labeled with a number only. I quickly locate number 12. I knock and then turn the handle to find a circle of doorways with labels above them. "12A, 12B....12F." Okay. 12F has a sparse beaded curtain hanging inside. The beads are a clear blue plastic and every other bead is shaped like a dolphin. It smells like petroleum. Inside I can see a hammock stuffed with a pillow and blanket and scribbling on the wall. Is this an apartment building? Did I just contract a delivery to a private apartment building? "Shit..." I whisper to myself just before a small head pops around the doorway.
"Hi there!" they say in a grovely voice. They leap over and pull the beads back. They are wearing a long t-shirt and no pants. They smell terrible.
"I have something for you?" I ask. I hate making deliveries to people's homes. It isn't against the official rules of the directory, so it happens, but lots of runners make it their own personal rule. When weird shit happens on a delivery, it's always at some jerk's apartment.
"Yes! Yes! Come in!" they say, backing up into the room.
"Let me just get it first..." I say, backing away from the doorway. I reach into my bag and pull out the box with the photo of a camera printed on it and my pink handheld. They stand firmly planted inside the room, kicking aside an empty jar to the corner.
I hand them the box and the handheld through the curtain and they take only the box and bound back behind the wall.
I wait a few moments, holding the handheld out ahead of me. The longer I stand there, the more complex the odor becomes. I look through the doorway next to me. There is a large diagram painted on the wall with pieces of paper stuck to it. The next doorway reveals a series of monitors displaying a slow wave pattern of blue, violet, and purple. I wave the handheld up and down into the room to get their attention.
"Please I need you to confirm your receipt!!" I call. A head pops out of a door behind me and I spin around. Another small person stares at me. This one with huge black eyes and a sense of ancientness. They wipe their nose and disappear back into their room. Was that a child? They didn’t really look like a child exactly. I try to relax to feel any spirits nearby. There might be some activity downstairs but nothing right here. I turn and try to take a better peek into each of the doorways. Another small person is seated in an old fashioned foam chair, tapping furiously at a small screen. They don't seem to have a speck of clothing on. The large-eyed one is standing on a foot stool stirring a large steel pot on a single-burner stove. I can't smell any food cooking. Well, there is certainly some sort of smell but it smells more like plastic oil than food. I shout back to the client and wave my handheld into their room.
"I'm just checking it! Come in its going to take a... take a minute." Who does this person think I am? I have no reason to care if the damn thing works, it's not my product. But if they want to send it back, they will probably hire me right now to do it and I might be able to squeeze one more delivery in by the end of the day.
I use the handheld to push the beads out of the way so that I can step inside on my skate toe. There are empty jars and bowls all over the floor so it's impossible to skate in any capacity. I take a seat on the floor. The rug looks clean enough. I can see a desk behind the hammock with a line of canned food, a big square bottle of water, and a knife as long as my forearm. There is a monitor pointed over the hammock that is off. 4 more monitors of different sizes streaming text and hanging from a shelf on the other side of the room where the resident is sitting on what looks like a big metal crate. I wonder what kind of office this used to be.
They are fiddling with a small electronic device and tapping away on a huge keyboard. There is a vine plant in the corner, for some reason, creeping up the wall that is reaching towards a grow light in the ceiling. Under the plant is a pile of laundry taller than the person who lives here. They scratch themselves and then let out a whistling sound. "Looks fine. I think..."
I leap up and shove my hand-held at them. "Enter your CASH number please," I say.
"Right. Yes.... One moment..." They say as the look around the shelf. They rifle through several boxes and squint at several small cards. "I wrote it down somewhere..." After what feels like 5 long minutes of hunting, they produce a tiny scrap of paper from a cloudy jar and type it in. I watch for the confirmation message.
"Thank you!" I say, snatching back the machine and bolting for the door.
2 new people who I didn't see before are watching me leave. I wonder where their shared bathroom is. I suppose their place isn't that different from mine. It just seems strange that they don't have doors to their rooms.
Downstairs, the desk opens as I approach, and I try to thank the attendant, but they aren't there. Once outside, I turn down 8th Street and see there is another entrance to the same building and a sign that says, "KINVESTORS." There are some security guards milling around outside. I nod to them as I pass by. What even was that place? Was it a children’s home? Those people looked like children but didn't really feel like children.