I walk out onto the street and head towards my nearest Automat. I can't believe how much slower walking is. If they're watching, are they wondering why I'm walking and not skating?

No. Why would they think I would skate everywhere and not just walk? People who don't skate probably don't think about that. There's nothing suspicious about what I'm doing. I was in jail all day, of course I'd be hungry. Not that I am hungry. But maybe once I'm there, the smells will make me hungry again.

The Automat by my building isn't in great shape. It hasn't been updated since it was first built so every surface is steel. It's lasted a long time but it makes the whole place feel like a pickled fish can. Smells like any other Automat, though. Delicious and yeasty. I use my ID to buy a sandwich, potatoes, honey covered greens, and a bowl of berry dessert. I even buy a glass of nut milk and a packet of chocolate to mix in it. I set down my tray and remember the yellow spirit in my bag, and run back up to get a can of juice. Is apple the sweetest? Or grape? I pick the grape and crack it open on the table. I open the bag and carefully lift the yellow spirit out and onto the can. It slinks across the top to the hole and gaze at me lazily.

"[I'm really sorry that things haven't gone the way we hoped. I think we can make things better. But first we have to fuel up so that we can be strong.]"It dissapears into the can. I'm not sure if it believes me or not. I bite into my sandwich. It feels huge in my mouth. I keep chewing but it just tastes so dry. I dump the chocolate power into my milk and shake it in one hand under the table. I gulp down the milk and the sandwich is a bit easier to swallow but not by much. It's like I've run out of saliva. I get up and buy a water to help me eat the potatoes. Usually they're too salty for me but today they don't seem salty at all. The greens are sweet and bitter at the same time and I'm starting to feel nausous. I might as well eat the berries first. They are suspended in a clear gelatin goo. They're supposed to have extra minerals in the goo and I feel like I need to eat them but they feel sharp on my gums. I didn't realize how drained I felt until I started eating. I can feel the eyes of two people next to me. Why are they looking? Are they undercover police following me already? I turn and smile at them and then force down the rest of the water. They both nod to me politely.

I dump the juice and spirit out of the can into the liquid waste channel by the bins and watch the little spirit lump slide across to the end. I hold the empty can underneath the edge and catch the spirit. Hopefully they can stay in there okay. They seem so sad.

Wandering around the neighborhood, I pass a few shops but nothing that sells clothes. I rememeber the goth shop far down the street I went into once with Lime's friends. That could work. I could dress up and slip into a goth club, find an after party to go to and maybe blend in with a crowd. I pick up my pace down the sidewalk. I feel like I've been walking so long. It's hard to estime how far away I am since I'm going so much slower than usual. What was it called? It was on this side of the street, I'm pretty sure. I try to imagine the sign outside. I have no idea what it's called. I start passing a few clothing stores as my neighborhood dries out and the wealth of the next neighborhood seeps down the street. It has black curtains in the display window. After several minutes, I worry that I have passed it. Maybe I don't really know where it is.

Oblique Shadows.

This has to be it.

Inside, a clerk is standing behind an ornately carved counter that curls up to the ceiling in shiny black laquer.

The door tones an iron bell sample.

The clerk watches me as I take in the room.

Handmade books fill at the front desk with "non-mass-produced" stickers. For some reason people think that just kuz they were hand-copied and hand-bound that they've avoided the physical media laws. But it's bullshit. I don't know how the rumor started but artists think they can just claim it's not for "mass consumption" and think that gives it protection as "Craft Art". But back when Iw as doing research work, I read that "Craft Art" only applies to Native Traditions.

Not sure how the store keep's it's head above legal water, but it's in every way a copied book. Publishing companies could demand an investigation. I guess they don't think it'll help. Or maybe this pseudo-underground biblioculture keeps legal book sales up. Who knows. In my opinion, it seems like a terrible labor hours to USD ratio, especially considering you might get arrested.

I spot some party fliers and wonder if they'll take CASH and I can check my balance with them. But first, I gotta find some clothes.

I push through a rack of black dresses, all of them covered in stiff lace jutting out into the air from the shoulders and hips. Another rack holds jumpsuits covered in zippers. Some of them reveal tiny pockets while others just split the fabric open. Should I try to find something that will help disguise me? Or just something practical? As I wander around the store, I pick up a flier at the front counter. OB SIDI ON BONECRUSHER I look up to the person standing behind the counter. They are wearing a black beaded veil across the front of a velvet hood.

"Are these parties any good?" I ask, holding the flier up to them.

The truth is that I've made deliveries to a few goth parties but never stayed very long. The music is extremely varied and it makes it hard to know what to expect. Sometimes the DJs or bands play beautiful hypnotic music, but sometimes it can be extremely abrasive noise. Goth is another historic genre and I wonder if sometimes their reconstruction of the past comes at the price of actually having a good time.

"No." The shop worker says, staring through me to the back of the room.

"That's too bad." I say. "I'm looking for somewhere to go tonight where I won't be followed, you know?" I say, and walk back through the clothing racks. I'll let them wonder what that meant for a while. The more I think about it, the more I realize that going to a noise club tonight would be great. These clubs are registered, but handhelds are forbidden inside and the bouncer scans everyone before going in. I had a hell of a time making a delivery to one a few months ago. I had to stash my bag in a nearby dumpster and drag the client outside to confirm their CASH number. I think they had the idea that I would just waltz in and hand them their drugs in front of their friends. If the police were to stay undercover to follow me in, they would have to surrender any equipment they are carrying. Not to mention, it's nearly impossible to communicate with someone once you are inside since the music is so loud and erratic.

I pass by the boots. Most are knee-height and heavy as hell. Would I be able to run in any of these? There's a pair of lumpy looking sneakers that might work. They aren't nearly as heavy as they look. The sole is about 4 inches thick but it feels hollow. I carry them up to the front.

"Are these hollow?" I ask the worker. They silently place their hand inside the shoe and pull it out again. I crane my neck over the top of the shoe. There is a small open door that reveals a satin lined box. I put my finger inside. It is padded and looks like a tiny coffin. "Hell yeah." I hear myself say. I return back to try them on again and try jumping in them. They feel great. I walk around the store in them, and pick out some long pants that fit just fine with the high soled shoes, and a long tunic with sheer sleeves. Sparkling silver embroidery boarders the bottom and along the edge of the sleeve. It fits beautifully, and feels elegant under my cloud of pink hair. I realize I'm going to have to abandon my undergarments as well. All the underwear they have in this shop is either lace or shiny black plastic. I find a small black tank top and silk shorts. This'll work. A pair of black on black striped socks and a tight black necklace.

"If you buy one necklace, you can get a second one for half off" They drone at me from the counter. I pick out a long silver one with an AIR symbol on it. The pile on the counter has grown but I'm not sure I will be able to walk out of here and not look like myself.

"Do you sell hoods like you are wearing?" I ask.

They sigh at me. "We have 3 types of cloaks. 1's lightweight, 1's heavy weight, and 1 looks heavy but is light." They turn around and open a locked cabinet behind the counter and pull the out.

"The last one is the most expensive but it folds up into a very small tube to fit in your bag during the day." Right, I'll need a new bag.

"I'll take it, thanks. And one of those drawstring backpacks. The velvet one." I point to the rack behind the counter. They tap a screen on the counter and it falls down into their hands.

"Are you like, making a goth kit or something?" They ask. 'is this like, a costume?"

"No, I just need to replace my wardrobe and this seemed like a good place to start."


"Do yall take CASH?"

"Heh! No."

"Figured it was worth a shot." I smile. "What's the name of that noise club? I went there a few months ago but I can't remember where it was..." I say, handing over my ID for the purchase.

"Probably Poltergeist" They say. "If it was noise and not just melodic noise." They lean over and look at the fliers and shuffle some around to pull out a handwritten one underneath the glossy printed cards. "Tonight they aren't having an event so it should be their regular noise DJ."

Pale grey paper with a curling black cursive describes the specific genre of noise. I have no idea what any of it means and most of it is illegible.

"Thanks." I nod.

©2019 by Zita