|Pair of vintage style shoes, from etsy.com|
In between doing her first proper 'fetch' and making her way home, Kosi has no idea of the time that's passing ...
From halfway between level 8 and level 7 in Parra Central, I glanced over to where I’d left the soldier. She was still there, watching me. At the bottom of the level 7 ramp I turned to walk back along the western side of the concourse and imagined that every one of the people around me was watching my dithering path.
I almost missed the shoes, red, I was so intent on my insecurities. With my face even redder, I backtracked to the seat, put the shoes in my pack and looked around as nonchalantly as I could to plan the next leg of my journey.
This level was much busier and I frequently had to dodge around people getting into and out of their transport. In the eastern half of the concourse, I had to push my way through the crowds in a produce market among the columns.
What with the displays tempting me with their shapes and colours, not to mention their scents, and distrustful stall holders refusing me passage around the back of their stalls, it took me a lot of time to finally arrive on the walkway facing Parra-West across the way.
Which was the name of that dorm block, according to the letters high up under its roof. Did I even look back this morning, to make sure of it? I shook my head at my lackadaisical attitude. Level 7, Unit 12 was where I had to go with the shoes. I punched in the numbers in the Buggy Ordering Box.
Waited. Not looking about very much. Mist gambolled between the buildings. The underside of the caboose under the crane-beam slid to and fro. Comforting. I dropped my gaze. Didn’t want to miss my transport. Didn’t want to seem to be the wrong person, say that soldier was still watching. I tried to stay fully awake.
A buggy stopped in front of me and I got in. I rode up. The hooks engaged nicely with the fists on the buggy. Thank you Jules and Lila. The buggy swayed across the gulf.
On the other side the buggy bounced a little. I imagined the lower fists seeking the rails to hold onto. The machinery under the buggy whined harder as the buggy quested for the exact fit. A balloon of worry swelled and swelled under my breastbone.
There! The fists slid over the rail. The balloon of worry popped. The buggy slid down until the upper fists also engaged.
Clunk, clatter, clash! The hooks went swinging up into the fog. The buggy settled on the tracks. Slid down and passed a number of doorways without stopping. I read the numerals as we passed them. 10, 9, 8 …
The buggy slowed. I read Level Number 7 beside the gate into the exterior corridor. The buggy stopped so that its floor lined up with the level’s floor. The panel opposite to the door I’d entered became a door in its turn. It slid aside, catching a guardrail as it went by. All of it the same as I had experienced before without the interruption. Comforting.
“Passengers may disembark,” the buggy said.
I tottered out. It took me a couple paces to find my normal gait. I looked up, wanting a break in the clouds to see what I’d experienced. But just rain again blew at me. The buggy clashed its door shut and sank toward the lower floors. I was alone in the Level 7 entry.
Which was good. I took off perambulating, that is walking along the walkway around the outside of the building. Something you’d obviously only do in fine weather, or if you were a fake fetcher, like I was, without the proper codes to walk the inside corridors.
Around the corner from Parra-Central, where I hoped to find Residence 12, I finally saw the sun, almost overhead. The building had hardly any shadow and the sky surrounding the sun was more white than blue. Hen said to never stare into the sun, because you’d go blind in less than a minute. I broke out into a sweat from the heat radiating from the walls nearby and Level 7’s steel walkway. On I go.
As I came around the second bend, I had to grab the balustrade to help me keep on my feet. Urb complexes lay in every direction! How many people lived in this city? Gobsmacked is the word.
Residence 12 was on that corner. I set the shoes neatly side by side, not to give fetchers a bad name, and made for Number 20.
I know, not my level. I figured that I could find the door nearby into the central transport yard where a flight of stairs would lead me to Level 8.
I was feeling very clever until I arrived in front of the glass doors into the Level 7 corridors. I danced like a demon on the sensa-mats. And swore and screamed sotto voice (ie in a whisper voice, according to my favourite person.) Sotto voice is a good thing to know how to do for a Tween teen. But it didn’t help. The doors stayed shut.
Finally a cab came sliding in, to drop home a night worker. She straightaway saw me sitting there by the doors.
And of course I had to tell her the story Hen told me to say.
“Bardelote Henry?” she said. “ Bardelote is a mother? That’s been a well kept secret.” She looked me up and down for more secrets. “Just started in fetching, have you? I need someone for my groceries. Remember that for when you have a bit of experience, okay? My address is W-7 House number 4.”
While she talked she drew me with her into the building. I didn’t break the spell. In the corridor we parted ways. She went to the left and around the corner. I waited until she was out of sight and made a dash for the concrete internal stairs, up two short flights to Level 8, along the concrete corridor to the door into the study.
At least that was unlocked. My father, at his desk, stared at me with an utter amazement, that changed to disappointment and then white-hot fury. He pointed me into the Tween house.
I went without a protest. I was keen to regale Hen with my adventures.
I searched the place in five steps. No Hen!