Posted By: Dagorath<email@example.com>
Date: 6 July 2007, 12:02 am
Dusk was falling on New Mombassa. The ubiquitous desert dust swirled through the air, floating along streets, winding through doors, creeping down passages, falling lightly on the shoulders and hair of the inhabitants, turning them as dull and dispirited as the skyscrapers that slouched above and stretched outwards in every direction.
Ashton walked slowly through the streets, back bowed, head slumped nearly to his chest, worn, stolen sneakers dragging on the pavement, hair unwashed and dull yellow brown from the dust. His left hand clutched a handful of small change he had managed to beg today, clasped close to his breast, the hard metal digging painfully into the meat of his palm. Hurrying commuters circled around him and averted their eyes, knowing that, on the smallest and most frivolous whim of their new rulers, they could end up just like him in a cycle or two. A few decrepit cars, floating slightly above the asphalt, sped past, exhaust gases blowing the dust up again behind them, to slowly spiral back down onto the ground. A purple Shadow troop transport moved past on the central lane, crack Brute soldiers sitting erect in the passenger compartment, weapons at the ready, crude, bone-shaped armour glinting, dark, small eyes glaring at the cowed populace. A trio of Jackals perched on the top of the vehicle waved beam rifles and switched their shields on and off, as though they were signalling in Morse code to the huge, ugly alien armada in low orbit.
He turned a corner and shuffled onto a treeless avenue, lined with nondescript five-storey brick buildings. The pavement was slightly cracked and refuse was piled on the sides of the street. There were alien transmitters at either end of the street, wrapped in gleaming metal, but he could never afford to use them. However, a telephone booth stood outside one of the office blocks, no. 32, proudly proclaiming itself to be the offices of Cadwell & Sons. The plastic panels of the booth were cracked, and the dilapidated door hung off its hinges, swaying in the breeze and clacking dully against the side of the booth. For all its battered appearance, however, it possessed a strange, ancient grandeur, a sharp contrast with the utilitarian transmitters erected by the invaders.
Surely, he had enough money to make one call.
He looked around, down the street, from side to side, and upwards, in case a Phantom chanced to fly over and spot him. Then he rushed inside and pulled the door closed behind him. The instructions above the phone were cracked, faded and stained as to be completely illegible, so he played it safe and carefully fed each coin into the slot, making sure he heard the clack of the money hitting the bottom of the collection box before inserting another. When he had exhausted his supply, he picked up the receiver and dialled.
"Mum, it's Ash", he said quickly. For the first time in as far as he could remember, he smiled. She was the only person he had ever known who would listen to him and take care of him. He gripped the receiver and his eyes flicked outwards to the road.
"I'm doing really well, Mum. I can find enough now to get several algae cakes for dinner, and I've found a nice place to sleep in one of the Transporter stations. All the people like me are very kind to me they gave me food in the beginning, just after you
"Don't worry about me. I've started to save up. Soon, I'll be able to take on a part-time job in a store or something." This was not his voice. The sounds coming from his throat were high and barely coherent. "You can count on me, mum. I can pick myself back up again." He could almost see her calm, brown eyes; her chopped black hair; her smiling lips; her approving nod.
His hand was shaking, and he couldn't stop it. "I miss you, Mum. I miss you every day, each day more than the last. I really
miss you. When are you coming back? I want to be with you always, go where you go! Where have you gone? Oh, mum
A car was coming down the road. He sniffed slightly and replaced the receiver, before dodging out of the booth and walking off down the road. A fresh breath of hot wind blew in his face, scattering sand across his features, catching in his eyebrows, sweeping around his face in an almost tender caress. A tear welled in his right eye and cut a thin streak through the dust.
Jonathan Cadwell walked out of his office front door and down to his parked car. The sun's last rays swept down the road, casting long shadows on the pavement. His eyes, as always, flicked to the phone booth, and, as always, he said to himself: "That has to go." There was not a telephone pylon in the city the whole pay phone network had been taken out of service for decades. It was a relic. He couldn't imagine anyone trying to get a signal on it.