I tried to point out the euthanasia shop to Travis, but he missed it.
“Super senses?” I asked, speaking softly and, turning away from the window to look at him.
Travis frowned for a moment. “Night vision,” he muttered. “Not this. Besides you’ve got the window seat.”
I smiled at him. “You were polite.”
He had been. He let me on the bus first.
“See if I do that again,” and he grinned at me.
We both laughed a little.
It felt good, reminding me of what it’d been like when we’d dated. It had been easy most of the time. Not that I was angling to start it up again. With my younger brother dating his sister, that would get a little strange.
Plus, there were other reasons. I remembered them too well.
I leaned back in the seat. The bus company hadn’t paid extra for comfort. These seats were hard plastic.
Travis seemed to notice my change in mood, and he didn’t say anything.
We rode the bus, watching the neighborhoods change-Chinatown disappearing, replaced by brown brick row houses. After a while, the stores near the row houses began to include words like “supermercado” and “taqueria.”
The skyscrapers grew nearer, but they still weren’t close.
As we passed through another neighborhood, one where the Greek alphabet became more common, and the restaurants advertised gyros, Travis said, “There’s another one.”
I followed his hand. Between “Kronos Cafe” and “Palamara’s Pawn Shop” stood a small shop called “Ed’s Euthanasia Emporium.”
A “Sorry, we’re closed” sign hung in the dusty window.
Well, at least it didn’t seem popular.
On the next block over, children played baseball in the street. I’d never thought there would be children here.
In another few minutes we reached downtown. The skyscrapers still weren’t very close, but they were closer—a little closer anyway.
Tara turned around, and said, “We’ll start here.” She pulled the line that ran next to the windows, and a recorded voice said, “Stop requested.”
We got off the bus next to a series of shops that had been designed in the Art Nouveau style. They were brown brick buildings like many others I’d seen so far, but here the brick and concrete around doors and windows had been shaped into branches and leaves.
Park benches and actual trees stood near the curb.
The people walking the sidewalk, and sitting on the benches could have been in any city in the US. Here though, they got one step weirder.
People in business suits were everywhere, but as I looked closely at one of the men, I realized he had pointed ears. He smiled at me as I noticed. All of his teeth had pointed tips.
As the man passed, Travis asked, “What happened?”
“Nothing.” I might have explained, but in all the stories I’d ever read, elves had remarkable hearing—if that’s what he was.
The five of us stood together on the sidewalk. Tara’s voice broke in, “We’re here in the core city, the part that’s almost entirely in our universe, and stable. I’m going to show you around the core, and then I’ll take you to each quarter, and show you the landmarks. For now, follow me.”
We listened to her, and she showed us around. I’d pegged her as an empty-headed pretty face with far too much respect for authority, but she knew the city.
As we passed another empty euthanasia parlor, I asked her, “What’s going on with the euthanasia shops? They’re all closed, but they’re everywhere.”
Tara nodded. “Isn’t it strange? I don’t know the answer, but sometimes different governments have blockaded the city, and there’s been no food. To some people, the euthanasia parlors looked better than starving, and to others it looked like a business opportunity.”
She stopped, and then she said, “Except sometimes things just happen. They could have all appeared one morning. I don’t think they did, but they could have.”
Samita leaned in a little, and said, “I thought you said the core was stable.”
Tara said, “It is, but it still happens.”
We’d changed places since she’d started our tour. We stood on the edge of a park by a river. A Chinese restaurant, complete with pagoda facade stood only fifty feet away.
People sat on benches and at picnic tables eating food out of take-out containers.
I thought about following up with Tara, but recognized one of the people. It was Julie. She wore a jogging suit, and had her blond hair tied in a ponytail. She’d gone to the same high school as Nick and I, and had a thing for Travis that was so obvious it had been part of the reason Travis and I broke up.
She was in the Stapledon program with us, but she was a freshman in college, so she wasn’t supposed to be on this trip.
She could control people with her voice.
12 thoughts on “Rachel in Infinity City: Part 3”
“We’d changed places since she’s started our tour.” she’d, not she’s
A lot of different stories about elves, but it’s a safe bet that the older stories have them come across as a lot meaner than we’re used to. Hence the sharp teeth, good for eating meat. They’re probably disapointed the euthanasia emporiums closed. Seems like I heard a joke where someone wondered if you would get hungry a couple hours after eating a Chinese person.
Can’t say I know. I’m not a humanitarian.
So, ‘real’ Julie, or a doppleganger? Tricky…
I like the subtle handing here of a complex and difficult subject – how do you represent something of potentially infinite possibilities? The elves (?) in business suits are good. And, the logic behind hard plastic bus seats (easy to clean with diverse passengers?).
I’m unsure about starvation as a motivation – if a fast-scalable food synthesis system was available in any of the alternates I’d have thought that’d be a preferred alternative. I’m assuming you’re not making a ‘Soylent Green’ hint, here.
I thought of it as a way for people who were starving to die quickly rather than letting their body consume itself. Jim may not have considered the food aspect of the dead bodies, given that he didn’t thing about Sweeney Todd when he had a barbershop and euthanasia emporium.
If there was a food shortage, I expect you’d hear even more jokes about keeping your cats or dogs indoors near the Chinese restaurants. But given their resistance to missionaries, maybe you could come in and try a little priest.
Of course, following your guide and avoiding the dangerous girl is the wise thing to do.
So, she considers Nick as a little brother ?
i still consider my sister who is three years younger than I to be my little sister, and it would be certianly awkward if we were dating siblings (although we know some with whom we joked about this) tmi.
Eduardo/Captain Mystic: I still consider my younger siblings as younger–of course given the time that’s passed since we were kids, that means a lot less now. With Rachel though, she’s in her senior year of college while Nick’s in his freshman year. That still feels like a big difference.
Psycho Gecko/Dreamer: the euthanasia parlors aren’t just about starvation. Rachel will probably be wondering about them through much of the story… They’re not really the main focus, but rather a little mystery to go along with the rest of what’s happening.
There are a lot of little mysteries in Infinity City–probably a different one each time I use it.
Here’s a part that you may or may not have thought through. The bus that they’re on now is a city bus, right? It seems odd for it to announce in English that a stop has been requested since the city covers so many different languages. I mean, they *could* adjust the voice each time they enter a new dimension, but it just struck me as odd.
Perhaps it’s an artificially intelligent bus and recognizes the language of the riders or maybe it’s a case like the joke a youth pastor told:
He (native spanish speaker) was at a youth conf. in Germany and said, “You know they’re going to speak spanish in heaven.”
“Oh no,” the youth responded. “The language of heaven will be English.”
Surprised, he asked, “English?”
“Yes, the Americans can’t learn any other language.”
Will that be English English, American English, or Australian English? It would be bollocks if it were English English or Australian English, but it’d be the dog’s bollocks if it were American English.
And will we have to leave out all the words we have from other languages, like katana, alcohol, adobe, admiral, boomerang, banana, bongo, bozo, boogie, chigger, chimpanzee, hip, jazz, jive, jukebox, mambo, mumbo jumbo, mojo, okay, okra, tango, yam, banjo, funk, zombie, zebra, abandon, abase, abbey, abhor, abject, bomb, boot, booty, botony…?
Um/Notto/PG: In theory, they continue to be in our universe the entire time. Also, the points where connections to other universes exist are usually to places close to ours in terms of their history. Thus, theoretically, the residents should all know English.
My copy of ‘Rebirth’, which I insist on calling ‘Red Lightning’s Shadow’ arrived today, and I’ve had a great time flipping through noting what’s changed and what’s stayed the same, time to sit down and start reading it to anyone that will listen.
Congratulations on a beautiful book, I’m so glad to have a copy here in my library, well worth the wait for it to be shipped to Australia.
UO: I’m glad you’re enjoying the print version.
Natasha Dichpan did a great job with the art and MCM did great with the graphic design. With regards to the title–I liked the old name too, but thought it might be a little long in combination with “The Legion of Nothing”.
There aren’t too many textual changes. I skipped a couple scenes, added some description, and removed typos. That’s basically it.