At the bottom of this mop bucket there’s a layer of black sediment. In the light of FEED I can see an oily film floating on top. My head is on fire and I want to lie down, but I don’t know how long I have left before my time is up with Delay. I can’t drink this. Every time I swallow my throat sticks to itself. My hand dips down into it, brings the water close to my lips and I sniff it: acrid, tangy, dripping with hope. I let it fall back into the bucket and, for good measure, kick the thing over. The stuff spills across the floor and I struggle to my feet again, leave the room and move at an old man’s pace towards PZON. A rectangular building, flat on top and sloped all around the edges of the roof, it represents my last drag towards my destination PZON FOR 7 MILE NP RYN: past PZON for seven miles with no turns. Seven miles may as well be the span of the Atlantic. I’ve abandoned my leather jacket. I realize how unfit for living in the Dev I’ve been my whole life since leaving the Limits. FEED provides, FEED sympathizes, FEED is life. The Dev doesn’t care, it doesn’t know who you are, it doesn’t speak nor hear. This whole stretch down 89F has been an echo wasteland. Any noises or sounds of possible inhabitants I’ve avoided since my run-in at the canal. FEED is a network of mutual sympathy via the agreement of the ToS. Without FEED you’re a ghost, you’re nothing. If I had even basic FEED access this walk would be therapeutic, a leisurely stroll through an unfamiliar neighborhood. Just a few hours without food or water has made me question my life’s worth again. Bad memories are coming up. Am I in as bad of shape as I seem or am I remembering being seven years old and it’s taking over? Headache like a throbbing cavity. The epicenter is right in the middle of my forehead, a shim jammed between the lobes trying to pry my idiot head apart. I smell something dead and hear flies buzzing in a blackened building torn apart long ago by a fire. Seven miles, then six, then five, then four, then three, then two, then one, then I’m done. I’m done.
I think to myself “I hope Delay has a spare app.” Not a thought spared for who I’ll be if she does, nor the fact that just a few hours without FEED has left me feeling like I’m thirsty for it and not water. A distant fragment of my self argues that this is not healthy human behavior. It knows I’ve shouldered dehydration and starvation before. The next step in this self-analytic process is to consider what else I’m missing. Occam’s Razor cuts through to the fattest possibility: FEED. Can I remember the last time I’ve been without it? Disappointment is strangely absent. I’ve been awaiting the sound of her blue fingers scratching the border of a lonesome door jam but all I can hear are the last buzzing motes of those flies busy reducing something to the basics. Scum, mold, insects, mushrooms, bacteria make their own proto. My belly is empty. When I look at the polyconcrete I try to count my shadows: one, two, three. I get to seven; it’s changed. Resume count: one, two, three. I make it to thirteen before it changes again. My many silhouettes come and go, pencil-thin to stubby, spiking out from where my feet fall. My brain catches up and realizes that they’re changing too fast to keep track of. I need to keep my eyes on the horizon in case of danger.