Ant Smith

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Slapshot 2 - Empath

Shiv was glad to sit down. He'd been knotted up inside since the hold-up, not even the pleasure of Nico's slap had unwound him. Normally he'd have revelled in that, but guns made him nervous. Now he slumped in an old upholstered grotesquery of a chair. He knew it was alive with bugs but the feel of a material weft pleased him. He said he liked the organics of it. Others said the organics of it liked him. He absently picked an armoured scurrying thing from his forearm. He wondered what kind of creature ate this. Everything gets eaten.

Nico preferred the floor.

She shuckled her jacket from her slender frame and allowed it to languidly slip to her feet. Languid shuckling, one of the many benefits of engineered materials. Any girl can strip as though she had the grace and favour of Monroe. Not that Nico needs such gross tactics, she just likes the way the cloth folds itself neatly beneath her as she sits.

And as she sits she sighs. And as she sighs she weeps.

Shiv feels sick. Her tears do that to men, even him. He doesn't touch her. If he did he would lose his mind in the labyrinths of grief she carries. She's infectious like that. And the simplest things, like getting mugged with what was almost certainly an empty gun, would trigger her. All of her days and all of her nights were spent subconsciously absorbing the petty hates, worries, fears and dreads of those around her. That's why they don't go out so very much. But today had been special.

Today is an anniversary. Shiv tries not to dwell on it for the fear that his mind will further poison that of his sister. They had set out atthe appointed time, as they did every year. Walking. Nobody with sense, or without a firearm, walked these days. But that was how it had always been, how they had always done it. A short walk up a steep hill to one of the few green patches left in a carbolic city of cut throats and chancers. To buy flowers and stand for a few empty moments. To take a refuge in the stillness of dead minds. The last gift a parent can give to one such as her. Sometimes cut stems do have healing powers.

This year they didn't even make it there. With no money, no tribute, she wouldn't go on. She wouldn't take without giving, not even from the ten year old corpse of her father. Now she lay approaching a trauma state. Depression they used to say. But it is the old curse of the empath, in a city of 20 million dark thoughts.

Shiv puts out the light and takes his own screaming mind from the room. He can only be of help by being elsewhere. But that's this city's life all over.