Before reading, note:
“I’m an atheist, but by Both Gods: just flippin’ stop.”
The room went quiet and someone who wasn’t on stage began to laugh.
To the surprise of everyone, the curtain moved and a person stepped out from behind it.
“I said,” the one who previously complained insisted, “next!”
“I want an explanation,” the young man who’d just appeared from behind the screen counter-insisted.
The other people in the room laughed this time, and he fidgeted where he stood.
“I was promised five minutes and you barely gave me 30 seconds. Why?”
“Because you’re awful. Next!”
He didn’t budge. “You guys don’t even have a name.”
“Talent can call itself whatever it wants, you –”
Talent had also decided to hold blind auditions, with musicians queueing up to play behind a curtain. Calvin was seventh, and the only one to behave that way.
He was also the only one to swing at the lead singer and get physically removed from the premises without landing a single punch.
“Flip all of you!” The young man screamed at the top of the stairs, while gesticulating as many obscenities as he could.
“What an interesting person,” someone whispered as they walked past.
A young woman watched the observer turn a corner and let the angry man cool off before speaking. “So I take it you didn’t get the part.”
“They’re a pile of crap anyway,” Calvin walked down to where she sat, on her motorcycle.
Astrid threw a helmet at him, “their loss.”
He got in the back and held on to her waist when she was sure his skull was secured.
They’d been in Sehir Nidus exactly six months, and every day had been a struggle. As one would expect from an area with a collapsing economy.
Calvin’s chance to finally become a paid musician had hinged on that audition. And as the bike tore through the dismal streets, he knew what came next.
The dealership sat on a block shared with one other business. He disembarked at the gate.
“You sure you don’t want me to come in with you?”
“Nope,” Astrid insisted. “My decision, my lonesome.”
He handed her the helmet. “We’ll buy her back soon.”
“Nah,” she said, while also taking her helmet off to reveal her short curly hair. “My biking days are over. Besides: what’s the point of living forever if you don’t try something new once in a while?”
The sale would give them enough to last six more months in the Sehir. They’d have their first meal in two days at the diner a few blocks away when she was done.
He took a deep breath as she wheeled the vehicle into the dealership for the last time.
* * *
Calvin turned the corner on the same block and strode into the construction company where Astrid worked when she wasn’t drag racing at night.
And asked for the job advertised on the “WANTED” poster.
“You know how to mix cement?” The hiring manager didn’t look impressed by the scrawny youth before him. “Can ya even lift a bag of the stuff?”
“I’m a quick learner, Mr. Fayaz, sir,” Calvin insisted.
“Didn’t finish school, though,” the man folded his arms across his chest.
The Clerics had been pushing anti-ignorance rhetoric through their sermons in the Temples, which Mr. Fayaz attended once a week.
But no amount of devotion would lead him to believe a piece of paper made any person more suited to building things than another.
“Some people like books. I like to work with my hands, Mr. Fayaz, sir.”
There would be questions, of course.
“How did he know the person he hired was not a Seditionist if he hadn’t stayed in school and formally Faced The Ether?”
Yes, he wore an amulet, but those could be faked. Especially in Sehir Nidus: a place with too few Clerics to actually Scan things.
“How did he know the person was not some other kind of criminal?”
Was it worth risking the ire of The Order and the reputation of the company he worked for to give this boy a chance?
“7am tomorrow,” came the sentence. “Don’t be late.”
* * *
Calvin turned the wrong corner into three maybes.
Maybe if he wasn’t buoyed by the confidence of that day’s small win, with its tiny payment in his breast pocket.
Maybe if he wasn’t subconsciously lead to Flex Street by the van that ran a red light and made him decide he’d learn to drive.
And maybe if he hadn’t been so distracted by good news, he would have reacted in time to stop the knife embedding itself in his gut.
But he had no such luck.
Now that you've read it, tell me what you think.
~ Signed: Kiko Enjani