The fires that night were so bright that I got out of bed thinking it was sunrise. I pulled up the time out of habit, and when I saw the hour I leapt from the fold-out to the balcony door and slid it open in one explosive movement. My conapt was on the 177th floor. The fires dotted the landscape like sparkles on the surf, and the muffled blend of distant shouting echoing between the skyscrapers could have been the crashing of waves. I didn’t know at the time what the catalyst had been, but it was clear the dam had given way. This was the flood.
Naturally, I went to go check it out. You can’t be a part of history from the cheap seats. The hall was dead. Most everyone had already decided to either hole up or take it to the streets. I was late for the revolution. I made for the lifts, and that’s when I noticed how dark it was. Away from the windows and the light of the bonfires it was still the middle of the night, and apparently the power was out. No big deal. Flipped over to infrared, fired up the nanoservos in my legs and dumped the oxy reserve in my Dubbllung, and hit the stairs three at a time. Even so, it was a helluvalotta stairs.
The last ten flights I could smell the smoke. It was thick and tangy like wet clay and bile. The lobby was abandoned save for some runaway draped awkwardly over an armchair like a discarded coat, just laughing his ass off. Probably higher than a hypersonic, jacked up on current. If he’d been more lucid I would have tried to buy some off him. As it was, the fires were calling to me, so I went outside. Street level.
Technically it was springtime, but that didn’t count for shit anymore, even then. It was fucking hot. Stifling. The closest fire was three or four blocks away. Couldn’t miss it. It burned a funny kind of purple, and it pulled me in like I was falling sideways. I cut through the crowd—they were manic, wasted on something even more potent than current: power. This mob was drunk on power, and I was desperate to find the keg.
The smell burned my nose bad, high up in my sinuses. Smelled strong, but I couldn’t place it. The fire was too bright to look at, even with the autodimming. I finally had to ask. Tapped some woman on the shoulder. “What are they burning?”
Lady turned to me; looked like she died in a street-fight a year-and-a-half ago. No eyes. Bleeding through her grin. She held up her arm; missing her hand. “Get free,” she said. “It feels so good. Throw away your body parts; all the ones you weren’t born with.”
The fires that night were bright—so bright that I can still see them now. They were the last thing I ever looked at, actually. But I’ve got a different kind of vision now.