80% Being A Greengrocer during the last 90 days of the Apocalypse / Chapter 8: At the Bottom of a Tree Trunk (Part 3)

Read Being A Greengrocer during the last 90 days of the Apocalypse - Chapter 8 online

Chapter 8: At the Bottom of a Tree Trunk (Part 3)

Outside of his room the hall was a drab plaster white, and immediately Yeung-Sung felt more at home.

Instincts that had fertilised since the depression kicked in. They helped steel him for whatever lay ahead so he marched on through with high shoulders. The stubby hall was sweetened by fruit (Peach?) scented sconces but he held himself firm, did not let it unwind this ego he possessed, that he had stowed away from outside. It was one of the few things he could've done to rebel.

Yeung-Sung was ready to uncover and witness the true nature of this colony, certain of the fact that it was depraved. There was no way that a system as ludicrous as "an incremental game" would save the world. There had to be some underlying motive.

Clenching his fists, letting them pivot at his side as he descended an 'L' shaped staircase, Yeung-Sung remembered back to stealing, lying and all manner of criminal things to protect his livelihood. To the livelihood of his siblings, and his mother. However good the class upgrade was, he was confident that they still needed him, so he began constructing a plan. If there was corruption -as he suspected- then there would be an underground. He would have to find some entity of enough power. He would find one and befriend- no, make himself useful to them.

But how? What skills did he possess that would benefit someone like that? Well, judging by the measly supplements that were in his room, then perhaps Simon was right about one thing; The colony needed a decent greengrocer.

Hearing footsteps from below, he pulled back. Yeung-Sung glanced around the plain hallway at the sconces; frames; the rows of doors. Maybe one would budge.

"-And I'm telling you, there should be sandy forests beside the museums. Think about it!" The voice that roared the words was male, and drunk.

"Right, uh-huh, and we then put a bunch of neon lights there too? Come on, Michael. Get real" teased a second, female voice.

Edging half a flight of stairs upwards, he spotted a utility closet. It looked locked, but Yeung-Sung was desperate, and really wanted to remain anonymous. It was worth the attempt.

From the inside, Yeung-Sung leaned against the door, peeking out of its hatched window (with a grape-coloured frame, of course). He saw the couple stumble up the stairs seconds later, their arms locked. They wore those familiar lavender undershirts, but over that they had on orange polyester jumpers which cut off across their midriffs. They seemed well worn, with their loose strands bumbling about to their lurching movements. Yeung-Sung reckoned that the conjoined carrots were a fashion-conscious bunch.

For some reason, he felt quite proud of his single status as he leaned back out to the foyer. The chatter subsided behind him, now onto something to do with the progress of ticks. He made quick progress himself down to the ground level and bent over, staying out of eye level to the reception desk out in front of the stairwell.

Luckily, the two guards there were too preoccupied to have seen him. One, Yeung-Sung saw, was swivelling in his chair. He took stock of the utensils around him, checking, peeling back stacks of paperwork. The other was in mid-stretch behind him, and seemed to be gathering his things, zipping up his jacket. They must have been in the middle of switching over their shifts. How fortunate.

The seated guard's chin was a pointed artichoke. The standing one's face was longer, oval, but framed by brown bangs hanging like wilted lettuce leaves. They were only paying attention to the front door and yawning -probably thinking about going to bed- so they did not notice Yeung-Sung hop out of the stairwell and behind their field of view.

He wasn't sure, actually, why it was that he was hiding, or where he was supposed to go now. He did know that felt exhilarated. In control.

Most of the lobby was broken up into squares of waiting areas. Yeung-Sung crouched behind an olive couch and projected in his mind, how he would get around to the left side of the reception desk. There was a set of plush, matte seating that he decided to use, skipping through cover like stones. His journey brought him in a semi-circle around until he was just behind the receptionist (or guard, Yeung-Sung wasn't sure which he was, and was not in the mood to ask), in front of the elevator shaft.

Just as he sat himself low on his calves, the elevator lit up, nearly knocking him over in surprise. DING. Vaulting onto a couch parallel to the shaft from behind he sat, making it look like he was casually waiting on a friend. He rested his head in his palm, looking at the marble flooring and tapped his knee with each finger in a fanning motion. I'm the idlest, least suspicious person in the world, he thought, cursing himself when he realised that 'idle' was another term for a clicker game.

The 'clack' of shoes rang out.

"Evening."

Yeung-Sung tensed. Was that directed at him? He relaxed only when the guard at the front greeted the arrival back. Afterwards, the room strangely went quiet. If the man was walking again, then his soles suddenly disappeared and didn't follow him, so he must've been standing there. Still. Watching.

Ladybugs scuttered around the skin on Yeung-Sung's neck. He needed to scratch it. He settled on scraping his knees through his trousers. To him, the sound of it permeated the room, germinating quickly into a loud 'scaaarrp'. Yeung-Sung held his gaze down for as long as he could, but eventually his curiosity surpassed his willpower and he looked.

The man from the elevator had gone.

He looked across, seeing the back of the receptionist's head, face down in some work, presumably. Rebounding silently on his bamboo calves, Yeung-Sung felt emboldened.

He crabbed his way underneath the chest-high kiosk. He wasn't particularly quiet about it, but the faint sound of violin, accompanied by even fainter piano (pianissimo) muffled his approach. He stalked his head, stretching over the counter like he was a root breaking through soil. He watched the guard plod away on a touch-keyboard, sounding like he was popping electronic bubbles -bwop, bwop- vaguely in time with the sonata playing through his earphones. Yeung-Sung felt foolish, yet a little reassured. Regardless, there was little chance of him being found.

Out at the front were sliding, elliptical doors that he longed to get to, and a sign in bright, purple neon that blinked 'EXIT' seductively at him.

He tried to think of a way to slip around and out that way, tearing minute swirls of skin from his lips as his minded worked. The guard was humming now as well, his sonata swelling, making Yung-Sung try harder to ignore him. He scanned the sparking front lobby, which crossed out numerous colour co-ordination rules -probably with pens of the same respective colours-. What is it with this place and baby pastels? Even the potted plants that stood by the door waved about in their unnatural shades.

He became distracted for a moment, frustrated that he couldn't say for sure whether they were genetically modified or artificial. Knowing this place it might've also been a convincing hologram. He had never heard of lilies with that bronze hue, had never seen them in any ordering catalogue. This led him to believe that they weren't real. However, they did seem to droop, and their leaves folded over in a way that would have been impossible if they were synthetic.

Dumb. This place is dumb. Nothing makes sense.

Looking away from the plants, finally, the only other thing of notice, apart from the sparse armchairs and felt-topped ottomans was a twin vending machine over to the left. But, before Yeung-Sung had formulated any plausible scenario for escape, an autocar pulled up outside on wheels made of down feathers (How was it so fucking quiet?). A pair came out and slammed the doors, which was when the guard noticed and removed his earphones, but among them Yeung-Sung was sure that he identified that bottomless coat of Simon's. He slid back down with his back against the reception kiosk. The screen door swished open. The receptionist's pitter-patter stopped and the guard mirrored Yeung-Sung in muttering, "Ahh, shit."


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