As dawn approached, the central lights over the lounge dimmed and ceased. The tapestry fell lifeless, the vistas replaced with the simple translucent fabric hanging against the wall, rocking in the air currents. The cold light of morning crept through a channel in the wall, casting light across the lounge. The TV was off, while Berkeley lay comatose on the couch, tongue lolling to one side. Matthias lay back in his office chair, arms and legs stiff and locked like a marionette suffering rigor mortis. As, somewhere in the narrow confines of the PC, the internal clock ticked to 8 am, Matthias’ eyes crept open, blinking. His limbs came to life, arms and legs sagging in a sudden response to gravity before he rose to his feet.
‘Wall on,’ he muttered, crossing the room. At the rear, the tapestry seem to glow before shining with the image of a sunlit beach, waves spraying over rocks, caressing the sand. Berkeley snapped awake and rolled onto his belly.
The dog watched as Matthias stepped to a mirror and adjusted his collar. The dog blinked.
‘Don’t say it,’ said Matthias.
‘You know I’m going to,’ Berkeley panted, pawing his way to the edge of the couch.
‘I don’t need to shower..’
‘You waste time shopping but don’t bother using the shower? For someone who takes himself as seriously as you do..’
‘I can skip one shower, I ran late with the research last night.’ As he spoke, a transparent liquid appeared to ripple through Matthias’ skin, carrying away the dirt as it ran beneath his collar and beyond. ‘I needed the extra time to charge..’
‘Humans call it sweat.’
‘Humans don’t sweat cleaning compounds.’
‘I don’t shit decomposed food but we make a show of it..’
Matthias turned to face the dog, shrugging, ‘I’m clean.’
‘You’re too dull to be dirty.’
On the surface, the elevator emerged to an overcast morning. The fierce flourescent lights still shone in full force against the lobby. A fog fought back against the light, thick throughout the lobby and the street beyond. Leaves drifted in a gentle breeze across the tiled ground, a couple were crushed beneath Matthias’ feet as he stepped out into the street. The roads were as vacant as they had been the night previous, the street silent, his footsteps tapping the ground in steady precision, like muted gunshots. Crossing the nearby intersection, he headed towards a human-sized steel booth installed on the footpath. Behind it, an empty lot stretched back into the mist. A blonde woman in a red jacket and black skirt stood inside the booth, red fingernails dialing a number before she pressed her palm into a hand-shaped mold in the rear wall. A rotund balding man paced on the road, wisps of brown hair falling from his carefully tended scalp.
‘It’s not working,’ she called. ‘I’m going to have to call someone.’
‘Since when do they ever break down?’ said the man, sweating beneath his tweed jacket.
‘Well I’ve tried four times now,’ she answered.
‘Are you entering the right code?’
‘Of course,’ she exclaimed, stepping out of the booth, bound hair becoming unsettled. ‘You try.’
The man squeezed into the booth and punched in the same series of numbers before pressing a confident hand to the wall. A confident smirk dropped from his face as nothing happened.
‘Well, who were you going to call?’ he asked, stepping out.
‘I’ll call the office, maybe they can send someone out.’
‘Isn’t there a maintenance company for this stuff? Who handles them these days anyway?’
Matthias approached from behind, a small smile playing over his lips, patient eyes blinking, hands in his pockets.
‘Excuse me,’ he said. ‘ Do you mind I try?’