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He might have been a ghost for the attention she paid. The cashier’s eyes passed through him as though he were translucent, paying vague focus to some distant point of more interest than her immediate surroundings. A touch of violet eyeshadow and sanguine lips drawn in fine detail added an ostentatious touch to her worn aloofness. Her eyes dipped occasionally, to move in concert with her hands as she scanned through his groceries, a conspicuous golden ring flashing in the light.

His groceries tumbled into the bags. The monitor received a cursory stab. ‘That’ll be fifty-three sixty,’ she advised.

‘I’ll pay by finger,’ he announced, raising his hand. She stabbed another button.

‘Go for it.’

Pressing his forefinger to a biometric reader in front, a small display reported capturing his DNA and verifying it, before prompting him for a PIN.

The receipt was thrust into his hand. ‘Thanks for shopping at Telemart.’

Hefting his groceries from the baggage area, Matthias stepped into the crowd. Possessed of average height and slim build, to the casual observer, Matthias was an inconspicuous man. Dressed in a cheap suit, he passed off as just another young bachelor, a cubicle worker doing his weekly shopping. The hint of a smile lifted his cheeks when he locked eyes with a stranger. He walked with a casual ease, his bags may as well have been weightless, his placid blue eyes betraying no particular emotion. Men paid him no mind, women more often than not returned his smile but neither could let go of his glance immediately. There was something different about Matthias.

Stepping out of the busy supermarket into the crisp night air, he was greeted by an empty parking lot. Several lights shone down nevertheless, illuminating wet asphalt. His immediate surroundings were silent, apart from the supermarket behind him, his footsteps audible as he stepped onto a worn footpath. His feet navigated cracks in the pavement despite the darkness. Few streetlights were operating along the road ahead, and no cars passed him. He held his bags as though they were weightless, despite the plastic stretching for the ground.

Matthias’ route crossed several such empty streets beneath peering streetlights, flooding those patches of earth they could service. No doubt curious, if they had a mind, at the lone patron of their services.

His trail closed on approach to a small apartment building. It gazed down from the corner of an intersection, tan concrete walls interspersed with wide curtained windows. The lobby was open to the elements, dead leaves scattered across a wet, tiled flood. Small piles collected in the corners. White flourescent lights burnt down from above, working to bleach those patches of tile they could capture in dazzling light. At the end of the lobby sat a bank of three elevators, the central member taped out-of-order. Matthias stepped to the elevator on the right and entered. The button pressed, the elevator descended beneath the earth and opened on an underground apartment.