Everybody says it’s just like rock n’ roll

It took him an hour and a half to get to Andy’s, after discovering that no nearby garage had the capacity to recharge his carrier. Better to leave it safely at work than to risk running out of charge halfway, with no safe lock-up around. Miserably, he slotted himself into a commuter pod, taking a deep breath of stale city air before the film lid closed over him. Anything tasted better than the recycled atmosphere of these things. Gods knew what kind of underclass germs he was inhaling. His throat already felt rough. A cough sweet clicked against his teeth. There was sudden blackness as he began to accelerate through the tunnels, then the bright flash of adverts before his eyes. Wouldn’t his children love a robot nurse to tend them, packed full of games software and guaranteed not to molest? Wouldn’t he like a sensaround system for his carrier, which could find its own way home whilst he dreamed of a subtly pornographic paradise? Wouldn’t he like to live longer with Liverings, nutritious and delicious, the authentic taste of monosodium glutamate without the social stigma? He tried to blank it all out, then abruptly let it in again, grateful for anything to distract him from his fear of what might happen if the commuter-slide broke.

When he reached East Fourteen, the pod stopped abruptly, internal levers convulsing to spit him out onto the platform. He struggled to regain his balance as tired, shuffling bodies pressed around him. Lips moved and throats contorted as people spoke silently into their phones. He noticed more than one person shaking a phone in frustration, and wondered if one of the networks was in trouble.

On the way up, the escalator was broken, so his legs ached when he finally stumbled out into the street. He’d take a taxi from Andy’s, he decided. He could just about justify it as a one-off expense. No point in wearing himself out at the start of a long week. There was no point in trying to walk home, either. To the clear distress of many, the pavements had broken down; some were managing to crawl along at one or two miles an hour, but nobody was willing to wait for them. This collapse of civilised infrastructure was not omnipresent, though – advertising hoardings still glared and shouted above, and automatic sandwich boards pushed between the unhappy pedestrians. As he passed the end of Andy’s street he saw a man repeatedly kicking an autopub as it tried to persuade him that what he really needed was a drink.

You can find the complete version of Everybody says it’s just like rock n’ roll in issue 54 of TBD.

Jennie Kermode