Black Glass

Black Glass by John Shirley Page B

Book: Black Glass by John Shirley Read Free Book Online
Authors: John Shirley
walkway, which was made of slats of wood attached by wire to a couple of metal ladders laid down flat between the elevator and the undercarriage of Rooftown. The “undercarriage”, as residents called it, was actually a metal tower that had fallen from the top of one of the buildings during the earthquake, to make an accidental bridge across two others. Rooftown squatters occupying the other buildings had started building across the tower, with beams and other materials from collapsed structures. Layer on layer had been added, old and new materials ... And now Spanx jogged along a catwalk that swung
under his tread; he hurried along the outside of the undercarriage, up to a series of ladders and steps. “Not handicapped accessible, that’s for fuck’s sure,” he said, and some of the scarecrow kids climbing around in the timbers overhead laughed and agreed and threw wood chips at him. “Hey hey hey you you you kids-ids are gonna, all, like, fall and shit!” Spanx called, more enjoying the concept than warning them. Sometimes they did fall, some of them. A few people fell every week from Rooftown. Sometimes more than a few. Eventually their bodies were cleared away by robotic street sweepers—the bodies the Rooftowners didn’t retrieve. The Rooftowners liked a good funeral. There were mummified bodies sealed into the walls of derelict buildings on this side of the street.
    Spanx, articulating his free-association, glanced down past the catwalk at the street. “How many stories down, those little cars, those little people, that little truck? Twenty?” A seagull flew by beneath him. “Hey bird the sky’s up here ya dumb featherhead!” he called.
    Chattering to himself, Spanx reached the steep stairs he wanted, this one made of old railroad ties, and climbed it, holding onto the frayed yellow-plastic ropes that served as banisters. It was colder up here, and a wet wind was blowing. A big dented mystercyke vertical sewage pipe, four feet in diameter, gurgled next to the stairway. He could smell the sewage in it, running down to the drains in the center support building, dollops leaking out badly connected joints.
    Spanx reached the top, found himself in Rooftown itself, squinting against a drift of smoke. Smell of burning garbage, gasoline and trash in metal drums—the old gasoline storage tanks were still being sucked out for basic fuel. This level was a maze of interconnected shanties, made of scrap tin and allwall and mystercyke; on his left were fifty square yards of shanties, on his right Rooftown rose in tiers, becoming a haphazard tower of improvised, stacked boxes, swaying in the wind. He licked his lips. His mouth was so dry, now, it was hard to talk here. Needed a drink. “Just a little slip of a sip between brain and lips, whippity whip whip!”
    Hugging himself against the chill, Spanx walked along a track
made out of random, dissimilar segments of scrap wood and planks of mystercyke. Faces looked out at him from the shanty doors, holes cut for windows; most of them Latino, some African, a few Asian, a salting of grimy white faces. The post-global warming immigration surge mostly found work, absorbed into service jobs and blue collar work—whatever was cheaper than maintaining robots. But they were always underpaid and housing was expensive, so some of “The Population Overflow”, as the iNews sites called it, overflowed to Rooftown. The Immigration people were afraid to come up here, and not only because of the perpetual risk of the whole structure collapsing; one or two immigration agents had vanished, were rumored to have joined the mummies in the walls.
    Spanx turned past a group of bundled-up men huddled around a flaming, rust-red steel drum on a deck made of mystercyke freight pallets. The wind carried a shred of low-altitude cloud to break against them, and Yodeller—a man with burnt-red skin, his face mostly hidden in red beard, red dreadlocks drooping over his eyes—called out to Spanx

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