The sky was that special kind of blended deep-blue only found against the foreground of metro sprawls. The kind of blue where countless neon lights mix it with old-time incandescents, radiating their offspring for miles. While their multitudes fuck to make the paint, they bounce and rebound off the gloss-coats of high-end, self-driving cars.
And at a distance, it all forms that thing loosely termed “Humanity.” Progress. Civilization.
Most call it “sprawl-blue.” Not just ‘cause that’s what it is, but ‘cause it perfectly encapsulates life in a sprawl. It rolls off the tongue easier than sweat along a belly-dancer’s undulating navel. It even gives a bit of the taste of it. Copper, like blood. Hints of irreverent neons. No-one knowing could deny sprawl-blue’s as much a way of life as Junk or The Net.
Personally, Carly didn’t care for either of the last two. She was just a girl trying to make her way without being fucked for her money. In a sprawl, if you didn’t do it for yourself, you sure were getting fucked. Carly didn’t like getting fucked. She liked fucking. She liked to get her hands dirty. Slake her blood-thirst. Seel the adrenaline rush of gun and fist-fights. Most of all, she loved control. Being in control was better than cumming on X.
It started young: a taste of power from being the smartest street-rat in the pack. All the others looked up to her. Boys. Girls. It didn’t matter. Carly was Alpha-bitch. Queen. Empress and Matriarch. Everyone followed her. Those that didn’t, got far outta’ the way– or, on the wrong end of her pack.
She’d started with drugs. At eleven. Stumbled onto a deal gone bad and found a few kilos of grass, X, and Junk. Got her start with it. Made bank. At fourteen she was running guns like a bike-messenger to parcels. Literally. She and her people were decked out in street-rat clothes, looking as pathetic as possible. Were it not for Carly’s cunning, they’d have been that way. She earned herself street-cred, and eventually, control of territory.
It came with blood. Serious cost. Her first turf war left her limping every time it rained. It drew suspicion anytime she was around the “real-world” straights. That term alone always made her laugh enough to forget the limp. The real world was no different from the so-called “shadow world.” Both survived, and thrived, on power, control.
But both worlds had started to take their toll. On Carly. On people in general. Now, at twenty-two, Carly’d seen more than most people three times her age. Double that for straights. She still limped when it rained, was blind in one eye, and had the accompanying slash-scars across her face. Random hunks of meat were missing from her body. Others were fused shut, grotesquely mottled from burns, bullet-wounds, stabbings. Each was a prize of the Sprawl-blue coloring the background of every memory of every night of her life.
She stood center-stage in the middle of a storage warehouse. She was leaned forward, hands on a pallet of bags of cement. Various construction materials and pallets were laid out in seemingly random points about the floors. Elsewhere, were giant rolls of goods. Filled shelves. Everything there waiting to be shipped.
Carly’s people were formed around her, armed to the teeth. They awaited her order to throw themselves into the fray, if or when it came. They’d jump in front of bullets for her. It wasn’t for lack of survival instinct. Carly just had a way about her. A certain charisma. As a child, sheer arrogant confidence had backed it up. Since then, its spine had been reformed by bloodshed, survival. She was the only reason any of her people were alive today.
But Carly knew she wouldn’t live forever. Nor would her people. Or their ways. That’s what tonight was about; survival. Carrying on after the loss, insurance and assurance, that the world could survive no matter what happened to the “shadow people.”
The sprawl had been divided too long. The various gangs at war too long. They’d fought for territory for generations. The battles always ended with less people. Less land. More damage. Carly was no different. The only thing separating her from her enemies were the imaginary lines they’d collectively drawn– for survival’s sake.
Carly knew that. Her people knew that. Most of all, their enemies knew that.
She’d called a meeting, a summit of sorts; all of her gang, all of the other gangs. The collective armies of over a dozen warlords, mafioso, and G’s were en-route to sit down in their massiveness. Carly had managed it with exorbitant gifts. Neutral messengers. Peaceful letters. It was time for a sit down– a parley. Pow-wow. They needed co-existence, she said. If not for themselves, then for all the lost.
It had taken time, and doing, but eventually Carly’d convinced the gang-leaders to meet. It was time to end the wars, to unify the people against their true threats. The elites. Aristocrats. Politicians. Police. In effect, the so-called “Real-world establishment.”
“It is time,” she’d said. “To emerge from the shadows and retake the day.”
The first to reach the meetings were the Asian gangs– Yakuza, Triads, the like. Punctuality was their way. And scoping out the competition, laying in wait in the event of ambush, was the other gangs’ way. With the obvious recognition that no slaughter was about to take place, the Mexican gangs came next. They had to be macho, show they weren’t afraid. Then, the black-only gangs. The white-only gangs. The Italians. The Irish. So many that the warehouse was packed. Standing room only.
Carly’s heart swelled with tension and pride. So many opposing colors together. Even as the last gang-leaders led their people in, she couldn’t believe what she’d achieved. She smiled, lifted her arms wide in a V, and projected her voice.
“Thank you all for coming. You know why we’re here. To ensure the safety of our city. Our people. Our families. There’s only one way to ensure that happens. That is why I’ve brought us all here today.” She lowered her arms as something slid subtly from her sleeve and into her hand. Nobody noticed. Even her own people were oblivious.“We’ve all become a blight,” she said to suddenly confused looks. “We’re a plague. A cancer on this city. I aim to cut that cancer out!”
The obvious trap’s recognition appeared instantaneously across hundreds of faces. A single heart-beat separated it from the explosion. In a blink, the warehouse was in flames. Bits and bodies were thrown about. Blood and chunks strewn everywhere. Carly was blown clear through a metal wall. Her torso was lacerated, organs and bones pulverized by the explosives disguised as cement bags.
Her last breath made her arm go limp. The charred detonator rolled from a hand. Her eyes fixed up on the sky, that never-ending, ubiquitous, sprawl-blue.