A few final trips around the station and then I’d be off to Hevrice. That’s what I told myself.
I had only just begun commuting again, feeling the energy of the ‘norms’, drawing on it for clarity of purpose. Things had changed since last I had traveled amongst the hustle and bustle of day to day life. It was subtle, but present; a darkness at the edges, hungry, anxious, waiting for the opportune moment to devour the light.
People were more short of manners, less courteous, innately concerned with self to a degree I hadn’t previously seen, or perhaps hadn’t noticed in my own self-delusionment. People watching had always been an insightful past-time.
I stood in the main station concourse, waiting for the next mag train to arrive, entranced by the sheer volume of pedestrian traffic, a coordinated and subconscious dance of the working class.
In the midst of it all stood a little girl with her mother, trying to play a primitive interactive game. Four cameras were high-mounted around a defined area. The virtual floor became the play space, with a large wall projected environment the main point of focus. The game was simple: keep the bouncy balls aloft. I watched the poor child struggle, unable to perform the simple task as she stood too close to the front wall, out of range of the projected floor. She would cry to her mother, who ignored her mostly, her focus solely on her NeoCom.
I ventured over and cautiously nodding towards the mother, asked the little girl if I could play. She demanded I help her, and being intrigued by her straightforwardness, I agreed.
There we stood, the two of us, using our hands, heads, knees, anything we could to keep the balls afloat. It was much harder than it looked. The balls became heavier the more we progressed, as did the speed of release of new balls.
To say I worked up an embarrassing sweat would be an understatement. Still, her squeals and giggles made it all worth it. After several heroic attempts, we finally beat the daily high score.
She tugged on my hand and whispered through an ear to ear smile, “See you tomorrow, mister.”
I simply grinned back at her and said, “See you tomorrow.”
My train arrived not long after that. My stupid grin lasted much longer.