277 words by Stanley Lieber
There are folded bits of me coming off. The heated stress in the room has peeled back the edges of my face and I think that the human glue underneath is melting away...
In four minutes I will leave for the day, cutting through the steam to the outer door of my compartment. In four minutes, I will sleep.
The stacks of leaves are cleared. I've fought off the last bits of synthetic sick from the foodstuffs in the office pantry. But the vending machines haven't been refilled in almost a month, and the food ports back up when there isn't anyone around to place orders. I'm in the same boat in my quarters -- I try to stay on the button and make due with what I can coax from the machines (I'm always working), but it's hard to keep myself awake when I'm always so hungry.
The last of the leaves put away, I can now turn down my screens and cover my seat for the morning decontamination cycle. It seems I've missed one; a straggler. The little leaf confronts me, cross to have been overlooked. I find it hunkered down, nearly collapsed into a pile of itself, casting an agitated shadow on the carpet. Its facing edge wavers in and out of focus in the reduced lighting. I regard it blankly and then crush it with my heel.
Next: The King's quarters, which must also be purged of filth.
I pull up an icon of Albert Lunsford and meditate on the seventh book of volume four. Walking On The Moon.
It is Ramadan, and everyone is gone.
The station turns.
To be continued...