These Commerce-Wracked Streets

Albion, city by the sea, the winedark sea. Its reclaimed lands run far out from shore, a landfill knife stabbing at the belly of the bay. Children drown in its unattended streets, slipped from makeshift rafts under the cheerful eyes of armigers; the city council argues in its smoke-filled halls about the best way of addressing the problem. (One wag, not unseriously, suggests mandatory swimming lessons.)

Murgatroyd descends the ladder at the corner of Van Heron and Tefillin and pushes through the cramped doorway into the bank. Witchlights burn to combat the artificial night of the street’s shadow; the tellers are stretched into elfin caricatures of themselves, their fingers long as chopsticks, their faces hollowed and motionless.

“Good morning, miss!” His voice is warmly human, anyway. “How can I help you?”

“Need to make a deposit,” she growls, and pushes a handful of loose bills across the counter, avoiding eye contact.

His hand brushes hers as he takes the money. It’s cold and chill, hard as metal. She shivers at his touch, remembering other days and other lessons.