The city is large and could be two cities if it wanted to be. Yellow cake snakes around the tops of buildings so the sky cannot be seen most days. Afternoon view becomes a yellow tint of everything.
The man holds a sign:
His head feels like a tangle of shapes manipulating and pressing intrusively against the current of proper function. No one goes near him like he has a disease and his stomach churns and grumbles from weeks of eating only government issued space food. He’d never even been to space. Poor fool accidently signed up for a years worth of space potatoes. Damn that television ad where the pretty woman in the blue dress eats the stuff on the moon and smiles, “It’s like being on the moon,” gigglegigglegigglehee.
The cars of 345th street were now starkly abandoned, posed in their traffic jam positions, their owners hiding by trashcans, benches, and corners of alleys. Watching. Watching. Waiting.
At 00:04:23:22 left until explosion a robotic officer programmed for sympathy and reason approaches the man. The robot has synthetic human flesh sagging here and there, and half a mustache hangs off his upper lip. The bot offers the man a steak and a beer as a substitute for a suicide bombing. It almost fools the man but he quickly realizes the offer to be coupons for Daryl Dicks Steak House. A marginal steakhouse susceptible to twelve year old humor.
“The coupons, sir. They are worth two free steaks and a free beer at..” and here the robotic officer turns to address the sheepish onlookers, bellowing a deeper-louder robotic voice, “Daryl Dicks Steak House.”
The bomber spits in the face. “It’s not food I’m after. It’s this whole god forsaken city! It’s this god damn yellow cake. It’s being alone for ten years!” he opens his arms audaciously and looks over everyone, the bomb swinging left and right, “Aren’t you all tired of the yellow cake? When was the last time we saw the sky? When was the last time any of you left this city? When was the last time you loners were not alone? Government issued bride? Mine died ten years ago. I never knew so much as her middle name when she was there but at least she was there. And now they say I have to find my own?” He laughed manically and shook his head, “And where in this cluster fuck of cluster fucks inside of cluster fucks am I supposed to find a suitable woman? They’re not here. All of ‘em taken, here. They’re all taken here and all I have is my god damn one year supply of space potatoes.”
The people stare while the robotic officer lurches forward with the coupons tightly gripped in his metal fingers, “Daryl Dick’s Steak House invites you to come in for free steak and potatoes.” He releases the coupons mechanically and takes three clunking steps backwards.
The man reveals a tiny flame thrower from his back pocket and gas and flames hiss across the robot. The robot raises his hand with one slivery finger pointing defiantly up, “You are not complying. Comply or face consequences.” His face skin melts and his mustache drops down to the ground like a burning asp. The crowd is halfway disgusted, to see the machine deteriorate like that, tubes and circuits and pipes hanging like the red ribbons of a carcass. They all unknowingly share the same feeling that moment, something in between realization and disappointment, having fooled themselves all these years that the officers were real.
The clock on the bomb reads 00:03:22:22. Or three minutes twenty two seconds and twenty two hundredths of a second.
From the third story window of the closest building you would be able to see the bomber pacing around the burning metal. The smoke rises in black-thick curls, mixing into the yellow cake. A news paper whirls through the silent scene like some kooky visitor unable to stop its passing by, forced only to look quickly at the scene, before disappearing into dead yellow sky down the street.
A woman comes and she is really a hologram. She has hazel hair and brown eyes. She carries herself like a flower. Her projection, or body, is illuminated by a white glow and a white dress drapes around her feet. The bomber thinks her an angel. She only smiles. The bomber cries because he does not want to blow her up, even if most of him knows she is only a hologram.
She moves her fingers smoothly over the bomb, caressing the round surface with the care of a woman. The bomb reads 00:02:21:66. Two minutes twenty seconds and sixty six hundredths of a second.
“Please.” He pleads, “You’re not real. Don’t do this.”
She kisses the bomb. The man fixes his eyes on the tiny specs of pebble in the concrete and for one second her hologram image flickers off and back on. The bomb reads 00:01:57:22. He lays down tired and realizes he is crying. He curls into a ball and is smitten for the illuminated woman with joyful tears. She leans down and whispers “Why is it like this? It doesn’t have to be like this.”
“I know,” he says sniffling.
“Give me the bomb,” she says looking down at him. Her hair waves magnificently with a new wind stirring through the city. The yellow cake is moving in a slow current now. So much so that you can see clear afternoon sky emerging in patches.
“No, your not real.” He cradles the ball closer to his chest.
“Come on now. Hand it over. I think you and I, me and you, should be together. You and me together in our own loft where we cook and talk and share the details of our day. I have had a good day today. How was your day?” She says with programmed smile 23.3333AAC.
The bomb reads 00:00:59:24.
“It’s not fair he said. I didn’t want this bomb. I didn’t want to hurt anyone. I just want my wife.”
“I know. It’s okay.”
“It’s not. It’s not. It’s not okay. It’s just not fair. Nothing’s fair.”
The bomb reads 00:00:31:22.
She whispers a hot speech in his ear and he swears he feels the tip of her tongue faint on his ear, “dismantle the bomb,” she says lovingly.
Like a wired up toy he jumps to his feet to remove the bomb from around his neck and cracks it in half, against the concrete, like a coconut. Triumphant. Inside are wires meshed together with more wires. He fiddles with the contraption, operating like a surgeon, meticulously re-arranging and searching for the one wire with all the power to stop the whole scene. The bomb makes clicking off noise and reads 00:00:09:27.
“That wasn’t so bad, was it?” She says with her hand almost on his cheek.
He laughs and sniffles, “No. Not at all.”
“See. It is fair. Everything is fair,” she reaches down for his hand.
He laughs manically and rolls on the floor. Rolling and rolling on the floor. “It is fair!” Just then a hologram of the bomb exploding with confetti materializes. It is hilarious. The whole city can’t stop laughing and smiling and crying joyfully. On windows and corners of alleys they laugh and shake hands. Kisses on the cheek. It’s over they say.
“What a close one. I thought I was going to blow this place to smithereens.” Says the bomber.
“I know. That was close,” she says and her body’s image flickers two more times and then three more times until blinking out. The man does not notice this and his hand cups where he thinks her hand to be. For the first time in years the man sees the yellow fog completely dissipate and a blue sky is revealed. The pedestrians look up momentarily and then move back to their businesses of moving. Traffic proceeds and the great giant clouds glide on.