By Joshua Hoffman
Two by Two. Four By four. Six by six. The sidewalk was thronging as men and women marched, their movements rehearsed and robotic. John was sandwiched between a portly man on his right, wearing simple gray pants and a gray long sleeve shirt, much like John’s own clothes. On his left, a young woman wearing a gray t-shirt and a gray skirt. Their eyes are hollow, including Johns, unseeing and focussed on the path ahead. A loud chime echoes across the city and as one all pedestrians stop and turn their heads towards large screens that encompass the street facing side of every building. On the screen appears a ball of light, pulsating in time with its speech.
“Greetings citizens of Utopia,” it grinds. The voice is cold and coarse.”This is your daily thank you, for your continued relinquishment of free thought, creativity and adherence to the High Directive. Have a great day.” The screens blink out and after a split second John starts walking again along with the people around him. The idling cars roll down the road once again. A few moments later John raises his left hand, signaling his desire to move into the next lane of people, mirroring traffic patterns of the road to his right. The men and women in the next lane over slow to make a gap which inserts himself into. Repeating this procedure two more times John reaches the building side of the sidewalk. He turns down an alleyway. Despite its dimmer light the alleyway is clean and well kept. John stops in front of a dull blue-green door, the only one in the alleyway and knocks on it 3 times in quick succession. The door opened to reveal a large, naturally fit man. He was wearing a black tank top and cargo pants and had a tattoo on his upper arm.
“Come on in you damned imaginer,” the man grunted, “Market place opened a few minutes ago.” John nodded and walked through the door, shouldering past the guard and walking down the steep steps that lead deep into the seedy underbelly of the city. When John emerged from the stairwell he found himself in a different thronging crowd. People weren’t marching two by two or wearing clothes the same tone of gray. John walked over to a stall right in front of the stairwell. The sign read “Penny Thoughts.”
“A Penny for your thoughts sir?” John asked of the man running the stand.