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Where Do the Angels Sing?
The downfall began with a victory, as most downfalls do. One man’s victory is another man’s downfall. That is the nature of the beast.
The man who triumphed in this story is unimportant. No one remembers his name anymore. The people who lost are even more so.
In the state records of California, there is a mentioning of a man who became mayor over a small town in North California. This town was a knot of a string of small hamlets between San Francisco and Eureka. This town lived in the usual small-world bubble: people in this town didn’t ask about the outside any more than the outside asked about them.
When his four years in office were up, the State realized no one had reported any sort of election happening in that town. Some state authorities, groaning and swinging their stale coffee, had shown up to the town to request the results, if only for the sake of recording them. They had found nothing but grasses that stretched on to the ends of what the eye can see, waving their green and tan leafy fingers.
Annoyed more than they were intrigued, the authorities from the state discarded their white foam coffee cups onto a bed of flattened grass and took a brisk walk around, none of them looking forward to another lengthy car trip.
The intern tripped over something. A rubber water pipe, bundles of electrical wires, a few other things that they didn’t bother to identify--after all, they were state workers, not goddam engineers.
They assumed they must have gotten the wrong location--that moron newcomer in the office must have screwed it up. How can you possibly screw up a Mapquest? That was the topic of discussion as they piled into the car and U-turned back to Sacramento. They were also going to take a quick detour to San Francisco, on Uncle Sam’s dime, as compensation for Uncle Sam wasting their time. This was going to be a weekend of Alcatraz, Golden Gate Bridge and people-watching.
Dying the way it had lived, this small town between San Francisco and Eureka was forgotten. People back in Sacramento didn’t bother to look further into the case.
The Bulb was dim but brightening, when Len Verispelli took off to find Sector Eight, a part of town right in the heart of Nexus. In the undercurrents of the underbelly of Nexus, there were whispers that in Sector Eight you could hear the angels sing. Len wasn’t exactly sure what angels were. Also he didn’t exactly trust the people who were propagating this kind of notion.
They lived in Sector Five, just like he did. They had lived across the Sector from him, in the neighborhood of Lightborough, but then they had moved to his neighborhood, Engels, approximately three weeks ago. He had assumed they would bring running water with them, coming from more affluent Lightborough, but instead they had brought strange smiles and books they wouldn’t let anyone see. Not even if you offered them a whole stampbook of food rations.
That had elicited suspicion from most of their observant neighbors who made up the Neighborhood Watch. The Neighborhood Watch was perfectly aware that by alerting the local Committee of Public Safety of suspicious persons, each one of them could earn a whole extra book of food rations for the month.
But when they had brought it to the attention of the Committee, they were given an expedient, irritated response: “Bring us one of those books so we can check it with the Index of Banned Books. Until then, leave them the hell alone.”
Len had been particularly proud of the Committee that day, when they had turned away those greedy hands and watchful eyes. They would point the accusing finger at their own grandmother for extra food rations. But that didn’t mean he liked the newcomers with the strange books, who called themselves a Communion instead of a Commune. He assumed people from Lightborough had a strange dialect that made them talk funny.
The Lightborough Communion lived in a basement on Ninth Avenue, right in the middle of Sector Five. Len also lived on that Avenue, but not in a conventional way. Ninth Avenue, like all the other Avenues of Sector Five, started out wide but grew smaller near the end until there was only room for a little train station that would take you to another Sector for a price. On the left and on the right side of the Avenue were lines of houses crammed together, houses that were identical to the one next to it, which were known as the Row Houses.
Even though the Row Houses were filthy --- vermin lived beside humans, but it didn’t matter because in the dark they all smelled the same --- Len hated the Lightborough Communion for their good luck. The group had won the basement for all ten of them in a raffle held every two weeks. It was their first time, too.
Len had been raffling for about six months now, from the moment the Bulb brightened to the moment it went out and Night began, but he had not won a basement or even an apartment. Instead, he resided in one of the alleyways between the houses, which were even more narrow and uncomfortable then the houses themselves. He stole ration books (food, clothes and hygienic supplies all came in separate ration books and all costed the same --- every month you could decide what you really needed and only buy those books; Len stole them all) whenever the delivery men came around --- a heinous crime he knew he deserved the death penalty for, but did anyway --- and tried to stay out of everybody’s way until raffling time came around.
After all, he couldn’t apply for a work permit without a place of residence. He couldn’t bypass the raffles without paying someone a hefty amount of money to move in with them, and he couldn’t get that money unless he could work.
That’s why he decided to follow the Lightborough Group to Sector Eight that day. If they were getting their luck from the angels, he wanted some of that luck. He wondered what he would have to do to make them share their secrets, let him read their secret book. Hopefully they wouldn’t ask for a ration book --- he only had one to last him until Monday, the first of the month.