The sun was setting. Far to the east, threatening black clouds arosefrom the fumes of pollution from the several smoke stacks towering over thecity.
The streets were pock marked and dented with the recent shower ofacid rain. Hot boiling steam from the sewers made the temperature of daymuch hotter than it really was. Just outside the borders of the city is alake covered with muck and crude oil spills. Death and despair floatedaimlessly on the surface of the unhospitable body of water. Corpses of deadfish, seagulls.
. . bobbed just under the rim of the black slime. The blackslime sensing fresh prey, extended it’s corrupt and revolting tendrilsfarther. . .
until it caught another unsuspecting victim, choking andengulfing, destroying, leaving just another emtpy shell behind, devoid ofany life. Night set in, the stars were obscured by thick blankets of smoke. Theday was done. Stores got ready to lock up and street lights were turned onto aid the bread winners, so they may travel safely. Few were fortunateenough to own automobiles so they could avoid the cold dangerous streetsand dark alleyways.
Most shops were already abandoned, finished for theday. Yet few doors were still open, desperate for any last minutecustomers. One such shopkeeper was Phil Anderson. Anderson had worked asa pharmacist for most of his life. At forty, he had little to show for. The pollution that caused the gradual decay of the city had had negativeeffects on business, as well as the environment.
Phil, though by all meansnot an old man, showed signs of premature aging. His skin was pale anddry, wrinkled by the everyday punishment of the deteriorating sorroundings. Few strands of grayish white hair lined his almost bald, dandruff infestedscalp. Looking at Phil with his characteristic limp, slouched posture andbulging belly one might think him an extremely unathletic person. But thenagain it was not entirely his fault. His eyes were red and bloodshot, theglasses he wore only made these features more obvious.
With shaking skinny hands, Phil slowly put away the last of the itemson top of the counter. Finally done, he flicked off the lights andrummaged through his pockets for his keys. Looking one last time to makesure the shop was in order, Phil locked up the store and left. He failed to notice a dark shadow spying on him as he counted the bills he had earnedtoday, and put it away into his black leather wallet.
The tall dark figurestudied the pharmacist a while longer before trailing him. The narrowdirty street smelled of weeks old garbage and animal wastes. Smog wasstill thick in the air causing him to cough repeatedly. He stopped for amoment to catch his breath.
Remembering his air filter in his pocket, Philgingerly took it out and put it on. Feeling much better Phil continueddown the street, heaving a sigh of relief. He headed towards home, but soon remembering that he always stops bythe Charleton Bar for a drink or two, Phil abruptly changed direction. Sounds of laughter and grumbling reached his ears as Phil pushed open thedoors of the Charleton. The Charlton is located at Bradleys street, just a couple of blocksaway from Phil’s Pharmacy.
Often did Phil come here to unload and forgethis problems. This old bar is small and a little rundown but by no meansdeserted. Though built with concrete, The Charleton was wooden inside. Itwas dimly lit by old-fashioned lanterns placed along the walls, that gaveit an atmosphere of relaxation. At least the problems of the world can betemporarily forgotten in here, drowned out in a pint of beer. A lowslanted ceiling hung over head.
Years of exposure to acid rain caused thewood to decay. Wood fillings was occasionally used to patch up the holes. Although the variety of alchoholic beverages served here were not abundent,the ones they did have were quite popular. Their Spinner and Geinis forexample, were among the house favorites. Few scattered chairs and tableswere spread around the room in no apparent order.
Most were occupied. Amiddle aged couple sat in the middle of the room talking softly amongstthemselves, minding their own business. Far in the shadows of the cornerwas a young lad, who it seemed to Phil, was too Young to have legallyentered the bar. Clutched in his hands was the weaker of the drinks thatthe bar offered.
Yet the young inexperianced drinker wobbled heavily inhis seat, unaccostomed to anything containing alcohol. He must havesneaked in, Phil thought casually, many do. These days no one really caresanymore. Scattered around the rest of the Charlton were the usual bunch, afew bums, workers who had shops close to the Charleton, and young ones whofind the world outside too harsh and demanding, so they come here to seekshelter. But it was no permanent shelter, Phil knew. They would have toface their problems all too soon.
There was one person in the crowed that Phil did not recognize. Hewas a newcommer, Phil knew, because He was sitting on his favorite stool,up on the counter. He sat alone sipping on his Spinner with long easygulps, marking him a frequent vistor to Taverns. The stranger had clearblue eyes and sandy coloured hair. The corner of his eyes mouth were drawnwith lines, proof of the hard times.
He was of normal built and seemed alittle taller than average height. His posture was a little stooped, heprobrably worked on construction or something straining to the body. Thenewcomer was no means unattractive though, Phil would guess he could pickup a girl or two any day. There was something refreshing about him. Acertain aurora of confidence and hope radiated from him.
Maybe it was theway he handled himself, or something else, made Phil curious about him. Hedecided to walk over to talk to him. Phil leaned slighly on his right legmaking his way to bar. The floor boards creaked with each step Phil took.
The floor was old, but still had a lot of years in them. Phil came up to the counter, “The usual Frank”, he said, going to theseat beside the stranger, he looked to him for approval, before sittingdown. The stranger who introduced himself as Bill, grunted his approvaland motioned to the seat opposite of him. Phil smiled and took the stoolbeside the newcommer. Phil introduced himself, ” I’m Phil Anderson. ” “Oneginies comming up”, Frank bellowed while pouring Phils drink.
The Pharmacist and Bill immediately started on a light conversaton. “So, I haven’t seen you around? Are you new here?” Bill Stevens was thedriver of a furniture delivery, who just happened to have a job in thearea. After dropping off a truck load of furnishings for a certain Mr. Jones. He decided to head for a bar on his break, to quench his thirst.
Bill casually mentions to Phil that he was the father of two. Phil shookhis head in astonishment, “In times like these, how do you manage?” Billrelated to some bad times, but brighly spoke of how he always managed topull through. “What do you do?”, Bill asked after speaking of his family. “I run a pharmacy not far from here!” “Thats pretty good. You must makequite a lot”, Bill responded, sincerely.
“No, just enough”, Phil sighted. That must still be pretty good. . . I mean a pharmacy? People need a drugstore!” “Sometimes”, Phil replied then shook his head. A moment of silencefollowed before Phil finally spoke.
“So what do you think will happen . . . in the future, I mean?”, Phil asked pessimistically.
Bill raised hiseyebrows, “What do you mean?” “We’re all going to die! Can’t you seewhat’s happening all around? What do you think I mean?”, Phil burst out ina fit of anger. “C’mon Phill, it’s not that bad, people are working onrecycling, were cutting down on fossil fuels, using solar energies, usingproducts that are environmentally friendly and trying to stop deforestaion. Some day we’re all going to wake up and this will all be a bad dream. “,Bill stated with confidence and conviction. “Recycling? You really thinkthat’s going to do any good? It’s too late! We’ve done enough damage tothe earth to last an eternity. The pollution on earth is like a cancerousgrowth, incurable and spreading.
No puny effort of ours is ever going toturn this around. It’s all downhill from here”, Phil sobbed. He then tooka long pull on his mug. Bill was surprised at the weakness that Phil justdemonstrated. He looked at Phil sympathetically, “Phil, what you say istrue, we have polluted our world extensively.
But there is still hope. Wecan turn this around. As a parent I should be more concerned than you,because I have my childrens future to worry about. If we try hard, we’llpull through, I’m sure of this. But we have to Fight and fight hard. Wemay not do it this generation or even the next, but our children and ourchildrens children will carry on.
We’ll manage!” Phil looked to Stevens inshock. That was the biggest piece of crap he had heard in his wholelifetime. Yet what Bill said got him thinking. Could there really behope? Phil did not know. Bill was a father of two children, he believesthat they will have a future, how can he be so optimistic? Maybe it was’ntas bad as he thought it was, yet it was’nt as easy as bill said it would iteither.
But what chance does the world have by thinking negatively, anddoing nothing but complain and grumble about the past. Instead ofinaction, why not contribute and help. Instead of making the problem worsethan it already is. Nothing is to be gained by negatively, a whole worldcould be lost.
Think of a brighter future, and pitch in, the world can besaved. After contemplating this, he changed his outlook, from bleak tohopefull. He met Bill’s gaze with a determined look, “You may be right,but in my point of view it may very well go the other way. People might betoo greedy to care about the world, even if it meets destruction. ” “Iagree”, Bill replied, thoughfully.
“But we have to always have a positiveattitude. ” Phil nodded, happy that Stevens accepted, only if to a smallextent, his opinion. “Yes”, he repeated, “A positive attitude. ” Philstill had his doubts.
Big corporations that had so much to lose byemploying costly pollution reduction techniques might be reluctant tocooperate. Ignorant individuals who thinks “oh the other guy will do it”will make efforts, futile. If you don’t start participating, who will? Allyou can do is set an example, and hope that others will follow your lead. This and more, Bill had taught him.
Both men sat there for a few more minutes sipping their drinks. SoonBill stood up and prepared to leave, He said goodbye to Phil. PhilAnderson held up his hand, “Wait which way are you headed?”Stevensreversed the question, “Which way are you going?” “Just up the road toBay Street”, Phil replied. “What a coincidence, I’m going the same waytoo”, Bill exclaimed. “Just wait I’ll come with you, give me a sec tofinsh this off.
” Phil gulped down the remaining contents of ginies in hismug. His friends Tom, Ray and Wil urged him to stay a while longer, foranother round of drinks. But Phil politely declined. They usually go hometogether. There’s safety in numbers.
Especially at hard times like these,where robbers and thieves roaming the streets is commonplace. Tonight,Phil wanted to accompany his new friend. After a quick goodbye to his buddies, Phil rose and joined Bill, theyopened the doors of the Charelton and headed out to the streets. Phil felt a certain bond towards Bill, he inspired hope andconfidence. Phil hadn’t felt this certain of himself for so long that heforgot how great it felt.
He knew that this would be a start of a goodfriendship. “So tell me more about yourself and your kids, what do you do to helpthe environment?”, Phil wanted to know. Bill did not answer, he seemed tobe preoccuppied with some other thoughts. “Are you all right?” ,Philasked. “Oh, sorry I was just thinking about something. ” “What?”, thePharmacist inquired.
“How to rob you!”, came Bill’s reply. Phil looked toStevens in shocked disbelief, he then noticed the smile that was playingacoss Bill’s face, and realized it was a joke. Phil laughed long and hard,he hasn’t felt this good in a while. They walked down a few more blocksand were approaching the run down part of town. “This place always givesme the creeps, it really helps that your with me.
” “Yeah. . . right. “, Billsaid.
They were walking down a particullary dark alleyway when Bill suddenlystopped. He looked around to make sure nobody was around. Phil, puzzledasked, “Something wrong Bill?” “Nothing”, came the answer, “everything isjust fine. ” Bill suddenly grabbed the scruff of Phil’s shirt and pushedhim against the wall. “Bill what are you doing?”, Phil cried out,frightened and confused.
“What does it look like I’m doing you fatbastard!”, Bill snapped sarcastically. Now, where’s your wallet?”, thethief demanded. “Bill I don’t get it? Why are you doing this?”, Philcroaked weakly, even more confused now. “Why am I doing this? Are youthat stupid? To survive in this polluted dump!” Phil shook his head,struggling in vain to break free of Bill’s grasp. “What about all thethings you said about the world being a better place?”, Phil askeddesperately. “What about your family, your kids?” “You actually believedall that bull.
I just told you whatever it took to get you out of that barand get you here. So I can do this!” Phil saw coldness in Bill, hisexpression, distant and unfeeling. The Bill he had met at the Charletonwas no more. Replaced by a cold and calculated thief. “You really meantwhat you said in the bar, I can tell! You really did! It’s true, we’llsurvive! You can’t be like this.
I know there’s good in Bill Stevens!”Phil sputtered. “That’s not true and you know it, and you believed it!You were a fool to have me trick you!” “Listen Bill, everyone can change,you made me believe. I was wrong to simply complain and do nothing when Icould help save the world. If we all pitch in, as you said, it can reallywork!” Phil pleaded with the thief, trying to make him see reason. Billhesitates for a moment and his expression softened, revealling desperationand guilt. But then in seconds, the mask of coldness returned.
Bill fixedPhil with a hard stare, then reached into Phil’s pocket. “This is my life,what I do, I can’t change now. It’s too late!”, Bill said, as if it wasany consolation to Phil. “It’s never too late!”, Phil cried, “Bill, justhear me out!” Bill snorted and gave Phil a swift and strong blow to theabdomen, dropping him to the pavement like a ton of bricks. Doing that,Bill ran off and disappeared into the night.
Leaving a crumpled, patheticform, lying in the dirty deserted alleyway. The pitter patter of rain drops soon bombarded the city. Sulphurousclouds released pounding sheets acid rain. Though this downpour did notcool the city in any way. Steam from the gutters still erupted withunrelented pressure.
As the stinging pelts continued their assault onnature. The lake outside the borders of the city was filled with morebodies of helpless victims, that slowly suffered, because of man. The moonwas still not seen, nor will it be, anytime in the future, as dark swirlingclouds obscured the sky. IN the alley, the rain fell down upon Phil as he sat peniless andhopeless in a puddle. The acidic rain burned through Phil’s coat,gradually eroding away the fabric. Footsteps headed towards Phil in urgenthaste.
“Phil, what happened? Are you all right?”, Tom called out. Phil’sbuddies in the Charleton had just finished their drinks and were justheading home. Tom, who spotted Phil hunched on the pavement and quicklycame to see what was wrong. Ray and Wil followed not too far behind butelected to keep silent.
Depressed and angry, Phil simply wanted to be aloneright now, “Get out of here! Go away! Leave me alone”, he shouted inbetween tears. Tom flinched at the harshness of Phil’s tone. He glancedone more time at his friend and walked away. Wil and Ray not knowing whatto do followed Tom’s example and granted Phil’s request for privacy. Cold and numb, Phil put his hands into his pockets in a pitifullattempt to stay warm. After losing all his money, he was even moredepressed than ever.
Reaching deeper into his pocket, Phil felt arectangular leather object, then smiled. Once again, Phil Anderson, felthope.