I have visions of a world of ice, two dogs slipping on a frozen lake, chewing on a human corpse.
I staggered out of an AA meeting on 76 North, 42 Spinward. I say stagger because I had been drunk going in and was drunk coming out.
It's wonderful how the traditions insist that even someone like I be allowed in: stinking; dirty; interrupting everyone with foul mouthed war stories.
Truth be told I'd chosen the Sea of Tranquility group for my re-entry to the rooms out of spite. It was a high end group: lawyers, engineers, politicians. Dressed well with the clear wrinkle-less complexions of regular anti-senescence treatments.
They deserved a taste of life in North.
Once outside I began to hurry to the metro station. I was sure that after my performance in the meeting some perfect alcoholic would call the sheriffs. I didn't need getting picked up for vagrancy so I scuttled down the middle of the cobbled street, saluting the Highlands with a bottle of vodka.
I nearly missed him in the dark, silhouetted as he was against the wall of a low eaved house. By skylight he looked like a pile of shredded trash.
At first it was the dogs that alerted me, skeletons with muzzles, one dirty white, one dusty black. They fought perpetually but neither ever won and neither ever got seriously injured.
They did get hurt though. Thick dark blood spraying like yard sprinklers.
They followed Neil like canine furies, destroying any chance of reputability he ever had.
I always felt this contributed heavily to his alcoholism.
"Neil, get up! You can't crash here, the sheriffs will get you!"
Another beating could kill him, it seemed to me.
"A white dog and a black dog fight, which one wins?" he asked.
This was his standard greeting. I was sick of it.
"The one you feed Neil, as always. Now get up!"
I dragged him to the Metro station, dogs snuffling behind.
He looked the same as always, pinched unshaven face with pale eyes. He smelled of lavender and alcohol, felt like a bag of bones hung together with cartilage,
I pulled him upright and onto the next maglev tube. As it pulled smoothly out of the station and away north, he suddenly sat up.
"So Michael, what's happening?"
I hated this about him. How he could self-detoxify at will, often walking out of a bar while the rest of us could barely stand.
"I just saved you from another beating. I also lost your dogs."
"They'll catch up somehow. And they aren't my dogs."
"Why don't you kill them then?"
Generally I like dogs, but those two rage fueled bone machines couldn't really be dogs. Not the complicated bundles of fur, muscle and love I was familiar with.
"I tried a few times. Beat them down, but I couldn't bring myself to finish them. And they have the old full, true healing treatment, biologically immortal, fast healing, strange progressive body modifications."
I stared at him blankly. These weird bits of techno-mysticism made me uncomfortable.
They could almost be used as an indicator of Neil's mental deterioration. One that had been going on for a long time according to legend.
The tube slid into 326 North, 42 Spinward. To go anti-Spinward we had to catch a methanol powered spider on wheels running over the original, defunct track.
I had a trashed apartment down by the Sea. Not the pristine Sea of the Tranquility crowd.
The wave engines here were running at half capacity; the great lamps below and the oxygen pumps above had failed, killing our beautiful upside-down coral reefs; the stagnant waters were covered in red algae caused by nitrate run-off from the pointless and wasteful farms.
Simple maintenance, as available in the south, would have avoided all this.
I'd trashed my apartment in some drunken rage.
The owners didn't call me on it because they were afraid of me. They just took the rent and kept quiet.
I was very scary back then. Big with crazy eyes.
I was also rumored to carry a firearm, an object so illegal as to border on the mythical for most people.
The rumors were true. I had a pistol. It was a one shot antimatter directional containment field collapse device. It could make a hole out to space 0.5km wide and that was all it could do.
Something of a last resort weapon.