Prose

An Uncertain Future- Prologue


by: CJ Fogarty

Iris

The club has a large crowd here tonight. It isn’t crowded. No, the Alley Cat never gets crowded. The customers, mostly the male ones, like to say that it’s some power of mine that keeps the crowd manageable, the atmosphere classy, and the money disappearing only out of the sleazier hands. My explanation: this place is located so that people have to know the way fluently, my refusal to serve that cheaper ale from the colony on Mars keeps away the deadbeats who spend half their cash on heroin anyway, and the gangbangers and underage kids apparently don’t like the choice of decor. Too old-fashioned they say. As for that last part, well, let’s just say the girls in the basement are good judges of the poor, rich characters.

That room’s usually reserved the pimps, horny college kids, and those middle-aged gentlemen who make sure their wedding rings are off. This place is known well enough as the go-to nightclub on the fourth level of the city, but I guess it’s not really for the class and decor and girls that people come. And no, it’s not the lower floor that draws people in.  I sing three sets a night, and sure, it’s hard work being the main attraction,  but I maintain a crowd that always comes back. No matter how much the world changes, I don’t think the men will ever tire of a woman in a long black dress. Some of their girlfriends either.

I always like leaving a crowd spellbound. Singing’s only half the performance anyway. The lesser half at that. Usually after I finish my sets, I tend to hang around behind the bar. The actual bartender is never left without a tip, not bad for a decommissioned android, but I feel the bar’s the best place to maintain appearances. For the past few nights, though, I’ve picked out this one guy. He comes in around ten, sits down silently, orders no more than two drinks and stays no more than an hour. He’s been here for two hours, and has probably downed at least five Catseyes, the mix this bar’s famous for. Normally I don’t pay mind to my clients’ drinking habits unless they don’t pay for their drinks, pass out, or forget that alcohol decreases one’s ability to operate an aero car. But, this guy is something different. He watches my show intently, but never makes a pass at me like half the guys do or try to grab my ass like the other half, making him the only guy here who doesn’t go home either politely turned down or with a sore groin. No, he just sits there, wearing the same worn tan trench coat with that black hat, deep in thought it seems. Until tonight that is. I feel sorta drawn to him, in a way. Not like love, I don’t got time for that, even though he is pretty cute. And he has this nod he gives to the bouncers, almost respect. And he’s never picking fights but doesn’t look mousy either. Then he holds the door open for a girl or asks if she wants a seat. Not only is he nice, but it’s like he wants to treat you the same way. But, I’m not the girl to be too trusting.

Tonight, I think I’ll approach him. I wouldn’t question his current drinking habits, it isn’t my place after all. Just small talk, just to get who the hell this guy is.

“Need a refill honey?”

He looks up, obviously hammered, yet his polite brown eyes followed by a smile and chuckle tell me he’s not totally gone.

“Uhhh, sure, miss.”, he answers through an involuntary belch,” But, uh, something less boozy for a change”.

The bartender looks like he’s busy with that young couple who can’t stop laughing or ordering Ricos, so I guess I’ll get him a Bouncer. It’s basically fruit juice and tonic. People call it The Bouncer because its meant to sober you up. I call it that because that’s the only thing I’ll let the bouncers themselves drink. At least while they’re on the clock. I still remember how to mix drinks fairly well, but its been years since I worked this bar.

As I’m mixing, he continues with, “It’s Iris, right?”

“Yeah”, I reply. That’s the name I give people. The only name. I light a cigarette and he comments, “Makes sense with those gorgeous blue eyes”.

“Aw, thanks, honey”, I reply with that open smile and sexy wink I’ve become famous for. Okay, so he’s confident.  For a young guy. He said it drunk, but I really think he meant it. Too cute.

“You know, you don’t strike me as the heavy drinker, hon”, I comment, taking a drag from my smoke. Hm, guess I just broke my own rule.

”Yeah, well, I’ve been looking for a friend of mine for a while with no luck. Might as well come here before I give up entirely”, then with a hand over his mouth, and looking like he’d broken some rule, he goes on apolegetically,” Oh, and, sorry if my breath smells. Guess I haven’t been watching my drinks.”

“Oh, please, hon, most of the guys around here are far less polite”.

That seems to put him at ease

“You looking for a friend?”, I ask, ”I’m sure the girls downstairs could keep you company, for the right price.”

He chuckles and admits, “No offense to your girls, but I don’t think that’ll do any good.”.

“Why not?”, I ask, then add playfully, “the guys down there have certainly given up more than you have. You could get a discount for actually being a guy with a sense of pride. And I assume you’re not hiding from your wife or girlfriend.” I think he’s a nice guy, and single I hope, but I never miss a chance to have anyone volunteer more of their credits.

“I’ll pass, but thank you, Iris”, he replies, starting to sound a little more sober than I gave him credit for.

“Alright, but what about those two girls at the table behind you? Looks like they could use a friend too”, I offer.

I gesture to the smiling blond and her girlfriend playfully staring at us, at him I mean, with their straws placed between their lips in an attempt to be seductive. Tsk, amateurs.

He turns around to look at them. I guess he looks at the girls in a certain way, because they immediately break into silent giggling.

He waves them away.

“Meh, not tonight. Thanks for trying, Iris”.

“Suit yourself”, and when I go to refill his drink, I end the conversation how most people begin it, “What’s your name, hon?”

“Bishop”. Kinda odd name. But, somehow I feel like I’ve heard it before.

I exit the bar, take a seat at a table, cross my legs, and work on finishing my cigarette. I glance back at Bishop, sipping his drink, when out of my peripherals a girl walks in. Huh, turns out the girl’s on a mission. She sits right next to Bishop, waves the bartender away, and begins talking to Bishop. Is this the, “friend”, he was talking about? She just doesn’t seem his type. A short bob dyed white with streaks of pink painted on each side, leather jacket and miniskirt, tank top revealing just enough of her bust, a couple of piercings in her left eyebrow. Looks like these two wouldn’t ever even have a friendly chat at a club, let alone be dating. Sure, she’s pretty enough, I guess, and her mannerism sort of divest form that outer cyberpunk image. I glance back over at the two girls who had been checking Bishop out. Their eyes turn to each other, and then to Bishop and his apparent girlfriend. The eyes then roll and their bodies pick themselves up, proceeding to the dance floor to find guys a little more willing.

Am I disappointed? No, not in the sense you’d think. If I see a guy I like, it’s a shame when I can’t have him. I worry a little more about him, though. He’s a nice guy, and I see too few of those come up here without ending up crazy or beaten or dead.

Oh well, though, why the hell should I care? I’ll just head onto the floor myself. There are plenty of other guys awaiting me in this club each night anyway. And I should know. They’re the guys I let in.

Did I forget to mention that I own the place? Shocking right? You might ask how a poor bartender girl rose to sought-after starlet to the owner of one of the best bars on the 4rth Level. It’s a crazy world we’ve come to live in. Just ask anyone in my club, they’ll tell ya a story. As I look back from today, August 23, 2069, I wonder if there ever was a time in history when the world wasn’t like that.

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