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22nd District

Dennis, 22nd District, fit into the machine, middle caste, Campfire Horror Stories

The steak was delicious, though, just like the salads were. Josh couldn’t understand why Dennis turned his nose up at him when the words escaped his lips, “we’ll start with the green garden salads, frites and poppers. For the main, we’ll have the eye steak, medium?” His query was directed at Dennis, who only retorted with a wide-eyed snarl. “Medium, and I’ll have it rare. Finish with the pumpkin pie.” At first Josh didn’t even notice Dennis’ body language.

“And to drink, sir?” The waiter asked, without so much as acknowledging Dennis existed.

“Why, your finest champagne, of course. And I don’t want to see our glasses empty, or it’s your tip.”

Dennis shifted his weight in his seat, but not because the chair wasn’t comfortable, it was incredibly comfortable. The cushions were a brilliant blue velvet that was soothing to the touch, and he couldn’t help but stoke it with his index finger as his eyes darted around the room. He didn’t want to be there anymore, much less make eye contact with Josh. He chose instead to admire the elegant carving in the ceiling, and the glowing gold lighting under the bar. They really had done a good job at mixing the old, traditional look of wealth with a new contemporary one. He did, however, wonder how many times the bartender would have to wipe the bar-top, to keep the reflective black free from fingerprints.

The night air was cool, but not cold. It was a refreshing change from the artificial warmth of the restaurant. This was Josh’s favorite time of day; night. More specifically, though, the early night, when the city was still bustling. Later, it would still be busy, but it’s chaotic, rather than the organised cohesion of the early night. Josh prefers order. Everything has its place, and everything works better when it stays in its place. The drunks of the early hours are only cogs that don’t fit into the machine anymore. They drink their last days away before being forcibly escorted into a lower district, where they belong. Dennis could fit into the machine, though, if he stops turning his nose up, and sits quietly in his place. Without Josh, he never would have dined in the 22nd District. He never would have set foot in the 22nd District. And if he’s smart, he’ll take Josh up on his offer for a night-cap, where he can put something else in his mouth, and more champagne.

The 22nd District was for the high-class. Dennis had never set foot here before tonight. He found himself conflicted. He did not enjoy the dinner, and he did not enjoy being treated like a pet. The roads here were so clean, though. They looked like they were made of glass, and you could see your face in the sidewalks. He couldn’t remember the last time he saw a tree in the metropolis. You didn’t even need to walk to the trashcan, because it walked to you. Dennis found himself thinking he should be grateful, and wanted to apologize for his performance at dinner. His cheeks reddened as he looked down at his matte shoes. Clearly not made for this part of the metropolis. Even the driver’s shoes were as reflective as the sidewalk. There were some things that he would certainly need to change as he climbed the social ladder. The cool air slipped down the neck of his shirt and he shivered for a moment.

“It’s okay, Dennis, you don’t have to come if you’d rather go home,” Josh said as he stood on the other side of the car with his elbows on the roof and his face resting on the backs of his hands.

This was, of course, not true. It was a sly statement that actually meant the opposite of what it sounded like.

“No, of course, I know where I fit. I’ve no one to kneel to back in the 42nd. I’m sorry for how-”

“Don’t, I know. Takes a minute for some to come around. Just get in the car.” Josh’s eyes caught the street lights when he tilted his head and flashed a sharp smile. Then he got in the car.

Dennis felt his blood burning through his veins, which made the night air feel even colder. He swallowed his pride with an audible gulp and put on a smile. Despite what he would endure tonight, it would all be worth it.  It was a genuine grin, and he wore it the rest of the night.

Josh had it all: his own driver; a fleet of cars, all different colors of the rainbow; a penthouse apartment in the building he owned; an army of staff that all worked like an automated assembly line. People flocked from all over to stay in his building. It was one of the few that still employed human staff, which served as a luxury niche in the market. He hadn’t worked for any of this, though. Josh didn’t work a day in his life. The staff beneath him work for the company, they would tell you. But Josh would proclaim them his own, of course. This life was his birthright. His father, who also never worked a day in his life, left it all to him. Without the cares or worries of the lower caste, Josh always wore a smile on his face. He did what he wanted, when he wanted. He lived a life of desire. Tonight, he desires Dennis. Dennis, however, does have worries of a different caste.

“Not anymore,” according to Josh, “I’ll take care of you.”

“How very admirable of you,” Dennis said through gritted teeth.

It was sickening, really. How high he thought he was. How did he feel so natural, so entitled to flaunt his wealth? He only lived in the 22nd. It is impressive, sure, but it’s not the top. It’s not where Dennis wanted to be, and it wouldn’t be where he ended his night. He wasn’t going back to the 42nd, either, of course. He had other plans. Orders, in fact. Orders that would see him in a higher caste than Josh. Not that this petty system ever concerned him. After all, he was only playing the 42nd because there was more excitement down there. The trash know how to live, not like the middle caste, who order for their dates, as if they cannot speak for themselves. That treat their staff like slaves. The high caste treat their synths better, for goodness’ sake. No, Dennis never did like how the middle caste decided to treat others or live their lives, but he sure did love how they taste. And the dumbfounded expression Josh had when he realized he’d been lead on.

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