He sat on the old mattress looking at the wall opposite him. The only light from the room came from the three monitors, two candles and a television. The light bulb in the lamp had burned out, he didn't want to leave.
so he found these two candle in the bottom of a plastic crate, the kind that look big and industrial with the flip open lids. Only one of the lids was broken off and missing and other only barely shut because of all the junk inside. The candles were at the bottom in a half crushed cardboard box, the one they were sold in, still had a price tag on the torn plastic covering that allowed you to see into the box itself.
He waited, smoke curling up from his cigarette. He promised her he'd quite. And had some time ago. He found a pack next to a stack of old magazines with names like 'Wired', out of print defunct computer user rags of a decade ago. So he waited, flicking the ashes of his cigarette into an empty bottle of beer.
A dead tv sat in the corner, it's static noise drowned out by the invasive glow of the monitors. Two more dead monitors sat on the floor, next to more computers. One of the monitors blinks its message about incoming email continuously, it was being ignored and didn't seem to be bothered by this. Another had endless lines of scrolling text of a chat channel, also ignored. The third sat there, nothing on it but a few icons from the desktop.
He watched the wall intently. It's dull grey color more a result of time than paint.
He flicked the cigarette. Blinked. Ran his hand through his short cut black hair.
Hours past. He thought about why he was here. It was her doing.
Things had gone like they should have. Right up to the end. They were in. Five minutes he had the data. They were out. Moving across the parking lot quickly. Made it to the street and that should have been it. Instantly they acted like a couple in love. Holding hands, giggling, even skipping down the sidewalk.
They reached a cafe, stopping inside for ice cream of all things. That was her idea, she seemed so childish at times. He liked that about her. Her hard bitten twenty two years in the city could convey the excitement of a fourteen year old at times. So much energy, that's what attracted him to her. She could go from cold blooded killer to go lucky party girl in nothing flat.
He flicked his cigarette again.
They'd walked out of the small cafe, she's holding a large cone of mint chocolate chip, looking exactly the opposite of someone who just ten minutes ago was standing guard with a large handgun while he downloaded a chunk of software.
That's when they showed up. Four men, large and armed. The cafe broke out in chaos. People running everywhere. Screams. A few gunshots. They split. He ran one way, she the other. They had contingencies for this. Could meet up later.
He didn't worry. Went back to the club. Made the exchange. Got rid of that software. Sat back at the bar, had a couple drinks and waited.
Five hours. No show. He went home, not worried yet. She wasn't home either. The tiny apartment was like they left it. So he sat down and did what he did. Checked email. Talked on old fashioned boards. In IRC chat channels. Posted to forums. Surfed the web. All night. She hadn't shown up yet. Midmorning.
He fell asleep. Woke up in the evening. She wasn't there. Called the nightclub, she never showed there. That's when he realized something was horribly wrong. His mind raced through a million scenarios.
Her body in an alley, forgotten. In a hospital marked under Jane Doe. In the hands of the enemy, being tortured or worse. His mind reeled at the possibilities. And finally snapped.
So here he sat. Waiting. Staring. Sitting on the edge of the mattress, smoking cigarette in one hand. One of the candles fluttered and went out.
Steps on the stair well. He barely noticed. Maybe it was the goons coming for him. Having decided she didn't have the disk. He'd basically given up hope it was her. His mind as blank as the televisions screen full of white noise.
And the door opened. His head turned. The cigarette fell from his hand into the bottle it hovered over as his face broke into a look of total relief.
Not everything has an unhappy ending after all.
Copyright © 2000 Gordon Feiner
(for those not familiar with the genre of Cyberpunk, a happy ending is not really the norm. There's usually some dark twist involved if there is.)