The High Life. Short Story.

Hope everyone had a good weekend. Had some cramps this morning which wasn’t fun, so not doing as well as I had thought. Weekend was good though, it was my grandmothers 80th so my dads side of the family all went for a meal, was nice seeing everyone and catching up, was a bit of craic too. My sister was across with my niece, was great seeing them too, even though it wasn’t that long since I last saw her a few weeks makes a huge difference in babies!

I also started a sourdough starter on Saturday, it’ll be another 4 days or so before it’s usable for bread. The plan is to make a loaf from it and then name it. Apparently it’s bad luck not to name it and it is a kind of pet, just one you occasionally grab a chunk of it to bake with.

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Robert stood on the balcony, hands on the railings, watching the battle below. He was standing on the top floor of Eden, behind him he could hear servants scurrying about, no doubt one was already filling up his champagne glass though he had only taken a sip to be polite. There was a burst of laughter from behind him, he didn’t turn to look at the group, the laughter didn’t shock him either, he had already known what kind of people they were. Down below he could see them fighting, it was too far away to get any real details, not without the complimentary binoculars that had been provided. He could see small , indistinct figures swinging flashing blades, falling, it was too far to make out much, but he could hear the roar of battle, a cacophonous orchestra fighting itself to the death. A hand clapped him on the shoulder, “Robbie, what are you doing man? That party is this way!” Robert shrugged off the hand, Declan was already drunk, “I’m just taking in the sights.”
Declan moved beside him, then turned and leaned against the railing, “Ugh. Never did have the stomach for watching that stuff myself, not like old Bert over there,” he nodded towards a wizened old man, who stood not too far away, binoculars gripped tightly, a small smile on his face as he slowly surveyed the battle.
“How are we doing anyway?”
“I don’t know, I can’t tell from here. Why, does it matter?”
Declan shrugged, “it’s nice to win, where’s your team spirit?” he turned and squinted, “you’re too sober, why aren’t you drinking more? How often do you get to come up here?”
“Not very often.” Robert turned from the battle, “it’s hard, drinking and partying knowing all those people down there are dying.”
Declan grinned, “Is that all? Look they’re worthless anyway, dead weight. You know as well as I do that the only reason they’re down there fighting to the death is because it’s more politically acceptable than just drowning the lot of them in the lake.
”Robert sighed, “yeah, I guess you’re right.”
Declan picked up his full champagne glass and thrust it into Roberts hands, “drink up, the faster the better.” he glanced behind himself at the battle below, “it does get easier. The more you’re up here. Last years battle was great, I ended up leaving with a certain actress who’ll remain nameless.”
Robert snorted, “you were telling us and anyone who’d listen about it for weeks, we all know who it was. It’s not like she keeps that kind of thing to herself either you know.”
“Still, you never know who you’d meet. Patricia met her husband at one of these things. Tom I think his name was. Some rich fuck on level 99.” Declan stood up a little straighter, “Hey, I have to go talk to someone, I’ll be back. You better be drunk by then.” with that Declan pushed himself from the railing, grabbed a glass of champagne from a passing tray and moved into the crowd.

Robert took a sip of his drink, it was sharp but sweet at the same time, he never could get used to the taste of it. He tipped the entire glass up and downed it in a few swallows, grimacing as he finished, he let out a burp, as quietly as he could manage and set his glass down. Almost as soon as his hand left it a servant swooped by and picked up it, replacing it with a fresh one before Robert could tell her not to. He looked at them all, laughing and drinking, he couldn’t be the only one who cared about what was going on down below, could he? He looked around slowly, Bert was the only person watching, he was now licking his lips slowly as he watched. Robert’s stomach clenched in revulsion and he left the railings, leaving his binoculars behind on the table. Maybe Declan was right, Robert grabbed a drink from a passing tray and swallowed half of it, grimacing a little at he taste. Already he could feel the alcohol moving through his system, easing the tension from his shoulders. It wasn’t so bad here amongst the people, the mixed din of conversation helped hide the sound of war from below. If you didn’t listen too carefully the occasional shrill scream that made it this far could be mistaken for a shriek of laughter. As if on cue a woman near by let out a shrill peal, her hand gently rubbing the forearm of a man twice her age as she cackled. Robert finished the rest of his drink and switched it out for a fresh one. He was feeling looser, better. Thoughts of the battle below were slipping away. He found himself grinning at nothing in particular, he was feeling pretty good all things considered. He glanced down at the champagne, probably spiked with something, maybe Hap-E or U4E-aah, he didn’t have much experience with either.

Declan was suddenly beside him and before he knew it his arm was around his shoulders, Declan leaned in, his breath strong with the scent of booze, “I’ve met the perfect guy for you, you’ll love him, And if you don’t there’s a woman whose been dying to meet you.” Robert allowed himself to be pulled deeper into the crowd, he was smiling widely and just at the edge of laughter. Here amongst everyone it all seemed so wonderful, with the booze and chemicals running through his veins, he could barely remember why they were here. He gave up trying to remember, it wasn’t important, he took another gulp of champagne and allowed Declan to lead the way.

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About Alan James Keogh

I am a 26 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
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