last edited on ZLT: 29.02.19
AVARICE IS HOSTED AT ZHANLANN
“So? Did you get it?” She squatted down beside me, her dark eyes murkier than usual, a brewing storm.
“They cancelled it.” I gritted, giving a nearby metal can a hard kick, sending it skidding noisily into the bin.
Her jaw clenched, “tsk…” she stared at her grime-stained hand, once a healthy shade of pink, now littered with unfading callouses.
I stared at her wispy hair—it was thinning.
I remembered when I first met Eve, the tall girl was a bundle of sunshine and tumblr vibes, bouncing all over the place. I loved hanging with her, her unrestrained nature was contagious, and I was the kind of person that liked charismatic people.
Yet, no one would associate the girl slouching lifelessly against the pavement, sprawled haphazardly in between the dying grass patch and wearing gravel road, to the girl who graduated with honours that half-laughed and half-sobbed her way through her valedictorian speech, who almost tore her graduation certificate in the heat of the moment three years ago.
Do you see how much three years can ruin someone?
I see it.
I don’t blame time, I blame society—it’s this filthy environment that stained her, stained me, stained us.
“A penny for your thought.” She carefully re-laced her shoes. The pathetically thinned-out soles rubbed against the dirty gravel as her bone-thin fingers looped the grey laces. It was a miracle her shoes were still intact; mine was long gone.
I dropped down beside her. My fingers were at my lips before I realised; looks like I was hungry. “They increased the tax again.”
Taxes—we couldn’t afford it, my dad and I; we started not being able to afford it about two years ago.
My dad, he used to be a government official. I still remember when he told us he got employed. My mom—she was ecstatic—went out, and bought cake and, very unbelievably, liquor, home. She didn’t eat though, she had diabetes, so she watched us polish the cake off and get all tipsy.
She’s gone now, though. Hospital bills and medicine prices rocketed sky-high then; we tried, so hard. We did.
I heard from my dad, while he was still working in the government, that the governor changed, so things changed. Shortly after than, he was fired. I got sacked a little later too.
Can you see the invisible strings being pulled behind the scenes?
She replied: “Mm, I’m broke.”
I laughed bitterly at her cold joke. Everyone was broke. The only ones that weren’t broke were swimming in their swimming pools built with gold tiles. I saw one before, at Ford Avenue, it used to be a hill there, I remembered.
“Working today?” Eve asked, chewing on her hair. It was lunchtime. I heard her stomach grumble a while ago. My probably did too, just that I muted it.
The hot, glowering sun filtering through the derelict buildings and smashed windowpanes spilled onto the old road like shattered pieces of crushed glass, akin to how decaying and broken the city—if it’s even a city anymore—I lived in was.
Ghastly. And revolting.
I stared past the crumbling cement of the dilapidated buildings that probably used to be someone’s house. “I wish. It’s full today.” Behind them, a stark contrast against the worn-down setting, stood the tall and majestic buildings, bathing a pearly and luscious tint of beige under the warm afternoon sun.
Just look at the difference.
“You?” I turned to her.
Her lips pulled back, she didn’t reply.
I changed the topic. “How’s your place holding up?”
“They cut the electricity yesterday.” She said. That was short for: no heat, no light, no lock, no water. In other words, she was not doing well.
I’m not any better off. We’re barely holding up with my minimal cash I get from the factory. My dad’s trying hard too, asking around; especially at the better-off companies, not many left nowadays, but most of them turn him away. The bad record the government slapped on him probably blacklisted him from their employment list.
“You look like you guys are okay.”
I squeezed out a smile, but it was so twisted it’d probably give her a fright if she spared me a glance.
Yeah, my dad and I, we’re doing good, good at sliding deeper and deeper into the abyssal pit of despair in this rotten city.
Do you know how bloodcurdling this place was increasingly becoming? I feel myself getting more desperate every day, desperate for money—so eerily similar to them.
“Eve, don’t you think the government needs some overthrowing?” I asked, breaking the silence.
Her head whipped in my direction. My lips pursed, that was the most energetic Eve I’ve seen in three years.
AVARICE IS HOSTED AT ZHANLANN
A/N: forgive me for the lack of detail oops, this is an original one-shot, not a translation; i wrote this for a story competition #IfILiveInDarkness three years ago (hence the ‘tumblr vibes’ phrase HAHA, tumblr was a thing back then, and it was as in the rage as IG is nowadays) but i chickened out and never sent it in, idk why, im an idiot really, i could have stood a change to get that $700 prize now that i’m looking back at this and all their winning entries… *facepalm* btw will be sharing more original works on ZLT in the future too, i have a lot of other one-shots i wrote for fun, i like to think that my writing isnt too shit HAHAHA