Commonwealth, XLII: “There Is No Alternative”

Commonwealth, XLII: “There Is No Alternative” July 3, 2020

Commonwealth: A Novel of Utopia, part 1, chapter 11

Author’s Note: This is an excerpt from my novel Commonwealth. The rest of today’s installment is free, but only on my Patreon site. If you want to read the next part today, it’s already up on Patreon as well. You can sign up for as little as $1/month, or $2 for exclusive author’s notes and behind-the-scenes material. There’s also a table of contents for all published chapters.

Rae spent the day wandering the streets of Manhattan, losing herself in the city. She took turns at random, passing aimlessly down blocks she had never seen, feeling a vague impulse to shake off anyone who might be pursuing her.

The more she walked, the more anger she felt. It was a simmering rage, rising a tiny bit higher at the sight of each decaying slum, each alleyway choked with garbage, each abandoned building where graffiti built up like snowdrifts, each corner where beggars held out pleading signs.

Rae would have given them money if she’d had any to give. But all she had, other than the clothes she was wearing, were a toolbox, a flat wallet and a bank card linked to an empty account.

It shouldn’t be like this, she thought over and over. It shouldn’t have to.

It was a smoggy day. Tiny spots of ash settled on every surface, and drifts of pollution formed a gray haze and left a foul taste in her mouth.

But the pollution was more than merely material. It felt as if the world was sinking into the muck of despair, as if the anger and despondency of millions was merging and pooling into a spreading psychic stain like an oil spill.

The only constant was the spires of Billionaires’ Row. Their skyline rose through the polluted air, enthroned above ruin and deprivation. More than once that day, Rae heard the distant whup-whup of helicopter blades and saw the flying black shapes, no bigger than locusts, lift off from the skyscrapers’ roofs and disappear into the clouds.

The plutocrats are getting out of town, she thought. They’ve looted everything they wanted, now they’re leaving. Probably heading to their fortified compounds in the countryside where they’ve got food and guns stockpiled.

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