Downtown Con City was drowning in the evening traffic. Angry motorists sounded their horns, impatient truck drivers struggled to stay awake, and pedestrians laughed at them on the inside. Quite strictly on the inside, for they all knew how likely it was that one of those angry drivers might step out of their car and go on a homicidal rampage, starting with the people that were openly laughing at their predicament.
The only pedestrian on Wilson Avenue who wasn't smiling on the inside was a man named Phil Preston. Phil had no reason whatsoever to be happy about anything. He had spent his day roaming the city, stopping only at the occasional fast food joint and quickly abandoning it on account of having no appetite.
Up until recently he had been employed at Con City's prime innovation firm, ConnqWest Futuristics. His future as a desk monkey had seemed bright, like the midday sun in the desert, as he had been in line for a promotion and the associated half percent raise. That was until the founder and CEO of ConnqWest Futuristics, a man best described as a textbook sociopath, decided to invest in some new opportunities for his firm which necessitated the layoffs this morning. Only one man got sacked on Phil's floor, and it was not one of his colleagues.
The only thing that baffled him more than getting canned was the swiftness and convenience of how it had happened. His release letter, which had come by email at 9:30 in the morning, wished him the best of luck in his future endeavors and within a minute he was booted out of the building by security. He couldn't even pick up the photo of his wife from the desk. When he tried to go back for it, he found a gun pointed in his face and decided to cut his losses and keep his life.
He spent his entire day running from the biggest dilemma he had ever faced: how to tell his wife? Having only been with the firm for eleven months and twenty days, he was not eligible to receive any severance pay beyond the remainder of his monthly salary. He saw no hope for another job, and he didn't even dare to speculate how much, or rather, how little he would get in unemployment benefits. He was afraid his wife would not react well to the news, hence he stalled as long as he could. With the sun having gone down he had no choice left but to brace himself for the inevitable.
When he reached Oberdick Square he turned the corner and tried to ignore the gigantic statue at the center of the square. Instead, he found his gaze drawn to the monument. Frank Oberdick stood there in bronze form, riding a stallion he probably never would have even approached in real life, staring down at Phil from a height of at least twenty feet, if not thirty. Oberdick's statue held a wad of cash in each of its hands and smiled with the superiority of the world's first billionaire.
Phil knew the stories from history class, and they inevitably flashed up in his mind every time he saw the Bronze Billionaire. Oberdick started from nothing, became a businessman, then a billionaire, then Mayor of Con City, then President in three different countries at the same time. Because he was rich enough to buy himself two extra citizenships and millions of votes. Phil had once admired the founder of the Republic of North America, but after this morning, knowing how much his former boss idolized the man, he would have liked nothing better than to go to the graveyard and piss on Frank Oberdick's grave. He sighed when he remembered that he would be put in the electric chair if he did so.
He lowered his gaze all the way to the pavement and kept on walking down the street until he reached the door of his apartment building. He walked into the lobby and waved to the security guard, who duly ignored him. Phil was taken aback; he never cared that the security staff couldn't be bothered to return the simple courtesy of a greeting, but he certainly would have appreciated if they didn't act as if this was just like any other day.
What bothered him even more was the magazine the security guard was reading. The head of the Bronze Billionaire graced the cover, except half of its face was photomanipulated into that of Phil's former boss. The headline read, `the next Oberdick?' Phil wanted to rip the magazine from the security guard's hands and rip the cover to shreds, but managed to hold himself back. He knew he'd have just wound up on the floor, knocked out by a tazer or outright put out of his misery by a bullet to the brain.
He turned away from the security guard and called the elevator. Up on the seventh floor he walked up to the door of his apartment. He fumbled for almost a minute with his keys until he managed to open the door. He took off his jacket and put it on the coat hanger, then walked into the kitchen.
Nancy was stirring a pot of stew. Phil's stomach growled at the sight, but when he stepped up to it so he could breathe in the smell better, he felt nauseous. He doubted he could force down a single spoonful of the stuff, no matter how tasty it looked.
His stomach felt like it wanted to strangle itself when Nancy smiled at him.
`Hi honey, how was your day?' she said.
`I got fired,' Phil said, thinking it was best to get over the inconvenience as quickly as possible.
Nancy's smile disappeared. The hand with which she had been stirring the pot stopped, until she slowly started to pull the large wooden spoon out of the stew.
For more, please proceed to the novel Shadow Of Con City.
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